Donald Trump can trash our allies and praise our enemies all he wants, but his treasonous activities of late could not diminish the joie de vivre in a celebration of France on Saturday at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach.
A rich mixture of Gallic artistic events drew hundreds of patrons, who gazed at French impressionist paintings, took in a French film, reveled in musical performances, even indulged in a crash language course or a painting class – all in observance of Bastille Day, France’s Fourth of July. Crepes and baguettes made for a toothsome departure from one’s usual lunch fare. The event occurred across the waterway from Mar-a-Lago, where the “president” hangs out part-time, wolfing down cheeseburgers while watching Fox Noise – er, well, you know what I meant. It’s a safe guess that the Man of La Mansion never has set foot in the Norton, or any other museum, for that matter. No money in it for the lout.
He, meanwhile, was across that other waterway, in Scotland, hitting the links at Trump Turnberry Resort, the failing digs that he bought and renovated at huge expense. It did nothing to increase revenue, just another example of his business acumen – or rather, lack thereof. On the other hand, he’s using his presidency to publicize the resort and profit from it. The Turnberry trip came after a stop in England to visit the queen and United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May, telling her that his attack on her strategy for resolving the Brexit issue, as contained in an interview with a British newspaper, was “fake news.” Enormous crowds gathered in London and throughout the country to protest vehemently against his visit.
Then it’s on to Helsinki for a private meeting with Vladimir Putin, doubtless to continue lavishing praise on the adversary of the United States and most other European nations, despite the revelation Friday that the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller had indicted 12 Russians for interfering in our 2016 elections.
All of this provides a background for the joyous affair staged on behalf of one of those nations, France, at the Norton. I was able to catch one of the performances, by Les Nuages (The Clouds). It was a pure delight. A quartet including Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino on accordion and saxophones, Bob Kendall on guitar and banjo, Kent Demonbreun on bass and vocals, and singer Gail Darling delivered a potpourri of songs that stirred fond memories in the crowd of mostly older folks. Selections plumbed the repertoire of tunes popular in the early 1900s and heard on the radio for decades, World War II hits, and Paris love songs and French gypsy-jazz numbers.
Forgotten tunes such as the gypsy-rooted Those Were the Days, Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen and the Second World War’s Lili Marlene, popularized by Marlene Dietrich, were bookended by After You’ve Gone, still a popular jazz tune, and France’s national anthem The Marseillaise, powerfully rendered by Darling. For many in the large room, so full that some stood against the walls or sat on the floor near the stage, the once-popular songs were a voyage back to simpler days of well-defined values.
Darling was the star of the show, exhibiting a sexy and hardy alto with a steady, firm vibrato. The tall, willowy chanteuse sang most of the tunes in beautiful French, conveying the strong impression that she was a native of France, even though she is a product of Michigan. She exuded riveting charm with hand gestures and a parade of facile facial expressions that covered the gamut, from pouting to mischievous to seductive and coy, all superseded by a radiant smile.
Cerabino displayed solid chops in brief tenor saxophone improvisations, and able accompaniment and solo work on the accordion.
After the fete, the museum closed for a completion of $100 million in renovations and expansion, with a February reopening planned.