Two Eleven-Year-Old Girls Of Note
Saturday, November 02, 2013
I took pictures of the children of my
Argentine family. Many are the great grand children of my first
cousin/godmother Inesita Barber O’Reilly Kuker. There was one in particular
that caught my eye for several reasons. Agustina is charming, lovely, intelligent, and
has a face that I must look at constantly and to top it all she is almost the
same age, 11 as my younger granddaughter Lauren, 11.
Lauren came over today for her
post-Halloween portrait (I was commanded by her mother, my daughter Hilary
Stewart). She was dressed to look like Princess Leia.
My wife has urged me to experiment more
with my new Fuji X-E1 digital camera. I have yet to buy Lightroom so I am
unable to shoot in raw format and must content myself to shoot jpgs. I also
insist on setting my light meter (a handheld Minolta) to 100 ISO which is a
speed that Fuji
does not recommend. If I were to set it at 200 I would perhaps get a better
shadow detail and maybe less of a tendency to wash out the highlights. Shooting
raw would protect me from such a problem. In the pictures here I have yet to
nail down the problem of Lauren’s very reflective white dress. I used a beauty
dish which incremented the problem of contrast. Still I am happy with the
results. In my favourite picture where Lauren smiles I note that shooting
without the little camera on my tripod I tend to crop the sides where I do not
want to. I might have to do what I know I have to do which is to put the camera
on my tripod.
The pictures of Sofi I took with natural
window lighting using my Fuji
and a Nikon FM-2 with Fuji 800 ISO Superia colour negative. Behind her is an icon
beautifully painted by her mother Lola.
Bridge-Crossing Music - Colin MacDonald's Pocket Orchestra
Friday, November 01, 2013
My world in 1960 was full of my mother’s
music. There was Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and
But that sonic world changed gradually for
me when I discovered Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck and sometime around 1962 I
heard a record called Third Stream Music – The Modern Jazz Quartet and Guests. There
was a particular cut in that record (still one of my favourite pieces to play
very loud in my living room) called Sketch in which the MJQ plays alongside the
Beaux Arts String Quartet. It was in this piece that I first heard and liked the
sound of an “angry” cello. The record also exposed me to musicians who were then
experimenting with the idea of new music and of melding it with jazz. Two of them
were clarinetist Jimmy Jiuffre and French hornist Gunther Schuller.
It was this record and trips to concerts of
20th century music at the University
of Mexico that exposed me,
but I did not always like, to music that was not of the 19th century romantic
stream. A record from my ever favourite Stan Getz, his 1961 Focus (with
music composed and arranged by Eddy Sauter) helped to introduce me to the sound
of dissonance. In particular there was “I’m Late, I’m Late” which had an
unceasing background that unsettled and gave me relief when it all ended 8
minutes later. I soon grew to like this sort of thing.
It all clicked in my mind tonight at Fantasia
at the Orpheum Annex in a concert featuring Colin MacDonald’s “compact” Pocket
But before I can explain myself let me go
back to 1980 when writer Les Wiseman and I were returning from working on a
story that featured Vancouver, Washington and how the city was poised to either
vote or not vote for then President Jimmy Carter.
It was late evening and we were driving
through that covered section of the Seattle
freeway in my mid-engine Fiat X1/9 with the Clash playing London Calling very
loud. I noticed how the lights of the city streaked by fast and how the
repetition of the music all made me want to floor the gas pedal. It was then
that I began a list in my mind of music to drive fast on freeways or to cross
And tonight at Fantasia I can assert that not only are there London Calling by the Clash, Focus with Stan Getz, Sketch with the
MJQ, and a piece by 18th century composer, Joseph Haydn, his 21st
Symphony that can all be played loudly in a car while driving fast on a
freeway, preferably at night. but that there are others. I heard four more tonight, sitting on the front row, nice and loud (unfortunately stuck to my chair). These are
are Knowing the Ropes by Michael Nyman (1944), Kick by Steve Martland
(1954-2013) a composition associated with English football and I could imagine
Brixton hooligans trashing trains, Bunny’s Day Off by Pocket Orchestra cellist
Stefan Hintersteininger and Colin MacDonald’s (he plays all kinds of
saxophones) Skillful Means.
All of the pieces featured a repeating theme
that this amateur can only call a vamp much as the one by the piano, bass and
drums in Dave Brubeck’s Take Five. This “vamp” seems to inexorably become
louder and faster. You find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for a resolution.
