In one of the most memorable events ever held at Kitchener's Centre in the Square, the legendary Kurt Browning skated his way through the music that has defined his career. Backed by the K-W Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Lucas Waldin, it was a nostalgic trip for both Browning and the enraptured audience.
One member of the audience in particular was especially thrilled by the concert: Canada's very own World Champion figure skater from 1962, Don Jackson. The encore of the concert featured music from the opera Carmen. In an interview for Sun News Miami, Jackson told me “that's what I danced to in 1962 when I won the World Championship.”
Time was very much in evidence throughout the performance. A rendition of As Time Goes By from the classic movie Cabablanca was met with genuine emotion by Browning. “You took me back in time: you revisited my Casablanca and brought me to tears. Thanks to the KW Symphony for doing that for me.”
As Time Goes By was one of the tunes Browning used in his routines to achieve not one, not two, not three, but four World Championships (1989, 1990, 1991 and 1993). He was also Canadian champion four times. Video of Browning skating to the song in a white tuxedo was visible to the audience on a giant screen above the orchestra, which was used to great effect throughout, thanks to archival photos and footage from Skate Canada.
In an interview for this newspaper, Emery Leger (archivist for Skate Canada) told me the film clips were from the archives in Edmonton. The concert itself “over-passed my expectations. This is all Lucas,” he said, referring to the vision of the conductor in creating this concept, which had been done once before with the late figure skater Toller Cranston as emcee.
Browning described his role as “the conduit. Without me, nothing happens. I am the link between symphony and figure skating.” With panache and more than a dash of sprightly behaviour, Browning made the most of it. “What makes one fantastic piece of music good for a figure skating program?” he asked. “First the inspiration has to come from the skater himself, and second it must have a wide range of appeal. But the secret is: use a hook, something you can hang your choreographic hat on.” The result can be magic.
As usual the excellent KWS delivered what one might expect from a larger orchestra, with selections covering the gamut from Singing in the Rain to Mahler's 5th symphony. The former selection served to end the first half of the concert, with Browning interacting with guest singer Geoffrey Tyler in what for many was the highlight of the evening. Complete with Browning doing jumps on rollerskates to using an umbrella as a prop (a la Gene Kelly) it was a truly terrific performance that brought to the audience to its feet.
Referring to the dedicated audience that attends skating events, Browning said “They may forget what you say or do, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” That certainly applies to this music/skating event as well.
If you missed it, the concert has its second and final outing tonight (Sept. 24, 2016) at Center in the Square.
The 2016 Skate Canada International is coming up next month in Mississauga. For details and tickets visit their website:
As Canada's famous author Yann Martel recently said at a talk in Guelph, “art is a selective view of reality.” When that view is constructed mathematically, and then expressed in music, the result is both startling and impressive.
That was the treat delivered to an audience in downtown Kitchener when Princeton University professor Dimitri Tymoczko premiered an orchestral piece The Thousand Faces of Form. This world premiere was preceded by the annual Bridge's Lecture at St. Jerome's and the University of Waterloo, where Tymoczko and his collaborator Nathan Selikoff delved into the mathematics behind the music that was later performed to great effect by the K-W Symphony Orchestra.
Selikoff occupies the “intersection between visual art and computation.” He provided the entrancing visuals that accompanied the concert. He likened it to a “50-dimensional mirrored donut. It sounds like the most delicious thing I've ever heard of!”
In explaining how he invests the math with visual form, he said “I think of the mathematical spaces as a landscape I can explore. I liken it to wandering through a forest with a camera.”
But it is a finely balanced act. Tymoczko bemoaned the fact that “20th century music went wrong when it emphasized math over intrinsic beauty. I wish I had blind faith that mathematical beauty translated into intrinsic beauty, but I don't.”
He described the task of a musical geometer this way. “There are a variety of patterns that are analogous. All versions of a chord are strung together like beads on a necklace. The challenge for us is that since these things don't sound alike, how do we take these relationships that are real and manifest them in a way even a casual listener can recognise.”
