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Friday, October 31, 2014

A Hallowe’en Story

From the Crypt Dept.: Back, back, back to the days when Metroland Magazine passed off my fiction as serious writing, and a tale cobbled from a few stray incidents. The dogs, by the way, were Bassett Hounds.

                                                                                  
                

SURE, I'D YEAR AFTER YEAR anticipated donning costume and mask and shaking the neighbors down for sweets each October 31st, but there comes a time in a fellow’s life when he has to put away childish things and assume a man’s estate. This happened to me one particular Hallowe’en that I remember too well. I was ten.

My little brother (a skinny, whiny, conniving wretch with a permanently runny nose and voice like a rusty screen door) was going out yet again in a clown suit, a costume he adopted annually with little change in makeup. We were invited to finish our trick-or-treating at the home of Arnold Winterhaven, the spoiled kid who lived at the end of my street with a family that “summered abroad” each year to the disgust of my parents and their friends.

Still, “If Arnold wants you to go to his house,” my mother said, “I really think you should. That way I won’t have to feed you dinner.”

Mom was a quiet believer in the redistribution of wealth, and if she couldn’t practice overt socialism, the least we kids could do to oblige her was to scrounge a few meals off the rich.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Music for Postmoderns

WHAT MAKES TAYLOR SWIFT’S song “Shake It Off” turns out to be Swift herself. Had my initial exposure to it been video-free, sparing me from the sight of her song-long hissy fit, I might have warmed a bit more to the piece, but YouTube is the too-easy music-finder these days. It’s also where I discovered the Postmodern Jukebox cover of that song, a single-camera recording in one long take, where the song is transformed into Motown-inflected R&B thanks to crooner Von Smith, brass and backup singers, and the high-energy arrangement by keyboard wizard Scott Bradlee.

Postmodern Jukebox
Photo by Michael Webber
Not surprisingly, this was the program closer at PMJ’s Capital Region debut, a performance at the Tory Music Hall last Saturday. The variously sized ensemble has rocketed to fame over the past year thanks to its unprepossessing but compelling videos, and is in the midst of a tour taking them around the country and beyond.

Bradlee is a protean jazzsmith, moving easily from stride to funk, as dynamic a soloist as he is comfortable in the ensemble. His arrangements for that ensemble – clarinet, trombone, bass, and drums for the Troy date – capture not only the spirit of particular moments in pop music’s history, but also an aggregation of styles; thus, he might punctuate a straight-ahead rhythm and blues with a spare Basie-inflected break.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Symptom Recital

Guest Blogger Dept.: Sometimes mere 
words aren't enough to describe a 
complicated state of mind. In the hands 
of a master versifier, however, 
sometimes they are.

                                                                                         

I do not like my state of mind; 
I'm bitter, querulous, unkind. 
I hate my legs, I hate my hands, 
I do not yearn for lovelier lands. 
I dread the dawn's recurrent light; 
I hate to go to bed at night. 
I snoot at simple, earnest folk. 
I cannot take the simplest joke. 
I find no peace in paint or type. 
My world is but a lot of tripe. 
I'm disillusioned, empty-breasted. 
For what I think, I'd be arrested. 
I am not sick. I am not well. 
My quondam dreams are shot to hell. 
My soul is crushed, my spirit sore: 
I do not like me any more. 
I cavil, quarrel, grumble, grouse. 
I ponder on the narrow house. 
I shudder at the thought of men. 
I'm due to fall in love again.

-- Dorothy Parker 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cohoes-ESIPA Co-Producers

From the Theatrical Vault Dept.: Here’s a crazy idea – let a couple of professional area theaters get together on a production. Wait; there’s only one around here now. Ah, well. Here’s a taste of what it used to be like in the Albany area.

                                                                          
     

OUT IN MOSCOW, it seemed like a better and better idea. Pat Snyder, producing-director of the Empire State Institute for the Performing Arts, reacted to the idea of a musical version of “The Diary of Anne Frank” like so many others: how on earth do you make that work?

But a recording of the short-lived off-Broadway production convinced her. Trouble was, she got back to the U.S. to discover that another producing-director, just down the street (so to speak), had snagged the show already, and Bob Tolan would be bringing it into the Cohoes Music Hall as a Heritage Artists production.

