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Friends of the decanter who follow the boys of summah will be aware that regular season baseball wraps up this week.

Here is the current status of Robbo’s beloved Nationals.  We begin a final three game home stand against the Phils this evening.  We are currently three games up on the 2nd place Braves who finish against the Bucs.  Our “magic number” for clinching the division is 1.  This means that either if we win one of our games or the Braves lose one of theirs, we clinch.  Even if we lose all three games and the Braves win all three of theirs, we would still face each other in a single tie-breaker game to determine the division championship.

You might think that the odds are pretty good that the Nats will be able to wrap this thing up, but I tell you truly that it has all turned out to being a much nearer-run thing than I had expected (at least until we got swept by the Braves about ten days ago, which was when I first fancied I heard the long, slow footfalls of Nemesis coming down the wind).  And I confess there is a cold, cold feeling somewhere in the back of my stomach that it is becoming a challenge to hold at bay.

Granted, the Nats have already clinched a playoff birth.  But I fear that if we were to manage foozling the division title after having come this far, we’d go into the first round single-elimination “play in” game under a terrible, terrible psychic handicap.   (Oh, note to MLB – Even my daughters think the “play in” format is a complete crock.  Please get rid of it.  Thank you.)

Anyhoo, the next three evenings may prove to be extremely bad for ol’ Robbo’s stomach muscles, to say nothing of his liver.

What else is there to do, then, but say GO, NATS!!!

Friend of teh decanter Mike F reminds me that it’s Maritime Monday over at gCaptain, this week featuring a Carnival of N.C. Wyeth Nautical Story Illustrations.  Go on over and take  a dekko.

I know it exposes me as the petty bourgeois middle-brow that I am, but I’ve always loved Wyeth’s work.  Even as a kid I recall being taken by the way he used light and shadow to create those hazy backgrounds of mountain and cloud, and the flow of movement of his figgahs.

Waiting around for the dishwasher to cycle out last evening, ol’ Robbo stumbled upon a Cheers marathon being run on one of those cable networks of which I’d never heard before.  Apparently, this was in honor of the 30th anniversary of the series.

Thirtieth?  Yeeks.

Robbo doesn’t often care to admit it when popular culchah has an influence on him, but Cheers was a staple of his life in the mid-to-late 80’s, along with the rest of NBC’s awesome Thursday night lineup in that era (including Cosby, Family Ties, Night Court, Hill Street Blues and Viewer Mail Night on Letterman).  Indeed, I was in college at the very height of this run and the whole hall would gather together in somebody or other’s room for the evening viewing, with much vino and pizza on hand.  Good times.

I haven’t watched the show in reruns very much since then, but every time I do I’m reminded of the ol’ school daze in Connecticut, during which I spent a healthy amount of time knocking around Bahston as well.   I got the same feeling of nostalgia again last evening.

Actually, I came in very late in the marathon, tuning in just as Diane reappeared after her extended absence which, if memory serves, was very close to the very last episode.  I didn’t bother to watch the finale, in part because the dishes were done and in part because I remember being quite disappointed with it when it originally aired, especially after all the hype building up to it.  Eh.

One thing seeing the show again reminded me of was an insane debate that riled the home of my misspent yoot.  You see, the Old Gentleman was absolutely convinced that the Olde Timey photos of drinking establishments that accompanied the opening credits had been doctored so that the heads of various cast members of the show were featured in them.  He used to get extremely irritated when it was suggested he was just imagining these things.   Why, I’ll never know.

Another thing I was reminded of was the fact that I had for a time dated a real-life Diane in college.  This was the one who, when I was downstate in Darien having Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house, left me a message that evening that she needed me to come over and see her absolutely at once when I got back.   It happened to be pouring rain that night, and after a white-knuckled ride home up I-95 and I-91 I was feeling especially jangled when I got the message.  When I went over to her digs in less than sympathetic frame of mind, I discovered that she was upset by the Death of Cordelia, of which she had been reading.

Now, like every other guy in my dorm I had a real thing for Shelly Long’s Diane (or “Doy-anne” as Carla would say).  But it’s one thing to view such a character from the comfort and safety of the teevee screen, another to deal with it in actuality.

But thirty years?  It occurred to me that if one of the gels was to walk into the room and I yelled “Noooooorm!!”, she wouldn’t have the faintest idea what I was talking about.

Friends of the decanter who have been paying attention to Robbo’s jawing on the subject will be aware that the Middle Gel’s professional choral concert debut took place down the National Cathedral this past Saturday evening with a performance of Haydn’s oratorio “The Creation.”   (I hadn’t picked up on this before, but September 29 is the anniversary of the laying of the first stone of the Cathedral in 1907.  This explains the choice of programming.)  For those of you wondering how it went, I can only say that it was triumphal.

The piece was performed by three soloists – soprano, tenor and baritone, a period instrument orchestra numbering no more than thirty musicians, and the full boys’ and girls’ choirs which, with their accompanying men, totaled somewhere in the neighborhood of maybe seventy voices.   The performers were all on a platform right at the intersection of the nave and the transept.   Self and Mrs. R were seated about four rows back from the edge of the stage, and could see the gel in the front rank of the choir, only sometimes blocked by one of the second violins in our line of sight.   I must say that when the choir was going at full throttle in the choruses and I could see the gel trilling away with the best of them, backdropped by the stone pillars and arches, surrounded by a sea of purple robes and with the instrumentalists all spread out in front of her, so very much at the heart of that great sound that came rolling off the platform, well, I was quite overwhelmed.

