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Ahhhh, Bach . . . "Saints Alive!"

  • May 18, 2011

A Slightly Askew View of the Oregon Bach Festival.

SAINTS ALIVE! On July 7 conductor Matthew Halls will lead the OBF Orchestra, OBF Choir and several soloists in a performance honoring St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. The concert will feature compositions by such noted heavyweights as George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), whom Beethoven described as "the master of us all"; Henry Purcell (1659-1695), whose harmonies Pete Townshend once cited as the inspiration for such Who classics as "Pinball Wizard" and "Won't Get Fooled Again"; and Benjamin Britten (1915-1976), who also composed an operetta about Paul Bunyan.

No, seriously, that Paul Bunyan.

Incidentally, you can hear a selection of Britten's non-Bunyan compositions performed by Alban Gerhardt at the "Bach and Britten Cello Suites" concerts June 27, June 29 and July 1 at Beall Concert Hall. Bring your Babe. And Handel's "Ode for St. Cecilia's Day" will also performed in Portland on July 9. Hallelujah! POP UPS. Despite her elevated status, St. Cecilia has been the subject of and inspiration for a wide range of popular entertainments. Chaucer told her story in The Second Nun's Tale in "The Canterbury Tales," wherein he relates the legend that on her wedding night Cecilia told her husband that she was protected by a guardian angel who would immediately slay anyone who touched or loved her lecherously. Certainly a more compelling argument than "Not tonight, honey, I have a headache." John Dryden wrote a poem about her. The Andrews Sisters recorded a song about her. An early version of Blue Oyster Cult named an album after her. And, of course, she was famously responsible for breaking Paul Simon's heart and shaking his confidence daily. So not only is St. Cecilia responsible for inspiring lofty works of high art, she's also probably the guiding spirit behind that one guy who was always playing the harmonica in the stairwell of our dorm way back in the day. Patron saints do get around, don't they? SAINTS PRESERVE US! As it turns out, there's a patron saint interceding on the behalf of just about every occupation or trivial pursuit in which we mere mortals engage: bartenders (Amand), motorcyclists (Columbanus), lumberjacks (Gummarus), eunuchs (Gang Bing), thieves (Dismas) and even writers (Francis de Sales, not to be confused with Francis de Sales & Marketing). It's good to have connections. QUIZZICAL? You probably didn't need divine intervention to solve last week's Pop Quiz, but we'll give you the right answers anyway. Q: What popular TV series was loosely inspired by Joan of Arc? A: In "Joan of Arcadia" (2003-2005), a high-school student named Joan Giradi sees and speaks to "God," who assigns her tasks she must complete. Q: In the aforementioned series, in what form did "God" speak to Joan? A: During its two-season run, "God" appeared to Joan in many forms, including a mime, a homeless man, a bad stand-up comedian, a housewife and a balloon sculptor. Next week we'll take a look at OBF's "Brahms Soiree," which will feature several excerpts from the composer's work performed in a recreation of his Vienna salon.

Until then, here's another quiz to whet your appetite:

With what well-known "tramp" did Brahms once have a close shave?

Post your wild guesses on our Facebook page, and come back next week for the real answer.

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