Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Post-Serenade Unctuous Notes

Apparently, there's a presumption that I'm always up for something.

How else to explain three last minute invitations from friends of wildly varying degrees in one evening?

After spending the day at my parents' house, some of it watching the memory lapse-laden testimony of our Attorney General - I kissed them goodbye and headed out the door after his 37th bogus "I don't recall" - I got home to a phone message from an out of town friend and a FB message from an in-town friend.

This is a long shot, but I was thinking of grabbing a bite in your 'hood soon.

Since I had two tickets to an early performance and no date, I welcomed the chance to share music with a musician, inviting X-tina to join me, after which we could have that bite in the 'hood she was desperately seeking.

Driving to the Virginia Holocaust Museum for its 20th Anniversary concert, we discovered that neither of us had ever been to the museum, despite both being interested in doing so and the museum having been open since 2003. Tonight was not the night to do it (the exhibits were closed), so we made plans to make that happen so we can hold our heads up as worthy Richmond culture mavens.

Walking into the Choral Synagogue Auditorium, I would guess we were in the non-Jewish minority, although unlike that time I went to a lecture at the Jewish Community Center, no one approached me to guess, "You're not Jewish, are you?" like they had there.

Seated in the front row were Holocaust survivors while in our section, it was more about older people kvetching until historian Charles Sydnor took to the lectern to welcome us with a moving speech about silence signaling consent and the importance of speaking out against racism and intolerance. Sadly, there were far too many eerie parallels to today.

Next came Tony Morcos, whose great aunt had been a violinist until she was killed in a concentration camp, although she'd handed off her violin - now known by her nickname, Nettie - to a safekeeper before being arrested. That violin was to be played tonight, all these years later, as part of the performance, but first he showed old photographs of his great aunt, often with her violin in hand, and their family during happier times.

I particularly liked one of her with her hot jazz trio, looking very modern and hip.

Performing were the Richmond Symphony's Jocelyn Vorenberg on violin and David Fisk on piano doing works by Jewish composers whose work had been suppressed or banned during the Nazi regime. Surprisingly, for work made during such a dark period, much of it was uplifting, light and beautiful and in the case of "Serenade '42" by Robert Dauber (who died at 20), almost Gershwin-like.

The entire performance was wondrous, watching these two musicians perform against a backdrop of an elaborate, arched, gold, altar-like bema in a high-ceilinged two-story room where the sounds of their instruments seemed to float heavenward as they played music no one had heard live for decades, if ever.

Saying, "You can't end the evening without "Schindler's List," the duo closed out with the heart-wrenching piece and took their final bows.

Even the speeches afterward were moving (Fisk saying, "When words fail, there is music"), with reminders that being Jewish is a cultural identification as much as religious and one with Jewish soul at the heart of its music. X-tina was tearing up and I was feeling privileged to have witnessed such a touching reminder, musical and spoken, of a hideously dark period.

Rather than staying for the reception - because did it really need two non-Jewish, unmarried women? - we made our way back to J-Ward and Saison Market so X-tina could have the burger she'd been craving and I could dive into a bowl of chicken wings with smoked jalapeno and charred pineapple rub. Fernet with ginger was icing on the cake while we commiserated about our love lives and debated the appeal of difficult men.

Not that I have one in my life, unless you look at my wider circle. Although really, in order to rate as a friend, there has to be frequent contact and shared adventures, not to mention hours of conversation. I can't see where I have any male acquaintances who qualify there, so my difficulties will have to come from the most casual of relationships.

You can't end a blog post without a thinly veiled reference. Oh, can't you?


  1. I'm your friend no matter what you say.
    Why, you know why. I Miss you.

  2. I DO know why. Not only do you predate the rule, you are the exception that proves the rule.

    I miss you too. A lot.