I Only Smell The Rose - Do I Exist?
Saturday, May 24, 2014
|Rosa 'Charles de Mills' July 14, 2012|
We are often faced with the logical
conundrum, one that Socrates might have used to stump his “friends” the
Sophists on the question if a tree falls in a forest and nobody hears it fall,
the event has not happened, or has it?
My version of this one is a photographic
one. When American photographer Gary Winogrand died thousands of unprocessed
rolls of film were found. They were processed and those images saw the light of
day. Had this not happened would those photographs have existed at all? Some of
us with some knowledge of photography would have asserted that indeed they were
latent images in the unprocessed negatives.
I was thinking about this today, Saturday
May 24, 2014 as I walked in our garden about 8pm. At this hour contrast is low
and all the shades of green and the muted colours of the few flowers that are
in bloom are spectacular in a most subtle way. And this even applies to the
lurid, bright red or crimson rhododendrons that came with our house when we
moved into it in 1986.
I noticed that in our lane garden Rosa ‘Splendens’ was in bloom. This is a tiny
multi-petalled rose that is the only original rose that smells completely differently
to any other rose. In the mid 1800s Rosa ‘Belle Isis’ appeared and it had this
same complex fragrance that the English call myrrh. Rosa ‘Belle Isis’ became
one of the parents of David Austin’s first English Rose in 1968, Rosa ‘Constance
I have many roses with this smell that is
just about my favourite of all if I forget just for a second the existence of
The fact is that my memory is very good for
fragrances and as I approached my nose to Rosa ‘Splendens’ I was rewarded with
a confirmation that my memory is of yet not failing me.
Not, too far, but inside the garden there
was one bloom (not quite open) of the English Rose Rosa ‘Fair Bianca’. It too
has that myrrh scent but it is a bit more complex than Splendens. I would add a
bit of lemon and magnolia soap (for anybody who might have ever had a cake of
The smell of those two roses and of the
rest already in bloom now, of Reine des Violettes, Redouté, Hansa, Wild Edric and a mystery rose from
Brentwood Bay Nursery for which I lost the label, made me ache in pleasure. It
felt almost like the pain one gets when one eats baklava to suddenly find out
there is a tooth cavity.
The pain came from the
realization that I am the only one who ever smells my roses. The scent is
exquisite and yet most of the people I know show no interest.
I recently went to a
wonderful concert. The Largo of a Handel sonata was so exquisite
that I felt that pain of not being able to figure out why the place was not completely
full of people. I simply wanted to share my pleasure.
So my question is, “If
I am the only one who smells my roses, do I exist?”
I am illustrating this blog with one of my favourite roses which is not yet in bloom. But the scan of the Charles de Mills (a Gallica Rose) past its prime is so beautiful that I want to eat some baklava. Fortunately I have no cavities.
A Sweet Baroque Embouchure Not To Be Missed
Thursday, May 22, 2014
|Colin MacDonald & Domenico Gabrielli|
It has been impossible for me to locate the
lovely short story from an 80s Penthouse Magazine about some savvy LA music
producers who bring Domenico Scarlatti in a time machine from the 18th
century with the idea of presenting the public with some fresh new music. Unfortunately
for the music men, Scarlatti abandons his harpsichord for a Moog Synthesizer,
disappears and appears again as a member of a rock band.
One of my favourite short novels is Alejo
Carpentier’s Concierto barroco (1974) based on the 1709 meeting of Vivaldi,
Handel and Domenico Scarlatti, with cameo appearances by Wagner and Stravinsky,
and fictional characters from the new world who inspire the Venetian composer's
Because in the story the trio of Vivaldi,
Handel and Scarlatti are at a bar during the Venetian carnevale they are quite
drunk. A rich visiting Mexican (owns silver mines) dressed as Moctezuma (note the correct spelling) meets
up with them by accident. Vivaldi enquires about the costume but gets the whole
story about the Spanish and Moctezuma all wrong and even casts elephants into
his opera Motezuma.
If I were to re-write this story, the
Mexican’s companion, a very black Cuban would be replaced by my friend composer
and saxophone player Colin MacDonald.
Carpentier who invented something called lo
real maravilloso (doesn’t that sound much like magic realism?) has Wagner, dead
in a coffin pass in his funeral cortege on St. Mark’s Square. We find out that
Wagner died in Venice but was not buried there
and the reverse of that is that Stravinsky who died elsewhere was buried in Venice. Louis Armstrong
and his trumpet also make an appearance. Why not MacDonald?
