Monday, February 04, 2008

P.D.Q. Bach in Atlanta

I've been one of the adoring faithful of Peter Schickele since I was 14 years old, when I had chicken pox and was laying there, listening to the local PBS radio station and they played "Ipheginia in Brooklyn". I was in a hysterical delirium! For those of you in the know who are adding up the years, yes, this would make Professor Schickele a fairly old man, today. When once he would make his entracne from the audience balcony on a rope, this past Friday night, he ambled on, fumbling with the curtains to find his way on stage. Though his long time associate William Walters is still present, his participation was limited to the "Manager of the Stage" and shuffling around instruments and furniture, albeit in trademark deadpan fashion.

Professor Schickele was introduced to the audience at the Ferst Center for the Arts (at Georgia Tech in Atlanta), by David Dusing, who would be the featured tenor of the evening's program "P.D.Q. Bach: "What's Your Sign?". He would be later joined by "off-colorara soprano" Michele Eaton and the company was accompanied by Margaret Kampmeier on keyboards. After his typical punfest of a monologue, featuring a nifty jab at Fred Thompson (the "newly elected president of the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople... The groundskeepers union needed someone to bring the lawn in order." har!), the program began with the Allegretto Gabinetto, for plumber and itinerant keyboarder (S.2nd door on the left), featuring the professor performing on the pipes, as it were.

Though the centerpiece of the evening was Twelve Quite Heavenly Songs (Arie Prporio Zodicate), S.16, the program included pieces that Schickele took direct credit for. In fact, he set quite a personal tone as he performed pieces written for family and friends, including a song for his grandmother's 80th birthday and his Songs From Shakespeare, which are soliloquies he gave jazz arrangements to while he was in college. In fact, of the program, Schickele performed only one other P.D.Q. Bach piece in addition to the two previously mentioned: The Art of the Ground Round.

Kampmeier was more than capable on the keyboards, though nearly invisibly so. Dusing's tenor was a bit long-in-the-tooth, and conspicuously enough that soprano, Eaton, was comically used to cover up his shortcomings. Eaton is an exceedingly pleasant performer. Perhaps almost too much so, as some of the vintage humor of P.D.Q. Bach comes from the austere professionalism, bordering on snobbery, of the performers. Schickele himself has mellowed his performance as "P.D.Q.'s artistic vigilante" to professorial musings on his past and the works of "P.D.Q.". The cynicism and faux bitterness of his mission has been replaced by an evening of nostalgia.

Though he has amassed quite a catalog from which to "pitch" the audience, the great news was that after a ten year "sabbatical", he has released a new P.D.Q. Bach album: P.D.Q. Bach: The Jekyll & Hyde Tour!!

No comments: