Wednesday, 6 April 2005
Topic: Music and Art
was born in Berlin on 6th April 1929. As a child he studied at the Berlin Royal Conservatory and the Paris Conservatory before his family emigated to the United States in 1939 - just in time to escape Hitler's persecution of the Jews. Andre Previn is one of the World's most versatile musicians, an award-winning composer of film scores, orchestral and chamber music, a conductor and a jazz pianist. He has tried his hand at everything. This has been, I think, his greatest fault.
He could have been a modern-day Mozart if he had concentrated on composing classical music. Like Mozart, he was a child prodigy. He studied composition in California and whilst still at school started working on musical scores for Hollywood films. In 1958, he did the scores for Gigi
followed by Porgy and Bess
, Irma La Douce
and My Fair Lady
He could have been one of the greatest jazz musicians ever - if he had stuck to playing jazz. He first became interested in jazz after hearing Art Tatum
, Bud Powell
and Charlie Parker
. His 1957 album of My Fair Lady
with Shelly Manne
became a best seller. Many people do not realise that nearly all the great jazz pianists were trained in the classics before graduating to jazz. Had Mozart been alive today, I am sure he would have been utterly fascinated by jazz music, which often involves 'impromptu composition' around the melody being played. In a jazz group, this 'impromtu composition' is often bounced back and forth amongst the players. The late bassist, Ray Brown
, with whom Previn recorded Jazz at the Musikverein
, was a grand master of this art.
However, Previn could not choose between his love of jazz and his love of the classics. He turned back to the classical world and worked with many world-famous orchestras including ten years with the London Symphoney Orchestra and eight years with the Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra.
In 1995, he returned briefly to jazz when he recorded his concert at The Musikverein, in Vienna. In 1998, his first opera, A Streetcar Named Desire
, premiered in San Francisco.
Without doubt, he is a genius, a giant in the world of music. But, from my point of view, I will always think of him as a great jazz pianist.
Tuesday, 5 April 2005
Keep Your Eye On The Ball
Topic: In the News
A major new iniative to raise awareness of male cancer has just been launched by the England Football Team
with well known players taking time out of their training to encourage fans to to check themselves regularly for unusual lumps. The "Keep Your Eye On The Ball" campaign, which is now in its fourth year, is being promoted by The Professional Footballers’ Association, The Football Association and the Everyman Campaign
. Its aims are to raise awareness of testicular and prostate cancer among players and fans.
Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer among men aged 18 to 35, which is also the average span of a player's career. If caught early, the cancers can be cured in 96% of cases. Several football players, including Alan Stubbs and Neil Harris, have had testicular cancer but all are now fully recovered and continuing with their careers, demonstrating the importance of early diagnosis and treatment.
Prostate cancer has become the most common cancer in men. The majority of men with prostate cancer are aged over 60 years, with an average age at the time of diagnosis of 75 years. Although this cancer can also occur in younger individuals, it is very rare under the age of 50.
There are many ways to support this campaign - you could take part in a running event
or even make a parachute jump.
Monday, 4 April 2005
Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774)
Topic: Poetry and Poets
I have a lovely little book on The Poetical and Prose Works of Oliver Goldsmith with Life. Published by Gall and Inglis of 6 George Street, Edinburgh, it has 'Eight Engravings on Steel' and is leather bound with gold decoration. No date but probably circa 1860.
I had been puzzled by the conflict in the published dates for the birth of Oliver Goldmith but this book explains why. According to the flysheet of his father's family bible, "Oliver Goldsmith was born at Pallas, November ye 10th 17__." The last two figures having been lost with the margin of the leaf; but, from other sources, he is known to have been born in 1728
. Apparently, even the monument erected to him in Westminster Abbey, bearing a Latin inscription from Dr. Samuel Johnson, got it wrong.
Oliver Goldsmith's works include "The Vicar of Wakefield", "She Stoops to Conquer" and "The Good Natured Man". He wrote many poems and also penned numerous essays. His friends included Dr. Samuel Johnson, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Edmund Burke.
Here is an extract from his poem, "The Traveller", first published at the 'close of 1764'. It established his reputation as a poet.
Eternal blessings crown my earliest friend,
And round his dwelling guardian saints attend!
Blest be that spot, where cheerful guests retire
To pause from toil, and trim their evening fire;
Blest that abode, where want and pain repair,
And every stranger finds a ready chair;
Blest be those feasts with simple plenty crown'd,
Where all the ruddy family around
Laugh at the jests or pranks that never fail,
Or sigh with pity at some mournful tale;
Or press the bashful stranger to his food,
And learn the luxury of doing good.