Those are some of the circumstances that led to what promises to be an auspicious collaboration between the two theater groups as ESIPA and Heritage Artists combine to produce “Yours, Anne” February through March.

“We had a slot for an unannounced musical,” says ESIPA's Ron Nicoll, “and this looked like a good opportunity to expand both of our audiences.”

Monday, October 27, 2014

Much, Indeed, Does He Make Me Love Him

From the Vault Dept.: Elsewhere on these e-pages, you can find program notes I wrote for a number of Dorian Recordings CDs. Before I got involved in that pleasant task, I was introduced to the label and its excellent output both through the CDs themselves and by seeing some of the artists in concert. Here’s my review of one such event.

                                                                                               

MY FAVORITE EARLY-MUSIC FANTASY lets me eavesdrop on a concert performance from centuries ago, letting me see and hear pre-Renaissance stuff as it actually was essayed. Although Altramar has yet to release its first Dorian Discovery CD (release is imminent), any group that’s good enough for Dorian is good enough for me, and I was delighted to attend last Sunday’s concert featuring this four-member group.

It wasn’t what I expected. Early music groups like to get informal, show off their stuff, throw in a Lennon-McCartney arrangement. Altramar took us back to medieval Iberia and kept us there. I’ll never make that time-travel trip, so I’m happy to substitute this concert as the next best thing.

From the first number – a reshoyut, or pre-prayer prayer from the 11th century – we were in a realm of passion and austerity. The song was begun quietly by tenor David Stattelman, who sings in a clear, resonant voice that worked beautifully in the acoustically sensitive Music Hall. As they segued into the cantio Dum pater familias, instrumental accompaniment was the throaty vihuela de arco, a violin ancestor, played by Jann Cosart, and singers Angela Mariani and Chris Smith joined in.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Art of Melancholy

THE BELCEA QUARTET opened the Union College Concert Series last Thursday (Oct. 16) with a trio of quartets, big-master pieces that offered no plangent threats to nervous ears – but that rewarded attentive ears (or at least my sensationalist-seeking ears) with compelling insights into the comparative worlds of Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert.

Belcea Quartet; photo by Ronald Knapp
Mozart’s Quartet in F Major, K. 590, kicked things off with the cruelest of opening passages: three measures of unison playing. Four instruments ascending slowly up the home key’s tonic triad, then coursing quickly down the scale. What we heard was so sure-footed as to sound unremarkable. It wasn’t, and the lush tone suggested by those unison notes shortly blossomed into a high-spirited conversation between violin and cello, as viola and the other violin sang an accompaniment of stuttering eighth notes.

Violist Krzysztof Chorzelski leaned in a little towards Axel Schacher (second violin) as they gave shape to these passages, as if there were something conspiratorial about what they were up to. Perhaps there was: Corina Belcea’s violin phrases seemed to tease responses from Antoine Lederlin’s cello, and the opening movement as a whole came across as a duet for the outer voices.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Dog’s Tale

Guest Blogger Dept.: Mark Twain’s A Dog’s Tale began as a story in the December 1903 Harper’s Magazine; reproduced below is the version expanded into a small book the following year. It’s Twain as his sentimental and political best, and I hope it saved an animal or two.

                                                                                          

Chapter I.

Drawing by W.T. Smedley
MY FATHER WAS A ST. BERNARD, my mother was a collie, but I am a Presbyterian. This is what my mother told me, I do not know these nice distinctions myself. To me they are only fine large words meaning nothing. My mother had a fondness for such; she liked to say them, and see other dogs look surprised and envious, as wondering how she got so much education. But, indeed, it was not real education; it was only show: she got the words by listening in the dining-room and drawing-room when there was company, and by going with the children to Sunday-school and listening there; and whenever she heard a large word she said it over to herself many times, and so was able to keep it until there was a dogmatic gathering in the neighborhood, then she would get it off, and surprise and distress them all, from pocket-pup to mastiff, which rewarded her for all her trouble.

