The week that was …

E started French lessons at the Alliance Francaise. There are nine women and himself, the only male in the class and the only American, the other nationalities span the globe: Cambodian, Spanish, Israeli, Indonesian, Jordanian, Brazilian, Russian, Argentine, Russian and Australian.

A great teacher, lively and vivacious and only French is spoken.

E joined a gym with the goal to look like this guy. gym2.jpg

 January and “Les Soldes”.

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The sales in Paris are legendary and to experience one day is to understand how this happened. One steps out on the streets and is swept up in the excitement. R enters a shop and is stunned by the professionalism of the French woman as she looks through the racks, expression of purpose and experience. She knows what she likes, she knows what looks good on her and she knows what’s hip. That’s why French women look the way they do. This is true no matter their age. Here there is no question of “avoir du poids”. French women are NOT fat, not even plump. They dress and walk with an enviable self-assurance. They own that piece of sidewalk they’re on. No mistake.

Every store has a “Soldes” sign in the window. Booklets are published by the Mayor’s office advertising the bargains to be had at every store. It’s like Christmas all over again, only better. The reductions are irresistible. The skirt you looked at every time you walked by the store is now 30-40% off. It’s like being let loose in a wholesale mart. Caution and reason are mute.

 

Dinner before the concert at the Louvre at home. Thanks to the Cocotte Minute, the pressure cooker in every household in Burgundy, you can cook up a roast, a soup, or anything else you wish at a fraction of the time it would otherwise take.

After dinner we walked along the Seine, crossed the Pont Neuf, entered the Louvre from Rue Rivoli and there was the I.M. Pei pyramid.

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The auditorium was on the level beneath the pyramid with superb acoustics and what a performance. A program of Bach motets composed by the family Bach: Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Christoph, Johann Sebastian Bach and Johann-Michael Bach. As each motet ended, the two organs played (as Bach had done) as the members of the chorus, Chambre de Namur, Les Agrémenes, moved, changing positions so the next motet would have a different blend of voices.

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The music was a perfect blending of musicians, singers, and place.  At once you realized you were listening to divine music in this singular palace of artistic treasures - a perfect realization of human potential.

 

Friday night we went to a concert of Mendelssohn’s Piano Concert #1 and Schumann’s Symphony #3. This was the first concert we had heard at Salle Pleyel, a cream-colored art deco hall built in 1927. Alan Gilbert who had recently been appointed conductor of the New York Philharmonic led the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.

New York is in for a treat. Mr. Gilbert’s parents both play (his father just retired) in the New York Philharmonic. Next year he’ll be conducting his mother. Wonder what Freud would say about that?

The first two movements of the Schumann sounded like a Wagner Leitmotif. The first movement the tumult of the lowest depths of the Rhine and the second movement the flowing currents. It was Wagner’s “Nibelungen” and the Rhine Maidens. So we wondered who wrote it first? Schumann or Wagner? Turns out Schumann wrote it in 1850, Wagner in 1869.

We left the theatre and walked to the Metro, E feeling empty inside – a lightness. He thought of the Sufi idea of the bird caged within the heart waiting to be released. The cage as E understands it is made up of the steel bands of ideas and concepts layered from the moment of birth – what one should do, what one shouldn’t do, etc.

But the bird is always there and because we are energy, vibrating energy, every once-in-a-while there is a vibration that breaks the cage and frees the bird and then we are empty, full of joy because we are free. We are simply in a state of being.

The next night we returned to the Salle Pleyel for a concert of Schumann chamber music. Music we’d never heard nor heard of.

Again, extraordinary and very different. The violinist was mesmerizing. He played with his body. Watching his feet alone one would never have guessed he was playing violin in a concert of classical music. These were very personal pieces of music which Schumann composed at various times in his troubled life in tribute often to people he loved and admired.

Sunday and a Jazz Brunch at the Reservoir, a funky room in the 11th arrondisement. The singer Malou Beauvoir with the Jean Chaudron Quintet. The program was Blues and Jazz, most of it American and familiar. American jazz has always had a home in Paris even when our legendary Black Jazz musicians couldn’t find a home in America.  The soloists were right on and Malou, her voice, smiles and energy had us all swaying, clapping and singing to the music.

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This was a different kind of vibration, a vibration of joy making the caged bird dance. At the end of the day, the cage is only a state of mind.

PS: Four days later we went back to hear Malou and the quintet. This time at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Club at the Meridien Hotel. Great lounge setting up an exciting evening. The photo says it all - the quintet and Malou wailed for an hour and a half.

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One Response to “The week that was …”

  1. it appears that the vibration of Paris has you two birds flying high… it’s really fun to “experience” your adventures, your beautiful photos, and elegant prose — I almost have a sense of being there (I could use a little sound ? maybe some videos:)
    lots of love

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