Weill Not So Vile

By Kurt Weill (1900 –1950) I have: stand-alones of Symphonies 1 & 2; Mahogonny/Seven Deadly Sins; Three Penny Opera (Konig Ensemble); Three Penny Opera (Lotte Lenya). As mp3: Ute Lemper: Sings Weill; Lotte Lenya: Sings Weill. As lp to CD transfer: Berlin to Broadway/Martha Schlamme sings Weill; Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill.

My first exposure to Weill was, like many, Bobby Darin’s Mac The Knife & that first line about the shark’s teeth gave the smooth sing a real bite. It is a decent translation of Bertold Brecht’s original German lyrics by Marc Blitzstein. Of course it was years before I knew it was a Weill/Brecht composition.

Over the years I have seen various productions of nearly all of the theatre pieces they created together. Also some that were reconstructions using songs from various plays. All haver a strong political message  & there is at least one standout song in each. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered Weill wrote music not for the stage! Symphonies, lieder etc. But it will be his theatre music he’ll be remembered for.

My first real purchase was the double lp Berlin to Broadway (since transferred to CD) that found remaindered when I lived in Cape Breton. This is a small ensemble show complex from Weill’s various other shows, told as a musical biography & sense is a sort of a biggest hits & it well worth tracking down. (not to be confused with some brass quartet release of the same title.)

One of the versions of The Three Penny features Weill’s muse Lotte Lenya. A great archival recording, the other is a more recent & is fine. Lotte’s set of his songs is excellent as well – her voice can be an acquired taste. Lemper’s set is fun cabaret & all the hits are there. Schlamme’s are more classical rather than cabaret.

The Symphonies are pleasant 20th century classical. No sense of his showtune work in them & if it weren’t for his theatre work they would be even less of a footnote than they are now. Did you know that Sullivan of Gilbert & Sullivan also wrote 24 operas, 11 major orchestral works, ten choral works and oratorios, two ballets & more? 

If you are unfamiliar Weill start with any compilation of his theatre work. 

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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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Stravinsky Goes Hollywood

Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971): Russian but US citizen from 1945. His ballet The Rite of Spring (1913) transformed the way in which subsequent composers thought about rhythmic structure. I have an mp3 collection of his complete Ballets, Symphonies & orchestral music. Of course we have Walt Disney’s Fantasia for making Stravinsky almost a household name 🙂 I’m surprised Disney didn’t insist on royalties every time any version of The Rite gets played.

The ballet suites for The Firebird & Petrouchka are frequently performed as orchestral as well as ballet works. The only one I have seen as a ballet is the Rites. I was disappointed there were no dinosaurs 🙂 These three pieces have become classical war horses & I have versions interpreted by jazz, progrock & electronic musicians. 

The Rite is, to my ears, the most ‘radical’ of the works of his I am familiar with thanks to this collection. I had at one time an MHS cassette set of some of these pieces, which lost its tension. For the most part his work is pleasant with elements of jazz, traditional classical, Russian folk melodies running through it. The ballet music doesn’t really need the ballet to enjoy it – then again, I also have soundtracks to movies I have never seen.

I’ve watched portions of the ballets on TV, YouTube & each dance company & choreographer brings their own vision to the music anyway so the visual elements – movement, lighting, costumes – are always changing while the music remains relatively the same. The non-ballet works are interesting & the symphonies are sweeping & satisfying.

Reading about his life I was surprised to find out that he moved to the USA in 1939 & settled down in Hollywood! 

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Sibelius Smetana

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!!!

part 1

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

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I can’t say that I’m a big fan of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 – 1975) but in my collection I do have, either as stand-alone or mp3, the following Ballet Suites; Cello Concertos; Piano Concertos; Piano Trios; Symphonies 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11 13; Mussorgsky Songs. Truth be told I am more a fan of stirring patriotic, almost propaganda, music, than of Shostakovich.

This collection started with an lp of a piano concerto. Through MHS I added some cassettes of a couple of the symphonies & his ballet music. Later, thanks to sales at HMV or Sams I picked up some of the other symphonies. I enjoy the chamber music control of piano trios so it seemed natural to add these as well.

Although much of his writing was done under USSR state control, command & approval he managed to impart some personality & even humour into his compositions. There is nothing radical in any of his music. He was never as emotionally lyrical as Tchaikovsky but his symphonies are as epic as Beethoven’s sweeping visas. The influence of both Mahler & Stravinsky are evident in the symphonies. 

One on the mp3 cds I added Ancient Echos of Russian “a cappella” male choir songs. Sublime & one of the bass singers supposed has one of the deepest voices ever recorded. I admit to enjoying the religious sombreness of these songs without needing to know what they’re singing or having any abiding belief in the religious context either. Soothing & resonant. Try it you might become a believer yourself 🙂

This is a piece I wrote in the early 80’s. It was unfinished so the ending is ‘new.’ 

Down The Drain


“You’ve really done it now.” My words slurred so I couldn’t make them out. I stepped forward but there was no strength in my legs. I crumpled & fell back onto the couch.