The issue was resolved in his own composition, which began in a twinkling chaos of static that proved quite entrancing. The concert, which included many other works, was introduced by curator Krista Blake, who said the music on offer explored the intersection of geometry, symmetry and music based on Donald Coxeter's work. He was a famous professor of mathematics at the University of Toronto, and is pictured at the beginning of this article.
Blake said “Coxeter considered himself an artist and a mathematician, obsessed with thinking about the 4th dimension. He believed geometry is everywhere, and most definitely it is in music.” Several pre-recorded videos of his own compositions were offered to the audience on a big screen above the orchestra.
This so-called “Intersection” concert was the the brainchild of KWS Music Director Edwin Outwater. Over the past few years he has created several in collaboration with various experts in a wide range of fields. For example, in the concert he created with Raymond Laflamme, Director of the Institute for Quantum Computing at the Unversity of Waterloo, the music score was circular and the music was something almost unimaginable - raggedly beautiful and jarring to the senses. The orchestra likewise did justice to The Thousand Faces of Form, which was rendered in a tumultuous fashion full of beauty and intrigue.
In an interview for Sun News Miami, Tymoczko told me in rehearsal he “made dozens of very small adjustments” to the way it was performed. “You learn a lot of very delicate things with the orchestra,” he said. For him the composition is an “emotional expression, it's very meaningful to me. Almost all of nature is related through a series of similarities, and the math that explores that is beautiful. The goal here was to sculpt it into something that has the force of narrative or drama.”
Listening to The Thousand Faces of Form was a ride on a geometric spaceship. Tymoczko certainly expressed what was felt by the Kitchener audience when he termed it “the joy of geometry!”
The new season of the KWSO begins Sept. 23, 2016 with famed figure skater Kurt Browning. Next after that is an evening of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. Visit their website for details: www.KWsymphony.ca
Photo of Dr. Tymoczko with this article is from the Univ. of Princeton website.
The Garden is closer to you than the strap of your sandal.
We are talking here about the Garden of Eden, often equated with paradise itself. The phrase was recorded by al-Bukhari, who died in the year 870, and shows that the Garden was not just a Christian belief. But as the author Christian Lange mentions in a footnote, the phrase he quotes goes on to say “and so is hell.” That puts a different gloss on it, but as other authors in the book emphasize, Satanic influence is intimately bound up with the Garden.
This 2016 book considers human notions of paradise over several thousand years, beginning with ancient Mesopotamia. It is edited by Alessandro Scarfi of the Warburg Institute in London, and is based on a conference held there in 2009. The book consists of 14 chapters, each written by an expert in his or her speciality.
The book’s footnotes are not to be ignored; sometimes they consume half of a page within each chapter. In a footnote by Royal Holloway University professor Veronica della Dora, for example, we get this concise overview. “A distinction needs to be made between terrestrial paradise, the Garden of Eden lost to mankind after Adam’s fall, and the Heavenly Jerusalem- a condition attained by righteous souls after death.” Several authors engage with this dual distinction.
Markham Geller, professor at UCL, finds it “useful to reach back into literary records for earliest references to the world of the dead, namely from Sumerian sources, where we find a clear distinction between ‘paradise’ and the hereafter. The Sumerian view, however, is far from what we might expect: “paradise was to be found as an island in the Persian Gulf called Dilmun, firmly identified as Bahrain... Dilmun, like Eden, was a distant ideal place located on the earth (rather than in heaven), and was originally the habitation of immortals, not dead spirits.”
The book contains many unusual and unexpected insights. For example, the imagery of a mountain occurs only in the works of Syriac-speaking authors. In the 6th century, a text known as the Cave of Treasures was written in Syria. “The Cave’s author places special emphasis on the sanctity of paradise, referring to it routinely as the ‘holy mountain.’” Author Sergey Minov at the University of Oxford writes further that the “great advantage in using this image is that it makes paradise both terrestrial and celestial, ... a convenient way of reconciling two different conceptual pictures of paradise that were current among Christians during Late Antiquity,” as I just quoted from della Dora.
Minov also discusses an even earlier Syriac text, the Transitus from the 5th century, that is most intriguing. It relates that “the Flood did not cover this ‘holy mountain’ and reached only its ‘lower grounds.’ The reason for that was that God himself was standing in his glory, ‘fixed’ on the paradise of Eden, and observing the course of the catastrophe.” Minov says this captivating imagery is unique.
