Sunday, January 27, 2013

10.11.68 End of term, Wigmore and Coventry Cathedral

This post consists of a very long letter - it was originally sent on two aerograms. 

Dearest of all dear old souls I know, I received your parcel with the jersey and biscuits and fudge in it a couple of days ago, (and after I’d spent nearly an hour getting it open had a marvellous time!)  The jersey is perhaps a bit big, but I don’t know – it’s long, but this doesn’t matter, and there’s plenty of room in the sleeves, but otherwise it’s fine, and I intend wearing it all the this week and to run it in so to speak.  [I don’t remember this jersey, but plainly it wasn’t up to my mother’s usual standards of fitting properly!]

I’m writing this letter on Reg’s typewriter, in order to post it to you this arvo, but it’s resulting in a bit more mess than usual.  Since I last wrote I’ve been, as usual, rather flat out – even though I stayed home on both Monday and Tuesday nights.  Part of the trouble was that I’d got an idea to write some music, from Norman Thorn, [a Dunedin amateur conductor - not the one who's still conducting in the city, however] before I left home (whether it will actually come to anything finally I don’t know, but I’d like to try it) and this has taken up more time than I expected.  Also, one of the NZ students at the school happened to hear that I’d written some music – from me, of course; got to blow my own trumpet -  and it must be of some interest if Don Mackenzie [organiser of the Summer Music Schools held in Dunedin] wasn’t too rude about it, and he said he’d like me to write some songs for him some time, but though I’m very keen, it’s a matter of time, and also finding the right sort of words for this particular singer – he’s a bass, Kurt Gänzl is his name – he was Brian Gallins [actually ‘Gallas’] till he came here – he’s adopted his own family name again! – and to my way of thinking songs for basses aren’t necessarily the same type of thing as songs for soprano!  Norman Thorn had said on the way to Invercargill that time that it had surprised him that no one had ever written any music on the theme of the Stations of the Cross – so I wanted to see if I could and use a brass band into the bargain.  This of course necessitated some research into brass band orchestration.  [I don’t think anything came of any of this – when I did write some bass songs – to words by Thomas Hardy – a year or so later, I think I’d by that time lost touch with Kurt. As for there not being any music on the Stations of the Cross, a quick search on Google proves how wrong I was. I finally wrote music for brass band many years later, in the 21st century, and that was after I’d had considerable experience playing for brass players.]

At the Centre we’re into work on the two end of term productions: Albert Herring, which I’m NOT concerned with (?) and Dido and Aeneas coupled with a curious modern French comic opera called Angelique which is all about a man whose wife is such a witch that he conspires with a friend to sell her, and the chaos that ensues – even the Devil won’t have her!  It’s mad, and horribly tricky, but generally I’ve been managing to play it.  [Angelique, which I don’t remember at all, was by Jacques Ibert. Kiri te Kanawa sang Dido, and was really very good in it. The question mark after Albert Herring may indicate that I was surprised not to have been involved with it, since I'd worked on it with the NZ Opera Co.]

On Wednesday night we went somewhere, oh, yes to the Wigmore Hall – where one of the second year students was giving a concert.  The Wigmore, as you no doubt know, is the place where most young musicians make their debut.  She was on with a clarinettist, whom I thought was very much under par, probably through nervousness, but whom the critics seemed to think was pretty good?  I’m definitely beginning to distrust the critics here. There seems to be some shifty work going on backstage somehow.  [I apparently spent my time disagreeing with the critics.] The girl who sang wasn’t bad, although some of her music I didn’t find all that interesting, but she sang a new song cycle by a London bloke, which though it was scarcely terribly original was quite pleasant – I’d played a few of them for her one day at a coaching session, and quite liked them. [Unhelpfully, I don’t tell my mother who the composer was.] The accompanist was very good but inclined to overshadow his accompanees, to coin a word, probably because he was so much more experienced. It was hearing these new songs however that prompted the conversation with between Kurt and myself. 

