Hal - Taking Care Of One's Own
Saturday, March 16, 2013
|Filomena de Irureta Goyena Hayward, Dolores Reyes de Irureta Goyena|
and a Wedgwood tea cup, (Asia). 1967
Soon after I married my Rosemary Healey in Mexico City in 1968 we went to see a film in the theatre whose back faced our tiny apartment window on Calle Estrasburgo. It was the cavernously beautiful Cine Latino on Paseo de La Reforma. We saw 2001: A Space Odyssey
. I was blown away by the theatre’s exceptional stereophonic (early surround?) sound. But there is one moment in the film that brought childhood memories. It took me back to my parental bed when I was 8 in Buenos Aires. My father may have either been very drunk or partially. We were in bed together and we were singing. The songs that we sang were always the same three, Onward Christian Soldiers, Daisy Bell and My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean.
When Doctor David Bowman (played by Keir Dullea) is disconnecting Hal’s processor modules and Hal’s mind begins to wander and deteriorate as he sings Daisy Bell, I was instantly taken back to singing with my father. I felt nostalgia and I am sure I hid from my bride my tears.
I have been giving that scene in A Space Odyssey some thought these days and past months in which my surrogate father Raúl Guerrero Montemayor
died in January with his mind intact while my other surrogate father, Brother Edwin Reggio, CSC
might be in an irreversible stage similar to Hal’s.
I have a friend with Parkinson’s and calling him up on the phone and talking to this friend has been a painful and difficult experience for me as I mentally imagine Bowman pulling out those processors, one by one.
I have another friend whose adult sons are still at home without any prospect of leaving a parental home that nurtures them. I would have thought that the idea that one takes care of one’s own was a Latin thing and not an Anglo one as it is for my friend and his two sons. But it is not.
My wife often tells me how in her home in New Dublin, Ontario, her grandmother on her mother’s side lived with them. Rosemary’s mother was a registered nurse so she did all the nursing. On another side of the house, in a separate wing lived Rosemary’s paternal grandparents. When her parental grandmother did not recognize her husband and was afraid of him, he moved out to a sister’s house while Rosemary’s parents hired a live-in nurse.
My grandmother was always a super alert, lively, colourful woman who was my special friend and partner in all kinds of crime involving consuming immense quantities of sweets or spending long hours at the movies watching westerns. One day not too many months from her picture here she looked at me and she was not home.
I had never felt that experience of facing a human who acted more like a cat. Can she think? Does she know who I am? Can she discern my expressions, my laughs my scowls?
Little by little she prepared for bed with a bath earlier and earlier until one day she was ready at 2 in the afternoon. When she became a tad difficult my mother who had to teach, the children of the Veracruz-based Alcoa Aluminum, in her home schoolroom realized she had to find a home for her mother. This at first became a nun’s home in Cuernavaca in the State of Morelos. Within months my grandmother became violent and she had to be interned in one of those places we then called mental institutions. My mother was most upset as it has always been a family tradition to take care of one’s own.
As my 15 year-old granddaughter misbehaves in what seems a downward spiral, it is very difficult for my wife and me to be neutral bystanders. It is difficult to strike a balance between being the concerned grandparents and the in-laws-from-hell.
The Family Jewels
Friday, March 15, 2013
My mother was born in Manila in 1911 and died in our home in Mexico City in 1972. Our family, as many others, had secrets, but I believe ours had more than the usual. If I know a few but with a hazy memory, it has all to do that I only developed a curiosity to ask only when most of those who could answer were dead.
From the time that I can remember anything, my grandmother would take out a heavy but small metal box. When she opened it, I could see inside boxes of jewels. There were diamonds, opals, turquoises and magnificent jades and pearls.
Where had they come from? The story that my mother told me is that her father, Don Tirso de Irureta Goyena had often visited Paris either when he was courting or as soon as he had married Dolores Reyes. In Paris he had had the jewels custom made, especially for his Lolita (the affectionate name in Spanish for all women named María de los Dolores).