But this brings us no closer to the earthly location of paradise. Lange says “Paradise was variously located above, on, or underneath the Temple Mount” in Jerusalem...some thought Wajj to be the earthly paradise.” Emilie Savage-Smith, recently retired from Oxford University, tells us “Paradise (in all its variations) in the medieval Islamic tradition is an eternal abode with physical attributes; its inhabitants are envisioned as living beings with human sensations- not souls divorced from bodies.”
She says paradise does not appear on Islamic maps, as opposed to Greek Latin, and Syriac maps.
This is attributable to the fact paradise was above earth, not on it, so there was a “literal interpretation of the fall from grace of Adam and Eve as an expulsion downward.”
Annette Reed at the Univ. of Pennsylvania delves deeply into “our oldest surviving examples of an extensive literary effort with Judaism to map the structure of the cosmos.” These two texts, from the 3rd century BCE, opened “the way for a flurry of Jewish (and, later, Christian) speculation about the topographies of realms outside the inhabited world- above, beyond, and below.” Anders Hultgard at the Univ. of Uppsala in Sweden explores the location of Valhalla in Scandinavian cosmography, and Antonio Panaino at the Univ. of Bologna looks at the Iranian paradise.
This brief survey is intended to show the richness of the traditions explored in this fascinating book, which is a major addition to the literature on concepts of Paradise.
The book contains the following minor typos: first should be First on 145; finally should be Finally on 152; that that should be that on 172.
The Cosmography of Paradise: The Other World from Ancient Mesopotamia to Medieval Europe (295 pages) is $xx by The Warburg Institute. This softcover book is the 27th in a series of Colloquia that began in 1994. Titles can be ordered at this website: http://warburg.sas.ac.uk/
Image with this article: Jodocus Hondius, Paradisus, from Atlas Minor [Amsterdam: J. Hondius, 1607/10]. British Library, Maps C.3.a.3
It was, said Edmund Burke, “the most horrid, atrocious, and affecting spectacle, that perhaps ever was exhibited to the pity and indignation of mankind.”
The great English writer and politician was referring to the French Revolution, and this quote comes from the book for which he is best known today: Reflections on the Revolution in France. Whether or not you regard his assessment as hyperbole or not, he was essentially correct. On most of the great issues of day, Burke was correct, but he is not included amongst the great world leaders for the simple reason he never had the power in his hands to project his worldview.
This enormous book (927 pages without the index) is by Richard Bourke, professor in the history of political thought at Queen Mary University in London. Its very size will likely deter a wide readership, which is unfortunate as his work sets a new standard not just in Burkean scholarship but in our understanding of late 18th century political thought. Despite its size the book is not ponderous, as Bourke’s stylish touch permeates the text to fine effect. This review also considers a related book on the age of political reason within which Burke not only lived but in large part created. It is a much slimmer volume by Timothy Michael, associate professor of English at the Univ. of Oxford. Since Burke and the author of the large book under review here is the nearly identical Bourke, I will use “R. B.”when referring to the author of the 2015 book to avoid any confusion as to who I am referring to.
Coleridge offered the most astute assessment of Burke, as quoted in Michael’s book. “Edmund Burke possessed and had sedulously sharpened that eye, which sees all things, actions, and events, in relation to the laws that determine their existence and circumscribe their possibility. He referred habitually to principles. He was a scientific statesman; and therefore a seer.”
Nowhere was this ability to be a seer more evident than in his view on the French Revolution, which he denounced before it became the Terror that saw tens of thousands executed, not least of which was the King and Queen of France. In this early opinion he was in the distinct minority amongst his fellow Members of Parliament. That was in the late 1780s and early 90s, but R.B. makes it clear this was not an opportunistic opinion or one that deviated from his core beliefs.
Back in the 1740s, says R.B. “Burke insisted that there was no merit in idly following ‘Common opinion’ in the face of plausible countervailing evidence: it was precisely by overturning cherished assumptions that barbarity, ignorance and superstition had been overcome. The desire for truth should be allowed to triumph over a stubborn opposition to enlightenment, yet to achieve this the reasoning faculty was forced to do battle with received wisdom.”