After this, I went for a short time to a party being held in the same street, by one of our stage managers (at her flat, it was, on the fifth floor!) but didn’t stay late, though it was a nice quiet party, which is what I enjoy.  The next day David Syrus had invited me to accompany him to dinner at a lady friend (of his)‘s place, and this was equally quiet and enjoyable.  There are four girls actually at this basement flat, but the one David knows, from his University days, Mary, is an archivist now and at present is working in Lambeth House, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  She is cataloguing letters and such belonging to various previous archbishops from the 19th century.  Another girl joined us for tea, Frances, who works in the Tate Gallery (an art gallery) as a secretary.  We spent so much of the meal talking, that the three courses took from about 7.45 till 10.15! (at least, Mary did most of the talking, not in a brash overbearing way, but just quietly and interestingly.  We other three probably said less together than she!)  They live in Pimlico, very near the Thames, in St George’s Square, where, presumably, most of the four or 5 storeyed houses have been converted into flats. 

On Friday at our lunch-time lecture we had Ronald Dowd, an Aussie tenor, whose been over here for some years now, and he was interesting in a waffly sort of way.  I don’t think I told you that we’d had Professor Thurston Dart the week before, lecturing on Dido and Aeneas, and bringing the whole tragedy to the level of ordinary people in a very funny way. At the lecture he seemed like a very friendly if rather cynical man – and yet, in the afternoon when he took those concerned through the music of Dido, he was frequently very rude to the singers without appearing to try and understand their reason for not having done a thing the way Purcell wanted it – this last was his most heard comment throughout the afternoon, and we were a bit taken aback by his rather surly tongue. 

On Friday night I came out to the Crowls, and listened to The Magic Flute on the radio with Reg, trying to explain what it was all about as we went along.  I’ll see if it’s possible to get some free seats for them for a performance, which will make up a little for all their generosity. I’d come out the day earlier so that we could leave early in the morning to go to Coventry to see the Cathedral that’s there. That’s the one built adjoining the ruins of the old, where The War Requiem was first performed.  It’s really unbelievable in a modern architectural way, and some of it is beyond description, I think.  Here goes. We went there via the M1 (just Reg and I; Mavis has been feeling a bit crook, and the other two had been fairly recently) and this road alone is worth comment.  We couldn’t see anything on the way, and not much more on the way back because the fog was too thick. In some places, unpleasantly so, and it’s a bit worrying to not be able to see far ahead of you on such a fast road. Reg is a good driver, I think, although sometimes he goes a little too fast for my liking. 70, for instance!  In spite of its six lanes, I dare say the M1 is very safe, but the traffic weaves in and out a lot (there are three speeds, so to speak, according to the three lanes) and though I didn’t see anything troublesome on the trip I didn’t always feel too happy. Coventry is not a very large city – I should think smaller than Dunedin, although I couldn’t always see it all for the fog, which did clear in the town at least,  - but it’s very new, particularly in the centre, and well-designed for a modern city.  The Cathedral isn’t the only decent piece of architecture.  The very centre of the town has a huge shopping mall (this part is called Broadgate) which the traffic goes around, or parks inside a large parking building, and it’s very busy as far as the pedestrians are concerned.  We didn’t stop to look at that – it was too cold to stop and look at anything...  [handwritten] to be continued.  Love Mike

Part II
because the weather for the last week has been very bitter indeed, and though I haven’t been wearing a coat yet, I have made considerable use of that scarf you gave me, and my gloves.  (And also, to digress even further, on Tuesday last, Mrs Marshall got us some coal – on our behalf – and we’ve been using that for the time since.  It’s cheaper than the electricity – and possibly more economical altogether, because the coal burns SO slowly that we hardly use any in a night). 

The sun was shining and the day was beautiful to look at in a sort of frostbitten way, but not the best to stand around in.  So we headed across this Broadgate – me leading Reg – he says he can never remember more than the first of a set of instructions on how to get to a place – we’d acquired these from a lady, who instantly knew we were strangers – not only because we were asking the way to the church, but because we said ‘where is St Michael’s Cathedral, and she only knew it as the Cathedral!  Anyway, as you go into the Cathedral two things hit you.  The massive window on your right made of about fifty or more stained-glass windows ranging from yellow and gold at the base to green and reds and blue and purples. This is all over the top of the baptismal font area.  The font is a huge rock from Bethlehem with just a niche carved into the top.  The other thing is the Graham Sutherland Tapestry, which frankly I find even less impressive in life than in the photos.  It has Christ in majesty seated with the four evangelists in their usual guises of lion, ass – or horse, perhaps – man, is it, and eagle, surrounding him.  But it’s all done in a sort of off-white and green, and to my way of thinking isn’t particularly attractive in any sense of the word.