Often the reason for opening the box (particularly in our latter years in Buenos Aires in the early 50s) was for either the selection of a few jewels to wear to a party or for the repair or removal of a stone from a necklace or brooch at the joyero
(the jeweller). My grandmother would laugh every time he mentioned the jeweller’s name. He was Hungarian and his surname was Verga which in Spanish means penis. The removal of the stone often had to do with the impending divorce of either my aunt or uncle. The stones were pawned to pay off lawyers.
|Don Tirso de Irureta Goyena|
There are few jewels left. The one remaining, possibly the most valuable of all was willed by my mother to pay for the university education of our eldest daughter Alexandra. We (and particularly Rosemary) are not in the habit of pawning so we have kept this exquisite heart of diamonds which will probably become a bone of contention in whatever will we finalize. The heart is about an inch and a half tall and is made up of brilliants set in platinum and surrounded by a wide swath of gold shaped like a heart. The back is transparent and made of quartz.
It is only in the last few days (particularly in my insomniac nights) that I have given further thought on that heart of diamonds.
I know that my grandmother had a friend, a very lovely woman called Susana Roxas. All my grandmother told me was that she was a bailarina
(dancer). If you consider that in turn-of-the-century Manila any woman who wanted to sing in opera, dance or act was considered of ill-repute you can imagine that Ms Roxas was daring for her time. My abuelita(had abandoned her desire to be an opera singer, she had a beautiful coloratura voic.) told me that in one of Don Tirso’s trips on board the Kyoto Maru to Europe, by coincidence Ms Roxas had been heading to Paris I am beginning to wonder if all those jewels that my grandfather showered on my grandmother may not have been gifts to ameliorate guilt.
I will never know.
Is this picture, startling in its unidentified manner (no writing in a family album that is all but complete in names) that of the beautiful Susana Roxas? I will never know, either. But it is exciting to speculate.
Not On The Web - Does Not Exist
Thursday, March 14, 2013
There are a few who believe that if it isn’t on the web it does not exist or will never exist.
|Photo by Philippe Halsman, 1967|
Until US chess grand master Bobby Fischer died on January 18, 2008 few knew what he looked like, particularly as seen by Latvian-born master photographer (my hero!) Philippe Halsman. His portrait of Fischer I had in an old issue of Popular Photography and in Halsman’s photo book, Halsman Portraits – Selected and Edited by Yvonne Halsman
– 1983. Halsman died in 1979 and his wife Yvonne in 2006. Until 2006 Yvonne Halsman was a close protector of her husband’s photographic record and copyright and few Halsman portraits slipped by her. One that did was her husband’s famous portrait of Albert Einstein that to this day is on the front of many T-shirts.
I have written about the Bobby Fischer portrait which I consider to be as close to perfection as any that any photographer has ever taken. You can see it here
. In second picture below click twice to read what Halsman says about his Fischer photograph.
Imagine my surprise when I recently received an email from a conscientious researcher who will place (I am sometimes resistant to the term “publish”) on an on line magazine/webpage. The researcher had found this blog of mine and wanted to use the portrait of Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
taken by Philippe Halsman. The body of the conscientious researcher’s email contained this: Are you sure the photo of de Chardin is by Phillipe Hallsman? I am trying to publish one and they say they cannot find this particular photograph.
One of the reasons for the apparent problem, besides the fact that the conscientious researcher had misspelled Halsman’s name (it could have been solved by a conscientious research that would not have exceeded a few minutes), is that few of Halsman’s photographs have been up until recent times because of his wife’s dogged and heroic defense of the copyright.
My concern today is that this poor blogger has been consulted for a smidgen of information that is out there and as close as a public library that would have Halsman’s book in its collections.
But as I pointed out in the beginning: There are a few who believe that if it isn’t on the web it does not exist or will never exist.
We can now add: Hard copy books in libraries are dead.
Of the photo that you see here scanned from my copy of the book Halsman at Work
, wife Yvonne writes: After a complicated and difficult sitting in the studio when Philippe used two ladders for the job, he had this idea for our 1967 Christmas card.