Let me digress to mention that one of my
favourite Miles Davis albums is his Sketches of Spain. But I absolutely detest Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. So popular
was the Davis
album that many versions of the Concierto appeared shortly after and I believe I heard a version
placed with a kazoo.
And I also detest
those who upon hearing a Bach Violin Sonata played with a mouth organ will say,
“Bach would have approved.” I detest them! How do they know?
So in January 2013 when I heard a trio
that featured a harpsichord, a cello and Colin MacDonald playing Vivaldi and
Handel with a baritone and soprano sax I was floored in admiration. MacDonald
made his baritone sax in a high register sound like a bassoon and his soprano sax
(not always a sweet instrument) mimicked a flute.
I don’t particularly
care if Vivaldi, or Handel or Gabrielli or even Papa Bach would have approved. I
like it and I strongly suggest you who might be reading this decide to attend
the concert tomorrow Friday. You will be delighted.
The Baroque Saxophone
Friday, May 23 at 7:30
St. Mark's Church, 1805 Larch St, Vancouver,
Tickets $20/10 at the
door or from http://baroquesaxophone.brownpapertickets.com/
With guest artists
Christina Hutten and Marina Hasselberg
This is the program
Concerto in E minor,
RV 484 by Antonio Vivaldi (originally bassoon, arranged for baritone sax)
Folie à Deux by Colin
MacDonald (soprano saxophone and continuo)
Solo Suite V, BVW 1011
by J.S. Bach (originally cello, arranged for baritone sax)
Cello Sonata in G
major by Domenico Gabrielli
Trio Sonata in G
minor, KWV 393 by G.F. Handel (baritone sax and cello)
I must note that
MacDonald’s composition, Folie à Deux is based on an ancient 16th or
17 century tune allegedly about a mad dancing woman. This tune was tackled by so
many composers including versions by Arcangelo Corelli and Francesco Geminiani that
I can assert here that it was the Louie Louie of its time.
And if all that is not
enough you might note what kind of shoes the cellist will be wearing.
There are rumours in the jazz community that redhaired Gerry Mulligan who was a virtuoso of the baritone saxophone was distantly related to a red haired priest who lived in Venice in the 18th century.
|The Red Haired Priest - Illustration attributed to Grahamus Caminati|
The Beauty Of The Vulgar
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
The genus name Aquilegia is derived
from the Latin word for eagle (aquila), because the shape of the flower
petals, which are said to resemble an eagle's claw. The common name
"columbine" comes from the Latin for "dove", due to the
resemblance of the inverted flower to five doves clustered together.
Today Rosemary told me to take a photograph
of the white aquilegias inside what we call the cercis bed. I was rude to her
and said, “You know how I feel about taking pictures of plants.” I felt a tad
guilty so I cut one of the startlingly white flowers (that for reasons that I cannot understand scan with a green cast) that in their swirls
remind me of alien space ships and brought it inside to scan. Here are the
results. If you consider that this white aquilegia (most of the native ones to
BC are of more lurid colours) is called Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Nivea’ (sometimes
Alba), you might wonder how something vulgar can be so beautiful.
I tell as many people as I can that my
scanner can exceed the magnification of most high school microscopes. I get not
satisfaction except a somewhat boring nod. Thanks to my scanner I can explore
the beauty of the commonplace. The last picture is a scan that I took in 2012.
A Weed Not -Revealed
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
|Echinops ritro 'Veitch's Blue' |
By some sort of strange
paradox, my wife the Master Gardener tends to show enthusiasm for plants that
in a short time become invasive weeds. She showed preference for epimediums,
lamium, viola labradorica and, of more recent vintage, the aggressive
clover-like oxalis. My own roses and hostas grow to maturity and know how to
keep their place with the possible exception of a most vigorous Rosa sericea subsp. omeiensis f. pteracantha.
The problem with
Rosemary’s “weeds” is that they show their vigour early in spring and prevent
slower plants from getting light. This means that many plants in our garden
have succumbed, overcome by lack of light and invasive roots. Plants like Viola
labradorica, epimedium and oxalis have a root structure much like that of an
iceberg under water. What you see does not compare with what is underground!
Now some plants may
look like weeds and not be so. Two of those are the thistle, Echinops ritro and
the thistle-like Eryngium. The latter and in particular Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss
Willmott’s Ghost’ is a lovely biennial. This means that it flowers on its second year and then goes to seed. Somehow it has not reseeded itself and
we have lost it. The current garden depression means that we cannot replace it.