St Mike and the Devil - photo taken by me in 2007 
The building is of a pink-gray stone outside (with an immense statue of St Mike with a long spear, standing over the Devil in chains – both of them obviously attached to the wall but somehow appearing to not be attached) and the inside is a white stone with a great deal of wood panelling, carving, ceiling, planking, seating, you name it, etc.  On the left, inside, is the Chapel of Unity, with the Star of Bethlehem set in the floor in sort of a marble type of mosaic, but not as small as mosaic is.  In the prongs of the star are, again, representations of the evangelists, considerably modern in style, and designs representing the five continents. Further into the centre are typical Christian symbols.  The points of the star go into the walls which are not just flat, but (in an already circular room) are separated by both ordinary glass in extremely narrow windows, and also by stained glass in a variety of hues, which are always darker at the base than the top.

Outside in the main church, as one goes towards the altar, you realise that there are other windows besides the huge one over the font.   But these are all so designed that you can’t see them unless you look from the altar end.  Those on one side are connected with God or the spiritual side of man, and the others with his human side.  There are five windows on each side, perhaps three yards across, each, and they represent man’s journey through life, the green ones at the far end of the Church being his childhood, the red ones next showing his passion in youth, etc, the next are multi-coloured showing middle life, with all the trials and tribulations belonging – these aren’t shown in so many pictures, but are all sort of abstract! – the next with deep purples and blues and golds show wisdom, etc, and the next, which my guide book doesn’t mention, are curious.  On one side there is a very pale window, off whites and pale yellow, and on the other a different thing again.  Anyway, presumably it means you reached your goal! 

As you come down both sides of the church there are five panels (on each side) with Christian texts, sort of roughly carved in nearly foot high letters.  If one turns round and looks at the back of the church you can see the completely glass-covered back wall with figures of saints and angels set into them.  These are modern too, naturally, but interesting, and like so much else in the church, intricately designed.  There are sets of organ pipes on both sides of the principal altar (but I couldn’t see the organ).  There is a little archway beneath these pipes on each side leading round behind the main area to the altar beneath the Tapestry.  On the way on the left side is a little collection of the various opening ceremony implements, and yet another set of stained glass windows.  crossing over to the right we come to another chapel, Christ in Gethsemane, with a frame of the crown of thorns through which the, I think, bronze angel set with coloured glass holding the cup can be seen.  This is lit by three narrow unseen windows. 

There is yet another altar (like the Chapel, sort of outside the main structure of the church) the Chapel of Christ the Servant.  It is fairly simple in design and has windows looking over the surrounding town area.  Other features of the church are the Iron Bird ?? with the three nails taken from the old Cathedral embedded between its body and the pedestal, the canopy made up of dozens of three-pointed wooden things over the Bishop’s seat, and each of the accompanying seats has one too.  I see now that my description of the Baptismal window is inaccurate.  The centre is of yellow and gold, the surrounds vary from blue to green to red.  There is a new addition to the Church.  A crucifix, about ten foot high, hanging near the font.  It is a gift from Czechoslovakia.  The whole building is very angular, and yet doesn’t make it uncomfortable to be inside. 

We went outside after and had a look at the shell of the old church, with the cross made from the wreckage, and the altar made from the stone.  The entire bell-tower is still standing and most of the walls.  Crazy, isn’t it.  We also had a look (after lunch in the Cathedral Refectory Restaurant) (!) at the church next door, which except for the loss of its original stained glass was scarcely touched (it now has a new and very detailed window facing the altar, with a very athletic Christ, and a host of well-known saints) – and it dates from 1200 or something. It’s much cosier than the other church, although its spire must be equally as big, and there are some very old things remaining in it.  The lectern dates from the origin of the church, but looks like new!, and there is a lovely carved fresco of Christ and the 12 apostles all standing about 8 inches high.  Over the altar is another carving, this one in stone (the other is wood) with the usual Christian scenes on it. Each of the pew-ends has a different type of leaf shown on it, although at first glance it appears there are only two patterns. 

