A Turning Point Ensemble Carnival Without Sauce Béarnaise
Saturday, March 07, 2015
I could compose graceful ballets of my own if I wanted to - by the score. The fact is, I detest conventional 'nightingale and rose' poetry; my own inclinations are 'primitive', I eat my meat without sauce Béarnaise.
|L' Après-midi d'un Faune - 1912 - Baron Adolf de Meyer|
As a young twenty something in the early 60s I attended a
concert with friends at the University of Mexico that featured a soprano singing
Olivier Messiaen. I hated it and I quoted (to my friends) my Spanish
grandmother’s “los gemidos de Poncio Pilato
” (the moans of Pontius Pilate. In fact
the only composer of the 20th
century that I almost warmly liked was
one called Ellington.
Little by little with youth out the window I learned to
appreciate last century’s composers. One most important event was the Turning
Point Ensemble’s A Quartet for the End of Time
(and yes! Messiaen) a few years
back at Ryerson
Of late thanks to the Microcosmos String Quartet
I can add Bartók and Britten. Thanks to all the new music festivals at
the VSO I can add contemporary composers I had never heard of until now.
Turning Point Ensemble’s, concert called Carnival
this coming Friday and
Saturday features music of the 20th
two of them are from the end of the 19th
. Of Camille Saint-Saëns’s
Carnival of the Animals
I will write in tomorrow’s blog. The other 19th
century work is Claude Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun
I cannot speak for others but the most recognizable music of
Century (if you include this work by Debussy) might be Erik
Satie’s Gymnopédie No 1
, Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez
and all those Philip Glass pieces that are
background to energy ads on American TV. The rest of that repertoire including
Bartók I could not hum you the first few bars.
Thanks to the likes of the Turning Point Ensemble and of
those intimate new music gatherings at Pyatt Hall and the Vancouver Symphony’s
little hall on Seymour this is changing for this old man. It amply proves that
you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks.
To those who might be tempted to attend this Friday’s and
Carnival and as you listen to
the soft melodious and so comforting (because of your recognition) Debussy I
might just add a bit here that could change your mind to enjoy it even more.
You might wonder how a photograph could affect music. There
is no doubt in my mind that Isaac Newton’s scientific (most precise they were)
discoveries in the in the 17th
century led to the Age of
Enlightenment in the 18th
when reason became paramount. Would it
have influenced all those Bach canons and those nicely mathematical fugues of
the baroque period? I believe so.
Its after effect in the 19th
century was the
advent of romantic music. But there was one French painter, the most famous
painter of the 19th
century (now almost forgotten) who stuck to his
His name was Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier.
It wasn’t until I read Canadian author, Ross King’s The Judgement of Paris – The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism
that I heard a big click in my head that brought photography, art and music
together in one swoop.
I will be short in the explanation (I have re-read King's
The Judgement of Paris several times) but here is more or less how that click
happened. In 1814 Meissonier started with his The Campaign of France a theme
that included Napoleon on a horse in battle or on his way to one. Meissonier’s
paintings were large (The Campaign of France was his smallest at 76.5 cm) and
had incredible detail such as Napoleon’s sprouting beard, the veins on the
horse and the dirty snow result of the trampling of an army.
This man held court in France and in most of the civilized
Western world. But something happened in 1827 that was to change the direction
of painting as art. In 1827 Nicéphore Niépce took a picture from his kitchen
window that was the world’s first heliograph. By 1839 the French Academy of
Sciences announced to the world the Daguerreotype
process. Later in that year
the English Henry Fox Talbot announced his collotype process.
Photography was to painting in the 1840s and on what the
internet seems to be doing to print in our very own 21st century. The world was
in an uproar. Photography could now reveal the minutest detail with ease.
Meissonier was as obsolete as is the formal photographic portrait photographer
now (and alas me!).
Édouard Manet and Claude Monet decided that they could not
compete with photography and found Meissioner a tired old man of the rear
guard. “If we cannot paint in great detail, we shall do the opposite,” they
might have asserted. So that is how Impressionism was born. From real close you
could see the detail of Napoleon’s beard on a Meissonier painting. At that
distance in a Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe you would not see much. You had
to stand back to see the painter’s intention.
With Impressionism in vogue the startlingly realistic
L'Origine du monde by Courbet was seen as tired as Meissonier. But art history
has been kinder to Courbet than it has been to Meissonier. The former is still
famous and the latter is mostly forgotten.
