Tag Archives: Noel Coward

A Marvelous Party

“I have been to a marvelous party.”

Thus wrote/sang/chanted Noel Coward in 1938 and I lived it last Saturday night.

The “marvelous party” was “Encore”, ostensibly a fund-raiser for OperaLex to raise money to support the Opera Program at the University of Kentucky.

What it was, in practice, was a resounding celebration of much that is special about living in the Bluegrass.

To begin with, it was Keeneland, in May; intoxicatingly green, lush, and bursting with life…or at least the assurance of life after Derby.

Then there was the 1938 Rolls Royce convertible just inside the entrance. Is that what it takes to get a good parking space?

Then there was the wine-tasting (thank you Liquor Barn) and the mingling of Lexington’s arts supporters with the singers/students/nascent citizens of the UK Opera program. Seeing Houston Tyrrell (you’ll see him next in GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING) discussing the merits of a box of stunning South American red wines with Ben Kaufmann (you saw him in last year’s GRAND NIGHT) was jarring. I’m not completely convinced of who was advising whom, but the entertainment value…priceless.

And then the dining room; it was a palace of glassware, auguring well for the meal to come.

From the stage, Jenna Day came back from her home in Los Angeles to guide us through the evening and share her passion for this program and these students. She introduced Dr. Everett McCorvey and Dr. Tedrin Lindsey.

The spirit in the room got higher and higher;

  • Tedrin’s program for the evening included selections from the past season; LA TRAVIATA, SHOWBOAT, and BOUNCE the basketball opera.
  • Cameron Mills’ and Rex Chapman’s delight for being in the room was obvious and incandescent.
  • The passion and the talent of the singers could not be resisted.
  • Tshegofatso Clement Baloyi broke everyone’s heart with his “Ole Man River”
  • Michael Preacely and Taylor Comstock delivered world-class performances and inspiring personal stories.
  • Jessica Bayne defined class for us all.
  • Emilia Bustle charmingly explained to us that “Life Upon the Wicked Stage” isn’t what a girl supposes.

These young people come to the University of Kentucky to sing and learn to sing and learn to teach others to sing. Tell me again how Lexington, and Kentucky, and the planet is not made better by that. They are with us for two, three, four, five years. They and Lexington are made better by their time here. It is a kind of gardening of talent, and scholarship, and citizenship. Saturday’s Encore event was a kind of harvesting and renewing of that gardening.

Next year, I propose we measure the height of every participant as they enter the event, and again as they leave. I’m convinced that everyone is two inches taller for having been there.

A Geezer Remembers; Bill Nave

I have a bunch of video tapes (I almost said “OLD video tapes”). I’ve been transferring them to discs off and on over the last five years. Occasionally I run across one that affects me a little too much.

The other day I picked up the tape of Bill Nave’s 1996 concert on the Guignol stage.

Sigh.

I miss Bill and frankly, as much I cherish living in present-day Lexington, it was an even better place when Bill was here.

Bill established two dinner theaters in Lexington; the Red Mile Dinner Theater (1970’s) and the Diner’s Playhouse (1980’s). There are still veterans of those theaters haunting Lexington’s theater scene today. I’ll let them raise their own hands.

Bill performed and performed well. The list of shows is long, but my favorite was his starring turn in MOST HAPPY FELLA (1983, I think) directed by Dr. Jim Rodgers in the Guignol. I was rehearsing THE FIFTH OF JULY in the Music Lounge (now the Dickens Movement Studio) next door. I’ve written about that experience in this blog before; “Hey, It’s What We Do”. During breaks and after rehearsal I would sneak into Bill’s rehearsals to watch.

Those efforts were important to Lexington theatre.

But the best was Café Chantant.

Café Chantant was his French restaurant. It was elegant, it was tasty, and it was civilized (“civilized” meaning it had a fine wine list).

