Thursday, June 16, 2011

Drawing Music :: "The Star-Spangled Banner" Origin Story

Mystic in June

On the last drawing trip to the Mystic Seaport, CT, my friends and I found ourselves in the midst of the Shanty Festival. Sea shanties were shipboard working songs.

It's a yearly event at Mystic. Everywhere I turned, there was music. Performers and folk singers from other countries came as well. They came to share their folk traditions through music. A beautiful thread that connects history to the present, and preserves the storytelling from the age of sail.

Probably the most curious thing I found out during the festival is … the origin story of our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner". Who knew that the melody of the anthem is an old popular British drinking song?! When the time came to pick a melody for the United States, someone said "Hey, let's use this one! Everybody knows it!" As a matter of fact, the melody is so hard to sing (it spans almost 2 octaves), that it was a sobriety test in pubs. If you could sing it, it meant you weren't drunk enough. Bah!
Singing popular British drinking song that became "The Star-Spangled Banner"

It was hilarious when the man who told us this story and began singing the original, stood up half-way into the song and said: "I feel like I should be standing while singing it." He placed his right hand over his heart and resumed. He sang with powerful and bright voice. He was definitely sober. (That's him above)

Here are a few portraits of other performers. 

Man with Banjo

Guests from Netherlands
Denise with mandolin, singing a medieval ballad

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Theater :: "The School for Husbands" by Moliere

This past weekend my friends and I went to see Moliere's "The School for Husbands", performed by the fantastic New York Classical Theater. What they do is called panoramic theater. The location becomes the set, and the audience follows actors from scene to scene. This is the fourth* panoramic play I've attended over the past 2 years. It's so much enjoyment! And it's free. And it's in the midst of weeping willows of the Central Park, lit by the setting sun and distant flickering of the city. A stunning setting for a beautiful happening. You get a feeling that you're in on a secret with the crowd that showed up at an appointed hour of 7 o'clock at 103rd street and CPW. All of a sudden, flamboyantly costumed actors materialize and suck you into their dialogue. From that moment on, you're mezmorized for the next hour. The smile does not leave your face. And when it's over, you wish it would start all over again. It's that good.

The performance of "The School for Husbands" takes place the entire month of June, Thursdays/Friday/Saturday/Sunday nights at 7pm if it doesn't rain.

* Here are the other three panoramic plays I've seen and drawn in the past 2 years, all staged by the New York Classical Theater in New York:

"The Rover"
"Richard III"