Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Night At the Opera

Well, not really. It was really more like a night at the symphony, but I do love the Marx Brothers.

Last night, husband and I went with a group of friends to a concert entitled Gospel Meets Symphony performed by the Akron symphony and a choir made up of singers from local churches. The majority of the choir members were from black churches and well-versed not just in the lyrics but in the style--they knew to sway, and when directed to sway, they knew in which direction to begin. I'm not sure that if I had been on the risers with them, I would have leaned left when I should have leaned right.

When I was a student in Chicago, it was my mission to attend as many different styles of churches as I could, and one of the churches I attended (only once) was a 100% black church in Cabrini Green. I can't speak for that part of town these days, but at the time it was a notorious housing project where white people were typically not welcomed or were at least suspect. My friends walked there in a block one cold snowy Sunday night, and we sat in the back of the church. The congregation turned to see the visitors, and while they didn't ask us to leave, they didn't exactly come back to shake our hands. When we stood for singing and tried to fit in, it was clear we didn't with our stilted movements, and the black girls our age actually laughed.

Anyway, I thought of that experience during this concert, and I thought I would enjoy it as much as possible, but I would not try to mimic those who were more adept at the style--horn players don't sway, you know--or clap.

The guest conductor was brilliant in his explanation of the history and definition of gospel music, incorporating the history of the African experience--from the slave era to the down-trodden era through the civil rights era. The music that resulted from each set of trials was what he referred to as the "African aesthetic," and last night it was his intention to blend it with the "European aesthetic." The soloists were right on, which is not the case every year, and the orchestra and added percussion fit the style perfectly. I imagined that quite a few of the musicians, particularly the brass, might have thought their parts were crap, but when fit with the total experience, they seemed right.

If there was a weak element, it might have been a guest group from Cleveland made up of about a dozen singers and some instrumentation. The women all seemed to have massively top heavy breasts--you know the kind--they could raise the Titanic--and I wondered how they managed to get through the day.

So, now, back on track with the rest of Steel Band Week. The concert is at 7:00 this evening, and we're all set. The program is typeset and printed, all the kids have been fed when they were to be fed, and daughter #2's concert shirt will be ironed within the hour--on account of my being a thorough mother. Yee ha.


dive said...

That sounds like a great night out, Robyn.
I'm sure our Mister Knudsen would love to have been there, both for the huge-breasted women and for the chance to hear you say "crap" (hee hee).

Tonight's concert sounds even more fun (other than the ironing … I've done my ironing for this weekend, though I'm pretty far from a thorough mother).
Have a great time!

Anonymous said...

That'd be the one must do experience if I ever get to America.
I'm not a great fan of religious music but hearing a black choir is just pure music to my ears.
Lucky girl Robyn, I'm jealous. :)

Sassy Sundry said...

I love gospel choirs. I can't help but sway and clap when I hear that music.

Dive, hope your ironing was fulfilling.

RICH said...

nice story Robyn. reminds me of when I attended a chinese church for a period of time a few years ago. I wanted to learn about the culture and thought going to church was a good start. We live in a country where we are have the right to worship were we want. Amen.

Thanks for sharing.