Norbert Blei forwarded this the other day:
On Saturday, April 24th, 2010 , over thirty members of the Opera Company of Philadelphia Chorus and principal cast members from the upcoming production of LaTraviata converged on the Reading Terminal Market Italian Festival. Wearing street clothes and blending in with the crowd, the artists swung into action as the first orchestral strains of the famed " Brindisi " were piped through the market, giving a rousing, surprise performance for hundreds of delighted onlookers who were there to enjoy the Italian delicacies and the everyday treats that the Reading Terminal Market has to offer.
The four-minute piece drew an overwhelming crowd, and won a thunderous ovation that included both laughter and tears from the audience.
to which I shot back:
A beautiful thing, Norb. Thanks for sending it. Oddly, it was enhanced by my poor reception, which would stop the video every few seconds, giving me an opportunity to study the still frames; wonderful to see the looks of amazement, amusement, and sheer jubilation on the faces of the standers-by.
It all reminds me of a time, years back, when a Menominee or Marinette lumberman used to come across the bay and into the C & C Club, and in the middle of the night's revelry, from his barstool amid all the others, he would break into famous opera passages unannounced, with tremendous volume and gusto. He was, as it turned out, a very accomplished amateur or semi-pro, and he had exactly the same effect on a crowd of drunken sailors as this company did on patrons of the Reading Market. Sadly, I never knew his name, but I was privileged to hear him on several occasions.
Then, “There was an Irish pub in Chicago where the writers used to hang out. And the thing I loved about the place, every so often a piper would come in (dressed in full outfit) playing bag pipes...sending shivers of joy through everyone...He'd walk along the long bar, around the floor, past every table and booth playing his heart out--then disappear out the door back into the Chicago night.
Little miracles like that.” replied Norb, in part.
I’m thinking now, about Johnny, or more likely Gianni, the Flower Man, in 1960's Milwaukee; last of his street-corner roses sold for the evening, coming into Barney’s Wayside Inn, great moustache drooping, and spreading just a little more joy, bending low and rattling off a few tunes, with spoons, played across his weary knees.
~ Ralph Murre
As you can see from the almost totally unretouched photo above (in which Norb Blei appears courtesy of C.L. Peterson) Norb and Luciano did most of the drinking when we used to hang out, but I seem to recall buying every round.