The Spirit of Adventure On A Snowy Saturday Afternoon
Saturday, January 26, 2008
When, as in a dream, I rode right around the place, and beheld more and more of those motionless and silent forms, with their fixed, unwinking eyes, I clearly saw one of them, whose kepi had fallen from his head, had a hole in the centre of his forehead and was dead - although at his post, with chest and elbows leaning on the parapet, and looking as though about to fire his rifle!..."What would you an Englishman, have said?" "What about a spot of tea?" quoth Mr. George Lawrence, reaching beneath the seat for his tiffin-basket.
Beau Geste, Percival Christopher Wren
Rosemary, Rebecca, Lauren, Graham Walker and I went to the concert
last night. It was better than we thought it could possibly be. It was specially nice for Lauren who managed to be quiet and stay awake for the whole time. It helped that she had met the musicians a week back. Rebecca listened to the concert but never really looked up as she had her eyes glued to Dracula. Dracula
was a resounding success. She told me at intermission, "I really like this book, and I am going to now read it again."
A photographic job took me to town this morning so I went to Chapters to look at more of the graphic novels and decided on two (The Man In The Iron Mask
, and Oliver Twist
). I gave Rebecca the Dumas but kept the Dickens until she finishes the first. We might rent whatever version of the Man In The Iron Mask they may have in Videomatica to spend the rest of the cloudy day by the fireplace and an adventure film
But I am holding back a bit. I don't want to be disappointed. I don't think that Rebecca is quite ready for Beau Geste
, either the book or the Gary Cooper film. I would like perhaps to read to Rebecca from my 1914 Cassel And Company, Ltd version of Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped
(note one of the illustrations in today's blog), but not yet. I will buy her both Kidnapped
and Treasure Island
as graphic novels.
But soon now, on some other gray Saturday afternoon we will sit down and watch the scary soldiers (all dead) guarding Fort Zinderneuf from its crenelated walls.
A General Does Not Unsheathe His Sword & Dracula At Chapters
Friday, January 25, 2008
It was close to midnight the other Saturday night when Rebecca came up to me and said, "I love books." She looked at a desk in the room. It had piles of books on it. I told Rebecca to bring the piles to me, a few books at a time and I gave a quick précis on each one and in some cases I read the first page of the first chapter. She was curious of one, The Dechronization of Sam Magruder
by George Gaylord Simpson. After struggling through the first chapter of this very small and thin book Rebecca came to understand that small books are not necessarily easy. At the very least none of the first chapters where like William Boyd's The Blue Afternoon
. When I read this to Rebecca last year it brought negative repercussions from her home. This time around I tried to be careful.
I am sure my parents showered me with children's books yet I can consciously remember being 8 years old, sick in bed with a cold, and reading an American comic book, The Lone Ranger
. It was around then that I discovered Achilles and began to read history books. But I also remember a first book, perhaps because of the bright green colour of its cover and the even more colorful bird illustrations inside.
El Mundo de los Pájaros
was given to me (it is written inside) on the day of my first communion, December 7, 1950. I was 8 years old. The book is signed by Alicia Bakker and Suatrache Pampa. The latter name is most unusual but my guess is that they may have been teaching colleagues of my mother's. I selected one of the monochrome illustrations from the book for this blog
. Such was the influence of this book (which I have always had with me) that I chose to do a nostalgia photographic essay on Argentine birds with the lovely Linda Lorenzo
There are two other books that are part of my early life with books. One was given to all of us at school in 1950 which was the one hundredth anniversary of the death of San Martín. Perón decreed at the end of 1949 that all school children in the beginning of the next would have to write on the top right hand corner of every page of every school notebook this:
"1950 Año del Libertador General San Martín"
The book is called El Legado de San Martín
. I thought it impossibly dull most of my life. As nostalgia for Argentina began to strike in my old age I gave it a read and I found it less dull. On page 22 of the first chapter called El Conductor (a milder version of the word and equivalent to leader) San Martín writes:
Mi sable jamás saldrá de la vaina por opiniones políticas.
