When a Rose is not a Rose & a Birthday not a Birthday
Thursday, April 18, 2019
|Camellia japonica '' MonBella', April 18 2019|
A few of my friends and members of my family know that I was
born in Buenos Aires at the Sanatorio Anchorena on August 31, 1942 in spite
that all my documents including my birth certificate state April 18, 1943.
Legally I am almost a year younger. My mother told me my father forgot to
register me. I don’t exactly buy that as the hospital would initiate that
But my legal birthday has made it impossible to forget my
Rosemary’s real birthday which is tomorrow.
And because you can never deny a person’s request on their
birthday (particularly when it is my wife) we went to Garden Works on Lougheed
Highway (one of the best nurseries in the Lower Mainland) today. I took my
umbrella. And of course, Rosemary bought plants that she says will go in a pot
or pots. I purchased three miniature hostas (after all it is my legal
In the nursery I found this sensational (a word very much
used, nicely, by my friend Sean Rossiter, now gone) Camellia japonica ‘MonBella’. To me it looks like a complex old
rose. Like most camellias it has no scent.
Notre Dame - Why was I not made of stone like thee?”
Monday, April 15, 2019
“To a gargoyle on the ramparts of Notre Dame as Esmeralda
rides off with Gringoire, Quasimodo says."Why was I not made of stone like
Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
Today Monday 15 April is sort of the first day where
after at least a month of not writing blogs I decided I had enough peace of
mind to remove this blogger’s block and write.
Alas! Notre Dame Cathedral is in flames and that has not only engulfed
the 12th century church, but the news and my peace of mind.
In the age of the selfie, social media is awash with
pictures of people standing in front of the cathedral. And a few
artists/photographers/tourists have placed pictures of the famous gargoyles.
In this age of physical isolation there is I believe an
urge to belong, to feel part of something. As a freelancer in Vancouver for
many years I longed for the idea of the office party. Somehow such a thing
would make me feel part of an institution. I went to as many meetings and
end-of-the-month magazine parties for freelancers in this desire I had to feel
I belonged to something and somewhere.
When some rock star (or actor) dies people, like
ambulance chasers of yore are first to write something like, “I loved his music
and it formed my upbringing.” I try not to succumb to this (understanding the ambulance chasers wanting to feel they belong by having "touched" in some way) but I do feel this yearning
for stuff that has always been part of my life like Pontiacs, Kodak, TV sets
with round corners, old friends and especially my family.
With Notre Dame burning one of the few stabilities (after
all it is made of stone) in a world of instability, uncertainty and of
questionable political and ethical morals such a monument is a beacon of
stability. Its apparent loss will move all of us into mourning and the only
apparent escape is to put a selfie by the church or to “publish” one of those
For me the church instantly brings to mind the 1939
William Dieterle film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Charles Laughton and
Maureen O’Hara as Esmeralda.
The church itself is a hazy memory of being on it with my
two daughters and wife around 1987 and my taking the inevitable photographs of
Today's event makes me realize of experiences from my past that I will never be able to repeat in person. And even worse that I could not share that experience with my granddaughters. I remember when my grandmother told me she had gone to a performance of Aida in New York City in the late 20s that featured elephants. She told me of a production of Ben Hur that had moats with galleys. Her voice and her account are vivid in my memory. Should I want to re-tell this to my Rebecca and Lauren there would be something lost.
EMV - Let all the winged race with joy (with friends)
Saturday, April 13, 2019
On April 12, 2014 I made a friend in a relatively unlikely
place. This was backstage at the Vancouver Playhouse for an Early Music Vancouver
concert featuring violinist Monica Huggett. I wrote about it here
It was then that I was befriended by Portland bassist Curtis
Daily. Since then my Rosemary and I have hosted him when he comes to Vancouver
to play. He comes a few days before and I give him photographic lighting
classes. We drink wine ( intelligently) on evenings and we have mate cocido for breakfast.
