Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mardi Gras Pics

There was a Mardi Gras Party at the Palace on Tuesday. 12 of us enjoyed shrimp creole over ice, asparagus with crab hollandaise, spring mix greens with palm, artichokes and home made French dressing, mini sweet red peppers stuffed with bleu cheese and of course a king cake.

Les bon temps roulés!



Dan and Will:


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Coupl'a Things XIV

1) To Attorney General Eric Holder, who is whining about Americans being "cowards" in discussing race. What a self serving little rant. Race has been talked to death, frankly, few societies have ever had has frank and open discussions. Why not move on to more pressing justice issues? Gay and Lesbian rights, the overwhelming use of the death penalty, more people incarcerated than in all of the countries of the European Union, treatment of the mentally ill as criminals, reasonable sex offender laws, reintegration of inmates, prosecutorial misconduct and the over all feeling among many that the justice system takes care of its own and functions to make government money and to advance lawyers' and politicians' careers?

These have to be addressed and are not talked about at all.

2) Speaking of money makers, KC has installed its first red light cameras. I now avoid 39th and SW Trafficway like the plague. Police are thrilled, more donut time.

3) RIP, Wendy Richard, better known as Miss Brahms from the long running British comedy show Are You Being Served?. Richard was 65 and died after a year long cancer battle. She was a fixture of British TV, also starring in the long running "East Enders" show. She was most known across the pond for her role as the cheeky Miss Brahms, the Junior clerk in the ladies department at Grace Brothers on AYBS.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mardi Gras 2009

Happy Mardi Gras 2009

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Chamber Music As It Was Meant To Be

"Chamber Music", traditionally, is music written for a small group of instrumentalists played in a small chamber or room in a palace or grand home. The audience was usually the members of the Royal Court and perhaps was part of a dinner party, entertainment for visiting guests, or simply the evening's amusement.

Since most grand palaces and royal courts have gone the way of the dodo bird, we now hear chamber music in large concert halls, maybe not the same ones as would accommodate the local symphony, but certainly larger than any royal chamber. Thus it was a real treat to actually hear chamber music in an elegant home, surrounded by fine antiques, sipping champagne from a gilded Murano Medici flute and enjoying a fine dinner of lobster newburg.

My illustrious neighbor and 3 others hosted a wonderful soiree for invited guests and patrons of the local "Friends of Chamber Music" concert series. The evening's entertainment included a short concert by the Jupiter String Quartet.

The Jupiter Quartet (all the info you need is at their excellent site) is an enthusiastic and charming group, with glowing reviews and a growing discography. As the time frame was short, we got only single movements from their major works, The Mendelssohn Quartet op 13 and Beethoven Quartet Op 59/2. The evening ended with a bravura performance of Astor Piazzolla's Four, For Tango.

Up close, you can see and feel the tension needed to keep the ensemble together. You can hear the bows interact with the strings, the creaking, the flexing. The sound is intimate, the inner voices alive. The performances were excellent, brisk in tempo but not overwhelmingly. The glorious adagio of the Beethoven was simply breathtaking in its breadth and communicative power.

Made me want to hear the whole concert...which I will shortly....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Arse! The Joy of Left Hand Love

Ok...the real words are below.

Blessèd city, heavenly Salem,
Vision dear of peace and love,
Who of living stones are builded
Art the joy of Heav'n above,
And, with angel cohorts circled,
As a bride to earth dost move.

From celestial realms descending,
Bridal glory round her shed,
To his presence, decked with jewels,
By her Lord shall she be led;
All her streets, and all her bulwarks,
Of pure gold are fashionèd."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Kansas City Symphony: Curiosities from Beethoven and Mendelssohn

As bright and eager undergrads in an upper level English Literature class, we strove constantly to impress our learned professor with our knowledge. Thus some of the more serious students dove into the world of literature and dug up obscure works by their favorite authors. One student had managed to track down and read a copy of a long forgotten work by his favorite author, barely concealing his glee at finding the treasure. But, upon finishing it, he dolefully reported to the class that the work (time has diminished my memory of all the details) was nothing like the masterpieces of his idol and was actually quite boring and not worth the trouble he took to find it.

