New world, old world

bill murray and vogler

A fascinating evening of music and readings from Bill Murray and cellist Jan Vogler. They certainly deserved the standing ovations. I had one reservation though:

Yes, that Bill Murray — actor, comic, loon and, maybe, the man who has found a way of bringing a new audience to music that isn’t pop. The idea is simple enough: he and a chamber trio led by his friend the German cellist Jan Vogler present music and readings loosely gathered around the theme of American history and identity. On paper it is the kind of high-minded venture that you might once have associated with Peter Ustinov. Murray being Murray, however, things took an increasingly zany turn. Although at first he seemed content to cut a conventional path through Walt Whitman and James Fenimore Cooper, he was soon delivering a masterclass in physical humour… One nagging thought, though: how strange that the content was so weighted towards dead white males. It might have been a syllabus from Murray’s schooldays. Gershwin but not Ellington, Hemingway and Thurber but not Richard Wright and James Baldwin. Listening to Murray make a brilliant job of a scene from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, n-word and all, you assumed he was aware he was walking on thin ice. Perhaps his point was that Mark Twain, Leonard Bernstein and Co were turning the African-American voice into a universal voice. Still, unless I am mistaken, the first black artist to make the cut was Smokey Robinson, and that was in the encore, followed by an uncredited poem by Lucille Clifton. Odd, very odd.

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