Of the former we have a very nice clump of Echinops ritro 'Veitch's Blue'. Once
I had found in a plant sale a white version but it disappeared, overwhelmed by
its more aggressive blue relatives.
Echinops, is tall,
stately and very blue. It attracts bees. You might not like its foliage. You
might say it is weed-like. And yet through a scan I have discovered a beauty
that was unseen up to now. It all began a few days ago when Rosemary, who was
re-doing her sunny perennial bed instructed me to cut off a few of her
marching-forward echinops to find room for other plants. I brought one of the
pieces in. It was not yet showing any growth of the globe-like flower. Instead
of scanning it from the bottom as I do most other plants and flowers, I closed
the lid on it and treated it like a transparency/slide.
Archangelo Corelli & The Wedding At Cana
Monday, May 19, 2014
|Paul Luchkow & Michael Jarvis|
Saturday evenings are sacrosanct in our
home. We invite Hilary and her daughter Lauren, 11 for dinner and a home movie
after. Usually Lauren shows up early in the afternoon and she helps Rosemary in
the garden and cleans, too. Our other granddaughter, Rebecca, 16, now works on
Saturday afternoons so she has been absent from our get-together now for almost
Last Saturday, May 17 we decided to make a
change. We had a quick light dinner (cucumber, pâté and egg salad sandwiches and three of us (Rosemary stayed at home) went immediately (we wanted to sit on the front row, centre) to Beautiful
Baroque, a Concert Grace production (at Grace Memorial United Church on 803 East 16th
Ave) in which our two friends Paul Luchkow ( baroque violin) and Michael Jarvis
(Italian harpsichord) were performing a program of Archangelo Corelli, Henry
Purcell, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Jean-Marie Leclair and Johann Sebastian
We managed to sit
centre, front row. Lauren said she was going to sketch. This she did but often
she stopped to watch and listen. Her mother was reading a book on arthritis as
she is taking a health course.
I have always told my
family that good music is a nice excuse to read, sketch or even sleep. The
latter can be a particular luxury.
Now this was a
wonderful concert that was a reverse of the New Testament’s the Wedding at Cana, since the best wine was served first.
On a desert island
first in my list of musical recordings would be Corelli’s Violin Sonatas Opus 5
particularly the recording by Trio Sonnerie with Monica Huggett on violin,
Mitzi Meyerson on harpsichord and Sarah Cunningham, cello and the addition of
Nigel North on archlute, theorbo and baroque guitar. My absolute fave of those
sonatas is Sonata No. 3 in C Major. The first movement Adagio is a killer. After hearing the Luchkow/Jarvis version I must reconsider my desert island plan.
Now Grace Memorial
is a very small church with beautiful stained glass windows ensconced in an
over-100-year-old-building with no salient architectural surprises. A big
baroque orchestra would not work. Luchkow and Jarvis took advantage of this and
played in a volume proper to an intimate living room of friends. It felt like
that as on one side they had home baked sweets and lovely teacups in which they
served a Kenyan blend of black tea brought to Vancouver by JusTea. I happen to appreciate Kenyan over Tanzanian tea.
Luchkow accompanied by
Jarvis playing on a tiny Italian harpsichord (usually these instruments are not
adorned and such was the case of the Colin Booth, Wells, England 1983
instrument after Domenicus Pisauresis, 1553) chose to play the sonata in what to
this amateur in music would call pianissimo. It was incredibly intimate and I
could not but notice that Lauren was transfixed. The rest of the concert was a
delight but to me that Corelli was not to be topped!
intermission, the still flexible Luchkow squatted in front of Lauren to enquire
on her sketches. He guessed correctly that Lauren’s violin sketch included a
chin rest, something that no baroque violinist would be caught dead with.
As we left, Lauren,
who has been studying the violin (her choice) for three years said she was
going to practice as soon as she got home.
Kudos to Grace
Memorial United which will continue with this intimate series with a concert with soprano Bahareh Poureslami and Pianist Nina Horvath.
Lauren previously sketched a
baroque concert including Michael Jarvis here.
