Saturday, December 10, 2011

St. Louis Cathedral and Ellis Marsalis

One of our favorite stops in New Orleans at Christmastime is St. Louis Cathedral. Built in 1729, the Cathedral was destroyed twice by fires in 1788 and 1794. The existing cathedral was built after the last fire in 1794.

Three or four nights each week during December, free performances by a variety of New Orleans artists are scheduled. We were fortunate to hear Ellis Marsalis (piano) in the month's first concert. (But unfortunately, although understandably, we could not take photographs in the Cathedral.)

His performance was scheduled to begin at 6:00 pm, and by 5:30 the Cathedral was filled. The challenge of scheduling events around the work of the Cathedral was evident as a wedding party went through a rehearsal while we served as the congregation for the preparation.

Before the perfor-mance began, the host asked how many people were from out of town. We guessed that about 75% of those in attendance raised their hands--and the locals applauded in appreciation.

Ellis Marsalis, father of jazz musicians Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo, and Jason, performed a piano medley of "O Tannenbaum," "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," and "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem."

Later, Ellis was joined by Jason Stewart (bass), Darrian Douglas (drums), Derek Douget (soprano saxophone), and Germane Bazzle (vocals).

The group played seven traditional Christmas songs with a jazz interpretation. Of special interst to us was Germane Bazzle singing "Jingle Bells" in waltz time.

When we left the Cathedral, we photographed some of the scenes around Jackson Square. To the left of the Cathedral is Pirate's Alley (photo #2 above), thought to have been named after Jean Lafitte, the buccaneer who fought with Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans.

It is still paved with the original stones that had served as ballast on ships that cruised the Mississippi.

The building to the left of the St. Louis Cathedral is the Cabildo (photo #3 above). Built in 1794, it is the site where the Louisiana Purchase was signed.

On our way back to the shuttle back to the RV park, we passed the Pontalba Apartments, the oldest apartment buildings in the United States. Built in the 1840s (photos #4 and 5), they border Jackson Square.

Also, on Jackson Square, near the entrance to the Cathedral was this tarot card reader (photo #6), one of several members of this trade on the Square.

We captured other scenes in the Quarter. A photo of a restaurant's bar (photo #7) through a window along the sidewalk and the group of street scenes provided an introduction to our month in New Orleans.

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