Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mercoledi Musicale - All Hallows' Eve

And what could be more appropriate for All Hallows' Eve than the Lyke-Wake Dirge as eerily - dare I say creepily? -  sung by Buffy Sainte-Marie in a setting by Benjamin Britten - two names I never thought I'd type in the same sentence.

31 October - 1917: World War I: Battle of Beersheba – "last successful cavalry charge in history".
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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Makes Perfect Sense To Me

Many years ago a friend - well a former friend, and I'm sure you'll understand why -  gave me a book called Weiner Dog Art.  This friend former friend seemed to find the idea of the noble Dachshund as art a great source of amusement.  Now granted some of Gary Lawson's drawings and cartoons featuring "weiner dogs" did rather poke fun at the mighty Badger Hound but he was allowed as he owned several and understood fully the refinement and intelligence of the Bassotto and that they could take a joke as well as the next breed.

Now it appears that the Tekkel has been elevated to the level of performance art in an installation by Australian artist Bennett Miller.  His Dachshund U.N. first appeared at the Melbourne Next Wave Festival back in 2010 where 47 splendid specimens of Jamniki engaged in vigorous debate as they enacted the roles of representatives to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. The Commission has since reconvened in Sydney, Birmingham and are heading to Toronto for the 2013 World Stage Festival at Harbourfront.

It was mentioned in many quarters that los Perros salchichas were better behaved - the odd accident apart - and frankly made more sense than many of their human counterparts.  I have no trouble believing that for a minute!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lunedi Lunacy

Back when I was a mere stripling, as it where, there was nothing quite as funny as the old Carry On movies. Sid James, Hattie Jacuqes, Barbie Windsor (pre-East Enders), Charles Hawtrey but especially Kenneth Williams. He was pencil thin, beautifully groomed and spoke in that nasal posh accent that made the double-entendre sound more double and even more entendre! Those roles in these wonderfully silly movies and his camp Sandy and Julian sketches on Round the Horne often obscured the real talent that was Williams.

Right down to the crooning vibrato of the diseur - that Brelish-Aznavourish Gaelic nasality - he captures the essence of every popular French singer of the period.  And the lyrics - well I'm dedicating them to my darling Lara - she can use them on French Friday and impress the hell out of Monique, Benoit, Jean-Louis and the gang!

Maggie Smith once admitted that Ken Williams was the greatest influences in her life as a comic actress; from him she learned the technique that has kept her in the forefront of performers to this day - as witness her brilliant performances in Downton Abbey and recently in the The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  They had a special relationship and it showed not only on stage but when they appeared on shows like Parkinson - trading banter, barbs and sometimes arguing like an old married couple.  One night they got into a spate about politics but minutes later were reading an early poem by Sir John Betjeman, then Poet Laureate and another of Parky's guests that night.  Sir John is obviously moved by the simple, sincere reading they give of Death in Leamington.

Williams was never really a happy man - for all his wit, talent and intelligence he could never reconcile himself to being gay.  Given the characters he was famous for playing it was a sad irony. In a particularly revealing entry in his diary he wrote, "All problems have to be solved eventually by ONESELF, and that's where all your lovely John Donne stuff turns out to be a load of crap because, in the last analysis, A MAN IS AN ISLAND."  On April 15, 1988 Williams was found dead, apparently from a lethal drug overdose.  No suicide note was found but it is now widely believed that he had decided to solve his problem himself.

29 October - 1889: Stanley Park dedicated in Vancouver, BC
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mercoledi Musicale

Along the Tevere looking towards Ponte di Sant' Angelo and San Pietro.  The river seems very high but the foliage is glorious and I am homesick.

I was planning to get over to Roma this month but the best planned lays of mice and men oft go astray. A few things have got in the way and I may have to forgo the joy of seeing my friends there for a few more months. For some reason this song from On the Town seemed an appropriate way to express my disappointment.

Eileen Farrell was one of those singers who could truly manage cross-over.  Though she did appear on the stages of several American opera house - including several seasons at the Met - she was better known for her concert appearances.  Her opera repertoire roles from Gluck's Alceste to Berg's Wozzeck and in concerts she was known for her wide ranging repertoire - she could spin a fine thread of sound - her breath control was incredible - in Debussy and get down and gutsy with the blues.

The accompanist is, of course, Leonard Bernstein the composer of On the Town.  I only saw him conduct once - the 1964 Falstaff at the old Met and I can't say I am as enamoured of Bernstein as many of my generation are/were.  Unusually for him, in this video, he allows the spotlight to shine almost exclusively on Farrell.