He leaned forward to touch my eye but I jerked away, afraid that his touch would cause more pain. Clumsily using the back of the couch & then the wall for support I dragged myself to the bathroom.

Leaning heavily against the sink my awareness slipped away briefly. I came to with a jolt staring at myself in the mirror. The blue of my eyes, the blood, the paler blue of the sink, the effusion of blood drips in the water. One eye bruised & already withdrawn into a black hole in my face.

Splashing cold water on my face the rest of my body started to respond. The shock gave way to actual pain as I slumped backward, dizzy on the edge of unconsciousness.

“Jim,” I called out involuntarily. How a part of me could still trust him. “Jim, help me. I can’t seem …”

An ice-filled cloth stopped my mumble. Strong arms held me up & gently guided me to the bedroom. His words scurried into my ear. Fast, whispered, half-sobbed words I could barely hear or comprehend. My name was being repeated over & over. It circled overhead, pulled my consciousness away with it. It called me to supper. My mother calls to me up the stairs.

“Donald. Donald.”

I knew it was only the first call to supper. I couldn’t reply because my voice would betray me, it would take my attention away from the moment. My jeans around my ankles, one hand on my cock & the other touched the cock in a magazine. My mind fixed on what that perfect cock would feel like, taste like, push like.

Jacking faster, afraid that my mother would come in at any moment, I drop the magazine to watch the play of my fist around my dick. I visualize the rock hard muscles of the stud in the magazine flex as they pulled me closer to him, as his cock sank deep into my ass, as my cock would plunge into his. Harder & faster. I flipped the page over for another pose of the same inviting stud.

Her heavy footsteps on the stairs. Harder faster. Moaning I can barely keep going but I lunge toward release. A knock on the door.

“Are you coming down to supper Don?”

I laugh a little, want to say ‘Yes mother I’m coming for supper.’ The muscle spasm & come on my fist, my face. 

“Yeah Ma.” I finally answer, hope my voice betrays nothing. “I was just taking a nap.” I lick come off my fingers. “I’ll be down in a minute.”

I rub a gob of my come on the dick in the magazine. Unaware that my door has swung open at her knock, I lick the come off. It tastes like ink.


My name flies at me from the open door as an accusation. A briefly clutched apron & then a slam rebounds before I can roll away to hide myself. The slam hums as my ears burn red with confusions, confessions.

“Donald. Donald.”

It persists becomes louder & less like my mother. Someone else. As my ears open in another direction I try to recall how old I was then, was it that long ago.

“Donald. Donald.”

My head turns slowly to the flutter of my name. My eyes, one less than the other, shyly opens.

Jim’s eyes are the greenest I’ve ever seen. Perhaps that’s because I’ve looked longer into & for them. My heart & head aches with a realization that I do love this man but I don’t know how to tell him without seeming weak, without seeming less than a man myself. His hand reaches out cautiously, tenderly touches my lip. I feel a twinge of pain, a recollection of how of this pain started. I pull away stiffly.

part 3 next week

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Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953), is best known for a short movement in his Romeo & Juliette ballet suite, which I do have but was never that taken by. I have a double cd collection of The 5 Piano Concertos. As well as an 8.8 hr mp3 collection that includes his Complete Piano Sonatas, Complete Symphonies, & the Ballet Suites: The Buffoon, Love For Three Oranges, Waltz Suite, Romeo & Juliette.


At one time I had the Piano Sonatas as a MHS box set & an lp of one of the concertos. I upgraded to the Sonatas mp3 & found a double cd set of the Piano Concertos. I love piano music & Prokofiev straddles the gap between romantic & modern nicely. Not as lushly melodramatic as Tchaikovsky the concertos are excellent, the sonatas are emotional, lyrical but with a more mathematic sense of structure – not as florid as Chopin.

The Symphonies, which I have as mp3, become more modern & sweeping like Shostakovich but not as dissonant. Like many Russian composers Prokofiev makes use of stirring Russian folks songs that us delightful, somewhat patriotic & satisfying. If you are unfamiliar start with the piano concertos.


One thing I enjoy about many of many eastern European composers is the use of their folk melodies to create amazing, emotionally commanding music that even without being from there myself I am filled with a sense of losing & nostalgia. I have found little North American classical music does that to me. Is there an epic, sweeping symphony based on, say, Native American musical themes?


“Apples bin Irish peace.”

“Yes. Go on.”

“I can’t think of anything more.”

Dr. Clarke put down his pen. “I see.”

“Is that a problem?”

“I don’t know. You tell me?”

“I wish I could think of more. Really. Sometimes my mind just goes blank … or so many things flash that I can’t grab them all. Don’t know which ones to say and as I start saying them the others darken. Disappear. Blank. I’m left with a blank.”

“That can happen. Try to relax. Green?”

“Peace. Did I say that already? I’m so afraid of repeating myself that I can’t think of anything to say. Nothing comes to me. I want to go.”

“You can leave anytime. If you want to get well you have to try harder.”