This amateur happened to be sitting between
two professional musicians. To my left was soprano Alexandra Hill and to my right
composer Jocelyn Morlock. Just as soon as the night’s program began with Nyman’s
Knowing the Ropes I could not but smile, as Morlock was who told me when
it ended, "they began with something really difficult!"
Morlock was at the concert perhaps for the
very same reason I was. Where else but in concerts such as these and others of
Vancouver’s New Music Scene, like the performances of the Turning Point
Ensemble give you the privilege and pleasure of listening to music that is
brand new. Sometimes you leave these concerts with the melancholy that music played
for the first time might just be its last.
But thanks toYouTube and other on-line
music venues you can listen right here to at least two of the pieces I heard
The rest of the program had music that I
must listen to again, if that is possible. There was Steve Martland’s Mr.
Anderson’s Pavane, something that I would call a Bulgarian In Paris (complete
with the sounds of Gershwin, the trumpet of Chet Baker (and yes Pocket Orchestra Geeta Das did play a Fluegelhorn!), some Benny Goodman and
Bulgarian folk songs I have no knowledge of) Fantasia by Bentzion Eliezer (1920-1993) and a
rather challenging piece by Pocket Orchestra trombonist Brad Muirhead called You
Can Get There From Here. Of the latter if you would convert it into a question,
and if Ives were alive he would have said, “It is still unanswered.”
Perhaps I will have the opportunity not only to listen to it again but all the
other works that so satisfied me in an evening of delightful new music in which
the smile on the musicians’ faces (and in particular on saxophonist and clarinetist David Branter) reflected not only their fun in playing but
that they were sharing something that we must not forget, music has the
obligation to not only challenge but to entertain and please. The evening’s
concert succeeded in all three.
Of Hintersteininger’s Bunny’s Day Off, described
in the program notes : It is a breezily cheerful musician adventure
illustrating what might happen if a rabbit takes the day off work and gets
behind the wheel of a high-powered sports car, I can only add that it need not
be high-powered, a bright red Miata cruising through Seattle’s covered freeway
at night would do just fine. And below some fine bridge-crossing music.
Caroline Said II
Thursday, October 31, 2013
of the intensity of the evening/night, and the peace that came with the
next morning is still with me even though my memory fails me with dates.
Sometime in the mid 80s, in the afternoon I
received a phone call from my friend and In One Ear (Vancouver Magazine)
co-conspirator who said something like this, “Alex we have to go tonight to
Boston Bar. We must go now. We have to do this. And we will listen to Lou Reed
on your Fiat X/19’s tape player.” I tried to dissuade Wiseman from this trip
that seemed to be sheer folly not to mention the idea that staying at a hotel
(The Charles Hotel, I believe) would incur an expense. I went to my Rosemary for
advice thinking that she would tell me to ignore Wiseman. But, no, and she told
me, “You must go. He is your friend.”
And so I picked up Wiseman but not before
grabbing as many Lou Reed tapes I could find in my collection.
We drove the almost two-hour drive (the
X/19 was superb on curves) and Reed was on the tape machine all the way. The
one song that we kept repeating was Caroline Says II , from Reed’s Berlin. We arrived late
in Boston Bar and checked in. Not much was said. The next day, after breakfast
we drove back home.
I never got an explanation from Wiseman but
whatever fixed him fixed me, too.
Lisa a.k.a. Alexandria
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 7:08 PM
Yes, I believe you are
correct about seeing me last time. Although I seemed to have a vague memory of
it. I am glad to hear you are recovering, I have noticed the older I get the
longer it seems to take to heal.
It sounds like you
have a beautiful and full life except for maybe feeling blue about not
working.? What do you grow in your
I recently moved to
It is high desert here and hot, hot summers. I purchased a small home here and
find gardening to be a challenge! I did grow some fabulous tomatoes this past
summer! I am not sure if this is where I plan to stay, I am finding out if I
can be a desert flower. I love the greenery and the water and miss that part of
the other side of the mountains. I do like Oregon.
I am no longer married
and haven't seemed to master that part of my life. Although I remain in close
contact with an ex boyfriend of twelve years, he is your age and a very
interesting and special man. He has his PhD. in Physics. I am going to be 51
this November. I struggle to keep the tummy weight at bay and have become a
vegetarian. I don't have children and don't plan on it now. :) I have rescued 3
pit bulls Eco, Buddha and Akeem, all different ages and hike with them at a
local lake. They have taught me a lot about life.
I am not employed at
this time. I am working with a co-writer in new York on a book currently and hope to
have it published this coming spring. I am very excited about it and I wasn't
even aware I could write.
