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December 08, 1979 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-12-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Eliot gets murdered
in the cathedral
By ANNE SHARP most part, static and immobile. They
T. S. Eliot's play. Murder in the did a good reading of the lines (the
Cathedral has to be one of the most chorus of women was especially well-
talky, boring, anhedonic plays it has orchestrated and expressive), but
ever been my misfortune to witness. It never really bothered much to get into
is not fully obvious to me why it is now their characters. This de-emphasis of
being resurrected. Perhaps it is characterization, in the end, was what
because some influential patron of the ruined whatever dramatic interest the
St. Mary Chapel Players is a big Eliot play might have held for the audience.
fan, or-because the play is set at
Christmas time (only 17 more days,
kiddies!) Also, Eliot wrote it originally;
for production in Canterbury
Cathedral, and performing a play that
takes place at a cathedral using a real
liturgical setup would save the com-
pany a few hundred dollars in set
Perhaps it is unfair of me to expect BECKET HIMSELF was just an ac-
Murder to provide the sort of enter- tor tossing off lines, and one didn't care
tainment given by an ordinary drama. one way or the other about his impen-
It is, in the final analysis, a series of ding martyrdom at the hands of his
declamations, merely a group of actors assassins. From the way his dialogue
reciting poetry. Nothing much happens continually foreshadowed the event, he
in it in the way of plot. Becket, Arch- sounded as if he were eager to get mur-
bishop of Canterbury in the year 1170, dered so he could collapse onto the floor
has somehow angered King Henry so in a comfy position and play dead after
badly that he would have Becket killed. standing up and declaiming for two
Becket, a few churchmen and village hours,
women, and his assassins stand about Joshua Peck might have made a
and talk about the upcoming event and stronger Becket if he had acted the role
some other pseudo-religious rather than declaimed it. There is an in-
metaphorical crap for about two acts. terminable passage in which Peck con-
Then, the assassins stab Becket, talk verses with four disembodied voices,
about it some more, and that's it. There all his own, pre-recorded and played
is nothing much in the way of over the P.A. The recorded voices
movement or character development, sounded very interesting, full of inflec-
just words, words, words, and not tion and liquid, rolling "R's," but it was
terribly thrilling or important words at very hard to make sense out of them
that. Not unless, of course, the spec- through the audio distortion. In fact, the
tator is an Eliot fan, and finds that poet whole production would have gone bet-
thrilling and important in all his ter if it had not relied merely on the im-
manifestations (I never did). This par- perfect acoustics of the chapel. Many of
ticular production of Murder keeps in- the lines were unintelligible to my ears,
tact Eliot's one-dimensional approach and this, in a play where nothing mat-
to his drama; the actors were, for the ters but words, is quite unfortunate.

The Michigan Daily-Saturday, December 8, 1979-Page 5

Emmylou Harris
Light of the Stable
Warner Brothers K56757

Coming under the heading of things
that were bound to happen sooner or
later is the Country and Western
Christmas album. A dubious concep-
tion, to say the least, and probably
unredeemable except for the momentous
presence of Emmylou Harris,
America's premier . country-pop
Christmas! Do Country and Western
fans really have a mid-winter holiday
where they give each other gifts, say,
boots and flowered shirts? It develops
that they do. And what better a com-
mercial venture than recording an
album designed for Tex, who loves the
season but cannot abide old Perry
Como and Mel Torme and their citified
holiday carols?. Ah! A Christmas
album with "Away In A Manger" and
"Silent Night,"but with Emmylou
Harris, of all people, at whose hands a
song cannot fail. With how much am-
bivalence can such a project be
WELL, WITH as much as the album
itself was designed and recorded. It
ain't no Christmas record like's ever
been heard before, that's for sure, with
trendy arrangements of the old standar-
ds and the slidin' steel guitar wreaking
mayhem at every opportunity.

