Friday, February 19, 2010
WHO KNOWS DIDO & AENEAS?
The Corona Public Library is offering a free concert next Tuesday evening entitled "Sweets and Music." The "Sweets" part is advertised thusly: The Friends of the Corona Public Library will be providing a Chocolate Buffet. Who wouldn't want to go to a free Chocolate buffet, pray tell? The "Music" is a Riverside Lyric Opera presentation - complete with chorus, soloists and orchestra - of Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas.
This blog is not about the library's offering. I have not yet decided if I will or will not attend. I have some reservations: the Community room is not an auditorium with tiered seats, so there will be a lot of bobbing and ducking of heads to try to see what is going on up front; and then I have more than a little concern about the behavior of people who are drawn to such a presentation by the enticement of free chocolates. But I admit to being a little finicky about any event I attend. Knowing personally about the limitations of that community room and the behavior of audiences even in big auditoriums, I'm inclined to think I'm too much of a fuss-budget to go. However, the cost of the event fits my budget, and since I sang in Dido and Aeneas when I was in college, it might be a good trip down memory lane.
Actually, though, my post today is less about the upcoming event than about the one I participated in back in 1954 when I was a freshman at the old George Pepperdine College at 79th and Vermont in Los Angeles. Mind you, this was long before it became Pepperdine University of Malibu.
Our choir was small. Well, the school was small too. The music department was readying Dido and Aeneas for presentation and the choir was going to participate. We needed costumes, so Gaylord Browne, our fine choir director who was fondly called "Poppa Browne," announced we all needed to be measured for costumes. He set aside one class meeting for this chore and said the officers of the choir would handle the measuring.
I do not remember all the details, but I remember enough to still laugh about it. The officers of the choir, except for the secretary (of course), were males. On the assigned day, we went one by one up to where the president stood with his tape measure and he measured our height, the width of our shoulders, and our midsection, the measurements of which he duly reported to the secretary and she wrote down. It was done appropriately. There was no hanky panky, and NO horsing around.
Now you must remember in those days we were living in a different time and a different society. Attitudes toward and between men and women were very different than they are now. For the most part we acted prim and proper in our behavior, especially because it was a religious college. And we, the women of the choir, found it very embarrassing to be measured by "the men." There was much tittering and snickering as we tried to cover up our embarrassment. And the minute each girl escaped from the measuring tape, she joined her sisters over in a corner, and there was much nervous laughing eminating from that corner.
In a couple of weeks the costumes arrived. A big folded square of white cloth having a note with the student's name affixed to it with a safety pin was handed to that person. Poppa Brown said he would show us how the costumes were to be worn. He called up the choir secretary, took off the note pinned to her white square, and then he proceed to drape the square around her body and pin it at the shoulder, making it look somewhat like a Roman Toga. There were no arms. There were no side seams. It was less a costume that a big square of material. We chorus members were to make it into a costume by pinning it in strategic places. Poppa Browne passed out the pins and we started our dressing.
Needless to say, the whole idea of this "costume" made us girls hoot and holler. We had to be measured for this? we said. Well, the measuring mostly was to make sure it was long enough and wide enough to cover what it needed to cover. We came in all different heights and girths. By then, our choir members had built up a close relationship with one another so we girls really started giving the fellows a hard time about it all. Poppa Browne simply sat there and laughed at us. There never was any inappropriate behavior, but we sure got mileage out of the measuring!
As for Dido and Aeneas, it went off very well, and the costumes looked fine from a distance. I can remember little bits and pieces of what we sang, but I have a whole lot more of a recollections about the "costume" that I wore.
So, should I go or not?