A Weekend Alive With Music: Volta Park, Adams Morgan, Embassy Series
The old saying or song is wrong: it’s not always fair weather. Once again, the world is on fire and drowning. Once again, it takes a change in the air, and a song or two to come with it, to make the next week seem promising again.
During the week, the news was again full of streams overflowing, rivers running through it and by it, with yet another local outburst of storms and flooding here and there along the Potomac as in the days before.
This time, the misery was shared by the world, where floods tore through the Balkans, otherwise known as Serbia, Croatia and other places that once made up the no-longer-in-existence nation of Yugoslavia.
Out in California, wildfires raged and destroyed in one of the more affluent pieces of real estate in the state, down in San Diego, burning homes in the arid countryside and hills.
It made me think of the old James Taylor song—“I’ve seen fire, and I’ve seen rain…..”
Taylor made music, and it was music—and a horse and another lyric—that soothed if not the savage beasts, at least the savage weather.
Because spring once again was in high dudgeon of blue-sky good feeling, outdoors and indoors.
At Georgetown’s Volta Park, the Citizens Association of Georgetown kicked off its annual Concerts in the Parks series bouncing the air with children, snow cones and balloons as always, resounding with the sounds and smells of picnics on a Sunday afternoon. There was—oh, my sorrow—free Haagen Dazs ice cream, and complimentary Sprinkles cupcakes.
Best of all, musically and in any way, there was Georgetown treasure Rebecca McCabe, singer-songwriter, blonde and lovely as always, singing with Human Country Jukebox, who had foraying with high voice and spirits into classic Johnny-Cash-style country music before she raced in from the airport. At concert's end, a special delight: the kids singing "Let It Go" from the film "Frozen," up on stage with McCabe.
That was Sunday, yesterday, all our sorrows seemed so far away.
On Saturday, there was the horse and the City Paper’s female jazz vocalist of the year of 2013, not all together, but sounding similar confident tones and tunes. At the Preakness—after sitting in on the Adams Morgan Summer Concert Series at Columbia Road and Calvert and 18th streets—you got a chance to see that California Chrome, that winner of a three-year-old once again scoot to a first place finish, this time with a smart position and a sprint at the end, seeming hardly to work up a sweat. He is now king of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.
This means that Chrome, the horse of little pedigree -- with the working class owners, a jockey who admits that his horse might be just as smart as he is and a trainer who’s never been in the inner circle of the Triple Crown sorts - can now become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
If California Chrome wins the Belmont, the endurance and heart tester of a race which has foiled a few speedsters in its day. That could happen unless the mini-controversy of the nose guards worn by Chrome to help his breathing turns into a cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-the-Triple-Crown kind of thing.
Meantime, Rochelle Rice, a local jazz singer of some renown sang with a trio on a perfect kind of Saturday afternoon in Adams Morgan. On this corner, where there are empty bike racks, and you’re only 100 feet away from the site of the latest condo development where there used to be the Exxon station, you can feel change. But you can also feel the things that don’t change, come what may, as traffic and connector buses swerve around the turn, and just about all the little kids that live in Lanier Heights showed up to try their little selves on hula hoops.
Rice had her way about her too: she sang Satchmo’s soothing celebration of everything, “Wonderful World,” and there was nothing you could brood or say to that, because she infuses pop with jazz, and leaves the left-overs to both. She can stretch an entire line of lyric into meaning, or caress and make putty out of vowels and make you love it.
That was Saturday.
On Friday, at the Embassy of Hungary, the Embassy Series under founder Jerome Barry, resurrected the middle-brow art of operetta vocals, with the presence of soprano Krisztina David from Hungary and Austrian tenor Michael Heim to engage in romantic musical duels and courtship, accompanied by George Peachey on piano.
They played the songs and music of Franz Lehar and Emmerich Kalman, masters of the form of music which once lathered Broadway and MGM musicals, with waltzes and romances and comedy from “The Merry Widow” to “The Gypsy Princess.”
This was the kind of music and performances which, done with gusto, verve and elan, was an antidote to weather and war, any evening. Heim sang with ebullience and exuberance, and David soared with high notes and the charm of a natural, beautiful coquette.
So, James Taylor did that song: “I’ve seen fire, and I’ve seen rain…
And then: “I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.”
And that was the weekend that was.