During my move I
recently found the photos you took of me and thought about what a fun time we
had and after all this time observed my own beauty. Thank you for encapsulating
me in your wonderful gift!
I wish you a healthy
recovery and please try the freshly grated ginger and lemon tea it does wonders
and gives you pleasant breath as a bonus!
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
|Roberto Baschetti at the Viejo Faro, Bella Vista|
One of the distinct pleasures of visiting Buenos Aires, my place of
birth is that I have a family there. This time around I met up with a first
cousin from my mother’s side, Wenceslao de Irureta Goyena whom I had not seen
in 50 years. But on my father’s side I have three first cousins, one Inesita
happens to be my godmother. She has five children and her five children have
families of at least five kids. I am not sure that Inesita, now 90 can remember
the name of all her grandchildren, not to mention the great-grandchildren.
When I visit Inesita and company I am
surrounded by family, a large one. This unfortunately contrasts with my small
family (but intimate it is) in British
Columbia where I have two daughters and two granddaughters.
It is simply a case of math. Because I am
now 71 I no longer have any uncles. I have three first cousins in BA and four
more in the United States.
When I look at my two year old address book
(I quit buying them when I realized I would put few new names and cross out
lots every year) it is a sure thing that my life is in diminishing returns re
friends and relatives.
That is why I want to report that before I
traveled to Buenos Aires
I met my friend Nora Patrich’s new beau (they have been together 7 years)
through Skype and I instantly sensed we would make good friends. This was the
I stayed in Nora Patrich and Roberto
Baschetti’s home in Bella Vista for three weeks. During that time I was exposed
to a warm man, always with a grin on his face, who made me feel instantly at home.
And that is even though, politically we were at odds. He is an avowed Peronist.
I am not. He works at the Biblioteca Nacional
where he researches Argentine history and specializes on Eva Perón, Juan Domingo
Perón and that period in Argentine history
when the military government “disappeared” thousands of political activist, many
who did not believe violence.
Baschetti lives with
an artist, who can be difficult at times. He seems to deal with Nora Patrich
and knows when to retreat to his office.
It was our daily
morning routine that endeared him to me. We would walk, around 10 in the
morning (leaving earlier became a problem as our train at the station was
simply too full) to the Ferrocarril San Martín station which was 8 blocks away.
We would head to the
corner café (across from the station) called El Viejo Faro (the Old
Lighthouse). This café was run by venerable waiters who had worked there for at
least 40 years. We would sit down and order our usual two cortados (a strong
coffee with a bit of milk foam) and two medias lunas de manteca (butter croissants) for me and two
medias lunas de grasa (lard) for him. Baschetti did not approve of my dunking
the beautiful pastry. And he never mentioned one way or another if he agreed on
my technique of pouring one little packet of sugar which I did not stir. At the
end of the coffee the coffee-laced sugar at the bottom is a delight.
|Roberto Baschetti & Nora Patrich |
We talked of
Borges, of books of his football team Boca Juniors or about politics. Both of
us avoided confrontations on that front.
After our breakfast we
would cross the street where Baschetti always insisted on using his transit pass
to get my ticket. We would let the train that came from farther out of the city
and get on one that came from nearer stations. We usually sat down for the
almost one hour trip to downtown Buenos
Aires. We would get off one station before the end of
the line Retiro at Palermo.
It was there that I took the subte (the subway) to my destination while
Baschetti took a bus to the library.
We usually made
arrangements to meet in the evening at 7:45 at Retiro. We always managed to
I miss Baschetti and I
miss his wonderful asados (barbecues). But what amazes me and gives me food for
happy thought, is that I have made a new friend. It seems that this is not an
easy task these days for an old man.
Turning Point Ensemble, Forbidden Music - A Tuba & A Glockenspiel
Monday, October 28, 2013
My matinee experience on Sunday’s Turning
Point Ensemble performance of Forbidden Music was stellar. To begin with I was
in the company of a gorgeous soprano, Alexandra Hill, elegantly dressed in
black. We arrived early enough so that we could
sit front-row-centre and be perhaps only five feet away from conductor Owen Underhill.
The reason for sitting in the front row is
that if you are near a smallish ensemble you can listen clearly every
individual instrument by just looking at it.
