Off The Wall

In a recent posting Laurent wrote of our little adventure to Point Prim and the Orwell area in the western end of Queens County.  By word of explanation the Island is divided into three counties:  Prince in the West, Queens (where we live in Charlottetown) in the Centre, and Kings in the East.  Our original destination had simply been Point Prim which is a pleasant 30 minutes drive along the Points East Coastal Drive – or the Trans Canada Highway*.   On our way out we noticed a sign directing the traveller to The Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead so on the way back, having had a hearty lunch of Portuguese chowder (shrimp, halibut, chorizo in a spicy tomato broth) at the Chowder Shack, we decided to investigate the good Island worthy’s birthplace and residence.

Laurent writes in some detail about both Point Prim, the Macphail Homestead and Sir Andrew himself at:  Some Surprises on PEI.

The Macphail Homestead looking towards the house from the Aboretum.

Sir Andrew’s father William was born in Nairn, Inverness, Scottland in 1828 and immigrated with his parents to Cape Breton in 1830.  On the voyage he and his family survived a shipwreck which left them with nothing but a book and a spinning wheel to begin their new life in the Colonies.  He moved to PEI in 1844 and married Catherine Moore Smith.  He purchased a 100 acre farm near Orwell and they moved there in 1864.  He became the schoolmaster at nearby Uigg and later became Inspector of Schools and then Supervisor of the Hospital for the Insane.

As so often happens there was one little detail in the house that caught my attention in the very interesting tour given by a very charming young lady.  She is currently studying music at UPEI and said that when she first saw this house she was struck by the unique tools that Sir Andrew’s father William used to teach music during his years as schoolmaster at nearby Uigg.

In all probability when William and Catherine moved into the small** Fletcher homestead they did some redecorating which including changing the wallpaper.  Supplies were often limited and it took a long time for things to be brought in from the mainland so everything was used.  But what do you do with rolls of leftover wallpaper?   Why you write music on the reverse, of course.  Or at least that’s what William did.

The hymn tune Kilmarnock has been written out on the reverse of this sheet of wallpaper.  A pencilled inscription dates this particular scroll to “Valleyfield Jany 13, 1881”.

William taught music at his schools and in churches and community centres across the Island.  Paper wasn’t easily come by and the large sheets of leftover wallpaper were perfect for the classroom.  He hand-wrote the texts, mostly hymns and psalms, in black ink and for uniformity, ink-printed the notes with a carved cork.  Amongst the surviving 17 scrolls are  Kilmarnock, Gethsemane, and Brown – all well-known hymn tunes of the time.  Other music – sacred and secular – was composed by Mr Macphail himself.

(A click on the hymn titles will take you to YouTube videos of each of the melodies being played.  Unfortunately I was not able to find a version of Brown (Bradbury) – or at least nothing labelled as that.)


As well as revealing Macphail’s unique method of teaching music the wallpaper also gives a possible hint of how the rooms of the Homestead were papered in those early years.  The scroll mounted on the wall was printed on a roll of blue/green and ochre small block print on a white background.  The rolls were handed down to the family by Sir Andrew’s sister Catherine.

In 2006 Nancy Whytock transcribed all the music from the scrolls and they have been performed and there has been talk of a studio recording.


*Yes the Trans Canada Highway comes over to the Island – don’t question it.  Just accept it as fact.

**Though it was a 100 acre property the original house is extremely small and it’s difficult to imagine that eventually 13 people lived there – William and Catherine, William’s mother, and ten children.

On this day in 1984: “We begin bombing in five minutes“: United States President Ronald Reagan, while running for re-election, jokes while preparing to make his weekly Saturday address on National Public Radio.

Salzburger Zeitung – Whitsun Festival

Whitsun Festival 2008We were on the go constantly in Trento, Salzburg and briefly in Innsbruck and between opera, concerts, great food and sightseeing its been hard to find time to write anything about the Pfingstfestpiele (Whitsun Festival) that was the principal reason for our trip.

I’ve only been in Salzburg during the Summer Festival, back in 1969, 1971 and again in 1978, when crowds are chaotic, hotels are full and prices are astronomical. Fortunately the Whitsun Festival is still small enough that things are quieter, hotels available and it’s possible to have a good meal without mortgaging your first born. One thing that will never change is the abundance of ticky-tacky Mozartiana souvenirs – to bad the family isn’t still around to benefit from the copyright.

