CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)

AUTHOR: MCKENZ

HED:Danny McKenzie: Handel, Sherwin-Williams a powerful combination

Thanks to Handel's "Messiah" and Public Radio in Mississippi, the painting of the homestead is coming along nicely, thank you very much. And the neighborhood is getting a good dose of culture ... never mind that it didn't ask for it.

Though George Frideric probably didn't have this in mind back in 1741 when he composed his oratorio for the ages, the "Messiah" actually makes house-painting enjoyable.

Well, let's not get carried away here. More accurately, Handel's music makes house-painting tolerable.

Maybe it's the nearness to the heavens - standing on a 16-foot extension ladder placed on top of 12 feet of scaffolding - that makes the music of "Messiah" more spiritual than usual.

And more dangerous.

The combination of Handel, Robert Shaw, the Atlanta Symphony and Chamber Chorus, and Sherwin-Williams is powerful.

Singing along with the tenor soloist on "Every Valley Shall Be Exalted" - which, of course, I do perfectly (in my dreams) - is one thing. But standing on a thin strip of aluminum some 25 feet in the air when "And He Shall Purify" comes on is a life-changing experience.

Put another way: On level ground, give me a big bucket of paint and a couple of hours of "And He Shall Purify" played non-stop and I'll paint all of Lee County and a good portion of Itawamba.

But at the aforementioned altitude, the 8 minutes and 28 seconds it takes for Shaw and his Atlanta folks to get through that selection seem like an eternity. Those aren't nail-holes in the gables, they're clawmarks from my death-grip.

Other than that bit of hazardous Handel, for the past couple weeks "Messiah" has indeed provided me with the inspiration to continue with my home beautification project.

Played full-blast outside on my portable stereo has obviously provided a healthy does of edification to our entire neighborhood.

True story: My neighbor about 50 yards down the street was having a swimming pool installed the same time I was painting the front of our home - the week before Halloween.

Late one afternoon I strolled down to get a closer look at their work. One of the swimmingpoolers looked up at me and said, "You're gettin' in the Halloween spirit early, ain't you?"

I assumed he was referring to my painting outfit and my painted body.

Then he said, "I been hearin' that witchin' music up there all week."

"O Death, Where Is Thy Sting?" indeed.

When I wasn't listening to "Messiah," my radio, as usual, was set to PRM. On Friday, I even got my request - the "Cantique de Jean Racine" by Gabriel FaurĊ½ (only the most beautiful choral work that has ever been written) - called in early enough to hear it and slow down my paint-splashing to, if I do say so myself, rather graceful brush strokes.

But we've got to get one thing clear - this "Ashokan Farewell" thing.

A few years ago I was painting our home in beautiful suburban Clinton and, of course, listening to PRM. The announcer came on and told how the "Ashokan Farewell" by Jay Ungar was not, as most people think, written for Ken Burns' PBS series "The Civil War."

This announcer told us that Ungar actually wrote it as a tribute to a Camp Ashoka in up-state New York where the composer's children had spent the summer. But its melody is so haunting, it made a wonderful backdrop to Burns' "Civil War."

So a couple of weeks ago, this same PRM announcer comes on and tells us how Ungar wrote the "Ashokan Farewell" for the PBS series "The Civil War."

This announcer needs to get this straight. I'm not painting another house.

And when I put the finishing stroke to this one, you can bet your baton the Handel CD will go back in the stereo and the volume will be turned full blast.

"Hallelujah."

Danny McKenzie is managing editor for news at the Daily Journal.

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