At that time she was helped by my friend and designer Graham Walker who
this time could not attend.
|Michael Jarvis - Lauren Stewart & Graham Walker|
Sunday, May 18, 2014
We live in Kerrisdale. When Rosemary
dragged us from our little townhouse (we did not owe any money) in Burnaby I
was instantly in love with the neighbourhood which only needed a gingerbread
house nearby to make the whole street, Athlone Street, look like a fairytale. The homes were mostly mock Tudor like ours and all had rhododendrons and
nicely kept gardens. There were no fences except a few low laurel hedge ones.
We had a summer party every year. We would
block the streets and the Vancouver Police would give police dog demonstrations
and firemen would show us their talents. While nobody seemed to own a Dalmatian
I almost felt we lived on a Saturday Evening Post cover.
But it was not all that it seemed to be. A
gentleman who walked past our house with bible in hand had molested a student
in school. A tall, refined UBC professor we all called the widower was not. His
wife lived with him but they lived separate lives until she finally divorced
him. We had a loose murderer running around in our backyards and the police had
cordoned off our area without telling us to stay inside. I saw a man running
with a gun.
Our garden was kept in shape by the
neighbourhood Japanese gardener, Harry Nomura. But soon we figured we could not
pay our mortgage and Nomura’s fees so we started gardening.
It was on Athlone that I first experienced
that curious Canadian custom called “controlled circulation” magazines. We
received at out door Vancouver Magazine, Western Living and a couple more.
Then in the early 90s it began to change as
immigrants from the East purchased houses on Athlone and tore them down. This
was great, so I thought. Rosemary would tell me, “They have cut the hydro
wires. They will probably demolish the house tomorrow." With spades in hand and
with a big empty wheelbarrow we would “liberate” plants, bushes and even trees.
When trees were cut down, usually on Friday afternoons when City Hall was closed, my wife was considered the neighbourhood tree hugger.
I felt that justice was being done,
historical justice I may call it. It was nice to see Scottish laborers building
stone walls for the new immigrants. Many years before the situation had been
Then Vancouver Magazine and Western Living
stopped appearing at our door. Then the Vancouver Courier was not delivered
either. Rosemary has had to call through the years to the circulation
department to complain. Our Vancouver Courier is delivered.
For many years our Audi A-4 blended in with
the cars of the neighbourhood. There were Jaguars, Bentleys, Porsches, one
Lotus and many Mercedes and BMWs. But four years ago when we purchased our used
Chevrolet Malibu this worried Rosemary until I placated her by telling her that
our car was unique to the area.
There have been many break-ins around. One
of our neighbours (he has since moved), an ophthalmologist, had a collection of
Rolexes. He wore a different one every day. They were stolen. We have our house
alarmed but nobody who knows their stuff would break in as they would know we
don’t have huge flat-screen TVs or anything else electronic that would make
quick money at the fence.
I have noticed through the years that the
older couples (their children were adults and gone) like the one we now are,
were persuaded to sell and move out to a small condo. “Dad the place is much
too big for you and mom.” These people would move and soon after they would die
or be diagnosed with dementia.
And so the neighbourhood has changed and
our little house stands out like a sore thumb in contrast to the contemporary
houses (21st century contemporary). The garages are four-car garages
and yet some families own more, so that the once empty street, and narrow it
is, is now occupied by SUVs.
But while I am sad that the heyday of our
street (a heyday in my memory as our house was built in 1936 so the street must
have had many heydays) is gone there are some advantages that compensate for
the constant spring noise of houses being pressure-washed or that Christmas lights and their variation are one for four months. One of the
advantages can be had at my local Oakridge Branch of the Vancouver Public
The demographic has changed but I am sure
that the library has not kept pace. I made my mind to stop buying books three
years ago. I have too many books and my pocket book is much smaller now. But I
buy books anyway. I buy books at my Oakridge Branch. They charge $1.00 for
fiction hardcovers and $1.50 for non-fiction. The last book I purchased a few
days ago was Frank Langella’s highly rated Dropped Names – Famous Men and Women
as I Knew Them. I was able to take out Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch as a one
week fast read when I knew that there were over 500 holds elsewhere on 43 or 44
copies. Today when I returned to the library (Life after Life by Kate Atkinson,
a fast read) I noticed that my returned The Goldfinch was still up for grabs.
The books that are being sold are in some cases only a year old (I purchased a
2013 John Le Carré for $1.00).
They are not being taken out because the new demographic does not read those
Not too many days ago
it finally came to me. I stopped getting Vancouver Magazine and Western Living
because those that distributed them thought I was a new immigrant.
Now I get this
magazine at my door for the same reason.