Riccardo Muti - photo by Silvia LelliBeginning with last year what was once a festival featuring Baroque music in a general way now celebrates the musical genius of Naples. And behind it is that modern Neapolitan genius Riccardo Muti. Like my friend OC, I’m one of those people who worship at the shrine of Muti – and this weekend Laurent has also become a convert to the cause. After watching him at close quarters yesterday, our seats at the side choir of the Kollegenkirche gave us a perfect view of his interaction with the soloists and orchestra, Laurent remarked that he had an almost palpable sense of Muti’s love of music and musicians. Yes there may be stories of his vanity and arrogance but for the two performances he gave us this weekend alone in my book he’s entitled.

Speaking of his vanity I recall the last time we saw him conduct in 1998 – Milan, Les Dialogues des Carmelites – he mounted the podium took his bows, turned away from the audience and surreptitiously slipped his glasses out of his pocket; his year he arrived specs firmly in place and still looking leonine and handsome.

The form of the Festival seems pretty much set now: three concerts of secular and sacred music mixing the classical and the popular (folk) bookended by a Muti-led opera and a Muti-led cantata/oratorio/mass. The Muti performances feature his exceptional group of young Italian musicians, Orchestra Giovanile “Luigi Cherubini” and young singers who in many cases he has mentored. The concerts are by international soloists and ensembles – e.g. this year’s Andreas Scholl, theBalthasar-Neumann Chor and Ensemble, Accademia Bizantina and Accordone.
Curtain calls - Photo by Silvia Lelli

In what has become standard practice for Muti, his Orchestra Giovanile “Luigi Cherubini” joined the performers on stage to share in the 20 minute ovation opening night of Il matrimonio inaspettato . (Photos by Silvia Lelli)

On Satrday Muti was confirmed as Festival director until 2011 and next year’s programme was announced. Sunday we decided that we’ll be there – God willing and the Salzach don’t rise.

I am honestly going to try and get something up about the indivdual performances tomorrow or Friday – it just we’re still doing the sight-seeing thing here in Verona.

14 maggio – San San Pachomius

Songs for Parky

One of our guilty pleasures when we lived in Poland was watching Michael Parkinson on BBC-Prime. I say guilty only because we were using a pirated satellite signal; once every three months an elderly gentleman – reeking of vodka and b/o – would come to the house, his wife would hold the ladder as he climbed out on the roof and worked his magic for a third the cost of the regular hook-up. I can say that now because the 7 years statute of limitations must be up.

But I digress, Parky’s shows were a highlight of Sunday night on BBC – he moved over to ITV after a major shake up at the BeeB. His interviewing style was relaxed, the people he attracted where some of the best (and occasionally some of the worst – the Meg Ryan interview was notorious) and often he had celebrities tell him – and his audience – things they had kept even from their analysts. Parky retired this past year but not before some incredible compilation shows. Here’s the last part of the show devoted to music. It started with Michael Buble and went on to include some the greatest names in music – and a few musical surprises, Robert Mitchum!!! – of the late 20th century.

Is it me or was it really a “Golden Age?”

25 gennaio – Conversione di San Paolo

My Father’s Grasslands and My Mother’s River

At dinner tonight – San Marino’s Pizza, the best Roman pizza in the neighbourhood – Jack was telling me about his trip to Mongolia this past fall. He mentioned a video set to a pop-treatment of a Mongolian folksong that he really enjoyed and that is very popular in China right now.

He gave me a very rough translation from the Chinese: the singer has never visited his parents homeland but when he sees it for the first it awakens something in his soul. He discovers that this place has always lived in his heart and rejoices that now he is part of the grasslands of his father and the river of his mother.

Though I’m not really a big fan of this type of pop I find the initial melody and the visuals quite arresting.

04 gennaio – Santa Angela

The Traditions of Christmas – Sharing II

Silver Snow FlakesSo many memories of Christmas – good and bad – are being posted on some of my favorite blogs this week that I once again must share them. If they aren’t on your regular blog visits here are some wonderful additions to your Christmas reading and listening:

Thank you all for sharing.

20 decembre – San Macario