Richard and Maria

In my classical collection I have a few stand-alone cds of Richard Wagner (1813-83). I am by no means a fan of German opera. I have seen pieces of his operas on DVD but well my only real knowledge is from Bugs Bunny. One of the cds is a sort of orchestral hits: overtures & preludes from the operas. 

The other is an lp to cd transfer of Glenn Gould’s piano transcriptions of things like Love-Death, The Siegfried Idyll. This is luscious romantic & well worth adding to your classical collection, if you don’t have it already. My partner has all the operas on DVD & CD so I’m saving them to appreciate in my old age.

Next to Wagner is another German composer Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) who is also noted for his operas, none of which I have in my collection or have knowingly heard. Wiki tells me he was a major influence on Wagner. In my collection I have three stand alone cds. Two are lp to cd transfers one of the opera overtures; the other are of individual concertos for Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn. Third is of Symphonies 1 & 2 with suites for him operas. Unlike Wagner, Weber actually wrote more than opera.

The music is romantic without being overwrought – no one would confuse Weber with Beethoven 🙂 I certainly enjoy them when they come in rotation to be played but I don’t feel the urge to play them otherwise, unlike Beethoven whose works I go back to frequently. 

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Verdi vs Bugs Bunny

Growing up in Cape Breton some group would bring in The Canadian Opera as a fund raiser every couple of years. As a result I was exposed to works like Strauss’s: Die Fledermaus one year & Verdi’s: La Traviata another year. I vaguely remember the costumes but that’s about all. I can’t even recall where they performed or if they did whole operas or sections or even if they had an orchestra with them or used pre-recorded music.

But my real introduction to opera was Bugs Bunny! Looney Tunes did a great series of ‘adaptations’ inspired by Rigoletto, The Barber of Saville & others. I have a memory of Bugs wearing a mantilla, rose between his (is Bugs male?) teeth to music from Carmen. Cartoons back in the day were more highbrow than I think they are today.

I didn’t turn me into a fan of opera by any means. It was good to be given the opportunity for something beyond top 10 radio hits but my attention was trained for 5 minute listenings not two hours of sitting & trying to keep awake. I eventually developed a liking for opera but it was never the driving force behind my love for classical music.

By Giuseppe Verdi (Italian 1813-1901) I have an mp3 cd with La Traviata, Requiem Mass & the Overtures. I’m no opera aficionado so who is singing the version I have isn’t that revenant to me. It is good enough for my listening. I’ve developed a like for religious music & enjoy his Requiem Mass. I did a little research to find out what some composers wrote outside of their genre. Verdi wrote vocal music only. The Overtures are excellent introductions to his other operas.

I think one problem with classical music is that it has become over-cultured with a sense that it is for an elite educated ear. Only musicologists are supposed to be able to understand & enjoy it. This same ‘elite’ attitude runs through poetry – if you don’t have a degree you can’t really appreciate or understand, say, Walt Whitman or T.S. Eliot – leave that to the professors or Bugs Bunny.

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I was introduced to Tchaikovsky through Fantasia without knowing who I was being introduced to. When I bought my first real stereo: turntable, speakers, receiver – from Radio Shack – the first album I played on it was a recording of his first piano concerto. It was a wow moment. 

Since then my collection of his work has grown from box sets to cassettes & to cd box sets & mp3. buy Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian 1840 –1893) I have as stand-alones: Queen of Spades 3 cd, Nutcracker ballet, 1812 Overtures & other orchestral work, Complete Piano & orchestra 2cd, Complete String Quartets 2cd, Choral Work, Violin Concerto w: Beethoven: Violin Concerto 61.

On 3cds of mp3 I have the Complete Symphonies, Complete Solo Piano Music, Piano Concertos, Orchestral works: Capriccio Italien, Francesca da Rimini, Ballet Suites, Romeo & Juliet, Swan Lake, Nutcracker; Violin Concertos. Rounding out the cds are Dvorak: Four-Hand Piano; Prokofiev: The Buffoon ballet; Berloiz: Romeo & Juliet ballet; Stravinsky: Firebird.

Some duplicates but each version is a different interpretation. Melodic, lyrical, some radical at the time, romantic, over-the-top, melodramatic & sometimes saccharin & sentimental – what’s not to like? Some of the music barely contains his personal inner turmoil around his queerness – at time when it was a capital offence – actually in Russia I think it still is.

