IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF ST. PAUL Seldom have I seen a more honest and objective look at a religious subject as in the Athena Learning DVD set "In the Footsteps of St. Paul." Here, in two 54-minute episodes, narrator and host David Suchet attempts to physically follow the route taken by St. Paul to spread the message of a new religion called Christianity.
Suchet is obliged to work from the only available sources, the Epistles of St. Paul (which have been under question for quite some time), and the Acts of the Apostles. The story of Paul’s initial hatred for this new sect and his miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus is well known. The Bible tells us very little about his actual life, especially his early years and his death, but it is more his thoughts that are important and here Suchet is fascinated by them. He does, however, in a moment of candor admit he would not like to have a meal with Paul and that he alternately likes and dislikes the man from reports about Paul’s personality.
Viewers of all persuasions should enjoy this Athena offering, especially with the usually helpful booklet that the company includes in all of its sets. The subtitles are, as always, most helpful.
TWO FROM GUILD As I have written so many times, if anyone is looking for some light ambient music for dining or for low-key partying, one need go no further than stacking the CD player with as many "The Golden Age of Light Music" discs on the Guild Light Music label as it will hold.
Of the 214 entries (so far) in this series, many of which are still available, I have found two new very interesting CDs, each based on a concept or theme.
"Invitation to the Dance" draws upon LPs released from 1951 to 1962, 8 of which are in stereo. The only items that will be familiar to most listeners are the Ascot Gavotte from "My Fair Lady" and what came to be called the Apache dance from Offenbach’s "La Papillon." Among the remaining 26 items--these discs are packed to the limit--are a bit from "Ballet Egyptien" (Luigini), "Mexican hat dance" (Particela), "The Dancing Cane" (Rose), and even "Dance Ballerina dance" (Sigman and Russell) for those who recall the Vaughn Monroe recording from long ago.
Among the orchestras are those of Harry Davidson, Michael Freedman, Harry Fryer, Meredith Willson, Morton Gould, and Percy Faith. Yes, it is the very unfamiliarity of these titles and players that make these CDs so valuable.
"Light and Latin" starts off with the evergreen "Malaguena (Lecuona) and among the remaining 25 selections are "Poinciana" (Simon and Bernier), "Brazil" (Barroso), "Berceuse Cubaine" (Engelen), and "Sweet bolero" (Garst). It all comes to a blazing finale with Chabrier’s "Espana."
Among the players are the orchestras of Percy Faith, Paul Weston, Carmen Dragon, Xavier Cugat, Tito Puente, Andre Kostelanetz, and Stanley Black. People who collected LPs back then will recognize many of those conductors.
HALL OF FAME 3 I already reported some time ago on number 62 of the The Golden Age of Light Music on the Guild label, "The Hall of Fame-Volume 3," but I wish to repeat it for those who missed it. It holds 26 selections of light music taken from recordings that were on sale from 1945 to 1958. Each album in this series is organized with some theme, and this one is "a tribute to talented musicians who have made an important contribution to our enjoyment of Light Music, either as conductors, composers or arrangers--and occasionally as all three" (from the program notes).
Among the conductors are Conrad Salinger, Percy Faith, David Carroll, Richard Hayman, Nelson Riddle, and David Rose. The featured conductor on this disc is George Melachrino. Some of the short selections are familiar ("Singin’ in the rain," "The Merry Widow Waltz," and "Warsaw Concerto"). Among the less familiar are "Lingering lovers," "Easter Isle," "Crazy violins," and "March of the pretzels."
I consider this one of the better collections in that series.
Frank Behrens reports on classical and Broadway music as well as recordings of books and plays for the Arts & Entertainment section.