The Bastille Day Concert at City Park, New Orleans
Published on February 13, 2007
The City of New Orleans is famous for music. The city is considered the birthplace of jazz where in early twentieth century famous jazz musicians such as Joe "King" Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, and many other fine musicians played various instruments and sang songs. In late 1940s and early 1950s, New Orleans became the Mecca for rhythm and blues music, which was precursor to rock-n-roll. Under this backdrop, it is natural that New Orleans will still be the place where a whole variety of music will be played. In March 2005, I found a place in the 'Garden District' of the city where many budding musicians go to perform. The person who organizes these concerts is Mr. Albinas Prizgintas, who goes by the name Albinas. By profession, he is the organist of New Orleans Trinity Episcopal Church. However, he does many things for the community as far as music goes.
I befriended Albinas and his French-speaking wife, Manon. In March 2005 when they organized a marathon 28-hours non-stop music festival [Bach Around the Clock] to honor John Sebastian Bach's birth anniversary I stayed overnight at the church auditorium to record the performance. Since then, I have become a permanent fixture in their Sunday concert [Trinity Artist Series] doing live recording. The other day Manon told me, on this year's Bastille Day (July 14, 2005) Albinas will be playing an hour of French songs in the City Park’s 'Two Sisters Pavilion' at 6:00 p.m. I took my recording gear to my office, which is only a mile and a half from 'Two Sisters Pavilion.' As I was getting ready to go the concert venue, a big summer storm hit the Lakeview area where I work. Braving the storm, I drove to City Park. I thought who is going to come to listen to Albina's song in this inclement weather. Boy, was I wrong! At least 150 or more people showed up to listen to the French songs sung by Albinas.
Pic: Albinas playing piano at Bastille Day concert in New Orleans City Park
Most classical music lover in New Orleans know this for a fact that Albinas is a fine piano player. There was an upright piano in the concert room. Albinas was playing few notes on the piano to make sure that the PA system would pickup the piano sound; he also sang a short song to make sure the audience could hear his voice through the speakers hanging in two corners of the pavilion. My job was to set the microphones for recording.
Albinas played altogether 13 songs. He called them "Amore" or love song. His wife, Manon, helped him chose the songs and find the lyric. Some of the old songs whose lyrics could not be found locally were finally found. Thanks to the Internet. They found the rare songs' lyric in some website. For my job I did close miking of Albina's voice. The recording came through very nice. The audiences really dig the French songs sung by Albinas. I must admit that I am new to French music. Before coming to America, I knew that Ms. Edith Piaf was a famous cabaret musician in France. That was the breadth of my knowledge of French music. I then never heard the name of such famous composers such as Maurice Ravel, Saint-Saëns, and Erik Satie. One time I visited France in early 1990s and I bought a CD then, which had quite a few French songs accompanied by accordion. For some strange reason to me, one could hardly sing French songs without accordion accompaniment. However, on the Bastille Day Concert here in the City Park of New Orleans, Albinas sang 13 gorgeous and eclectic French songs without accordion accompaniment to his voice. Since he is such a fine piano player, he does not need the accordion in his rendition of French love songs.
I chose only five songs out of 13 total songs to place in Mukto-mona web site. These five songs will give anyone interesting to preview the beauty of the French music. My favorite is Track No. 10 (Le Bohème). This is such a pensive music. It reminded me of Fryderyk Chopin's piano composition. Albinas did a fine job to exude the pensive emotion. In one song, Track No. 8, Ms. Lisa McDonald, a local artist, gave the flute accompaniment to enliven the song.
Pic: Albinas with Lisa McDonald who played flute in one song
Please audition these songs to experience the beauty of French love songs. If you are like me, you will love them. I know most Mukto-monas will not understand the lyric of these songs but the haunting tune of these songs and Albinas' rendition of these French classic and his superb piano-playing will capture your imagination. The idea of writing this concert review stems from my desire to introduce Albinas to "cyber audiences." I was lucky to find him in New Orleans! Without music this world would go crazy. After all, we have to preserve whatever sanity we have left in us in this post 9-11 and 7-7 days.
Selected Tracks [mp3]:
Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans, USA