If there was a stranger he was nearly sure to be suspicious, and when he got his breath again he would ask her what it meant. And she always told him. He was never expecting this but thought he would catch her; so when she told him, he was the one that looked ashamed, whereas he had thought it was going to be she. The others were always waiting for this, and glad of it and proud of her, for they knew what was going to happen, because they had had experience. When she told the meaning of a big word they were all so taken up with admiration that it never occurred to any dog to doubt if it was the right one; and that was natural, because, for one thing, she answered up so promptly that it seemed like a dictionary speaking, and for another thing, where could they find out whether it was right or not? for she was the only cultivated dog there was.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

End of Stone

From the Back of the Fridge Dept.: Here’s a reminder of a long-gone eatery that eventually became the also now-defunct Milestone Restaurant (which was the guise under which the accompanying photo was taken). I’m leaving in a huge error I just spotted – and which seems to have bypassed editors and readers until now. The discount hardware store mentioned blights the landscape with ... a secondary color.

                                                                                 

I RECENTLY TRIED TO BUY a lawn tractor from one of those huge discount hardware stores whose primary color blights the landscape, and, after fighting for attention from the barely sentient customer service drone, eventually got a lawn-and-garden android to speak to me. What scotched the sale was his boast, when I asked for the time, that he never wore a wristwatch. The correct answer, as any good server knows, is, “Excuse me for a moment while I find that out for you.”

A more recent view of the
dining room's interior.
I learned it early and well in my waitering days because it was directly tied to my tip, and I made a fantastic amount of money at some white-linen joints in Fairfield and Westchester Counties. This quality of service is missing from all but a few local restaurants – it’s the biggest shortfall in what I see of the business here – but I was delighted to find it well in place at the new Stone Ends.

Reopened in November by former owner Henry Junco in partnership with Quintessence’s Jimmy Scalzo, Stone Ends now boasts a (fairly) northern Italian menu, overseen by chef Paul Persico. But it’s much more than that. It’s once again a standard setter for fine dining around here.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Knickerbocker Holiday

From the Vault Dept.: I just ran a cross a bunch of pieces I wrote for the Schenectady Gazette about Albany's then-newly opened Knickerbocker Arena, which opened January 30, 1990, with a performance by a drunk Frank Sinatra. I've reproduced two of those pieces below to provide a twinge or two of nostalgia. As you might imagine, much of what I've detailed below has changed.

                                                                                                                                                                           
EIGHTEEN THOUSAND PEOPLE RARELY AGREE on everyday subjects like politics and parking, but face them with the extraordinary and you can gather together a lot of faces. Now that the Capital District’s Knickerbocker Arena is providing the space we need some extraordinary events to fill it.

They’re on their way.

Abany's Knickerbocker Arena
Frank Sinatra is an entertainer whose own influences are as eclectic and varied as those whom he has influenced over the years. Citing Jascha Heifetz and Tommy Dorsey as two of those who shaped his style, his singing has shaped the interpretive technique of musicians of all disciplines and category. He’s also a top-notch actor and songwriter and a good person to have as a friend. That he’s opening the arena with a gala concert Jan. 30 says it all. There will be black ties and gowns and probably a sweatshirt or two.

What you see on TV when you see Bill Cosby has little to do with what he’s really all about. Sure, there’s the hit series, but he started that to combat the wasteland of prime-time programming. What he offers best is simply a point of view. A point of view that is devastatingly funny. He sits back in his canvas chair, rolls a cigar in his fingers and talks, and tells us about things, familiar things, that we never analyzed in such a fashion. He’ll be at the Arena on Feb. 2.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

One Batch at a Time

From the Tech Vault Dept.: What could be less fascinating than an old computer article or an old book review? Why, an old review of a computer book! Here you go.

                                                                                          

FOR MANY BEGINNING COMPUTERISTS, batch files are an introduction to programming. They offer a reward for achieving a little DOS knowledge by automating repetitive command-line activity; even better, they provide some DOS insulation when you get into more sophisticated procedures like batch-file menu construction.

The much-vaunted DOS limitations then become obvious pretty quickly. Conditional branching depends on a weak set of IF ... THEN possibilities, and information input and output is crude and restricted.

Enterprising programmers overcome those weaknesses by writing utilities to take up the slack, and Ronny Richardson has thoughtfully searched out and collected a batch of them in a guide that describes hundreds of utilities and packs almost 200 of them on an accompanying diskette.

