I have a Spotify playlist containing fifteen versions of Summertime, the Gershwins’ resiliently popular aria. These are in various keys with different accompaniments. They range from the apple crumble duet of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong with trumpet, the rich tones of Annie Lennox backed by a simple piano refrain, a version backed by Larry Adler trembling and wailing on mouth organ and the rock blues sound of Janis Joplin. Billie Holiday’s version opens with an urgent beat and a brass growl. Charlie Parker’s saxophone sings with no need for human voice.
This song is a lullaby, and perhaps also draws on the regular rhythms of manual farm work. Louis Armstrong’s trumpet and the backing band swings slowly back and forth, and Ella Fitzgerald’s voice draws out slow notes leading to “hush little baby”. The swing picks up as Armstrong’s voice comes in, looking forward to “one of these days you will rise up singing, yes you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky”. He leads to the parent’s promise “’til that morning, there’s nothing can harm you, yes, with daddy and mammy standing by “. An R+B singer called Aaron Neville sings a soul jazz version in which this is chillingly conditional “if your mommy and daddy keep on standing by”.
About five tonight I realised the day would disappear and I would not have been outside or away from the computer. I drove out into the countryside with lightning crossing the sky horizontally and fat raindrops falling. Once I was encased in waterproofs and boots, the rain stopped. A full rainbow arched across low grey clouds as the sky above blued. I walked down a path between fields of knee-high green corn which glowed yellow in the evening sunlight or waved into blue shadow.
I stood on the path and painted these small sketches in watercolour. I then drew into the wet paper with conte crayon, lifting the paper’s surface to create highlights and shadows. These were photographed held at arm’s length in the sunlight without fixing.
At yesterday’s barbeque in the garden, my adult and ten year old sons told the oldest jokes in the book and fell about laughing. My daughter twizzling on the climbing frame is next to impossibly to capture as a sketch. Luckily her flailing hair obscures my poor attempt at her face.