Today I went to a concert at the Chan. It was the last
performance for the season of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra
produced by Early
Music Vancouver. It was called Coronation Anthems
which meant that we listened
to Handel choral (and orchestra) music expressly written for the coronation of
Most interesting for me was the fourth work (of the first
half) My Heart is Inditing HWV 261 which was originally performed for the
coronation of Queen Caroline (Caroline of Ansbach - 1683–1737).
was so beloved that Handel wrote The Ways of Zion Do Mourn HWV 264 for her funeral. And some
might know that this funeral piece was also played for Admiral Horatio Nelson’s
The concert on a Palm Sunday was a tad strange if seen by a
strict Roman Catholic (and I am not one). This was happy music before a coming
sombre Good Friday. In years past EMV had Haydn’s the Seven Last Words of
As a little boy my grandmother and mother would get me in
from playing in the street in Buenos Aires on Good Friday (around 1 in the afternoon) and we would pray
and my grandmother would read those last words. I was not permitted to turn on
The happy coronation music was even happier for me as many
in the orchestra I know well including the tall Curtis Daily.
The best part of the concert happened in the second half
when the PBO, the Vancouver Cantata Singers and soloists Danielle Sampson,
soprano, Viki St. Pierre, mezzo soprano, Ross Hauk, tenor and Sumner Thompson,
bass-baritone performed Eternal Source of Light Divine HWV 7 4. The work was in
honour of Queen Anne’s birthday (February 6, 1713). This lively piece was
written for a woman who was a most active patron of the arts. It seems she paid
Handel a stipend even though he was still under contract in the Hanover court. She was a
tragic figure of many pregnancies who died with no issue.
But both Curtis Daily and I knew something else about Queen Anne!
In 1705 she made a land grant of 215 acres to a little church, Trinity, in New
York City. According to Daily this church is only a tad less rich than the
Vatican. It leases land to huge office towers as Trinity is buried right there
in the financial district. It seems that with all the money they have there is
an active concert season in the church. A lot of it is early music. Our
intrepid Oregonian has played there a few times. And of course Alexander Hamilton is buried in the Trinity churchyard
Sometimes it is easy to take EMV for granted. I do my best
not to. There are not too many places anywhere else that would have had the
concert (free of the usual chestnuts) we enjoyed today.
But best of all (and knowing there would be three players on
that wickedly difficult baroque trumpet) including one all the way from Sao
Paulo, Bruno Lourensetto), and Pauld Dibnik and Kristine
Kwapis was that sound
aided by Corey Rae on timpani.
It was in the first movement that featured Vicki St. Pierre
accompanied by Kris Kwapis on solo trumpet, that had me feeling I, too was
wearing a crown. Kwapis plays with such precision while not abandoning a
beautiful tone that made the evening worthwhile.
We rushed home after the concert so I could make pancakes and sausages. We had to feed Daily so that he could leave pronto by 6 for Portland.
Bronzino in Vancouver
Thursday, April 11, 2019
|Lucrezia Panciatichi - 1545 -Agnolo di Cosimo, Ufizzi - Florence - Bronwen Marsden - April 11, 2019|
Sometimes the reinforcement of one’s style comes after the
For years my relatives were perplexed by the fact that I photographed
our young daughters and then our young granddaughters with nary a smile.
|Bia de'Medici -1542-1545 -Agnolo di Cosimo, Ufizzi - Florence, Rebeca Stewart July 2005|
I would cite both 19th century English
photographers, the Reverend Dogson and Julia Margaret Cameron as examples of
the tradition. And I would further explain that in the Victorian era children
were seen as little adults and many had to work under appalling circumstances.
A few years ago I discovered 16th
painter Agnolo di Cosimo (November 17,
1503 – November 23, 1572) known as Bronzino. His portraits were stark and his
subjects did not smile.
| Laura Battiferri - 1560- Agnolo Bronzino, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence - Bronwen Marsden , April 11, 2019|
Imagine going to Florence last month and being able to see
the Bronzinos at the Ufizzi Gallery! It
was like meeting up with the master.