The most common such utility is the little ASK program that used to come with the Norton Utilities (and it’s described in this book): it allowed the batch file to ask the user a multiple-choice question and assign an ERRORLEVEL value to the response, which then sent the batch file to an appropriate branch. ASK is now part of Norton’s souped-up Batch Enhancer, but this book stresses the fact that many similar cousins exist – with greater or lesser enhancements. If the one that sounds most appealing isn’t on the enclosed disk, it’s probably on a BBS somewhere.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014

“Coffee, Megg and Ilk, Please”

Guest Blogger Dept.: Another visit with the reliable Robert Benchley.

                                                                          
           

GIVE ME ANY TOPIC in current sociology, such as “The Working Classes vs. the Working Classes,” or “Various Aspects of the Minimum Wage,” and I can talk on it with considerable confidence. I have no hesitation in putting the Workingman, as such, in his place among the hewers of wood and drawers of water—a necessary adjunct to our modern life, if you will, but of little real consequence in the big events of the world.

Drawing by Gluyas Williams
But when I am confronted, in the flesh, by the “close up” of a workingman with any vestige of authority, however small, I immediately lose my perspective – and also my poise. I become servile, almost cringing. I feel that my modest demands on his time may, unless tactfully presented, be offensive to him and result in something, I haven’t been able to analyze just what, perhaps public humiliation.

For instance, whenever I enter an elevator in a public building I am usually repeating to myself the number of the floor at which I wish to alight. The elevator man gives the impression of being a social worker, filling the job just for that day to help out the regular elevator man, and I feel that the least I can do is to show him that I know what’s what. So I don’t tell him my floor number as soon as I get in. Only elderly ladies do that. I keep whispering it over to myself, thinking to tell it to the world when the proper time comes. But then the big question arises – what is the proper time? If I want to get out at the eighteenth floor, should I tell him at the sixteenth or the seventeenth? I decide on the sixteenth and frame my lips to say, “Eighteen out, please.” (Just why one should have to add the word “out” to the number of the floor is not clear. When you say “eighteen” the obvious construction of the phrase is that you want to get out at the eighteenth floor, not that you want to get in there or be let down through the flooring of the car at that point. However, you’ll find the most sophisticated elevator riders, namely, messenger boys, always adding the word “out,” and it is well to follow what the messenger boys do in such matters if you don’t want to go wrong.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Sense of Place

I HAVE A RECURRING DREAM in which I’m walking through a house I inhabited during a few months in 1973. I’m aware that it’s been many decades since I was there last, yet it looks very much the same. The piano is still in the living room; my third-floor bedroom has the same loose doorknob. But it’s empty of people, and I feel that emptiness. Yet the loneliness I feel in the dream isn’t very different from the loneliness I’d felt while living there. I was sixteen. It was my first time living away from my family. They’d moved; I stayed behind to finish high school, and boarded with the family of one of my best friends.

It was a formative few months. The family, itself creative, attracted many artistic friends. As a would-be writer and actor, I listened in awe to the stories they told about this or that brush with greatness. Yet, being only stories, and the stories of others, they underscored my sense of transience.

I have since lived in a number of locations in the northeast, with a quarter-century spent in my current home, on a farm near Albany, NY. My wife and I bought the place five years after we were married; seven years after that, our daughter was born in this house.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Apple Pie Order

From the Back of the Fridge Dept.: Leo’s Diner was such an institution in the greater Saratoga Springs area that it’s still a shock to realize it’s gone, although its space has been occupied since 2007 by the commendable Fifty South, run by Kim Klopstock, who also offers an excellent apple pie.

                                                                                            

EVER HAVE AN EXPERIENCE that’s just kind of teetering down the middle of the road when it suddenly drops a glorious, totally redeeming surprise into your lap?

Not Leo's pie, but I wanted to
show you something.
Mets fans know what I’m talking about. It’s the great third act, the from-out-of-nowhere last chapter.

This was my experience at Leo’s Diner.

It’s been there forever (or at least so it seems), a Route 50 institution that boasts of its special apple pie.

So my wife and I stopped in for a late dinner the other night. It’s not a nightspot; at 8:30 they already were winding down, topping off the salt shakers and such. But we got a pleasant greeting and chose a booth by the front window.