As a parallel to this, photographers got tired of recording
detail so such pioneers as Alfred Stieglitz began a movement called
Pictorialism in which photographs were hazy, blurry and painterly. By the late
1920s this movement began to weaken to be replaced by photographers who now
wanted to shoot with consummate sharpness. This is how the Group f64 began
headed by Ansel Adams and Willard Van Dyke.
Since then both photography and painting have gone back and
forth between great detail and abstraction and have influenced each other. We might want to add music to this.
Debussy disliked the idea that his music could be called
impressionistic. But it did shock as much as Manet’s paintings did in the Paris
Salon’s. His Prelude (a complete work in spite of the name) was performed for
the first time in Paris on December 22, 1894.
Debussy might to this day not be as famous as he surely is
if he had not been approached by Sergei Diaghilev, impresario for Ballet Russe
in 1911 requesting permission to use the Prelude for a new work (his first) by
Vaslav Nijinsky. While Nijinsky confessed to have never read Stéphan Mallarmé’s
(Carmen) poem, L’Après-mdi d’un Faune, his ballet, first performed in 1912
stayed as true to the poem as Debussy said he did with his Prelude.
Whichever way you look at it, when you listen to Debussy’s
Prelude imagine the Paris police being asked to close the production because of
lewd movements in the end of the work by Nijinsky in which he allegedly
masturbated with a faun’s veil.
Best of all when you listen to this wonderful work imagine
the ballet as seen by the photographs of Baron Adolf de Meyer’s photographs
taken not at the performance but at his studio. He used all kinds of devices to
unsharpen his images and what is left is a beautiful record of a ballet (it
shocked the people of its time) which perhaps someday we might witness here in
Vancouver. Until then listen to the Prelude and imagine all the hullabaloo
behind it. We are beyond shock now.
I would suggest a good dose of Bartók via the Microcosmos
String Quartet soon.
Or perhaps get ready to listen to this Friday (or Saturday) a paired down L' Après-midi d'un Faune arranged in 1920 by composer Benno Sachs
who was part of Arnold Schoenberg's circle.
If the stylized hands of the dancers in Baron Adolf de Meyer's photographs make you curious here is is a version of the ballet by Rudolph Nureyev
This video reminds me of A.K. Dewdney's two-dimensional world - The Planiverse.
The bassoonist is going to do it
The Head Shot
Friday, March 06, 2015
|Camile Henderson (above) Saffron Henderson (below) - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
Sometime in the late 80s when I briefly held the job of
Director of Photography (a glorified name for Photo Editor) at Vancouver
Magazine I was dispatched to look for a young, beautiful woman who was (in the
language of the editor) stacked. This woman would share the page with a bald
local DJ and the cover was going to promote a Vancouver Playhouse Theatre wine
festival (to raise funds).
I made my appointment with the woman in charge at the
Vancouver Playhouse. She gave me a pile of 100 glossy 8x10s. I placed them all
on the floor and picked two. The woman looked at me with some amazement. “You
have selected sisters, and the headshots have been taken by their mother who is not even a photographer.”
Of all those very glossy and mostly professionally taken
head shots, these two had somehow stood out. They were Camile and Saffron
Henderson. My editor, Mac Parry picked Saffron and she made the cover.
For as long as I was a magazine photographer I avoided the
pitfall of the fashion photographer. This city was never big enough for a
proper fashion industry. I saw many photographers come and go like shooting
stars. Bread and butter for many of them was the head shot. They would take
many during the day (they were called cattle calls) charged little (to compete)
and made money on sheer volume. I avoided head shots like the plague.
Recently I took some pictures of Seattle baroque cellist
Juliana Soltis. After looking at the many pictures I advised her to use the
laughing one as her headshot. On a floor of 100 it just might stand out.
Technical Information: Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD 90mm lens, Kodak Technical Pan Film, 2x3 ft soft box.