"Ah, yes, Mr. Jones,", our white haired, elegant professor replied, "but the effort was not totally in vain. You have satisfied your curiosity and you have discovered that some works are buried in obscurity for damn good reasons."

Thus one can be forgiven thinking Mendelssohn wrote only 3 full orchestral symphonies, numbers 3 (Scottish), 4 (Italian) and 5 (Reformation). One never hears numbers 1 and 2, both being buried at least partially in obscurity. After hearing #2 the "Lobgesang" performed by the Kansas City Symphony and Chorus this weekend, I recalled the above quoted words of my long forgotten professor, as the experience was much the same for me. Nicholas Mc Gegan was guest conductor, Dominique LaBelle, Mary Wilson and Tom Cooley were vocal soloists.

Written for an auspicious occasion, the 600th anniversary of Gutenberg's invention of movable type, the sprawling work takes its texts from Luther's Old Testament translations, combining them with typical mid 1800's grand and solemn chorales and hymns. Sung in an English translation, the words were easier to follow but highlighted some of the lame and flowery texts. The chorus sang with fervor and good diction, the soloists top notch, the orchestra keeping everything in balance and Mc Gegan kept the work moving. A good performance, I am sure, but as with the novel my old classmate found, my curiosity has been satisfied and I can see why this work is not at the top of the list of Mendelssohn's oeuvre.

The first half was great fun, but a bit disappointing in its incompleteness. But of course a full performance of Beethoven's early version of his opera "Fidelio", still titled "Leonore" would have been an evening in itself. Thus, the chorus, soloists and orchestra gave us some juicy tidbits to amuse: The Leonore Overture # 1, Duet: "Um in der Ehe froh zu leben" the chorus "O welche Lust" and the Recitative and Duet "Ich kann mich noch nicht fassen". Well sung, well played, these tantalizing excerpts show "Leonore" is, unlike "Lobgesang", more than a curiosity.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Simone Dinnerstein, Piano Recital

Simone Dinnerstein burst on the piano recital world with a much discussed and hyped recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations. A second recording featured many of the works heard in her Friends Of Chamber Music recital last night at the Folly Theatre. Continuing her concentration on Bach, she performed the French Suite # 5, a new (2001) work by Philip Lasser "12 Variations on a Chorale by J.S. Bach 'Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott'" plus 4 Schubert Impromptus (op 90)to begin the evening. The concert concluded with Beethoven's valedictory sonata # 32, op. 111.

The 4 Schubert Impromptus were arguably the most successful performances of the evening. On a grand scale, making the title "impromptu" almost laughable, these masterpieces benefited from Dinnerstein's formidable technique. She was able to convey the power and almost symphonic heft of these works. Her fluid tempi and free rubato worked well in these pinnacles of Romantic piano music.

Yet the same fluidity and romantic bent worked less well in the Bach. Although I prefer Bach on the piano, she disregarded the elegant, almost scientific elements in the Bach for a more Mendelssohnian sound. However using a piano does not mean it has to sound like Chopin or even Beethoven. The overall performance was a bit on the slow side,the brisk dance movements could not make up for the overall static slow movements.

The Lasser piece, although from 2001 could best be described as Bach meets Rachmaninoff via NPR's "Hearts of Space" space/new age music program. Interesting, but not truly memorable.

The evening's closer Beethoven's incredible Sonata #32, op 111 is of course his last, looking away from Haydn and on towards Chopin, Schubert and beyond. Dinnerstein dug in to the dissonance and power of the opening Maestoso. The long, sublime Arietta, a set of variations, held together nicely. Dinnerstein really relished the famous "boogie woogie variation" frankly making it a bit too jarring and jazzy, but most assuredly pointing out that Beethoven was taking piano music into a new world. Dinnerstein's flowing, well judged tempi and the aforementioned fluidity highlighted the contrasts between the two movements and brought the sonata and concert to a satisfying close.

