An Unexpected Musical Treat

After having supper together last night, my friend Franklin Abbott told me he was treating me to an after-dinner surprise. As we climbed into Franklin’s car, I didn’t find out until we parked it a few minutes later where we were going: to a performance at the nearby Variety Playhouse.

The line waiting outside was long and distinctly non-young, but I didn’t learn until we got into the theater who we’d come to hear. Making our way through the packed house, we miraculously located two seats gratifying close to a beautifully lit stage, furnished only with a grand piano. Eventually, onto that stage steps one of the most iconic and beloved singer/songwriter legends of Franklin’s and my youth, Judy Collins.

Judy Collins Album CoverNow an astonishing 74 years old, Collins’ voice remains as gloriously pure and mesmerizing as I remembered her from the still-vivid soundtrack of our college days. The album I’d bought in 1968, Who Knows Where The Time Goes?, has been stored in my attic for the past 20 years, and is surely unplayable by now, just like all the other albums from those fondly-remembered times. After last night, I am going to need to buy the CD version of Time Goes so I can listen to That Voice more often.

Like the deeply imprinted voices of Joan Baez, Laura Nyro, Peter Paul & Mary, Bob Dylan, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Leonard Cohen, Simon & Garfunkel and so many other talented singers and songwriters from that era, the sheer quality of Judy Collins’ voice and the excellence of her lyrics (either hers or the songs written by others that she chooses to sing) always stop me in my tracks. Listening to her again all these years later makes me grateful to have been young in the 1960s, as my life then included the wonderful music she made. Although I also regard myself as fortunate in terms of the dance music being played during my dancing days, the music of Collins, Baez, et al. were songs to listen to rather than to dance to: rich with poignancy and/or politics, songs whose lyrics not only helped form some of my core values but would stick in my memory the rest of my life.

It would be very difficult to describe the particular qualities of Collins’ voice to someone who’s never heard Collins sing. However that voice is described, there’s no disputing its ethereal, crystalline beauty. Just how gorgeous is that voice? Well, one measure of its caliber is that Collins’ renditions of “Amazing Grace” are the only versions of  that ubiquitous hymn that I can listen to with actual pleasure.

This morning I extended the aural treat of last night’s concert by poking around the Intertubes for more about Ms. Collins and her career. Along with the biographical information in the Wikipedia article, I found snippets of various interviews and segments of various live performances, tons of wonderful photos of this beautiful woman, and, best of all, copies of her most well-known recordings (here and here and here).

A well-spent Saturday morning…not to mention a memorable Friday evening. Thank you, dear Franklin!

“The Exquisite Hour”

Well, I’d heard of Verlaine, who composed the poem on which this song (“L’Heure Exquise”) is based, but completely new to me are the song’s composer (Reynaldo Hahn), the pianist (Anastasios Strikos), and this remarkable singer (Nicholas Spanos).

So dreamy!

My thanks to the folks behind GayWisdom & Culture, who provide a digestible daily dose of biographical information about famous and obscure GLBTQ people world-wide.  And of course, many thanks also to the millions of camera-wielding organizations, publicists, and fans who post such lucious moments of artistry to YouTube.

So Lovely to the Ears

Most days it’s my eyes that I’m most thankful are working well, the world being so full of beautiful people, places, things. This morning, it’s my ears I am grateful for, because they can still hear music like this.

The slideshow accompanying the music is unremarkable; in fact, the music might sound more exquisite if you close your eyes instead of looking at photos. But the sounds!

Thank goodness I finally got over my longtime aversion to opera. Years ago, still perplexed about what all the opera-admiring hoopla was about, I asked an opera-loving colleague if he’d compile for me a cassette tape of his favorite arias from his favorite opera, promising that I’d listen to it with an open mind. The cassette he made for me proved to be the doorway to opera appreciation that I’d been looking for.

That was before there was an Internet; now it’s easier for people to stumble upon the pleasures of great opera recordings.

Treat yourself to a few moments of bliss: Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro.”

Found at Heart Spirit Mind

Nice Way to Start the Morning…

Slideshow of the aurora borealis + music by Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai = a mesmerizing nine-minute-long experience of arresting natural beauty, mingled with feelings of amazement, sorrow, and gratitude.

There are other, similar videos to sample displayed on the right-hand side of the screen where you’ll find this one.

Thanks to Gay Spirit Visions member Clyde Hall for posting a link to this video on GSV’s Facebook page.

Someone’s Birthday Today

Today was Laura Nyro‘s birthday.

Although I hadn’t heard Nyro’s singular voice in years and years and years, there was a time when I listened to her records obsessively. (As there were other times when I listened to other singers obsessively. For me as for so many others of A Certain Age, there was a Bob Dylan Era, a Jackson Browne Era, a Blood Sweat & Tears Era, a Barbra Streisand Era. More recently:  Annie Lennox.

So many supposedly Indispensible Musicians who, when my copies of their LPs wore out, I neglected to preserve in my life by systematically re-purchasing my increasingly-scratched up albums with their incarnations on compact discs.

For several years now I’ve been wondering whether to embark on The Potentially Hugely Expensive Music Re-purchasing Campaign.  I’ve often wondered, when contemplating such a decision, which albums of the many long squirreled away in my attic (and probably thoroughly melted by now) that I would deem the most crucial to replace first.

Now I know.

The e-newsletter Gay Wisdom for Daily Living alerted me to the fact that today is Nyro’s birthday. Then my Nyro-loving friend Franklin posted to Facebook this vintage video of one of Nyro’s (rare) television performances:

What a voice! And what an unusual one. The songs on the video aren’t among my favorites, but the way she sings them vividly called to mind her many other songs that are etched in my hindbrain.

Nyro died in 1997 at the heartbreakingly young age of 49, of ovarian cancer.

There’s more on Nyro (including a list of all her albums) at Wikipedia, and there’s a Laura Nyro webpage that includes photos, music, and comments posted by fans who clearly appreciated this irreplacable, irrepressible performer for a lot of the same reasons I did, and do.

Much of the world’s creative output – the writings written, the poetry spoken, the plays performed, the paintings painted – is unavailable to us for alll sorts of reasons. Lucky for me, lucky for you, Nyro’s recordings are still available for listening to, again and again.