A Swansong with a Bang
Friday, May 24, 2019
|Jocelyn Morlock & Rodney Sharman|
A long time ago Andrés Segovia played a concert at the
Orpheum. My young daughter, not yet a teenager was studying the guitar. I took
her to the concert.
When the concert was over I told her to open the door on the
left, near the stage, and to go and see Segovia. This she did. Segovia explained
to her(in his lovely Spanish) that he had not said a word during his concert because he had a cold and
could barely speak. He gave my daughter a hug. My daughter to this day plays
the guitar and is a good sight reader.
For me that my daughter was able to see the great man
without any security prohibitions at the time, was somehow one of the charms of a city that was not too big for its britches.
To this day, even though our city has grown, access to
musicians in classical music or new music venues, is a given.
|William Rowson - VSO Assistant Conductor|
For a while the Stalag guards at the Chan Centre prevented
us from going back stage to chat with our musician friends. They have given up!
And access is not denied.
What all this means is that going to concerts in Vancouver
is a warm and personal endeavour where one is not separated by barriers except
for that important one (for me!) where musicians can do that unfathomable task
of being able to read music. But they all put on their pants, one leg at a
I have many friends in the
musical community of the city and I have had many a privilege when going back
stage for chats. One privilege I must boast about is that during a rehearsal of
the Pacific Baroque Orchestra at St. James on 10th
Avenue, I was
allowed by violinist and then Musical Director Marc Destrubé to lie on the
floor under the harpsichord for the duration.
And there was this most unusual one!
And so last Saturday, May 18 I knew I could not miss Jocelyn
Morlock’s (Composer in Residence at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra for five
years) swan song performance at the Orpheum Annex.
The Orpheum Annex and the nearby Pyatt Hall represent the
future of classical and new music in our city.
My blog on the Orpheum Annex & Pyatt Hall
These two venues are smaller and
can adapt to all kinds of configuration and are ready for connection with any
kind of complex electronic/digital music. The Annex has a small bar and foyer
where more often than not you can hobnob with our city’s musicians.
|Composer and digital guru Keith Hamil - necessary for the performance of Korndorff's Amoroso|
On Saturday, before the concert, I was able to snap a photo
(took many as the two were quite demanding) of both Morlock and a previous
Composer in Residence, Rodney Sharman.
The concert featured two Sherlock compositions, Zart and
Icarus, landing. It also lined up some music by a couple of composers who
influenced and inspired her. One was Mozart’s Serenade No.10 for winds in B-flat
Major, K. 361/370a III Adagio. The other was Nicolai Kondorf’s Amoroso. Who was
to know that this Russian composer lived at one time in Burnaby and taught
The orchestra was a small one featuring musicians from the
VSO who got the short straw (they lucked out!) and did not have to play a
big concert at the Chan on the same day.
One of the musicians, was a retiree
from the VSO. This was harpist Elizabeth Volpé. Amoroso featured interesting and repetitive chords for her harp.
I was most happy to see my
favourite VSO violinist, the dashing, lovely and redhaired Karen Gerbrecht.
Also in the orchestra was VSO violist Andrew Brown
(the most handsome violist in town!).
At the interval I walked into backstage (nobody stopped me)
and I had a chat with Gerbrecht.
It was explained to us that the position of Composer in
Residence is not to promote the career of the composer (which probably does
occur anyway) but to keep the VSO musicians on their toes with music that is
brand new and may push the boundaries of musical conventions.
I am sure that after five years, Morlock wil not have any problem
obtaining commissions and that both she and Sharman (born in Biggar,
Saskatchewan) will go to bigger stuff.
|Morlock's signaturer footware |
Family Gathering in Burnaby, BC
Friday, May 10, 2019
|Standing L to R , Bruce Stewart, Hilary Stewart, Rebbecca Stewart, yours truly. Sitting - Ruth Brooks, Hilary Stewart and Rosemary|
My sister-in-law Ruth Brooks is in town for week’s visit.
She came by train from Brockville, Ontario. The visit of a relative always
provides us with the excuse of a family dinner. This time it was at our younger
daughter’s house in Burnaby. It was a splendid occasion to celebrate 3 mothers' day.
I packed a portable lighting system in the trunk hoping to
lure my two granddaughters, Lauren, 16, and Rebecca, 21 to pose after a group
family photograph. I crossed my fingers and in the end the two did pose for me.
|Lauren and Rebecca|
These family gatherings, as small as they may be bring me
memories of gatherings in Buenos Aires with that ancillary branch of my father’s,
the O’Reilys. There are lots of them and Rosemary and I are made welcome.
The two of us and our two cats in Kitsilano can be isolating
Our Burnaby dinner was just right and driving home I felt
glad that the granddaughters did consent to a few pictures.
An Elegant James Mason
Thursday, May 09, 2019
|Rosa 'James Mason' May 11 2019|
You find a beautiful and rare rose at a nursery. You pay for
it and put it into your car. For me it is almost guaranteed that damage will
happen in the car trunk or in the back seat. A carefully grown and tended rose
suffers on its way home.
We are preparing our little deck garden (and laneway garden)
for a Vancouver Rose Society open garden on June 8. In these preparations of
snipping black spot leaves or moving one of our plants from here to there,
there are little accidents.
One such accident happened when I tried to tie back a very
large modern Gallica, Rosa ‘James Mason’. It was falling over onto the deck
from its narrow flower bed. A but broke off and I was about to throw it away
when I noticed (something that I do know about) how handsome and elegant the
unopened bud is.
