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Posts Tagged ‘critic’

I blogged here about the late Jane Scott, who was still reviewing rock bands into her 80s. Today I thought I might write on a couple mature gals in wheelchairs who write a political blog on WordPress. Unfortunately, their language is too salty for a blog associated with Luna & Stella. So I’m going to tell you about a jazz musician who, having been rediscovered in his 80s in a nursing home, and is back in the business.

As Dan Barry writes in the NY Times, “For years, the donated piano sat upright and unused in a corner of the nursing home’s cafeteria. Now and then someone would wheel or wobble over to pound out broken notes on the broken keys, but those out-of-tune interludes were rare. … Then came a new resident, a musician in his 80s with a touch of forgetfulness named Boyd Lee Dunlop, and he could play a little. Actually, he could play a lot, his bony fingers dancing the mad dance of improvised jazz in a way that evoked a long life’s all. …

“And so Mr. Dunlop would have remained, summoning transcendence from a damaged piano in the Delaware Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, his audience a couple of administrators, a few nurses and many patients beset with dementia, loneliness and age — were it not for a chance encounter … .

“In the spring of 2010, a freelance photographer named Brendan Bannon arrived to discuss an art project with nursing home administrators — and Mr. Dunlop greeted him at the door. … A bond quickly developed, and before long Mr. Dunlop invited his new friend to hear him play what he referred to as “that thing they call a piano.” Mr. Bannon, who knows his Mingus from his Monk, could not believe the distinctive, vital music emanating from a tapped-out piano missing a few keys.

“ ‘He was a beautiful player,’ Mr. Bannon says. ‘He was making it work even though it was out of tune.’ ” Read the whole story.

I told my kids that I used to hope I’d make a splash before I was 40. Then before I was 50. Now I’m thinking 90 is more realistic.

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We had already bought tickets for the new version of Porgy and Bess at the American Repertory Theater when Stephen Sondheim weighed in with an angry letter to the NY Times. He had not seen the show, but he apparently resented the tone of an article’s quotes from A.R.T. He may have thought director Diane Paulus and writer Suzan-Lori Parks were implying that they were better than the show’s original creators.

After the opening, Ben Brantley of the NY Times raved about Audra McDonald’s Bess while giving a mostly lukewarm review to everything else. Meanwhile, the student D.J. at Emerson College’s radio station kept reading promos for the show and pronouncing Porgy as “Porjy.” (He will always be Porjy to me now).

By the time our matinee rolled around, the day was almost too beautiful to be in a dark theater for three hours, and our initial anticipation had been reduced to mild curiosity.

So I’m happy to say we really liked A.R.T.’s Porgy — pretty much everything about it.

I admit that I am not intimate with the whole score and therefore was not always able to tell when new material had been inserted. (One line, about saving to send the baby to college, did come across with a loud, anachronistic clunk — but now a blog reader tells me it was in the original!) But the beauty of the songs, the dancing, the characters making the best of no-options, the love story! I cried pretty much the whole way through. And I’m still singing.

The only other Porgy and Bess I’d seen was directed by Bobby McFerrin in Minneapolis. It was long and kind of confusing, but I accepted that that’s the way opera often is. The A.R.T. may have presented a rejiggered story that was not true to the original, but it was a story that I could follow.

As I said to my husband on the way out, “Well, it worked for me.”

He said, “Sondheim should rethink his position.”

P.S. Audra McDonald was breathtaking.

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My son mentioned this Jane Scott obit the other day. He knows how much I like stories about older people who stay in the fray because they love their work. Writes the NY Times:

“In four happy decades as a rock writer for The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ms. Scott, who died on Monday at 92, braved mud and mosh pits, foul weather and fouler language, ‘a drop of bleached blond and pink polyester in a roiling sea of blue denim and black leather,’ as The Philadelphia Inquirer once described her. …

“Ms. Scott, who took up her beat in 1964 at 45 and retired nine years ago at nearly 83, was often called the world’s oldest teenager, a description she hastened to correct. ‘Second-oldest,’ she would say. ‘After Dick Clark.’ …

“But what troubled Ms. Scott … was her inability to share her passion with her peers.

“ ‘I finally convinced a friend to come see Deep Purple with me,’ she told The Washington Post …. ‘I called her before the show to confirm, and she said, “Oh, Jane, I can still remember dancing with Ben at Beta Theta Pi fraternity, and we danced ‘When the deep purple falls over sleepy garden walls.’ ” ’

“ ‘I thought: “Oh dear. I hate to tell you …” ‘ Ms. Scott continued. ‘I ended up taking her grandson.’ ”

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