Even though this is from the book by R.B., two of its key words (enlightenment and reason) appear in the title of Michael’s book. In R. B.’s view, Burke believed reason could correct error, but passion was required to motivate the soul. Michael’s book is directed towards reason. In this, Burke had a great influence on Coleridge especially as it related to the situation in France.
“Coleridge’s apprehension about the potentially devastating effects of pure rationalism,” writes Michael, “is occasioned not only by the threat it poses to private property, but also by the political consequences it had in France. The reliance on principles derived from reason alone, such as the general will, was for Coleridge the precondition of the Terror and Napoleon’s rise to power...Coleridge, following Burke, remains committed to the social and political efficacy of ideas, confident in their ability to determine material conditions.”
From this alone it can be seen that these two books engage with many of the same issues, and thus I highly recommend they be read in tandem. R.B. looks at Burke’s role in the great issues of the day: The French Revolution, the Empire in India, the American colonies especially before their breakaway from the Crown, and the tumultuous state of Ireland. He traces Burke’s “transition from history and philosophy to politics,” interleaving each of these four great issues as the decades roll by. It was an age of great discontent, so it not surprising he authored a book entitled Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents in 1769. In this work he posted his beliefs to a flag that was raised on a mast so high few of the politically inclined in England could ignore it.
“It is not enough,” declared Burke, “in a situation of trust in the commonwealth, that a man means well to his country.” As R.B. explains, he railed against the self-interest of many English politicians who sought office “in the interest of particular advantage rather than to further the public weal.” This was an age where the king, George III, exercised great control over who held the great offices of government, including Prime Minister. Burke supported the party system as the only way to support public-spirited people against the crown; R.B. says he regarded the British regime as a fragile mechanism. “Our constitution,” Burke wrote evocatively, “stands on a nice equipoise, with steep precipices, and deep waters upon all sides of it.”
“When I find good men,” said Burke in Present Discontents, “I will cling to them, adhere to them, follow them in and out.” Unfortunately the good men he adhered to typically opposed the crown, so he was usually out: in opposition, where he had no power to enact his great and good ideas. If his counsel had been accepted by the government, it is quite likely the American Revolution would never have happened. By 1784, in the aftermath of the American disaster, Burke saw equally dire warning signs in how India was being dealt with. As R.B. details, he actually judged the situation in Britain to be more depraved than even (in Burke’s words) “the worst times of the Roman Republic.” When a Bill that would have addressed this situation was defeated, Burke wrote in despair: “I am utterly without resource,” he confided to a friend in 1785. R.B. compellingly tells the sorry tale of Burke’s parliamentary persecution of Warren Hastings over Hastings’ scandalous rule in India. In the end, Hastings was not only acquitted, but given a government pension. Thus, Burke’s last years were clouded but the gravest despair.
In his book, Michael also engages with Burke and India, leading him to offer a concise summary of the topics considered in R.B.’s book. Burke’s argument, Michael says, “sees in England’s colonial presence in India a violent disruption of established order...No right - natural, chartered, or divine - to disturb this order exists. It is this principle, above all else, that gives consistency to Burke’s diverse positions on British, French, American and Indian affairs.”
Even though there is much overlap between the two books, Michael offers extraordinary insights into many other matters, including the philosophy of Shelley, Coleridge and Kant. Here I will just look at Wordsworth’s idea of pleasure. “We have no knowledge,” wrote Wordsworth, “that is, no general principles drawn from the contemplation of particular facts, but what has been built up by pleasure, and exists in us by pleasure alone.” Michael identifies this as “Wordsworth’s most precise epistemological formulation, and it informs his foundational critical principle,” which Michael then quotes as follows from Wordsworth: “The Poet writes under one restriction only, namely that of the necessity of giving immediate pleasure to a human being.” Michael traces the ancient sources of Wordsworth’s belief to Lucretius and the Stoics, thus broadening the reach of this book to those interested in the influence of ancient writers on nineteenth century thought.
Both these superb books deserve a place on the bookshelf on anyone interested in British politics, American history, the history of India, philosophy (both ancient and 18th/19th century), poetry, the development of ideas and much else.
