night I came full circle.
About 30 years ago, the first time I went to Carnegie Hall was for a concert by Nana Mouskouri. If you don’t know her, she’s a Greek singer who is tremendously popular in Europe and Australia. I first heard her in the ‘60s – that really dates me – when she had a variety show on the BBC that was a big hit in Australia. I fell in love with her music, from the Greek folk tunes to the French love songs, and her astonishing voice.
The concert at Carnegie Hall all those years ago took my breath away. In those days, many of her fans were Greeks, and the audience clapped and sang along. They knew the words to everything, including the Greek folk songs I couldn’t get my tongue around. Though even I knew some of the words to “Milisse Mou.”
Last night Nana Mouskouri played her last New York concert, as part of her farewell tour. This time it was held at the enormous Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, and the house was packed. The truth is, of course, at 72, Nana’s voice is not what it was, but nobody cared. We sang along, clapped along, and cheered (but quickly) every time she began to sing one of our favorites. For her “last” encore, she sang “Amazing Grace,” as she always does. Then she did one more. It could have been corny, but it wasn’t, because she brought the house down with her version of “My Way.”
Her last song, prior to the encores, was her signature song, “The White Rose of Athens.” There was a white rose on the microphone, and, not surprisingly, a huge bouquet of them presented to her.
I’ll always have her albums – I have lots of them – but I’ll never have another chance to hear her live. I’m so glad I got to say goodbye last night.
Now I have to go and play “Passport” again!
Today I visited my favorite museum in New York, The Morgan Library, which has spent the past couple of years undergoing major reconstruction. Now they're open again, with an open, airy entryway connecting the two buildings, and additional floors.
The Morgan Library was once the personal library of financier Pierpont Morgan, built next door to his residence. In my opinion, the actual library is the most beautiful room in New York - a combination of an astonishing decorated ceiling, and three tiers (three floors, really) of priceless, leather-bound books.
People amble around the room peering at the book spines (behind protective glass). In addition to the shelves of Voltaire and Goethe, I spotted one named "Les Quatre Heures de la Toilette des Dames," which by my rusty French translation meant "the four hours it takes women to get ready." Then I went home and Googled it, and found it was an erotic poem!
For a bibliophile like me, the Morgan Library is heaven, because it also contains one of the largest collections of illuminated manuscripts anywhere. I always leave it vowing to get out the paints and the gold leaf...it's magnificent! The Morgan also has three - count 'em, three - Gutenberg Bibles.
New York is an moveable feast of art and music. Every weekend, and most weeknights, you can find something that interests you.
There's art in the streets, too. Not the kind you see in European cities, that's centuries-old. Most of the art in New York is modern. When I first came here, I was astonished to find Henry Moore sculptures, which I thought of as something you found only in museums, were out there in parks and public areas, and people walked by without even noticing them. There's one in Lincoln Center, and another in the plaza of the United Nations.
Two of my favorites are elephants - the sculpture of the baby elephant outside the Equitable Building on 7th Avenue, and the much bigger one standing under the trees in the park at the U.N. That one is so naturalistic it always startles me.
Then there's the music. All kinds, in hundreds of places - concert halls, clubs, or just the streets and subways. One concert hall we like is the one at the 92nd Street Y (Lexington Avenue and 92nd Street) - one of the best small recital halls in the city. We have heard some wonderful concerts in the annual guitar series there. (But the seats are arranged badly - get a seat in the center, not on the sides, where your view of center stage is almost always blocked by the person sitting in front of you.)
A couple of years ago, we went to a street fair in Bay Ridge, and discovered the Jeff Samaha Vocal Ensemble. Their performance is so much fun! They sing (and play) their hearts out, doing all kinds of music. Check out the photos at right. (That's Jeff in the first one.) The three women (second from last) are singing "I'm a woman - W O M A N" with everything they've got!
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These photos are all of the Jeff Samaha Vocal Ensemble, who perform at the Bay Ridge street fair every year.