The Black Pope & That Bergoglio Imbroglio
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
|Buenos Aires, Plaza de Mayo, 1955|
Photo - Life Magazine
For many who seek succor in an established religion such as the Roman Catholic Church, the idea that one can find true sanctity outside of holy orders, it is seen as a virtual impossibility.
There was a man, a Spanish priest, now a Roman Catholic saint, San Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei (Praelatura Sanctae Crucis et Operis Dei), who taught of another way, one that has always been there.
With a certain amount of humility Escrivá in his introduction to his seminal 999 short musings or points called The Way
, writes in the Preface:
I won’t tell you anything new.
I will only stir your memory
so that some thought will arise
and strike you;
and so you will better your life
and set out along ways of prayer
and of love.
And in the end you will be
a more worthy soul.
The revolutionary teaching that Escrivá turned into the Opus Dei in 1928 was the idea that all of us are called up for holiness by a supreme entity and that we can achieve this through our ordinary life. This was not a new thing as Escrivá writes in his preface. In point 784 he further elaborates:
Give “all’ glory to God. With your will aided by grace, “squeeze” out each on of your actions, so that nothing remains in them that smacks of human pride, of self-complacency.
In 1958 on a particular day that is burned into my memory, my religion teacher at St. Edward’s High School in Austin, Texas, Brother Edwin Reggio, CSC, a young man of 26 with two masters, one in mathematics and the other in music told us an extraordinary thing. It was something like this, “You brush your teeth every day. It is boring. You do it automatically. But you can get more out of it, make it meaningful, important if you think, ‘I brush my teeth for the greater glory of God.”
We were all silly, pimply teenagers so we giggled and laughed. Brother Edwin looked at us seriously and told us that the Jesuit Order (I have always seen them as the US Marine Corps of the Roman Catholic Church, although far more cerebral than your normal leatherneck) had a motto, the motto of their order: Ad maiorem Dei gloriam which in that dead and ancient Latin means “For the greater glory of God.”
Brother Edwin taught us to finish our essays and homework papers with the initials A.M.D.G. As long as we kept thinking of the meaning of these initials we knew that every act of the day (when a good one!) could be dedicated to the greater glory of God and in such a way the ordinary things we did from day to day transcended themselves into more.
You do not have to think religiously to find here a link to the idea that we call pride of work. It is an idea that through the centuries has not found acceptance in societies that segregate menial work from a more intellectual one. Think of the untouchables of the Indian Subcontinent.
In this blog I will not go to the detail of telling you what my innermost beliefs are or if I necessarily agree with what I have written above. That is much too personal for me to divulge.
Brother Edwin taught us (and it has remained in me all these years) that the most misunderstood and thoroughly ignored Roman Catholic Sacrament is the one called Confirmation (celebrated very nicely in his song, Confirmation
, by that doubting Yardbird of be-bop that was Charlie Parker). Confirmation makes the Roman Catholic who receives it a soldier of Christ. Not, I must interject here, one that wields a sword or gun but one who defends one’s beliefs by a thorough knowledge of them.
Knowing thoroughly about the faith I was raised on in which I can explain to you with elaborate detail the Doctrine of Transubtantiation or that the Virgin Mary "having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory." This doctrine, which all Catholics must believe in on the pain of eternal damnation, was by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950, in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus
. He spoke “ex cathedra” from the chair of St. Peter, meaning that he was saying this dogmatically and exercising his papal infallibility.
I do believe that few of us would care or challenge such a dogmatic statement. Is it all that important?
This knowledge of religion has not only helped me understand, appreciate and love sacred art, sacred music (the music of Bach) but it has also served me well in keeping up with a dastardly nephew of mine who is an active and important member of the Argentine chapter of Escrivá’s Opus Dei.
My Argentine nephew who articled at a venerable law firm in Washington, DC has visited me many times through the years. He was always coming or going to some strange place like Hong Kong, Andorra and Palo Alto. He told me he was working on his masters. In Buenos Aires he decided the Catholic school he sent his children wasn’t Catholic enough so he started his own school.
