Lacrimosa dies illa At Dunbar Heights United Church
Saturday, April 19, 2014
Good Friday - Rosa sericea subs. omeienses f. pteracantha
At 71 it is beyond impossible to forget and
abandon a Roman Catholic background. This is particularly so when I have been
listening to J.S. Bach’s Saint John Passion as performed by Monica Huggett’s
(violin) Portland Baroque Orchestra with my friends Tyler Duncan, bass and
Matthew White, alto, for a few days.
How can one forget one’s religious heritage
when one opts for an intimate performance of Mozart’s Requiem at Dunbar Heights
I could have gone to listen to a mass choir version in a symphony hall. This on
a sunny day, but still a somber one was a better choice.
It was only last night as my granddaughter
Rebecca and I returned from an evening at the theatre that I explained that the
music we were listening to was Bach’s St. John Passion. I told her, “I am listening to
it because tomorrow is Good Friday.” In an ignorance of the times she asked, “But
isn’t it Easter?” I had to retort (gently), "Christ had to die on a Good Friday
to leave us with hope on Saturday and his Resurrection on Easter Sunday.”
Before going to this Friday evening performance
with my friend Graham Walker, of the Requiem by Soloists, Alexandra Hill,
soprano, Melissa Howell, alto, Clinton Stoffberg, tenor, Joel Klein, baritone,
the Centennial Choir and Chamber Orchestra of the Dunbar Heights United Church,
emphatically directed by Greg Caisley, I thought of the colours of these three
It occurred to me that Good Friday must be
black or red or both. Saturday is the day of hope. The colours can be green (renewal) or
blue (the colour of the Virgin Mary). And of course Easter is white as it represents Christ’s resurrection, His
defeat of death into the light, white light, white vestments.
|Easter Saturday - Geranium 'Rozanne'|
During the Good Fridays of my early youth,
my mother would beckon me in from playing with my friends in the street
sometime around 1pm. On that day we could not listen to the radio or any kind
of music. My grandmother Lolita would arrive and the three of us would kneel. Abue,
as I called my grandmother would read the Seven Last Words of Christ. After all
that I would return to the street unable to explain to my best friend, Mario
Hertzberg why I had left our play.
I believe that my grandmother, who was a fine
coloratura soprano would have condoned to my listening to music today. She
could not have possibly denied me the Requiem and she would have enjoyed as
much as I did the fine solo soprano that is my friend and tocaya Alexandra Hill.
Walker and I lucked out as we sat on the
front row a mere four feet from Director Greg Caisley, and I could have even
played footsies (Caisley would not have approved, after all she is his wife)
with Concert Mistress Yi Zhou who could have easily wacked me with her bow had
I tried, that’s how close we were.
Back, hidden by the choir, was legendary
trumpet player (now retired but not so quietly) Martin Barenbaum. I had his records
back in the 70s in Mexico
and I once heard him play Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto, and Bach’s Brandenburg
Concerto No 2 (with an almost impossible trumpet part) at the Orpheum in the
While the small chamber orchestra was not
playing with period instruments, its presence in the church with us up front
had all the lovely trappings of Walker and I being dukes of the realm listening
to the performance in our palace salon.
|Easter Sunday - Magnolia stellata|
One of the interesting characters in the
church as my eyes wandered away from the statuesque Alexandra Hill, is the
Reverend Richard Bott, who seems to be the great organizer, the sound recorder,
the usher to fit more people in (it was packed) but most importantly to make
pleas, gentle pleas, for our donations to keep these wonderful concerts going.
Another person of note, for Walker and me
was spotting a bearded Ken Hughes, baritone, in the choir. Hughes is a
legendary graphic designer and former instructor at Emily Carr. He taught Walker design. With
Hughes I worked on a campaign to get Bob Bose elected as Surrey Mayor.
Another standout for this vile amateur that
I am is tenor Clifton Stoffberg who I saw recently as part of a Musica Intima
collaboration with the Turning Point Ensemble and the Nu-BC Collective, Thirst
Melissa Howell, alto, and Joel Klein, baritone were steady in their parts along
with that firm and also steady man at the cello, Stefan Hintersteininger.
This was my first live Mozart Requiem. It
is a performance that I will treasure for as long as am able to remember.
|Director Greg Caisley takes a bow|
|Alexandra Hill, behind right Ken Hughes, Clinton Stoffberg|
The Grandkid At The Gateway Theatre - A Gabork Of A Play
Friday, April 18, 2014
|Pippa Mackie & Rebecca Stewart|
I will not hide from those who read this
that presently my 16-year old granddaughter and I are mutually experiencing a
period of somewhat difficult transition. I have learned that the best technique to
handle a teenager from hell is to not badger, sermonize, suggest, shout at and
most of all not to lose my cool when confronted by teenage illogical.