Not much to look at inside. A large mural on one wall depicts a few thoroughbreds, and the horse motif informs some of the other wall decorations. The place is a riot of panelling, several varieties on walls and ceiling. An island of fake flowers divides the dining room; fake flowers on the tables as well.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Gustatory Romance

From the Pervy Vault Dept.: The essay below was one of several I cooked up over the years to link food and sex for a Metroland Valentine’s Day edition. You’ll enjoy the crudité of it.

                                                                             
               

IT’S THE DATE you’ve been breathlessly anticipating all week – or, let’s face it, most of your life. Because you’re finally going to sit across from the dinner table from the hottest, most desirable person you’ve ever nervously exchanged words with, a person whose luminous eyes and tender lips have taken over your dreams these past many nights.

And the restaurant is great. The comfortable, secluded tables and intimate lighting have stoked the sexual tension, and you can already feel yourself a few short steps away from . . . what?

The bedroom? Will you be able to maneuver that date into your carnal embrace before the last sweet flavor of your post-prandial liqueur has faded? Or will it be another handshake-at-the-door kind of event?

The volatile chemistry of food and romance has fired the imaginations of love-starved humans for centuries, leading them to incredibly imaginative notions of just what comestibles might cause John Thomas to twitch.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Endangered Species

From the Vault Dept.: I’ve already posted my review of the event referenced at the end of the piece below – “The Writer and the Public.” Here’s my account of a visit by the legendary Ted Solotaroff, as famous an editor as he was a writer, who spoke at Skidmore in 1987.

                                                                                      

“MORE AND MORE, LITERATURE IN THIS COUNTRY is going to have to depend upon its own resources,” said Ted Solotaroff, senior editor at Harper & Row.

Ted Solotaroff
Speaking at the New York State Writers Institute summer program at Skdmore College yesterday, Solotaroff echoed an opinion shared by many who work in the “literary” end of the business – and many who have been dressing the writers-in-training during the past three weeks in Saratoga Springs.

“Writers can’t just concern themselves with their own careers,” Solotaroff observed. “They are an endangered species. They have to do something for the hive.”

His own background demonstrates just such a concern – he was founder and editor of the New American Review in 1967, a paperback quarterly that presented emerging authors in a setting relatively free from editorial intrusion.

“I had worked for Commentary,’”he explained, “which was a heavily-edited magazine. I was ready to work for something that was lightly edited. Too much editing moves across not only the prose but also the spirit the authors being edited.”

Thursday, October 09, 2014

To the Top!

From the Tech Vault Dept.: I just ordered my 2015 day-planner pages and, yes, I’m still using the Franklin Institute’s (now Franklin-Covey’s) system. And so is the rest of my family. Do I spend my morning categorizing my goals? Do I slavishly record my appointments, my phone calls, my expenses? Next year I’ll do it. But here’s my ancient review of the company’s very first software offering.

                                                                                   

THE FRANKLIN INSTITUTE EXPECTS its time-management followers to be so fanatical about carrying their fat appointment calendars that a credit card caddy is provided in the back of the binder. You’d never, ever leave your book behind, the reasoning goes. And why should you? Within that leather or ultra-vinyl sheath is not only a record of every appointment, every phone call, every idea that’s ever struck you but also essays you’ve accumulated about your values and goals. Leaving such a collection behind would be inconvenient and even embarrassing.

A different version, but close enough.
Turn down the slavishness a notch, however, and you have an efficient, productive system flexible enough to accommodate a variety of work styles. As the Franklin seminar suggests, you’ll gain more than enough time through increased productivity to make up for the few minutes required for planning each day.

Ascend is the Windows-based counterpart, or companion, really, to the Franklin Time Management system. It’s perfectly suited for the Windows environment. When a phone call comes in, a user can mouse-click out of an application and over to Ascend’s “Daily Record of Events” feature and note appropriate details. Should the conversation require a follow-up meeting, that’s easily entered into the Appointment Schedule. And all of it can be printed onto forms that will fit in the Franklin binder.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Renaissance Man

From the Vault Dept.: My daughter’s interest in the lute has led me to unearth some of my own encounters with that charming instrument, as set down in reviews like this one, from 1990.

