I am not suffering from romantic despair, so I don’t know what drew me to revisit this performance (recorded slightly more than two years ago) but I find it so delicate yet powerful that I want to draw your attention to it.
It is a performance of a melancholy Irving Berlin classic by the singer Abigail Riccards and the pianist Michael Kanan — recorded at The Drawing Room in Brooklyn, New York, on October 6, 2013. Abigail’s charades at the start made me giggle then and still do . . . but the mood turns quiet and serious quickly.
I think of this performance as a triumph of that indefinable quality called “phrasing” — how do musicians pace the notes and the words so that the message is clear without over-emphasis, keeping the melodic and rhythmic momentum going so that the song does not come to a stop?
And “phrasing” is always in tandem with other indefinables — “dynamics,” “interpretation,” “emotion.” This performance could have become a dirge. It could have become a protest, a near-shout of despair, of rage. But here it is a translucent poem.
I do not know how Abigail and Michael do what they do, singly and as a team, but it moves me beyond words. I blink back tears because of the quiet irrevocable gravity they create, yet I want to cheer because they remind me that such beauty is still possible in this world that sometimes seems to find beauty incomprehensible or irritating:
It was an honor to be there, a privilege to record this, and a deep experience to see and hear it again. And I would point you here to learn more about Abigail and Michael and her most recent CD, a trumph.
May your happiness increase!