Fred Latremouille - A Hunk - 1945-2015
Thursday, March 05, 2015
My first doubts about the existence of a place with harpists floating on billowy white
clouds came into question when in my teens I wondered if I ever got to heaven
if I would run into my mother. How old would she be? I answered with the idea
that people would see her as they had known her. Her first boyfriend might see
her as a young woman, my father as an older one. And her father who died before
my mother was 8 would have seen her as a young girl.
died today. He was 69. Such deaths put me on guard as I am 72. I wonder why it
is that obituaries mostly show their subjects as they looked shortly before
the director of photography (a euphemism for Photo Editor) at Vancouver
Magazine for a while in the late 80s. I was asked how I would photograph a few
local hunks for an article (could it been about hunks?). I suggested hiring a
woman photographer who would approach her subjects in the same way we sexist
males would approach the subject of beach babes. I further suggested that
Latremouille (one of the hunks in question) might be shown sitting on a ghetto
blaster at Kits Beach wearing as little clothing as possible.
instructions were not followed..
you have a photograph I took of Latremouille a few years later at his
backyard which, off camera to the right, you would have seen the Tswwassen Ferry
Fred was a Hunk with a wonderful voice.
Sister Judy - Nun Nicer
Wednesday, March 04, 2015
This blog will be a two-part one. To compensate for the
second part, heavy on Catholic
Doctrine, mostly very boring for those who like pictures but don’t read, the
first part is going to be a fun sort of “who done it?” kind of part. Both
blogs are about the opening night play, Sister Judy
, Wednesday night at the
Arts Club Theatre’s Review Stage on Granville Island. Sister Judy was directed by Patrick McDonald and the play was written by Shawn Macdonald. The go-between was Rachel Ditor
After the charmingly challenging play I located that expert
on marsupials and opera, Peter Cathie White, Executive Director of the Arts
Club Theatre Company. I told him, “You are going to like my blog on this play.
I have a photograph of three women and one of them is the father of Lili
Beaudoin (Ruth in Sister Judy).” White who to his defense we must add that he
is an Australian, replied, “What’s that, can you repeat that?” Below is the
photograph in question.
|Lili's father with Lois Anderson & Manon Beaudoin - King Llyr|
If you cannot guess there is this photograph. Which one
is Lili Beaudoin as a 9-year-old girl?
|Lili with Colin Heath, Manon Beaudoin, Dorea Beaudoin & Camille Beaudoin. |
If that does not help, hint turn that photograph around.
If your computer skills do not help do the obvious and stand on your head.
Below is a picture I took at the Review Stage dressing room after the show. I
think you might be able to guess now which one is Lili Beaudoin. She is in the
picture with Mike Wasko, Jenny Wasko-Paterson (it seems those two are married)
and with proud playwright Shawn Macdonald
. I have been told that his play has
received a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur from Jorge A de Irureta Goyena,
Archbishop of Mondragón, O.F.M., S.S.L
|Lili Beaudoin, Jenny Wasko-Paterson, Mike Wasako & Shawn Macdonald - March 4, 2015|
The Boring Part II
I must reveal that I obtained a very good liberal; there
is such a thing, Roman Catholic education in my youth, in Austin, Texas
Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou
Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee
How says trusty hearing? that shall be
What God's Son has told me, take for truth
Truth himself speaks truly or there's
devote, Saint Thomas Aquinas
Last night my wife Rosemary and I were witness to a play,
written over 8 years by local thespian Shawn Macdonald, Sister Judy in which
truth was at stake and by the end of 85 minutes I would guess that truth won.
If it didn’t and I have my doubts it brings to me the idea that blind faith is
blind and with just a touch of reasoning (call that doubt) faith renewed is the
best of all faiths.
In fact Sister Judy is that kind of play with lots of
substance whose appearance, a deft Who Done It? (and I will not reveal nor even
hint of it here) does not distract on the least on from the fine acting our
senses reveal to us.
This is so because crucial to the play is the doubt that
suddenly hits Mike Wasko who plays a priest, a very contemporary one. It seems
that one day he is unable to say Mass.
Mike Wasko’s priest Frank teaches English Lit at what
must be a Catholic university in Eastern Canada. He is friends with a
Benedictine nun, Judy, played by Jenny Wasko-Paterson who teaches history (she
works back from Constantine the Great on all things Jesus Christ and Church
Doctrine). Into the mix we have a young first year college student, Ruth played
by Lili Beaudoin who is in Sister Judy’s class. The combination of the three, a
caustic mix is the play.
Father Frank cannot say Mass. He tells Sister Judy over a
weekly (Friday evening) chat at her office (she keeps a fine bottle of single
malt in her desk drawer) that he no longer can believe in the magic words he
utters at Mass. Ruth tells Judy that Christ and the crucifixion were a myth with no actual historical proof. It is here where the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist becomes crucial and most important evidence to a resolution of the play.
