Ferry Across Summertime

When I think of Gerry & The Pacemakers the first that comes to mind is Ferry Cross The Mersey but the song of theirs that has become my favourite is Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying. They followed in the wake of the Beatles but never built the sort of career the mop tops did. Yet I don’t think many of the other groups, including the Beatles, wrote songs as emotionally compelling as Ferry or Catch You.

I picked up a cd of their A’s B’s & EP’s some ten years ago when I started to reclaim my memories. I had a couple of their hits on a compilation of the era. The bad is solid, they do standard cover versions (Maybellene) along with originals. Sometime a little too musical hall for me or overly sprightly I do enjoy hearing them. They rarely manage that emotional tug that Ferry or Catch You give me though.

Next we come to George Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess film soundtrack. I have several recordings of this with Cleo Lane & Ray Charles, another with Fitzgerald & Armstrong taking on the score. Not to forget some jazz workings by Miles Davis, Herbie Mann. I may still have an operatic version too.

The music is fine but the actual books & lyrics are ‘problematic.’ Issue of cultural appropriation, race depiction all come in to play. I don’t know a great deal about the performance history of the piece but dread the though of black-face versions due to lack of black performers to do it. Opera itself has an odd relationship to cultural appropriation – Madam Butterfly being a prime example.

The film was directed by Otto Preminger. The score adapted by Andre Previn. A fine black cast. Wikipedia: “Although Dorothy Dandridge and Diahanna Carroll were singers, their voices were not considered operatic enough. Sammy Davis Jr., Brock Peters and Pearl Bailey (who played Sportin’ Life, Crown and Maria) were the only principals who provided their own singing.”

I greatly prefer the more Broadway take on Porgy & Bess – classically trained voices are distancing & unreal. The film versions are great fun, a bit stuffy perhaps but still good. Summertime has become such a classic in & of itself the list of covers of it are endless. Janis Joplin’s being one my person favourites. One can feel the summer heat as she sings it. Weather is -15C with windchill as I write this so that summer heat is welcome.

They Stayed

Tracy ducked behind the holly thicket at the corner of the stone steps. She held her breath as the two dark figures dragged and pushed her sister Monica up those stairs. The cold scrape of their heavy shoes rattled her shoulders, her spine. She wanted to jump out and confront them but knew that at this point that would just be a useless gesture.

Her sweater snagged on the black spiny branches of the bush, scratched through to her arms. She held her breath till she heard the doors clang shut. Tufts of the sweater clung to the bush as she pulled away from it. The harder she pulled the more other branches reached out to pull her back.

Was this a trap or a warning? Was the bush trying to protect her or trap her? Either way she had to be free or Monica would suffer. She stopped struggling. She took two slow deep breathes. The bush fell away. She was free.

At the foot of the steps one of them stood. Tall, thin. As colourless in the night as they were by day. What were they? She didn’t know but when one neared her flesh tingled. Male? Female? She didn’t know. No one did. Or if they did, no one had made that public.

Not much was known about them. No name for them. They appeared to be human. Faces – bland, blank, slightly different but impassive and immobile.

They had arrived in Maple Groove at the end of one summer. After a violent storm that had knocked out most of the tri-state area’s power. More rain fell in a day that had fallen in the past five years combined. Mud slides had damaged several farms, and a flood had swept away a season’s crops before harvesting. They arrived the day after the disaster.

At first folks had thought these were relief workers sent in by the government. They helped with sand bagging, clean-up, tending the ill. But they never left. They stayed. Silent and stationary.

Some would be stationed at street lights. Just standing there as cars whizzed by. Some stood at the doorways of schools, churches, in malls, at coffee shops. They never spoke, never bought anything. Crime disappeared. The next year’s crops where the best in several years.

That was almost ten years ago.

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