To Walter, Robert, Linda, Gayle, Diana, Marco, Larry, Vincenzo, Anna, Peter, Joe, Mark, Carol Ann, Craig, Jolka and all my dear friends in Roma:
But let's be glad for what we've had
And what's to come.
There's so much more embracing
Still to be done, but time is racing.
Oh, well, we'll catch up
Some other time.
lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
music by Leonard Bernstein

24 October - 1901: Annie Edson Taylor becomes the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.
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Monday, October 22, 2012

Lunedi Lunacy


An Englishman, a Scotsman, an Irishman, a Welshman, a Latvian,

a Turk, a German, an Indian, several Americans (including a Hawaiian and an Alaskan),

an Argentinean, a Dane, an Australian, a Slovak, an Egyptian, a Japanese,

a Moroccan, a Frenchman, a New Zealander, a Spaniard, a Russian, a Guatemalan,

a Colombian, a Pakistani, a Malaysian, a Croatian,

a Uzbek, a Cypriot, a Pole, a Lithuanian, a Chinese,

a Sri Lankan, a Lebanese, a Cayman Islander, a Ugandan, a Vietnamese, a Korean, a Uruguayan,

a Czech, an Icelander, a Mexican, a Finn, a Honduran, a Panamanian, an Andorran,

an Israeli, a Venezuelan, an Iranian, a Fijian, a Peruvian, an Estonian, a Syrian, a Brazilian,

a Portuguese, a Liechtensteiner, a Mongolian, a Hungarian, a Canadian, a Moldovan,

a Haitian, a Norfolk Islander, a Macedonian, a Bolivian, a Cook Islander, a Tajikistani,

a Samoan, an Armenian, an Aruban, an Albanian, a Greenlander,

a Micronesian, a Virgin Islander,

a Georgian, a Bahaman, a Belorusian,

a Cuban, a Tongan, a Cambodian,

a Canadian, a Qatari, an Azerbaijani,

a Romanian, a Chilean, a Jamaican,

a Filipino, a Ukrainian,

a Dutchman, a Ecuadorian,

a Costa Rican, a Swede, a Bulgarian, a Serb, a Swiss, a Greek,

a Belgian, a Singaporean, an Italian,

a Norwegian

and 2 Africans,

...Walk into a very fine restaurant.

"I'm sorry," says the maître d', after scrutinizing the group..........

"You can't come in here without a Thai

I'm sorry... no really I am.... blame my friend Charlie... I always did!

October 22 - 1797: One thousand meters (3,200 feet) above Paris, André-Jacques Garnerin makes the first recorded parachute jump.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dance, Dance, Dance Little Lady

I think it can be agreed that dance - classical or modern - is an extremely expressive form: the movement of bodies and gestures can transmit a full range of emotions.   In narrative ballets the story is usually a very simple one and the emotions basic: Prince is bored, Prince goes hunting, Prince sees swan, Swan becomes human, Prince falls in love with Swan, love is thwarted by Evil Sorcerer, Swan is heartbroken, Prince and Swan die.  However if the story then involves the signing of a political alliance between two kingdoms, the warnings of a egalitarian cousin about economic troubles in the Kingdom, the nasty Countess who becomes the cast-off mistress because the Prince's father has found religion and a marriage is unconsummated because of phimosis things get a little more difficult for the dance creator and the dancers.
With a gesture that has appeared throughout the ballet Marie-Antoniette (Melody Mennite)
faces her fate with a new found dignity and acceptance.

And that is the problem with Marie the new (2009) full-length ballet based on the life of Marie Antoinette that the Houston Ballet brought to the National Arts Centre this past week.  There is just too much narrative and unless you were versed in the sociology-political-cultural  history of Europe in the 18th century you could be excused for being a bit confused.   When it is necessary to read the costume colour-coding published in the programme to identify characters then there is a problem. In a video introduction to Marie  choreographer (and company director) Stanton Welch remarks that he came up with the idea of a ballet based on a small segment of Marie-Antoinette's life then he found he "couldn't leave things out and the ballet grew and grew, until it became basically an abstract telling of her whole life".  Perhaps given the complexity of the tale he was trying to tell he should have stopped at the first "grew".

