Tuesday, April 28, 2015

3 Preludes, 115 Ways

It seems there are few pieces of music as adaptable to different voicings as George Gershwin's "3 Preludes."

Gershwin wrote six preludes for a tour with a Peruvian contralto in 1926, and then published three as separate but linked piano compositions. He recorded them himself, but the better known recording was made by his longtime pal Oscar Levant, who told him, "George, nobody plays your music better than you. Except me."

These were the first recordings of the prelude we heard, on blue label Columbia 78s in the CHAB library, but since then there have been many more, almost all with different twists.

Jascha Heifetz was the first to rework the preludes, transcribing them for violin and piano. Some sixty years later, Yo-Yo Ma, following the Heifetz transcriptions, rewrote them for cello and piano; in his recording, Jeffrey Kahane is the pianist.

The Eroica Trio (Adela Pena, Sara Sant'Ambrogio, and Erika Nickrenz) recorded the preludes in an arrangement for violin, piano and cello by the Brazilian composer Raimundo Penaforte, and there is a particularly brilliant performance by Jens Lindemann with pianist Alison Gagnon. Lindemann, an alumnus of the Canadian Brass, plays a variety of trumpets and mutes in his version of the preludes, cleverly inserting wisps of "Rhapsody in Blue" and "I Got Rhythm."

Many fine and individual performances of Gershwin's "3 Preludes." Can the ukelele and tuba version be far behind? We're off to Sikora's to see.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Will and George

April 23: birthday of William Shakespeare and feast day of St. George.

Write a sonnet. Slay a dragon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fashion Footwear for Finance Ministers

Finance Minister Joe Oliver delivered his government's budget Tuesday, and later he and Prime Minister Stephen Harper posed with two thumbs up, looking like the road company Siskel and Ebert.

Following tradition, Joe wore new shoes--in this case, runners labeled "New Balance." A clever touch, so someone else must have thought of it.

The first federal finance minister to pull on new shoes before announcing a budget is believed to have been Donald Fleming in 1960, although some say it was Sir John Rose in 1868. If so, those high-top button numbers should be bronzed.

Finance ministers now look for humorous and appropriate twists in their choice of footwear, which is a challenge, because lighthearted humor is not usually part of the portfolio. Graham Steele, who delivered Nova Scotia's budget in 2009, complained, "It's hard to be original--every gimmick has been done."

Well, Mr. Steele, and all other finance ministers tuned in, we have some ideas. Consider the stir you would cause if you came in wearing a pair of Jimmy Choo stilettos. Or skated in on roller blades. And if you wanted to appear in tune with the environment, you could wear Birkenstocks.

Finally, if the government has had to make some changes, what better than flip-flops?

You're welcome. Send cheque.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Prepping to be President

One of the reasons there is greater tension around the US presidential election in 2016 than the federal election in Canada in a few months is that no one knows yet whose names will be on the ticket. No suspense in Canada--we all know it's going to be the Three Amigos.

So far in the US, only Hillary Rodham Clinton has announced her candidacy for the Democrats, while the rush for the Republican nomination looks like a gathering of the cast from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Unless there's a surprise candidate coming, it looks as though the election is going to feature Hillary and the Seven Smurfs.

The benefit or catch--take your choice--with Hillary is that they'll also get Bill.

What we'd like to see, to give the race a kick, is a campaign for president by Sarah Silverman, with not just one but two running mates--the Two Seths, Rogen and Macfarlane. Imagine the debates! It could be the most fun since Abby Hoffman and Grace Slick tried to slip LSD into Richard Nixon's punch bowl.

Meanwhile, in Canada, we'll settle for the Harper, Mulcair, Trudeau and May cage match.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Pappy and the Rockers

There is, in the Saturday, April 18 edition of the Vancouver Sun, a reproduction of a painting by Bruce Stewart (Page F2). The painting is a not entirely realistic depiction of a half-dozen rock DJs at the peak of their popularity, which was in the mid-1960s.

Among those shown are Red Robinson, generally considered the older brother if not father of the local scene, Brian "Frosty" Forst and Fred Latremouille, both brilliant in their off-beat and slightly dangerous way, and Al Jordan, dubbed "Pappy" by the younger DJs, and for a time the in-demand commercial voice in Vancouver. When they were together, they were at CFUN, but then most moved elsewhere, the way restless radio guys do, and CKLG (LG/73) replaced CFUN as the #1 rock outlet.

It was during the CFUN period that Vancouver Life magazine published a story on the emerging youth market (as advertising and media people identified it). We ran a photo of the team roughhousing together, but for the main illustration we shot them in conservative business suits seated around a boardroom table. Daryl B. (remember him?) was part of the group and probably Jolly John Tanner. The later CKLG crew would add Peter Starr, who had a much admired English accent, the very young Stevie Grossman, and the remarkable J.B. Shayne, aka Captain Midnight.

All of this is now material for social archaeologists. But it was fun to be there when it was happening.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Happy Hour in Panama City

Cocktail of the weekend in Panama City:  Cuba Libre.

Obama: Hi, Steve. Raul and I are having a drink. Like to join us?

Harper: Uh..sure, Barry. What is that you're mixing?

Obama: It's called Cuba Libre. Appropriate, don't you think?

Harper: What's in it?

Obama: Rum, Coca-Cola, squeeze of lime, over ice cubes. Can I pour you one?

Harper: Okay. But Diet Coke. And hold the rum.