That’s about it.  Last night Reg and I played firstly Scrabble with Mavis, and then played through a couple of chess games from a book by Gerald Abrahams.  The second game was that played by two computers!  I’m leaving here early today, to meet Kevin in town about five, since this is his only afternoon off!  He has Thursday off, all day off, but of course that’s no use to me.  I’ve got most of Monday off.  Might be able to catch up a little.  [handwritten] This term seems to have gone terribly quickly – finish on the 21st Dec.  We start about 6th Jan again. Thanks again for parcel. Mike

Another photo taken at Coventry in 2007

Saturday, January 19, 2013

3.11.68: Operas, Concerts, and du Pre

Dear Mum, I had intended to write on Friday, but what with one thing and another, especially the very busy week we’ve had, I just didn’t get round to it.  I had originally planned a not very busy week after the exhausting Ella Gerber period, but found in the end that I was out nearly every night.  On Tuesday, I had planned to go to The Italian Girl in Algiers at the [Sadlers] Wells with Michael – Kingsley had already been on the previous Saturday – but as things turned out I went with David Gorringe (think I’ve mentioned him before, if not, he’s small, 25, from Canterbury, an ex-furnishing business man, who’s very interested in the theatre) and Kevin, who had come back from the South Coast to get a job. Apparently the work over the winter period down there is considerably lessened and the hotel he’d been at couldn’t keep him on.  So anyway, he’s now going to be working in London, near Hampton Court (as far West as we are East) from tomorrow.  When he’s going to see his fiancée, I don’t know, because he only has Thursday – all day – and Sunday afternoon off!  He’s still working as a barman, incidentally.  [I don’t know who this ‘fiancée’ was – I don’t think I ever met her, or at least not more than once, and the engagement got broken off in due course.]

So we four went to the Italian Girl, and though it had some marvellously funny bits, I think I enjoyed the Opera for All production that much more.  Besides, where we were sitting in the Coliseum (the new Sadler’s Wells) in the Dress Circle we found that much of what was being sung on stage in the bigger ensembles was completely lost.  And they left out the funniest thing in the whole show, by not repeating the never-ending septet at the end of the first act, which I think I mentioned previously.  But it was very beautiful to look at, full of lovely luscious greens and blues, and with a marvellous set consisting of three variously-shaped platforms that fitted together sometimes, but other times would sort of float apart to form different levels.  It was produced by Wendy Toye who has also made several films. 

Prior to this I had gone up to David’s place to have a snack tea – he lives near Great Portland St, which is near Regent’s Park, Baker St, and Madame Tussaud’s, in a very nice, centrally-heated penthouse which he shares with a bloke who’s working on the Opera for All at the moment, but he only pays a quarter of the full rent because the flat is actually also leased by another bloke who uses it as a base for the business he partners with the other bloke (the OFA man – get it?).

Next night Michael and Lindsay Campbell (from Dunedin, an actor in his 50s whom Mike shares a flat with – near Oxford Circus – I think I told you).  Anyway I was invited up to their place for tea before I went because I was getting them in free (as I had the previous night – great isn’t it?) and we had a very nice meal cooked by Lindsay, who then also shouted us a cab to the theatre, and brought us a drink in the interval!  He was very appreciative.  According to Mike, though he (LC) has lots of friends he doesn’t really have many close ones and so it seems that he’s very happy to be taken somewhere so to speak.  [Lindsay Campbell had been one of Dunedin’s top amateur actors before heading for London; he appeared in a number of roles on TV from 1964 onwards and had a tiny part in A Clockwork Orange a few years after this letter was written.  He also claimed that he’d suggested the theme music for The Onedin Line.]

Anyway we went to La Belle Helene, by Offenbach and after I’d changed seats after the first act – I was sitting behind Hazel, from the Centre, and she had a lot of hair on! – I enjoyed it a lot.  Denis Dowling [a singer originally from Ranfurly, in Otago] was in it, by the way, and the whole thing was a hilarious spoof on Classical Mythology.  It was rather like a Gilbert and Sullivan on a slightly different scale.  It was produced, originally (this particular performance is a kind of re-production) by Basil Coleman who spoke at one of our lectures one day.

Oh, on the Tuesday night I forgot to say, Kevin came out and stayed with us, and slept on our divan which apparently he found quite comfortable. The only trouble was that we sat up and talked after we’d got home till about one.  Also forgot to say that on Monday morning we’d been to see Madame Butterfly at the Garden, and though the production, especially the lighting wasn’t always the best, it’s always worth watching Puccini.  And the singing was generally very fine. 