The book by Bourke contains several typos. The word from is spelled form on pages 154, 204, 271 and 829; on pg 168: advice, not advise; on pg. 731: of, not of of; pg. 774: have, not had; pg. 827 In its wake, not it its wake.
Empire & Revolution: The Political Life of Edmund Burke (1001 pgs) is $45 from Princeton Univ. Press.
British Romanticism & the Critique of Political Reason (283 pgs) is 54.95 from Johns Hopkins Univ. Press
This is no ordinary book about books. A sense of this can be gained by a quick look at some sub-chapter headings: The Ethics of Paranoia, A Mind Jumping like a Flea, Discreteness and Discretion, Spoiling Empathy, Being Untrue, Crying over the End of the Book.
The last one may actually be the reaction of many readers, saddened to see there is no more to be read from the pen of author C. Namwali Serpell, assistant professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley.
She examines several modern novels, not just doing the usual scholarly examination of each, but giving us facets of a prism that illuminate hidden dimensionality within each. This book is the literary version of string theory.
Serpell pitches this book as one of “ethical criticism.” The project she embarks on is “tracing the accretive processes and rhythms of reading at small and large temporal scales.” To accomplish this task she identifies seven modes of uncertainty: oscillation, enfolding, adjacency, accounting, vacuity, synchronicity and flippancy. These in turn are grouped into three narrative structures: the first pair are “Mutual exclusion,” the second pair are “Multiplicity,” and the next pair are “Repetition.” The last mode, flippancy, embodies all three. The novels were written between 1930 and 2005, with 4 of these published since 2000. The most famous of the lot is American Psycho from 1991.
To highlight what the author is doing here, in this review I will concentrate on just one of the modes: enfolding. For this mode Serpell considers the novel Atonement (2001) by Ian McEwan. She says the key to understanding the book is not merely reading it, but rereading it. “Rereading Atonement ramifies the ethical resonance of its uncertainty...Rereading also allows us to comprehend how much time and effort Briony (the book’s main character) has devoted to her atonement.”
The issue that raises the need for rereading is the ending of the book, which seems to negate everything the unsuspecting reader has become emotionally invested with in Briony. Evoking the image of an airport runway, the author says “Only when one literally reads the book again, do the hints as to Brioney’s revision of history glow like warning lights strung along the narrative’s plotlines.” Get ready for a bumpy landing, complete with air masks coming down to help the reader breathe as the plane comes to a stop.
Serpell frames the problem in terms of folding or enfolding. She quotes Proust who said we leaf through old books because “they are the calendars we have kept of days that have vanished.” She then likens this to an “accordion-like compression of selves and time into pages” that remind us “that our own earlier, naive reading of Atonement is folded into our rereading. We divide our reading experience, crease our souls, envelop ourselves in the novel’s folds, in Briony’s self-schisms. Our naive reading, her naive writing, our spoiled rereading: all are enfolded.”
As you can see from this brief synopsis, Serpell’s analysis is very intricate, and while her synopsis of the salient points of the novels she considers is pointed, one obviously needs to read (or, in some cases, reread) the works under her ethical microscope to get a full understanding of the 7 modes of uncertainty. Overall this effort by Serpell will surely be a landmark in future literary criticism, just as the 1930 book Seven Types of Ambiguity by William Empson that she derives inspiration from became a groundbreaking work. Even if you are not a fan of modern novels, this is one book you must read. And maybe even reread.
7 Modes of Uncertainty (393 pages) is $52.50 from Harvard University Press.
If you are plagued by mold with a Tempur-Pedic mattress, you are not alone!
The photos above shows the formerly white cover over the top of a box spring that was installed less than a year ago in an apartment in Ft. Lauderdale. Instead of being white, it is now covered in black mold!
The underside of the Rhapsody Breeze mattress by Tempur-Pedic, which cost the inflated price of $5,000, was also covered in mold. The owner of the mattress and box springs, which were installed by Mattress Firm, was forced to cut the covering off the boxspring as it could not be returned to a safe condition.
Underneath the white cover was a new horror: the entire wood surface of the boxes supporting the bed were covered in mold!!