Weltschmerz & the Ikea Solar Lamp
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
We have been in Vancouver now a couple of months since we
returned from our trip to Italy.
I have since experienced malaise/weltschmerz/ennui/ with a
generous touch of melancholy with a desire to do nothing and stare at the
ceiling or at our two cats Niño and Niña.
My sister-in-law Ruth is arriving tomorrow via train from
Ontario. Rosemary and I have been busy with a double spring cleaning in preparation
for her one week stay.
In the middle of this pleasantly gentle turmoil, I have
found comfort in the “I-am-here” stability of an Ikea solar lamp. Every evening
it is a beacon in our garden that makes me smile. And consider that I spent $9.
The other calming factor is Niño.
I am sure he would make an excellent hospital cat. I look at
him and my stress dissipates. Both he and Niña must have never been faced with turmoil,
fear or aggression. They don’t scratch, except the leather sofa that is now
protected by a Hudson’s Bay wool blanket. They just stare.
They are not mal ojo
but buen ojo. Could they be in
cahoots with my Ikea lamp?
|Niño and yours truly by Ilse Taylor Hable|
Quonsets & Nissans
Saturday, May 04, 2019
A Quonset hut /ˈkwɒnsɪt/
is a lightweight prefabricated structure of corrugated galvanized steel having
a semicircular cross-section. The design was developed in the United States,
based on the Nissen hut introduced by the British during World War I. Hundreds
of thousands were produced during World War II and military surplus was sold to
the public. The name comes from the site of their first manufacture at Quonset
Point at the Davisville Naval Construction Battalion Center in Davisville,
Before Malcolm Parry left Vancouver Magazine I proposed to
him that we do a story about the Quonset huts in Vancouver. Being English he
corrected me and told me that the British had developed them in WW I. The story
never came to fruition.
Today I went to pick up some glass on East Hastings. Half a
block away is a Quonset hut that I have seen there for years. I could not
resist snapping a photograph. I wonder with the hundreds of thousands of them
that were built during and after WW II if these buildings could not be adapted
as temporary shelter for the Vancouver homeless or even be adapted as quick and
affordable homes for the very low income inhabitants of our city
Incredibly there are at least a couple of companies in Canada that manufacture Quonsets and variations of them.
My First Rose of the Season - Rosa sericea ssp. omeiensis f. pteracantha
Wednesday, May 01, 2019
Rosa sericea ssp. omeiensis f. pteracantha May 1 2019
The beginning of May is always that month when one goes to
one’s garden there are surprises that seemed to have happened overnight. This
is especially true with my hostas as they unfurl quickly with the warmish few
weeks of spring sun.
But I must report that the biggest surprise today was seeing
Rosa sericea ssp. Omeiensis f. pteracantha. It is then officially the first
rose to bloom in my garden.
This species rose is unusual in two ways. It is the only one
with four petals instead of the five found in all other species. The other
unusual feature is that as the rose matures it has huge, translucent barbs that
dazzle the eyes when seen in backlight.
I might have missed the blooming as the rose is in my
alley/garage garden. Some five years ago I had a mature one but it died
suddenly in the middle of the summer. My Rosemary tried to find it in many
mail-order sites but to no avail. I found it last year at Garden Works in North
My original plant was used for a program for Early Music Vancouver in 2014.
Blue Memories at the VanDusen Botanical Garden Plant Sale
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Today, April 28 is the yearly plant sale at VanDusen
Botanical Garden. For many years Rosemary and I braved the usual cold of the
day and we would line up hours before the opening at 10:30. We would be there
with a wheelbarrow, sipping coffee to keep warm. If asked what plants we were
looking for we would be noncommittal as we did not want anybody on the line-up
to rush and get our treasured plant. For quite a few years, Rosemary chose to
help on that day as she is a Master Gardener. This gave her access to look at
what was available on the day before.
Today I dropped and her off and rushed home. Our male cat,
Niño, had not returned (he has yet to return as write this).
The VanDusen plant sale is full of memories for me. There
was the excitement of finding the plant I was looking for or being exposed to a
plant I knew nothing about.
Most of all my memories are full of the people who were
there helping gardeners with information.
And then there was Marion McDonnell (pronounced with
emphasis on that e). She was the Blue Poppy Lady. Every Meconopsis grandis or
betonicifolia (they are just about identical) usually called the Himalayan
(snobs put emphasis on that first a)
blue poppy came from her greenhouse. The plant, legendary for its blueness, likes
dappled shade but it was notorious as an almost impossible plant to keep after
a first year. Some said it was a biannual so a new plant had to be raised from
I told Rosemary to see if she could find a Meconopsis today.
McDonnell was in charge of taking people (elderly or folks
unable to walk) in carts and giving them tours of VanDusen.
On spring and summer weekends I would visit her
(unnanouced). She did not live far from our Kerrisdale home. Her garden was
something like a bowling alley, narrow and long. In the garden you would always
find Gretchen her Daschund at the gate. McDonnell would then loudly say (with
her baritone voice),”How are you my friend?” She would offer me her excellent
coffee and cookies.
There were many others like her at those VanDusen plant
sales. One person that stood out for me was running into architect Arthur
Erickson with a smile of excitement on his face. He was keen on the plant
To this day I can look at the plants in our Kerrisdale
garden and know where it came from. In many of those instances I can see the
face of the person who handed it to me followed by sage advice on how to grow
it and keep it.
Niño just sauntered in.