The ballet suites are a good introduction to his music. The whole ballets can be a bit much without dancers 🙂 The Queen of Spades opera is pleasant enough. His string quartets are sublime. If you want melodrama, melody & heartbreaking romance this is the composer for you.

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Ravel, Tartini and Bach

Next on the classical shelf is a nearly 8 hour mp3 collection of work by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), Giuseppe Tartini (1692 –1770) & soprano Amelita Galli-Curci (1882 –1963).

Ravel is best know for his Bolero & perhaps his Pavane for A Dead Princess But he did actually write more than that :-). His string quartet is often paired with Debussy’s string quartet which reflects the impressionist style that Ravel wrote in. I have the Bolero & Pavane in other collections. In this one I have the complete solo piano music & his piano Concertos, which includes the concerto for left hand written for a concert pianist who lost his right hand in the war.

The Bolero unwittingly set the template for much popular music. It starts with a single instrument & every 8 bars or so adds another layer or beat – which is how many jazz, pop arrangements are constructed. It’s almost mathematic in the progression & variations. Sadly Bolero itself is a piece of music I don’t care every to hear again though. The Pavane is elegant & so relaxing it frequently shows up in collections of the most relaxing music ever.

The solo piano is similar to Debussy but a bit more mathematical as opposed to impressionist. Dreamy, relaxing. I love the sonatas. The String Quartet is surprisingly sensuous as the strings wrap around each other & you.

I had one of Tartini’s violin concertos as lp to cd transfer but wanted a better quality, so picked up the Complete Violin concertos. Best known for the Devil’s Trill, these are great Baroque pieces full of trills &, I’ve been told, virtuoso challenges for violinists.

Also in this collection is Leopold Stokowski’s Bach Transcriptions which includes the Toccata & Fugue. The orchestral sound is lush, soothing & even spiritual at times. I love the toccata & this is one my favourite versions. Stokowski turns Baroque Bach into orchestral Beethoven. Stokowski is best known for his work on Walt Disney’s Fantasia – which is a movie that introduced many generations to the power of classical music & his orchestrations are the key to the success of the movie.

Finally in this collection is Amelita Galli-Curci. She was one of the most popular operatic singers of the 20th century. I’m not a big opera fan but this set of 1917-1928 recordings is one way of stretching my ears to music I’m not that familiar with. The sound quality is okay, as it is often is with these period recordings. I’m happy with these but don’t ask me to decide who is better her or Maria Callas 🙂


“Get your lazy ass over here! You hear me. Get that lazy ass of yours over here pronto!” Jen hung up the phone satisfied she had done all she had to do. 

It wouldn’t be her fault if Jim didn’t get there on time. No one could find fault with her. Unless it was because she had made the call. It wasn’t up to her to be anyone’s alarm clock but she didn’t want to see Jim get fired. 

Jim was told if he was late one more time that would be it. She didn’t really like Jim but was used to him. She didn’t want to have to learn how to put up with some other jerk off.

She went to the customer washroom. There was still time to check to make sure she looked okay. Her hair was not too wild but not too tame either. Her lip ring was healing. The redness gone. It didn’t distract too much from the eyebrow piercing or the shock of pink she’d had put in her hair for the week. Something  to change appearances around a little. The customers liked variation. Jim felt consistency was reassuring. He didn’t like change.

She could tell by the way his eyes sort of narrowed looking for a safe place on her face to look at. There were no safe places.

She glanced at her wrist watch. Hello Kitty’s face looked so snug strapped in the middle of her full sleeve, roses & koi tattoos. Expensive but not nearly as painful as the she had expected. Both arms. A girl never had to worry about what to wear with these. She held both arms out in front of her, turned them to enjoy the wrapping and overlapping vines, castles stars & comets that danced along and over her shoulders down her back. Sweet. Sweet Sweet. What would she get done next.

Jen went to the front of the shop. She didn’t want to open up till someone else was there. The design books were laid out, a sketched pad was by her station & she began working on the pirate ship she knew would look good on Jim. 

