Intimate Music For A Somber Day
Friday, March 29, 2013
Today, Good Friday I attended the intimate performance of the St. John Passion
by Bach at Dunbar Heights United Church. This is only just one more of a recent spate of concerts being given by local churches. Just a few weeks ago I went to a performance of Henry Purcell’s music by a quartet, with Marc Destrubé on violin, Arthur Neale on Violin, Natalie Mackie on viola de gamba and Valerie Weeks playing the harpsichord. The church only a few blocks from Dunbar Heights was St Philip’s Anglican.
The common theme is a venue of intimacy where if you arrive early (as I always do) you can sit at the front row and notice everything, hear everything and easily make believe (in my case I am a duke) that one is royalty and listening to the music in one’s chamber.
The St. John Passion is narrated in lovely recitatives by St. John the Evangelist played by a tenor. In an orchestra peppered with professionals and the church choir (also peppered with professionals) tenor Clinton Stoffberg was lyrical and most wonderful playing that evangelist whose symbol is the eagle as he (St. John) soars with his gospels into realms that the other evangelists did not. Better still, a church on a low budget (we were to pay an entrance fee that was suggested at $20) cannot afford to get another tenor to sing the tenor arias of the work so Stoffberg was twice good, in two roles.
The other voice, one that charmed me as much as her presence (a face, a Penelope’s face, in which I would have gladly eliminated all suitors with my Odysseus bow!) was Soprano Alexandra Hill. Unfortunately she only sang two arias so I left wanting.
The musical ensemble made up of young people headed by Yi Zhou on violin had the presence of two of my friends from the Pacific Baroque Orchestra
. They were Paul Luchkow, violin and Natalie Mackie (whose purple cloth wrapped around the carved head at the end of her instrument for once was doubly right as it was in Lent purple). An there was Mark McGregor our very good local flute player. I had never heard cellist Peter Caton before but I was impressed.
I was sitting a mere five feet from youthful director Dr. Greg Caisley who at times sat to play on a one manual Sabathil and Son harpsichord. Few might know that these instruments of world-wide fame our made in our neck of the woods.
My guess that most people who listen to the rarely performed St. John Passion are accustomed to a large orchestra. This was a small one at 8 plus the harpsichord and every once in a while I heard the obligatory low notes of organist Dr. Elinor Chambers. It was curious to me to observe that Chambers with her back to the audience had a large mirror to her right on which she could see the director’s hands.
The small orchestra, the choir, very close, the stained glass windows and an antique and very brown Steinway on a wing of the church right made me feel blessed on a day in which it is difficult not to reflect with sadness the departure of the loss of a loved one. Add to this that we were told to refrain from applauding the whole evening. When it all ended, director Caisley switched off his music light and that was it.
For me this performance was a stark contrast to the custom of old in my home in Buenos Aires when I was prohibited from listening to music. It was Good Friday. At around 1:30 in the afternoon (my grandmother told me Christ had died at about that time) I was called in from playing in the street and my grandmother would read the last words of Christ from St. Luke’s Gospel. St Luke never soared like St. John but was keen on details; after all he was a physician.
Unlike those sombre Good Friday afternoons Friday's concert was the first in my recent memory where music represented something special in a day usually dedicated to silence. It helped that as I watched my friends a few smiles were sent in my direction.
As for our local churches with their affordable and most professional concerts, bravo!
|Sabathil & Son Harpsichord I photographed in 1980|
His Honour Snaps HImself
Thursday, March 28, 2013
In the last few years, while not liking to have my picture taken by others, I have almost enjoyed the idea of a self-portrait. This is particularly the case when I include myself in the picture. I remember with fondness this contact sheet of my self-portrait with Vancouver Mayor Robertson that culminated with his own portrait with me out of the picture. Since then I never did find a local magazine that showed any interest in the idea of having local celebrities take their own pictures.
In this picture Mayor Gregor Robertson faced a large Ikea mirror.
No Pictures To Like
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
For anybody who reads my blog directly (not via facebook where my handle is Alex Waterhouse Hayward or Twitter @alexwh) they know that I accept no comments. This has been a Godsend as I have no contacts with idle creep and other weirdos. But because I post my daily blog in those two social media people do leave comments which are mostly “so and so likes your picture”.
I am beyond taking offense to the fact that for many of my blogs I give careful thought and preparation of some sort of musing in essay form. The photograph is really just there for support.
Not too long ago I put a link to a blog in facebook that was not that day’s blog posting. From my Blogger Stats where I find what blogs of mine are being randomly read I pick these blogs from the past and re post them. One such blog had the picture of the kind of elderly woman you might run into at a Sally Ann. One prominent friend of mine who is an intense daily reader of books put the question, “Is that PD?” Had my friend read the body of the blog it would have been revealed that indeed it was P.D. James.
A more recent blog had a picture of my kindergarten class in which my presence is absent. Perhaps I was sick that day. That fact, that I am not in the picture is duly explained in the blog. Someone left a comment that they could spot me immediately.
The above reminds me of an incident with a neighbour of mine in Mexico City around 1973. He was the older son of a family of Spaniards that lived in a much nicer house than ours. We found out that we both read science fiction so we exchanged favourite books. I gave him Sirius by Olaf Stapleton. He placed in my hand a novel by Stanislaw Lem (cannot recall which) in Spanish. A month passed. We returned the books and had a short exchange of ideas on our impressions. I am convinced that neither of us had read the books!
That culture of reading Classics Illustrated
and skipping that long and tedious novel at least made us read a tad. The current social media has made us inveterate picture likers.
Comfort & Redemption With Dirty Harry
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Recently I have indulged in a four-day evening watch of the four Dirty Harry films from a complete set I purchased for five dollars at a DVD bin in the Great Canadian Superstore.