                                                                                                          

SOMETIMES I THINK Michael Jaffee is an actual Renaissance musician who found himself in 20th-century New York one day. He looks frighteningly authentic as he sits bent over his lute, strumming airs and harmonies of several centuries ago.

Michael and Kay Jaffee
During a solo in the middle of Monday night’s concert at the Troy Music Hall, the gentle sound of the lute – it’s a very quiet instrument – filled the hall as if scented with a subtle perfume. All sounds of audience restlessness stopped for a moment because everybody sensed that something magical was happening.

“Italia Mia” was the title of the concert, which took us on “a musical tour of Italy in the Renaissance.” The ten-member Waverly Consort, each an expert singer and/or instrumentalist, conveyed the passions and problems of an ancient world with tasteful effortlessness.

An interesting moment occurred near the end, during a lighthearted set of “music and scenes on the streets and canals” of 16th-century Venice and Naples: Orazio Vecchi’s “Non vuo pregare” was sung as a duet between baritone Paul Rowe and tenor John Olund, lamenting the lack of attention from a loved one.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Why Don't You Do Right?


Peggy Lee with Benny Goodman and His Orchestra, 
from "Stage Door Canteen" (1943). 
Now get out of here and get me some money, too.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Bring On the Bacon

What’s for Dinner? Dept.: This week’s Metroland review took me to Scotia NY’s newest casual eatery, a worthy successor to O’Leaary’s, which previously occupied the space.

                                                                     
                                   
I ASSUME THAT MY DOCTOR doesn’t read this column, or else he’d be all over me for the excesses to which I too often confess. The latest may be the most alarming of them all, although it’s also so delicious that I’m surprised it hasn’t become a standard menu item long since.

Photo by B. A. Nilsson
“I love bacon,” says Michael Martini, “and I can never get enough of it on a burger. So I decided to see what would happen if we ground it and made a burger that’s half-beef, half-bacon.”

The 50/50 leads the burgers listing on the Mohawk Taproom & Grill menu, an $11 plate served with fries (cheese is a dollar extra). Like all the burgers, it features eight ounces of meat. To ask for a layer of cheddar was superfetation, of course, but the affinity between bacon and cheese should not be denied.

What’s most remarkable about this burger is its agreeable flavor. Of course we go together well, it’s saying. You’re already accustomed to this combination. What’s missing is the bacon’s crunch. It’s like hearing the “Eroica” Symphony without its first two notes.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Friday, October 03, 2014

Something Sacred

From the Vault Dept.: In 1999, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hosted a weeklong Duke Ellington festival, the highlight of which was a program of Ellington’s “Sacred Concerts,” culled from the three such works he wrote towards the end of his life, and which brought bandleader and Ellington authority David Berger to Troy to conduct the work. Here’s my report.

                                                                      
                      

CENTENARIES ARE VERY CONVENIENT for giving historical figures extra attention; in Duke Ellington’s case, it’s the pleasant icing on a cake that, fortunately, is still very actively sampled. But it’s easy to recall Ellington only as the writer of “Satin Doll” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” with some faint recollection of the band that made headlines even as rock and roll was in its ascendance.

Duke Ellington
What does Duke Ellington mean to us today? “Plenty. He’s considered one of the major American composers of the 20th century,” says Tom Savoy. Savoy is himself a composer whose work has won awards at contests across the country, and who discovered, when he was teaching a Theory IV course at Schenectady County Community College, “that they had examples from Ellington right in the textbook. We studied his voicings and chords.”

Savoy is also a choral director who has traveled throughout Europe with his choir from St. Margaret Mary’s Church in Albany. He also leads the RPI Chorale, which group he’s preparing for a concert at 8 PM Tuesday, April 6, at the Troy Music Hall. “The Sacred Symphony” brings together highlights from Ellington’s three Sacred Concerts, which were composed in 1965 (his recording of “In the beginning, God” won a Grammy), 1967 and 1973, the year before he died. Ellington thought that the Second Sacred Concert was his most important work, and excerpts from it were played for the 12,000 mourners at his funeral.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

