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
-Bertrand Russell

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

April 13, 2013 - 2:59 p.m.

Ladino and the Tramp

This is one of those time I wish I could write as I'm experiencing the event. Last night I saw The Guy Mendilow Ensemble perform Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom: Ladino Songs Renewed. It wasn't just one of the best shows I've seen recently. It wasn't just one of the best shows I've seen this year. It was one of the best shows I've ever seen. It was a transcendental experience. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's roll back the clock a bit.

To my great shame I got to class 20 minutes late yesterday. To the class's credit only two people left after the 15 minute limit. I left the house a bit late so lost my buffer then the train was delayed,. Never again. I must keep the buffer. You have to expect delays.

This is such a strange class. They don't do their work, they did terrible on the first test and it looks like they won't do well on the second test that I'm grading, but they like me. I wish I could motivate them.

After class I did some prep and played on the computer then did my default early Friday evening activity, I went to Free Music Friday at the American Folk Art Museum. It's all of 4 blocks from my school, it's free and the music is usually pretty good. There are three performers, I don't know any of their names. The first was Sarah something or other. She played the keyboard. She good. When she was done I went next door and grabbed a bagel with peanut butter at the Europan Caf. I went back to catch the last half of the next act that I didn't enjoy as much. I had to leave before the third started. Most Fridays that is where you'll find me at 5:30 before I go out to whatever else I have planned. I then hopped on the which took me to the 92Y Tribeca. That is perhaps my favorite music venue in the city. I found out last night it is closing this summer. That's a shame.

I called earlier in the day and asked what time the doors opened. I didn't trust my calendar after what happened with Becca Loebe's show and saw the show was at 8 but it didn't list the time for the doors. I called and asked what time the doors for the Guy Mendilow Show was. The person that answered had no idea what I was talking about. This was the event in the main space. How can the person in charge of answering customer's questions not have heard of it? I said it's the show that's on at eight. He said if the show is at eight then the doors are at 7:30. His attitude was that I was an idiot for not knowing that. It's OK that he has no idea who is playing at the place he gives the information for.

I got there at almost exactly 7:30 and was told, "The show is at 8." Once again like I was an idiot. I said I know but I was told the doors were at 7:30. She said, They aren't open yet, you can sit down here and wait. I did, the doors opened at 7:'40. I went in. I was the only one there. At 7:55 one other person came in and joined me art my table. She said that the sign out front said the show was at 8:30. Guy then came in and confirmed the show was at 8:30. I ordered my tickets online. They had my email address. You'd think they'd have notified me that the time was changed. You'd think that they'd change the website. You'd think that the person who took my ticket would be told the time was changed. Perhaps this is why the best venue in New York is closing. They don't know how to run a business.

Now we'll leave the ridiculous and go back to the sublime, the show. More people did show up leading to what Guy called a select audience,, We were not just select but the chosen people. I doubt that anyone in New York had a more fulfilling evening of music. It is hard to describe in words since men forgot the language that the elves taught them. The music is true folk music. Most of the songs are traditional Ladino. Ladino is the language of the Jewish exiles from Spain. In 1492 Ferdinand and Isabella expelled the ancient Jewish community of southern Spain. They fled to other parts of the Islamic world, North Africa, Turkey, and the Balkans. They took their language with them, Ladino is the Spanish of the time of Columbus enriched with words of their lands in exile, Arabic, Turkish, Greek, and various Slavic tongues. The odds are you never heard of this. Most people haven't. I didn't know that a fifth of Sarenjevo's population was Jewish before the Holocaust. There were 10,000 Jews in the last census before the German invasion. Now there are 700. There is more than music during the show, there's the story of the Ladino people.

The feeling of Tales of the Forgotten People is closer to opera than popular music. It has a similar depth and breath. It reaches into your soul and subtly remolds it leaving you a somewhat different, somewhat better person. I'm listening to Wagner's Die Walkre as I write this and it helps to recapture the feeling. Tales starts with lighthearted songs, tales of Spanish legends, fairy tales. It ends with songs from the holocaust. The transition makes it that much more moving.

The music is something that you've probably have never heard but once you hear it you feel like you've always known it. There are elements of Arabic, klezmer and jazz. There's a mixture of the exotic with the familiar. Who but Guy would play this music from the Balkans on a jew's harp, Brazilian berimbau, and African kalimba aka mbira in addition to fiddle, guitar, and woodwinds. Guy is a citizen of the world, born in Israel he's lived in South Africa, England and the US. He built his own berimbau in Brazil. Yet somehow has absolutely no accent. He draws on the cultures of all these places to showcase the Ladino. He even throat sings. Somehow they all seem natural to the music.

Oddly I kept thinking of Tolkien Elves, Sofia Tosello sings like an Elven maiden. Guy would not look out of place in Lothlorien. The music could fit right in with Middle-Earth. If anyone would ever make a film or opera based on the Silmarillion Guy should write and perform the music. He could write the Song of Luthien, a song of such beauty and power that it moved Mandos to call on Eru to change the fates of Beren and Luthien so that he could return from the dead and live with with Luthien who gave up her immortality. Any of the women who sing with Guy, Shannon, Aubrey, or Sofia could sing the role.

This is a show you cannot miss. This is not just a fun night out, it is fun, a tremendous amount of fun, but it is also great art. Is it for everyone? I don't know. Opera isn't for everyone but it takes the fortunate ones to Valhalla.






Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
Late to Bed and Late to Rise - September 30, 2017
On Your Feet or On Your Knees - September 29, 2017
Why Life Doesn't End on Closing Day - September 28, 2017
Anna and King of I Am - September 27, 2017



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Horvendile April 13, 2013
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