Now I can see my dear Simonetta raising an eyebrow and asking: but what about the great narrative ballets of the 19th century?   At the time they were created the gestures of pantomime were part of dance, drama and opera and audiences had a full understanding of them.  The scores of many of the 19th century ballets are filled with arrangements of melodies that would have been familiar to audiences - giving them an aural clue as to the action.  As the fashion for musical pastiche faded - even in the 1800s critics where complaining about the lack of original music in ballet scores - and stage acting became more natural lengthy pantomime sequences fell from favour and stories became more basic i.e. Prince is bored etc.

Melody Mennite as Marie-Antoinette
Today the language of pantomime - other than that practised by those irritating Marcel Marceau-want-to-bes who one can only wish would be trapped in a real glass box - is largely unknown; and though the score for Marie arranged by Ermanno Florio was a  "pastiche" taken from the works of Dmitri Shostokovitch, it would take a scholar to identify the aural clues, if indeed any were intended.  As a sidebar it would be interesting to see what sort of musical clue would/could have been used for poor Louis' medical condition.  Now "pastiche" is not a word I would have ever thought I'd write in the same sentence as the great Russian's name but it was an extremely beautiful score - how could it not be - and I only wish there had been a recording of it available.  It was a bit like  "Shostokovitch's Greatest Hits" in the style of the old Leopold Stokowski recordings.

But back to the dance.  It is when it is dealing with the most basic situations/emotions that Welch's choreography is its most successful.  Those are the four pas-de-deux for Marie and the two men in her story - Prince and Princess timidly approach their marital bed, Queen flirts and falls in love with toy boy, Queen sadly parts from toy boy, heart-broken Queen parts from husband.  When dealing with the court intrigues, the dissolute antics of Marie and her coterie and the pending unrest around them Welch does some interesting things but more often then not there was a temptation to laugh or at least snicker at some of the goings-on.  It would appear that the most outrageous things going on at Le Petit Trianon were bun fights, baguette sword fights, a penchant for gaudy pastel clothing and a bit of champagne guzzling.  Perhaps if the unrest that was rife in the country had appeared on the edges of the scene it would have had more impact but as it was it just seemed like mindless fun in the high-school cafeteria.  And initially when the revolution did break in on the insular world of Louis and Marie costuming and movement made it look more like a Zombie Apocalypse than the French Revolution.  However as the second act came to an end the intensity and tension suddenly built and carried over to the final act.

   An excerpt from the bedroom pas-de-deux from Act I of Maire: Melody Mennite 
and Ian Casady.  The music is from Shostokovitch's piano concert #1.

Much of that intensity came from Melody Mennite's Marie.  Never off-stage except for costume changes - and a few of those happened on stage - her Marie had a certain blandness for most of the first two acts but with her fall came a new depth in both her character and her dancing.  Also at this point Welch choreography gained in complexity and depth.   The earlier pas-de-deux - one with Ian Casady's Louis XVI as the Royal pair coupled was a little twee but did end in a touching kiss on the cheek that more than all the previous lifts and pirouettes told the story of Marie's relationship with Louis.  And that was one of Mennite's strengths - as well as being a technically fine dancer she is a fine actress.  This was more than apparent in the beginning of Act Three as Marie, stripped of all finery, sat with her back to the audience and was menaced by the crowd and the damning Citizen's Committee.  Her very stillness conveyed the terror and resolve of a woman who knew already what her fate would be.  The two pas de deux with Count Axel Fersen (Connor Walsh) had a sense of eroticism but it was the final pas de deux of parting with Louis that highlighted Mennite's ability as both a dancer and an actress.   The heart-break was palpable and the fact that we as an audience sat in silence for several beats before showing our appreciation spoke of the effect it had.

The company surrounding the three principles is a solid one however none of the dancers stood out from the crowd (Welsh's crowds were busy ones).  What did stand out where the production values - designer Kandis Cook had obviously given a generous budget and spent it lavishly but tastefully and with good effect.  As already mentioned the score was exceptionally beautiful and well-played by the NAC Orchestra under Jonathan McPhee.  And the mere fact that in this day and age of cutbacks to the arts worldwide that the company (61 dancers strong) could bring a production on this scale to us is a wonder.  But given what was being presented I can be forgiven for wishing that more resources had been put into creating a better piece of narrative dance.  As I said perhaps Welsh should have stopped at that first grew or when his piece grew to the size it had, taken a pair of judicious pruning shears to it and cut it back to the basic emotions.

