Don Fried — Playwright & Author

Unto Us a Chinese Wall

Posted on: December 16, 2008

don-singing1A couple of days ago I went out to take a walk and turned on my Walkman.  It was already tuned to my favorite classical music station, and I found myself in the middle of an epic choral piece.

It’s often tough to distinguish the lyrics of works like that; lots of them are in Latin, and the rest are in 16th Century French, Italian or German. But there was no problem understanding the lyrics of this piece.  And even if there had been, the choir was repeating the same words over and over again.

“Unto us a Chinese wall.  Unto us a Chinese wall.  Chinese Wall, Chinese Wall, Chinese Wall.  Unto us a Chinese wall . . . .”  You get the idea.

The music was wonderful, and the 200 plus singers were clearly excited about the Chinese wall.  But I couldn’t help thinking I was missing something.

After about 5 minutes there was what was a transition in the music. “Aha!” I said to myself.  “Now I’m going to get the next part of the story.  That’s bound to clear things up.

“And his name shall be called Juan DeVille.”

What??!!

“Juan De Ville, Juan De Ville, Juan De Ville.  And his name shall be called Juan De Ville.”

On they went, singing the praises of Juan De Ville for several more minutes, before going back to the Chinese Wall.  “Well, that explains everything,” I thought.  “The Chinese wall is anthropomorphic. and it has a Spanish/French name.  And it must be one hell of a wall to inspire a musical tour de force (tour de farce?) of that magnitude.”

I listened enthralled for 20 minutes more until the piece ended.  You know how some songs get into your head and you can’t get them out?  That was certainly the case with the wall and old Juan.

I have a fairly good baritone voice and sing in a community choir, so when a song comes into my head, I go ahead and belt it out.  Day or night, wherever I am I just let it go.

“Unto us a Chinese wall, Chinese wall (etc.), and his name shall be called Juan DeVille.”

I could tell that people were awed with the song and my rendition of it, because they’d look shocked.  Then they’d smile nervously and back away.

Finally I decided I had to buy the piece.  So I went to my local music store, where they know me well, and told the clerk that I wanted the choral piece about the Chinese wall.

“The what?”

“The Chinese wall.  You know, the one who’s name shall be called Juan DeVille.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know anything like that.”

“Come on, a piece like that has got to be a classic.”

And I sang him the first few bars of each section of the music.

He didn’t even try to hide his amusement.  “That’s Handel’s Messiah,” he said. “But you’ve got the lyrics a bit wrong.  Actually it’s ‘Unto us a child is born.  And his name shall be called Wonderful.’ ”

“Oh,” I said.

“Hey, Melanie,” he called to his colleague on the other side of the store.  “Listen to what this guy just said!”

I slunk out without buying the CD, and haven’t been back yet.  Let’s see, those two sales clerks are about 25 years old.  I wonder how long it will be before they retire.

1 Response to "Unto Us a Chinese Wall"

LMAO. I hope this is as hysterical to people who don’t anticipate the punchline as I found it at the time.

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