What an amazing time that was. To be 9 years old. You are generally allowed, even encouraged , to occasionally be as enthusiastic and as loud as you can possibly be.
The North Chevy Chase Elementary 4th grade invited me back to listen to them sing ” 43 Good Excuses”. This time I came prepared. Sue and her trusty flip cam came along. The video is sooooooo cute. Their teacher, Jacqui, is incredibly cool. And they respond by being the hippest little people on the planet. My own memories of 4th grade revolve around Mrs. Blackburn at Maury Elementary, who referred to me only “Loudmouth” for the entire year. Happily, that singular trait of being VERY LOUD, has been part and parcel of my entire career. It has at times made a broken PA a non-event. It has made public speaking an easy thing for me to do. It has gotten the quick attention of three unruly children. And it made me unconditionally love the sound of a Marshall stack turned up to ‘pulverize’.
Chuck Brown passed away yesterday. He was immensely important to so many people. He has been a part of Washington DC’s musical character ever since I moved here and I can’t imagine this town without him.
I had a few chances to work with him and even hang out with him. I feel fortunate to have been in the room while he recorded “Mellow Saxophone” for Pete Ostle’s A La Carte Brass Band. I have a video of him singing Stormy Monday with just him singing and me on piano. I was lucky enough to spend some time at his house and eat a fried chicken dinner ( maybe the best ever) and drink Courvoisier Cognac with him. He was truly a man of the people. A terrific musician. An original. I am going to miss having him in our lives.
Last Friday I was part of the Q & A panel that followed the screening of “Follow Me”. I was with Dave Goulding, the cinematographer and David Grossbach, the editor. Thank God they were there. I always forget this… there are never any questions about the film making process. There are only questions about content. The two Dave’s were well equipped for all the questions. My advice for all composers thrust into such situations: be prepared to simply sit there and nod knowingly as better informed parties answer questions.
Just so you know: we had an orchestra of 25. I conducted. It took two days to record all the live tracks. And two days to mix. The synth tracks were already finished by the time tracking started. We recorded at Cue Recording in Falls Church in the “Red Room”. If you are truly curious, I can tell you some of the mics we used. Nothing exotic though, the usual collection of Neumans, Sennheisers, Royers etc. There, I feel better.
On Sunday I went to see my girlfriend’s mother sing at a Presbyterian Church in Purcellville, Virginia. FYI- Purcellville is a very small town. Her chorale performed Mozart’s Requiem with an orchestra of perhaps 8 plus an organist. This was a wonderful example of amateur music making. Truly. They were all there because of a deep and abiding love of music and the making of music. The spirit in that church was wonderful. I hadn’t heard this piece in way too long. It is a spectacular piece of music. As with all of Mozart, there are no unnecessary notes. All the notes are in the right spots. Everything fits. His work is composition of amazing efficiency. And it is amazingly effective. You know this when you hear it performed in a country church in Purcellville VA. It was not necessary to have a monstrously large chorale or a bigger, better orchestra. The music simply works. It works because it is perfectly written. Every note, every line, resides squarely in every player’s and every singer’s sweet spot.
I also had not heard a piece sung in Latin in a while. It struck me that having the Latin mass as the libretto provides me with comforting, plain vanilla syllables that come with a built-in importance… or spiritual weight. So often in choral music, if the composer chooses a text in English, one ends up trying to hear and understand the words. that effort usually takes away from the music. Using the standardized Latin mass neatly sidesteps this part of the choral equation. You get nearly meaningless ( unless you actually speak Latin) syllables that magically have a profundity infused into them. Meaning without explicit understanding ( this pretty much sums up my religious experiences) . This allows the listener to apply his full attention to the astonishing architecture of Mozart’s music. This also made me understand the loss many Catholics felt after Vatican II when the Latin mass went toodle-oo.
Hats off to the noble music makers of Purcellville Virginia. The music moved me. And your love of music moved me.