I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
October 24, 2016 - 1:53 p.m.
I should have started writing an hour ago when I still had the magic elixir, coffee, coursing through my veins. Now it is wearing off but I will channel my inner caffeine and get this written.
Yesterday's adventure was music by the Amazing Anna Dagmar. It was at the Church of the Heavenly Rest, on the Upper East Side. That's an easy place for me to get to, one bus and one train and one pleasant walk. It's a gorgeous Episcopal church right on Central Park. Step in there and you know it's a wealthy congregation. I was wondering if I had to get there early to get a seat but when I saw it was in the Sanctuary I knew that was not going to be an issue.
The first thing I did when I arrived was walk right up to the front then turn around to find a familiar face. I knew there had to be someone I knew there. In the second row, I spotted Jon and Elisa and joined them. They are always fun to talk to. I liked the idea of the three Jews going to church on Sunday. Of course, we have all done it mean times to hear music. A little while later Anna came in and came over to say hi.
I better explain what an oboe quartet is, it is not four oboes. It's a violin, viola, cello, and oboe. I didn't get it to they took the stage when I realized it's a string quartet with one of the violins replaced by an oboe. It's a great combination, the oboe's sound is so different that it is set apart from the strings.
The musicians were:
Christa Robinson - oboeChrista went to college, The Eastman School of Music, with Anna. They met on the first day of class. She commissioned Anna to write the piece. Anna wrote it with Christa's strengths in mind.
Anna's piece was not the only one on the bill though it was the finale and main attraction. Let me look at my program to see the other composers played. Some of the names are familiar. Maybe they went to NERFA.
Christa gave a short talk before each piece except for Anna's. Anna did her own intro. I loved the talks, I learned so much. I didn't know how the oboe evolved, the renaissance instrument had only two keys. It kept getting more and then they changed the bore which changed the sound. I also learned about oboe quartets; I didn't even know they existed till this. Mozart and Brittan wrote their pieces for specific oboists so Anna is in good company.
I loved all the pieces but the Bresnick. I can't see how the players enjoy playing it, so much of it is holding one sustained note. Elisa and Jon are with me, Brittan is a modern but one that makes enjoyable music, not academic exercises. My favorite is still the Mozart; he is a soulmate.
Of course, I mean my favorite other than Anna. Hers is a program piece based on a poem of the same name by Molly Bashaw. You can find the poem and the notes are Anna's composition here, Performances.
I have heard compositions by Anna in many different genres, jazz, singer/songwriter, and musical theater. I have loved them all. I can now add classical to the list. Anna's instrument is the piano so an oboe quartet is a stretch. I knew she could do classical; I've heard her play it. She knows if I'm in the audience I like to hear that.
There was an intermission after the Britten and we saw Carolann then. She came in right before the music started so she took a seat towards the back. We were expecting her. She joined us for the second half. That was nice, I was surrounded by friends during Anna's quartet.
We all went over to talk to Anna when it was over. I was going to say that I know Anna through Carolann but I'm not sure that's true. I think she might have done one of Kelly Flint's Upstairs Sessions. I know she did John Platt's On Your Radar. She is one of the Chicks with Dip along with Carolann and Elisa. That places her firmly in my social circle. I still get in awe that I have friends who can do things like that.
We also talked to Christa. She and all the musicians were great. I'll have to see them again. She was also fun to talk to. You know that's my ultimate criterion for judging people.
Elisa, Jon, Carolann, and I then headed over to the subway. We all went to the same station, but I was heading in the opposite direction from the rest. I'm the outcast from the Bronx.
I was good and made dinner at home instead of eating out. I lucked out, Jane and Bernie had leftover ribs so I nuked and ate those. I made plantains too. After doing my butling duties at the dishwasher I rewarded myself with a dessert I haven't had in ages, chocolate pop-tarts. I make sure to keep them upstairs, that way I am not tempted to make more when I finish one pack. I have a terrible habit of eating entire boxes of what I buy. I can resist anything but dessert. I bet you thought I'd say "temptation." Chocolate pop-tarts are amazingly good. I do have this affection for fake food. I had Cheez-Whiz on my poached eggs this morning. Give it a try; it's so good. I enjoy my food.
This morning I listened to the first Prairie Home Companion hosted by Chris "rhymes with feely not while" Thile. I love most of his guests/regulars, Sarah Jarosz, Critter Eldridge, Brittany Haas, and Anaïs Mitchell. I'm totally blanking on the headline guest. It was a band I don't love.
I could never listen to Prairie Home Companion because Garrison Keillor rubbed me the wrong way and the skits were so corny. The skits are still corny, except for the ones involving John Hodgman, but I enjoyed most of the time between the music. I of course loved the music. I bet it gets better as Thile's influence waxes and Keillor's wanes. This was like listening to John Platt with so many people I know except it was national radio. I now have a new ritual every week. I just have to find when to listen as I'm rarely home Saturday night and usually want to watch something if I am. Thank god for archives. I can listen to John Platt, PHC, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, and Brian Norton's show when it's convenient.
Anaïs did an interesting selection of songs, an older one of her compositions, Why do We Build the Wall from Hadestown, A Child Ballad, and an Egyptian Song in Arabic. She lived in Egypt for a while. I love watching my friends post about her. She is great and it's good to see that other people realize that. Too often I'm a voice in the wilderness.
The question for today is do I go see Aubrey Johnson tonight. She's playing in the Village but it's at 9 PM. I'm going in to get bagels but that will be closer to 5:00. It would mean eating out and I'd prefer to eat at home. But I haven't seen her in ages and Tomoko Omura is playing with her and I haven't seen her in far too long. I'll see how things go when I'm out.
This was a pretty successful weekend. I heard two great concerts and made four new friends.
Oboe-Wan Kenoboe Dagmar - October 24, 2016
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