Cream: Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce. Three musicians who formed a trio in an age were quartets or more were becoming the norm for rock groups, and in particular for the "British Invasion." Despite having heard many of the pieces the Yardbirds did, my introduction to Clapton as an individual artist came with the first Cream album, Fresh Cream and the solo from "I'm So Glad." Baker's driving virtuoso on the drums brought me (and probably most of their fans) to consider him a madman, and Bruce's bottom bass rising into the high range was just too radical, too cool, too fine.
I've worn out, and never replaced several copies of all four of their albums, Fresh Cream, Live Cream, Disraeli Gears, Wheels of Fire, and Live Cream Volume II. And I freely admit, while I enjoyed all of the music, it's Clapton I followed through the years.
Still, yesterday evening I did something I rarely do: I watched our local NPR station during a pledge week, becuase they featured the Cream Reunion in the Royal Albert Hall. Even with turning the volume down during the pledge breaks so I could read and know when the music started again, it was two hours of bliss, and a nostalgic recollection that not everything about my high-school years was unpleasant.
This led me to recall this morning, while walking into hospital from the parking garage, another piece of music which profoundly affected me the first time I heard it. That first hearing proved to be during a choir dress rehersal for the Christmas concert. I was there because I'd become one of the people (through participation in the Drama Club) that knew how to run the light board in the school's auditorium. Three of us were responsible for lighting the concert, and while I'd missed earlier rehearsals that involved organizing the lighting, I couldn't miss this one (duh... dress rehearsal, eh?).
Nearly all of the program consisted of well-known music, the great holiday stand-bys which pretty much everyone who grew up in the U.S. would know. This all makes me wonder, sometimes, how it passed that this rehearsal provided my first hearing of "Do You Hear What I Hear." It's not that the lyrics are particularly great in their own standing, it really is that the performance totally clicked. Each member of the choir (there were no solos in this piece) hitting each and every note, and the accompanying arrangement by the school's band director and ensemble bringing just enough accent to paint every sound with the appropriate color.
The dress rehearsal rendition surpassed their concert performance of the same piece. Maybe that's a part of why my memory for this stands out so. The public performance isn't always the best performance to experience.