Dr. Emanuele phoned the main office of Tempur-Pedic on August 27, 2016 and was told "We can file a claim but we're not going to cover it." Mattress Firm said they have nothing to do with it. Dr. Emanuele said "You're selling this but you're not backing it up?" The answer was they are not backing it up. How many hundreds or thousands of people have been victimised by these dangerous mattress/box sets?
Dr. Emanuele has suffered a severe allergic reaction to this mold, and recently had to visit the emergency room of the local hospital as a result. This happened just a few days before he discovered the mold. His allergic reaction is continuing as of today.
This newspaper will continue to publicise this outrage, and link it to other news outlets if necessary, until Dr. Emanuele receives a full refund on the purchase price of the Tempur-Pedic mattress.
Check out this website ABC Channel 7 in San Francisco, where Tempur-Pedic offered a refund after being shamed in the media. Before the TV channel got involved in 2015, Tempurpedic refused to help this woman (except by asking her to spend more money) plagued by mold on the underside of her bed.
What exactly is Roman Britain? This is a question author Charlotte Higgins tackles head on, and the answer may surprise you.
“Britannia Romana: the very phrase 'Roman Britain' in uncomfortable, a hybrid open to all kinds of awkward questions. Historians and archaeologists still intensely debate whether these islands became in any meaningful sense 'Romanized'. She notes that the answer you would have received to this question has shifted. “The historical pendulum has swung, and the history of the Romans in Britain looks rather different from a post-colonial purview. The study of Roman Britain has become more political over the past fifty years.”
She says that earlier historians showed sympathy for the Romans, which caused them “to underplay the true nature of the Roman encounter with Britain, which, in truth, was one of exploitation, violence and resistance.”
Despite the earlier admiration of Roman Britain, the fact remains that when the Houses of Parliament were being built early in Queen Victoria's reign, “not a single fresco depicting Britain's Roman period was executed.” In the centre of government, it is as if London was never part of the Roman Empire. Quite astonishing really.
The book is not, however, a scholarly tome that gets bogged down in these scholarly debates. It is actually a delightful travel encounter between Higgins and the remnants of Roman archaeological sites in England, Wales and Scotland. The tone is neatly set in the Introduction, which includes a picture of the 1974 VW camper van she used to make the trek in 2010 and 2011.
Higgins studied Classics at Balliol College, Oxford, and is now the chief arts writer for The Guardian newspaper in London.
The book has no colour illustrations, but it does offer useful maps of such cities as Colchester, London and York. The London map, for example, shows the location of today's Nicholson & Griffin barbershop. The only thing that can be seen of the Forum of London is in its basement. Here is Higgins' amusing encounter with the shop.
“When I visited, the place was deserted but for a group of cheerful hairdressers folding towels. One of them was on the phone discussing hair dye. Another moved a few handbags so that I could sidle up to a glazed wall, through which I squinted to see one of the pier bases of the old basilica. It was hard to make anything of it: it was as if a cathedral had been reduced to a garden wall.”
This snippet is what the book is like: quirky, personal, and intensely intriguing. A delightful read, and highly recommended for anyone, including professional scientists, who have an interest in British and Roman history.
Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain (282 pages) is $27.95 from Overlook Press.
Arion and the Dolphin premiered in March 2016, and I had the pleasure of hearing its third performance by the Collegium Musicum of London in June. The performance was held in the famous St. James's Church near Piccadilly Circus.
The composer Jonathan Dove describes the story behind the composition of his dramatic cantata. "Arion is a young poet from Corinth who wins first prize in a singing contest in Sicily. During his voyage home, the sailors plot to kill him and keep his prize-money. Arion begs to sing one last song, and they allow him. His song draws dolphins to the ship. As soon as he finishes his song, he jumps overboard and is rescued by one of the dolphins who carries him to safety. The dolphin ends among the stars, as the constellation Delphinus. The story is told as a sequence of songs, with a soloist as Arion, tenors and basses as the sailors, and children’s voices representing the dolphin."
The title role of Arion is performed by David Allsopp, a counter-tenor of astonishing presence. His crystal-sharp voice was trance-enducing, and he perfectly captured the purity of the young Arion as he sings the song that attracts dolphins. "In song bid now my song goodbye Music and Life...There is no music there, There in the depths of the sea," laments Arion. Very moving.