Dinnerstein barely moves while at the piano, her hands staying somewhat close to the keyboard. A very quiet, almost aloof artist (at least in this performance) she is in stark contrast and somewhat refreshing in this age of histrionic piano playing.

Seeming to hang her career on Bach, Dinnerstein is much more effective and exciting in the early romantic works. I would love to hear more Schubert from her... and less of the overly romantic Bach.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Coupl'a Things XIIa

1) So much for Bipartisanship in the new administration. Republos are just as nasty, regressive and fond of gridlock as always. They created the mess we are in, starting with Reagan and provide the same old tax cuts for the rich so it will trickle to the masses. Luckily, the Obama administration has enough votes to push it through.

2) Keep my dear friend Greg in thoughts and prayers. He had to have emergency surgery yesterday for ruptured diverticulitis. Nasty, painful... has a colostomy for at least 3 months. Yuk. Nothing goes well for him, healthwise. He has had 3 operations in 3 years, I have never had a one. Been in the hospital at least that many times... I was last in when I was 6 or 7. When hospitals had wood floors and nurses with caps.

3) Broccoli and Stilton Cheese soup. YUM! Who said English and cuisine were mutually exclusive concepts. Here is an easy recipe from Cook UK. Stilton (an English bleu) is frightfully expensive, but has an unique flavor. You can substitute a good bleu.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

RIP Blossom Dearie

Blossom Dearie, a classically trained pianist who transformed herself into a jazz singer possessing one of the most unique voices in all of music died Saturday in New York City. She was 82.

Born April 29, 1926 and given the most appropriate name of Marguerite Blossom Dearie. She later dropped her first name and used the middle and last as her stage name. Dearie's voice was tiny, almost child like. Sweet. Light, babyish to a point. Think of all the bad imitations of Marilyn Monroe. But while lacking in power, she had impeccable diction, rhythm, timing and a quick humming bird vibrato.

Starting a long solo career in Paris, Blossom went on to appear regularly in cabarets in London and New York. She created her own record label in the mid 70's (when as a teen I discovered her unique talents) and wrote several original songs with lyrics by Johnny Mercer.

Her last recording was a single released in 2003 titled "It's All Right to be Afraid," dedicated to victims and survivors of September 11. Her last live appearance was in 2006 at a cabaret in Manhattan where she lived.

Her recordings are cult classics.

Here is a clip:

Here's to you, hip little cabaret doll! How do you say Auf Wiedersehn?

Monday, February 09, 2009

Name Game

Donald Clark

2.WITNESS PROTECTION NAME:(father and mother's middle names)
Earl Jane

3.NASCAR NAME:(first name of your mother's dad, father's dad)
Paul Emory

4.STAR WARS NAME:(the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first name)
Cla Do

5.DETECTIVE NAME:(favorite color, favorite animal)
Blue Dog

6.SOAP OPERA NAME:(middle name, town where you were born)
Edward Decatur

7.SUPERHERO NAME: (2nd fav color, fav drink, add "THE" to the beginning)
The Red Scotch

8.FLY NAME:(first 2 letters of 1st name, last 2 letters of your last name)
Docl (this makes no sense)

9.ROCK STAR NAME:(current pets name, current street name)
Puggles Baltimore

10. PORN NAME: (1st pet, name of your elementary school)
Mr K Oak Grove (Doesn't THAT sound hot!?!)

11.YOUR GANGSTA NAME:(first 3 letters of real name plus izzle)

12.YOUR IRAQI.. NAME:(2nd letter of your first name, 3rd letter of your last name, first two letters of your middle name, last two letters of your first name then last three letters of your last name)

13.YOUR GOTH NAME:(black, and the name of one of your pets)
Black Puggles

14. STRIPPER NAME: (name of your fav perfume, fav candy)
Channel M&M

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Cantelli on Film

I found this rare clip of the late Guido Cantelli in action. Cantelli, an Italian conductor, was Toscanini's protege and would have been a major figure in the world of opera had he not tragically died in an airplane crash outside Paris in 1956. He was 36

Cantelli still evokes strong emotions when discussed. As with Toscanini, Cantelli was demanding perfectionist, hard on both himself and his orchestras. Some loved him, some chafed over his demands for long rehearsals and full attention to the smallest detail. Today, some of his performances seem a bit mechanical while others surge with power. His Beethoven 5th of 2/56 has never been bettered. His Tchaikovsky 5th with the La Scala orchestra is fast, but so rich and powerful. He was a strong advocate of Bartok and Hindemith, when both men's music was new and not often heard.

