Samuel Amidst the Russians

By Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875 – 1912) a London born, mixed-race composer – referred to as the “African Mahler” – I have Uncovered Vol 1(Piano quintet etc); British Light Music: Suites: Hiawatha, Othello. I don’t recall how I came across Coleridge-Taylor but I was happy to discover him. Can you name any black, classical composers? (Maybe Beethoven – whom Coleridge-Taylor believed was black?)

The fact that one set of his suites is labeled as part of the British Light Music reflects that he wasn’t a Mahler after all but more in line with Elgar, one of his  mentors. Pleasant & non-demanding to the listener this is good, easy listening classical music but lacks personality. 

Maybe if I hadn’t plunked him down in the middle these Russians composers Samuel may have fared better 🙂 On this mp3 cd collection I added: Mussorgsky (Russian): Pictures at an Exhibition, performed by the Trio Solisti (cello, violin, piano) – I have countless versions of Pictures – orchestra, organ, piano duo, jazz – this is a chamber music version & is excellent; Rimsky-Korsakov (Russian) Overtures & Suites: includes Snowmaiden, Christmas Eve – some of these are lush, patriotic, romanic & epic. 

Borodin (Russian): although he regarded medicine and science as his primary occupations, his music is what he is remembered for. Here I have his masterful String Quartets. I love string quartets & these are somber, melodic & sonorous (in a good way). Finally by a master of the romantic style is Tchaikovsky (Russian) with his Liturgy of St. John. These are elegant, almost meditative as he tones down his usual melodramatic hyper-romantic style. I was saving opera for my ‘old age’ but it seems religious choral work fulfilled that aim. Much of it is written with deliberate sonic scale to subtly draw your ears in – which contemporary beta beats music does.

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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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 By Alexander Scriabin (1871-1915) Russian, I have stand alone double cd sets: Piano Sonatas 1 2, Symphonies 1 2; lp to 4 cds transfers of solo piano music that includes mazurkas, etudes etc. As mp3: symphonic poems: Prométhée, Le Poème du feu; Le Poème de l’extase; Piano Concerto. 

The lp transfer were of a VoxBox 3 lps set. Much of this is influenced by Chopin & delights, if you like Chopin. Romantic, sometimes a bit cloying but never as over-the-top as, say, Liszt. He doesn’t say too far from the various forms & like all Russian composers incorporates fold melodies. They don’t break new ground. The Piano Sonatas – the early ones are traditional but as he ages they become more sonorously challenging when he moves into atonal scales. Dense & brilliant.

Scriabin invented the light show! He was influenced by his synesthesia, and associated colours with various harmonic tones. Some of his orchestral works were meant to be performed with coloured lights proved by a colour organ – which created an effect similar to the aurora borealis. This did give rise to a resurgence of interest in him during the trippy 60’s, 70’s. 

So when I listen to his Symphonies or symphonic poems I try to imagine colours. The liner notes to the cds might have clues but I’d rather let my own slight synesthesia take over. Symphonic tone poems was/is popular form in which the composer creates a mood. Debussy’s La mer is a prime example. They are often impressionist & without really reaching a dramatic climax. Scriabin’s tone poems – Prométhée, Le Poème du feu; Le Poème de l’extase – are more moody than anything else. Relaxing, ethereal & spiritually up lifting. Try them.  

Just a reminder that this story goes back, way back, to the mid-70’s, when I was living in Cape Breton. I have done minimal editing for things like spellings, punctuation & name consistency. As you may gather I was not out at the time but clearly wrestling with the process.

No Fanfare 4

I sat back in the chair & pulled on my other boot. He want angrily back tot he stern & shoved on the record. Soft, blurred guitar hovered in the silence between us.

“I didn’t …” Afraid that I had lost this chance, I wanted to explain what I intended but couldn’t rationalize his feeling of being used inot a scene in which that wasn’t true.

“Oh, shove off. I’m bored with apologies.” He sat at the piano & began playing along with the album.

“Do you want me to leave?” The sting of tears had become an anger; an anger I tried to keep out of my voice. Anger toward myself for not cutting clear enough through my confusions, anger for expecting easy motions, anger with him for turning his back on me. I felt I had to stay; not ‘had to’ but ‘wanted to’. I’d been so involved with my own inner struggles I hadn’t expected to find someone else with them & was willing to open up about them the way I wanted to to be about mine. Jean always claimed to feel she was the closed one but I’m sure she even realized what was troubling me. Perhaps she was more afraid of confronting me with it that I was on telling her.