21 October -  1910:  HMS Niobe arrives in Halifax Harbour to become the first ship of the Royal Canadian Navy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mercoledi Musicale

Several years ago as I was returning from Bologna to Roma on the train I listened to a podcast that I had downloaded a year or two before.  I'm sure that most of us have those on our iPods, iPhones or whatever we listen to music on these days - those things we always meant to listen to but never got around to it.  It had been posted by Charlie Handelman on his podcast  Handelmania - a incredible series of over a hundred podcasts uploaded between March 2006 and November 2010.  Charlie produced a remarkably eclectic potpourri of things operatic - live broadcasts, old 78s, pirated recordings, private tapes - ranging from the earliest days of recorded sound to the most recent performers: his last podcast was arias by Piotr Biczala, a Slavic tenor who had just appeared with some success on the scene in New York.

Most of  Charlie's programmes were built around themes - a favourite singer on their birthday, a memorable performance from the past, a vocal type or national operatic style or a particular aria, duet or ensemble.  In the case of the podcast on the train it was devoted to one duet from an opera that has never been part of the standard rep but has recently gained a niche in European opera houses.  Erik Korngold's Die Tote Stadt had its double-premiere in December of 1920 and became a world-wide success in all the major opera houses.  It disappeared from German and Austrian houses with the advent of Nazism and after its initial success did not reappear elsewhere with any frequency.  Its rather purple prose libretto (the work of the composer's father the renowned Viennese music critic Julius Korngold) doesn't work in its favour and the lush score is not to everyone's taste but two pieces became popular as the work itself faded from sight: the baritone aria Tanzlied des Pierrots and the duet Mariettas Lied.  

Charlie Handelman's programme centred around eleven versions of this lovely melody in its original form for soprano and tenor.  But it is also a favourite as a soprano solo in recital and one of the loveliest version is by the late Spanish soprano Pilar Lorengar.  I saw this greatly underrated singer three time on stage - as Euridice in Orfeo with Shirley Verrett at Covent Garden, in a ghastly production of Mitradate, Re di Ponto at the Salzburg Festival and in concert in Toronto.  It was at the later that I committed one of my numerous faux pas when approaching a celebrity for an autograph.  A very gracious smiling Lorengar was signing my program as I gushed:  I saw you in that dreadful Mitradate last summer!  No I mean it was dreadful not you!  You were wonderful! It was the production that was dreadful! Unfortunately I kept putting the emphasis on the word "dreadful". Fortunately my friend Alan was there to push me aside and do his normal charming shtick, leaving a rather perplexed soprano wondering why this mad man had called her dreadful! 

Glück, das mir verblieb,
rück zu mir, mein treues Lieb.
Abend sinkt im Hag
bist mir Licht und Tag.
Bange pochet Herz an Herz
Hoffnung schwingt sich himmelwärts.

Wie wahr, ein traurig Lied.
Das Lied vom treuen Lieb,
das sterben muss.

Ich kenne das Lied.
Ich hört es oft in jungen,
in schöneren Tagen.
Es hat noch eine Strophe --
weiß ich sie noch?

Naht auch Sorge trüb,
rück zu mir, mein treues Lieb.
Neig dein blaß Gesicht
Sterben trennt uns nicht.
Mußt du einmal von mir gehn,
glaub, es gibt ein Auferstehn.

Joy, that near to me remains,
Come to me, my true love.
Night sinks into the grove
You are my light and day.
Anxiously beats heart on heart
Hope itself soars heavenward.

How true, a sad song.
The song of true love,
that must die.

I know the song.
I heard it often in younger,
in better days.
It has yet another verse--
Do I know it still?

Though sorrow becomes dark,
Come to me, my true love.
Lean (to me) your pale face
Death will not separate us.
If you must leave me one day,
Believe, there is an afterlife.
Original text by Julius Korngold under the pseudonym Paul Schott
English ranslation by Lisa Lockhart (

In the context of the opera itself it is sung by the music hall entertainer Marietta to Paul - who is obsessed with his dead wife Marie, who Marietta resembles.  There are several versions on YouTube and one of the best dates from a gala at the Deutsche Oper Berlin in 1986.   By then soprano Karen Armstrong's voice was beginning to show signs of wear but Marietta had been one of "her" roles and she shows why.  One wonders how Siegfried Jerusalem was able to resist her charms.

