Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My fight with Kenny Rogers

Listening to Jussi Bjorling singing "O Holy Night" yesterday got me thinking again about my conversation last week with Kenny Rogers.

Ha, ha! Now there is a name that needs no introduction. I have to say "the great pianist Leonard Pennario" or "the great violinist Jascha Heifetz," but Kenny Rogers, everyone knows who he is.

Kenny Rogers is playing Buffalo tonight. I did an interview with him last week for work, i.e., for The Buffalo News. Let me say this right now, Kenny Rogers is a doll and were it not for my religious convictions and the fact that I am already married to Howard, I would cheerily be his sixth wife. That is how much I liked him!

The thing I will remember most about my interview with, ahem, Kenny, was our argument about "O Holy Night."

Before talking to him I watched this clip from a show he did in Toronto.

Hahahahaa... I love that video. I love the looks on the kids' faces. The apprehensive little girl in the middle is my favorite.

But back to "O Holy Night." Kenny Rogers was talking about it and told this story that was just completely wrong. Right away when he said the song "was commissioned as a Catholic Mass," you know you are in trouble. Sure enough, it goes downhill from there.

So I addressed this matter on the phone with Kenny. The whole story is here -- but in case the link expires, here is the pertinent portion, the "O Holy Night" portion.

“Kenny, I saw a clip of your Toronto show, and you said ‘O Holy Night’ was banned by the Catholic Church. I have to tell you – it wasn’t.”
“It was.”
“No, the Catholic Church never banned it, it was just some bone-headed French bishop –
“Mary. You telling me to change my show?”
“Well, I’m Catholic, and –”
“Oh, no! Catholic! Oh, no!” Rogers pretends to recoil. “The church has enough problems without –”
“The church is taking the heat for this one!”
Both of us are laughing now.
“It’s OK. They let it back in in 1921,” says Rogers.
“But they never –”
“Mary! Please don’t screw me up this late in my career."
Hahahahaaaa! (This is me talking again -- I do not know how to change the font back.)

A darling man, even if he is all screwed up on "O Holy Night." That: "You telling me to change my show?" I am still laughing about that.
I had never known much about Kenny Rogers aside from his songs. I had not realized he was so funny.
About "O Holy Night" -- a love it or hate it Christmas song, by the way -- when I wrote up my story I did not get into part of the business Kenny Rogers was talking about, which centered on the possibility that Adolph Adam, who wrote the music to the song, was Jewish. First there is no evidence that he was. For what it was worth, he had a Catholic funeral. Second, if he was, who cares. "O Holy Night" was never "banned." A French bishop said something nasty, is all I could find. And now that I read the account I found again, the bishop was not even named. So that is probably a myth too.
Good thing I studied up on all that!
I might forget the rest of the interview, but that argument, I will remember.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sing it loud

On my Leonard Pennario Web log I found myself reflecting on how much I love Jussi Bjorling singing "O Holy Night." This is one of the greatest versions of this hymn -- which was, I have to say, one of Pennario's favorites. Bjorling has that big, big voice. It is as if the song just pours out of him!

You can imagine a cartoon, this big bubble. Sing it, Jussi! How exhilarating it must feel to sing like that. To have the music just pouring out of you.

Also there is "The Boar's Head Carol" as posted by my Buffalo News colleague Doug Turner on Facebook.

Is that magnificent or what? I love that song. You picture them in a medieval feast hall, carrying in this boar's head.

Here is the version I grew up with. The recording of the song, not the boar's head.

And the inimitable Steeleye Span.

Christmas is a time to sit on our kiesters, as we say here in Buffalo, and waste time listening to music we know inside out, preferably with a cocktail in hand.

Bring on the holiday!