“Do you want me to leave?” I repeated louder, to make sure he heard me over the music.

The muscle sun his back poised to continue as stopped playing. “Whatdo you think?”

The bitter edge to his voice made me look up as I was unlacing the one boot I had tied. “I think I’d like one more for the road.”

“Why bother?” He bristled, once again picking out the melody of the piece on the stereo.

“Because,” dropping one boot, “I’m” dropping the other “scared. Afraid that if I leave I may no be able to face myself for losing this opportunity. Maybe this is using you. I don’t know. I hope it isn’t.”

Determinedly I went to him, still unsure of how to my words but needing to reach him, unsure of where to put my hands but wanting to touch him. I sat on the bench beside him. Keeping his back to me he straddle dit with the same easy motion of his leg.

I had expected to be coaxed not to coax. Putting my arms around him from behind I pulled him closer, one hand feeling his heartbeat, the other rubbing the tightness of his stomach.

“What am I suppose to say? I’m no rapist, either.”

Steve put his hands on mine, caressing them.

“You seem to be saying more than I thought you could.”

His caress became a squeeze as he pushed my hands down.

“I still think you haven’t realized just way you have to come to grips with.”

There was a light laugh with ‘grips’ as he pushed my hands down to his bulging crotch. 

“I realize I should know better but if this going to be the start of your voyage, you’d better understand that this is the point of no return.”

He pressed my cupped hands onto him. I felt him become as aroused as I had already become. I recalled my easy appraisal of his corduroy stretching equipment when he stood before not so long ago. Minutes that now seemed a long, distant, embarrassing yet fondly recalled memory. The meeting in the park seemed to stretch further into the past.

“So you’ve never touched another man, eh, Dave? How does it feel?”

He released my hands. Savouring this new anticipation my fingers moved gently over this zipper, timidly down the sorrows of the corduroy that separated them from actual contact with his flesh.

I bit his earlobe & whispered. “It feels alright. Super.”

Turning slowly, he stood to face me, pulling me to my feet, his hands touch me as mine were touching him. 

“Does this conflict with your image of yours?” He chuckled huskily.

We were face-to-face. 

“Yes.” I kissed him quickly. “Did you expect it not?”

I kissed him again, slower. Although I didn’t completely fathom this, I knew I wanted him. Not out of loneliness or love but out of lust. Me a man, wanting this man,I wold have to accept & experience this even if I never fully understood. Understanding wasn’t a solution anyway.

He stepped back, unbuttoning my shirt. “See, there’s no fanfare. No thunder. No hell fire.”

Our eyes met as I began unbuttoning his shirt.

“At least the fear has gone for your eyes.” He said.

“It might be,” flesh touched flesh, tongues again, “but not from here,” I Laughed, patting my heart. “Let’s have that drink.”

Steve was right, there was no fanfare, no earth shaking. Even the sense of relief I’d expected had only been enough to make me laugh. It seemed so foolish. Poor Jean, all the confusions & hurt because of a part of me, an awkward mortalness that I’d let hurt because I was afraid it would hurt me more.

Even if acceptance didn’t make anything easier, it would, I hoped, bring some form of ending, a feeling of completeness. Once I learned the scope of lust maybe I could even cope with love. All I see now is a beginning, a start. At least I see that much. 

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There are some classical piece that sound like movie soundtracks one of them is Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s (1844-1908) Scheherazade which takes one on an amazing music trip though the Arabian Nights. Romantic, stirring, seductive. It is classical music for people who don’t think they like classical music.  Rimsky-Korsakov work is full of Russian folk melody, rich in fairytale stories & nationalistic fervour. Listening to it you want to reach either for a samovar or a sabre.

I have three stand-alones: Orchestral Works excerpts from The Golden Cockerel, Capriccio espagnol – along with Mussorgsky’s Pictures. Orchestral Suites: The Snow Maiden, The Golden Cockerel, Mlada. Scheherazade which is paired with Borodin’s Polovestian Dances. These three cd’s make for a wonderful immersion into Russian music. Start with Scheherazade though.  

Ned Rorem (1923) I inherited hardcover, first editions, of his Paris & New York Diaries. He is a very out modern classical composer & the diaries are fun, smart, gossipy, sexy great reading that gave me a sense of time & place in his upper crusty milieu. I loved the diaries & he is pretty easy on the eye.   According to Wiki he’s still alive. He won a Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1976. Who knew there was a ç for Music?