You would have hoped that many an Argentine general of the latter 19th century and the 20th had followed that advice:
I will never unsheathe my sword for political opinion.
The third book of my early life Corazón
by Edmundo De Amicis (it lost its cheap cover only recently) was given to me by my father's friend, the plainclothes cop, Manrique
. I remember it as my second or third grade teacher read daily from this book plus another that was a biography on Franz Schubert.
Books are in my mind because I want to gently persuade Rebecca that reading and books will never make her lonely. They are our most faithful of friends. But Rebecca gets lazy and sometimes opts for clothing Barbies on the computer or watching (to my chagrin) those programs where they appeal to children to convince their parents to adopt a child in Africa.
Yesterday I went to Chapters and chatted with a nice sales clerk woman (she had been raised in the Northwest Territories with lots of books) in the children's book section and we jointly decided to give "Graphic Classics" a fighting chance. I remember reading Ouida's Under Two Flags
as a Classics Illustrated and my reading habits were never corrupted. One thing I know for sure. I will dedicate the book to Rebecca and write the date. Perhaps some day this book will be one of the treasures of her reading memory.
A Priest, A Chickering, Michael Jarvis & Franz Liszt
Thursday, January 24, 2008
We listened to Felix Mendelssohn's (1809-1847): Sonata in F minor, op. 4 (1823)
Adagio - Allegro moderato
and we were charmed. The second movement is so beautiful that I invented a story and told Rebecca, "Felix Mendelssohn was only 14 when he composed this. He fell in love with a red haired girl who lived across the street. He was so smitten that he dedicated this Sonata to her." The third movement ("The first is my favourite, Paul Luchkow told us," but then we noticed that, unlike the other two, the first began with a solo violin part!) is equally nice and ends in a startling manner. I would have not suspected that our moment of bliss had its beginnings in 1990, when our 90 year old neighbour from across the street, Wanda Smith rang our door bell.
Wanda Smith told us with anguish that she had to move out of the house that she and her husband Claire (the colour photograph below) had lived in for 50 years. He was getting terribly forgetful and he was going to be put into a home. She was going to move with her daughter, a Protestant minister in Utah. She needed to find a home for her piano which had been given to her by her father when she was a child. We could have it for $500. The piano "crossed the street" to our house. We opened the beautiful baby grand and read Chickering - Boston
. I had no clue what it was. We hired a piano tuner to come who told us, "By the way, Glen Gould had one of these in his living room." I researched the name and discovered that Franz Liszt
had owned two.
But it was last Saturday when the Reverend Lawrence Donnelly of St. Jude's Catholic Church
let Rosemary, Rebecca, Lauren and me into the Rectory's Music Studio. It was there where we found out how special Chickerings were and are. It was a cozy and nicely carpeted room with a strange square piano. We were greeted by the piano's (Chickering, serial number 17503, built in 1857) owner, eminent organist, harpsichordist, pianist, and master of the Music Room Michael Jarvis
and my friend violinist Paul Luchkow.
The piano you see (below, right) is exactly like Jarvis's. It is an 1850 Chickering from the keyboard collection of the Smithsonian.
and Jarvis had invited us to listen in to a rehearsal (at St Jude's) to this Friday's concert
at Knox United Church, at 8pm.
Jarvis gave Rebecca a thorough and interesting story on how by luck he found the Chickering in Hamilton, Ontario before it suffered the fate of most square Chickerings, which is to be converted into desks. He explained how the squareness made the piano more compact but that in not having the length of a baby grand or a grand piano it was missing a lower octave. Rebecca noticed that the piano was missing one of a normal piano's three pedals. Jarvis demonstrated what one of the pedals could do. While it diminished the sturdy sound of the piano it sounded like a wonderful musical waterfall. Jarvis told us that in some circles the pedal sound is called an Aeolian harp. He suggested that Rebecca sit down and play on it but she was too shy for that. Both my granddaughters lay down on the carpet while the pair of musicians delighted us. There were a few frequent stops and corrections. Luchkow had warned me about them but he also explained that it would help Rebecca understand all the work that precedes all those "perfect" concerts I take her to.