Allsopp was able to induce in the audience an emotional state that was very imaginative. It caused a stillness. One audience member told me it "felt quite archetypal. My mind was not judging, it was just absorbed in the listening."
There was much to admire here aside from the vocal tour de force of Allsopp. The haunting ethereal voices from the girls' choir of St. Catherine's College, Cambridge was the perfect backdrop for the lament of Arion. The dramatic key changes in Dove's composition were ably handled by the Collegium Musicum under the direction of Greg Morris, and I was particularly struck by the shimmering effect delivered by the Percussion Ensemble of London after thanks had been offered by the dolphin.
"A Dolphin sports through the Ocean of Night,
Tumbles and plays with the shoals of stars.
Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, Mars;
Each leaping planet sings, hurtling higher,
To the glittering strings of a heavenly lyre."
A truly stunning evening of music, and of one the finest compositions of the 21st century.
For more on the Collegium and future concerts, visit their website: http://coll-mus-lon.org.uk/
Photos with this article by C. Cunningham
"Love and marriage” was the theme of this year’s Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida, held at the Sunrise Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale in June. This year’s theme was to celebrate Marriage equality. This magical evening was under the artistic direction and conducted by the ever creative Harold Dioquino.
“Love” being the passionate theme of the evening had a storyline by Michael Leeds, that kept the audience mesmerized. Leeds, a resident director at Island City Stage, worked closely with Dioquino to enable not just the singing, but the representation of love by the Chorus. Dioquino himself explained in the program notes that he had a hesitation “about the use of the word love” but this “slowly disappeared in the most unexpected but magical way” as the creative process that resulted in this concert developed. To his great credit this magic was a tangible effect felt by the audience.
The magic of love was best exemplified in the staged musical number Starbucks. How do you know you are in love? It is akin to Meno's paradox: how do we know that we know? It is one of those questions that has delighted and bedevilled human thought for thousands of years. In this concert, we saw it played out in a Starbucks, but is it all that different from a cafe in Paris? Not as immanently romantic of course, but of the same ilk. It is representative of a lot of gay relationships when you meet somebody. In this case, very well done by soloists Scott Hindley and Marcos Acosta who portrayed a worker at Starbucks and a guy (Scott) who came in only to develop a crush on him. Done with humour and emotion, very touching.
The actors' collaboration with the storyline took the evening to a whole new level, telling the story of trials, tribulations of love and its complexities and made it fun. One of these many highlights was So Much in Common, a tune from No Way To Treat a Lady. It featured a perennial problem: what will Mother think of my boyfriend? In this case the Mother is Jewish, and far from rejecting the BF, she gets along better with him than her own son! It was performed by soloists Tim Richardson, Randy Zinkus and Charles Hood.
The reliance on soloists was a major feature of the concert. The focus has changed since the Chorus was directed by Gordon Roberts, and now the soloists for both evenings are the same, whereas they often rotated in past concerts. The different registers of the Chorus, such as alto and bass, also seem to be better delineated. In the past they often seemed to be simply loud and overpowered one another, now one can hear the individual parts.
It was a thrill to be part of the audience, everyone had a smile on their faces the whole evening!
And that is reflected in the Chorus itself. Previous concerts often seemed to present a lesson, often giving us technical songs that lacked warmth. Now it is much more light-hearted, and the Chorus expresses this in their own obvious enjoyment . One enhancement is that the staging of performances, set to the right, has better props. The focus has changed from the conductor to the soloists (15 in this concert), and this process will achieve its logical conclusion when Tropical Wave, a segment of the Chorus that offers its own features, is assigned a new conductor so that Dioquino can concentrate on the bigger picture.
The song selection included “Getting to Know You” (from The King and I) “Love is an Open Door” (from Frozen) “Do you love me? (from Fiddler on the Roof), and Turn it Off (Book of Mormon) performed by Tropical Wave.
It was wonderful to watch the nine-piece orchestra having fun during the event, who were clearly thrilled to be part of the “Season of Love”! Emcee and Narrator Randy Washburn added his own unique flare to the evening with his blond wig and angel wings. Everyone involved contributed to a wonderful evening and filled the air with harmony and excitement.