In my collections I two stand-alones of his work. The cover of the Flute/Violin Concertos concertos features a drawing of Rorem by Jean Cocteau. You know, I’d much rather have my portrait done by Jean Cocteau than Andy Warhol. The other cd is of Chamber Music Suites: End of Summer, Book of Hours, Bright Music.

The music is at times sprightly, other times somber but it didn’t engage me. Too often modern classical music sounds more like class assignments as opposed to emotional response. “For your Masters please write a piece for these three instruments, chosen at random from a hat, Clarinet, Violin & Piano.” Then again Rimsky-Korsakov is a hard act to follow 🙂


“So you’ve never been inside the house.” Vasili unlocked the front door.

“Nope. I shovelled the sidewalk a few times though. We always wondered how rich your dad was.”


“Yeah, to own this house and live here all by himself. He told us he wanted a house for his family when he could bring them here. But I never figured out how he could afford it with just that repair shop of his, you know? Coaching the chess team was voluntary.”

“I have no idea either. It was a shock to find out he had such a large house. You know when the political climate changed we did finally get in touch with him. For the last few years we’d talked on the phone, exchanged photos.”

He opened the front door slowly pushing a pile of newspapers just on the other side of it back with his foot.

“This is how the house was when I arrived a few days ago. Funeral arraignments haven’t allowed me time to do anything with it.”

There was a narrow path though tidy piles of unopened boxes that had been stacked on either side of the hall, along the stairs.

“The whole house is like that. Dad had become a saver of things. I think started buying goods for us to have when he could bring us here but lacked the ability to decide what was of value. He wrote that he had so much to show us. He saved all these newspapers and magazines. The room that was to be mine is crammed with clothes  and toys he’d bought each year but never got rid of.”


Even with all the clutter the house was organized. We made our way though to the kitchen. It was stacked with sets of dishes still in boxes but it was spotless. I was expecting rotted food. The bathroom was clean though piled with towels and children’s bath products.

“As they wouldn’t let him send money to us he started to do this. When I first came in ….,” Vasili began to cry. “… I realized this is how he channeled his love for us while we were told there he had given up on us.”

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The Porch

Welcome to an occasional new Monday series in which I’ll take you on a tour of the art pieces in my house. Many of you will never darken my door but that’s no reason not to see past it. Plus you may hear more about these pieces that my regular visitors ever hear, or want to hear 🙂


Starting with the porch – which some of you have seen in my Christmas photos. The first thing you’ll see, besides me letting you in, is this wonderful oil painting. It consists of marvellous cliches & is clearly from an assembly line oil painting factory. It has misty mountains, waterfalls, cascades, a quaint cottage in the pines, & a rough path to the cottage.

I found it on one of my morning walks. I took a few photos of it then & it was still there on my way back. The frame was included so I couldn’t resist it & brought it home. It is perfect for the front porch. If you take a close look you’ll see why it was tossed. There is a slit in the canvas – about the size of a knife blade – over the secluded cottage. I think of this as a breach of the time-space continuum. I love this painting & love the fact that is is found art.

On the window ledge by the front door is this hand-carved wooden African fetish that is intended to scare away evil energy. The tag say ‘two warriors.’ I’ve had this so long I don’t remember where it came from – maybe a yard-sale? It may have been a house-warming gift. My partner found it too grotesque to have on the living-room mantle piece so it has been in the porch protecting our house for decades.

On the other side of the door is a bookcase whose shelves are cluttered in endless knick-knacks. My favorite of which is this lamp from the 30’s. It has the remains of its original paint job & still works. It is La Canadienne. It was a Christmas gift some 30 years ago. I’ve been tempted to have it reconditioned but decay has its place. Linus is a period bobble head. The cow is a creamer. The poodle on a log is a future Hot Damn! prize. The random holes on the frame are from stapling the Christmas fabric that hides the shelves from the prying eyes of Santa’s elves.

Our Lady of the Flowers -a boxed St Teresa plaster icon. This goes way way back when I was living in Cape Breton. I found it in an antique store in Halifax  in the mid-70’s. I had to have hit even though I am not Catholic. I have been told that these were in Catholic grade schools at one time. There would have been a little shelf handing at the bottom for candles or for votive offerings or for holy water – depending on the school. I keep in in a darker corner of the porch out of too much direct sunlight.

I remember buying it & carrying like a doll as it as too large to bag & to delicate to toss in a suitcase. I was stopped on the street by a group of Russian sailors who recognized the Saint. They spoke little English but their thick Russian accents made me weak in the knees. Laudamus Te indeed.

