High Voices and Maritime Pines
I am sitting in a table-wobbling Bohemia café in a colonial Mexican town recognized as a UNESCO Heritage Site, listening to Andreas Scholl sing Bach cantatas in his counter-tenor voice, which sounds like a castrato but isn’t, yet prompting my friend, a retired officer of the British Royal Navy, to make silly, limp-wristed gestures with upward turned eyes as if appealing to God to join him in rejecting this kind of music, while of course the whole time the real target of his ridicule, his gentle jab, is someone close to me, if not identical, the one who loves listening to Andreas Scholl, about whom I know nothing at all except that he has a long and distinguished career in the music world and is surely one of the most talented in his field, again about which I know very little, except for one experience in an ancient abbey on the French Coast near Montpelier when a another friend and I—he had painted the abbey many times in wonderful studies of light and dark, as if the building, surrounded by Maritime Pines were a ship of lesser tonnage, not English, approaching through a thinning fog, backlit by a weak sun that had forgotten that it was a Mediterranean sun—were sitting in the middle of the empty pews, when a similar voice, carried on perfect acoustics, filled the abbey for several minutes, followed by a silence during which I waited for the mezzo-soprano to emerge from somewhere above and behind the altar, which happened but as one of three young men, not a woman, grinning at their daring contribution as they passed by, and we, marveling, smiled right back at them, enchanted that a male voice could sound like that, in an abbey surrounded by dark Maritime Pines that had survived Roman shipbuilders—I’m talking about masts—all of which made me wonder whether the Roman soldiers, sitting around their campfires, wiping heathen blood off their broadswords, had asked their own castrato or falsetto warrior to get up and sing a tune to relax his exhausted comrades, whose eyes would have been a mixture of Germanic Blue and Mediterranean Brown, or Cow-Eyed Limpid—Homer’s phrase—if they were of Greek descent, and who didn’t think for a second of their singer as menso, zafado, loco, missing a wooden screw, or someone whose goats had gone to the mountains, hence Mexican for whacky, but just singing with vocal cords designed differently from yours and mine, hence completely undeserving of ridicule of any kind, least of all by me toward myself for going on like this without the usual punctuation, since Andreas Scholl, surely not dressed in a leather Roman battle skirt, was stringing me along, as well as allowing me to make whatever I wanted to of his voice and the mystery surrounding it, as well as of Maritime Pines, in rich darks, made into tall masts, approaching off the coast of Montpelier, ghosting toward me, carrying a delegation of people I wouldn’t know but who are mezzo-sopranos and Hermaphrodites who can sing like Andreas Scholl and have been hoping for some time to find a writer wanting to write to their sonatas, which also go on and on, as their voices caress first the abbeys, then the Pines, and finally the mountains where my goats have gone when I listen to this music, which, as far I’m concerned, I wish would never end.
6 thoughts on “High Voices and Maritime Pines”
Magical, dear Sterling. Thank you.
My Mexico always gallops across the stage silver-mounted, leaps from the saddle to belt out, “y volver, volver volver”….
Hola, Roz! Saludos y gracias!
Hah – the hell with unimaginative punctuation! Good to hear your voice old friend. I, too, enjoy the sound of a counter tenor voice. Just the thing to read at 4 am, after some time awake with my arm on my love’s back soothing a fleeting,whimper-inducing night terror, which , she told me when too woke a bit later, turned into a dream of flying. Now I savor knowing you, and being useful to my love. Perfect.
Thanks for your beautiful note, Kevin. Good to know you’re there, my dear old friend!