But with all the lows come a few highs.
Last Sunday Rebecca accepted my texted (iPhone 3G) invite to come over. I had a
tray in the sunny garden with some aged American cheddar, slices of watermelon,
crackers and my father’s mate. On a separate stool (a beautiful Chinese ceramic
stool, or is it a plant stand?) I had a kettle with water that had almost
boiled (to make a proper mate you must never allow the water to boil). I made
the concession to my granddaughter by making a sugar bowl available.
My granddaughter is the only person I know
in Vancouver with whom I can indulge in that so Argentine ritual of the mate.
That the lovely mate gourd is my father’s and is at least 80 years old makes
that special Argentine bond that I have with Rebecca all that more special.
We, Rebecca and I, found something of that
ritual magic in the John Lazarus play The Grandkid at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre. This theatre is a
promising venue for good theatre, an alternative option for those who do not
want to drive (or take transit) to Vancouver’s
bustling theatrical community.
This two-person play (Richard Newman as
Julius and Pippa Mackie as Abby) is directed just right by Natasha Nadir.
My good friend, novelist, writer and film
reviewer John Lekich knew John Lazarus when the playwright lived in Vancouver. Lekich told me
that Lazarus writes plays that are not complex in structure but are beautiful
in helping us learn about ourselves.
From our vantage point of centre front row
Rebecca and I sat not knowing what to expect. I had seen Richard Newman before
as Polonius in Bard on the Beach. Of Pippa Mackie I know a bit more. I
photographed her as new talent for the Straight two years ago and saw her last
year in Pi Theatre’s brutal but unforgettable Terminus
|Pippa Mackie & actor friend Anton Lipovitzky|
I had an inkling then that the play would
have good acting.
During the intermission, an elderly woman
(much older than this 71 year-old grandfather) sitting behind me told her
friends, “I like him but she is a bit over the top.” They went on talking but I
could not resist interjecting, “Do any of you have a 16-year old granddaughter
like this one (pointing at Rebecca) and do any of you remember your
grandchildren? If you do you will then know that Mackie is dead on with her
gestures, her door slamming, even how she talks. Rebecca and I cannot figure if
this is exceptional acting or that at 25 Mackie is young enough to remember
what it was like.”
The people behind warmed up to us and were
delighted to find out that in the audience of the theatre, full of the blue
rinse crowd there was a genuine grandkid.
Of Mackie’s performance my Rebecca was
short and sweet (of sweet there is more later), “She is me.”
The Grandkid’s very Jewish content made my
very Latin/Argentine relationship with Rebecca all the more enjoyable and
understandable. The Grandkid’s very Canadian outlook/content made is easier for
me to appreciate living north of the 49th parallel. Richard Newman
plays a grandfather a tad younger, 68, than this one. But repeating Rebecca’s
words, “He was indeed me, in some ways.”
After the show, as promised, Mackie came
out to talk to the two of us and I took my snap. Rebecca and I said very little
in the car, knowing we had seen a good play.
But something that Rebecca had told me
earlier lingered with me. And in spite of what I could perceive as possible
negativity I saw it as the opposite.
“I told my friend that I was going with my
grandfather to the theatre tonight.” They said, “You must be joking. You mean
he is still alive?”
In The Grandkid Abby gives Julius ten more
years of life. She gives him meaning and his moribund career is rejuvenated. I
can state here that my Rebecca keeps me alert and on my toes. As for the meaning of the word gabork you have until April 26 to find out.
And finally to the more “sweet” promised
above. Thanks to my friend Lekich and his memory (who can channel pachyderms) I
can reveal that the studious and wonderful actor, Richard Newman was part of a
band I once saw in the 80s. The band’s name was Sweet Dick. Now, what would
Abby have said about that?
|Richard Newman centre right with sunglasses|
1981 - 2005
Arbuthnot "Bert Wienie Dick" ~ Guitar, Vocals
Linda Kidder "Lips Dick" ~ Bass, Vocals
Drew Neville "Daffy Dick" ~ Piano
Richard Newman "Rick Dickulous" ~
Peter Padden "PP Dick" ~ Drums, Vocals
Bob Popowich "Rob Roy the Highland Dick" ~
Dan Smith "Humpback Dick" ~ Guitar, Vocals
Ron Stelting "Radar Lovedick" ~ Percussion,
The Bomb-Itty Of Errors -Teaches An Old Dog A New Trick
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Sometime in the afternoon yesterday it occurred
to me that Rosemary and I had a date to attend the opening of an Arts Club
Theatre production of Jordan Allen-Dutton, Jason Catalano, Gregory J. Qaiyum,
Erik Weiner, and Jeffrey Qaiyums’ A Bomb-itty of Errors.