My nephew has become very rich with an idea where a group of chosen people pool their money to buy a property, and little by little they bring in water, electricity, build a church and then build homes. The neighbourhood called a barrio cerrado (sort of a gaited community). These very Catholic neighbourhoods have been so successful that my nephew was asked by Rome to intercede with his experience to build similar communities in Philadelphia. He had just returned from Rome on this so I asked him if he had seen a cardinal. “Not one, but three,” he told me.
It didn’t take too much to figure out that Andorra, Palo Alto and Hong Kong all had Opus Dei learning centres.
Not too long ago my nephew in an idle moment in an airport decided to look at my blog of the day. By sheer coincidence I had outed him as a member of the Escriva’s organization. He was livid but finally forgave me.
In a nutshell, Opus Dei is extremely conservative and yet the idea that a religious organization in the 21st century does not need priests, nuns or monks (in great quantity as vocations have decreased hugely in most of the world) but can work effectively as a mostly lay organization is a very good point.. My nephew’s ideas to make money are practical and effective. I cannot guess or surmise what the connections between the Opus Dei and the Vatican Bank may be. Perhaps Dan Brown can write a thriller about the subject.
You may wonder what my nephew and the Opus Dei might have to do in relevance to the fact that we have an Argentine (rhymes with time and do not use Argentinian) Pope. What is spectacularly relevant is that Pope Francis happens to be a Jesuit.
The Superior General (Praepositus Generalis) of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits to you who may have slogged this far) is sometimes called the Black Pope. “Black Pope" is a derogatory nickname given to the Superior General usually by the media, and never used by the Jesuits themselves. The name comes partly from the color of the Jesuits’ cassock, worn by members of the Society, including the Superior General. He is the Black Pope because from a past concern (16th and 17th century) among Protestant European countries that the order had tremendous power and influence within the Roman Catholic Church. Consider that the Superior General is elected for life and is invested with extraordinary power over the members of the Society, higher than of a bishop over the clergy and lay people of a diocese. Adolfo Nicolás is the man in power now. So we have a Pope, a Black Pope and a Pope Emeritus. I need not go further into a preoccupation that took St Augustine to ponder about the mystery of the Holy Trinity on a sandy beach so many centuries ago.
Argentina to this day is ruled by three important spheres of influence. You have the armed forces, the wealthy and landed oligarchy and you have the Church (the Roman Catholic Church).
Argentina’s most famous patriot, General, Don José de San Martín whose army threw out the Spaniards from Argentina, helped in Chile and in Peru is buried in a side chapel to the Metropolitan Cathedral. Many say he is not buried in a more prominent place within the church because he happened to be a mason. Argentines like to tell you that another mason of note was Jorge Washington. There has never really been an extensive separation between chuch and state in Argentina.
I do believe (with no evidence) that as soon as the Masonic Order started branching into chapters that wore fezzes or glorified the moose, they lost their secret importance. I do believe (with no evidence except that Dan Brown might agree) that the New Masons are the Opus Dei.
Which bring us that as soon as Escrivá founded his organization, the Superior-General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Wlodimir Ledochowski (1866–1942), informed the Vatican he considered Opus Dei "very dangerous for the Church in Spain." He described it as having a "secretive character" and saw "signs in it of a covert inclination to dominate the world with a form of Christian Masonry."
This early connection between the Opus Dei and the Society of Jesus puts Pope Francis into an interesting position right now.
I remember very well June 14, 1955 (I was 12) when Juan Domingo Perón furious that Argentine prelates had objected to some of his decrees, sent his minions to burn churches in Buenos Aires. I recall my grandmother saying that the armed forces would not let this go by unpunished.
Until then, much as many had backed Francisco Franco in Spain, the armed forces agreed with Perón’s anti-communist stance. The Commies were far more dangerous than the fascists even in 1955 Argentina is what most thought.
The few anti-peronists in the military, who were mostly Catholic, and factions of the Church were not happy at these events. On June 16, two days after the church burning, airplanes of the Argentine Navy (the most devout of the three branches of the Argentine armed forces), with the motto Cristo vence
("Christ wins") painted on them, bombed Plaza de Mayo, killing hundreds of civilians, in the first move towards the coup d'état which would ultimately depose Perón.