1601

Guest Blogger Dept.: Here’s a seeming departure for Mark Twain, but it’s not; he had a ripe and ribald sense of humor and, while researching the Elizabethan era, put together this pastiche for private distribution. Not surprisingly, it became not-so-private. Here’s his original introduction: Conversation, as it Was by the Social Fireside, in the Time of the Tudors. The following is supposed to be an extract from the diary of the Pepys of that day, the same being Queen Elizabeth's cup-bearer.  He is supposed to be of ancient and noble lineage; that he despises these literary canaille; that his soul consumes with wrath, to see the queen stooping to talk with such; and that the old man feels that his nobility is defiled by contact with Shakespeare, etc., and yet he has got to stay there till her Majesty chooses to dismiss him.

                                                                                                

YESTERNIGHT TOKE HER MAISTE ye queene a fantasie such as she sometimes hath, and had to her closet certain that doe write playes, bokes, and such like, these being my lord Bacon, his worship Sir Walter Ralegh, Mr. Ben Jonson, and ye child Francis Beaumonte, which being but sixteen, hath yet turned his hand to ye doing of ye Lattin masters into our Englishe tong, with grete discretion and much applaus. Also came with these ye famous Shaxpur. A righte straunge mixing truly of mighty blode with mean, ye more in especial since ye queenes grace was present, as likewise these following, to wit: Ye Duchess of Bilgewater, twenty-six yeres of age; ye Countesse of Granby, thirty; her doter, ye Lady Helen, fifteen; as also these two maides of honor, to-wit, ye Lady Margery Boothy, sixty-five, and ye Lady Alice Dilberry, turned seventy, she being two yeres ye queenes graces elder.

I being her maites cup-bearer, had no choice but to remaine and beholde rank forgot, and ye high holde converse wh ye low as uppon equal termes, a grete scandal did ye world heare thereof.

In ye heat of ye talk it befel yt one did breake wind, yielding an exceding mightie and distresfull stink, whereat all did laugh full sore, and then—

Ye Queene.—Verily in mine eight and sixty yeres have I not heard the fellow to this fart. Meseemeth, by ye grete sound and clamour of it, it was male; yet ye belly it did lurk behinde shoulde now fall lean and flat against ye spine of him yt hath bene delivered of so stately and so waste a bulk, where as ye guts of them yt doe quiff-splitters bear, stand comely still and rounde. Prithee let ye author confess ye offspring. Will my Lady Alice testify?

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Buxtehude's Daughter

"Songs to Amuse": The Classic Side!

                                                                          

YOU'VE WONDERED ALL YOUR LIFE why Bach didn’t take that job in Lübeck. Fantastic church, massive organ (simmer down, you), and he’d have succeeded the great Buxtehude. He is supposed to have walked over 200 miles to get the interview. We know one of the reasons: Bach discovered that he would have to marry Buxtehude’s daughter to get the gig, and she didn’t appeal to him.

Photo by Joseph Schuyler
What was the interview like? Tom Savoy and I asked ourselves that question and, seized by the spirit of Bach, wrote a cantata to answer it. The one thing we can assert about this work: Not a word of it is true. That spirit of Bach turned out to be more P.D.Q. than J.S.

Enjoy a rare opportunity to enjoy this cantata, “Buxtehude’s Daughter,” in a performance at 2 PM Sunday, October 5, at the First Unitarian Universalist Society, 405 Washington Ave, Albany. Amy Prothro sings the role of Anna Margareta, C. F. Schwartz is Bach, and I’ll be old Buxtehude.

Better still, there are strings attached: specifically, members of Musicians of Ma’alwyck, who will join us in the performance. Plus a flute, but if I try to make a joke about that I fear I’ll blow it.

Amy and I will warm you up with selections from our cabaret show “Songs to Amuse,” with Malcolm Kogut at the piano – songs by Bernstein, Sondheim, Gershwin, Flanders & Swann, and even Roger Miller.

After we’ve put you through all that, you’ll be turned loose on a champagne dessert buffet. And you’ll still have time enough to go home and rake a few leaves. It’s an afternoon not to be missed and a great way to support Musicians of Ma'alwyck. Tickets are $35 per person and available at 518/377-3623 or www.musiciansofmaalwyck.org (under Songs to Amuse). Or just show up and buy your way in.