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March 22, 1941 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1941-03-22

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Pge Four

'P E R S P EC T 1V E S

THE' CONCERT... by James Jackson

T UTTA RACCOLTA was to be the
first number, and the audience
swelled with anticipation. Here,
far above the orderly heads of
those in the orchestra, legs and arms
fretted against close-confining seats.
The milky lights blandly spying from
the dome in the vaulted ceiling blinked
against rising spouts of smoke which
had seeped through entrance-wells in-
to the great auditorium.
People-siany of them-came out of
tbe smoke and noise emanating from
the corridors outside; they pushed and
rubbed against each other, channeling
here and there in pursuit of seats. Some
drifted aimlessly within the currents,
letting themselves be tossed up in one
place after another. Others advanced
with purpose, striving toward their des-
tination, sifting accurately through the
throngs. Ushers, with tags over their
lapels, frowned and looked worried. This
was the second balcony and they hated
to be assigned to it.
For there was none of the ease and
assurance here of the orchestra and
first balcony. In those regions, now
liquid with animation, evening gowni
fluttered into place effortlessly while
men lounged about without disturbance.
Here, as if the great distance from the
sage lent unreality to the entire atmos-
ohere, people behaved strangely, swirl-
'ry and settling into bristling mass for-
The eighth row in section H was full
?t last, an attendant noticed with re-
lef; but the seventh still lacked two
The hour was eight-thirty-that set
or the concert to begin.
One could easily notice the solidarity
;f the members of row eight. In large
4nknown to each other heretofore, they
'ow assumed a familiarity which per-
'-itted the exchange of banalities. With
one eye they looked down at the far-
away pates of those in the orchestra;
,cgether, they gazed about their own
ealcony, adjusting their coats behind
them as they examined the program.
Consequently, wnen someone moved
into the row'ahead, with its two empty
seats, they came to attention as a unit.
The intruder was a black man, his skin
taut with polished darkness. And. when
he turned to sit down, bowing and smil-
Ing gracefully at those he ,had incon-
venienced on his way in, they could note
the sable-tendoned character of his
xeck; lengthy powerful muscles of some
African gazelle seemed to move there,
with fawn-tan highlights playing
smcothly over them as they rippled and
Over his onyx skull, black grubs of
tasir wriggled in regular intervals.
He seated himself, unfolded his pro-
gram, and smiled. By this time, the
eighth row had lost interest, returning
to the perusal of its neighbors and it-
JTS ATTENTION, however, was again
localized cn the preceding row, this
time arubity, when a faint gasp rose
rom the first of its members and con-
tinued down the line. It moved parallel
o the passage of a woman. She was the
cause of this mutual exclamation, for
he formed the perfect day to the night
of the one who had preceded her. Her
hair was of a platinum, almost dead-
white shade-a lack of colour matched
exactly in her complexion. On the crest
sf her chalky head, a small navy-blue
velvet hat bobbed confidently, anchored
securely by a deep-wine tie which swept
'up several foamy wavelets of hair in its
grasp. Hers was a whiteness artificial
iut complete.
Eyes followed her. For some reason
here was uncertainty, yet inevitability
about her destination. There was only

one seat vacant, and that one, unde-
niably, was immediately adjacent to the
black man's.
Still it seemed unbelievable-too good
to be true.
They all waited, breathless, as she
neared his knees. Tucking them under
the seat with neat obeisance, he smiled
as she twisted around before her place.
Relieved, the members of row eight
sighed and settled back to their gossip.
Yet there were some who could not
ignore this startling contrast. To them,

Three seats further on. another prob-
lein was presented.
"I thought her accompanist would be
the same . . . you know."
Someone else spoke up worriedly.
"It must put him on the spot . . .
about taking her into hotels . . . and
the rest."
But the black man in the row ahead
let these remarks pass without notice.
He smiled down on the heads far be-
low. This was the world's greatest con-
tralto. This was the contralto of his race.

