We ain’t out of the COVID-19 woods yet. Keep wearing masks, for everyone’s health. Get vaccinated! But for the highly anticipated return of live performance, this is a good sign. A respected player roars back to life!
The Pacific Opera Project (POP) is staging their first show in 15 months.

They’re an outstanding homegrown DIY opera company who have been bringing their shows to a wide variety of venues all over the LA area since 2011. This show, like their one at Forest Lawn Cemetery, is also outdoors, at Heritage Square Museum (lawn), a striking collection of LA architecture of yore.

Because POP is a “best-kept secret” with a rabid following, it is always hard to snag tickets. This first show Saturday is sold out but there’s a later show, plus two on Sunday. Check the website for times. Tickets $25-$40. Hooray!!

Two weeks ago I wrote about my quest to find a home for some classical LPs that I no longer had a place for. Not so easy, even though I was giving them away. They’re like family pets, or even children. So it wouldn’t be right to throw any of those in the trash. Or leave them sitting on the sidewalk. Right?

I wrote about how these vintage vinyls had remained almost all in mint condition 35-50 years later, even though the jackets did not. But what really counts is what’s in the grooves. Or what’s not in the grooves, like dirt, cracker crumbs, radioactive dust particles or other schmutz.

There are two main rules for achieving that preservation of perfection. It’s simple, but requires discipline. One, make sure the discs are perfect when you acquire them. No compromise.

Two, don’t let anyone else play them in your home and don’t let them leave your home. No, Mom, and crying uncontrollably like that won’t help, you know that. And you must turn down whatever your girl/boy friend is offering. Yes. I understand. But you can always find a new girlfriend. You might never find another copy of that flawless Quatermass album with the silver skyscraper pterodactyls fold-out jacket. Let me tell you.

No cherry picking. I went through my short list of classy-cal fanatics — I know more rockers and rastas than I do aficionados of highbrow music. (Just kidding about “highbrow,” based on a silly, debunked phrenology theory. Because it does not require intelligence to “get” and love classical music. It takes soul, and imagination.)

Of course! — Guido Lamell, LA Philharmonic violinist, and conductor and music director in his eighth season leading our Santa Monica Symphony (performing continuously since 1947). He was delighted by the offer, he said.

We sat socially distant in my small backyard, and he graciously agreed to give commentary as he went through the boxes. His keeper stack grew tall, and the next-best part was that he promised to pass along those he didn’t want to someone who would. Mission accomplished!

We both agreed it was a most enjoyable get-together. He got to tell some stories to someone outside the classical world but with enough background to appreciate them, like his time in Mexico City with music god Leonard Bernstein, a rare up-close opportunity for a nascent conductor. All good except one opportunity a little too up-close: the slightly awkward moment of politely declining a late-night jacuzzi invitation, offered to Lamell and a couple of other party stragglers, by the New York maestro well-known to be married but gay.

With the fast-rising Mexico City Philharmonic and hoped to have a conducting future there, but had to leave because hanky panky which compromised the music integrity of the orchestra did not yield to his protests. He left, sadly, but soon joined the LA Phil string section in 1979, with its many opportunities for world performance and conducting. Ha ha, Mexico City, your loss, so there.

Then there was the adventure of teaming with his close friend, the renowned American violinist Eugene Fodor, to record a series of concertos and symphonies that both had always wanted to perform together. They finally arranged to fulfill their dream with the prestigious National Symphony of Ukraine, in Kiev. Only one catch: they had to pay for everything. Dreams do have their price.

Guido mentioned his producing and conducting of Beethoven’s Ninth at Disney Hall in June 2011, a benefit for Japanese tsunami victims, as a highlight of his career. “It was a monumental undertai\king, with more than 250 musicians and singers,” he recalled. “Wait a minute,” my wife interjected, “our daughter sang in that. You conducted her!”

Lamell is an ebullient, down to earth guy with a wide range of knowledge and interests, who has lived in Santa Monica for many years — in the six-bedroom house he designed and built himself with no prior experience, using software on a floppy disc and amateur labor. After that, the 1st Symphony of Havergal Brian is a piece of cake.

COCAINE AND RHINESTONES — is a podcast I fell in love with a few years ago. It tells the stories of country music in the 20th century, “and the lives of those who gave it to us,” and I recommend it to everyone, country fan or no, because host Tyler Mayhan Coe does such an exceptional job of research and storytelling that you don’t need any prior knowledge or interest to enjoy.

The show gained a great deal of popularity after its start in 2017, but since its initial 13-episode run, there has not been a new show in over three years… until now!

Season 2’s inaugural episode, about Starday Records, is described by Coe as, “The story of a little independent record label in Texas becoming ‘a force’ in the Nashville country music industry brings an outsider’s perspective to the anatomy of a machine. Going from backwoods honky tonks and roadhouse jukeboxes to stretch limos and private planes takes a lot of crooked deals and shameless hustle. When confronted by a powerful enemy, you’ll do whatever it takes to survive the turbulent rock and roll. When the whole world acquires a taste for your strain of Kentucky bluegrass, you’ll rake in the green. When they get their ears on for truckin’ songs, you’ll put the hammer down and stand on it. But don’t let the stars get in your eyes, because this story only ever ends one way.”

Listen here, or wherever you get your podcasts: https://cocaineandrhinestones.com/starday-records-the-anti-nashville-sound

Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 3,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com