I am a Roman Catholic and I believe not
only in the existence of hell but an almost as scary version called Hell on
Hell on Earth could be being forced to
witness a tap dancing convention or driving to Seattle with a young man playing rap, very
loud in his car. I would probably open the door somewhere around White Rock and
I do not know when hip-hop became rap or
the other way around. In fact I believe rap is bad poetry over bad robotic rhythm
Last night after 10 minutes of The
Bomb-itty of Errors and witnessing my Rosemary’s gaze in shock I had to add
salt to the wound by whispering into her ear, “There are 80 minutes more of
For those 10 minutes and many more I came
to the conclusion that Shakespeare’s English was far easier to understand. I
will never complain at a conventional production of King Lear again.
Yes! The Bomb-Itty of Errors is a fairly
accurate conversion of Shakespeare’s play, The Comedy of Errors to rap. There
are two short Dromios (one from Ephesus, the
other from Syracuse),
David Kaye and Niko Koupantsis) and two tall Antipholus (Antipholuses or
Antipholusi?), Brian Cochrane and Jameson Matthew Parker who also play
everybody else (who might be tall). Brian Cochrane also plays the unpoetic/unrapper,
but very Kosher Jewish jeweler so well I thought there were more than four
actors (at times actresses) in the play.
Somewhere around the 12 minute mark when I
might have thrown myself out of that rap car to hell I began to understand the
words and I heard myself laughing. At age 71, and my wife not too far behind (who
was smiling), we prove that you can indeed teach old dogs new tricks.
This play is hilarious and it has lots of
crude (more than ribald) humor featuring allusions to cunnilingus and fellatio plus connections
with baseball that are beyond base. Luckily I am well versed in that sport and
I know you cannot steal first base.
Best of all Niko Koupantsis who besides
playing Adriana’s (Jameson Matthew Parker) sister Luciana (sporting the
funniest lisp this side of a few CBC Radio announcers), also plays the meanest,
most corrupt, ethically and morally cop (gaoler I the original play) I have
ever seen or read about anywhere.
|The Webb twins as the twin Dromios, 1864|
But the real heroes of this play (that I
liked with no rhyme or reason) are the quick dressers back stage that keep
making one thing that the cast of four is a cast of thousands. The set design
by Ian Schimpf, with two sliding doors that open and close throughout the
90-minute, show keep it all flowing impossibly.
While I would recommend this play to all my
friends I would still not hop on that car, that hip-hop car to Seattle. On the other hand I just might go
along for the ride if Arts Club Managing Director, Bill Millerd would be my
After the show I spotted the Vancouver Sun’s former
theatre critic Peter Birnie. He was grinning. Ample proof he is not an old dog
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
I smelled of gin. Not just casually, as if I had taken four or five drinks of a winter morning to get out of bed on, but as if the Pacific Ocean was pure gin and I had nose-dived off the boat deck. The gin was in my hair and eyebrows, on my chin and under my chin. It was on my shirt. I smelled like dead toads.
Chapter XXXII - The Lady in the Lake - Raymond Chandler
Monday, April 14, 2014
|Rosa 'L.D. Braithwaite' |
Tomorrow Tuesday I am giving a talk at the
monthly meeting of the Vancouver Rose Society. We call ourselves Rosarians but
we are not a secret society with secret handshakes. We are a group of people
who are aging with few young persons to give the society new blood. As Brian
Minter often points out, silently without a word when asked about the decline
of gardening, he raises his smart phone.
Therein lies the blame -perhaps not. Who knows?
Except for wild species roses, most roses,
those old roses, hybrid teas, etc and etc, are like old-fashioned mistresses or
a gigolo’s female sponsor. They need care, cajoling and like cats they
sometimes ignore it all and disappear without saying goodbye. Less poetically
you might say that roses are not easy-care plants for your patio or condo
balcony. They require commitment. It is the fact that roses are really not all that easy that attracts me to them. As a photographer by profession I do not like the concept of point-and-shoot cameras. I like the complexity of dials and settings. And best of all roses have a rich history behind them that involves Napoleon's wife, the crusaders, Henry the 8th's flagship Mary Rose and even a famous cellist who picked her white rose before she died. There is a lot behind the name of a rose.
While preparing my talk for tomorrow
(something I have been mulling over with a tad of insomnia) I asked myself why
Umberto Eco’s fine début novel, The Name of the Rose was called that. I went
down to my computer to investigate. The answer to my question is like a
multi-petalled English Rose Rosa ‘L.D. Braithwaite’, extremely complex. In fact
Eco published a small tome called Postscript to The Name of a Rose and there is
even this: The Key to "The Name of the Rose" by Adele J. Haft, Jane G.
White, and Robert J. White, 1987.
