blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

"Miles Apart, Minds Together"

Many a different musician to think about today, with two violinists, two pianists and a 'cellist at St. Andrew's church, playing pieces by German, Czech, French and Japanese composers. Melita came with me to hear them.

The first concert began and ended with a Beethoven sonata: op. 30 no. 3 for violin and piano—with a beautifully tuneful minuetto movement and humorous key changes in the allegro vivace—and one of his cello sonatas (op. 102, no. 4). The pianist Jamie Parker of the Gryphon Trio set a prodigiously fast pace for the violinist (Mark Fewer) to match. He did keep up, though, and returned with the slender but powerful young Denise Djokic for the item programmed between the Beethoven sonatas, telling us that the composer of this Duo for Violin and Cello was not very well known, though he predicted he soon would be, now that his lost or forgotten music had recently been resurrected. This was Erwin Schulhof, born in 1894, a Czech Jew who had died in a concentration camp in 1942. He had written the Duo in four movements at the age of thirty. Movement 2, entitled Zingaresca (gypsy dance) was "like Bartók," as Melita whispered, and in the last movement too there was some bouncy activity, the players simultaneously bowing and plucking and sometimes playing col legno battuto.  Ms Djokic was accompanied by a Japanese lady for the Beethoven: Kyoko Hashimoto.

The second concert of today starred Denise's brother, Mark Djokic. That's a remarkable family and not just because of their good looks. Their father is also a professional violinist and their mother a concert pianist. Kyoko Hashimoto reappeared, to accompany Mark at the piano in a programme designed to celebrate the cultural and diplomatic relations between Canada and Japan, an 80 year partnership, so the poster claimed ("with a couple of short breaks for war," Melita added drily). Anyway I liked the sentiment expressed in English on the poster—Miles Apart, Minds Together—and in French—Esprit unis, malgré la distance.

The first, short piece, Perpetual, composed last year by Jo Kondo, was a strange one, the same five, rising notes repeated on the violin over and over. Then came Duo Invernale by a composer known to the pianist. I've heard so much new music today that I can't remember anything about this now, but the next item did make an impression on me. We were told by Mark Djokic that this composer, Somei Satoh, was self-taught, and that the piece (written in 1980) was unclassifiable, "just subtle", he said, "a minimalist piece, ... very free, that's why I like it so much!" He also called it "sporadic and random" and said it had no bar lines. The composition was called Birds in Warped Time II like the title of some modern abstract painting. It had a repetitive but delicate, high pitched piano part which went on in the background the whole time like the warbling of birds or trickling of water. Against this, the violin sighed and slurred like the one-stringed Chinese violin I heard in Montreal's Chinese Gardens last September. The effect was very atmospheric, as soothing as a Zen garden. I really liked it. 

Then followed a performance of Debussy's Sonata No. 3 in G minor; I could tell why the performers had chosen it, for the first movement was not unlike the Japanese music we'd been hearing.

The second part of the afternoon concert began with another impressionistic, ten minute Japanese piece, Distance de Fee, this one by Toru Takemitsu, who admits he was influenced by Debussy.

The last Beethoven Sonata of the day was the short, three-movement op. 12, no. 2. Altogether there are ten violin sonatas and five 'cello sonatas by Beethoven, all of which are being played at this year's festival.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Once in a blue moon

I had the rare opportunity to hear Heather Schmidt's Lunar Reflections, today, commissioned by the Gryphon Trio, who were at the Dominion Chalmers Church to give the work its World Première. The composer herself, same age as my daughter, strode on stage to give us an introduction to its five movements, each representing a full moon, she said:

Blue Moon
Pink Moon
Wolf Moon
Snow Moon
Thunder Moon

The Blue Moon only comes once a year, being the 13th one in the lunar cycle. The fast, rippling, "pink" movement stood for sprays of April blossom. The middle movement was "darker", bringing to mind hunger and the darkness of January. The "snow" moon of February gave birth to beautifully ethereal music, like shimmering snow, and the thunder of July was of course loud, with rumbles and flashes from all three instruments. The music was complex and impressive, really effective; when she came up to take a bow the composer looked pleased by the trio's performance.

Before that we'd heard Stéphane Lemelin and Paul Merleyn (from Reading, England, and now 'cello Prof at the University of Ottawa—lucky Ottawa!) playing Bloch's Hebrew Meditations—echoes of Bruch's Kol Nidre here—a lamentation, with hints of middle-eastern quarter tones.

