Punting on the Thames

i ain’t close: an ocean, a continent, seven time zones, and three hundred plus years away.

But the other night, with the magic of electronics, in the lovely night air of the Southwest corner, i sit alone envisioning punting on the Thames.

It’s Cy Fraser’s fault. In 1963, he was air conducting Handel’s “Water Music” while listening through headphones in a sound booth in Vanderbilt’s Heard Library. Billy Parsons and i found him there, waving his arms in ecstacy…No, no, no, not all of that drug crap, which seems to have obliterated the wonderful definition of the word from our English language. Ecstasy: “an overwhelming feeling of great happiness or joyful excitement” from Miriam Webster, whom i assume was the great granddaughter of Noah, but no, just the name of the Merriam brothers who bought Noah’s dictionary and made it famous and made themselves very rich.

But i digress.

i can still see Cy leaning back in that small chair with the earphones on his head, waving his arms as if conducting, even occasionally pointing to an unseen orchestra member to come into the play at just the right time.

i bought my first LP of Handel’s piece the next week, most likely with funds i should have spent elsewhere, but that particular sin has been with me for pretty much all of my life: buying stuff  i wanted with funds needed elsewhere or simply nonexistent, requiring me to scramble to cover the expense.

i have four LP’s of that magnificent piece and two CD’s. i play it whenever i want something inspiring while i write or read something impactful to me. and often, it is one of two classical pieces i play when i just want to sit, listen, and contemplate (Antonín Dvořák’s Ninth “New World” Symphony is the other favorite, another classic Cy brought to me).

That other night in the Southwest corner listening, i just listened. i closed my  eyes and tried to carry myself back to 1717 when Handel put together the music at the request of George I for playing as the King and his assembly partiers on a barge with the musicians al on another barge.

i wonder how that punting went. Were the partiers listening? Certainly the king must have been paying attention. He asked the musicians to replay the music twice more during the voyage.

And as i listened, i could not imagine the king and regal attendees feeling what i felt listening 305 years later. Still, it would be nice to punt on the Thames.

Thanks, Cy.


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