Monday, October 24, 2005

Where's The Unbearable Lightness of Being?

On paper, it looked like a fine and full Sunday afternoon and evening cultural package -- one at no direct cost to me. After Belgian waffles, fruit, and salad at home, we would take a brief walk along the C & O Canal, and then take the bus over to the National Gallery of Art for Alexander Nagel's Andrew W. Mellon lecture "Renaissance Art Discovers the Icon", then attend the screening of the new Italian film "I'm Not Scared (Io non ho paura)" (Gabriele Salvatores, 2003, Italian with subtitles, from the novel by Niccolò Ammaniti, 109 minutes, Recommended for mature audiences)["One of the most lauded Italian releases of the last two years is this suspense thriller about a ten-year-old boy in rural southern Italy who one day finds a boy his age imprisoned in a pit on the verge of perishing. How the boy handles this grim and evil reality, especially in the face of a curious adult indifference, is the film's epic power"], and then stay on for at least half of the free Takacs String Quartet concert at the National Gallery, at 6:30 PM, of works of Haydn, Beethoven, and Borodin.

Instead, the sun was shining, and we somehow ended up -- halfway in the sun -- in Leopold's Viennese Cafe, in a gentrified industrial alley above the Canal, drinking coffee and eating Brautwurst and chatting with the friendly guests at the neighbouring small tables. The hours melted away, and we then found ourselves at the granite end of the destroyed Civil War era railroad bridge over the Potomac River, and then sunning ourselves at Arthur Cotton Moore's Georgetown Harborplace "folly", before hopping on the 50 minute Potomac River tour boat excursion. I protested that we had already done the boat ride by moonlight and the leaves hadn't yet turned color, but I was overruled -- Boatride or no Takacs String Quartet concert later.

Well, we didn't make it to the Takacs String Quartet concert either, instead finding our way back to the old church-yard of Grace Church ("a little Episcopal parish in lower Georgetown, Washington, D.C. with a very big heart" [above the river and next to the new Ritz Luxury Hotel and Residences])where a young group of jazz students had earlier been rehearsed by a very patient and kindly elderly African American jazz master, bassist Emory Diggs. There, we attended a presentation of Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox and Folk Music and Dance, by a young troupe of ten (eight girls and two boys) from a Southern Russian orphanage near Orenburg. The troupe and tour was being sponsored by St. John’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Connecticut and (the also affluent) Christ Episcopal Church, in Washington. It was a fine and varied cultural afternoon program after all; complementing the jazz rehearsal that we had heard earlier. I especially enjoyed the Russian and Ukrainian folksongs sung by two teenage boys who accompanied themselves on gusli and guitar. This troupe of young spiritual artists travelled as spiritual artists have always travelled -- sleeping on stages or between the pews of churches. The few hundred -- or perhaps thousand dollars -- these spiritual artists would earn would sustain their orphanage of 60 children through the coming winter and until the next world tour...

Slavonic gusli

Photo credit: East-Club, Russia


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