Our Botox President, Cristina Kirchner, whose Peronist Party, in an amazing-to-me transformation as the contemporary Peronist movement calls itself leftist (all the way from its founder’s extreme right?) has locked horns and won against Pope Francis when he was just a Cardinal over gay marriage. Gay marriage, over the extreme opposition by my tocayo Jorge Bergoglio (I am legally Jorge Alejandro) is legal and Argentine travel agencies promote gay hotels in BA for prospective love couples.
This brings me to my final musing on the possible interesting things to come in this Bergoglio imbroglio.
I asked my nephew what he had planned for that inevitable moment when those outside his safe-walled compound climbed over. He opened his closet and pulled out a sawed off Ithaca 37 pump-action shotgun (a favourite of Argentine police). He then rummaged around and showed me a Luger. It was not your ordinary Luger but a special issue model carried by the Luftwaffe pilots. He said that he would use them as target practice on the wall-climbing interlopers.
I will wait and see how Pope Francis deals with it all. As for me, evoking those beautiful words from 1 Corinthians 11:24, "Do this in remembrance of me," I will go and brush my teeth and especially remember Brother Edwin Reggio, CSC.
Ad maiorem Dei gloriam
How I Yow Might Pleasè
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
On impulse some years ago I called up a beautiful woman, Joanne Dahl, I was having a photographic affair with and asked her, “What do you find to be erotic?” Her answer was a very quick, “Yielding flesh.”
I went on a binge for weeks attempting to capture on film that statement of hers. The closest I ever got is the picture you see here.
In 1992 I purchased the book Slow Hand - Women Writing Erotica.
In this collection of short stories I discovered Barbara Gowdy in a story called Ninety-Three Million Miles Away
In 1996 I saw Lynne Stopkevich’s film Kissed
which was based on Gowdy short story by the same name. I was mesmerized by a film that was about women, based on a story written by a woman and directed by an exciting new female director Lynne Stopkevich.
By then I was convinced, I have not wavered in this belief, that women had a much more adventurous approach to what is erotic. This is probably due to a greater and daring imagination.
In the years that have come and gone and women have posed for me in my sadly gone studio, I have been present in moments that defy anything any man (or at least this one) could imagine. Some of these sessions might have begun with a gentle instruction, “Alex, just take pictures. Don’t think.”
One of the most boring (not quite as boring at Books in Canada
) Canadian literary magazines is our very own Quill & Quire
. In September of 1997 I was called by Quill& Quire to photograph a young poet called Esta Spalding. Since I was one of those ignorant photographers (we are a legion) I was unaware that her mother was a recognized writer, too. I asked Esta Spalding the origin of her name. She told me that her father Philip and her mother, who was pregnant, were on a beach in Mexico. They were thinking of names for their future offspring. Not being aware that to be in Spanish can either be es
(definitely without that accent, esta
means "that one", fem). They decided that the baby would be called Is and chose the incorrect Esta!
By 2003 Esta Spalding’s claim to fame was a wonderful screen adaptation (she did the writing, and directed by Scott Smith) of Gowdy’s novel Falling Angels.
I mention Spalding here because after Quill & Quire published the article with my photograph, numerous people complained that the magazine had inadvertently shown Spalding’s nipple. I was called by the editor and I explained that it was simply the shadow of her finger caused by my light.
After I saw the next Stopkevich/Parker collaboration, Suspicious River
in 2000 I called them to come to my studio where I would attempt to somehow photograph that special relationship they had for making dazzling erotic films. I tried everything with different lighting schemes to no avail.
|Molly Parker & Lynne Stopkevich|
In desperation I told them to rest. As soon as I told them they did what you see here. I took a Polaroid. We looked at it and we knew we had it. I then repeated that snap with b+w film and transparency film and the picture, over and over, conveyed this special relationship, this special imagination, this intangible quality that is a wonder to this man. I feel lucky that while I don’t understand it I have at least been able to get a glimpse. It is a glimpse that obviously has all to do with yielding flesh.
