Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) is a Finnish composer. I have as stand-alones Finlandia 2cds; Kullervo; Complete Symphonies 5cds; Violin Concerto. Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884) is Czech composer. I have as stand-alone My Fatherland on 2 cds which portrays the history, legends and landscape of the composer’s native Bohemia.
I love the Slavic patriotism that runs through the work of these two composers. Stirring epic melodies, masses of strings with what often sounds like thousands of musicians. With an occasional soprano floating in the mix. There is little North American classic music that has this sweep. Copeland manages that at times but not like these guys.
I don’t remember when I first heard Finlandia or The Moldau (from My Fatherland) but when I heard them on lps they were instantly familiar. I must have heard them as music in movies or on TV. Romantic, flowing, uplifting & with a definite sense of place – one doesn’t hear Finlandia & think – hey, this sounds like Peru.
Both were symphonic composers. Sibelius’s Violin concerto is a masterpiece. Smetana’s opera The Bartered Bride is frequently performed. Neither dabbled in chamber music or piano pyrotechnics. This is concert hall, not drawing room, music that takes listeners on journeys on cool winter days along rivers & fjords. Grab your fur & hop on the troika.
out of the archives – written in mid80’s – original draft in dot-matrix print.
Voodoo Secrets Revealed!!!
Pins went into his left ear, through his left eye, over the bridge of his nose, into his right eye & came out his right ear. Flecks of red at the tips. Was that blood? I looked closer. Rust. I turned the picture over. His name was neatly printed on the back – Donald McGraw – 1964.
The photograph was in a tin Players’ cigarette box. It was the last thing in a box of my past my mother had shipped to me for my birthday. She wrote it was time I took of the ‘museum.’ Now that she had grandchildren to keep track of I was responsible for my own past.
A bundle of old report cards, class photos. Even some scrap books I had filled with pictures I had cut from movie magazine of Annette & Haley Mills, a couple of Paul Peterson. Even then I felt he looked better than Annette.
The real find was several original Beatles’ fan magazines. These would buy me a house today, if I could find the right market. Under all this was the thin metal box. In the box was the hex I had cast on the boy who lived across the street.
Turning over the picture I peered at his face. I couldn’t remember how I got the photograph. It was a close up of his head & shoulder. He was wearing a dirty white tshirt. I could see it clearly in my mind. A dirty white ash & a dirty mouth. He was the first person I could recall calling me a fruit.
I was about twelve. We had just moved into the neighbourhood. He & his gang watched from across the street. They smoked & flicked the butts into the street.
“Hi kid! What’s yer name?” One of the the gang brawled from the porch.
I didn’t think of myself as a kid, so I ignored him. I was carrying in a cardboard carton of my treasured Hardy Bothers books. I knew instinctively this bunch of unwashed threats weren’t interested in books.
Donald was suddenly beside me. I could smell cigarette & cornflakes on his breath. I was a good boy. I would never smoke, boys who did that were trouble. I knew that. I glanced at him & went into the house.
“Ah shit. He’s a fruit!” Donald hollered to his gang as he want back to them.
My heart pounded. I hoped my Dad hadn’t heard, & hoped that he had, so he could do something to protect me. I didn’t know what a ‘fruit’ was but by the tone of Donald’s voice I knew it was something I would regret.
Any chance they got they would throw that word at me. If one of them was in the corner strobe when i was he would mutter it underlies breath. ‘Hey fruit fuck off.’ Riding my bike home I would hear the same. ‘Hey Fruit fuck off.’ Sometimes I wouldn’t even see which of them it was.
Over the next year the antagonism got worse. At times I was trapped in Hell. I always found new ways to get to school that avoided him & his gang. Luckily none of them went to my school. The McGraw’s were just a poor Catholic family. As I look back now I realize how ordinary they were. A drunk father. Two unwed older sisters with babies. The mother cleaning houses & offices.
My family was the opposite. Clean. Protestant. Wholesome. I was a twelve-year-old, only-child. In the next three years they made up for lots time & I quickly had a brother & a sister. I wasn’t crazy about them but I was too busy hating & being afraid of Donald & his gang, to get too distressed about the instant family.
part 2 next week