The VSO - The Usual Suave Suspects
Saturday, November 02, 2019
|Orpheum, 1 November 2019|
Yes, indeed, the
Warners here have a picture which makes the spine tingle and the heart take a
Bosley Crowther, NY Times, November 27, 1942
Last night, November 1, 2019 I took my youngest daughter
Hilary Stewart to a performance of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra directed by
the suave assistant conductor Andrew Crust. We were there to see Michael Curtiz’s
1942 film Casablanca. The VSO played the Max Steiner score.
|With Hilary Stewart|
Having ranted and raved of previous performances of live
music performed in the projection of films, see here
, I was not
prepared for the subtle pleasure of watching a film and listening to the dialogue
while enjoying in a quite low key a never intrusive orchestra.
I was intrigued by a clock on a computer monitor on the
right of conductor Crust.
I was able to satisfy my curiousity. I feel lucky to know quite a few of the musicians of
the VSO. Add to that what to me is a Vancouver custom of knowing that musicians
put on their pants one leg at a time and never deny access to we mortals who
are not musicians. They are always there at the intermission or before the performance
to answer questions from the obscure to the dumbest.
|Sydney Greenstreet - not|
Perhaps the last VSO musical family, that of bassist David
Brown, his violist brother Andrew Brown and David Brown’s violinist wife Mary Sokol
Brown is always a pleasure to behold. Last night Sokol Brown was not there but
I chatted with Andrew and David. It was David
to whom I addressed my question
on an explanation of the computer screen clock. Here is his answer:
When film scores
are recorded some kind of timing method is needed in order to match the musical
cues to the action. In the past, with recorded tv shows and films shot on
celluloid film stock, an edited version of the film would have a visual banner
that move across the screen indicating the start point of a musical cue.
Later SMPTE code
(which I believe was developed for space exploration) was embedded in the film.
This is a running code which gives an exact time reference for each frame. A
film and the audio recording equipment could be synchronized and shuttled back
and forth to an exact cue point which greatly aided the recording process.
The SMPTE code can be
synchronized with a metronome to indicate an exact tempo. The musicians
recording the film score wear headphones and hear a click track (metronomic
pulses) which indicate the tempo, number of beats in a bar and also cue any
speeding up or slowing down of the music. Composers like to hit action points
in a film with sound effects and musical cues which emphasize the action. Click
tracks enable this to be very precise.
Now when you want
to recreate a score for a preexisting score, as we did tonight with Casablanca,
then the prerecorded music is largely removed and then some kind of a clock or
click track has to be created in order to count in the cue start point keep the
tempos correct so that the live performance remains synchronized with the film.
We didn't wear headphones in this case but just followed our conductor Andrew
Crust who had spent a lot of time studying the film and becoming familiar with
all of the idiosyncrasies of the score. For example there were some night club
scenes where the band playing on screen speeds up and slows down quite a bit
and we had to do the same in order to match the film. Hope this is helpful in
giving you a little insight into this process. The VSO has done a lot of films
like this over the years from Harry Potter, Star Wars, ET to older silent films
like Nosferatu, Charlie Chaplin films, Wizard of Oz, Psycho to name a few. I
think audiences, who may not have previously considered how much the sound
track factors into the overall experience of a film, really enjoy the
experience of a live performance of an orchestra recreating the original
soundtrack of a classic film.
I had one doubt as to how Crust and the orchestra handled
the solo piano and singing of Sam (Dooley Wilson). I called up VSO violinist
Jenny Essers who explained that in that situation the orchestra did not intrude
and we in the audience were listening to the film track.
The switching back to me was flawless. In fact I almost
forgot that the orchestra was playing and that I was watching a very good film
with a premier sound system.
At age 77 I fear that my memory may be slipping and I am
now saving money so my wife can put me in some assisted living place without
going bankrupt. But I am pleased to report that this may not happen for a
while. There were many moments in the film that had slipped my memory and I was
happy to find out that my 45 year-old-daughter was in the same situation.
Thanks to the VSO I can now ascertain that I have almost
seen and heard a grand film for the first time.