No More Regrets
Monday, March 11, 2013
|Alexandra Elizabeth Waterhouse-Hayward|
Baja California, 1975
My eldest daughter Alexandra Elizabeth Waterhouse-Hayward will be the last of the Waterhouse-Haywards. Since I have no male issue, when I am gone, my name, unique to me will be lost but I do not see this with having any consequence or lasting importance.
My daughter Ale has chosen a single life and from her home in Lillooet she dotes via long distance or by frequent tortuous trips in her vehicle on that curvy Lillooet through Pemberton highway with her two granddaughters, Rebecca Anne and Lauren Elizabeth (both Stewarts).
There is not one week that may pass where our daughter Ale (pronounced: A-leh) who will be 45 this August does not tell us how grateful she is to us for forcing her to finish university or not allowing her to abandon her guitar lessons (she is a fine sight reader).
If anything my daughter (she is Rosemary’s too but here I want to go at it alone) is doing what I never did to my regret. I never told my mother I loved her and I rarely ever thanked her for all her sacrifices in making sure I received the best education money could buy,
My daughter Ale’s house in Lillooet I have often likened to a shack. Ale has been justifiably angry, almost bitter, with my constant criticism.
When I returned from Buenos Aires in 1967 I had hair down to my shoulders. I read Ramparts and called myself a hippie. I was a hippie only in name. I did not indulge in drugs or free love or any of that stuff that made hippies hippies.
I remember being with a friend in his house in the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco in 1967. I was sipping on my father’s Argentine mate. I invited the folks in the bottom floor to try it. Puffing their pot they told me they weren’t too sure as my mate seemed to them to be some sort of addiction.
I returned to Mexico City and got a haircut. I have been too straight-laced a man to ever let go as so many of my friends have urged me to do.
Our daughter Ale is that free spirit I never was. She is a hippie of the 21st century, always calling us when her heart desires her to. I find this (sometimes) offensive. I want to make her the way I am. But most of the time I know that if I could I would do the same.
Christmas until recently was her opportunity to shower us with gifts in great quantity until I put my foot down and told her what she had often told me,” I don’t want more stuff.” She has kept my request and this last Christmas she offered up a dizzying array of consumables.
From my mother, grandmother, my wife and even from me, Ale has inherited the talent and passion of teaching. She always wanted to teach children from aboriginal communities. This she does with delight in Lillooet. She gardens in a harsh climate that is dry most of the year, bitterly cold in the winter and in the summer it competes with Lytton for the hottest spot in Canada.
Ale does not have a husband, a partner or a paramour. She has made her choice or perhaps she was never lucky. Or maybe, even, she had indeed been lucky. I sometimes wonder what it must be like to live with only a cat. I cannot live without my Rosemary and on days when she is not around I am lost. It seems that Ale has found solitude as an asset in her life.
When I look at her, and she smiles often (she has that happy-go-lucky attitude of some Mexicans) but I see in her face a sadness (an acceptance of the inevitability of death which is an ever present thought of most Mexicans) that breaks my heart. I want to comfort her and tell her that she is not alone and that we are here for as long as we will be here.
I see in both of our Mexican born daughters, vestiges of my mother, the woman I loved but never told her. I regret that omission and I must make sure and make it plain to Ale and Hilary that I do love them. I could not live with more regret than the one I live with now.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
|Harpsichordist Michael Jarvis|
Illustration by Lauren Stewart & Graham Walker
On Saturday my friend the graphic designer Graham Walker my 10-year-old granddaughter Lauren Stewart (on her own accord she asked her mother for violin lessons almost a year ago and has been practicing daily since) and I went to a Pacific Baroque Concert
at St. Mark’s Church. The orchestra had its former artistic director, violinist Marc Destrubé
as its guest leader. The PBO’s regular leader, harpsichordist and organist Alex Weimann
had previous commitments.
The concert was called Purcell & Friends and I must say that after an enjoyable evening I must add that Purcell’s friends Matthew Locke and Thomas Baltzar weren’t the only friends around. Having followed the Pacific Baroque Orchestra since its founding (by Destrubé) in 1991 I include the members of the orchestra as my friends. To be able to hear this kind of music live and in Vancouver puts our city in a position of exclusivity. And to sit so near and to listen to friends (virtuoso, but friends nonetheless) play is a pleasure for which I feel most guilty. More should enjoy this if they only knew.
