Mercoledi Musicale

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been a Broadway Que baby since I was 10 or 11 I always find it funny when people don’t realize that some of their TV and movie favourites were some of the biggest stars on the Great White Way.

Most people recognize Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Briscoe on the early Law and Order or as the voice of Lumière in the cartoon Beauty and the Beast. However Jerry had a theatrical career long before either of those roles. He was one of the biggest names in American musical theatre: The Fantasticks, Carnival, Guys and Dolls, Annie Get Your Gun, Carousel (I saw him on stage in those last two), Promises Promises (he won a Tony for that one), Chicago, and 42nd Street. He was a singer, a dancer, and an actor par excellence.

Back in 1962 he originated the role of El Gallo in The Fantasticks and at the Tony Awards in 1982 he sang the ballad he had introduced to the world 40 years before: Try to Remember.

The word for September 8th is:
Remember /rəˈmembər/: [verb]
1.1 To have in or be able to bring to one’s mind an awareness of (someone or something that one has seen, known, or experienced in the past).
1.2 To do something that one has undertaken to do or that is necessary or advisable.
1.3 used to emphasize the importance of what is asserted.
Middle English: from Old French remembrer, from late Latin rememorari ‘call to mind’, from re- (expressing intensive force) + Latin memor ‘mindful’.

Mercoledi Musicale

On Saturday evenings, when we are not enjoying the wild night life of Charlottetown, we tune our radio to Radio Canada, the French network, and catch the last hour or so of C’est si bon. Claude Saucier features a mixture of jazz, 50-70s pop, light rock, blues, and the like. It is often predictable and there are a few songs that turn up week after to week, or so it seems.

My favourites tend to be of the pop and light rock variety. One thing I’ve noticed about most of them is that nobody seem to be happy in love. Another is that the lyrics don’t stand too much analyzing. Mind you who was analyzing lyrics as they slow danced to Patti Page telling the tragic story of the night they were playing that beautiful Tennessee Waltz?

As much as I really love this song I find I want to assure Patti that if all it took was one dance to end their relationship she was well out of it.

But the distaff vocalists weren’t the only one’s suffering amourous angst. Take poor Pat Boone. He echoed every teenager’s (!) heartbreak when a summer romance comes to an end.

Well now Pat that laughing at your little flight of sentiment should have been a warning – but no you wouldn’t listen would you.

And sometimes these guys were just waiting for that trip to Heartbreak Hotel.

I joke about these songs but they were great tunes despite sometimes silly lyrics and they were sung by some damned fine singers. And you could slow dance to them. And yes faithful reader I use to dance to them but those are stories for another time – perhaps a Lunedi Lunacy.

The word for September 1st is:
Distaff /ˈdistaf/: [noun]
1. A stick or spindle onto which wool or flax is wound for spinning.
2. Of or concerning women. (modifier noun)
Old English distæf : the first element is apparently related to Middle Low German dise, disene ‘distaff, bunch of flax’; the second is staff. distaff (sense 2 of the noun) arose because spinning was traditionally done by women.
One of those antiquated words that is, fortunately, not much in use these days except by old bloggers with a taste for obscure words.
And I stand corrected my dear Vicki tells me it is used in North American horse racing to indicate a mare or filly race.

Mercoledi Musicale

It odd the associations that people make hearing a song, smelling a scent, or seeing a picture. The other day a photo of a lamplighter in a fog shrouded corner of London in 1936 reminded me of a song that I am sure I have only heard a handful of times. There have been many covers since The Old Lamplighter was first recorded in 1946 but one of the more popular ones was a country-pop version by the Browns from 1960.

When my friend Simonetta saw the photo she was reminded not of a song but of a poem from her childhood. Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses was published in 1885 and became one of the most read children’s book of the late 19th – early 20th centuries. Dedicated to his Nanny, Stevenson composed 64 poems from the point of view of a child. Many were recollections from his own childhood. Stevenson was a sickly child, often confined to home, and it’s thought that The Lamplighter is a reminiscence of those days spent gazing out the window of his parent’s home in Edinburgh.

The word for August 18th is:
Associate /əˈsōsēˌāt,əˈsōSHēˌāt/: [verb]
1. To connect (someone or something) with something else in one’s mind.
2. To be involved with.
3. To meet or have dealings with someone commonly regarded with disapproval.
Late Middle English (as a verb in the sense ‘join with in a common purpose’: from Latin associat- ‘joined’, from the verb associare, from ad- ‘to’ + socius ‘sharing, allied’.
I know that it can also show up as a noun however the pronunciation is different so I decided to go with the verb only.