A quick google to find out what Charlie Handelman is doing these days reveals that he has revived the podcasts in November of 2011 and has added a web version in the past few months.   And he continues to delve into his treasure chest of rare and wonderful items from the past - the first thing I heard from the new iTunes podcast was excerpts from an 1929 Aida that he had transcribed from 78s.  He tells us that this was the first opera recording he ever heard and that he had lugged them home from the lending library in Flatbush.  He rather amusing remarks that "If not for this recording, I would have been a normal human being."

I've now discovered over a hundred more items to download and listen to on the bus in the mornings.  Thank you Charlie.

October 17 - 1814: London Beer Flood occurs in London, killing nine.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lunedi Lunacy - a day late

A day late but here's two concise but accurate observations on the joy of language - body and written!

That gesture and the word "boh" got me through an entire week with an Italian ward mate while in hospital in Rome.  He thought I spoke Italian extremely well!

And I remember trying to explain that rule to a room of Generals when I taught English at the Polish Armed Forces back in my Warsaw days.  ESL teachers have my undying respect!

16 October - 1906: The Captain of Köpenick fools the city hall of Köpenick and several soldiers by impersonating a Prussian officer.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mercoledi Musicale

Cecilia Bartoli is one of those singers you either adore or hate - and dont' the haters in certain quarters just go at it.  I come down firmly on the adore side of things and have since her first albums back in 1988-89.  Does she have ticks, mannerisms and some vocal faults?  Of course she does, she a human not the automaton that one gathers all the great singers from the past have been if the blog bitc quee commenters are to be believed.  Does she choose some strange repertoire?  Yes but then one can recall a few Divas of the recent past whose choice of works were - at times - just as strange (Esclarmonde anyone?).  And I have a feeling that many of the detractors have based all their opinions on armchair listening to her DVDs and CDs, particularly in North America where she has not graced a stage for several years.  And though those visual and audio recordings do capture much of what makes her both special and controversial they can't capture the magic connection she has with her audience when seen live.  All the ticks, quirks and faults disappear when she does what a diva is suppose to do - comes out on stage and galvanizes the theatre with her personality and voice.

I 've seen her on stage once -  back in 2008 in Roma and then just in concert.  However that should be remedied this coming May when she appears as Norma at the Salzburg Pfingstefestspiele.  We have tickets for the first performance - and for all the other events for what promises to be a crowded weekend: Rene Pape, András Schiff, Alfred Brendel (speaking not playing), the Hagen Quartet, Daniel Barenboim, Valery Gergiev with his Mariinsky Orchestra and Ballet.  All that in four days - it almost looks like I'm trying to make up for lost time.

Beginning from the autograph of the
Duetto da camera Pria ch'io faccia
by Agostino Steffani.
But until that performance I will have to make due with La Ceci's most recently released CD.  Mission follows in the pattern of her last few discs - here she explores the relatively unknown music of Agostino Steffani.  The period between the Early Baroque operas of Monteverdi and Cavalli is largely under represented and if only to hear music that bridges the styles of these two giants of early music and the succeeding generations it is worth the download price.  As always La Ceci shows that she can throw off the vocal fireworks in the style of the Late Baroque that have made her famous but she also shows a simplicity and delicacy in the arias that harken back to the earlier composers - often with only continuo, a viola de gamba or even a single lute as the accompaniment.

This aria from Servio Tullio (1686) has a gentle melody and a light accompaniment with the instrumental line giving as much emotional impact as the vocal line.  Its not unlike what can be heard in L'OrfeoUlisse or L'Ormindo - and that lovely dying away at the end reminds me of the ascension of Calisto to the stars in Cavalli's opera.

Ogni core può sperar;
solo il mio dee lagrimar.
La fortuna, ch’è tiranna,
mi condanna
a mai sempre sospirar.
Every heart may hope;
mine alone must weep.
Tyrannical fortune
condemns me
to sigh for evermore.

Equally lovely in its simplicity is the melding of La Ceci's voice with that Golden Boy of the countertenor world Philippe Jaroussky. Their two voices compliment each other beautifully at several points sounding like one voice. He joins her in four duets, two from Niobe, Regina di Tebe(1688), the only Steffani opera revived in recent times. Typical of operas of the time the mythological story of the fecund (16 children????) and haughty Queen Niobe is interwoven with magic spells, misplaced adore and unrequited passion. This duet combines the first two as King Creon under a magic spell believes he is in love with Niobe, who mistakenly believe him to be a god. Like the passions invoked Steffani's music seems to be built on air.