White Shirts, Bullets & Ballots

after that first day 

I swore not to wear 

a white shirt ever again


too many of the doorbells 

we rung had been rung 

too many times in the past 

by religious pests bringing 

the word of salvation

we were bringing 

the word of vote 

to the people


we had been warned

that the white shirts 

wouldn’t be effective 

but we felt 

we had to present a clean-cut 

non-threatening image 

if we wanted people 

to become aware of their rights


white shirts proved 

not to be the way to go

so we were allowed to wear 

what we wanted 

as long as 

it was clean and non-political

we couldn’t sully our approach

with anything that might be seem 

to sway the people

the way the other parties did

with guns

March 5 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

April 3 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Season 6 finales Buddies and Bad Times Theatre


Richard III – Stratford Festival


June 25-26-27 – Capturing Fire 2020 – Wooly Mammoth Theatre – Washington D.C. 


All’s Well That Ends Well – Stratford Festival

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at Ted’s Bulletin in Washington DC

at 2020’s – sweet, eh?

‘I speak in cursive’

Buddies’ Cabaret barely held the propulsive energy of Hot Damn! A Queer Slam’s first season finale. Draped in fur, rainbow beads & sequinned shorts Cathy Petch hosted a show that allowed 8 lgbqt poets to vie for a trip to Capturing Fire in DC this June. Brock Hessel, in a rather binding sequinned dress, looked after the merch table – I’ve never consider sequins for bondage gear but that may change.


fur & rainbow beads

The slammers were winners of Hot! shows held in Toronto, Hamilton, Peterborough & other unexpectedly queer spots. Competing (not in this order) were: Vanessa McGowan, Sasha Patterson, KT Job, Mind The Gap, Barbara Eronchina, Trick, Beth Murch, Darcy Alemany

The pieces all burned with the need to express a self & command attention They were often raw, sometimes funny & always fiercely honest & challenging to gender norms, even queer norms. They covered family, love, sex, gender politics, identity and sobriety – there was even a Посыпать of Russian. благодаря.

A scattering of lines from the first round: you attack then submit, I snort lines that rhyme, the ambiguity  of our complexions, pick a pronoun that fits because ‘she’ doesn’t work, the wall of over-priced tee-shirts was the paint, you’re not disabled enough, this heart is a patchwork of scars inflicted by others, humans do not care for experience, distinguish the good bullshit from the bad bullshit, tongue tongue tongue, I have a dirty mouth I speak in cursive.


the Hot Damn trophy

After a break, feature d’bi.young took the stage as if she wanted to escape the spotlight that caged her while her words flew around  the room. Her set ran from the feminine hygiene industry ‘manufactured shame designed to keep woman in chains,’ to the war on each other: ‘the solution is not more slaughter, we need a love-elution,’ to her first kiss of another woman ‘sexuality with a hint of equality.’

Her set was mostly sung with spoken interludes. Emotional, relatable and focused her set drew us in, brought many to tears with its frankness & the appeal to open ourselves to change. She reminded me of Odetta, Nina Simone, in style & even content. Sadly, I guess, the things those icons were singing about in the 50’s 60’s –  looking for equality, an end to war – are still being sung about & searched for today.


the Hot! merch 

A scattering of lines from the second round: broken glass world, my family mistakes me for their child; no, I just slipped & fell on this vibrator, your war is not with me, after a day of being repeatedly misgendered, I had no idea it was love I fell into, the long beauty bone of her collar, this is not a rape poem – because I don’t know if he did, you’ll have a rainbow dragon roll? is that because I’m gay, just like bones she gets stronger with every break, once a month my castration bleeds.

Congratulations to season one winner Beth Murch (read her take on the night: See you in Washington, DC.


no open stage but something I may be pulling out in DC:


one hard dick

can be worth a hundred thousand words

one firm ready randy prick

is worth it’s weight in hold me tight

so stroke me suck me all night

make me happy and sore

make me dream of more

then come back

to do it again and again


the slow and gradual

works best

too fast and its over

and when it’s over it’s over

so the longer we make things last

the more time to enjoy

the feel of foreskin

the slick of pre-come

the small groan

the first taste

the mouth full fullness

wallow in the weight of cock

heavy on tongue

aching of jaw


a sudden full stop

to embrace

snuggle and soft

boneless shapeless

sagged into each other

belly buttons at eye level

let the flesh flag

to let the building build even more

before we dive back down

to do that suck suck thing again

each wanting the other

to be the first to shoot


one good fuck

is worth years of therapy

one solid kiss

makes the morning brighter

makes the pain less

can take away

the misery of a life time

for a few hours

can put a smile

on any part of my body it wants


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