Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just Breathe.

I found myself sitting between the two grand wings of a rather majestic pipe organ.
It was just a few days ago, and I had returned to the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta to do a little rehearsing. You see, one of my very best and oldest friends - one of my Chica Mias, as I like to call them, or my flying buttresses - is getting MARRIED on Saturday. Isn't it divine?
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! It is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
-Shakespeare's Sonnet 116

(Okay. Yes. I just wrote out Shakespeare. But the man has a point, no?)
Anyway, when we were about 10 years old, singing together in that very loft as part of the Cathedral Children's Choir, I made a promise to Jess that I would sing Schubert's Ave Maria at her wedding. And now the "nuptial hour draws on apace!"
Thus I found myself up there. Between rows of giant bronze-colored pipes that were humming and singing and echoing and bellowing. And breathing. It was like sitting right between the two massive lungs of a quite powerful and venerable god of music.
And I didn't even think it- but more felt it (as these things usually happen). Just the power of music; the rich sound, like audible molasses, that pours out of those pipes, that has the ability to lift you up and carry you away and mold your mind into reverence or reflection or celebration.
And as I took deep breaths to fill my own lungs-which rather pale in comparison- to send forth notes in a centuries-old arrangement, I thought about how, on Saturday, those notes will soar over the rows and rows of people (thank you, brilliant architects, for your truly magical gift at acoustics - Lord knows I couldn't do it without you). And some will think of Mary, and some will think of Schubert, and some will think of their own wedding, or the wedding of the one-that-got-away, or the wedding that is to be. And some might think of me. But most will think of Jess.
And isn't it remarkable that something as intangible as music can create such a strong sensation, and unspoken thoughts that link humanity? What beautiful revelations are waiting to be made just by sitting in a church and breathing?

Maybe it's true, what St. John the Divine in New York City says: "Loud Pipes Save Lives."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Write Up My Alley.

Have you ever opened a book, or even an e-mail, and discovered it to have been written by a soul-sister, walking the earth in some distant place or time?
Aren't those glorious moments?

Finding a friend through the written word- someone with whom you may never share a single word of correspondence, but into whose thoughts you briefly step to tread among them and think, "So maybe I'm not quite so alone in the world, after all."
Most notably in my life? Discovering L.M.Montgomery's wonderful Avonlea as a child.
My roommate started reading Elizabeth Gilbert, not even on my recommendation, and would stop every few pages to say, "Chesley. This woman is you. It's so weird."
You know those books that make you laugh out loud? That you read in a single sitting and carry around with you when you scoot to the kitchen for snacks or run to answer the phone because you just can't put it down? 84 Charing Cross Road.
The book that makes you laugh and cry and sigh and smile? (Whoever would have guessed by the title?"
Or the books that have been frosted with magic and just-a-little-bit-larger-than-life dusting of fairy tales for the not-so-common everyday girl?
And the throwbacks, romanticism (in its literary and art historical sense), and still romantic? I mean, with a first line like, "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink," you know you're in for a treat.
Well, call me daft, but I opened up my inbox today and found a lovely little marketing e-mail from J.Crew, that purveyor of all things classic, slightly nautical, casual-chic. And much to my delight, (after falling in love with this delicious looking bag),
I found that kindred spirits don't only write novels. They write marketing copy as well. After reading that "Alison, Editorial Copy Director" for The Crew "singlehandedly keeps in business" I was briefly reassured that there is a job out there, even for a wordsmithing wit. And that even a girl who likes to "carry around a notebook and writing utensil at all times in case i get inspired to jot down an idea, but it never happens. I usually just end up scribbling down to-do lists that I never look at again" can make it. It gives me hope.
Wordsmithing, scatterbrained, classy, fabulous females, speak out. You are among friends here!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Paris @ Midnight

Have you ever seen Paris at Midnight?
You should.

I am an Italophile, through and through. But like all good Europeans in pursuit of personal fulfillment and an enviable cache of life experiences, occasionally I dally on the side.
After seeing Woody Allen's latest film last night, I'm pretty sure Paris would make an ideal mistress. She's always dressed perfectly for any occasion, and she has plenty of secrets and stories and grace.
I've never been to France at all. I may just have to find a way.