Coming back from our trip to Italy I found myself I a
conundrum. After seeing all those renaissance paintings how could I be inspired
in Vancouver with its blue skies and frigid early spring weather?
|Penitent Magdalene, 1533, Titian - Palazzo Pitti , Bronwen Marsden, April 11, 2019 |
I found the light and with my friend Portland baroque
bassist Curtis Daily (here last week for an EMV concert at the Chan we
photographed my wonderful long time posing subject, Bronwen Marsden in the
spirit of those renaissance artist. I was attracted to the idea because Marsden
has severe short hair. She no longer owns a little black dress (for 21st
century shock value) but we managed. I believe that this project has legs and I
|Saintly Magdalene, April 11, 2019|
Nosferatu at the Orpheum - Blood Sucking Good
Thursday, April 04, 2019
You go to Italy (Venice, Florence and Siena) for two weeks,
as I did a month ago with my Rosemary. You are dazzled by some of the best art
galleries and museums. And then you fly to Vancouver and you see the mountains,
the snow on them, the sky, and the water.
How can anything in our Vancouver Art Gallery compare with a
Bronzino, a Pontormo, a Boticelli?
I am happy to report that while we do not have artists in
Canada to match the excellence of those renaissance painters we do have something
up our very long sleeves. These long sleeves are of musicians who sit (some
play standing up) on very long benches of talent.
While in Venice,the Venice of Antonio Vivaldi I was tempted to attend a performance of his Four Seasons. I enquired
and found out the musicians were not first calibre, and to boot they were all
playing on modern instruments. Our very own Early Music Vancouver taps the
best local and world musicians and the baroque music that it specializes in is
played in period instruments.
So what do we have in Vancouver that matches the excellence
of renaissance art? Renaissance art happened the beginning of the exploration
of a new world. Simonetta Vespucci was Eve in Sandro Boticelli’s The Birth of
. Simonetta was the cousin-in-law of Amerigo Vespucci, a Florentine
cartographer who pointed out that the new world Columbus had discovered was not
part of Eastern Asia but a continent. His first name gave our continent its
Renaissance art, during the age of Galileo and Kepler
prefigured the age of enlightenment. It was an age of discovery in art, in
science, mathematics and in music.
Here in Vancouver, while other big cities around the world mostly feature
music of the 19th century, you will find not only the early baroque
but also music of the 20th century that is being brought back from
oblivion. And here in Vancouver we have lots of new and experimental music.
Music that wants to tear down establish barriers put up by the musical establishment.
Thus I have written here
of what I call the Petit
Avant-Garde. Shortly after I arrived back to Vancouver I attended that terrific
Blade Runner 2049 minus sound dialogue but accompanied by music improvised on
Last Saturday, March 23 I went to the Orpheum to a
projection of F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film, Nosferatu
(somehow I had never
seen it before!). Toronto- based Andrew Downing (a classy and exuberant bass
player, who played his standup base sitting down) composed a score (it was a
world premiere) that combined a small group of musicians with a large choir,
the Bach Choir. Somehow, the music never interfered, but enhanced my enjoyment of the film. The music was
part of it film and it blended without seams.
The septet of musicians
(certainly members of what I call the Vancouver Petit- Avant-Garde), were
Cameron Wilson on violin (who imitated a couple of mosquitos to perfection),
ois Houle (who added humour in Downing’s every once in a while glimpse of klezmer
sounding music perhaps alluding to Count Orlok’s Eastern Europe), Ingrid Chiang
on bassoon (who worked beautifully in tandem with Andrew Downing’s bass), Brad
Turner on trumpet (some terrific mute work), Jeremy Berkman on a trombone that to
me almost seemed like it sounded like a bass trombone, which it was not, David
Shiveli on an instrument new to me called a cimbalom
and on piano the youthful and handsome Chris
Gestrin, to whom I owe an apology.
|Left, Chris Gestrin on piano and centre bassist and composre Andrew downing|
I was on the second row and my Fuji X-E3’s zoom lens was not
wide enough to encompass the screen, Berkman on stage left and Gestrin’s piano
on stage right!
The little orchestra and the large chorus were under the
baton of Leslie Dala who some say might have Transylvanian blood in him. He did
a splendid job.
Narrator Patrick Davies had very good diction and he projected his voice with just enough of a lugubrious touch.
I know that Stefan Smulovitz (he of the two Blade Runners I
have witnessed) did a score for the fantastic 1928 The Passion of Joan of Arc
by director Carl Theodor Dryer. I can only hope that Smulovitz brings it back
soon and that Dala and company do not rest on their laurels. Both Count Orlok
and I enjoy new blood in our lively city.