Mr Lemelin also participated in the last item, Beethoven's Quintet in E-flat for Winds and Piano, the winds being the oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon (played by the principal player of each respective instrument in the NACO). I see that the reviewer on this web-page agrees with me that Beethoven was under Mozart's influence when he composed this quintet. The Adagio Cantabile middle movement is lovely, each instrument, beginning with the piano, taking its turn to play the melody line.

Hungarian musicians

Dominion Chalmers is one of the largest churches in town, domed, which gives it great accoustics, and it holds about a thousand people. Despite arriving in the queue late (40 minutes before the start of the concert) I still managed to sit on the front row last night to see the Keller Quartet from Budapest who gave us Bartók's first quartet and Ligeti's first quartet (Métamorphoses Nocturnes), both of which are played through without a break between movements, if you can call them movements—the programme listed sixteen changes of tempo during the Ligeti. The Bartók was not as discordant as are his later quartets and finished with a gripping accelerando. In the Ligeti, which Chris sometimes plays from a CD in the car, so that I recognised it, it was fascinating to watch the players manipulate the trills and tremulos, slurs and slides—in the Tempo di Valse section, un poco capriccioso—and the way their fingers stroked the strings to give an accompaniment in harmonics in the last section but one.

After the interval they were joined by the Canadians Douglas McNabney (on viola) and Denise Djokic (on 'cello) for a spirited performance of Tchaikovsky's Sextet which I don't remember having heard before. Most enjoyable. The last movement sounded like a Russian dance.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Two more concerts

I am (or was) writing this in an Express Lube Drive Thru line, waiting for our car to be serviced. Last night's concert was Romantic all the way through, starting with another Beethoven Violin Sonata (they're featuring these at the Chamber Music Festival this year). Then followed one of the Brahms Clarinet Sonatas, the less familiar Number 2, played by Kimball Sykes whose clarinet keys caused him annoyance by sticking, so that he had to break the flow to adjust them a couple of times. Another performer with an expressive face, he punctuates the music with lifts of his eyebrows. The final item was Rachmaninov's 2nd Trio Elégiaque, fire and fury interspersed by long, lyrical softer passages, with the strings often playing in octaves or stating and answering a theme in the same register like two alto voices. The composer must have liked the sound of the violin's G-string. Listen to the opening and see if you can tell which is the violin and which the cello! The instrumentalists were Erika Raum and Shauna Rolston, with Alexander Tselyakov at the piano. Ms Rolston was playing an unconventional 'cello, varnished black with a curved point instead of a scroll above the pegbox.

Here I am, back in St Andrew's, having brought the car back from the far end of town and hopped onto my bike, pedalling hard to make it to the front pew once again. I'm going to hear a horn, oboe and viola this time. I can recognise faces of the other faithful concert-goers. A lady I know, wearing her red volunteer's T-shirt for the festival, is going round the pews trying to flog metal water bottles with the festival logo. Good idea!

Then the musicians come in. The oboist, expecting a baby, has commissioned the first piece herself, for which this is a first performance. Her friend, the composer Eric Ross is not present, for he too is about to become a parent and in his case the birth is imminent, apparently. His Chaconne for oboe, horn and piano is introduced as an introspective one, very pleasant to listen to, with melody lines entwining: two slow movements bracketing a faster one. Next, a pair of Rhapsodies for oboe, viola and piano entitled L'Etang and La Cornemuse, by Charles Loeffler. Despite his mixed, Alsatian background, his music with its folksy elements (double-stopped drones, a flurry of ornamentation on the oboe) comes across as very French, to me. The last piece is for horn, oboe and piano again, a light-hearted trio by Carl Reinecke, the wind players sitting directly opposite one another so that they can easily communicate with one another by nods and smiles.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Intimate pleasures, shared

The Saturday evening concert was a violin-piano recital of two Beethoven Violin Sonatas (op. 12, no.1 and op. 30, no. 2) and the César Franck Violin Sonata in A during which I have to bite my lip to stop myself singing along, I know it so well. The early queueing paid off; we had the best possible seats—right in the middle of the front row so that we didn't miss one nuance of the performance by Mayumi Seiler, who knew the Franck sonata so well that she hardly once looked at the notes, and Tuende Kurucz, from Hungary, a Professor of Piano and Chamber Music at the Mozarteum in Salzburg who first accompanied Mayumi Seiler in 1991. She must be the most expressive pianist we've ever watched, every muscle in her body responding to the subtle changes of the music from phrase to phrase and as the keys changed giving secret smiles; it was a revelatory experience, almost too intimate for a public place.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Never underestimate the capabilities of children!