On Thursday night, Mike and Kingsley and I went to the Festival Hall, only because it was free, (I’d intended to stay home as I felt very tired) to see a gala concert – seats at anything up to 20 guineas! – and quite honestly it was the most disappointing concert I’ve attended.  Andre Previn was conducting, and Jacqueline du Pre was the cellist in two concertos.  They started off with a Weber Overture, which was interesting, and then Mrs Daniel Barenboim (he’s a pianist and she’s du Pre in private life) [did I mean she was du Pre in public life?] came out and played the Bloch: Schelomo (whatever that is) for Cello and Orchestra.  Bloch was a Jewish composer and this comes through quite strongly. Unfortunately he’d never had to contend with Miss DP, which we had to.  She plays the cello as though she wishes to tear its strings to pieces (authorities tell me one of her strings was off pitch anyway) and constantly produces a grating sound as she hacks at it, and then when she’s finished a section she turns and looks either at the conductor or the first violinist in a way that suggests they’d better not criticise or she’ll get up and belt them.  She’s all elbows too, and has a fierce look on her face throughout.  Her finest achievement of the whole evening was when she played down to the lowest notes on her cello, and instead of letting it vibrate with her left hand, she let that go, and continued bowing her right – I’m sure Mr Bloch never intended that ugly sound.  This overall effect was so off-putting that when she played her next, the Saint Saens, I looked anywhere but at her, and the effect was much more pleasant, although the SS is nothing to write home about.  The orchestra finished up with the Rachmaninov 3rd Symphony – which dragged on until nearly the entire audience was asleep.  Perhaps this was Mr Previn’s fault, because people who said they knew the 3rd, said later perhaps they didn’t!  What really got me was that the papers gave the whole mess a good write-up!!  And I though the London papers were supposed to be amongst the most fiercely critical in the world!  [It doesn’t occur to me that I may have been wrong about this concert; plainly something upset me in terms of the playing or the music. For an opposite viewpoint on it, check out Hywel David’s article, which says that the playing made him feel as though he was in ‘seventh heaven.’]

On Friday I went to Mass in the evening, All Saints Day, and then went again yesterday morning.  I couldn’t remember if one or both or neither were Holy Days of Obligation so I went both times to make sure!  They didn’t announce them as being anything special last Sunday, but however. [handwritten] Have to stop apparently. LOTS of love, Mike.
[Handwritten on the return address page] Kingsley sez thanks very much for the money for the trunk – he didn’t have time to say it before he left.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

27.10.68 First performances and walking home...again

Dear Mum, I’m not sure how long it is since I last wrote, so if I repeat anything please forgive me.  I think it was about last Sunday wasn’t it?  Sorry that there are such long gaps between my letters to you but I seem to have been particularly busy this last week. I’m very grateful to get your letters so regularly; I’ve practically been able to rely on receiving one each Monday and Thursday for some weeks now, and it’s very nice. Got a Tablet, too, this week – with a postal note and a Peanuts [cartoon] inside.  The latter was especially welcome, and in fact, if you don’t mind, I wouldn't mind at all if you included the odd one in with the letters either. They’re real day-starters (told you mail arrives about 7.30 didn’t I?) so if you’ve got a pair of scissors handy...!  Thanks for the continued postal notes too – the extra amount brings two of them to 11/- and 8d, and though they always have to go away and check on the amount, it’s worth it – IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT!
Menotti as a young man

All this week we’ve had Ella Gerber on our hands of course, and I’m afraid to say everyone is glad to see the last of her.  She didn’t work at all like any producer I’ve ever met – she didn’t plot any moves out beforehand, and with the two Menottis seemed content to work it all out in her head and then wondered why what she’d say one day didn’t fit in the next!  She knows 
Porgy backwards, of course, but this didn’t seem to help either – the poor singers practically had to relearn the whole thing her way. It is now generally considered that when Gershwin wrote Porgy had no idea what he was doing and that he didn’t really mean to put anything down the way he did.  Ella has rediscovered it all and does it her way!  And to cap it all, Alistair, who was conducting Porgy, caught a whopper of a cold and was away from two of the most important rehearsals – so that when he came back and went to conduct the final rehearsal on Friday afternoon, Ella kept harping on about his having been away, and how so many things had been changed while he was away. The things he nearly did to her I won’t describe, but it was the most shambolic rehearsal I’ve ever been privileged to attend.  The Telephone and The Consul had gone off quite well at this rehearsal, so I don’t know why she got so Bolshy about this one!  Anyway, all 3 shows were equally successful in their own way in the evening.  We played them for the Friends of Covent Garden (people who subscribe to CG and get into the rehearsals) and our own friends in the University College Theatre, which is sort of North Central London.  All the Crowls came, and actually quite enjoyed it all, I think (I’d sent them a seven page set of notes that I typed out about the three operas so that they’d have a better idea of what they were all about) and Michael came, and for once didn’t think I played too loud, and Kingsley got as far as the tube station and couldn’t find the theatre itself.  He will not take the A to Z with him – seems to think he can always find his way about by merely looking at it at home here and then trying to do it all from memory. And then he wonders why he’s worried about getting lost!!  Perhaps this will have taught him a lesson. That all sounds a bit mean, but I can’t see why he’s too proud to use it.  He doesn’t seem particularly interested in making friends with people at Guildhall. Well, I don’t think I can help him there, it’s something he’ll have to do himself, and the sooner the better.  [Crikey, I sound like a fussy grandfather!]

