Friday, November 20, 2015

25.6.69 - The year begins to wind up


Dear Mum, I’ve just been down to the shop to see if I could get a card for Daphne and Jack, but they had nothing that was either sufficiently funny or pleasant, so I’ll have to get you to pass on my congratulations. I don’t think I remember their address anyway. (Why did they call him Peter? We’ve surely got enough confusion in this family already. [Jack was my mother’s youngest brother, and Peter he and Daphne’s fifth child, their first boy. I already had another cousin called Peter.] They’re certainly determined not to let the Elgin Road Hannagans beat them are they? [Terry was older than Jack and he and his wife Monica had their fifth ˗ and last ˗ child in 1968.]

And what about this snow? You poor old things. Our weather is staying fairly warm, although it has been raining for the last couple of days. I think it’s clearing now. This week is our last with formal lessons, and we’re saying goodbye to the various teachers; next week we start rehearsals most of the time. The German teacher said she would take me on as a private pupil if I wished, though I don't know if I could afford it. But if I can, she’s certainly worth keeping on with.

We’re rehearsing two operas (The Consul is also going on but I’m not working on it) and they are Gianni Schicchi, which the Centre did last term but which I didn’t work on, and Il Tabarro, which is another one in the trio of operas that go under the heading of Il Trittico, and is, of course, by Puccini. We had our first production rehearsal today with Ande Anderson, and things seemed to be going fairly smoothly.

I don’t know if I told you that, a while back, when I was sitting in the train one night waiting for it to leave Charing Cross, I was marking some music ˗ actually I was putting some new words into a vocal score ˗ when a young negro fellow came along and looked over my shoulder through the window. I didn’t notice him at first, and got a bit of a shock! Anyway, he jumps in the carriage and sits down next to me and starts telling me about his interest in playing the classical guitar, and so we talked on and off until Blackheath. Well, on Monday, I was sitting in a carriage again, doing a crossword, when a figure went flying past, and then came back, and it was the same guy again. And he popped into the train, and again started talking. This is quite unusual here, which is what makes it worth telling ˗ it’s so rare than anyone will talk to you in a train ˗ in fact people wouldn’t say anything if you stood on their foot; I don’t think they’d expect you to apologise! This is how far they’ve taken this sort of don’t speak to your neighbour bit. This time he was saying how he had to learn a whole two-page spiel for the next day to use in his job as a door-to-door salesman for an encyclopedia firm! He’s an engineering student I think normally, and this is a sort of holiday job.

At present at the Centre ˗ well yesterday, anyway ˗ they were holding auditions for singers and reps, and I went in to listen for a moment and suddenly realised that the pianist auditioning was Bill Southgate ˗ do you remember him? And he was apparently very nervous (though I didn’t hear him do the stuff he’d prepared) because when it came to doing sight-reading he made some fearful blues! (Am I glad I didn’t have to audition there!) [I auditioned by tape from NZ, I think.]  I went and had a cuppa with him afterwards and I think he was in a bit of a state, because he was rambling a bit! Anyway I got his address from him, and I must go and see him. [Bill Southgate - or WilliamSouthgate as he is more usually known these days - was from Dunedin, and eventually would become one of New Zealand’s better-known conductors. Strangely, when my wife and I came back from the UK in 1974, we met the Southgates at Auckland airport; they’d just returned as well.]

I think we’re talking about different things as regards the mysterious palette knife (!) ˗ I think I know what a spatula is, but wasn’t there a long (about 8 ˗ 10 inches, plus handle) implement, about an inch wide, and with a rounded end?? It’s driving me mad ˗ surely that isn’t a spatula?

Again, don’t worry about Postal Notes; I’m surviving quite well, thank you, and though they are nice when they do come, they aren’t part of my contract or anything! I’ve sent a letter to Monica H[annagan, wife of Terry] and Co, but I haven’t to the Stokes ˗ suppose I should, shouldn’t I? I’ll try and do it. Aerogrammes are actually cheaper than postcards ˗ you know? ˗ but harder, even for me, to fill up! [I have no idea why I was supposed to be writing, unless it was just a matter of keeping in touch with Dunedin relatives I’d had a great deal to do with over the years.]

I suppose as usual it is too late to suggest another film for you to go and see, but one called The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is superb, and except perhaps for one small sequence (which I think in this case is probably necessary) I think you would find it wonderful. It’s a deaf-mute trying to live amongst normal people, and the fact that no one else realises he is as lonely as the ones he helps. The acting is unbelievable. 
We went to a rehearsal of Macbeth, the opera, at the Garden yesterday ˗ what an appalling production ˗ it never fails to amaze me just how bad some of their productions are ˗ they live so far in the past that you’d think they’d never heard of the word imagination. [ElenaSouliotis made her debut at Covent Garden as Lady Macbeth in this production, as well as singing the role for the first time.]

Last Friday our normal lecture at the Centre was replaced by a talk with films at the Generating Board Theatre in Newgate St. The films were made by the man who talked ˗ he’s an ex-executive film man, and is experimenting, now that he has the time, with film and music. The two examples he showed us were very interesting (his name is James Archibald and you’ll see it occasionally on some of the 50s films ˗ English ˗ on TV) but the one he likes more of the two seemed to me less good. We went back to the Centre with him (Jeff took he and J Robertson)(and me) and he said it was because I’d only seen half of his favourite: and that was about half an hour! Love, Mike. [I don’t remember this at all, and I’m not sure quite why people from the Centre went to it.]