This clip of Rossini's "Semiramide" overture is with the Philharmonia Orchestra of London, probably January 27th, 1952. Cantelli shows he was a passionate conductor, hardly a machine. His stick technique would be a bit hard to follow, but since the orchestra was drilled to perfection, he felt he merely had to direct the mood and passion, not beat time. Even though it was just a "curtain raiser", one can tell he lavished as much attention on this work as he would have say Brahms'1st Symphony or the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra.

Cantelli is a passion of mine, I have all his recordings, probably one of the most complete collections in the country. Strangely, after collecting Cantelli recordings and memorabilia for 30 years, this is the first time I have ever seen a film of him conducting.

Friday, February 06, 2009

High School Bass

The old proverb goes: "Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime."

So why not teach it in school and have it as a competitive extracurricular activity? Some here in MO are proposing just that, High School Bass Fishing Tournaments. Bass fishing is insanely popular in some areas (just for the record, I have not the patience for a fish to come and try to eat my worm.. bores me to death.. I'll do my fishing at the supermarket) and big time and big money bass tournaments are popular all over. So if HS basketball can turn out the next LeBron James, then why not the next Bass champion.

Frankly, I am all for schools keeping kids occupied, if it is fishing instead of running amok, all the better.

It certainly would not be something I would watch. Imagine a bunch of anglers, cheerleaders waving pom poms: "Rah Rah Wee! Go Missouree!! Rah Rah Rass! Catch that Bass!!!" Of course I would be rooting for the Bass.

When contacted, the Bass population in Missouri was strongly not in agreement.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Jack Benny Clowns with Heifetz

Rare recording of Jascha Heifetz and Jack Benny recorded in 1940's

Imagine, humor with some wit and intelligence.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Top Ten Characteristics of a Gay Boy's Super Bowl Party

Have you ever been curious about what a gay men's Super Bowl Party is like? Trust me, they are nothing like ones that straight men would have.

1) If there is a piano around and someone can play it, then there are sure to be a group of singers, most alumni from the local Gay Men's Chorus, singing show tunes. "Evita", "Phantom" and "Les Miz" being prominently featured.

2) The silent moments will be for the divas singing before the kick off.

3) 30% of those attending will not know who is playing. 80% will not care.

4) There will be a betting pool, but few understand the rules.

5) There will be more vodka served than beer. Someone will be drinking white wine.

6) Alternative entertainment will be provided in the form of a supply of Bette Davis movies. "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" being most popular.

7) The biggest cheer of the evening will be saved for when Bette proclaims "You are Blanche, you ARE in that wheelchair." It will be replayed for those who missed it.

8) No one burps, farts or acts like a heathen...if they do, they excuse themselves. They will be talked about and likely not invited for next year's party.

9) Most guests will leave when the piano player calls it quits, even though the game is still on.

10) The end of the game goes un-noticed. 65% of those attending do not know or care who won.

OK, a few more:

11) The biggest discussion will not be who was the best player, but rather which was the biggest bitch, Joan or Bette.

12) Anyone yelling at the TV will be silenced, especially during the show stopping performance of "Don't Cry for me Argentina".

13) When a player is announced as a "tight end", everyone will snicker at the innuendo then check him out and nod in agreement.

14) Many of the guests will play fantasy football. 88% of their football fantasies involve their teams never leaving the locker room.

15) The food will be catered, served buffet style on glass plates and with real utensils. None will have football logos on them.