Creonte (Philippe Jaroussky)
T’abbraccio, mia Diva,
ti lego al mio cor.
Mia vita è il tuo lume,
mia gioia è il tuo ardor.

Niobe (Cecilia Bartoli)
Ti stringo, mio Nume,
ti lego al mio cor.
Tua luce m’avviva,
mia gioia è il tuo ardor.
I embrace you, my goddess,
I bind you to my heart.
your eyes are my life,
your ardour brings me joy.

I hold you close, my god,
I bind you to my heart.
Your light enlivens me,
your ardour brings me joy.

In an interesting tie-in Donna Leon, she of Inspector Brunetti fame, has just published her latest book, The Jewels of Paradise.  Her new book tells the fascinating story of Steffani's life as a musician, priest, diplomat and familiar of royals as seen through the eyes of Caterina Pellegrini, a young Venetian musicologist.  Caterina returns to her hometown to unlock the mystery of two trunks left by the composer and squirrelled away for three centuries in the vaults of the Propoganda Fide in Rome.  I will probably have something to say about it a bit later but did find it a good and, given its size, quick read.  It was interesting reading the copious notes in the elaborate Decca booklet and then Leon's three hundred year old mystery story.   One very big caveat where the booklet is concerned - though it goes into great detail about the court intrigues in Hanover and other places where Steffani served it is very thin about the music itself.  As fascinating as the story of poor Princess Sophia Dorothea and Count Königsmarck may be it would have been better to let Leon tell us the story and use the pages of the CD booklet to tell us about Steffani's instrumentation, the context of the arias and even a bit about the operas themselves.

In the meantime I'll echo Creon - t'abbraccio, mia Diva  or at least I embrace you latest album until I get to see hear your Casta Diva in May.

October 10 - 1971: Sold, dismantled and moved to the United States, London Bridge reopens in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

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Monday, October 08, 2012

Once Again We Give Thanks - II

Honour the fruits of thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thy increase; so shall they barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
Proverbs 3: 9-10
King James Bible (1611)

I was surprised on Saturday when two friends on Facebook - one English, the other a New Zealander - both expressed surprise at Canadians celebrating Thanksgiving.  Their immediate assumption was that it was an "American" holiday.

I've written in several Thanksgiving posts about the Canadian tradition of Thanksgiving back to our Native Peoples. Every culture has its traditions and rituals - many of them to do with religious observances just as many not - to give thanks for events, victories and always for the harvest. One of the most surprising Canadian thanksgivings were the celebrations - Te Deums, the non-stopping ringing of bells and feasting for days - that went on in the streets of Montreal in 1805.  The news of Nelson's victory over the "Royal Usurper" Bonaparte stirred up the entire population of the city - French and English - and the French merchants subscribed to a monument to Nelson that stands in the centre of Old Montreal to this day.  The defeat of "le petit caporal" was indeed a reason to give thanks for the many families of Royalist heritage in the city and province.

But back to the more traditional Harvest Thanksgiving as celebrated here in Canada; the folks at Canada411 put out a little chart a few years ago that gives some pertinent facts about the holiday as observed here in Canada.  I do take exception to their need to make a comparison with the American holiday but they are right about the earlier harvest - it was 3c this morning when I took the kids out for their walk.

And of course being politically correct the good folks at Canada411 have omitted the religious observance from which our current tradition derives.  I have spoken before of the Harvest Thanksgiving services I recall as a child in our small parish church and later as an acolyte at St Thomas Huron Street.  To this day the words and music of those Matins, Masses and Evensongs remind me of the many things for which I have every reason to give thanks.

Strangely the Hymnal lists only a handful of hymns for the Harvest Thanksgiving but I recall we sang them all at one time or another.  In 1861 Jane Montgomery Campbell translated Mathias Claudius 1782 poem Wir flügen und wir struen and it became We plough the fields and scatter.  The music is the original German setting composed in 1800 by Johann A. P. Schulz.

The Collect for Harvest Thanksgiving

O Almighty and everlasting God, who crownest the year with thy goodness, and hast given unto us the fruits of the earth in their season; Give us grateful hearts, that we may unfeignedly thank thee for all thy loving kindness, and worthily magnify they name.
The Book of Common Prayer
Canada 1959

No matter if we are Canadian or American; no matter if we celebrate a harvest, an event or a victory; no matter if we believe in the faith of Christ, Buddha,the Earth Mother or simply a power higher than ourselves; most of us have reason to give thanks for the bounty that has been given us.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my family and friends. 

