Noon music offers some much-needed sanctuary

February 13, 2002|By Dan Rodricks

I KNOW WHEN I need it. It's right after I've taken a ride through the city and discovered a weekend's worth of fresh graffiti on office buildings, mailboxes and bridges. Or after I've taken the bus down Greenmount Avenue and found the curbs and alleys filled with new trash. I need it when winter is not clearly winter, when it is merely this long and dull and dry weenie-season, and every other tree seems to be adorned with a shredded plastic bag.

So what I do is, on Tuesdays at noon, I walk up North Charles Street to Old St. Paul's Church, one of the grandest churches in Baltimore, and I walk on the polished tiles of the nave and sit in one of the wooden pews. It's enormously peaceful there. I can forget the growling part of life here in the big city. I can marvel, instead, at the design of this 19th-century city church and the warm glow of its sanctuary and marble altar.

And, at about 12:15, I can listen to wonderful music.

Last Tuesday, it was Daniel Fortune, the organist and choirmaster of Old St. Paul's, performing cantata movements of J.S. Bach. Yesterday, Kerena Moeller and her husband, Paul Moeller, performed a marvelous, 30-minute program for cello (she) and guitar (he).

The Moellers sat side by side just below the sanctuary, the cellist in turtleneck and black skirt with her hair pulled back and tied in a ponytail, the guitarist with coat and tie. They performed a little Bach, but also a contemporary piece written by Radames Gnattali expressly for guitar and cello.

"It's a strange combination of instruments," Paul Moeller announced to his tiny audience, "but we thought, since we're married, we may as well give it a try."

The couple's final piece was a lovely and haunting composition of Heitor Villa-Lobos called Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5. The piece is actually an aria "written for eight cellos and a soprano," Paul Moeller said. But, the way the Moellers did it, the cello took the soprano's part while the guitar took the cellos'. And it was all very wonderful.

And it was free (thanks, in part, to the Marbury Endowment Fund).

The Tuesday music series runs through May, and God be praised for that. We need it.

He's not conflicted

The more things change, the more they ...

State Sen. Clarence Mitchell IV's lawyer, Arthur Frank, believes his debt-saddled client did nothing wrong in taking $10,000 in loans from guys whose industries -- bail bonds and school buses -- have business before the General Assembly.

"I just don't see [a conflict]," Frank said, "and I'm quite sensitive to conflicts of interest, being a lawyer."

Right. And I'm quite sensitive to women's feelings, being a man.

All of this reminds me of what Joe Staszak, the late East Baltimore state senator, said when asked if his bill to boost sales of package goods in taverns presented a conflict of interest with his ownership of Joe's Tavern on Dundalk Avenue.

"Conflict of interest?" Big Joe said. "How does that conflict with my interest?"

I don't think Joe was trying to be ironic. He was old school.

"C4" is new school. But apparently in this matter, he's just as clueless.

A Philadelphia story

I worried of late that TJI cultural correspondent Joey Amalfitano, an intrepid man who marches to the sound of a different accordion, had gone AWOL. Turns out, he'd simply gone BGB -- Beyond Glen Burnie. He filed a traveler's advisory from Philadelphia

"So it's Sunday morning, the second day of our two nights in Philly on this two-for-one promotion they've been advertising in those TV commercials with people walking all over town in fancy pajamas. Here I am, a native Baltimoron, who used to have an uncle living in Philly, and I'd never gone there to see Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin's print shop, and all the neat stuff they've got -- even Admiral Dewey's flagship, for God's sake!

"So Sunday morning, Blanche and I set off on foot from the hotel in the historic district, looking for a cheap breakfast and Elfreth's Alley, supposedly the oldest continuously occupied street in the U.S. We found the alley -- along with the Snow White Restaurant, at Market St. and 2nd Ave., with $3 pancakes, bottled orange juice and a young waitress with Attitude and an `Italian Princess' tattoo on her considerable right bicep. Beautiful. You would have loved the princess, Danny."

A cheap date

Two questions, somehow related: Seen the new trash cans in Patterson Park? Looking for a cheap date for Valentine's Day?

Here's why I ask: To celebrate "the installation of Patterson Park's beautiful brand new green, yellow and red trash cans," the extremely enthusiastic Friends of Patterson Park will host a love fest at the Mimi DiPietro Ice Rink in Patterson Park tomorrow from 7 to 9 p.m. (The rink is named for one of Baltimore's premier figure skaters, king of the triple salchow, the late Dominic "Mimi" DiPietro).

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