Mercoledi Musicale

The programming on CBC has become somewhat erratic and for some reason they have curtailed the regional news with everything centred in Toronto. Apparently local news in not important to our National Broadcaster. However over at Radio Canada the schedule seems to be the familiar schedule – and if ever there was a time when the familiar was welcome, for me at least, this is it.

So every evening at 1830 we tune into Stanley Péan with Quand le jazz est là – a solid 90 minutes of all genres of jazz. The other evening he played a really fine piano version of As Time Goes By – how appropriate is that? I couldn’t find the play list but I have a feeling it was this one by Alfonso Gugliucci. I love the background noise of muted chatter and comings and goings that suggests it may have been recorded in a jazz club.

Last week I mentioned that an old Islander had mused about how the days passed slowly but the weeks went by quickly. Sadly I think most of us are finding the weeks are getting pretty long too.

The word for March 25 is:
Jazz /jaz/: [1 noun] [2 verb]
1a. American music developed from ragtime and blues; characterized by propulsive syncopated rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, varying degrees of improvisation, and often deliberate distortions of pitch and timbre.
1b. Lively, energetic, enthusiastic
2. To speed or liven up
Trying to track down the etymology turned up a bit of a dog’s breakfast. It appears that it derives from the word jasm which was slang for energy, vitality, spirit, pep. It first appeared as jazz in a baseball reporting in California around 1908. Some how migrated to Chicago in 1915 was used to refer to an emerging style of music that was said to have its roots in the brothels of the Windy City.
The complicated origins and uses of the word are explained (?) over at WBGO’s Evening Jazz site.

Keep Smiling Keep Singing

If anyone ever doubts the power of music to console, uplift and heal

A message from the indomitable Dame Vera Lynn on her 103rd birthday on Friday March 20th.

The word for March 22nd is:
Uplift /ˌəpˈlift/: [1 noun] [2 verb]
1. a morally or spiritually elevating influence
2. elevate or stimulate (someone) morally or spiritually
From Middle English up-, from Old English ūp- from above + Middle English liften, lyften, from Old Norse lypta -literally “to raise in the air”
Example of both the noun and the verb: Dame Vera Lynn

Merrily We "Roll" Along

I’ll just leave this here for you edification.

2019: The Richest 10% hold 90% of the worlds wealth
2020: The stupidest 10% hold 90% of the worlds toilet paper…

The word for March 19th is:
Toilet /ˈtoilit/ /ˈtɔɪlɪt/: [noun] [transitive verb]
1. A fixed receptacle into which a person may urinate or defecate connected to a system for flushing away the waste into a sewer or septic tank.
1a. A room, building, or cubicle containing a toilet or toilets.
1b. The process of washing oneself, dressing, and attending to one’s appearance. Also the articles used in that process.
2. To assist or supervise in the use of a toilet
From Mid 16th century French toilette ‘cloth, wrapper’ for clothing; 17th century a cloth cover for a dressing table, the articles used in dressing, and the process of dressing, later also of washing oneself; 19th century to denote a dressing room, and, in the US, one with washing facilities; hence, a lavatory (early 20th century).

Mercoledi Musicale

The great composer/lyricist/writer Stephen Sondheim turns 90 on the 22nd of March. The media is chock-a-block with features, testimonies, and love letters to the man who has dominated the musical theatre for the past 60 odd years. I have my own personal memory of an enjoyable evening in his company that I’ll related later but I thought for today’s little bit of music I’d delve into his extensive catalogue.

It would be easy to pick something that had deep significance for the times we live in but I thought a better choice would be a number from his first success as a composer and lyricist in 1962: A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum.

Apparently the show was pretty much dying during its tryouts on the road and Jerome Robbins was brought in to do some doctoring. The first thing he suggested was a new opening number to introduce the show as a bawdy, rowdy comedy. Sondheim came up with Comedy Tonight. You couldn’t get more direct than that.

I’m putting up two versions – the first is that theatrical dynamo Zero Mostel, who was the first Pseudolus recreating a bit of that opening at the 1971 Tony Awards:

In the 1995 revival Nathan Lane played the freedom-seeking slave. Here’s a more completely stage version of that great opening number:

A few years ago – actually more like twenty-five but time passes quickly – Sondheim gave an informal lecture/interview at the National Archives in Ottawa. A few things stuck in my mind from the talk and the drinks with him afterwards. A rather annoying lady persistently attempted to get him to dis Andrew Lloyd Weber during the Q&A; it just wasn’t going to happen. Each time he voiced his admiration for ALW and the wide spectrum that music theatre encompassed. Though by the third or fourth attempt his annoyance was beginning to show, unlike his questioner, he was never rude. It was the reaction of a gentleman and a colleague.

Later a small group was gathered for drinks and when I approached him and called him Mr. Sondheim he chuckled and said “please call me Steve”. He told me about his great admiration for Canadian composer Leslie Arden whose Martin Guerre was being workshoped at the time. Somehow the conversation got around to British musical star Julia McKenzie and I mentioned that I had seen her in the original cast of Side By Side By Sondheim back in 1976. He very charmingly suggested that I must have been in my mother’s arms when I saw it. He also expressed his great admiration and love for McKenzie, which made two of us. So to end this mini-tribute to “Steve” here she is singing a number that I recall from that evening in Wyndham’s – and yes, he was correct, I was a mere infant at the time.

Happy 90th Birthday Mr. Sondheim, oh what the heck, Steve!

The word for March 18th is:
Comedy /ˈkämədē/ /ˈkɑmədi/: [countable noun]
Professional entertainment consisting of jokes and satirical sketches, intended to make an audience laugh.
A depiction of amusing people or incidents, in which the characters ultimately triumph over adversity.
Late Middle English (as a genre of drama, also denoting a narrative poem with a happy ending, as in Dante’s Divine Comedy): from Old French comedie, via Latin from Greek kōmōidia, from kōmōidos ‘comic poet’, from kōmos ‘revel’ + aoidos ‘singer’.