blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Singing about a dead canary

I went to a most peculiar DOMS concert on October 18th, before which free coffee and cookies were offered to the audience, courtesy of the local Retirement Residence, the accompanists playing harpsichord, violin, viola, cello and oboe; a tenor sang. He (David MacAdam) was dressed in 18th century garb, complete with wig. The idea was to perform a little-known cantata (mini opera) by Telemann, the score for which had been discovered in a 20th century shop; it consisted of four arias, alternating with four recits, a lament for a pet bird. Apparently it was commissioned by a patron who really had lost his canary to a marauding cat.

The soloist in his greatcoat and breaches strode onto the podium at the start carrying a bird cage with a canary lying in it, not a real one, a stuffed toy, singing a translation of the German words O weh, mein Kanarin ist tot --- Alas, my little canary is dead! etc., etc. At the end of this, the oboist played an obligato counter melody as the singer took the bird out of its cage and enfolded it in a large and lacy handkerchief, singing of his inconsolable grief. The most entertaining part of the cantata was the aria where he paced back and forth singing a livid condemnation of the cat that got the bird, rolling his Rs: Eat until your throat is swollen, eat, you shameless plunderer! Crunch! Crunch! Crunch! Crunch! May the bird inside you scratch and claw your belly and innards till you spit him up again ... The crunches were repeated after the middle section. After that, music and words became solemnly mournful again, the tenor sitting on an antique chair to sing the aria "My sweet canary, good night!" clutching the little corpse, still wrapped in the hanky, to his breast. The final recit. ended with a furious upward scale accompanying a second curse against the "nasty cat": Because you ate my dearest friend, so be it. Now in turn should you be stoned until you're dead. (Actually it said "until your dead!" in the programme notes; DOMS needs to employ an editor.)

Laughter and applause.

The harpichord player / music director then announced "a moment while David puts the canary to rest and adjusts himself!" As it happened David merely discarded his fancy jacket off for the rest of the programme which was a recital of an aria in Italian from Handel's Alcina (also discovered in a junk shop) and another, in English, from Handel's oratorio Theodora.

The audience gave the concert full marks for originality, but oh dear, it really had been very odd.

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