Castro: (Begins to sing "Rum and Coca-Cola") Barry, you think maybe you could get the Andrews Sisters to visit Havana? Or even just Patti?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Political Grab Bag

But isn't all politics a grab bag? Sorry, the cynic we usually keep locked in the attic got loose.

A few notes on the week's events and other observations:

1. Pas de Cravates.

Cornelius Burke once sent a dinner invitation with that instruction. We guessed it was because he had observed that some of his senior managers didn't know how to knot a necktie. But now we see that many political figures, beginning with Mr. S. Harper, often appear open-collared and tie-less. Presumably they believe this makes then appear trustworthy, down-to-earth, regular guys. Even though they're wearing $2,500 suits.

2. The 5% Solution

Finance Minister Joe Oliver is about to introduce legislation that will make it mandatory for future federal governments to maintain a balanced budget. If they fail to do so, he said, cabinet members would have their salaries reduced by five percent. This could mean we would be seeing a lot of senior ministers working the night shift at Tim Horton's.

3. Call Me Mister

Inevitably in radio and television interviews, political figures address the interviewer by his or her first name, as though they were longtime pals. The interviewer respectfully addresses the interviewee as "Mr. Prime Minister" or "Madam Premier," but the interviewee always comes back with, "Well, Gus" or "That's a good question that I'm going to dodge, Melinda." Come on, a little respect for the interviewer. Unless he/she can start calling you by your first name. Or embarrassing nickname.

4. Stick with Journalism

It has long been obvious that journalists do not do well in politics. Consider the cases of Warren G. Harding and Benito Mussolini. And at this very moment, not only the helium-inflated Mike Duffy, but also Pamela Wallin. The life-size bronze statue in her hometown of Wadena, Saskatchewan may be permanently on hold. And even if journalists do not fare badly, once their brief star power is spent at the polls, they are likely to languish in the back benches, gathering dust. Jack Webster was asked to be a candidate for every party under the sun, and wisely refused them all. "I can have more power," he correctly said, "where I am." The only journalist who really had success in politics was Winston Churchill. But there aren't any other Churchills around, no matter how many believe themselves to be.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Jurgen Gothe, One More Time

In 1998, in the inaugural issue of NUVO magazine, I published a set of four poems by Jurgen Gothe. It was the second time around for the poems--I had published them in 1966 in Vancouver Life. When the issue came out, Don Cromie, who was the money behind the magazine, said, "I just don't know what to make of these." Here they come again--for the third time around.

Memos to Myself...and Some Other People I Haven't Seen Lately

                   Jurgen Gothe


My Blue Heaven:
here is a place so full of smoke
that I can't even see myself,
even in mirrors.
and they serve the most fan-
       tastic drinks and there's an
electric guitar and a Hammond
       organ and on Mondays...
well, on Mondays,
a whole Gypsy carnival moves
After we have all had
our predicted fortunes read,
and plans mapped out for us
      for one more week,
we all go into the back rooms,
where the Gypsy girls are
The one I got was named
and wasn't really Gypsy,
but a secretary from Kensing-
       ton (near Montreal) looking
       for work.
and since my phone was being
       taken out tomorrow,
I gave her my number and told
       her to call.


Miss Claudia C.
comes by every
Thursday to clean
the windows and let
the dog out.
Rent is payable in
advance, thank you.
Good bye.

I hung up my coat
and wine skin and
my first thought was
damn, I know so little
Italian, she'll talk
about me with the cook.


(After Fred Katz and Trio.
The album: Eastern Exposure)

One White Whale:
I had it left over
from the party,
because nobody was hungry
     any more,
and I kept it in the ice-box
for a week or so,
and watched it,
hoping to find out something
drastically true and reasonable
      from it...
but I learned
(too late)
they didn't keep in vermouth.
Such a shame!
I had to pour it all away,
and the whale stopped up the
and there was an awful mess
in the kitchen.


Cooking in the court
of King Henry
wasn't that bad a job,
and certainly
the fringe benefits
were all as good
(or better)
as the paper
had advertised;
I learned to dislike
background music

Vancouver and Winnipeg, 1964/6

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Beware of Terrorist B.O.!

Recently released Homeland Security documents list a number of signs among airline passengers that may betray a terrorist threat. These signs include excessive yawning, manic laughter, and offensive body odor.

Noting an opportunity for profit in this, the conglomerate Cleanliness-R-Us has begun developing a new line of body products. Here is the script for a television commercial ready to launch one of these products:

Scene: Crowded airline terminal. Security personnel observing long lineups of travelers.

Guard 1: See anything suspicious, Bob?

Guard 2: No, Frank. But there's something in the air. I can sense it.

Guard 1: Me too, Bob. I think it's coming from that guy over there. Either he needs a change of underwear, or--

Guard 2: Or he's a terrorist! Right, Frank! Let's take him in!

As the guards drag the man out of the lineup, announcer appears on screen holding a bottle of Anti-Terror Shower Gel.

Announcer: Don't let this happen to you! To avoid Terrorist B.O., scrub thoroughly with new Anti-Terror Shower Gel! Available in four CSIS-approved scents!

Man: Hey, what're you doing? I'm clean!

Guard 1: We'll see about that. This calls for a strip search.

Guard 2: As soon as we get into our Haz-Mat outfits.

Announcer: Avoid this embarrassment and inconvenience when you travel. Don't risk T.B.O. Before you fly, spend a cleansing time with Anti-Terror Shower Gel!

Tag: And for extra protection, ask for Free-to-Fly Anti-Perspirant.