In the last film, Magnum Force Clint Eastwood has been brutally beaten up. He manages to survive it and goes into his hotel room where from a drawer he takes out a beautifully finished wooden case from which he removes a 44 Magnum AMP Auto Mag Model 180. He lifts the gun and you immediately know that with its power revenge and redemption are at hand.
As a little boy my frequent transgressions were defended by my grandmother. She who would tell anybody around that we were both artists and that factor had to be considered.
While I shared a love, friendship and understanding with my grandmother I never really accepted that artist thing until now.
At age 70 when one’s concept of utility (am I useful to anybody?) comes into question daily I keep this black metal case where I can neatly store three Nikons FM-2 with an assortment of lenses, from a fisheye to a 135mm telephoto, a Minolta Flashmeter and boxes of film. It is in my living room reminding me in a Dirty Harry type of comfort that they prove that I am an artist and by using them my redemption, my usefulness is at hand.
The idea that a man at age 70 is retired is anathema to me. I will not golf nor do I have the cash to do Machu Picchu or traverse the Panama Canal in a cruise ship with fellow golden-age retirees. But I can sometimes feel morose and I tell myself that I am WTD (waiting to die). The black case in the living room is a constant reminder that there is an opening of hope around the corner in the sound of a camera click.
An Apparition Outside My Living Room Window
Monday, March 25, 2013
I took this picture when I was an amateur gardener, but a working professional photographer. Today I worked very hard pruning many of my shrubs so that I can get more light into my garden. Arthritis prevents me from working sun up to sun down. I have to go easy. But as I pruned and hacked limbs off a huge conifer that casts a deep shadow on what used to be my very sunny rose bed I began to think that this sort of thing, a nude in a garden is something I might want to return to. I have a few candidates I think I can photograph.
A Broken Sex Doll Repairs My Relationship With My Granddaughter
Sunday, March 24, 2013
On Sunday Rebecca and I went to see the last performance of writer, director, producer and set designer Andy Thompson’s Broken Sex Doll
at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. I had previously read Vancouver Courier
Jo Ledingham’s glowing review of this musical which contains lots of four letter words and variants thereof.
We sat next to a very serious, late middle-aged couple who whispered so slightly that I could not decide if they were Persian or Latin. They seemed to me to be visiting psychologists either slumming or researching on how subtlety is a word that has lost its meaning. Rebecca whispered, “They are really cold, and I know that your Rosemary is not that much warmer but you are certainly not a cold fish.”
I was right and this foul play did make me laugh and it did help to bring back my wayward teenage-from-hell granddaughter a bit back into my fold. She knew that nobody in her family would have brought her to see this play.
The music was composed by a an actor I photographed last year, Anton Lipovetsky
, a young nerdish, warm and quiet spoken man who I would have never guessed had it in him to write such songs as I Can’t Get it Up
(perhaps director Thompson can claim credit for the lyrics as there is no mention in the program as to who did). The music, stayed with me, and the dancing full of unsubtle simulated sex moves that would have left La Pavlova in a cardiac arrest, kept the interest of Rebecca who was as happy as I have seen her in weeks.
When I purchased my tickets (the Cultch and the Arts Club Theatre Company have both divested themselves of the Ticketmaster Mafia, thank God!) I pointed out that my granddaughter was 16 (I lied as she is really 15) but they told me there was no problem.
I wonder (theatres are so lucky) and I am glad that they do not have to cope with our Province’s odd code for film. Both the Pacific Cinematheque and the VanCity Cinema Centre will not ever allow minors (except in rare occasions) because of the outdated code.
|Lauren Stewart & Benjamin Elliott|
The play while being set about 30 years into the future was very contemporary in exploiting social media even to the funny use of the Skype call sound when our malfunctioning robot (a beautiful woman at that) became a virtual computer/telephone connection.
The tall and gangly Benjamin Elliott played the aw-shucks type of protagonist who happens to, without prior knowledge (his memory was erased) to pull a Lazarus courtesy of the malfunctioning robot played by Gili Roskies. It is this Mr. Elliott who in several situations wore one of those codpieces that wrap around so that when he turned around his lovely buttocks were there for all of us to either gloat in admiration (my Rebecca being one of them) or squirm in shock (yours truly) who sang that one song I Can’t Get it Up.
I bring that up because you will see here a picture of Elliott with my other granddaughter, Lauren after the performance of the children’s play Munscha Mia
(Carousel Theatre) at the Waterfront Theatre back in March of 2011.
This fact set me to thinking. In the past several organizations who have wanted to link to my blog, they change their mind when they notice that I sometimes post photographs that they find questionable even though I make it a point to self-censor so you rarely see bits and pieces. Today’s blog features a glorious rear end. I hope I will be forgiven as much as I hope many forget that the tall, gangly and pleasant Benjamin Elliott did sing “I Can’t Get it Up,” to many, successful and packed performances of Broken Sex Dolls.
Kudos to the Cultch and to Heather Redfern for taking the chance with this play. While subtlety was not in the audience on Sunday, Broken Sex Doll did serve me well in getting me together with my granddaughter. Sushi at The Clubhouse Japanese Restaurant completed a satisfying evening.
In the car Rebecca asked me about that orange dress "that made it possible for my mother to be born." In a trip to Ottawa, when Rosemary and I were living in Mexico City (we had one daughter, Ale) Rosemary must have told her mother that things weren't all that well back at the Waterhouse-Hayward manor. It would seem that my mother-in-law of strict and religious Scottish heritage gave Rosemary very good advice. When I picked Rosemary up at Benito Juarez Airport I noticed she was wearing a very tight and very short orange dress. When we arrived home Hilary was conceived. At the time I did not have Benjamin Elliott's problem.