feared, yet anticipated with some en-
thusiasm, a sneezing fit.
In the meantime, the black man's
joy had waned from his face. To this
second half of the program were as-
signed those songs so eagerly awaited,
by many admirers of the great contral-
to, the negro spirituals. These had made
her famous in their minds. These had
made her adored in his soul; but tonight
they caused dismay in the latter. The
girl had appeared again beside him, still
frigid, still poised tensely.
He could not enjoy the group of
songs leading up to the spirituals. Ear-
lier, he had thought longingly of her
Songs to the Dark Virgin. With uneasi-
ness, he let himself slip into the
rhythmed magic of their notes. "Would
that I were a jewel . . . that all my shin-
ing brilliance might fall at thy feet
thou dark one . . . " His raven-skinned
fingers, with their oddly-shaped nails,
fumbled at the program. When the ris-
ing, throaty triumph of her organ-hued
voice glistered through the auditorium
to his seat, he trembled. Her shadowy,
proudly artistic lips carried a message
to him. "Would that I were a garment,
a shimmering, silken garment, that all
my folds might wrap about thy body,
absorb thy body, hold and hide thy
body, thou dark one ... .
His heart rose with the tremours in
his neck and arms. "Would that Iwere
a flame, but one sharp, leaping flame
.to annihilate thy body, thou dark
But his feeling was not selfish. In-
stead, a rush of benevolence, of friend-
liness, all-inclusive in its scope, swept
over him.
He loked at the wrist with its white
accompanying hand coiling over the
arm rest beside him.
The time hadhcome for the famous
spirituals. His uneasiness returned di-
seased with fear.
something new came into his body.
The lithe neck muscles looped and
arched in rhythm primeval. The jungle-
eyed gazelle throbbed there, torpid
swamp snakes writhed into his arms,
and the worms of his hair started.
Still, he appreciated hIs surroundings.
But they had become distant, familiar
yet strange, and choked with cruel re-
He let his coat slip to the floor so
that unimpeded he might react to the
ancient mystery of the spiritual. When
a spurt of applause broke for a moment
into his fascination, he felt, as if com-
municated by dimly-known currents,
a new but meaningful rigidity in the
person next to him. Those cottony fing-
ers, with their scarlet nails, clung to
the arm in nervous fixation, while the
arrogant hat trembled on its platinum
She had leaned forward.
Again, the long, rhythm-rocked ca-
dences lulled over his consciousness, and
once again that feeling of all-pervading
friendliness possessed his neck and
tingled into his arms and black-knot-
ted hands.
The music was approaching its cli-
max. The girl's last fit of applause had
been hypnotic in its intensity.
A woman was sneezing wildly.
Again, her fingers gripped the arm
rest, this time with renewed tenacity.
Perhaps she wished to share it-as he
did-as the gazelle lets his mate lean
her neck also upon his convenient
bough. With the hammered beat of
"trampin,' trampin,' trying to make
heaven my home," surging against him,
he laid his black hands, their ebony
glowing transfigured through his finger-
nails, upon her smooth, frost-white
arms, letting the chastened spirit of his
(Continued on Page 11)

Illustrated by CLIFFORD GRAHAM

something out of the ordinary had hap-
pened-something which would bear
With the dimming of the opalescent
lights overhead, the second balcony ap-
peared to shelve forward. All faces, from
orchestra to second balcony, leaned in-
to fixed positions.
Tutta raccolta came to them with
rapture. They eyed the piano accompan-
ist and the severe page-turner, but
chiefly, they concentrated on the form,
far-far-distant, of the great contralto.
She had walked onto the stage over a
white carpet, which now, lying peace-
fully under her skirt-hidden feet,
marked firm contrast to the rich pur-
ple of her dignified gown and the dusky-
dark tonality of her voice and racial
Der flote weich gefuhl buoyed over
great silent shafts of air to them, then
A Bruno vestiti.
He first group of selections was fin-
ished. She had left the stage with gen-
tle, stately bows in their direction.
The eighth row whispered.
"How much weight do you think she's
lost?" asked one woman of her neigh-
bor. That one didn't know, but she in
turn wondered how much the pearls
around her neck must have cost.

He grinned around him. The platinum
girl was as rigid as frost in the next
songs, several of them by Schubert,
were sung. Ever with majestic self-pos-
session, the singer received their rec-
ognition. The black man was athrob
with joy. He had forgotten the "No, no
don't hope, hope is dead," the "Weep,
O my thoughts," of an earlier song. His
neck muscles twitched with refinement
to Die Rose, becoming taut with Auf
dem Wasser zu singen, and relaxing
sveltly under the spell of Der Doppel-
ganger. While the last song and the last
encore before intermission were in pro-
gress, he had settled comfortably into
the narrow recesses of his seat. He had
given up both arm rests, the one to his
right to the minute intrusion of the
platinum girl's ivory wrist and .hand,
and the one on his left to the besuited
forearm of a short man. His frank ap-
plause at the end completely obliterated
the polite noise created by the one sit-
ting so upright and cold beside him.
The intermission was over. Under
pink hat-feathers, matters had been de-
cided. One woman 'loved to hear good
music, but tonight she had a cotd you
know.' She and her company of friends

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