I'm writing this on an Apple Mac that Chris' colleague Craik has kindly lent me for a while so that I can try it out; it's a novelty for me to be typing while sitting on a park bench. I haven't had the use of a laptop for the last several years. This one, though an early, and apparently almost obsolete edition of the iBook, seems far more sophisticated than the last laptop I used. We're at the fountain end of Confederation Park opposite the Lord Elgin Hotel. At the other end of the park Turkish music is being loudly amplified. A Turkish festival is taking place in tents and booths over there, where Turkish coffee and snacks are for sale, along with Turkish mosaics and other souvenirs of the country, as in Istanbul's Kapah Carsi. Earlier today I picked up a couple of leaflets, one about Istanbul and one about the religious sites in Turkey: Cradle of Faiths. I learned that Noah is supposed to have landed his Ark within the borders of what is now Turkey and that, because of their birthplaces, Abraham, St Paul and Santa Claus, had they been born later in history, would all have been Turks. Turkey is the home of the Whirling Dervishes and the poet Yunus Emre, but the city of Ankara (or Ancyra) was founded by the Celts (during the 4th century BC). I only knew about the Celts who settled in places like Brittany and Wales.

Chris and I are waiting for the start of the next Chamber Music Concert and in the meantime I thought I'd better record the previous one, or else I'll fail to keep up with this week's experiences which I suspect are going to be many.

While the audience was lining up for this afternoon's concert a man with a microphone approached wearing a label saying “Mark Nerenberg, artist”. He was recording people's voices in the queue with a view to making an “electronic composition” out of these sound snippets: all the sounds of the Chamber Music Festival, he said. He interviewed me briefly, so my voice will be on file for the compilation; I'm no good at ad-libbing though and couldn't think of anything original to say. Pity Chris wasn't with me; he's much better at it.

The concert was phenomenal, featuring the Jeunes Etoiles Montantes of the Ottawa area, some of the rising stars (representing the future of Chamber Music!) very young indeed, but all of them already up to professional standard. They'd been chosen to perform by the Gryphon Trio and other directors of the Chamber Music Festival during five hours of auditions. The Tutti Musik trio were the most striking stars, dressed for the occasion in black matching waistcoats with tails, shining with sequins: violinist Kerson Leong and his 13 year old elder brother Stanley with his first adult-sized cello, with another adolescent boy, Hayes Leo, on the piano to play Frank Bridge's Saltarello. Chris and I have heard them perform once before, younger still, at one of the Child Haven Galas. Kerson and Hayes were awarded a monetary prize after today's concert, their playing was so outstanding. I thought of little Mozart playing to the kings and emperors! He must have had that same look of absorption on his face while he played. Three young women played the oboe / played the harp / sang and a lovely little girl (Anita Pari who also plays cello, it seems) opened the concert with a couple of piano solos: two movements of a Haydn Sonata very musically rendered and the Golliwog's Cakewalk by Debussy. There was even a trombone trio of two young men and a girl, with another a girl joining them on the tuba to make it a quartet. They played an arrangement of a Bach Prelude from "The 48". It never fails to give me a thrill to see the youngest generations getting up to things like this.

When I get home I'll cut and paste this into my blog. We can't get Internet connection out of doors but the computer works fine! I'm finishing this post with it balanced on my lap as I sit on my folding stool outside St John the Evangelist's church, in the queue for tonight's concert which I'll report in the following post.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

People's accomplishments

Walking through Chapters last night my eye was caught by a book about the "painter and printmaker", David Blackwood. We saw an exhibition of his once, at the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes in Kingston. His work aims to express the soul and the hard life of Newfoundlanders. The seriousness of the intention is what sets certain artists apart from the merely mediocre, to my mind; Mr Blackwood said (in 1992):

To produce anything of lasting value requires a strong belief and love for what you do, and great patience. Establishing one's identity as a serious artist takes time, and then it requires fortitude to maintain that identity with any kind of integrity.

This attitude isn't confined to artists, either. I've been thinking about another couple of people whom we know personally who have that intensity of purpose in life. One of them is our friend David Mann, the man whose powers of persuasion originally brought Chris and me to Ottawa! (We've known him since 1985.) He has been in the news recently for having mentored a Jordanian PhD student who is working on an exciting new way of creating drinking water out of seawater. You can read more or watch a CTV clip about this by clicking here. The Globe and Mail featured the story on its technology pages as well.