It was reading about Franz Liszt's two Chickerings here
that I discovered that the Boston firm's principal contribution to the art of piano making was the cast-iron frame patented betweem 1840-1849 and which gave the instrument more stability and a richer sound.
I took a photograph of this cast iron frame (above) and Jarvis explained that the early instruments featured the sun design seen here. And below is a picture of one of Liszt's Chickerings.
Wanda and Claire would be delighted to find out that not only have we found a home for her piano but we have found good use for it. Rebecca has been practicing and taking her piano lessons. It all started with Juan Castelao who gave Rebecca her first piano lessons on the Chickering (serial number 108516 built between 1905 and 1910) and it also involved Nicole Scriabin, Alexander Scriabin's beautiful grand niece
, who posed by it even though she could not play chopsticks.
The rest of the concert will feature music by Franz Schubert and Clara Schumann. By coincidence Rosemary and I saw Song of Love
(1947) which is a well made (rare) Hollywood musical biography which features Katherine Hepburn as Clara Schumann and Paul Henreid as her husband Robert. Robert Walker plays a thoroughly human, warm and funny Brahms while Henry Daniell (usually a scary Nazi) plays a scary Franz Liszt.
The piano music in this film (startingly every composition is played from beginning to end by Artur Rubinstein) is romantic and intimate. It is played in living rooms and parlours. Brahms, Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, Franz Liszt where all contemporaries. A perfect way to extend the pleasure of this concert would be to rent the film (it is available, I checked) at Videomatica
This Friday's concert promises to be as intimate, romantic and warm. We will be there. That Chickering is only part of the attraction.
And you might note in the first picture that Luchkow volunteered to trade his valuable violin, for a short while with Rebecca's Lilly
. I was astounded!
January 25 2008 from Marc Destrubé, the principal violinist of the Smithsonian's Axelrod Quartet
As it happens, I'm spending my days this week rehearsing down the hall from that
Chickering piano, and sharing a little stage with Queen Victoria's Erard and
Paderewski's Steinway that you will find further down that same Smithsonian page,
as well as two amazing old harpsichords. They are all remaining quite silent
while we delight in four yummy Amatis. I'm a lucky boy.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
I have written of one of our city's best kept secrets (so unfortunate for those who don't know) which is Dances for a Small Stage
. I have written about Movent
run by Julie-Anne Saroyan and Day Helesic.Day HelesicDay Helesic, again
They have an upcoming (the 18th in the series!) Dances for a Small Stage
, Thursday Jan 31- Fri Feb 1, which nobody in their right mind should miss. But I have a wish list for the next one, 19. Here is my idea.
In September 1999 the Georgia Straight was keen in having original photographs accompany its arts coverage (sadly that has changed not only for the Straight but for the Vancouver Sun, too). For that season's arts preview they gave me a list of 6 artists. I decided to pair them off as unlikely combinations, for example an opera singer and a modern dancer. But the most interesting combination was pianist Ian Parker and Ballet BC dancer Edmond Kilpatrick
. I took two photographs in which each one featured one of the artists over the other one. I took the pictures in Parker's house and we were limited by the large piano and the cramped quarters. This did not seem to limit Kilpatrick. It was then that I came up with my idea that I would love to see various dance compositions choreographed around a piano and a pianist.
I can see now Ian Parker playing at Dances for a Small Stage perhaps paired off with modern dancer Alison Denham
. Brad Turner, who plays a jazz piano, could perform with Susan Elliot
and so on. And so on, but I also have the vision of dancer Cori Caulfield
in an 18th century powdered wig dancing to a Mozart piano sonata.
Can Movent and Dances for a Small Stage take up this challenge? If not, there is another wonderful kept secret and that is Brief Encounters
Osborne, Osborne & Osmond
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Every once in a while I discern these odd bedfellows on my photographic files which are classified alphabetically. There are some separate classifications like authors, dance, travel, family and gardens. I photographed Adam Osborne around 1985. In 1981 he had launched into the market his Osborne 1 which was in many ways the first commercially available portable computer.
