Today's Washington Post carries obituaries for two musicians, Stephen Simon and Ann Rabson. Their music differs but each expanded our musical heritage.
Simon was a leading specialist in the compositions of George Frideric Handel and introduce many of Handel's lesser works to modern audiences.
“Handel — everything you do of his becomes a continual learning process,” he told the New York Times in 1972. “There is a lift in his style that is wonderful.”Ann Rabson co-founded Saffire-the Uppity Blues Women, a group that sang of sex, carousing and the mixed pleasures of middle age.
Music critics noted Mr. Simon’s ambitious endeavor to animate Handel’s music in non-traditional ways, emphasizing multiple soloists and the personality the soloists brought to the Baroque tradition.
“It’s such irresistible music — blast those trumpets; build that fugue; call out those massed voices; stop on a dime for a grand Handelian pause, the world ringing in your ears — and Simon makes it all seem like so much fun,” music critic Tim Page wrote in The Washington Post of a 1996 concert that included the “Hallelujah” chorus and lesser-known Handel works such as “Semele,” “Samson,” “Saul,” “Solomon” and “Judas Maccabaeus.”
The group’s style harked back to the 1920s and the music of Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Sippie Wallace, but Saffire’s music adopted a wry, post-feminist point of view. One of Saffire’s signature wink-and-a-nod tunes was “The Middle Aged Blues Boogie,” which celebrates the sexual vitality of older women:Both had a unique talent and opportunity. The world is richer through their artistry.
“I’ll forget about my arthritis / My backache, my lumbago / At the horizontal disco.”
“We are absolutely very raunchy people,” Ms. Rabson quipped to The Washington Post in 1994.
“It’s a wonderful life,” Ms. Rabson said in 1993, describing the career of a musician. “I mean, how many people have jobs that every five to 10 minutes people say, ‘Hey, you’re doing a good job. Yay!’ . . . Music. It’s a painkiller.”