The Old Man and the C: La alegría en la música

Spektral has been deep in the sweaty task of excavating Gb Maj (among others) in Ravel’s sumptuous and stupefying quartet, and admittedly it has not been without its frustrations. For instance, finding that perfect fingering for the alto melody near the top of the 3rd movement, with its hurdles of sourdine, register and string crossings may or may not have resulted in the extemporaneous utterance: “Hang cur, hang, you whoreson, insolent noisemaker!” Wait no, that was Shakespeare.

In any case, the outrageously talented teens of the Albany Park Theatre Project inadvertently offered me a respite this weekend with Home/Land. First things first, it is one of the best pieces I’ve seen on stage and it’s been extended through April 28th, so you need to buy those tickets pronto (all previous shows have sold out). Devised by the actors and their APTP mentors from interviews with undocumented immigrants in Chicago, Home/Land weaves the real-life and often harrowing narratives of families broken apart, by among other factors, deportation. I’ll go ahead and admit that both myself and my three companions were doing the head-tilted-slightly-back-finger-dabbing-at-corner-of-eye dance throughout, in part because of the humanity at the center of each story, but also because of the imagination brought to the staging. In one scene, a father in his orange prison jumper presses upward on a disembodied door as his son scampers up the other side, clutching at the shadow behind it.

Seriously, go see this show.

So how does this relate to Ravel? At the end of the play, with the audience at this point stunned silent and emotionally exhausted, the characters produce instruments from the many suitcases of which the stage is comprised. Some stomp-dance a beat as a viola and violin take up the melody. Then a trombone and french horn appear downstage. The entire cast [more ethnically diverse than any play you’ve ever seen, by the way] is jubilant, the music ricocheting off the angled, attic-level Laura Wiley Theater ceiling as faces begin to light up around the space. In that moment, music is not about tuning gnarly sevenths or matching tremolo strokes. 

It’s about joy. Just joy.