Thursday, July 18, 2019

Reflections From Roma #16

Reflections From Roma #16
18 julio 2019

Hello there… Rodger French here.

Once again I come to you in supplication, to apologize for my lack of diligence as a foreign correspondent. And, once again, I can offer only that my life is – for the moment, at least – pretty boring and not worth cluttering your inbox with. True, we’re still living in Roma, but even that becomes routine after a couple of years. I do not, however, expect this to remain so indefinitely. Indeed, we have some pretty cool excursion prospects, and then there’s the whole matter of A.J.’s imminent retirement in March 2020. But, for now, it’s just another summer in the Eternal City.

Which, as I probably observed last year, is not without its charms. Although it gets very hot during the day, Roman mornings are quite often beguiling masterpieces of bright blue skies and moderate temperatures, with the occasional whisper of light winds. And as we get closer to August 15 and the Ferragosto holiday, Roma becomes increasingly devoid of actual Romans, and the city – ZOTA™ notwithstanding – becomes molto tranquillo. So we go about our business, do our jobs, and endeavor to minimize our exposure to Il Duce americano Benito Cheeto, the idiota tossico in the White House.

What else… I recently viewed “Amazing Grace,” a documentary film about the recording of the best-selling live gospel double LP by Aretha Franklin, with Rev. James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir, in January 1972 at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Writers more erudite than I have reviewed both the music and the film, so I will add only this: While the film is a bit of a mess, Ms. Franklin is gloriously not. She is magnificent, a queen in her prime, bringing her majestic musical gifts humbly before the Lord. One need not be a religious person to be moved by that. Behold and rejoice.

[Past Life Sidebar– My first broadcasting gig (1973) was at WGRI-AM, a country music station in Griffin, GA. I worked Sunday mornings from 06:00–12:00; a timeslot devoted to religious programming, some recorded, but mostly live. My duties included announcing, playing tapes and commercials, setting up the studio for local performers (nearly all of whom were Black), and collecting money from them for airtime ($8/15 min., $15/30 min.).

I became friendly with the musicians and was, on several occasions, invited to come to a “Gospel Soul Train,” usually at a rural AME church. These shows featured the people I worked with as well as a “big name” or two. Hundreds of Black folks would come out, sanctified and ready to bring the funk in the name of Jesus, and I was always warmly welcomed. I also had a certain amount of street cred, since I brought a tape recorder and managed to get decent recordings that I would edit, copy, and give to performers for use as demos. These were righteous experiences and I am honored to have had them.

[Breaking MusicalSidebar: I am going to record a fourth solo accordion album. (Pause for dramatic effect.) “Loose Endz” will be an eclectic collection of 12 pieces that have been in the repertoire for years, decades even. My cunning plan is to record/mix sometime this fall at Casa della Musica, a picturesque B&B operated by our famiglia italiana in Vignone, near Lago Maggiore. Haven’t worked out the details concerning mastering, but I do have an album engineer, designer, and photographer lined up, and will be printing a smallish number of CDs in addition to making the recordings available online. For free. Obviously, this scheme is fully half-baked and confidence is high. I will… keep you posted.]