[extract: second verse]
Oliver Goldsmith died in London from a fever in the 'forty-sixth year of his age' on 4th April 1774.
Royal Wedding Postponed!
Topic: In the News
Following confirmation from the Vatican that the Pope's funeral will take place on Friday and after initial reports saying that the Royal Wedding would go ahead as planned, Prince Charles has been forced to postpone the ceremony. The Times Online has now revised its earlier article to report that Clarence House has announced that the Royal Wedding will be delayed one day, "as a mark of respect".
Pull the other one - they didn't have any choice. All the important guests, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is giving the 'blessing', and the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, wanted to attend the Pope's funeral.
Karol Wojtyla (1920-2005)
Topic: In the News
The first non-Italian Pope since 1523, he is already being called John Paul the Great - a humble man who chose the same name as his predecessor. See this Blog entry by, Moniales
a Dominican Nun, and the translated poem by Juliusz Slowacki (1809-1849).
The Polish people have asked for his heart to be sent home
to Krakow, where Karol Wojtyla was appointed Archbishop in 1964 and Cardinal in 1967 before being elected Pope on 16th October 1978. Apparently, this was one of the Pope's last wishes. I know it has been a tradition of the Church to distribute relics of saints but somehow it seems wrong to me to 'desecrate' a pope's body so soon after death. Why not send some of his hair?
Will Karol Wojtyla become a Saint? Yes, I am absolutely sure he will.
It seems that the Pope's funeral
is likely to be held on Friday, 8th April 2005. Was something else scheduled for that day? Oh, yes - a wedding. Perhaps that is God's way of diverting attention away from someone else's sinful past! [Stop being cynical, Tessa, and remember the parable about throwing the first stone
Sunday, 3 April 2005
John Paul II (1978-2005) - Requiescat In Pace
Topic: In the News
May the angels
lead thee into Paradise; may the martyrs receive thee into the holy city Jerusalem. May the choir of angels receive thee; and with Lazarus, who once was poor, mayest thou have eternal rest. (from the Absolution of the Dead
In those days: I heard a voice from heaven, saying to me: "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. From henceforth now, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; for their works follow them."
(Apocalypse 14. 13
Saturday, 2 April 2005
Hans Christian Anderson and International Children's Book Day
Topic: Special Days
Hans Christian Anderson, the famous Danish author of fairy tales, was born exactly two hundred years ago today in Odense on 2nd April 1805. The picture is of my book, "Favourite Fairy Tales from Andersen", published by Raphael Tuck & Sons Ltd - Fine Art Publishers to Their Majesties the King and Queen and to Her Majesty Queen Mary (shows how old it is!). Stories included are Thumbelina
, The Real Princess
(the one who couldn?t sleep because of a pea placed under 20 mattresses), The Nightingale
, The Emperor?s New Clothes
, The Tinder Box
, Hans Clodhopper
and The Flying Trunk
. How I loved those stories!
Sadly, Andersen had a very deprived childhood and ran away to Copenhagen when he was just fourteen. A very talented and complex man - he was also a marvellous singer - he wrote many things besides fairy tales. The list includes novels, travelogues, autobiographies, poems and numerous articles. He died on 4th August 1875 from cancer of the liver. A film called "Hans Christian Anderson" was made by Danny Kaye
, that wonderfully funny and talented actor, in 1952. The film was more about the fairy tales than the life of the author but I remember songs like "The Ugly Duckling", "Thumbelina", "Wonderful Copenhagen" and Danny's Kaye's marvellous tongue twisting humour.
Since 1967, to commemorate Hans Christian Anderson's birthday, the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) celebrate each year International Children?s Book Day
. The aim is to inspire in the young a love of reading, to promote children?s books through schools and libraries and to raise international awareness of other cultures through children?s books.
Now a selection of twenty British footballers
, one for each club in the Premier League, are revealing their favourite books to encourage children to read more. The list is surprisingly varied ranging from "The Twits
" by Roald Dahl to "A Long Walk To Freedom
" by Nelson Mandela. Personally, I don?t approve of Paul McVeigh?s choice of "The Da Vinci Code
" by Dan Brown which, although a very popular best seller, is not one I would promote to children. However, the scheme, launched to coincide with International Children's Book Day, is supported by the Government. Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said: "Our public libraries are a great asset to communities throughout the country which are sometimes overlooked. These footballers are opening the door to family reading and improved literacy by showing that books of all different types are fun and accessible."