In Eco’s Postcript to The Name of the Rose
I found this stupendous quote by a favourite poet of mine, Sor Juana Inez de la
Cruz ((12 November 1651 – 17 April 1695), who was a Mexican nun living in what
was then called New
Spain. In many respects Sister Juana (of the Hieronomyte Order)
was a proto feminist now almost largely forgotten (but not in Mexico) to that other Mexican
proto-feminist, the one with the moustache and one wide eyebrow.
Rosa que al prado, encarnada,
te ostentas presuntuosa
de grana y carmín bañada:
campa lozana y gustosa;
pero no, que siendo hermosa
también serás desdichada.
Red rose growing in the meadow,
you vaunt yourself bravely
bathed in crimson and carmine:
rich and fragrant show.
But no: Being fair,
You will be unhappy soon.
Annie Captured Our Hearts In Red
Sunday, April 13, 2014
My granddaughter Lauren, 11 and I made our drive
to New Westminster
on Saturday night with the anticipation of being able to see a musical, the Royal
City Musical Production of Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin’s
Annie, of which we were completely ignorant about. As we drove I spotted a bus
shelter radio add with the tag line, “You cannot be a virgin forever.” We would soon find out what it would mean to
see a production, for the first t time, so many people knew about and who kept
their experiences of it in a warm heart.
We got lost. Between my dyslexia and New
West’s streets and avenues with few having a real name. But we had left with
plenty of time and arrived half an hour early. This was our first exposure to
Massey Theatre, with the fee, the red cutain, the red seats, of a grand old movie house of my youth.. And it was to be a wonderfully rewarding one of which I will
always remember in the colour red!
The lobby was full of older people with
many children. It was packed. I overheard them comparing notes on previous
experiences with the musical and or the film (which neither Lauren or I ever
saw.) I had a chat with the legendary dancer/actor Jeff Hyslop who was there
with a child. I also saw an extremely serious (one of the funniest men on
earth) Norm Grohmann. We talked of my favourite CBC funny radio program ever,
Doctor Bundolo’s Pandemonium Medicine Show. I felt I was in a time warp. I had
first photographed Hyslop and Grohman in the late 70s. The audience there
seemed to be straight from that Burnaby
neighbourhood I had lived back then - a world that preceded iPhones and
terrorism – a kinder more naïve world.
I was to be proven wrong.
This production has a big, nicely loud and
competent band with lots of brass. Lauren and I liked the band and during the
interval we went to look down on the orchestra pit and she asked me the name of
every visible instrument. I spotted and noted a beautiful bass clarinet.
I was nicely surprised that Valerie Easton
who I first met and photographed in the late 70s as a dancer with Jeff Hyslop
and Jim Hibbard at the CBC, then as a choreographer for Arts Club Theatre musicals
is the Artistic Director. At halftime I had a short chat and she seemed
serious, something about the night not being as good as the previous one. She
must be a perfectionist because this show which has lots (and lots) of set
movement went without a hitch.
Lauren became enamored with the little girls
at the orphanage particularly with the real-life sister of the stage Annie,
Julia MacLean. This was Jamie MacLean, 8, as Molly. She is so tiny that Lauren
said, “She looks like she is in kindergarten.” I am confident that Jamie could
fill GM Place
(or whatever it is called now) with her voice.
Since I had seen Steve Maddock (Oliver
Warbucks) in the Arts Club Theatre production of Disney’s The Beauty and the
Beast I knew that Maddock looks a lot like Lauren’s father. She admitted she
In our ignorance of all things Annie we
were disappointed to note that this production’s Annie did not have curly red
hair. It was straight. But again we were proven wrong and I will not reveal anything
more on this!
Caitlin Clugston as Miss Hannigan who rules
the orphanage between swigs from her hip flask (not stored there but in a much
more intimate place), pretty well ruled the stage as well every time she was
on. At first I thought her performance was over-the-top until I figured, “I am
watching a live presentation of a cartoon strip. And of course it has to be
over the top.”
Lauren had a great time. I watched her
during the show and her smile was almost constant. But she could have never
understood how this play, which one would think is totally dated, is not. In
fact the dialogue between Maddock’s Warbucks and R.G. Miller’s Franklin D. Roosevelt (nicely performed with lots of warmth)
felt like one (much more civilized, of course as things seemed then) in today’s
United States House of Representatives. You see Warbucks is a Republican and
Roosevelt the “New Deal” Democrat. Warbucks’s recommendation to getting people
out of the streets into his factories seemed like contemporary Rachel talking
points from the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.
In short this production (I cannot wait to
see what Valerie Easton will do with My Fair Lady, next year) will please
children of all ages but at the same time it will challenge the ideas we adults
have about the social and economic pressures of our age.
Annie will be on until April 26.