Still in the afterglow of a good Canada Day celebration, what could be more Canadian than K. D. Lang singing Leonard Cohen? Okay K. D. Lang singing Neil Young but maybe that will wait for another Wednesday.
This is one of many covers of K. D. doing this Cohen masterpiece on YouTube. There are purer more musical one’s out there but this performance in September 2007 at the Elton John AIDS Benefit is surely one her most emotional. If that last Hallelujah doesn’t give you shivers you’re made of stone.
We went down to Napoli last weekend to see Verdi’s I Lombardi alla prima crocita. It is one of his early operas and I’m not familar with it so wasn’t expecting the interesting choral and orchestral effects that Verdi composed for this story of the Lombards at the First Crusade. As with most early Verdi there are some rum-tum-ticky-ticky-tum bits but the choruses certainly had that stirring Verdian sound. And of course there’s that Italian patriotic subtext guaranteed to drive the Austrian censors of the period mad.
The Teatro San Carlo chorus did a impressive job of all the choral work and even gave us an encore of one of the big numbers: O Signore, dal tetto natio Here it is sung by the chorus of the La Scala Opera House, Milan conducted by the great, but underrated, Gianandrea Gavazzeni. For some reason there appears to be some booing at the end – I’m not sure why.
Back in 1963 Joan Littewood, a driving force in London alternate theatre, and her company tackled World War I. Oh What A Lovely War took it title from a song of the period and using other songs, letters and historical facts it traced the trajectory of death from 1914 to 1918. Littlewood staged her show as a sea side Pierrot entertainment with the death tolls continually being toted up on a cricket score board. It was as much a bitter satire of war in general as the Great War to End All Wars.
In 1969 Richard Attenborough decided to try his hand at film directing and choose Oh What a Lovely War as his first film. Filming at Brighton Pier, a garbage dump in Eastbourne and in the Sussex Downs and keeping many of the conceits from Littlewood’s stage production including the infamous score board he created a film as critical of the on-going Vietnam War as it was of World War I.
Most of the established English acting community rallied to support “Dickie” who most of them had worked with in one way or another since 1942. John Mills, Michael Redgrave and Laurence Oliver played major roles, Vanessa Redgrave, Ralph Richardson, Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Dirk Bogarde, John Clements, Jack Hawkins (stricken with throat cancer he offered to play a silent Emperor Franz Josef,) Susanna York, Ian Holm, Jean-Pierre Cassel and Maggie Smith all make cameo appearances in vignettes of life on the home-front and in the trenches.
One of the most disturbing scenes is Maggie Smith’s (yes we’re on a theme here this week) turn as a Music Hall star using her wiles to conscript young men into the army. Pauline Kael referred to her performance as being “all lure with no allure.” Watch for the not-so subtle change in make-up but subtle change in attitude when she pulls a young man up onto the stage.
I saw the film on my first trip to London back in 1969 at the Odeon Leicester Square and it immediately became one of my favorites. I watched it again last night on DVD and almost 40 years later it still remains a fascinating piece of film making and a burning indictment of war.
A little late with the regular Wednesday music post but I had to work on this. In honour of my new found – okay imposed – devotion to temperance. Mary Lou Fallis sings an inspiring piece from the Methodist Hymnal 1912, which exhorts us to have the courage to say NO!
This number is taken from a wonderful collection called Primadonna on a Moose. Miss Fallis sings popular Canadian songs from 1840 to 1930 including Paddle Your Own Canoe, Oh What A Difference Since the Hydro Came and By the Banks of the Saskatchewan.
Telling the stories of the history of the port of Charlottetown and the marine heritage of Northumberland Strait on Canada's East Coast. Winner of the Heritage Award from the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation and a Heritage Preservation Award from the City of Charlottetown