Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Fine Romance

According to Pandora, I'm obsessed with minor key tonality. And I'm okay with that.

What I didn't realize until I went to VCU's Cabell Library today to see the exhibit, "A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs" was that minor key melodies are considered unmistakably Jewish.

The traveling exhibit was about the contributions of Jewish songwriters to what became known as the Great American Songbook.

A monument to the idea of American romance, so to speak.

Guys like Harold Arlen ("the Negro-est white man" Ethel Waters said she ever met), Jerome Kern (who wrote that ultimate romantic song "The Way You Look Tonight"), Irving Berlin (derided by some for having the audacity as a Jew to write "God Bless America") and George Gershwin ("The Man I Love," 'nuff said).

The show was an interesting assemblage of pictures, sheet music, and lots of information about the era 1910-65 when songs like that were being written non-stop.

And for a lyric lover like me, learning that a hallmark of this music was the the cleverness and wit of the words only made it better.

I don't want you
But I'd hate to lose you

But it was something more; the songs fused ardor and resignation into sublime ambivalence.

I  wandered around and finally found the somebody who
Could make me be true and could make me be blue
And even be glad just to be sad, thinking of you.

Melody genius and the perfect words. Now that's a fine romance.

Afterwards, my music-loving companion and I enjoyed a sunny walk over to Garnett's for happy hour and their fabulous $3 snack plates.

White bean hummus with avocado on crostini, apple slices with cheddar baked in phyllo dough and mayhaw jelly and bleu cheese on crostini made for the perfect post-romance snack.

The case was argued that even a snack requires a dessert course and since we'd finished the savory, it was time for the perfect accompaniment.

Like the friends who stopped in briefly for a piece, we indulged in the double chocolate cake.

We've just been introduced
I do not know you well
But when the music started
Something drew me to your side

So many men and girls 
Are in each other's arms
It made me think we might be
Similarly occupied

Only a great American songwriter could make the polka so romantic. A Jewish songwriter, of course.

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