Living Hell Extra!

Ice Cream

"A capella, a capella..."
            - Barney Fife, singing a capella

Friday night at the A.J. Fletcher Opera House, one of the additions to
Raleigh's BTI Center, the Artist's Alcove Formerly Known as Memorial
Auditorium and long-ago Fayetteville Street bookend, back before the
ungainly Civic Center was constructed between it and the Capitol build-
ing farther north.  Septuagenarian scents assail the senses as we shuf-
fle into the darkened theater, fleeing the late, lingering light of the
first day of summer.  The snow-capped crowd is casually, conservatively
dressed-- parents and grandparents and maybe a great grandparent, all
in short sleeves and slacks.  Lots of plaid.  Some (softer) Hawaiian
prints.  And precious few tight dresses.  You know the kind-- those
skin-clinging skimpies that so dominate the summer months in the South.
Nope, no tacky attire or overt eye-candy to pass the pre-concert min-
utes.  Not that there's that much time before the curtain rises, what
with a orchestra triangle struck mere moments ago by a man in a wheel-
chair announcing to the lobby "Ten minutes! Ten minutes!"

Row J, seats 104 and 105, but not *aisle* seats as the ticket seller
assured.  My companion, the purchaser, is idly frustrated, half disap-
pointed and half apologetic.  I'm unfazed, save for the slight fear of
a two-seater plotting down in seat 103.  (You know about two-seaters;
they're the ones radio host Neal Boortz has affectionately labeled as
"lard asses" in his recent reports on Southwest Airlines new per-butt
check pricing policy.)  The program book isn't particularly slick but
contains an address slip for a door prize promised by the elderly ush-
er.  The venue is new, maybe brand-spanking, but the cool, still air
reeks neither of new chairs or freshly laid carpet.  Instead, it's old-
lady perfume and mothball cologne that invade the nostrils; oppressive,
blue-haired scents that please only in the context of remembered grand-
parents.  (North Carolina author Reynolds Price, appearing at a Cary
Barnes and Noble last week, spoke on the subject of blue hair in the
context of *his* coif, white, and noted the origins of those tinted
roots as involving nicotine and the cumulative effects of cigarette

The stage is now occupied by thirty-five singers-- all men, all (or
mostly all) well-aged, and all attired in dapper turquoise vests over
long-sleeve purple shirts.  With blue bowties, of course, and black,
pressed pants.  Four rows of smiles, swaying and harmonizing and some-
times twirling umbrellas or performing chorus-line kicks.  Each cres-
cendo climax generates enthusiastic applause-- by they choral serenades
or songs sung by the sundry quartets that occasionally occupy center-
stage.  Oldies but goodies, like ________________, ___________________,
and _________________, perfectly blended and nearly absent any vocal
acrobatics.  Props are brought out for ________________, piled in a
wheelbarrow and pass among the chorus members.  Hard hat, hand saw,
paint roller, pipe wrench, etc.  And a pair of plungers the length of
ski poles.  Cute.  Turning and looking around, a quick survey shows
satisfaction on the faces of audience members.  'Tis a droll, maybe
dull show, but certainly agreeable on a Friday night, fresh from work
with nary two hours of transition time in-between work and play.  (And,
for Yours Truly, which involved tuning into a plane crash in southern
Wake County, with a grounded pilot using his cell phone to tell rescu-
ers that he's [a.] in a tree [b.] some X yards from the runway he did-
n't reach.  And, with the help of a State Police helicopter, the wreck-
age is located within forty-minutes.  Neither the pilot nor his wife is
seriously injured.  Lucky them!)

Comedy now, two members of the latest foursome sauntering on stage and
joking with the emcee.  We're also told about select chorus members and
the various singing awards they've won.  They're wearing white coats.
White coats and white hair.   The quartet's collective age:  two-hun-
dred plus.  Another expertly sung and utterly bland oldie.  Is it time
for intermission yet?  Now an anecdote about Louis Armstrong and his
one-take recording of "What a Wonderful World."  Roy Clark sings same
on a wacky new compilation called "When Pigs Fly."  Released last month
on Xemu Records, the twelve-track platter serves up such strange covers
as Don Ho doing Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey," Herman's Hermits
reinventing Billy Idol's "White Wedding," and Lesley Gore advertising
AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap."  (Yes, the versions are expect-
edly hilarious, if a little *too* intentionally awful sounding.)  Get-
ting sleepy now.  Another smooth, sharp edge-less song.  Good God.
It's like a concert of lullabies.  Everyone's clapping.  My companion's
moved to tears.  But for this lifelong music lover, it's all horribly
under-exciting.  Which, I guess, is why I'm the only person writing
while listening, while also *fidgeting* while doing both.

Copyright 2002 by Michael J. Legeros



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