Father's Day, Hummel, a Macchiato, a Fortepiano & a 1954 Silver Wraith
Saturday, June 18, 2011
|Paul Luchkow & Michael Jarvis|
I am writing this blog for Saturday, today Sunday which is Father’s Day. I reflect on the idea that a good father’s best way to celebrate the day is to somehow be that good father. I have not been such a father as my interest and concern in being a grandfather to, first, my older granddaughter Rebecca, 13, and then my younger one, Lauren, 8. I have not been a good father to my oldest daughter Ale in Lillooet and my younger Hilary (who is Lauren and Rebecca’s mother). I have taken my granddaughters to the theater, to concerts, to films, to the art gallery at the expense of their mother and aunt.
This is why tonight’s concert of the music of Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837) was especially satisfying. I attended it with Hilary whose smile throughout gave me a rewarding sense of satisfaction.
It was Hilary who at a very young age (7 or 8) could identify the composer of any of my classical LPs wherever I might drop the needle. In the late 80s when thieves walked into our home in the middle of the night (I used to leave the door unlocked) and left me with not one of my classical and jazz CDs, Hilary was able to compile a complete list (all the correct titles and interpreters) of the stolen material. With this list my home insurance coughed up with the money for replacements.
I had really forgotten my daughter’s sensitivity and appreciation for good music because her daughter Rebecca by age 6 could discern the difference between the sound of a cello and a viola da gamba. I stopped taking Hilary to concerts and Rebecca became my constant and appreciative musical and theatrical companion.
At age 13, texting, Lady Ga Ga and an iTouch (which I unfortunately gave to her as a gift) have replaced any interest in “higher” music. Rebecca is even in a post Justin Bieber transition, and who she listens to, is a mystery to me.
|Michael Jarvis (fortepiano) & Paul Luchkow (viola)|
I knew that asking her to attend a special concert featuring violinist (and violist) Paul Luchkow and keyboardist Michael Jarvis
(two men that Rebecca knows well) would have resulted in a disappointing, “ No!” I invited her mother instead and we both had a beautiful time listening to intimate music a few ft from the performers while imbibing a San Pellegrino Aranciata (Hilary) and slurpy and sweet macchiato cappuccino with whipped cream (me!). And all this happened while staring at the beautiful Smithers landscapes by Dutch painter Nicholas J. Bott. The reason for the exotic drinks and the paintings is that our concert was held at the Harrison Gallery/The Buzz Café
at 901 Homer Street (at Smithe).
There was another artistic surprise as Hilary, during the intermission came up to me and told me, “Do you know that there are paintings here by your friend Chris Dahl?
I had spotted his striking British Steel: 1954 Silver Wraith Sports Saloon
but I was not aware that there was more in an ancillary room.
|British Steel: 1954 Silver Wraith Saloon by Chris Dahl|
The purpose of the concert was to “get and edge” in preparation for the forthcoming recording of three Hummel Sonatas, two for violin and fortepiano and one for viola and fortepiano. The unbelievable fact is that only one of these Sonatas has ever been recorded and none ever with period instruments!
Of the three Sonatas, Paul Luchkow and Michael Jarvis wrote in their concert notes:
The two Sonatas we are performing tonight date from 1799/1800 and are the firs real showpieces of Hummel’s career. Why they are not better known is a mystery to us. Only the Viola Sonata has been issued in modern editions, usually with editorial simplifications and emendations. We are performing from a copy of the extremely precise first edition. Our CD recording for , (one of Canada’s most prestigious and respectable labels), will be the world-premiere recording of Sonatas I and II, and the first recording on period instruments of Sonata III. The CD will be available locally through either Paul or Michael, at Sykora’s and HMV and will be released both nationally and internationally in mid October…and makes the perfect Christmas gift!! Marquis Classics
The program cover had one funny typo as Paul Luchkow is listed as a Paul Luchlow. But there was another troubling bit of confusion for me. The facsimile of Hummel’s original edition lists the keyboard instrument as a Piano-Forte while Michael Jarvis is listed as playing a fortepiano (a beautiful piece of art by our West Vancouver instrument builder of note, Craig Tomlinson.
This is what I thought I knew (and I was partially correct) about the confusion. For anybody who has attempted to discern the sound of a harpsichord in a full baroque orchestra you will know that a harpsichord can only pay soft (or piano in musical lingo). Only a harpsichord solo will reveal the sonic treasure of this instrument that began to be replaced by an instrument that instead of plucking the strings (a harpsichord) now hammered at them, the late18th century invention the Italians called a pianoforte. This instrument could play soft (piano) and loudly (forte!).
As orchestras and concert halls became bigger in the 19th century, pianofortes had to me modified to play louder. The frame that held the strings was beefed up with metal and the instruments themselves were made larger. By the beginning of the 20th century these instruments with the potential to play loudly were now simply called pianos. As far as I know this was correct but I was still confused.