Kathy Fox, who in 1996 tested Chris for his Private Pilot's Licence and nowadays gives him regular challenges at flying instrument approaches on the Flight Simulator at the flying club on Saturday mornings, is another person who gets things done. Chris had to introduce her before she initiated his ground school class this week into the mysteries of Air Traffic Control and in order to get his facts right he first looked up her credentials on the Internet, finding this page that sums up her impressive career.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Schubert's bass clef

Laboriously practising the piano part of our Schubert songs, I've been noticing how many of them are written for both hands in the bass clef, so that the accompanist has to lean over at an angle from beginning to end. You can't play these pieces with weak muscles. They constitute a full-body workout.

Some of the Schöne Müllerin songs (D795) stick entirely to the low notes for their accompaniments, Das Wandern, Wohin, and Danksagung an den Bach, for example, and Schubert must have liked that effect, for he keeps the piano down there for Die Nebensonnen in the Winterreise cycle, too.

In Schubert's D957 posthumous collection, his swan song, as they call it, it seems as if his music were acquiring darker and darker tones, the older he got.

Im Dunkel wird mir wohler sein.

Not that he was very old when he died: thirty-one, and he'd only just acquired his own piano. In der Ferne, an absolute masterpiece, goes on for over six minutes and yet (at least in the arrangement "for low voice" that we have here) only two bars of its accompaniment are in the treble clef (two little answering phrases on the penultimate page). Four other songs in that cycle—Der Atlas, most of Fischermädchen, Am Meer and Der Doppelgänger—also remain in the bottom half of the piano.

The best example of all, I think, is one I haven't yet learned to play but have tried to sing occasionally: the very slow and gentle Nacht und Träume, the deep notes of the accompaniment a lullaby, but not for babies. That one not only needs stupendous muscle control from the pianist, it also demands infinite breath control from the singer. Click here for a recording of Gerald Moore introducing and playing the accompaniment for Teresa Stich-Randall.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The spoils of war

In G G Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude (translated into English), there's an entertaining description of the coming of the cinema to the citizens of "Macondo":

They became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theatre with the lion-head windows, for the character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears of affliction had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many felt that they had been the victims of some new and showy gypsy business and they decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings.

Last week I had the chance to see an unusual film, not fictional but a documentary. A series of interviews with art historians was illustrated by photos and footage from historical archives of the events they were describing: the pillaging of Europe's art and artifacts during the era of Hitler's Third Reich and the stories of the loss of these treasures or of their rescue, before, during and after the 2nd World War. The film was called The Rape of Europa. In the course of the narrative came many sequences that also showed the destruction of the buildings that housed the art, churches, museums, castles, ordinary homes (more often than not Jewish), shocking because in deliberately ruining people's heritage the Nazis were assaulting their souls. Warsaw and St Petersburg came in for particularly hellish treatment.

When the time came, Berlin was razed to the ground in revenge.

Much of the art lusted after by the Nazis simply vanished but an astonishing amount of it was saved or retrieved, much of it horded by the Nazis themselves in Schloß Neuschwanstein or in salt mines and later recovered. Some art was saved from harm, the treasures of the Louvre hidden in châteaux all over the south of France, for example.

I hadn't realised what rapacious thieves Hitler and Goering were. Goering had no taste; he was merely acquisitive. Hitler's motives were more interesting. As a young man (orphaned and so short of money that he was living in a doss house) he'd been rejected by the Viennese Akademie der Bildenden Künste (its selection board largely Jewish, or so he believed) in favour of his rivals Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoshka whose work he afterwards condemned as "degenerate", and it looks as if a lot of Hitler's viciousness stemmed from his incapacity to be a respected artist; he decided to be the world's greatest "collector" instead, by whatever violent means. Some historians believe that his invasion campaign was planned with reference to the art he coveted. Trapped and defeated in his Berlin bunker at the end of the war, just before committing suicide, Hitler was still planning or fantasizing about building vast, neoclassical art museums that would exhibit his loot and make his hometown of Linz world famous.

When it came to the last part of the film that dealt with the recovery of the stolen art, it struck me how important it was to the people of those days, crowds and individuals welcoming the return of their treasures with cheers, tears and dancing. Almost as if the artworks had been long lost people.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Trivial pursuits?

Five of us spent this morning in the Gatineau Park again, hiking from Chemin Pine to Meech Lake and then 6km down the "Discovery Trail" (a small section of the Trans Canada Trail) to the car park by Plage O'Brien. No sign of the cougar that's said to be lurking in these hills. When we came to the lovely spot at the quiet end of the lake, Laurie almost trod on a snake, probably a milk snake, that slid quickly into the water and went swimming off very fast.