Yes today was the day he would get his lazy ass inked once and for all.
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When your reputation as a classical composer is reduced to one piece lets hope it as passionate & memorable as Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Opera was not high on my musical like list until I hit 50. I was saving it for my ‘old age’ but decided not to wait that long 🙂 I had a few pieces already but I think Carmen was the first complete opera recording I bought.25chairs03

I found a 3 cd box set of Carmen at a yard sale in the mid-90’s. I was familiar with the orchestral suites & was ready for the whole thing. I’d seen a TV broadcast a few months before I bought this & was happy to find it so cheaply. When I did the Lp to cd transfer this was a  2 cd set but is now part of an MP3 collection. This recoding featured Kiri Te Kanawa, & Placid Domingo.25chairs04

I bumped it to an MP3 collection after watching Humoresque in which John Garfield’s violinist mimes a Carmen suite that was arranged by Isaac Stern – close-ups of Stern’s hands playing the violin. I found that recording on iTunes. One of times in which Hollywood did classical music properly. I still find it odd that a French composer wrote this famed Spanish opera!25chairs01

To round out the MP3 collection I added some Mussorgsky solo piano music & an amazing organ version of Pictures at an Exhibition by Hansjorg Albrecht. Pictures is a concert warhorse & I have multiple takes on it rock, jazz, electronica, orchestra, solo piano. Another composed who relied on folk melody & whimsy. More about Mussorgsky when I get to ‘m’.25chairs02

One day in the car I heard Bizet’s Symphony in C. Who knew he’d written anything other than Carmen? So in April04 I picked up a double cd set that includes that Symphony and other orchestral works. All delights but none as passionate as Carmen. He uses sweet folk melodies in all his work which makes it approachable and ear-friendly. Now thanks to the Met his opera The Pearl Fishermen is back in the spotlight. He’s no longer a one-hit wonder.


Slime Time

‘I want some.’

‘You’ll get some. Just wait a minute will you.’

‘No. I want my share now.’

‘I said wait a minute. I can’t do two things at once.’

‘That’s because you’re stupid, stupid, stupid.’

‘You keep that up and you won’t be getting ay at all.’

‘You said I could have my share and I want my share. I want it now.’


The bowl slid along the stainless steel counter.

‘This isn’t enough.’

‘It’s as much as any of us are getting.’

‘You got more. I can tell you got more. You always get the most because you are selfish and stupid.’

‘Are you going to eat that or will I give it to Billy?’

‘That’s mine and no else is getting it. It just doesn’t seem fair you should get more than I do.’

‘We each have the same amount.’

‘Liar liar pants on fire. You got more. Even Billy gets more than me. All the time. I can see that with my own two eyes. I can see it. You HEAR ME.’

‘Yes, I can hear you. Now eat that before it melts.’

‘I like when it melts.’

‘No you don’t. Now eat it.’

‘Who’s going to make me.’

‘No one, but if you waste it don’t complain about how little you get. We can’t afford to waste around here.’

‘Since when? You are the biggest waste of breath that walked the face of the earth.’

‘Thank you for that sweet remark. Hmmm this is delicious. Very tasty. I love chocolate. Don’t you Billy.’


‘Billy can’t taste! You should know that by now but then you are stupid. So stupid.’

‘I too can taste things.’

‘Oh no you can’t. You aren’t even human.’

The wooden spoon struck hard.

‘Ouch. Why did you do that? It’s the truth isn’t it?’

‘It just isn’t polite dear. Now eat or …’

The spoon hovered.

‘I’m eating. Stupid stupid stupid.’

‘What was that dear? You shouldn’t talk with your mouthful.’

‘I said is good good good.’

‘Yummmy. More?’

‘Sorry Billy that’s all there is. Unless …’

‘No he’s not having any of my share. He’s not. I’m finishing it all. Look I’ll even lick the plate. See. All gone.’

‘Such a sweet child.’

‘Can I go out an play now?’

‘Only if you take Billy with you.’

‘No no no. He’s so slow. Those whatever they are can barely move. What are they feet? Tentacles.’


‘I wasn’t talking to you Billy. I hate it when he talks to me. I hate it. Can’t I go out and play by myself for a change. Please?’

‘No you can’t. You know it is our duty to teach others about our planet. It isn’t that bad is it?’

‘It’s horrible. Why couldn’t we get something that could at least move.’

‘I can move.’