The magic words in question are “Hoc est corpus meum” (this is my body) which when the priest utters them at Mass,
with the intersession of God, the wafer in his hand becomes the body of Jesus
Christ and the wine in the chalice the blood.
Before the play opened I located playwright Shaw
Macdonald sitting at the back row. I wished him luck but warned him that since
I was well taught about Church Doctrine and theology by Brother Edwin Reggio,C.S.C.
(the same order, Congregation Of Holy Cross Priest, nuns and brothers
teach at Notre Dame in Indiana) I was going to be checking for any
Everything in the play would have passed muster (nihil
obstat) by Brother Edwin except for the statement that Frank makes ,”I cannot
see how those at Mass will believe that it is supposed to be the body of Christ
when I say the magic words.”
I was plenty wrong about that and Macdonald plenty right.
Very important in magic are the words hocus pocus.
If you think that expression might have come from a distortion of “hoc est corpus” you
would be absolutely right!
We Roman Catholics call that mystery Transubstantiation
and Sister Judy would tell you that if you do not believe in it you are under
the pain of an eternity in hell.
Of that mystery St. Augustine wrote:
"Christ was carried in his own hands when, referring
to his own body, he said, ‘This is my body’ [Matt. 26:26]. For he carried that
body in his hands" (Explanations of the Psalms 33:1:10 [A.D. 405]).
My very Catholic grandmother told me this story when I
was a little boy:
St. Augustine was walking on a beach when he spotted a
small boy running into the water and then running back to pour the scooped
sweater from a seashell into a hole in the sand. After various trips Augustine
inquired. “I am emptying the sea into the hole.” Augustine pointed out that
this was an impossibility. The little boy uttered this and then vanished, “It
is far easier to empty the sea into the hole than to figure out what is currently running through your mind.”
Enough of all this theology! But not quite. To me Sister
Judy represents a sort of rock of immobile stability (St. Peter the rock upon
which Christ built his church?). From two sides she is accosted by doubters
(Frank and Ruth). Sister Judy (perhaps with the help of a generous Zinfandel)
seems to be impervious to it all and plays the charming nun to the hilt (in my
Catholic boy’s school experience I met many). Mike Wasko, even in uncomfortably
tight jeans, plays the priest I would confide all my sins to. Meeting up with
the charming Lili Beaudoin back stage gave me a good idea that all that angry
(most believable) was acting after all. I didn’t dare ask her if all those
tattoos were real.
Sister Judy is the perfect play for Lent. The idea of
fasting and staying away from the good stuff (booze and sweets) for 40 days
came to us (so my Anglican wife Rosemary told me) from Christ going into the
desert after being baptized. In the desert he was tempted and promised all by
the devil. Christ resists and the rest is a history that Ruth would say never happened. Judy plays a steadfast Christ figure, who loves, listens and
tellingly, finally loses her temper once. If during Sister Judy - A Love Story (it is advertized as that) you wonder about Sister Judy talking about loving Jesus and wanting to get closer to Him you might want to know the curious fact that nuns wear a wedding band. When they take their final vows and become nuns they become brides of Christ and are given the gold band.
For those who do not believe but doubt I can only say
that St. Thomas, the Apostle of “doubting Thomas” fame was not rebuffed by
Christ for his incredulity. Christ said to him:
Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed:
blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed. John 20:29.
And these doubters can enjoy this sober (but still funny)
play as one that is not a musical (seen before in Broadway or the movies) but
is a work written by an intelligent man with supreme good taste that will
challenge their thought process all the way to the end. The cast is perfect and
Sister Judy as played by Jenny Wasko-Paterson and playwright Shawn Macdonald should both get a Jessie Richardson
If God exists.
Selfie Plus One
Tuesday, March 03, 2015
|Lili Beaudoin, Jenny Wasko-Paterson, Mike Wasko & Shawn Macdonald|
I cannot speak for other photographers but this one was
never inclined to take self-portraits except sometimes on my birthday. When
people want to take my picture I rarely object as I don’t have to do or suggest
anything. I keep my mouth shut and I do as I am told. It is sort of a relief to
In the last few years quite a few of my photographs include
me in some corner. This is because I like to shoot some of my subjects in front
of a mirror. The small mirror in our home’s guest bathroom has been a frequent
one of late.
It all really began for me here
. It was when I realized that
my photograph is some ways mimicked Velázquez’s Las Meninas
, the beautiful
painting that has its own room at the Prado Museum in Madrid.