This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship
(with the VSO)
The Fragments of our House
Friday, November 01, 2019
Riesa Schneider, our former neighbour with her dentist
husband Mel, texted me today to inform me (she was not sure about doing it) that
our former home on 5909 Athlone Street had caught fire at 3am and
that by the morning they were already demolishing it.
I texted back that for me it was a done deal when we had
finally left the lovely home with the beautiful and large corner garden. With
my Rosemary it was a different matter. Even now she cries for the order and
comfort of owning a property that was separate from neighbours (particularly
that it was a corner house). She disparages at what she calls the box we live
I did my best to not return but I believe that my Rosemary
passed by the house at least once a week. What was left of our garden was wild
growth and some of the trees were dying.
While I hate that word “closure” perhaps this terrible
incident in our life will bring it and we can move on (or as politicians like
to say , “move forward”).
We received lots of money in the sale of that house. Rosemary
was a smart cookie when she forced (strong urge) that we buy it back in 1986. I
feel that having mostly inherited our two daughters while we are still alive is
something very positive.
In the old house we could never have guests stay with us as
the bathrooms upstairs leaked, toilets barely flushed, etc.
In our present little home we have an independent guest room
on a separate floor with its own bathroom. We like to invite friends and
relatives from abroad to visit us.
But we (and particularly Rosemary) misses that expanse of
lawn, all those perennials and over 80 old roses.
But I can counter that I have terrible arthritis and there
are days when I can barely move. I could not have handled that garden all by
But I must see how I can somehow ameliorate the terrible
news with Rosemary who is distraught.
No repeating what my grandmother used to say to me, “Nadie
te quita lo bailado,” or nobody can take away the dances (memories) you have
I texted Risa back and told her how Rosemary walks our male cat Niño around the block and how this reminds me of her husband Mel who did that on Athlone. This is her reply:
Funny while I was writing that earlier message I thought
about Mel walking Nina and Marmalade around the block together and of how
impressed Rosemary was with Mel’s feat!
The Mantle Clock & The View From Our Bedroom Window
Sunday, April 17, 2011
I can remember that first night in our new home on Athlone Street back
in 1986. I propped my head up and looked out from one our bedroom
windows (the right one in the picture below) which overlooked on to the
boulevard (the bed has not been moved) I looked outside into the
boulevard and I could not believe that thanks to Rosemary’s forward
thinking we were now living in a beautiful house in a beautiful
The house itself, that night was pretty free of the furniture,
bookshelves and thousands of books we have now. But there were two items
I had purchased even before we moved that were specifically for the
house. One was an antique French mantle clock for the mantle of what was
then called my smoking room. It was and is a beautifully wood paneled
room in which we now watch our occasional television.
|The mantle clock|
In the dining room there was a nook and I found a large credenza with a
marble top at an antique store in Maple Ridge. Rosemary could not
understand that I would buy such a piece of furniture as I had not
measured the nook. The fact is that when it arrived it fit just right.
The clock served us well for all these years chiming on the hour and the
half hour to the point we stopped hearing it because we became so
accustomed. But now it does not work. Its winding mechanism is stripped
and I will have to find someone in town to repair it.
I look at the exterior paint job of our house and I can see the cracks.
Yesterday I sprayed certain parts of the roof, the gazebo roof and the
one of our garage with moss killer. Moss collects and on the roof it is
not a pretty sight.
In our garden there are plants that have been with us for many years.
Some have not returned. A few perennials can be freshened up with
division but others simply have lifespans just as humans have.
Many of the trees we planted as saplings are now mature and cast shade.
The garden is shadier and plants want light. In the picture above the
shaped conifer on the left died of root rot some years ago and the birch
died of disease and was removed by the city.
|The credenza, behind|
Rosemary and I have been working in the garden these days. Pumping up
the moss killer device has left my right elbow in pain. The index finger
of my right hand is swollen because of the pressure on the secateurs. I
have been using the secateurs not only to prune my roses but to prune
bushes that are much too large for their spot. The body aches.