The country feel is unavoidable-hell,
that's Emmylou's banner to carry-but
it fails, in spite of itself, to obscure the
brilliance of the talent behind the
recording. Sing the "Railroadin' with
Jesus" songs as she might, Emmylou is
overpowering; Her voice is soaring and
clear, simply wonderful in a way that
only Linda Ronstadt can match.
For all that, the album is grossly
over-instrumented and sounds prac-
tically blasphemous upon occasion due
to its slickness. The excesses of Country
music-the surface lyrics and em-
phasis on the twang in everything from
voice to bass-cause it to sounds silly to
devotees of pop and rock music: many
of the melodies in Country are on a par
with the finest one can name, and the
lyrics are often no more foolish than
N M leaders.
BUT, THEN, this sort of excess is
what defines country music and gives it
the lustre that it has for'those who love
it. Take the cut "Silent Night," on Light
of the Stable. Of all the enchanting
Christmas carols, this may be the most
etherially beautiful, and when Em-
mylou starts it off, accompanied by a
bit of acoustic guitar, the promise is
fulfilled. The first verse is simple, like
the song itself. The second introduces
the electric bass and the annoying fid-
dle of Ricky Skaggs (that man coaxes
the most frightful melancholy out of his
instrument!) next comes the harmony
vocals and the autoharp, and the entire
ensemble is soon going at it.
What are Neil Young and Linda Ron-
stadt doing here? Along with Dolly Par-
ton (the most vile incarnation of excess
in country music ever to breathe), the
group of them sings "Light of the
Stable," the title cut and the most
tedious song of the album,though for-
tunately rather short.
OVERALL, IT depends on how much
excess a listener is willing to wade
through to enjoy Emmylou and her
generally appropriate and tasteful
backup vocalists. This album is an un-
comfortable manifestation of exactly
what is ill about country music these
days, and that is that is perverts itself
unintentionally, taking what ought to be
simple, hard, and clear, and adding to it

the same sorts of glosses that work for
pop and rock.
More energetic, fuller music needs
the bigger sound, but, for
the living love of God, Christmas Carols
do not! Here is Emmylou Harris, one of
the finest voices recording today in any
area, for whatever reasons still cutting
these slick, commercial country
albums instead of making an effort
either to go back or forward and- so
something with more integrity.
She loves it, though. She thinks she's
going to bring country music as she
knows it to the people, but this is not at
all the right idea. Take a look at
Harris's last album, Blue Kentucky
Girl, which sold well only to country
music fans. Emmylou, the recidivist,
went from earlier experiments with the
Beatles back to Willie Nelson, and
dressed herself like a tasteless
wrangler for the album jacket. This is
only bringing country music to country
music fans, who, for the life of them, do
not deserve the likes of Emmylou.

St. Mary Chapel
Dec. 6, 7, 8, 9,
13, 14, 15
8:00 pm
331 Thompson
Ann Arbor




An Ella of a night
If any performer deserves an enduring reputation, it's Ella
Fitzgerald. Perhaps the only performer to "crossover" suc-
cessfully from jazz to pop, then back again, Fitzgerald has been
literally belting it out since 1935, in a voice still strong yet precise.
Ella's remarkable consistency makes her upcoming Ann Arbor ap-
pearance a must-see for both old hands and new listeners.
There are still a lot of tickets left for the show, this Sunday,
December 9 at 8 p.m.
In recent years, Ella has concentrated on this small group con-
text with eminently satisfying results. The repertoire ranges from
standards from her days with Count Basie to modern love songs by
the likes of the Beatles, embracing every pop style in between. The
highlight of any Fitzgerald performance is her vocal improvisatory
ability, resoundingly exemplified inter "scat singing." If you don't
know what scatting is, or just generally assume that a performer
older than your parents can't be exciting, don't miss Ella Fitz-
gerald. You'll be amazed.



Terrence Malick's second directorial effort is a lyrical film that takes us
back to the still mythical era of -pre W.W. I American innocence. The
story is told by a young Chicago girl (LINDA MANZ) as she, her brother
(RICHARD GERE) and his girlfriend (BROOKE ADAMS) travel to the fields of
Texas to become migrant workers. When the wealthy landowner falls in
love with Adams, the resulting triangle leads to tragic consequences. As in
BADLANDS, the camera's exploration of the intricate beauty of nature
plays an integral role. An exquisite and remarkable film, Lith Academy
Award-winning cinematography.
ANGELL HALL $1.50 7:00 & 9:00



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