(Yes, the quote automatically changes daily: No, I don't check it for quality.)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

At the Mill with the Jazz Man

This is a program from when it was effortless to weigh 170 lbs. That is to say, it was a while ago.

Towards the end of my stay in Europe in January, I was able to make plans to visit my friend and fellow musician Hepi Kohlich (Hepi is a nickname for Heribert, though I’ve never known another Hepi!). He kindly invited me out to his “new” digs on the Western outskirts of Vienna, Neulingbach, and I spent the day with him and his eight-month pregnant partner, Julia.

We spent the day wandering around, and later Hepi gave me a lift back into Vienna, as he had a gig at a place where I used to hang out in 1988, called The Tunnel. He was doing the job that we pianists are most frequently paid to do: accompany singers. In this case, amateur singers. He was patient and professional, as always. I met my friend Joe, a journalist who has lived in Vienna for 20 years, and who had taught at the same school where I taught a few years before I got there. After gabbing till quite late, I returned downstairs to listen and ponder the fact that I had been first come there before some of the waiting staff were born. Egads.

The day with Julia & Hepi was a blast. They mentioned that they lived next to an old mill, and when we went for a long walk, that the there was a museum nearby. I didn’t understand that the other part of the house they lived in now was the museum! They opened a door (I expected perhaps a closet on the other side of the door), and instead was the inside of an actual mill that had been used up into the 1930s. The owners of the building were a couple with a strong interest in history, and the place was filled with implements and books.

It was two floors of nicely displayed materials, including explanations of how the equipment worked, and artifacts from all aspects of Austrian life.

The program is a page of the Mattersburg Culture Center’s advertisement, referencing the concert that I gave back in 1990. Hepi was also an instructor of mine at that time, and he kindly agreed to play the vibraphone in several duets. He was a blast to spend time with then, and now. Note the picture & reference to San Francisco? Oh, the strange, strange fates we weave. I never had a big plan to move to Mattersburg or San Francisco, and that's about all the two towns have in common!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

At the Cafe With Austria's Most Famous Magician

One of the many pleasures of the trip was meeting with a fellow whose stage name is the same one his colleagues call him – “Magic Christian.” We met at the Café Sperl, which has been his regular haunt for all of his life, and which was one of mine when I first lived in Vienna in 1988. It’s the first Café I went to on this trip, too.

When I tell folks about meeting him, the first question is how did I get to do this? It’s been my experience that when you present yourself to the world seriously, people take you seriously. People tend to treat respectful inquiries with respectful responses, and he went a step beyond with his openness and generosity in giving his time.

We didn’t have any shortage of things to talk about, and I sat at the table that afternoon and later that evening at another place, across the way from one of the living masters of my art. There are things I can do with my fingers with coins and cards that impress many folks; there are things that Magic Christian could do at age 17 that I’ll probably never fully master.

FISM, the Olympics of Magic, is held every three years, and he won the World Championship in the manipulation division not once, nor twice, but three times. He is also a fine scholar, and a fluent English speaker. We chatted mostly in English; in German, his voice is serious and dramatic, and in English, he sounds remarkably like Henry Kissinger.

But he’s nicer than Hank. When I complained of problems I’d been having with my rented cell phone, he told me I should have called him – that he’d have been happy to loan me one.

Later that evening, someone recognized him at the place where he’d gathered with some other magicians after a formal meeting of Magic Club of Vienna, and I watched him not only handle the drunk, boisterous, over-enthusiastic and grabby group of folks, but mesmerize them as well.

It was a pure pleasure to watch him work, and spend time with him.

For more about FISM ( Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques), please see their English language web page: http://www.fism.org/Home.htm

For more about Magic Christian, his web page may be found here: http://www.magicchristian.com/index_en.html

The Café Sperl: http://www.cafesperl.at