LIFE IS STRANGE
And doesn’t death define it, in the end? Puts the frame on the picture, rolls the end credits that tell you this movie is done, now what did you think of it?
Strange, and filled with wonder. Joy. Love unlimited. Grace and miracles. An art form, some make it. We are the masters of time and space. If we understand that, and consciously take up the challenge.
Oh but life can be dark and terrible too, right? Death. Disease. Destruction.
Debasement. Persecution. Starvation. Suffering. Cruelty. Well… I think that’s a choice we all can make. Life can throw us some pretty stern stuff, but perception is everything, some say. Where are you going to play, in your time upon the stage?
Life begins with birth, and inevitably ends with death. We all know that, and yet most of us pretend it isn’t so and plow through life as though we are immortal and all that good stuff can be done tomorrow.
We often mark someone’s inescapable end with a ceremony, a remembrance, a funeral, a memorial, that reveals a lot about the life lived, and the people the departed one drew along their path.
WE LOST GUIDO LAMELL
Last week. And what a loss it is. If you believe in the power, majesty and magic of music, he was a master magician. Recognized worldwide as a 40-year veteran of the Los Angeles Philharmonic string section, he anchored himself in Santa Monica where he lived for decades and raised his family in the six- bedroom house he built himself with unskilled labor and floor plans from a program on a floppy disc.
That home became the site of frequent soirees, parties where the inevitable drift to playing music might include longtime Berlin Philharmonic dirigent Sir Simon Rattle at the piano, or a violinist/fiddler that could be LA Phil guru Gustavo Dudamel or young local Americana recording artist Connor Vance. (“They were very forgiving,” Vance confessed with a grin.)
Lamell was also, proudly, for nine years conductor and music director of our 76-year-old Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra, performing each year in the acoustically wonderful Barnum hall at Samohi. At one time, years ago, on a path to lead the blossoming symphony in Mexico City, conducting was a lifelong passion of his. He also engaged in a heavy schedule of music education for Santa Monica and LA kids.
HE BROUGHT PASSION
And a boyish enthusiasm to everything he did, it would seem, to listen to his family and friends speak at his service this past Sunday at Bel Air Church. He was known for his quick smile and for reaching out to anyone in the room he didn’t know.
I could tell you more of what was related during that service but here’s the thing I really noticed. I didn’t observe any crying. And he was still in his sixties, a picture of fitness and health. A sudden heart attack hospitalized him a week before, but he was reported to be in good spirits and looking forward to being discharged, when the big one hit him.
I’m sure I missed some tears somewhere, but good feeling for Guido was the prevailing mood and even the immediate family, surely experiencing terrible loss and grief, were smiling when I saw them, and exchanging great remembrances of their Guido. I’ve seen that before, but not often. I think it has to do with the life lived, but also with those he or she built their life around. Some people just inspire a celebration of their life, while others are pulled into regrets or what might have been.
(I’m not making a judgment about crying at a memorial service. Dang, I hope SOMEbody sheds a tear for me. Besides my creditors. But to see such an absence of it, filled in by joyous celebration of that person — that’s extraordinary, and does make a statement, I think.)
Do you think your memorial will go? (If you have any doubts, go out now, right now, and start living life as you know you were meant to, whatever that means. Service is probably key, giving back. But don’t hold back, let go of fear and judgment, and stack up more stories that your loved ones will tell at that memorial, with laughter, not tears.) I’m sure I was not the only one inspired by the tenor of Lamell’s memorial.
The music, of course, was exquisite. During the service, two favorites of his: the gorgeous “Meditation from Thais” by Massemet, and Dvorak’s “Piano Quintet No. 2,” They will now, forever, have new meaning for me.
A few months ago I came across a couple of large boxes of classical albums I simply had no place for. The LPs were mostly 50 years old and either still sealed or in pristine condition. I had to find a good home for them, and called Guido. He was delighted at the offer, and we had a really enjoyable couple of hours, socially distanced, in my backyard.
He accepted my suggestion to go through them one by one, and what a trip that was, to hear his observations and stories on each one, and a few of mine as well. I am attracted to excellent music of every sort and have always dabbled eclectically, but as a dyed in the wool rocker I am always delighted when I can hold my own with a master in their field like Lamell. As he ran through references, I hardly ever grunted, huh? He was no neophyte to pop music himself. He knew Bob Marley from Bob Dylan, fer sure. I wrote a column about that experience, and of course I’m so glad now I did not put that off.
LEIMERT PARK ARTWALK — Celebrate International Afro-Descendant Women’s Day at Leimert Park Artwalk with music, performers, food, drum circles and more. Kids get free drums and sticks! Sunday 4 p.m., Leimert Park Plaza, free.
BRUTUS VIII AT THE ECHO — Post-punk/synth-punk/art rock act Brutus VIII is joined by alternative electronic/dream pop acts Cryogeyser and Dove Armitage at The Echo next Wednesday. I have had the pleasure of seeing Brutus VIII several times and I have always come away impressed. Wednesday 8pm, The Echo, $13.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org