I've not forgotten about my blog, only been lazy about adding to it. My everyday life in summertime is more unstructured than ever, with time taken up in gardening and sharing various (Thai, Portuguese, Chinese, Italian, Malaysian) meals with friends, as well as the walks and bike rides and lately some jogging round the park as well which (although I've enjoyed this) has started to jar my knees, so tomorrow I may go swimming instead, to give them a rest.

I've been doing some preparation for our next season of Diplomatic Hospitality when I'll be selling some more home-made greetings cards made from my own photos: I finished and wrapped about a hundred of them this week. Sorting out the contents of shelves cupboards, best done when I'm in the mood for it, takes hours. I've also been re-reading Gabriel García Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude.

At the computer I've been spending more hours researching the possibilities for our imminent flying trip and keep changing my mind about where to pause on our journey to Lourdes-de-Blanc-Sablon and St Anthony. This is very silly of me because I know from experience that the weather will dictate how far we go and where we land. At least I'll have some addresses and phone numbers handy. What's more, the coast of Labrador just beyond Blanc-Sablon looks so interesting that we may be tempted not continue to St Anthony after all. If Chevery is as attractive as I imagine it will be, with the beach just a few hundred metres from the airport and the little boat that takes one across the water to Harrington Harbour, we may not even get as far as the crossing point to Newfoundland. I'm torn!

Friday, July 11, 2008

In the family

I went to see the movie "based on" Margaret Laurence's novel The Stone Angel last night about the implacable Hagar Shipley and her dysfunctional family and although well made and well acted by the two women playing the part of Hagar, I thought it a very toned down version of the book, where the implications, especially as regards the end of the story, are more powerfully left to the imagination. Of course this would have to be different in the film. Certain episodes are too shocking or shameful to be watched on screen (even these days) and perhaps they had box-office takings in mind as well. They wouldn't want their audience to leave the cinema too upset to recommend this! Interestingly the director had also brought the story up to date, with the characters saying things that wouldn't have been said in the 60s, the scenes in the retirement home and hospital being recognisably normal. It must have been quite a challenge to write the film script from a text so familiar to students of CanLit.

Members of our own family, meanwhile, are not having such an unhappy time of it. Chris has taken to cycling to work and back along the Ottawa River Parkway trail (40 km a day, with a Garmin Forerunner strapped to his wrist for encouragement) and, participating in the fitness craze, I have taken to jogging round our local parks. (Only 3km ... but without stopping, not bad for a beginner?) I had a proud and excited phone call from our nephew yesterday to tell us he has restored the "Matchless" motorbike he inherited from his grandfather (my father-in-law) and is now riding to his work in Cambridge on this bike. Chris' sister and her husband Phil are enjoying their peaceful surroundings in East Anglia as you can see from this blog-post of hers. Our son George has just spent a marvellous day on Rottnest Island near Fremantle and is about to take the Indian Pacific train back to Sydney (four days in transit). My sister has just finished the course that will make her a qualified Indexer. My mother has taken up chair dancing with an exercise ball, an activity that seems to be gaining popularity in the UK; she says she finds it frustratingly easy in comparison with the Grecian dancing she used to do as a young girl (eighty years ago). Our daughter and family recently spent such a happy weekend in London that they have made a little film about it that you can watch on YouTube.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The OrKidstra

I have just heard of a marvellous new initiative in Ottawa, founded last year by the owners of a music shop on Elgin Street, The Leading Note. Inspired by a film made in Venezuela about a similar project—Tocar y Luchar (which means "to play and to fight")—and assisted in Ottawa by professional instrumentalists, they're giving local musical children aged between 6 and 14 years old the chance to learn an instrument from scratch(!) and play together in an OrKidstra.

Los primeros sonidos que se transformarán en grandes conciertos.

If you click here, you can find the link to a short CBC radio documentary about this, broadcast on May 1st, 2008.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Nightmare decade

The 1930s, presently at the National Gallery of Canada, is an exhibition I must recommend, but only if you're feeling strong, because the art works chosen for it have a nightmarish quality, especially, because of their historical context, the ones attempting to be images of perfection. The surrealist pictures, sculptures and photographs, in response to the messages of fascist / socialist totalitarianism, were nightmarish on purpose. Rejecting "control exercised by reason", as it said in the exhibition notes, they were created to record the "violent, strange, hysterical, erotic subconscious" that lay just below the surface of those days.