Amongst the audience was virtuoso violinist (member and ex-musical director of the local Pacific Baroque Orchestra, the orchestra that Paul Luchkow also plays for, plus member and leader of the Washington DC. Based Axelrod Quartet) Marc Destrubé
asked him to explain. His explanation was short and precise, one of Destrubé’s attributes.
The original Piano Forte had its name modified to Forte Piano when the louder instrument became more popular. This modern instrument was called a piano forte and eventually the name was shortened to piano.
The evening ended with an encore that was a pianissimo (very soft!) interpretation of the slow movement of the Sonata II. We left for home in what really was one of the best Father’s Day I have ever had!
A Golden Era Of Magazines In Vancouver
Friday, June 17, 2011
|Steinway Hall, 1873|
On the 28 of May I had to give a speech at my 50th anniversary reunion at St. Ed’s High School in Austin. I did not sleep for three days prior to it because of nerves. After all I was supposed to represent my class.
I have never had any problem giving speeches since as a teacher I have had sort of that experience in front of students for quite a few years. I have another speech to make tonight and it has kept my stomach in knots for days now. The speech I am to make is in response to “an honorary golden rocking chair award” (otherwise known as a lifetime achievement award) I am receiving from the Western Magazine Awards Foundation for my contribution to magazines beginning in 1976.
My wife Rosemary, who will be my side tonight (but certainly not up at the podium!) has requested that I not embarrass her. I have promised her that I will not but that does not mean that I might not embarrass a few others, just a tad.
I will point out from the very beginning that in the 19th century such excellent magazines as Harper’s Weekly
were severely limited in the reproduction of images on its pages. Artist Winslow Homer painted wonderful scenes of American Civil War battles but his paintings had to be converted to woodcuts and or lithographs as they were the only methods then known for reproduction. The photographs of Matthew Brady and Timothy O’ Sullivan could only be seen on the walls of salons and galleries.
It wasn’t until December 2, 1873 that a newspaper, the New York Daily Graphic
published a photograph (in continuous tone) of Steinway Hall in Manhattan. By the end of that decade a symbiotic relationship between copy, photographs and illustrations had been established in magazines and newspapers. Because of the use of the halftone process and or ink to paper, magazines, newspapers and photography thrived until the advent of photon pixels on phosphor screens.
We are now living an uncertain transition in which nobody has yet to figure out how to make those pictures and copy pay for themselves.
Until about now there was a thriving competition in the world and particularly in Vancouver between magazines and staple-less ones like the Georgia Straight
and such excellent magazines of a near past like David Beers’ Saturday Mix
in the Vancouver Sun
and Campbell’s Queue
also at the Sun
. The Straight
competed both in copy and in photographs as Charles Campbell imposed the idea of competition through an excellence in content and imagery that had to be original in its execution. This was before the advent of the handout photograph (provided by the organizations being written about) made the look of our publications a uniform one.
Editors such as Malcolm Parry believed in keeping the doors to their offices open to all. Politicians, actors, comedians, lawyers, writers, artists and even in a few occasions, ladies of the night made it to his office. Harvey Southam, the editor of a city business magazine, Equity
not only believed in this open door policy but also believed that you could not run a good business magazine in the suburbs. You had to be firmly ensconced in the centre of the city.
In those days political columns such as Sean Rossiter's 12th & Cambie in Vancouver Magazine
had politicians like Carole Taylor and Mike Harcourt, eagerly anticipating their issue to read what was up at City Hall or in Victoria. In those heady days Western Living,
under the editorship of Malcolm Parry published poetry by Peter Trower. Until then Parry had indicated that the shelter magazine had feautured photographs of bathrooms empty of people.
There were contributors to this editorial excellence by art directors who were virtual editors. Chris Dahl, art director first for Vancouver Magazine
and then for Western Living
demanded that editors shorten articles so he could run larger photographs and illustrations. Art directors like Rick Staehling established magazines in which they were the editors and hired others as designers. And then there was even one, Bob Mercer, who rejected either classification of being an editor or art director and did both jobs with next to no staff in his magazine VLM.
There are three stories I want to tell here that show how a liberal attitude, where imagination was the only limit, produced magazines and staple-less magazines that are now seen as part of a Vancouver Golden Age.
It was sometime around 1977 that I was in the reception area of Vancouver Magazine when a gaunt young man in an ill-fitting suit showed up. He informed receptionist and editorial assistant Maja Grip that he wanted to speak to Editor Malcolm Parry. She indicated with minimum bureaucratic fuss that he go up the stairs and turn left.
I followed. Malcolm Parry was either playing on his small bent soprano saxophone or spying into the windows of the nearby Plaza Hotel on Burrard with his monocular (I don’t remember which). I listened to the following exchange:
“My name is Les Wiseman and I think your magazine needs a rock’ roll column.” Malcolm Parry answered, “Young man, go home and write it.” That is how the legendary column In One Ear
Another time, free lance writer Judy Lees suggested to Parry that she wanted to write an article about corrective underwear for women. Parry thought it was a good idea but imposed a condition: “Go to Alex Waterhouse-Hayward’s studio in Burnaby and you pose for the pictures.” This Judy Lees did.
