Today I felt as if I had an old wonderful comedic memory revived vividly TWICE in one hour and in the same room. I hope youâ€™ve heard and experienced both ANNA RUSSELL and FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS. Anna Russell was one of the finest Classical Music Comedians ever on the stage. In her exaggerated British drawl she could dissect Wagnerian Opera, explain how to play a bagpipe (with the pipe in hand), or simply do an impression of some small town ladies club president introducing the â€œartist of the dayâ€ at a monthly meetingâ€¦..one of her most classic routines. Florence on the other hand, was a wealthy woman whose friends were afraid to disagree with herâ€¦â€¦â€¦they continued to tell her that her voice was beautiful â€¦.. and always asked her to perform for them. She had a dream of performing in a huge hall so way beyond her prime years, she rented Carnegie Hall and got someone to sell it out. The recording is torture to listen toâ€¦â€¦â€¦.and hilarious at the same time.
SO. What does that have to do with today?
We were invited by friend Roushdi and Eran to attend one of the â€œfreeâ€ weekly musical recitals offered at Portlandâ€™s â€œOld Churchâ€ on Wednesdayâ€™s at noon.
People may bring a small sack lunch or noshablesâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦ the audience is made of those interested in music (and every week the program is different), PSU students, even a homeless character will come in occasionally, and lots of older folk coming in from the condominium towers nearby.
Roushdi got us our grilled Panini Sandwiches and gave them to us as we went in. As 12:00 PM arrived, a very old little lady dressed very nicely, hair in a bun, hobbled up onto the stageâ€¦..and over to center floor to announce todayâ€™s program. Her first words were, â€œIâ€™m getting older and climbing up here gives me vertigo.â€ So as she stood there dizzy, she described who would be singing, and introduced the accompanist who was sitting at the piano. She continued to look and squint at the program and finally turned around to the lady and asked her what her name wasâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦..it was all I could do not to giggle, sorry. It was SO ANNA RUSSELLâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦..
So we got through that, and the artist came onstage in a lovely lavender dress with long shawl. She described herself as such a â€œbelieverâ€ that she saw God in everything, even in Popular Broadway and Folk Musical(s). She said she was going to sing things but had re-written some of the words to make them more powerful bringing God into the culture of music. Hence, we heard things from Carol Kingâ€™s â€œYouâ€™ve Got a Friendâ€ to themes from Phantom of the Opera from a blonde woman who sometimes placed her shawl around her head and pretended to be the Virgin Mary. EVERY high note was a struggle and it did not often hit the pitch. The vibrato reminded me of the old electronic Hammond Organs Vibrato, a fast â€¦â€¦â€¦..whir whir whir whirâ€¦â€¦â€¦. As each song passed, we were looking at each other and noticeably beginning to stifle giggles we couldn’t control. We DID have to leave after 30 minutes because all of us were beginning to audibly crack. The poor woman took herself SO VERY seriouslyâ€¦â€¦â€¦..it was SO FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS that I could HEAR her friends choking back when she would ask them what they thought of her singingâ€¦â€¦â€¦.
By the way, the pianist sometimes stoppedâ€¦.and picked up a few measures later because she couldnâ€™t really play either. IF THIS hour show would be given on the COMEDY CHANNEL it would make MONEY ! ! !
SO I TRULY and SINCERELY want to thank Roushdi and Eran for this fabulous revival of TWO of my favorite musical comedian memoriesâ€¦â€¦â€¦..but this time seeing it performed LIVEâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦in a very OLD CHURCHâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦.. by SERIOUS PEOPLEâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦ it WAS fun. As the afternoon wears on, Iâ€™m laughing more and more â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦..
I KNOW any of you who know Rusell and Jenkins will know exactly WHY we had a good time.
Mark & Rodger.