It also had Le Cabaret in the basement. It was elegant, it was tasty, and it was civilized (“civilized” meaning the ghosts of Noel Coward and Cole Porter regularly materialized). It was open until the wee hours, an unusual thing for Lexington in those days. You could go to the theatre and finish the night at the Le Cabaret. Who knew such a thing was possible?

The company of Le Cabaret was witty, boisterous, a bit tipsy, and fiercely talented. Just when an evening seemed to be spinning into mayhem, Bill would unleash that voice and stun the room into gratitude for just being there to hear it. I loved those evenings.

In the concert on the tape, Bill explains that his first singing teacher was Nelson Eddy. His grandmother had a bunch of Nelson Eddy records (I almost said “OLD Nelson Eddy records”). Bill would listen to them and imitate what he heard. Similarly, my first singing teacher was Bill. He would perform around town in shows and at the Café Chantant. I would hang on every song like a groupie. I would imitate his sound and his demeanor. I never achieved either, but trying led me to far better places artistically than I would have ever found on my own.

Bill was smart, gracious, generous, and he sang like a dream. All of that was in full view on the concert tape.

I still miss Bill.

The Further Adventures of Ben

Yesterday, I related to you an occurrence in my day…

“I just got a call from ‘Ben’ at ‘Appall sek-yoor-rah-tee’. Ben says my computer is ‘sending a vi-russ ah-lert to the main serrrverrr’. He seemed concerned.
I asked Ben ‘What server – where?’
(pause)
‘Noo-Jerrzee’
‘Is that where you are, Ben?’
(click)

As Jules Feiffer says in his clever play ‘Little Murders’; ‘If they’re that easy to destroy, you have to ask yerself if yer gonna miss’em when they’re gone.’

Waitaminnit!
What if Ben’s tellin’ the truth? Maybe my Dell elected Trump!
……I anticipate a sleepless night……”

 

Well, it was.

So, I got up this morning, blearily called one of geeky friends, and we investigated the Dell. Yes, before you ask, we notified James Comey of the impending investigation.

On the hard drive we discovered;

  • 331 emails from Hilary Clinton – mostly recipes and ambiguous limericks
  • Snatches of Noel Coward lyrics from unpublished songs – not so ambiguous, but quaint
  • A video of Citizen Trump in a Russian hotel room (sign on the door in the background stating room rates and check-out times in Cyrillic) – not even in the same area code as ambiguous
  • An offer to forgive my student loan in exchange for a small deposit – who says this is not a kind world?
  • An interactive map of coffee houses in Raqqa.
  • George Martin’s next installment in The Game of Thrones.
  • The football playbook of Davidson University.
  • The rest of Coleridge’s “Xanadu”
  • Lesson plans from the University of North Carolina (these were blank pages).

I felt pretty good when we had finished. Our discoveries were bizarre and vaguely unsettling but that seems “de rigeur” in today’s world. I couldn’t see anything that suggested my computer moccasins had scuffed the planet any more than others I could name.

Thus encouraged, we explored further; actually opening the box of the pc.

Oh my…

We found;

  • Al Capone’s whiskey bottle
  • A floppy drive (no, my younger friends, this is not something Viagra can fix)
  • Nixon’s missing eighteen-and-a-half minutes
  • 14 pounds of cat and dog hair
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • A chord, previously mislaid
  • Pluto (the former planet, not the pup)

Though it seemed we could go on quite a bit further, we stopped there. As intriguing as our discoveries were, they seemed benign compared to what I could see 24/7/365 on CNN under the heading of “Breaking News”.

Also, I was feeling a bit antsy proceeding in this wonderland without Carl Sagan or Joseph Campbell as a guide…or maybe Robert Langdon.

I did want to call Ben at “Appall sek-yoor-rah-tee” and thank him for opening a hidden world to me.

Is this how the archaeologists of the future will spend their time? If so, perhaps the City of Lexington’s computer dump facility on Versailles Road will be the Egyptian pyramids of the 22nd century.

Cool.

Please file this under “alternative facts”.