Sharing

Often in the past I have shared links to blog entries along with photos that I’ve taken at various places.  Sadly many of the blogs that I once shared have gone the way of all flesh – no that’s not the right word but you know what I mean.  However as I mentioned in a previous post my old (only in the sense of I’ve known her for a long time) blog buddy Elizabeth and her husband Kirk have added a blog/website to record some of their extensive research into history – family and general, good and bad.   I found the following posting fascinating and suggest giving it a read.  Just right click on the picture below to read the rest of

Tangled-Histories

The 64th Canadian Tulip Festival

This past weekend was the opening of the annual Tulip Festival here in Ottawa.  Some one million bulbs have been planted in beds along the Rideau Canal and in various sights throughout the city.   A brief story of the story behind the event and our close relationship with the Netherlands can be found here.  I hope to get a few shots to share for what will be possibly our last chance to see the glorious and colourful display.

And to start off and continue the tradition of photos shared here’s a few shots of a field of miniature tulips that were planted along the banks of the Rideau Canal near the house. Wisely as the temperature dipped to almost freezing (where’s you global warming now, Moses, where’s your global warming now* – said in an Edward G. Robinson voice) the tiny blooms stayed tightly closed.

tiny-tulips-1

tiny-tulip-2

Even they were shivering. But as a friend said the other day the cooler weather will make the tulips last longer.

On this day in 1975: Junko Tabei becomes the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Mercoledi Musicale

One of the lovely things about the internet is being able to tap into the knowledge and enthusiasms of people from all over our small planet.  I have been very lucky in that respect in getting to know people with wide ranges of experiences and interests particularly musically.

Perhaps a bit frivolous for this posting but I
found this cartoon of Saint-Saëns conducting
his Carnival of the Animals delightful.

I’ve learned so much – discovered so much – from people such as my friend David in London – a man who has influenced my reading and listening habits greatly in the past seven years.  And not just things classical – I flew to London at his urging to catch Dame Edna in her one and only Panto and have eaten at three great London restaurants at his suggestion and in his and his diplomate’s delightful company.  I’ve also met some delightful and interesting people of their acquaintance to add to the pleasure.

And the past month or so I’ve been getting suggestions on music – and jabs about Canadian politics, but those I ignore – from a FaceBook friend in New York City who is constantly coming up with intriguing musical selections.  One morning he had me pumped to Shostakovitch’s #3 and another day he suggested this rather elegiac piece by Camille Saint-Saëns .

La Muse et le Poète pour violon, violoncelle et orchestre, op. 132 is a relatively unknown, late (1909 – 1910) piece from Saint-Saëns’ vast catalogue.  There has been some attempt to assign instruments to the characters of the title however it appears that the name was given to the piece a time after its composition by Jacques Durand , the composer’s publisher.

In 1909 at the age of 74 Saint-Saëns had just finished composing the world’s first film score for  a silent costume drama called La Mort du duc de Guise.*  Exhausted and in need of a vacation he went to North Africa, his favourite destination.  He composed this seventeen-minute, single-movement piece while relaxing in Luxor in December of the year.   Originally scored as a  trio for violin, cello and piano,  the composer played the piano part himself at the 1910 premiere in London with the Belgian virtuoso Eugène Ysaÿe and the German cellist Joseph Hollmann.   The piece was originally intended as a memorial for Mme. J-Henry Carruette.  The later orchestration is a direct transcription of the piano part.   Despite the difficulty of the two solo parts, the work was never intended as a virtuoso piece; Saint-Saëns himself described it as “a conversation between the two instruments instead of a debate between two virtuosos.”

This particular version is taken from a project to record all twenty-eight of Saint Saëns compositions for violin and orchestra and cello and orchestra.   It is a joint venture between The Queen Elizabeth Music Chapel – a music school founded in 1939 by Eugène Ysaÿe – and Zig Zag Territories.  Young violinists and cellist from the school are accompanied by the Liège Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of the Viennese conductor Christian Arming.  

February 26 – 1909: Kinemacolor, the first successful color motion picture process, is first shown to the general public at the Palace Theatre in London.

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Christmas Pudding, Luv?

