• Upcoming trips

    13-23 January, 2018 Cruise out of New York around the Caribbean on the Norwegian Gem. Note : this trip has been cancelled altogether because of the damage caused by the hurricanes to the Caribbean islands.

    October 31st - 11 November. Caribbean cruise to break up the winter. Note: The itinerary has not yet been determined owing to the havoc wreaked by the hurricanes.
  • theatre and Concerrts

    October 8 Went to BAM, for the first time since Ethel died, to hear a wonderful modern opera composed and written by Matthew Aucoin called “Crossing”. It is based on Walt Whitman’s experience and the libretto is largely taken from his poetry.

    The story is multi-themed, as modern plays tend to be; the first is a harrowing anti war depiction of the suffering wounded seen through Whitman’s eyes when he volunteered as a nurse during the American civil war; the second is Slavery and its effect upon a run-away slave who fights on the Union side; the third is treachery portrayed by a guilt-laden deserter who spies for the South. And forth, inevitably these days, is the (entirely fictional) homosexual one.

    The powerful music fits the story perfectly and the voices of the lead singers and the chorus is magnificent; Rod Gilfry, bass-baritone, sings the part of Walt Whitman, Alexander Lewis plays John Wormley, the deserter, and Davone Tines, whose baritone reminded me, distinctly, of the sound of the legendary Paul Robeson.  Both Christine and I were extremely moved by the work. We newly discovered Walt Whitman’s poetry, too.

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The Juilliard String Quartet – Strange happenings at Washington Irving

This is a post I would normally confine to the widget on the right, except for two  happenings. One very odd and the other of considerable concern to all.

On Saturday, February 25th, we went to the Peoples’ Symphony Concert at Washington Irving High School and heard the incomparable Juilliard String Quartet play a programme of Stravinsky, Janacek and Mozart. As usual  the ensemble held the audience in  complete and concentrated  thrall. Hardly a cough was heard. During the Stravinsky, however, the patron sitting next to me opened a box of watercolour paints and began to finger-paint on the  pages of a sketch book! This odd activity did not endear him the the concert-goers around him and, during an interval he agreed that it was not a good idea. A musician himself, it turned out that he was not painting the musicians on the stage, but rather the impression of their music on his own conscienceness! He allowed me to see his sketch book and was as suprised as I when I correctly attributed the source of one of his more chaotic patterns to Rakhmaninov!  There used to be a note in the programme saying that ‘knitting during a performance was distracting to fellow patrons and was not allowed’. Why, I wonder is it becoming necessary for the human mind to multi-task these days?

The second happening was not at this concert but it will affect those in the future. Washington Irving High School is one of  the so-called “under-performing schools” and is destined to be closed by the education authorities. Peoples’ Symphony Concerts, an institution founded in 1900 “to bring the best music to students and workers at minimum prices” have been held in the Washington Irving for many, many years. Ethel talks of attending concerts there when she was just a young woman.  Washington Irving  has a wonderful auditorium with great accoustics and, seating, I guess, more than 500, I doubt whether such a hall would be available elsewhere at rates the current patrons could afford, if at all. The seats are somewhat hard and poorly numbered, but a little hardship is quite in order for the proper appreciation of great music. During the intermission, the topic was on everyone’s lips. Anxiety was everywhere evident. For a great many of the ageing concert-goers, this institution has  been a mainstay of their lives; many having to overcome painful physical obstacles in order to attend. There is little concrete information about the problem posed by the school closing.  I spoke briefly to Mr. Frank Salomon, the dedicated manager of  the Peoples’ Symphony. He is working on the problem and is optimistic of its resolution. We wish him success not only for ourselves but for our concern that great music might be lost to future generations if it were not for institutions like the Peoples’ Symphony Concerts.


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