And it was a lovely sound, too.  I’d never heard the Creation all the way through before.  Unlike some people who no doubt know better than me and consider the work to be Haydn’s masterpiece, I wouldn’t say it’s one of the greatest choral pieces simply because I don’t think Papa was at his very best when writing for voice.  (He got the idea to try an oratorio after visiting London and being exposed to Handel’s work.  Papa had his strong suits, but he couldn’t compare with ol’ Georg Friderick in this department, in my humble opinion.)   But it was Papa nonetheless, which means that it was witty, intelligent, spirited and, especially in those passages dedicated specifically to the glorification of God, sublime.

The piece is in three sections.  The first depicts the coming of Order from Chaos and the beginning of the world up through the creation of the Sun and the stars.  The second part is a depiction of the forming of the seas, the mountains and the various plant and animal life and, finally, Man.  I found myself particularly moved by the third part, which is an extended duet between Adam and Eve in which they sing of their love for each other and their duty to God, with the chorus dancing in and out of the dialogue in a delightful way.  The duet was quite lyrical and made me wonder if the old boy, in composing it, kept asking himself “What would Mozart do?”  Significantly, this was Adam and Eve before the Fall, so Haydn was literally writing about Paradise.  The only foreshadowing of trouble came in a recitative by the angel Uriel just before the choral finale, in which he warns the pair that they can remain as happy as they are so long as they don’t get greedy for more than they have or seek to know more than they ought to.  Indeed.  Haydn, a devoutly religious man himself, no doubt very much meant it.  I couldn’t help wondering how many of my fellow audience members paused to reflect on this hint of the Fall.

The performance was awfully good almost all the way around.  (My only criticism might have been for the soprano, who had a nice, clear bel canto voice, but insisted on adding a lot of vibrato to it.  No likey vibrato.  The tenor, on the other hand, was absolutely first rate.)  I had not known it before reading the biographical notes in the program, but the Canon in charge of the gel’s musick has himself sung with the Monteverdi Choir, the vocal arm of Sir John Eliot Full of Himself Gardiner’s English Baroque Soloists outfit.  In other words, the fellah is major league.

Let me pause here, by the bye,  and add a serious, well, clarification.  On the one hand, I enjoy posting about the gel’s musickal exploits for reasons that ought to be clear to anyone who has spent any amount of time here lingering over the decanter.  On the other, I’m a bit hesitant about it because I fear being taken for sticking on side or showing off or pretentiousness or otherwise sounding like one of the Beautiful People.   I would ask that you never mistake any of these posts that way.  To the extent that pride plays any part in my postings, it’s all pride in the talent and hard work of the gel that have won her the opportunity to participate in such a program, nicely leavened with gratitude and humility on my part about being able to help her to it.   I’ve no doubt that as she goes forward I will be writing about her adventures a great deal from time to time, but I never want to come across as offensive about it.

So that’s that.

And speaking of the gel, I begin to realize how much of a pro she’s actually becoming.  To wit:

– She remarked to me after one of the dress rehearsals about what an awful lot of time the choir spends just sitting around while the soloists are doing their stuff.

– Nonetheless, when I asked her something about a particular solo passage, she said, “Oh, I wasn’t paying attention.  I was just waiting for my cue.”

– She disclosed to me this morning that she realized about halfway through the second section that she’d left her iWhateveritis on in her pocket.  Suddenly terrified that she’d get a call or message from one of her friends in media res, she surreptitiously got her hand under her robe and, poker-faced, managed to find the off button.

Anyhoo, at the conclusion of the performance we all leaped to our feet, which I suppose at least the parents in the audience would have done anyway, but in this case we meant it.   The performers took three or four curtain-call equivalents, and the good-will between them and the audience was quite palpable.  All in all, a most satisfactory conclusion to all the hard work the gel has been putting in these past weeks.

And now?  Time to start rehearsing Christmas musick!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here it is October the First.  October and November together have always been ol’ Robbo’s very favorite months of the year.  There’s just something about autumn…..the signs of Nature giving over her summah frolics and preparing for the long sleep, the drawing in of the days, the steady deterioration of the weather….that I find both bracing and melancholic at the same time.  Indeed, I am seldom happier than when tramping about on a carpet of dead leaves on a 40 degree day with a steady rain coming down.  It’s a particular kind of somber and rueful happiness, if that makes sense.   (And even better, I can indulge in my sentimentality undetected because everybody else have got their heads down griping about the weather.)

Not that I’ve dwelt on the whys and wherefores of this sort of happiness to any great extent, but I think for me there’s a certain element of memento mori underlying and powering it.  And before you get the wrong idea and put ol’ Robbo on suicide watch, let me hasten to assure you that I don’t mean it that way.  What I mean is that all the sights and smells and feels of Nature’s annual decay puts me in mind of things beyond the cycle of mere worldly matters.  The mutability of this life reminds me of the immutability of the next.  So, as I say, it’s both melancholic and bracing.

(Baroque musick has the same, well, transcendental effect on me, not because of a sense of autumnal-like decay, but because I’ve always felt it to be an echo of the Musick of the Spheres.  I notice that I both listen to and play the Baroque almost exclusively at this time of year and furthermore that I play it better than in other seasons.)

This may not be an especially original thought.  On the other hand, I may be a loonie.  One way or the other, like Popeye, I yams what I yams and that’s how autumn makes me feel.


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October 2012