Mercoledi Musicale

Commenting on last week’s Mercoledi Musicale Debra from She Who Seeks mentioned that if I wanted to hear real virtuosity on the banjo to look up Béla Fleck. And never one to ignore a recommendation from Debra I have.

Béla Fleck is a banjo player who has taken his instrument out of its bluegrass home and into jazz clubs, rock arenas, and concert halls. With his group, the Flecktones, he has broadened the spectrum of the repertoire of what was once considered a “folk” instrument.

To prove Debra’s point here he is performing Domenico Scarlatti’s Keyboard Sonata in C Major. What I find interesting is the similarity to the piece being played on a harpsichord of the period. But after all the harpsichord (and piano) is a stringed instrument so perhaps it is not that strange.

Fleck has collaborated with other musicians both in concert and in the recording studio. He and guitarist John Williams recorded a little “cross-over” piece by Beethoven.

The Royal Anthem has a contentious genealogy. The Oxford Companion to Music suggests it was based on an early plainsong melody, or possibly a keyboard piece by the aptly name John Bull, or a fragment from Henry Purcell, or an old Scottish carol. However another story says that while visiting Versailles in 1714 Handel heard a hymn “Grand Dieu, sauvez le Roi!” composed by Lully. He notated it, had the text translated, and presented it to King George I. It found favour and was adopted as the Royal Anthem. Take your pick.

Which ever story you believe over 140 composers have reset, reworked, or adapted the anthem. Beethoven wrote his piano variations in 1803-04 and also included it as a theme in his Wellington’s Victory.

The word for August 4th is:
Banjo /ˈbanjō/: [noun]
A stringed musical instrument with a long neck and a round open-backed body consisting of parchment stretched over a metal hoop like a tambourine, played by plucking or with a plectrum. It is used especially in American folk music.
Mid 18th century: originally an African American alteration of bandore or bandora probably based on Greek pandoura ‘three-stringed lute’.
Well as we know now it isn’t necessarily an instrument just for folk music.

Mercoledi Musicale

While googling* information for programme notes I came across several videos that interested me. One had to do with a composer I am writing about; the other is a favourite piece played on an unusual instrument.

Sir Edward Elgar was one of the first composers to take recording as more than a novelty. He saw the potential of the medium and as early as 1914 was recording his works using the acoustic-horn. When electronic recording came into being in 1925 he was one of the first composers to take to the studio and he formally consecrated EMI’s famed Abbey Road Studio One on November 12, 1931.

Here he is, on that day, conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the well-known trio from his Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, better known as Land of Hope and Glory.

“Good morning, gentlemen. Glad to see you all. Very light programme this morning. Please play this tune as though you’ve never heard it before.”

His last recording was of his Elegy for Strings – a tribute to his closest friend and advisor Augustus Jaeger recorded in 1933. However in January of 1934 he supervised a recording of two of his minor pieces by telephone from his sick bed. He died a month later.

While I was looking at various Elgar related items on YouTube I received on of their many “suggestions” for things I might want to view. I’m not sure what lead the algorithm to decided I should hear Mozart played on a banjo but it did; I did; and I enjoyed it.

Luca Stricagnoli has a wide range of popular covers on his YouTube channel most on guitar including several on a multi-neck guitar. I believe this is his only banjo guitar piece in his repertoire, for the moment. The only other classical piece is also Mozart – Rondo alla Turco on the guitar.

He explains that he uses a “double tapping” method which I had never heard of – but then what do I know about guitar playing. He has also designed several guitars including a triple neck guitar. It also doesn’t hurt that the Italian born Luca is not difficult to look at. Does it Pierre?

*For a while I was calling this “research” but realized that what I was actually doing was simply trusting websites and information provided from internet. Research is more than that as anyone who has written a proper term paper, essay or (god help us) thesis. As with many words “research” is thrown around far to easily these days.

The word for July 28th is:
Guitar /ɡəˈtär/: [noun]
A stringed musical instrument, with a fretted fingerboard, typically incurved sides, and six or twelve strings, played by plucking or strumming with the fingers or a plectrum.
Early 17th century: from Spanish guitarra (partly via French), from Greek kithara, denoting an instrument similar to the lyre.