Stephen Osborne is the editor of the Vancouver published Geist - Ideas & Culture
. Osborne is also a photographer and goes by the name of Mandelbrot
I photographed Marie Osmond in January 1986 and I was amazed at her flawless complexion and her commitment to posing for me with as much help as she could. It was easy.
Hilary & The Marpole Tram
Monday, January 21, 2008
Trams and streetcars have always been part of my life. Perhaps because of tram 35 that used to take me to my abuelita's house in downtown Buenos Aires in the late 40s. I wrote about it here
. The tram appeared again as the Avenida Revolución tram in Mexico City. These trams were silent, sleek and comfortable. They were exactly like the trams I saw in my several visits to San Francisco and which ran or run on Market Street. When my mother taught in Veracruz, Mexico in the late 60s I visited her with my soon to be wife Rosemary. Rosemary and I would sit at the Café de la Parroquia
on the city centre plaza (el Zócalo) and as we sipped or lecheros (Jarochan version of the café con leche
) we would listen to the wonderful combination of the nearby marimbas and the clanging of the trams. As soon as we had sat down a waiter would bring us two tall empty glasses with spoons. We would hit the glasses with our spoons and a young boy with two huge kettles would show up. He would pour coffee (without spiling a drop) until we yelled, "Basta
," then he would pour the hot milk. I cannot imagine or think of Veracruz
and their inhabitants (Jarochos) without thinking of the sounds of those trams and the smell of aromatic coffee and the brine of the nearby port.
In 1967 I returned to Veracruz from Buenos Aires in a tramp steamer that stopped in New Orleans for New Years. It was there that I took the St Charles Streetcar and then visited Bourbon Street and saw my first stripper. The streetcar was thrilling and the stripper a disappointment.
Sometime around 1970 my friend Andrew Taylor was passing an Avenida Revolución streetcar as it was turning around a glorieta (traffic circle). Andrew was studying engineering. He received a free lesson that ended up being expensive. Since the wheels of the tram could not really swivel all that much, the body of the tram stuck out and demolished Andrew's Renault Dauphine. He escaped without a scrape.
Around 1978 I took these pictures of the boarded up trams in the storage area by Lougheed Highway and Willingdon. I had spotted them and I knew I wanted to photograph them. I calle BC Hydro (then in charge of BC Transit) and talked to Harry Atterton who was the PR man. He gave me permission to take pictures and I took my Hilary along. One of the results of this was that Atterton hired me to take PR pictures for him and when he moved to Air Canada
I did the same there.
Pancakes, First Chapters & A Soccer Playing Shadow
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Some Sunday mornings can be very special. When Lauren and Rebecca sleepover on Saturday night (and last night was the case) we have those pleasant and lazy Sunday mornings complete with pancakes
for breakfast. Today Rebecca requested (it was too late, since the pancakes were on the table) that I melt and blend honey with unsalted butter.
In a while we are going to visit Horst
. He is going to look a my Noblex (it works) to figure out why nother one (a client's) doesn't. Rebecca and Lauren love to play with the female German Shephard Shadow who plays a soccer goaltender with skill.
Last night Rebecca and I went through a pile of books and I read first chapter to her. We were in search of a book that she may be able to handle soon. I had to explain Donna Leon
and her Commissario Guido Brunetti series which are set in Venice. Rebecca was attracted to the beautifully illustrated covers. She asked me which one of the series was my favourite. I told her that it would always be the last one I would have read and in this case (I read it over Christmas) its title was almost appropriate. I told her that she would not like these books until she is older but that we might just try reading Richard Adams's Traveller
She yawned and after I showed her the NY Times's Sunday date (today) she looked puzzled
as always and went scurrying to bed with Rosemary and Lauren.
Alone in my bed ( I sleep in what used to be Hilary's room when Lauren and Rebecca come over) I reflected on the pleasure of having them and I looked forward to Sunday pancakes.