I made a few blues in the playing of The Telephone, but nothing too worrying, and the audience really enjoyed it, and really laughed, what’s more.  The Consul was tremendously moving – I wouldn't have thought it could be, but yet some of the bits we’d thought most absurd during rehearsals were most effective.  I didn’t find Porgy and Bess nearly so moving – I don’t think Ella has ever managed to get anybody’s sympathy about it.  [I knew Porgy and Bess reasonably well from the NZ Opera Co’s production of it, which I’d seen when they toured it – I had ushered for it, so probably saw every performance in Dunedin.]

After the show, Mike and Hazel and David Gorringe (another stage manager and about 25, small with glasses and very friendly with a mad sense of humour) and David Syrus and I went to a nearby pub, and spent a while there doing considerably more talking than anything else – if that relieves your mind!  After that I went down to where Mike is now living – near Oxford St - and had a quick coffee because I didn’t want to get stranded in London city again – I told you about the previous Saturday, didn’t I?  Let me know if I didn’t.  So I shot down to the tube and caught the last train.  The only trouble was I started doing the Tablet crossword, and went straight past my station!  The next train was some time about 5 am, so I had to start walking back to Plaistow, which shouldn't have been far. But, the ticket-collector gave me rather obscure directions and I found (later) that I was actually walking north instead of west.  [Plainly I hadn’t taken my own advice about always carrying the A to Z!]  I finally caught a bus back to Plaistow to the street running parallel with Balaam St, and arrived home about one thirty. 

Kingsley and Mike and I went to Don Giovanni on Thursday (for nothing and sat in the front row!) and Kevin, who had just arrived back from Spain, came too.  It wasn’t a bad production, but the designing was terrible. None of the clothes belonged to any particular period – except one that looked like German 18th century, and the sets were like a child’s play box on a larger scale.  Terrible! [This may have been the Sadler’s Wells production, the first production for the company at their new home at the Coliseum. It was directed by John Gielgud, and wasn’t well received, apparently.]

[Hazel, mentioned above, by the way, is from British Guyana, and has been here for about nine years or seven?  She’s twenty-seven, and has a very infectious laugh.)

Yesterday went out to the Crowls, and in the afternoon went with Reg to the jumble sale being held for the Intellectually Handicapped Children’s Society, and finished up selling old men’s clothes. Quite a lot of fun, actually, trying to match up the men who came along with the clothes we had. And this morning after Mass, Reg and I went and walked in Hampstead Heath, which goes on for miles in every direction, and would be very easy to get lost in. [We revisited Hampstead Heath in 2007 when staying with a friend in Kentish Town – I’d forgotten just vast it is.]  I better go and do some washing now as I didn’t seem to have much time to do anything last week.  Lots of love, Mike. 

Monday, January 07, 2013

20.10.68 The Magic Flute & a long walk home

Dear Mum, I can’t recall when I last wrote whether Ella Gerber had arrived or not, but she came on Wednesday, and promptly set the place in disorder, by rearranging all the schedules that had been worked out for her, and never keeping to her own time-tables either. And though she may do the students a lot of good in acting – she would make a marvellous play producer, she seems to know very little about music at all, and consequently it’s very hard to make her appreciate points that are necessary to the productions from the singers point of view. 