The first part of the exhibition is all about eggs, which symbolize the generation of the New Man or new world that North Americans, Russians and western Europeans were hoping for, latter-day annunciation paintings by Feitelson of the USA entitled Genesis I, Genesis II, featuring melon seeds, avocado pits and the ubiquitous egg alongside some idealised naked woman or Madonna, and with smooth stone carvings called Mysterious Egg (by Max Ernst) or Triumph of the Egg (by Flannagan), hatching an American eagle. Salvador Dali made an ironic comment on all this in a later painting (1943) called Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man, a picture in which a man emerges backwards from a bleeding egg or globe into a desert.

In the next gallery hung cell-like abstractions by Kandinsky, in the kind of shapes and colours you might see through a microscope, followed by large bronzes by Masson and Giacometti, respectively entitled Ecstasy: looked like a couple of praying mantis mating, and Woman with her Throat Cut: praying mantis on its back with its legs apart, neck bones chopped like a tree. Nasty, but clever. I couldn't help thinking of Kafka's short story Die Verwandlung in this room. In fact there was a Miró painting entitled Metamorphosis, too.

Then we came to the hero-worship section, with images of Stalin beautified and an enormously magnified bronze head of Mussolini, of colossi striding among the masses at their feet: parades of revolutionary Russian workers or identical soldiers. In a separate room, an extract from Leni Riefensthal's film Triumph des Willens (1934). documenting a Hitler rally. The thousands upon thousands of fit, disciplined and devoted young men ready to build a new world but actually trained to wreak destruction on the old one were conditioned by the 1930s glorification of sport; witness Rodchenko's Russian photographs of Male and Female "pyramids," paintings of oarsmen and gymnasts muscular as Greek gods, Nazi propaganda leaflets exorting the Aryan people to be healthy and multiply (Gesunde Frau, gesundes Volk).

There were idealised paintings of farmworkers in the German countryside, in a pre-Raphaelite, ultra realistic 19th century style, although in one of these (Kalenberg Farming Family by Adolf Wissel, 1939) the faces of the people portrayed look terribly sad. They remind me of the family in the film chronicle, Heimat. Then came the Four Elements by Adolf Ziegler, a triptych that used to hang over Hitler's mantelpiece and now belongs to a museum in Munich, the classically-proportioned, naked women representing Fire, Water, Earth and Air.

And finally, a selection of the rebels' art, Entartete Kunst as the Nazis described it: the monstrous images created by Picasso, Stanley Spencer, Max Ernst, Otto Dix, Pyke Koch, Ivan le Lorraine Albright, Christian Bérard, August Sander (his Victims of Persecution series being photo-portraits of intelligent-looking Jews), George Grosz, Rudolf Schlichter and John Heartfield. Their work, distorted, contorted and painful as it is, was at least honest and it felt strangely like relief to get among it, however troubling, after the propaganda perpetrated by their contemporaries.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

In anticipation

Often the best part of a holiday trip is before you get there: when it works upon your imagination. We're going to attempt a flight from Ottawa to Newfoundland and back next month, a thought that really excites me. I spent this evening with two ladies who worked at St John's University for a great many years, so of course I asked them what Newfoundland was like and in particular the northern tip, where we're likely to land.

"Rather than stay in St Anthony you ought to book a room at The Tickle Inn, Onion Cove," said Averil. With a name like that, who could resist searching for it on the Internet, at least? Averil also told me there were plenty of black bears on the island and that it's not unusual to find polar bears, either, who have inadvertently drifted across from Labrador on an ice-floe.

We've been poring over the NAV charts in order to work out a promising route and I'm been doing another sort of homework by reading The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx, the bulk of the novel being set in the very area we're aiming for. The characters in this story arrive by car:

... Quoyle steered up the west coast of the Great Northern Peninsula along a highway rutted by transport trucks. The road ran between the loppy waves of the Strait of Belle Isle and mountains like blue melons. Across the strait sullen Labrador.
The car rolled over fissured land. Tuckamore. Cracked cliffs in volcanic glazes. On a ledge above the sea a murre laid her single egg. Harbours still locked in ice. Tombstone houses jutting from raw granite, the coast black, glinting like lumps of silver ore ...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A big party: people, people!

It was Canada Day yesterday. Here are some of the photos I took of the people singing and dancing...

...dressing themselves or their boats in patriotic colours...

and enjoying the sunshine.

At the end of the party came the fireworks.