Because the baroque repertoire of late now includes composers previously unknown (consider that J.S. Bach was forgotten until Felix Mendelsshon directed a performance of the St Matthew's Passion in 1829) the music is as fresh today as it was when it was first played. It was new music then. Destrubé likes to point out that it is new music today.
My mother was an unusually good pianist and her favourite composer was J.S. Bach. I grew up listening to the six Brandenburg Concertos
(a Dutch orchestra) and Wanda Landowska’s Goldberg Variations. Bach was God. Of the English my mother would say, “After Henry Purcell there was no English composer of note.”
I finally understood that my mother’s equivocal opinion was based on the fact that there were very few recordings in the 50s of any composer that was not Bach, Mozart or Beethoven. We know better now.
Knowing this did not stop me from uttering to my subject during a photo session, David Lemon
, a connoisseur of English music, my mother's thing about after Purcell. He was annoyed. I have come to appreciate Britten, Elgar, Tippett and Vaughan Williams without forgetting my love for Gilbert & Sullivan.
Of Purcell (pronounce with emphasis on first syllable) I will only mention here George Bernard Shaw’s review of a London performance, 21 February 1989, of Purcell’s first (and in English) opera Dido and Aeneas.
Dido and Aneas is 200 years old, and not a bit the worse for wear. I daresay many of the Bowegians [Shaw’s humorous name for the inhabitants of Bow in East London] thought that the unintentional quaintness of the amateurs in the orchestra were Purcellian antiquities. If so, they were never more mistaken in their lives. Henry Purcell was a great composer: a very good composer indeed; and even this little boarding-school opera [composed for a girl’s boarding school] is full of his spirit, his freshness, his dramatic expression, and his unapproached art of setting English speech to music. The Handel Society did not do him full justice: the work in fact is by no means easy; but the choir made up bravely for the distracting dances of the string quartet. Aeneas should not have called Dido Deedo, any more than Juliet should call Romeo Ro-may-oh, or Othello call his wife Days-day-mona. If Purcell chose to pronounce Dido English fashion, it is not for a Bow-Bromley tenor to presume to correct him.
The Great Composers - Reviews and Bombardments
By Bernard Shaw
Edited with an introduction by Louis Crompton.
Walker, Lauren (any youth 18 or under does not pay if accompanied by a paying adult!) and I sat front row centre-left so we could watch violinist Destrubé play a mere five feet away.
From the beginning I told Lauren that she could sleep, read or draw and that it was a luxury to do any of those things while listening to good music. She chose to sketch. I very quickly became a mano a mano with Walker. The sketchbook changed hands over and over and each drawing has elements of both artists.
One of the two high points for me was to listen to the original piece by Purcell from which Britten wrote his Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, the Rondeau from Incidental Music form Abdelazer. The other was Destrubé’s solo violin performance of Baltzar’s A Prelude for the Violin in G Major. Not coincidentally the piece was composed in 1685 the very date of manufacture of Destrubé’s French violin.
Among my friends of the orchestra, in particular violinist Paul Luchkow, harpsichordist Michael Jarvis and viola da gambist Natalie Mackie
there was a new man, Konstantin Bozhinov on Theorbo. Bozhinov, a striking young man from Bulgaria, had my eldest granddaughter have been present, she would have immediately offered him her neck. He was that handsome in that sleep-during-the-day-awake-at-night mode. And he had a fine smile.
I could write about the music, how much fun it was and how fresh it felt but I leave it best to the liner notes written by Destrubé. I have them here as scanned documents. If you click twice on them they will enlarge for better viewing ease.
that there will be more Purcell on Sunday March 17 at 4 PM at St. Philip’s Anglican Church, 3737 West 27 Avenue. Marc Destrubé will be accompanied by Arthur Neale on violin, Natalie Mackie on viola da gamba and Valerie Weeks on harpsichord.
|Nathan Whittaker, cello|
|St. Mark's altar|