Friday, 1 April 2005
Were you caught out this morning? Have you played a joke on anyone? Too late now as it is after midday! I wonder how many newspapers or television stations have run April Fool's stories today? I haven't spotted any, as yet.
I still remember my mother and myself having absolute hysterics over the spoof documentary on "The Spaghetti Harvest
", broadcast by the BBC's Panorama team in 1957. I could never understand how people were taken in by that one. However, another 'spoof' in 1984 about soviet scientists using DNA material from a frozen mammoth to impregnate an elephant did take me in at the time. I actually still think this could happen and I think I saw a programme two or three years ago about a Japanese scientist who was hoping to recover frozen sperm from a mammoth. Perhaps that was a fantasy also?
I also remember a week-long spoof by Esther Rantzin
's, "That's Life!
" programme, about a new animal called a Lirpa Loof
at London Zoo. I am sure it was presented by Dr. David Bellamy
who reported on its habit of mimicry and the fact that it produced purple droppings! Apparently, many people turned up at the zoo to watch this creature (a man in a costume) performing its antics!
Do you remember a spoof television documentary about Adolf Hitler? It was shown as 'postponed from 1st April' (I don't remember how long ago) and described Hitler visiting England during World War Two. He was shown looking out of a window watching a march by the British Blackshirts
, whose leader was Oswald Mosley. Sir Oswald Mosley was married to one of the Mitford sisters and in this documentary, Hitler stayed at the Mitford family home. It all started off as very believable but got increasingly bizarre. It ended with a 'home movie' showing the only film available of Adolf Hitler picking his nose!
Thursday, 31 March 2005
Elections in Zimbabwe
Topic: In the News
So, Zimbabweans are going to the polls today to vote. My dictionary defines 'vote' as "a formal expression of will, wish or choice in some matter". What wish? What choice? None, it seems, under Robert Mugabe. Voters have been intimidated and threatened with violence, and even denied food supplies unless they vote for his Zanu-PF Party. Now, it seems that even a candidate for the MDC
, the main opposition party, (the Movement for Democratic Change), has been attacked and has 'disappeared'. Will he resurface or is his fate to be 'eaten by a lion'?
This will not be a democratic election, nor will it be a legitimate election. The rumours are that the voters' roll lists up to 1 million dead people, more than 300,000 duplicate names and 1 million people who no longer live at their registered addresses. Everyone agrees that there is intimidation and violence. Everyone knows that there is cheating and rigging. The West "condemns
" this election but will anyone do anything about it? Will anyone help the people of Zimbabwe to escape the mad cruel tyranny which is slowly choking the life out of their land? I doubt it.
Wednesday, 30 March 2005
Vincent van Gogh
Do you use Google
(UK version) to search for information on the Internet? It is my favourite Search Engine and I set it as my home page a long time ago. They are very good at 'decorating' the letters of Google at special times of the year - like the Mars rover image which appeared in January 2004.
Nevertheless, I was surprised to find this image this morning. When I hovered my cursor over the picture, up popped 'Vincent Van Gogh'. It didn't take long to discover that the famous Dutch artist was born on this day, 30th March 1853, at Groot-Zundert. He was the son of the village vicar, Theodorus van Gogh, and his wife, Anne Cornelia Carbentus. A still-born child had been born exactly one year earlier and their new son received his name, Vincent Willen van Gogh.
Strangely enough, 30th March is also the date that a painting by Van Gogh, "Still Life: Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers", was sold at Christie's
in 1987 for the small sum of #24.75 million (some $39,921,750!). This painting now hangs in the Seiji Togo Memorial Yasuda Kasai Museum in Tokyo. It has been the subject of much controversy (is it a fake?). Vincent van Gogh loved sunflowers
and painted a lot of them in different arrangements - some ten or eleven different paintings! Sometimes, he even copied some of his original paintings as presents for friends. He did one of his Sunflowers as a gift for Paul Gauguin, another famous artist.Van Gogh
is famous for cutting off his ear. He suffered from manic depression and schizophrenia and possibly epilepsy. He finally shot himself and died two days later on 29th July 1890. I find it very sad that the penniless Vincent van Gogh often had to give away some of his paintings in exchange for food or a new canvas - paintings which now sell for millions. Apparently, he only sold one painting in his lifetime. It is a strange world.
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