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From Point Reyes Station to Berlin

October 15, 2008

Don't you love getting turned on to beautiful things in unlikely places?

The other day I was wondering around a store in the tiny touristy Northern Californian town of Point Reyes Station looking for a birthday gift for a friend when my ears pricked up at the sound of the music on the store's stereo system. I was so transfixed that I lingered in the store for about half an hour. The shop keeper must have thought I was casing the joint.

The songs were instantly recognizable to me: Most of them were lovely, old Brecht/Weill standards that I had heard many times on stage before, including "The Bilbao Song" and "Surabaya Johnny" from Happy End and "Moon over Alabama" from The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahogany.

But the voice that was singing the songs, accompanied by maudlin strings and piano, was not.

It was a male voice -- sweet, reedy and orgasmically pure. Having heard only fabulously oversexed, raspy female vocalists like Ute Lemper essay the Brecht/Weill cannon in the past, I was completely entranced by the contrast between the Brecht's snarling-destitute lyrics/Weill's blue-collar harmonies and the singer's boyish, unsullied tenor.

My friend, who was equally mesmerized, went up to the lady who was standing behind the cash register to ask about the source.

Turns out the singer was Theo Bleckmann. Embarrassingly, I'd never heard of Bleckmann, though the German-born singer-songwriter is big on the lounge music circuit in New York and has played many famous stages around the world including Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall, the Sydney Opera House, L.A.'s Disney Hall, The Whitney Museum and the new Library in Alexandria, Egypt. He's even been interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air.

As soon as I returned home, I bought the album which I'd heard in the store, Berlin: Songs of Love and War. That eerie-dulcet timbre is currently the soundtrack of my life. I can't get Bleckmann's Berlin out of my head.

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