Next season the Chorus will be performing at different venues including Hard Rock in Hollywood. For more info visit their website: gaymenschorusofsouthflorida.org.
This review was written with the invaluable input of Sun News correspondents Wayne Doyle and Dr. Matt Emanuele.
Photos by Wayne Doyle.
This is simply one of the best books I have ever read.
It is by Peter Davidson, who has taught at the universities of Aberdeen, Leiden and Warwick. He is a Fellow of Campion Hall, University of Oxford. His previous books take on overarching themes, with titles such as Distance and Memory (2003), and The Idea of North (2005). Here he adds another, on the nature and meaning of twilight, something everyone has experienced many times. But how often has it sparked your imagination?
For many of an artistic temperament, it has proved to be a rich source of inspiration. Davidson mines prose, poetry and paintings to, in effect, shed light on twilight. As he says in this supremely eloquent passage, it requires a special sight to see what twilight really is.
“Still air, dimming and thickening. The light has gone completely where the boughs of the trees hand down to the grass by the water, where the pine branches brush the surface of the pond. This depth of twilight, when the one unseasonable flower hanging on an elder bush jumps forward a hundred yards to meet the eye, is the solitary domain of those whose eyes have practice in navigating it.” Wow!
Davidson casts his net widely in European sources. In the same chapter he mentions the Turin poet Guido Gozzano (1883-1916) and the ancient Roman poet Virgil. He describes Gozzano's poem Miss Felicity as “a complete, even an extreme, work of the twilight school, of retreat from the present day, of longing for the refuge of a crepuscular life in provincial obscurity as though in a dream world of the mid-nineteenth century.” He regards Virgil as a foundational figure. “Virgil's sombre evocation of twilights and shadows in his otherworld has had an unquantifiable influence on subsequent writing.”
The author recounts a tale “shaped by twilight” told by Sylvia Warner. In her childhood she visited a very old woman, possibly born in the lifetime of Jane Austen, who showed her a Regency doll house by holding a lighted taper inside the tiny rooms. “The nature of the experience,” says Davidson, “is one of having witnessed a haunting, or at least a suspension of time, to have passed through the autumn twilight to a place where a house of the era of Jane Austen has been shown by candlelight, and then to have returned to the present by the paths of sleep and darkness.”
Davidson considers both “natural and unnatural twilights” in this book. One example of the latter can be glimpsed in these few words by T.S. Eliot: “...ghosts return Gently at twilight, gently go at dawn.”
Despite the breadth of reading evidenced by Davidson's research, he chose not to quote from the Chorus of the Spirits in Shelley's Prometheus Unbound. The Chorus here is addressing the atmosphere of human thought:
Be it dim and dank and grey
Like a storm-extinguished day
Travelled o'er by dying gleams
In the realm of painting, Davidson highlights the works of one of my two favourite painters, Caspar David Friedrich. He studies the small painting The Evening, done in 1821, and sees in it something truly wonderful.
“The fence of tree trunks and the rising powder-blue mists from the valley beyond are the barriers of years and their illusions that stand in the way of the couple's last journey together to the bright regions of the evening sky.”
There is only one typo in the book: “it its apparent” on pg. 12 should be “in its apparent.” And it is only noticeable because it is the only imperfection. With this book Davidson can safely be described as one of our greatest wordsmiths.
As an example of what the finest English prose is meant to be I quote here the final paragraph of the last chapter before the Epilogue.
“So we came into the dim wood and into the water loud in the air, looking back at the scatter of lit windows, at the figure of our friends moving among the shadows and glimmerings and lanterns and leaves. Now that the evening has given way, so quietly, and after such long twilight, to the dark. Ferns at our feet and stars in the cobalt above, we live together in this moment of lastness, with all of our night to come.”
This is a book to be read in the twilight of a day, or during the twilight of your days.
The Last of the Light: About Twilight (280 pages) is $35 from Reaktion Books, distributed in the United States by University of Chicago.
Copyright photo of the Moon at twilight, with some highly Romantic clouds, taken by C. Cunningham in May 2016.