One day in the late 80s at the Railway Club, John Armstrong (aka Buck Cherry) told me he needed to find a job. I advised him to go to the Bay and buy a Harris Tweed jacket, put on a dress shirt and tie and see Georgia Straight
editor Charles Campbell. Immediately Armstrong and I were assigned to interview and photograph actor Vincent Price. Not long after we traveled to Seattle to do the same with Dennis Hopper.
It is this marvelous no-limit-to-imagination that fueled what for me was an era of magazines and newspapers in our city that will surely not be repeated. I feel lucky to have been part of it and I only hope that the powers that be find a new symbiosis between copy and photography so that a second golden age will be upon us.
my golden rocking chair
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Many years ago, around 1962 my Uncle Tony offered to send me to the American University in Alexandria. I was to get there by a Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company liner. I was all excited until Gamal Abdel Nasser decided to abolish English as the language of the university. Thus I was saved from the ignominy of not being able to boast that I never and will never board a cruise liner to nowhere.
It was a few years later in 1967 that I was the only passenger on an Argentine merchant marine Victory ship that took me from Puerto Nuevo in Buenos Aires up the coast (stopping in just about every Brazilian port) to Puerto Rico, New Orleans and finally Houston.
Here in Vancouver I am visited now and then by family that has managed to find the money to purchase cruise liner passage to Alaska. I spend a lot of time telling my family that the native folks who live up in Alaska are not Eskimos but prefer to be called Inuit. Both Rosemary and I have not desire to board one of these leviathans and don white slacks, sports shoes and jockey to position to dine at the captain’s table.
Consider that even though we are old enough to have perhaps played that seaborne version of curling, shuffleboard, and that we are aware that even such active sports as golfing are now being offered, we would eschew all such activity and opt for taking a trip that takes us to a definite destination.
This means that I recently “enjoyed” a no meal and no on board film flight to Austin. The point was not the flight (“This is your Captain speaking, please sit back, make yourself comfortable and enjoy your flight.”) but that I was going to an event, in this case my 50th anniversary high school graduation. I was able to suffer the banal ignominy of modern flying thanks to a Vancouver Public Library book of Emily Dickinson’s poetry.
This does not mean that I am willing to assert that the process of getting there is not sometimes almost as important as the Mecca itself.
A case in point is our trip in the beginning of July. Rosemary, my two granddaughters Lauren and Rebecca and I are driving in our Chevrolet Malibu to San Antonio, Texas and from there south to Mike East’s Santa Fe Ranch near Falfurrias (Lynn is a tad closer but Falfurrias has a more exotic sound to it) ).
Rosemary has her misgivings about a 9-year-old and a 13-year-old fighting boredom in a back seat. I plan to have Rebecca share shotgun with Rosemary, but what of Lauren on her booster seat as she is still quite small in size?
Should we drive in a straight diagonal to San Antonio or should we linger in places? Time will tell which we will do.
We are already planning how to circumvent the problem of four people living out of a cart trunk. The Malibu’s trunk is fairly generous but Rosemary requested I trade the “donut” spare tire for a real one so that now the trunk base sticks up a few inches.
Telling Rosemary that this is a trip that the girls will not forget seems not very diplomatic on my part and it just makes Rosemary fret even more. But I am convinced that once on the road the trip will become our little ocean liner full of adventure and with the anticipated pleasure of finally arriving at the Santa Fe Ranch where Letty and Mike will receive us warmly, after all we will be home.
Bronwen, Michael & The Malibu
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
The Blonde Assassin Passes On
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
|Rosa 'Charles de Mills'|
Apparently with no surprise
To any Happy Flower
The Frost beheads it at its play -
In accidental power -
The blonde Assassin passes on -
The Sun proceeds unmoved
To measure off another Day
For an Approving God -
Death and the maiden
I Could Not See To See
Monday, June 13, 2011
I heard a Fly buzz - when I died -
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air -
Between the Heaves of Storm -
The Eyes around - had wrung them dry -
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset - when the King
Be witnessed - in the Room -
I willed my Keepsakes - Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable - and then it was
There interposed a Fly -
With Blue - uncertain - stumbling Buzz -
Between the light - and me -
And then the Windows failed - and then
I could not see to see -
Adjusted To The Tomb
Sunday, June 12, 2011
I died for Beauty - but was scarce
Adjusted in the Tomb
When One who died for Truth, was lain
In an adjoining Room -
He questioned softly "Why I failed"?
"For Beauty", I replied -
"And I - for Truth - Themself are One -
We Bretheren, are", He said -
And so, as Kinsmen, met a Night -
We talked between the Rooms -
Until the Moss had reached our lips -
And covered up - Our names -