DETROIT: I Got Rhythm….

13 May

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It’s 2:00 on a Sunday, with no reason to rush out the door we’ve slept in late and are now in search of food. Why is it anything with eggs or maple syrup tastes even better after noon?  Craft Work in West Village is said to have a great brunch, we’re here to check it out. Located on the ground floor of the Parkstone Apartments, the restaurant is integrated into the neighborhood perfectly. That’s one of the things Kris and I really like about this area; restaurants, cafes and shops are intermixed with single family homes and apartments making it very walkable. Mature trees, gorgeous architecture and well-kept homes create a charming district.

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Housed in a space that was originally a pharmacy, then occupied by the Harlequin Cafe, Craft Work has kept the old-world charm alive and well. Dining room tables are full when we arrive, there’s plenty of room at the community tables in the bar area. Everything on the menu sounds appealing; we choose one sweet and one savory dish to split. Before long, large plates piled high with breakfast foods arrive at the table. Lets start with the savory; tender bacon fat biscuits are literally smothered with house made sausage gravy nicely seasoned with tender chunks of sausage. Next to the biscuits are two perfectly fried eggs; I put mine on top of the biscuit, eggs Benedict style. Cutting into it, golden liquid yolk drips down the biscuit and combines with the gravy, delicious! Golden french toast made from eggy, tender, slightly sweet challah is stacked high, pats of butter melt slowly and eventually slip down the stack, a cup of syrup shares the plate, Kris is in his glory, it’s exceptional.

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Now for the entertainment portion of the day. Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church (JAPC) is hosting “A Gershwin Rendezvous” as part of their free concert series. The building itself is stunning, designed by architect Wirt C Roland (Guardian Building) in the English Gothic style, it was completed in 1926. The interior is a medley of wood carvings, plaster castings, stained glass windows and stone carvings. The Sanctuary itself is elegant, understated, with colorful stained glass windows, simple chandeliers and stepped buttresses. The Skinner pipe organ is one of only three, large, four-manual instruments that remain in their original form.

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We park in the lot behind the church and follow the other attendees inside. Wooden chairs have been set up in rows facing the black piano, volunteers are busy setting up refreshments to be served at the conclusion of the performance. After placing our jackets on the back of our chairs, we have a look around. There are several lovely rooms in the Parish House; stone fireplaces, leaded glass windows and decorative plaster adorns each of them. The church has a very welcoming feel to it, members are friendly and chat eagerly. Though this is not my neighborhood or my church, I feel a part of the community gathered here today.

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Back in Dodge Hall we take our seats as the concert is about to begin. Penny Masouris will be performing many Gershwin favorites today; pianist and vocalist, she will also weave in a bit of Gershwin history and stories between songs. A number of reproduction paintings rest on easels, our hostess introduces each of George’s paintings and tells us a little about them. She’s a wonderful lecturer and fascinating to listen to. It’s evident she has studied the composer and pianists life and career extensively. Taking her seat at the piano she kicks off the afternoon with Gershwin’s first big hit (1919) Swanee. Penny shares stories of George and Ira’s early days in New York, how George became the composer and Ira the lyricist, then she plays and sings some more.

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We are sitting in the back row with the vantage point of being able to see the physical reactions audience members have to songs like “Someone to Watch Over Me”, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off”. Some close their eyes and sway, others mouth the lyrics. Once in a while there is a joyful gasp, a body sitting  a little straighter in the chair, a tapping foot. Music has that effect on people. “Rhapsody in Blue” is probably the piece of music most associated with Gershwin, it’s hard to believe it came out in 1924, it’s magnificent. George wrote pieces for stage and screen, American in Paris (1928), Porgy and Bess (1935) along with Jazz, opera and popular music. George Gershwin died when he was only 38 years old during surgery to remove a brain tumor. His career was short but brilliant, filling the pages of the American songbook.

Time has passed quickly, the concert comes to an end. Enthusiastic applause shows our appreciation for the performer.   The concert series continues through June with performances on Sunday afternoons at 4:30 pm. Be sure to check out the website for all the musical programs at JAPC. It has been a wonderful afternoon, Detroit-style, I can hardly wait for next weekend!

One Response to “DETROIT: I Got Rhythm….”

  1. Russ Marshall September 2, 2015 at 5:31 pm #

    I’ve known Penny for many years and she is, indeed, a wonderful performer. She just loves what she does tremendously which is evident when you hear and talk with her. She was talented when I first met her and she’s only improved over the years. She also teaches her young students with well received enthusiasm and the results of her care and knowledge are on display a couple times every year at her well attended student recitals. Great article!

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