October 8 - 1904: Edmonton, Alberta was incorporated as a city.

Lunedi Lunacy

And  I will restate - and no I do not protest too much - I am not a retifist!  But for my favourite shoe fanatics (you know who you are don't you Cecilia? Lara? Shirl? Jessica?)  here's a perfect Thanksgiving gift.

Once again:  Happy Thanksgiving??????

October 8-  1582: Because of the implementation of the Gregorian calendar this day does not exist in that year in Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Once Again We Give Thanks - I

Yesterday I posted a comment on Facebook that expressed how I felt as the Thanksgiving weekend began here in Canada.  As we prepare to head out to friends for Thanksgiving dinner I thought I'd share those thoughts with a wider world.

 Its Thanksgiving Weekend here in Canada and I started thinking that maybe I should make a photo montage of all the things I am thankful for - as I storyboarded it (yes I do that sort of thing) I realized that it wasn't things that I was thankful for but people.  People that I have known since childhood and still know and love; people I have met in the various countries we have lived in, many who have become like family; people I have worked with and grown close to; people I have met face to face and people I have only known through the exchange of thoughts through the ether. Of all the things I have been blessed with it is the people in my life that I should be most thankful for - they have given me purpose, meaning and love. I am truly blessed and for that I will always give thanks.

And as I look at this weekend it has and will be one filled with time spent with my family (Laurent and the HFH), friends - long-time and recent.

Uncle Pervy has been a cherished person in my life almost since the day I arrived in Ottawa 36 years ago.  Last night was a mile-stone birthday for him and we celebrated amongst family and friends - some of whom I had not seen in many years.  Jim, one of our old gang, drove the 1350 kms from PEI to be with us.  Others came in from Toronto and the Finger Lakes, some came from just down the street but our paths had not crossed in a while.  It was a joyous - and at times a bit bawdy as we recalled old times - meeting of friends and family. 

Tonight will be dinner with friends of a more recent vintage - Jackie, Mona and their daughter Shawna came into our lives through a Christmas dinner in 2005 with our friends Ross and Albert.  Every year since we have received an invitation to their New Year's reception; we were able to attend several but because of distance more often than not had to send our regrets.  But every year without fail the invitation would be extended with the hope that one day we would be able to accept and this past January we were able to enjoy the afternoon with them once more.  This evening we'll be joining them and other friends to have a meal together and give thanks for all the blessings of this past year.

Tomorrow at lunch Cathy will be ladling out soup, Laurent will be carving a turkey he cooked (his first!!!) and John will be offering slices of his pumpkin cheese cake.  Me - well I'll be opening and pouring a bottle or two of one of our lovely light Italian reds - its an onerous task but I've agreed to it.  As we linger over our coffee we will no doubt recall Thanksgivings, other feasts and good times spent together in Chicago, Rome, Aylmer, Niagara-on-the-Lake or just here in Ottawa.  We'll be wishing that Rick were here with us and the plan is to call him in Florida to, at the least, tell him what he's missing and that he is missed.

A fine weekend that has been filled with friends, family and thanks. Indeed I am truly blessed and for that I will always give thanks

October 07 - 1998: Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming, is found tied to a fence after being savagely beaten by two young men in Laramie, Wyoming.
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Monday, October 01, 2012

Lunedi Lunacy

They called it the "Golden Age of Television" and looking at this clip you can understand why. It was live - including the commercials, it was without teleprompter and it was in front of a studio audience. There were not second takes, no laugh track - just talents that had been honed on stage in vaudeville, musical comedy and drama. And with a repertory company that included Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris, and Nanette Fabray, Sid Caesar delivered a wild mixture of slapstick, pantomime, sophisticated take-offs, satire and laugh from 1949 until 1958 on The Admiral Broadway Revue, Your Show of Shows and the Sid Caesar Hour.    It didn't hurt that over the years his stable of writers included Lucille Kallen, Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Michael Stewart, Mel Tolkin, Sheldon Keller and Larry Gelbart.  All that talent suggests that it was indeed a "golden age".

The one thing none of these talented people ever did - oh current producers take note - was under-estimate the intelligence of their audience.  Here's Caesar and Fabray in a brilliant piece of mime set to a familiar piece of classical music.

And then you ask why I don't currently own a TV?????

01 October - 1908: Ford puts the Model T car on the market at a price of US$825. (Thanks Mr Ford!)

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