MSQ Review

By Tom Toney

“Wake up momma, turn your lamp down low, Have you got the nerve to drive Papa McTell from your door?”

Classic lyrics from a classic blues tune which you certainly would anticipate being performed by a…string quartet?

The simply wonderful Georgia College Music Department is presenting a series of musical recitals over the summer months, starting this coming Monday, May 20.

Alright. I know it’s “technically” not summer yet. But the basic school sessions are done at GC and the Maymester, Summer I and Summer II marathons are either already taking place or just around the corner.

Back to our program. The Magellan String Quartet will grace the stage of Max Noah Recital Hall in architecturally interesting Porter Hall starting at 7:30 PM on the aforementioned Monday date.

The Magellan SQ features performers on violin, mandolin, guitar, viola, and cello. There may even be some vocal warbling taking place. And yes, I counted – it really is four individuals so the term quartet is appropriate.

This is a really interesting group that has been together in one form or another since 1990. The name actually is based on that Portuguese explorer (I guess they could have been the Ferdinand String Quartet if they were on a first name basis) whose expedition in the early 1500’s marked the first circumnavigation of the Earth.

Taking a cue from their namesake, the Quartet looks to guide audiences through musical explorations and flights of discovery. And those can be just as spicy as the spices that were the basis of Magellan’s famous trans-oceanic trip (Spain’s quest to find a new and faster sea route to the Spice Islands – today part of Indonesia).

Monday’s concert at Max Noah features a true smorgasbord of musical styles ranging from early American hymns, bluegrass and spirituals to Sousa marches, klezmer and Duke Ellington.

Stephen Foster will be represented by the inclusion of “Beautiful Dreamer”, a lovely parlor song but one which I always associate with the classic Warner Bros. cartoon directed by Bob Clampett, “The Big Snooze”.

I guess it says something about my personality that I link this beautiful love song with a cartoon that features Bugs Bunny popping sleeping pills and Elmer Fudd dressed in drag!

A medley of fiddle tunes will be served up by the Magellan SQ, which includes Sanford Faulkner’s “The Arkansas Traveler”. This song has a very convoluted history. It dates back to the 1860’s and was the state song of Arkansas for a period in the 20th century.

But an official state committee got hold of the song in the 1940’s and changed the lyrics to basically be a tourist attraction for the state of Arkansas.

The tune was featured in the Academy Award winning short starring Laurel and Hardy, “The Music Box”. After having struggled to get a player piano up an insurmountable flight of stairs, the boys play a piano roll entitled “Patriotic Melodies”. They proceed to dance to the strains of “The Arkansas Traveler”.

A Hungarian klezmer number is also on tap, as well as the “Harlem Rag” composed by Tom Turpin. Born in Savannah, GA, Turpin was an African-American composer of ragtime music, composing “The Harlem Rag” in 1892 after having moved to St. Louis to open a saloon.

A quartet of songs from Duke Ellington is also scheduled (not bad…a quartet from a Quartet) which includes “Don’t Get around Much Anymore”, “Take the A Train”, “In a Sentimental Mood”, and “It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got that Swing”.

Chuck Berry, who to me personally is the most important single individual in the history of rock and roll, is even represented. I can’t wait to hear a string quartet interpretation of “Johnny B. Goode”.

All this fine music takes place Monday, May 20 at Max Noah starting at 7:30 PM. Check it out.

I would also like to take this opportunity for a quick update regarding the Milledgeville Players. Several columns back I spoke about the comedy “What the Butler Saw” and planned performance dates.

Unfortunately, that play will not be presented at this time. It’s a great comedy and hopefully it will make an appearance in the future. But the hands of fate were just not in the proper positions this time around.

But there will be a summer musical from the M’ville Players and I will have information about that – including audition and performance dates – very shortly.

“Statesboro Blues” is also scheduled for the Magellan SQ show on Monday which is why I decided to go with some lyrics from that blues classic to open this week’s cumbersome column.

The song was written and first recorded by Georgia native Blind Willie McTell in 1928. The lyrics appear to relate the story of a man pleading with a woman to let him into her house.

It has been covered by dozens of artists including Taj Mahal, Deep Purple and David Bromberg. My first memory of the song is based on a version recorded by San Francisco band The Youngbloods in 1967, a group probably best known for the flower power anthem “Get Together”.

But when most people think of “Statesboro Blues”, they think of the version recorded by the Allman Brothers Band at the Fillmore East in 1971. The slide guitar playing from Duane Allman turned this version into an instant classic and Rolling Stone consistently ranks it as one of the top 10 greatest guitar songs of all time.

And linking up with the line that I sign off with in my columns, the song was a “B” side for Blind Willie McTell’s original recorded version – “Three Women Blues” being the “A” or “plug” side.

“I woke up this morning, I had them Statesboro Blues. Well, I looked over in the corner, and Grandpa seemed to have them too.”

Catch you on the flip side.

Contact Tom Toney
May 12, 2013, The Union Recorder, Milledgeville, GA

 

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