My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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“American Utopia,” and the brilliant, unforgettable Angela Hewitt

Received two beautiful notes today about the book, one from musician Louise, friend since high school, and one from Shelley, whom I don’t know. 

Louise: I love your writing style, fluid and lyrical with a satisfying rhythm. And you can be very funny too! … Your account of your time at L’Arche made my soul ache. 

Shelley: Having read your blog these last few years, I was looking forward to reading your new book. Absolutely wonderful! There is so much life and joy bouncing off the pages! I especially loved reading about your experiences in France. What a lot of heart goes into your writing. Thank you for what you do!

Thank you both very much. As you know, I can grow profoundly discouraged about this crazy profession or calling or whatever you call something you do all your life that does not provide enough money to live on. And then I’m reminded – oh yes. That’s why I do it. 

Two marvellous artistic experiences in the comfort of my home: yesterday on HBO, American Utopia, the musical by David Byrne made into a film by Spike Lee. It was on Broadway in NYC when I was last there and though I wasn’t a Talking Heads or Byrne fan particularly I’d heard such great things, I wanted to see it but it was sold out. It’s wonderful – the music spectacular, made by musicians, especially percussionists, wearing their instruments on harnesses so they can do choreographed moves while they play – difficult, rhythmic, infectious. Byrne is so good-looking and vigorous at 68 – unfair how some men (and sadly, how few women) get better looking as they age, George Clooney here’s looking at you. Byrne is a fascinating performer, and his band is unbeatable. A must-see.

Today, the sublime. One of my students gave me a gift certificate to a Koerner Hall concert as a thank you, and I chose Angela Hewitt playing Bach’s Art of the Fugue. It was set for this spring, cancelled, put off until today – and cancelled again. But they sent out a Zoom link. This incredible musician taped an introduction, explaining each of the fugues and the canons, and then, at 3, she walked into an empty concert hall and played the most brilliant concert I’ve ever heard. What’s extraordinary about Hewitt, who’s from Ottawa, is the complete lack of ego, of distracting theatrics – no Gould stuff, sitting low or humming or grimacing, she sits straight, her fingers fly, and the music goes straight from Bach’s heart to your’s. 

Bach always makes me weep, but today – she’d explained that the 14th fugue ends suddenly because Bach died before he’d finished it. Some pianists fill in that gap, but she does not. She plays on and on, the music incredibly complex and layered, we are watching closeups of her slender, powerful hands, seemingly effortless brilliance, and then suddenly she stops in mid-bar and bows her head. It’s shocking, a punch in the chest, the sense that this inimitable soul has died, that I burst into sobs, sitting in my kitchen. She played the short piece tacked on by CPE Bach to finish, and then sat, spent, motionless, in a silent, darkening concert hall. Alone in my kitchen, tears streaming, I clapped.

How lucky we are, that artists are creating as fervently as ever and sending their art right into our homes. Today, I loved seeing the closeups of her hands, her face, the music, on Zoom. What I missed was the chance to leap to my feet with hundreds of other people and thank her by shouting “Brava!”

Here, from yesterday’s walk –  Brava to Mother Nature too.

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2 Responses to ““American Utopia,” and the brilliant, unforgettable Angela Hewitt”

  1. theresa says:

    I began my morning with this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRCWrh_m-5A I think it's the most beautiful music I know. I loved your description of the concert…

  2. beth says:

    Theresa, it's stunning. I can play this aria, along with a few of the easier Goldbergs. But for some reason, it does not sound anything like that. I wonder why.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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