‘No you can’t. You just slurp along behind me. Why don’t you have wings or something. Khrista’s family has a Flyer. We get stuck with a slime creature and I hate him. I hate him.’


cover170x170-1on going 🙂 when new podcast are posted:  Deliciously iTunes

June 3-5: attending: Capturing Fire 2016 – The DC Centre – 2000 14th St NW, Suite 105 – Washington, DC – I’m registered 🙂


check out these poets from Capturing Fire 2015:

June 11 – attending: The Toronto Poetry Talks – 10 AM – Metro Hall, 55 John Street, Toronto, Ontario M5V 3C6


September 1-4: attending FanExpo 2016 (I’ve already registered)


November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo



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Golden Days and Donkey D**k

Poetry Month has ended and I have to say I enjoyed the challenge of producing a new piece a day and posting it for the world to see. I found myself writing in the street, stopping on my walks to jot down an image ‘hung like a hunch that paid off’ and finding the right place for it in one of the Cathy Petch’s great Go Viral prompts. So I have 35 new pieces to polish & eventually perform. Some of which I have posted here on WP. It was also great to dip into my vast collection of pics to stick to the pieces as they got posted.

product placement?

A couple of the prompts took me into my past. As a result of ‘critic’ I dug out a batch of my old painting & posted them for the world to see. As a result of ‘golden’ I was nudged back to Mario Lanza:

Golden Days


before the Beatles held my hand

or Led Zeppelin shook me

Golden Days transported me

my mother was a Mario Lanza fan

Golden Days would transport her


when I finally saw/heard it

in the film Student Prince

it was his voice but not his body

not that he had such a bad body

a solid sexy Italian man

dark and real

on his way to being an operatic Elvis

but by the time of The Student Prince

he was considered too fat

couldn’t lose the weight

and attempts to make him perfect

killed him

leaving us his perfect voice

and sparing us the insult of

his pudgy imperfect sweet Italian body


‘Golden days, full of gaiety and full of truth’

the first song I remember that mentioned gay

though it didn’t mean it in the sense I knew it

but as much as those sweaty half-naked oars men

in sword and toga movies made me queer


so did Mario’s voice

us kids would sing along with him

but the words never filled our mouths

the way they spilled out of his


years later I read in a biography

he was a womanizer with a donkey dick

that Katherine Grayson called him a pig

I laughed and gave the biography to my mother

she wasn’t happy to have his perfect voice

pitched to this disharmonious tune


‘Looking back through memory’s eyes’

I’m sorry I did that to her

but today when I hear his voice

I get lulled back to

‘Golden days, in the sunshine of a happy youth’

Layers of memory came into play as I wrote this – those of of being a kid, along with my brother & sisters singing along to Drink Drink Drink on Sunday mornings as my Dad made pancakes. Seems that soundtrack was big in a lot of families. I knew it pretty well so when I finally saw The Student Prince I was shocked that it was Edmund Purdom (hey, that’s a right sexy name) lip syncing the songs. I recall a photo of Mario on the beach with his wife – I don’t think his package was well displayed but his hairy chest was fine. Needless to say I do enjoy the look of hunky Italian men.

diamond dizzy

His film career made me aware of how media creates & tries to control packages – Judy Garland & Monroe – to name two, were chewed up and damaged beyond repair by that system – even men, like Mario, got caught in the tyranny of the body. He spent a much time losing weight to please the studios as he did making films. Things haven’t changed – can you imagine Frank Black as Batman or Melissa McCarthy as Wonder Woman (I could, but that’s never going to happen.) Would Shia LeBeouf even have a film career without his abs?

In recent years, thanks to TCM,  I’ve seen many of Mario’s films – great singing, good songs & he has a real screen presence, that often transcended the formulaic crap he was given. I recently bought a DVD of The Student Prince. In some ways it like seeing it for the first time, in color, as my other viewings were in the days of b/w TV. Purdom is bland, generic good-looking. But seeing Ann Blyth was distracting – odd how memory changes every role an actor ever plays – I’m so familiar with her as Veda in Mildred Pierce, I found her sweetness hard to believe & anticipated a false pregnancy.

build like a brick wall

I inherited my mother’s Lanza records & have converted them to mp3’s. (2019 note: all replaced with fresh mp3). He was a packaged product of the times, treated in some way like an operatic Sinatra – passable arrangements, lots of big notes. All easy listening but nevertheless, Golden Days still transports me.

Loyalist calls to me
Loyalist calls to me

wall of the hand