Anyway, enough of her. We went to see The Magic Flute on Friday morning.  (Also saw the Opera for All version of Manon – it wasn’t bad, although I think the production has some very bad moments, and Ann Gordon who is doing Manon, is really very good, but the thing rather requires a huge chorus and stage, to hide the faults that promptly turn up when done this way.  Never mind, it was quite enjoyable and the third act is excellent.)  The Flute is a delight.  It’s sheer pantomime, anyway, but has the added advantage of a good bloke on the musical side – Mozart!  The whole thing is done on a sort of raised stage with an infinite variety of squares set into it. It is only after the first scene that one appreciates the fact that the entire floor is full of trap-doors and throughout the piece, people suddenly vanish through the floor or appear unexpectedly in a cloud of smoke, or props rise out of it, etc. Fascinating. The dragon in the first scene is a little tame – he hangs in mid-air, snorting a bit but not really threatening the hero. But when the Queen of the Night arrives a little later, the scenery at the back rolls away to thunder and lightning, and a set of stars appear to reveal her slowly gliding forward on a platform.  The girl who is playing her – a Dutch lady – has so remarkable a voice it almost ceases to be human in sound.  When she sings at first it doesn’t sound like much, but once she starts her coloratura you wonder how such perfection can exist in a human being.  Every single note is clear – there’s practically a definite click between them, and she hits top Ds and Es etc as though it were as easy as eating.  [This was Christina Deutekom – rest of the cast listed here.]  The rest of the cast are equally good: the tenor is the right shape, and sings well, the soprano heroine is gorgeous in every way, the bass is like a singing statue but the sound is magnificent, and the women who play the three ladies, even though they have some tricky ensemble work, have such clear enunciation that you wonder if you’re really hearing it right. And the Papageno, though his voice is not to my liking, is very funny.  But the whole thing is full of delightful ideas – the animals (about twenty children) who appear when Tamino plays his flute, the chorus of baddies who dance away when Papageno plays his magic bells, the three boys (who sing very well) and invariably appear in a floating chariot type thing that swings slowly and gracefully across, up, down and around the stage, the lighting effects throughout: lamps that appear to have no source, but which quietly flicker away in a kind of non-existent breeze, a huge cyc (pronounced syke) [short for cyclorama] or plain backcloth that at one part turns from a daylight blue slowly through every blue in existence, carpets that don’t just roll straight forward, but which have a bias in them and roll round at an angle, so that they look like they are vanishing over the horizon (like the yellow brick road in Oz) and so on and so on.  It’s surely one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen on stage, and I really wish you too could see this particular show.  [I’d seen the NZ Opera Company’s Magic Flute a few years before this, and had been charmed out of my socks by their production, so this must have been good. I can still visualise the Queen of the Night’s entrance, in fact.]

This weekend I didn’t go up to the Crowls as we had a rehearsal on Saturday morning, and it wasn’t due to finish till 1.00, and that’s too late to start tootling up there, though Reg suggested I come up a bit later. But I said I felt perhaps I should stay home and show Kingsley round a bit of London (as it happened he didn’t seem particularly interested when I did. He’s a funny boy in some ways: - he seems to think I’m very reserved, particularly as far as the opposite sex is concerned, [I was] and yet quite honestly, I think the boot’s entirely on the other  foot. Don’t mean I’m Don Juan, but I think I’m interested in a more general outlook on life, etc. He doesn’t drink, smoke, eat sweets or fruit, or ice-cream, doesn’t read books, aaaagh! Seems to me to be a rather narrow sphere he’s set himself.  However there’s no use forcing things on him, but thank goodness Mike’s still here, cynical and unpunctual as he may be, he’s at least on my wavelength.) [This may be a bit harsh about Kingsley: he was probably just interested in things that I wasn’t interested in!]

