Posted by: Brad Nixon | December 16, 2009

All We Like Sheep

I had anticipated that in one of this week’s posts I would comment on the chamber orchestra version of Messiah performed last night at Disney Hall. A little while back I said some disparaging things about the ambience of that icon of LA Architecture, HERE. I was looking forward to balancing that pejorative view with an account of this performance by an ensemble that would closely resemble the instrumentation and scale of the orchestra Handel himself conducted at the work’s debut in Dublin in 1742 . We hear 4 baroque concerts each season, and this was going to be one of the year’s highlights.


En route to downtown LA, we were rear-ended on the 105 freeway, just before turning north on the 110. It was stop-and-go traffic, even in the carpool lane, hitting maybe 20 mph at the max, then slowing, stopping, starting, slowing and BAM! Not a sudden stop, just a stop. The guy behind me just wasn’t paying attention.  First thought: we’re both okay. Second thought: looking in the rearview mirror, he hasn’t roared off. It’s a little Honda behind me, quite badly damaged in the front, sitting there. Third thought: this would seem to interrupt our long-awaited concert. Damn!

Well, it is going to happen. After 16 years of regular driving on LA freeways I had never been rear-ended, a fate that awaits almost everyone who sits at this table and plays out the string long enough. Given the fact that there are too many cars for too little pavement, and that human beings have added to their already limited access to awareness the distractions of cell phones, texting, DVD players, GPS toys, etc., etc., you ARE going to get bammed. Just hope it’s delivered at a relatively low speed by a vehicle with a low ratio of mass relative to your car, by a driver who has a license and insurance who sticks around long enough to own up to it and that your car is left in a condition that you can still drive it. Oh, and hope the driver doesn’t have an automatic weapon in his car. Bingo on all scores. I’m a winner! Get me a lottery ticket.

One can react in any number of ways: storm back toward the offending driver, spouting obscenities and accusations (check, done that), breathe deep, draw oneself up to full size, loom imperiously over offender (done that) or, heck, just walk back and see if they’re ok. There’s no need to call the cops, after all. What are they going to do? They’re busy. This is a transaction between fellow citizens, even if, as in this case, we don’t have a language in common, we still have drivers’ licenses from the same state and, amazingly, insurance cards from the same company.

Still, I’m sorry it happened. I was looking forward to seeing how many of my fellow concert goers would be toting along their trusty Schirmer’s score of “The Messiah,” (which is incorrect, it’s Messiah, darn it). Love to watch ’em turn the pages as they follow along and silently mouth the words.

I was, especially, looking forward to cooking up some new smart-aleck comment about the greatest straight line in all of classical music, the part of Messiah titled, “All We Like Sheep.” Dang.

I don’t actively believe in forms of divine retribution, in which we’re punished for things we were only thinking about doing, but there may be something appropriate in running into trouble on the freeway, already intent on eking a bit of sophomoric humor out of the title of this portion of Herr Handel’s sublime masterpiece. It’s not much of a joke, after all. The full line is:

 “All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way.”

And, friends, is anything more sheep-like, more mindless than our daily crawl in the line of traffic, in the herdlike, grazing pace we maintain, following the automobile in front of us, as we creep in our petty pace on these freeways, waiting for the blow?

A correction

In my post of December 13, HERE I made a smart-aleck comment about there being no giants in medieval French romances that I could recall. Like all blanket statements, even about the French, one is almost certain to be wrong. I was overlooking the pervasive Tristan and Iseult (or Isolde or take your pick from other spellings) romances that appeared in every European language in the 12th and 13th Centuries. In many of the versions, Tristan slays Morholt, Iseult’s uncle. Sometimes Morholt is a giant. In other stories, he’s just a mean guy who has to be killed. Sometimes he doesn’t appear at all. I’m clearly not up to snuff on my Tristaniana. I could use the excuse that it’s a Celtic tale, and not really French at all, but it’s the troubadours who popularized the tale across Europe, so I’ll score one for the French.

Leave a Comment. I enjoy hearing from readers.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: