Sunday, June 17, 2007

A New Take on Bach

Last night’s concert wasn’t JS or JCE Bach, but instead it was PDQ Bach a la Peter Schickele. This was a live recording done at the Gordon Center in Owings Mills, Maryland. A work colleague had invited us to join him and his wife for the musical evening.

Peter Schickele is a bonafide musician and composer, having graduated from Julliard in the 50's, where he and a group of students invented PDQ Bach in an attempt to escape from the serious diet of classical music they all were being fed. I’ve listened to Schickele Mix on NPR over the years, but have never seen him perform in person.

Schickele was joined by 6 other performers for a lively evening of music and song. I loved some of the rounds, like “If Love Is Real” and “Cyndi”, written to help Schickele remember the girl’s name at the deli where he often ate. But I was surprised at my feelings of anger when the music sounded authentic and then became silly. Somehow I just can’t interject the absurd into music that should be beautiful and serious.

I thought at least the levity of the evening might break my husband’s penchant for falling asleep within 5 minutes of the first note. Nope. Just the sight of a violin closed his eyelids and caused him to nod off.

We were both awake for the rousing finish: Songs from Shakespeare, including Macbeth’s Soliloquy, Hamlet’s Soliloquy, The Three Witches from “Macbeth”, Juliet’s Soliloquy, and the Funeral Oration from “Julius Caesar”.

Was it worth the long drive to Owings Mills? Debatable. Would I see him again? Probably not. But we did enjoy spending the evening with my friend and his wife. Sometimes it’s not just about the entertainment.


Anonymous David said...

Correction: I did not fall asleep within the first 5 minutes. In fact, I stayed awake through the beginning song parodies which were sort of amusing. And, I noticed you were nodding off - so you were asleep before me, my dear.

But, I did nod off during the interminable string quartet, during which you regained wakefulness - why I don't know. Maybe it was the lack of lyrics that made me fall asleep or maybe it was the fact that I had to drive for 90 minutes to get to Owings Mills, but I was really tired before the concert even began.

But, at least I can say I say Peter Schikele - whoopee!

12:46 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Frank and I saw PDQ Bach in Madison at a theater that had a balcony. During one segment, Peter flew from the balcony on a rope. We were hysterical. Obviously one has to attend his concerts with tongue firmly in cheek but it is fascinating to me how he intertwines the humor with classical music.

Happy Father's Day, David! (And to the woman who made it possible -- good work!)


5:14 PM  
Blogger Jamy said...

It's a shame you didn't enjoy it more. I love Peter Schickele. I'm a huge fan. I used to listen to Schickele Mix all the time. It's a great musical education and funny too.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

I must say I've always enjoyed Schickele Mix on the radio, never having the slightest idea what the professor looked like. But I'm not a big fan of slap-stick comedy in general and it almost seems odd to be laughing at classical music. He and the whole troupe are obviously extremely talented musicians, but some of their humor was just over the top. At one point the "quartet" stopped playing to cross their bows and recite the old rhyme "One day in the middle of the night..." Maybe on another occasion I would be roaring in the aisles like everyone else, but not last night.

9:54 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

I saw PDQ years ago in San Francisco. I thought he was so funny, and a great musician, too. Amazing that he's still at it! Wow.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I don't experience classical that much but I have a feeling that I wouldn't like it sillied up..or down! Just pure. And if David ever gets insomnia, you know what to do!

4:48 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I do enjoy the Schikele mix. It sounds like an interesting night, even if you wouldn't necessarily repeat it.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Reya -- I figure he's good for another 10 years or so.

MOI -- Exactly.

Kristin -- It satisfied my curiosity as to exactly who this Peter Schickele character was. And he is indeed a (talented) character!

6:25 PM  

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