How often can you enjoy the sound and
sights of a beautifully new-looking tuba (Peder MacClellan)? Or how about a contrabassoon in
which the horn points downward (Ingrid Chiang wearing killer fishnets), two
trombones, muted and unmuted (Jeremy Berkman and Sharman King on the awesome bass
trombone), an impressive bass clarinet (Caroline Gauther, who in spite of
wearing black pants I was able to discern some elaborate filigreed black
stockings) and all this and much more such as…Adrián Verdejo on guitar and banjo sporting facial
hair that made him resemble a cross between d’Artgnan and Paganini while
nearby, Jane Hayes and her wonderful hair did not manage, this time, to
demolish her piano?
It is interesting to
point out that many musicians are not content to rest on their laurels, of
playing the usual, but are part of the Turning Point Ensemble because they feel
they must push the limits of the contemporary repertoires. There is Marc
Destrubé on violin who has been fronting the Microcosmos String Quartet that is
playing Benjamin Britten and Bella Bartok quartets in exquisitely performed
concerts in beautiful Lower Mainland homes. The couple, Mary Sokol Brown,violin,
David Brown, bass, and cello player Ari Barnes could very well find themselves
busy with their performances for the VSO but deem it personally necessary to play for the
Turning Point Ensemble.
In short all these
stellar musicians including David Owen on oboe and François Houle on clarinet
combine to make an extremely tight and virtuoso ensemble that can one minute
make a largish ensemble as they did for Kurt Weill’s Little Threepenny Music
(1928) or can pare down to a four in Pavel Hass’s (1899-1944, was gassed in Auschwitz)
Wind Quintet op. 10 (1929).
While our detailed
program notes informed us that composer Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942), the
Ensemble played his Concerto for String Quartet and Wind Orchestra (193) had
mastered and incorporated jazz in his compositions, I noted that Hass, sounded
wonderfully Jewish (Klezmer-like) and I could have sworn that many of the notes
in the second movement of his Quintet, Preghiera: Misterioso e triste were
But it was the first piece of the
afternoon, Paul Hindemith’s (1895-1963) Chambermusic Nr1 composed when he was
25 that was the pleasant shocker. The dissonance may have been there. It was,
but seeing (and hearing) it played is much different and accessible to being
exposed to it in a living room stereo or on the radio. And then there was that
beautifully melodic third part Quartet – very slow and with feeling, in which
François Houle, clarinet, Elizabeth Mee, bassoon, Brenda Fedoruk, flute and
Martin Fisk on glockenspiel went back and forth in what seemed to me a sonic
The only sad note for
me was the realization that few if any who were not there at the concert might
ever have the chance of listening to those pieces, banned by Hitler and
Company, this 21st century. It is a pity that such beautiful music of that last 20th
has been relegated to an obscurity as cruel as Hitler’s.
More Turning Point Ensemble
A Venus In Fur & A Dog Collar
Sunday, October 27, 2013
This past Saturday I went to a comfortable
matinee performance of David Ives’s Venus in Fur at the Art Club Theatre
Company’s Granville Island Stage.
I was up front so I was able to see
everything in detail and listen to every nuance of the dialogue of this two
person play, Lindsey Angell as Vanda and Vincent Gale as Thomas.
To make a short story short, Thomas is a
playwright (and adapter he calls himself) looking for a woman to play a sort of
dominatrix who happens to be a high patrician countess from Transylvania. A dumb blonde, Lindsey Angell crashes (late
in “it was a dark and stormy night”) the audition of a frustrated Thomas who
seems to be unable to find the right person for his play-in-progress. It is a play based on a 19th century novel by Austrian Leopold von Sacher-Masoch836–1895) most famous for his erotic novels.
I will not reveal more of this delightful (and
sexy) play that closes November 2 except that this is a work with many
surprises. Some of those surprises come via Costume Designer Christine Reimer's choice of what Lindsey Angell wears. There are fishnets, latex and many more etcs!
The principal surprise is that the play and its actress do not
answer the question that anybody who is not an actor is in constant query – can actors act themselves? And if they can, can we ever know?
Suffice to say that Angell, is a dumb blonde
for a bit, then she becomes the sophisticated Transylvanian countess/dominatrix,
a spy, and ultimately a vengeful Greed goddess.
A few days later Lindsey Angell posed for
me. I was surprised to notice that she is shorter, more beautiful and older
(because she told me so) woman than the many I saw on stage on Saturday. In
this Fuji Instant snap I sort of think I may have caught the real Lindsey
Angell, but then I am not all that sure.
And a final note - Vincent Gale as Thomas,
plays the perfect nerdish adaptor of plays and allows Angell to pull through
with her tour de force so that the whole play made me feel I was spying through