Paris at Midnight. The film is the improbable combination of the fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses and Woody Allen's inimitable comedic style.
It's every romantic's dream, combining multiple memorable Parisian epochs to weave quite a story.
Add to this the delight of not only seeing actors and actresses pop up on screen that spur the thought, "Oh I love her!" "Oh I love him!",
and oohing over the inspired costume design (fashionistas beware; you'll be aching to accent your wardrobe with 20's-inspired items), but the characters themselves make up an echelon of the cultural icons who challenged the mores of society and created cultural milestones, markers, and entire classifications of art. You'll come home and pull out all your school books, desperate to begin reading and learning and reacquainting yourself with these greats.
And until you can feed the hungry intellectual giant that no doubt broods inside your skulls, you can just ooh and ah over the costumes and sceneries, and giggle over Allenisms given renewed vitality by contemporary actors.
And you'll probably find yourself making plans, like I did, to somehow, some way, go dancing in Paris.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Play it Again, and Again, and Again.

It's coming...
The Atlanta Symphony is presenting Casablanca this Friday, film on the big screen, while the magnificent Atlanta Symphony Orchestra plays the score. CAN YOU IMAGINE!
This is not to be missed. And maybe to prepare, I'll do a little 'round robin of classic films starring the truly fantastic actors and actresses of the Silver Screen. We'll start with Bogey and add Audrey for some Sabrina.
And then there's Audrey and Greg Peck in the inimitable Roman Holiday.
Next is Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall in Designing Woman.
Then How to Marry a Millionaire for some keynotes delivered by Betty, Lauren, and Marilyn.
Marilyn and Tony Curtis warm things up with Some Like It Hot.
How about the more obscure Kings Go Forth with Curtis and Natalie Wood.
Also starring The Voice himself, Mr. Frank Sinatra.
Which of course means I'll have to take time for one of my favorites: Sinatra and Grace Kelly in High Society.
And next is Kelly and Cary in To Catch a Thief.
Then Bringing Up Baby with Cary and Katharine.
Or The Rainmaker with Katherine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster.
From Here to Eternity stars Lancaster and the lovely Deborah Kerr,
who starred in The Journey with Yul Brynner.
(And was photographed by him!)
Apparently Brynner was a marvelous photographer, because while on set of Anastasia,
he also captured the beautiful Ingrid Bergman.
Which brings us back to where we started, to Bergman and Bogey at Sam's piano in Rick's Cafe Americana.
So if you're in Atlanta this weekend, head to the amphitheatre in Alpharetta and catch the sweeping drama of Casablanca with a LIVE soundtrack. If it plays and you're not there, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But soon, and for the rest of your life!

Friday, July 8, 2011

What's In A Name? or Cy (sigh.)

It is a day for remembering the epic.
On Tuesday, one of my favorite modern painters passed away.
Cy Twombly, the man who made epic tales into epic paintings.
Fifty Days at Ilium: The Shield of Achilles
Cy Twombly, 1978
Philadelphia Museum of Art

It is only appropriate that the work of Michelangelo shows clear, human, relatable figures but with an artistry and grace that seems touched by angels. Michael, a common, strong, classic name. Angel, a word that invokes otherworldliness, heavenliness. Michelangelo, the creator of masterpieces, human forms with heavenly beauty.

And then there is Cy Twombly. What a wonderful name, and fitting for his work. Cy was named for baseball great, Cy Young. But he became great in an entirely different field, and his ball of choice was not of leather and stitching, but a great ball of fiery paint. Cy for Cyclone. Twombly, like a word one of my 4-year-old students would have created to describe something twirling and wobbling and spinning and riveting. I tell you, there's something to the names of people.
Untitled, 2008
Cy Twombly
Tate Modern
If you get a chance today, look up Cy. He and his friends decorated the modern art galleries of the world. His artwork has driven admirers to kiss his canvas (a less abstract expressionism, to be sure!). And if you ever find yourself in Philadelphia, stop by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and find his room of epics. Just sit and let Homer whisper in your ear as you gaze at the re-envisioned battles of kings and gods, of valiant men and scheming beauties.
Fifty Days at Ilium: The Fire that Consumes All Before It
Cy Twombly, 1978
Philadelphia Museum of Art