There is no division that will freshen up our bodies. The mantle clock can be fixed but the moss will come back.
The prospect of smelling my roses in late May keeps me going. I am sure
that Rosemary looks forward to some sunny day in that late May to sit
down on our garden bench to reflect that time has passed us by but we
can still smell the roses and enjoy the garden. We will be sharing the
enjoyment with our two cats. It has taken Rosemary's new cat, Casi a
year to adapt to the garden. He loves it now and he accompanies Rosemary
whenever she is around.
That Awful Halloween Grinch
Thursday, October 31, 2019
Today’s Halloween blog will include below one I wrote a
couple of years ago. I was not too clear in that blog how I really do not like
Halloween. Call me the Halloween Grinch.
While I am an old man I can still remember my fondness for
fireworks. The issue is that I played with fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Our
cats Niño and Niña will not approve of all that banging of fireworks and the
banging on the door.
Because there are remnants of the Latina American macho in
me I force (as I have in past years) my Rosemary to open the door and hand out
I have a more recent memory of Halloween in Mexico City
where poor children would come to the door and ask, “Me da mi jalowin?” All
they wanted (understandably) was loose change.
A Kitsilano Halloween 2016
Monday, October 31, 2016
|Rebecca Stewart & Pancho|
Halloween is a frustrating holiday for me as I never
experienced it as a child or boy in Buenos Aires. In Mexico Halloween sadly
merged and just about eliminated the Mexican custom El Día de los Muertos.
Halloween became sort of a Halloween for my Rosemary and me
when we came to Canada in 1975 and lived in Burnaby. I remember those dark and
rainy Halloweens where my two daughters with smiles on their faces (and all wet)
would come in with their loot in garbage bags. I liked to pick some of the
better stuff citing my parental importance.
|Lauren Stewart & Pancho|
By the time we moved to Athlone Street in 1986 my two
daughters were teenagers but they still went out for candy. Now Halloweens
meant costumes and dances with boys.
Sadly both my granddaughters, Rebecca, 19 and Lauren, 14
have left Halloween behind. This is Lauren’s last year to trick'r treat. She
and her parents live in Burnaby but Lauren is visiting her friends in her old neibourhood where the looting is very good.
This year I gave up getting either of my granddaughters to
come over for some sort of special Halloween portrait where Rebecca, who is an
expert with makeup, would do the honours.
But there is some constant in our family and particularly in
Halloween as Pancho el Esqueleto, given to me by Abraham Rogatnick 6 years ago
patiently sits by the window in our dining room ready to volunteer for a
A Scabiosa & Rat Scabies
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
|Scabiosa 30 October 2019|
The common name
'scabious' comes from the herb's traditional usage as a folk medicine to treat
scabies, an illness that causes a severe itching sensation.
Today my Rosemary and I continued in what we call our
fall clean-up. This involves removing dead leaves from our flower beds and
pre-pruning some of the roses. We are taking advantage of the sunny day, But
because tomorrow is also supposed to be sunny we tend to be lax and do just
enough to no feel too guilty and then go inside. But while outside and
especially in our back lane garden Niña and Niño accompanied us.
In spite of an early breakfast it seems that the day goes
quickly and before we know it we are watching Rachel Maddow on TV at 6 and
somehow we find ourselves in bed and the day is gone.
This is the fate of many (at least us) of the retired. We
have to plan trips and invite people to keep our brains buzzing. If not one of
us or both will find ourselves in one of those places for assisted living.
Of late I have been listening to the latest Neil Young
including his last record which I bought as a CD on Main Street. I believe he
is three years younger than I am but he gives me hope that I might still have
something useful to share with those who are around me but are rapidly
disappearing into the ether.
One pleasant surprise (and plants have a habit of doing
that) was to notice that this Scabiosa (commonly called the pincushion flower)
was in bloom today. Rosemary cannot find its plant label so we do not know what
its cultivar name is.
My only knowledge of scabies as a word was the fact that Rat Scabies
was the drummer with the Johnny Thunders