At 5.30 last night, I went to where Mike is at present living – Kingsley was going to Aida – and from there we went round to Kensington way somewhere where Norman and Doris McKinlay from Dunedin were staying and finished off the scraps of food and drink that they wanted to get rid of before they left today on their way home. They’ve been here about three months on a business trip. I think. [Norman McKinlay, as I recall, was involved in theatre in Dunedin, but wasn’t someone I knew well; he’d have been better acquainted with Mike.]  Mike and I had intended to go to a film at the NFT at 8.45 but we didn’t get there, and so found ourselves in Oxford St at 10 or so with nothing to do.  Well, we wandered down through Soho (which even at night is only rowdy, not dangerous or anything, rather sleazy perhaps) and called in at a pub just before closing time (11.00) and had a half of bitter (compare Coronation St!).  Mike thought that buses ran all night so we decided to go to a late film showing, and went, and got out at 1.30, to find that buses don’t run on Saturday night for some obscure reason.  So we wended our way back to his flat which is close by, and had a cup of coffee and a glass of brandy and ginger, to put some warmth into me, because I’d decided to walk home. At least a good deal of the way and then get a taxi for the last part. Well, I left Mike at 2.50 and covered something like four miles in an hour and about 20 minutes. It’s a straight, though long walk from Oxford St via Commercial Rd to Plaistow. And wound up getting a taxi for the last couple of miles and arriving home about 4.30 a little tired! But actually it was quite an enjoyable night, just relaxed, and with nothing special to do. Mike and I are like brothers now, I feel [handwritten], we accept each other’s faults because we’ve known each other so long and just enjoy what’s left of each other’s company.  Luv Mike.
[From Oxford St to Newman Rd in Plaistow, via Commercial Rd, is about seven and a half miles.  Google reckons it would take about two and a half hours walking. Perhaps I was following in Charles Dickens’ footsteps: he often went for long walks at night, anything up to twenty miles!]

Another chess photo

Back in January 2009 I received an email from Paul McKeown, which included the photo shown below.  I'd meant to include it in the blog but for some reason it slipped my mind.  Coming back to it the other day, it turned out that the photo had been found for Paul (who was in the process of writing a biography of Robert Wade, another chess player) by Bob Meadley, who's recently been in touch with me about my father, Frank Crowl.  Frank is in the front row, second from the right.  Note that only a couple of other players are in both this photo and the one published in the last post. 

Standing left to right: official, Maxwell C Salm, Frank L Vaughan, Harry Klass, Martin Green, Daniel McGrath, Arthur C Harris, Maurice E Goldstein, Aubrey G Shoebridge, Allen L Miller, official, James Stewart (official);  Seated left to right: Charles GM Watson, Stefan Lazare, Cecil J S Purdy, Garry Koshnitsky, Lajos Steiner, Robert G Wade, Frank A Crowl, A R de Coek (official).

Update on Chess Championship Photo

Back in August 2009, I published this photo on this blog, and a few days later attempted to interpret my father's scrawl on the back of the photo in order to give some idea who these various chess players were.  (My father was Frank Crowl.) That was as far as things went until late last year when a chess player and musician from Australia called Nigel Nettheim picked up on the photo and said he would attempt to let me know who the various men were.  However, he was short of time, and passed a copy of the photo onto Bob Meadley, who is an Australian chess historian (he may be an actual historian as well; I'm not sure about this).

Bob has written to me twice since then, and has filled in some details about my father that he had to hand, and that I hadn't heard before. He's also sent me a letter with information about the men in the photo.  He's concentrated on getting the names right; the additional and almost illegible information my father put on the back of the photo is in the earlier blog post.

Here is what Bob has told me:
Here are the names from the left as I see it:
Front row: Vladimir Bagirov, Yuri Averbakh, Brian Harkin, Karlis Lidums, ?McAuliffe.
2nd row: Cecil Purdy (arms folded), Garry Koshnitsky, A. Cuntala.
3rd row: (3 at left and 2 at right) Lucius Endzelins, Karlis Ozols, Ortvin Sarapu, P. Purkalitis and Phil Viner.
4th row: (2 only) W[olfgang]. Leonhardt, John Hanks.
5th row: John Purdy, Frank Crowl, Emmanuel Basta, A[rthur]. Teters, Vas Lapin, L. Cohen.
6th row: R. Stalley, A.L. Miller, (and over on the right) W.J. Goss.

Bob writes that he is awaiting confirmation of these names, and he adds: I may have some wrong.  There are 24 people and 23 played in the tourney.  There are 3 officials - Harkin, Lidums, and McAuliffe, so 2 players are not in the photo.  One [of those] is Dr P. Kalinovsky, and the other is Peter Wren. 
My father had written about the 'pin-up boy' and the 'conveyor of Crowl from Griffith to Adelaide and back'.  Bob writes: The pin up boy would be John Purdy.  [He was Cecil Purdy's son and became a Family Court Judge.]  The player who gave your dad a lift is Phil Viner.