Or: adapt, improvise, overcome.
It seems the great-nephew of John Hughes, the composer of the great Welsh hymn “Cwm Rhondda,” isn’t a fan of a new recording of the tune in the style of the band Queen. Apparently, he doesn’t feel the revision rocks hard enough:
“John Hughes’ square-cut, driving harmonies are replaced with slushy Victorian chords and sloppy rhythms—the very things he was trying to avoid.”
Damn straight—what passes for rock and roll today is lame, lame, lame. Back before the Great War, they knew how to thrash.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Clawdd Offa, Carnival Messiah is returning to England. In the words of its creator, “It is like a multicultural presentation that takes George Fredrick Handel’s oratorio from the concert hall and places it in the middle of a Caribbean street parade.” Hilarious consequences ensue! No, actually, the piece is a “true embodiment of the West Indian culture and Carnival, as it relates to the slave trade and colonialism.” (In other words, don’t you dare stand during the “Hallelujah” chorus.)
I feel pretty sedated: sometime Ramones drummer Richie Ramone is coming to a pops concert near you, pounding his way through a drum-solo version of West Side Story by arranger Ron Abel. Don’t remember Richie? A commenter on the above article sums it up: “He was in the band for a short amount of time, played all of the songs about three times faster than they were supposed to be played.” Keep coolly cool, boy.
Not to be outdone by Trevor Nunn, Berkeley-area composer and performer Aaron Blumenfeld has written a sequel to Porgy and Bess. Well, kind of. It’s actually called Paigel and Bathsheva, and it takes place in… oh, let’s just let him explain.
Says the Richmond composer, “I thought it would be great to write a sequel showing how [Porgy] goes up north, and on the way he runs into jazz, rag, barrelhouse, jug band, gospel, all the early black folk music styles. Then I realized I’m not black.”
Blumenfeld, an observant Jew and the son of a rabbi, pondered changing his main character to a Jew starting out in Europe then shifting the scene to America.
There are parallels with the Heywood/Gershwin classic: Bathsheva, a rabbi’s daughter, is Blumenfeld’s Bess, courted by Pagiel, a young Jewish mystic. The original villain, Sportin’ Life, has a counterpart in Zishe, a rival suitor for Bathsheva’s hand. Zishe kidnaps Bathsheva and steals her off to America, with Pagiel hot on their trail.
Once Pagiel arrives, he is rescued from anti-Semitic thugs by a friendly black musician, who introduces the immigrant to a strange new kind of music: the blues.
OK, OK, it’s pretty goofy. But doesn’t this sound like fun the more you think about it? And what wouldn’t you give to have this sentence in your bio?
His publications include a 101-song collection of Chassidic melodies and “How to Play Blues and Boogie Piano Styles.”
One last revision: the Bank of England is giving Edward Elgar the hook, replacing his portrait on the 20-pound note with that of the Scottish economist Adam Smith.
I’ve been telling you for years that the free market doesn’t value classical music! Now do you believe me?