As often happens when I either read, exchange e-mails with, or actually talk to my friend David I end up buying a book. David and I met three years ago through our blogs and I had the good luck to meet him and his Diplomate face to face for a concert and dinner when I was in London two years ago.  Brief though my recent trip to London was it still gave me the opportunity to meet up with David and the Diplomate on the Friday evening.

A lithograph from the London Illustrated News showing the new quarters of the Garrick Club in 1864.  The club had become so popular that its original building proved inadequate and a new building was constructed on King St – which was soon to become Garrick St in honour of both the club and the great actor it was named after.

The afternoon began with drinks at the Garrick Club with Diplomate and several of his friends who made this wide-eyed colonial bumpkin feel very comfortable amongst the theatrical splendor of one of the most prestigious private men’s clubs in England.  I would have liked to post a few pictures from the Internet of the interior with its incredible collection of theatrical art work but as a privileged guest I would be breaching etiquette by doing so; so you might want to click on the link above to see some of the splendors I saw at 15 Garrick Street.  Conversation – and several rather delicious Manhattan Cocktails topped up with champagne – flowed easily with one of England’s finest young countertenors and a member of the clergy from St Paul’s Cathedral.  Topics ranged from upcoming performances in Chicago to arts gossip to the Occupy London situation at the Cathedral to a charity project in India.   We then headed over to Chinatown to meet David and a lady friend for dinner at the New World – one of the top rated restaurants in the area.

 The lady friend is an editor with a small publishing house – yes they still exist – and her house had just had a title that had astonished everyone by making the best seller list over the Christmas holidays.  More astonishingly it wasn’t a new novel but a reissue of a book originally published in 1932.   Christmas Pudding was the second of Nancy Mitford‘s nine novels. Perhaps most astonishingly in recent years Mitford has been more thought of as one of those sad, bad, mad Mitford girls than the fine novelist she was and here she was once again a best selling author.  The reissue of Christmas Pudding climbed to #4 on the British best seller list and may well have started a mini-Renaissance for, as I’ve discovered, an unjustly neglected writer.  The general consensus at table was that it was a good read so I immediately added it to my mental list of books to read in 2012.

Those sad, bad, mad Mitford girls:  Jessica, Nancy, Diana, Unity and Pamela Mitford in 1935.  Ben MacIntyre a journalist with The Times characterized them as:  “Diana the Fascist, Jessica the Communist, Unity the Hitler-lover; Nancy the Novelist; Deborah the Duchess and Pamela the unobtrusive poultry connoisseur”.

And is there any better place to read a book than at 32,000 feet as you head across the Atlantic – particularly if none of the 72 video options are either interesting or current.  And surely if it was on the best seller list it would be available at the W. H. Smith bookstore at Heathrow.  I mean you can get Stilton cheese, Hermes scarves, Pink’s shirts (I bought two) , Clinque, 12 year old Scotch (Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or) and Molton Mowbray Pork Pies at the shops in the concourse  – so a best seller from this past Christmas should be there right?  Wrong!  When asked if she had Mitford’s Christmas Pudding, the pleasant lady at the till – in a voice that would have done Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins proud – suggested I look in cookbooks or if I wanted the real thing that it was a bit past the season but I might try Harrod’s.  Sadly I had to make do with the latest bit of Stephan Fryery as reading material and graciously passed on the idea of a Christmas pud from the Disneyland of Department Stores.

But I knew it would be available here – if not from Amazon then one of the small bookstores that still manage to do business in Ottawa.  Well I discovered that from the former I could order it and it would appear in my mail box sometime in the next three months and from the later possibly – if it could be ordered – it would be in my hands a month or two later.   Even a search of the Ottawa Public Library came up empty!  Now there is nothing quite like the inability to get something to whet the appetite for said unattainable item. 

Finally there it was, good old dependable Penguin had published all nine of Mitford’s novels in one of their marvelous “complete works of” series.  I was going to get to my fill of Mitford – 997 pages, excluding “new introduction by….”  – of a writer that I had neglected in the past.  So the reading project for this winter:  The Complete Novels of Nancy Mitford.  All nine! All 997 pages!  Ah well one shouldn’t do anything by halves should one?  Dear god I’m starting to talk like a Mitford Bright Young Thing!!!!!

 04 February – 960:  The coronation of Zhao Kuangyin as Emperor Taizu of Song, initiating the Song Dynasty that would last more than three centuries.

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