“I don’t see how this helps.”

“It helps me to find patterns of thinking. What does peace mean to you?”

“Peace? I’ve never thought about peace. Really. I guess it means like gardens and butterflies. Quiet. No, maybe some birds singing. Yeah and kittens chasing the butterflies around. Yeah, that’s what peace means to me.’

“That’s a postcard picture of peace but go deeper than a picture.”

“Peace isn’t perfection, is it? that’s what you want to me say isn’t it. Peace is impossible, it only exists in my imagination not in the world out there. There is no peace. Never ever going to be peace. Peace would be boring as fuck anyway. You know that, don’t you? Impossible.”

“Take a breath. That’s not what I mean but peace has a cost. In your picture who mows the lawn? Who plants the flowers? Peace isn’t an abstract thing.”

“I’m never going to get well, am I”

“Ready for the next word?”




Thursday January 23 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre – featuring ‘Yes The Poet’ https://www.facebook.com/events/577900226377507/ 

Sunday –  January 26 – 1:30 – feature: The Secret Handshake Gallery, 170A Baldwin (Kensington Market) – 1:30https://www.facebook.com/events/498405247456842/

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  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 


All’s Well That Ends Well – Stratford Festival

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet


Beethoven takes up a huge space on my classical shelves – so big it’ll take two posts to go through it all. I think my first Beethoven was an lp of the Pastoral Symphony sold as part of a supermarket series of classical music. I recognized it from Fantasia. I till enjoy it but it isn’t my favourite symphony.whitelight

My Beethoven grew grew from there with some Vox Box sets of the piano sonatas. I now have Daniel Barenboim’s 9 cd set of them. I love the romantic rapture of ‘The Tempest’ & ‘Waldenstine’ & the mind boggling demand of ‘Hammerklavier,’ which runs at nearly 70 minutes – imagine playing that on stage – solo, at the keyboard, with no breaks.blackcouch02

On an mp3 collection I have his compete flute music Flute Music to which I added some Buddy MacMaster for a touch east coast fiddle. Plus some Samuel Barber. There is a stand alone of his Lieder: not a form I’m crazy about but I find the chamber setting relaxing.blackcouch01

Another mp3 collection contains his Overtures/Ritterballett/Piano Concertos/Piano 4 Hands/Violin Concerto/Minuets/Dances. I had a cassette of some of the overtures & decided to replace it with & found a iTunes set with all of them plus the symphonies (more about them later) for only $9.99.

The Piano Concertos are more of that heart digging romanticism, as is the Violin Concerto. The other pieces on this mp3 cd are diverting but don’t have the emotional sweep of his concertos.blackworkout

A stand alone of the Bagatellen: more like cameo pieces than anything. Diverting light hearted fun, like his dances, the sort of things one doesn’t associate with Beethoven. Miniatures that are sweet. Full of romantic hints but I don’t get lost in them the way I do with the pains sonatas.sample

for the next several weeks I’m serializing a short story:

Pie Part 1

‘What do you see, Margaret?’ Miss Griffs tugged at my uniform sleeve.

I stood on my tiptoes to look through the back porch window. Most of my view was blocked by an overgrowth of red geraniums.

‘I don’t think there’s anyone home. We’re just wasting our time.’

‘She must be in,’ Miss Griffs insisted. ‘I spoke to Cassie not two hours ago. She said my apple pies would be ready for me to pick up in an hour. So I know she’s got to be here.’

She pulled over the low bench Widow Crofts used to reach lower branches of the apple tree that filled most of the yard behind us. ‘Try this.’

As a mere mailman accustomed to front doors, I felt awkward just being in the back yard of any house. Now I was being coaxed to peer even further into taboo territory. I stepped up on the bench.

‘What do you see?’ Miss Griffs asked before I even had time to focus. With the extra height I was able to see over the plants.

‘I see the dining-room table. Sandwiches.’ I felt the shame I might have had going through another woman’s purse.

‘Sandwiches? She must have had someone in for tea.’

‘Perhaps they’ve gone for a walk?’

‘No. Not when she was expecting me. I had money for her. Cassie wouldn’t miss her pie money for love nor money.’ Miss Griffs cackled at her little joke. ‘Love nor money.’

Cassie Crofts had moved into Pommevale already a widow. Still pert in her forties at the time, she had resisted the attentions of the available local men for the past fifteen years. Even with her comfortable aging figure she still attracted their attention whenever she was in town. Miss Griffs was of the opinion it was Cassie’s catering business that attracted them.

Miss Griffs on the other hand was one of the thin variety. A devoted school teacher for many years, she never found the time nor the need to respond to the occasional attentions of the men who found her attractive. Many thought it was because her sister had disappeared with Miss Griffs’ fiancé on the eve of their wedding.

‘Let me look.’ She nudged me off the bench. ‘Hmm … hmm.’ She stood on tiptoes, craned her neck from one side of the window to the other. ‘My God!’ She almost fell off the end of the bench.


‘I can just peep into the kitchen. She’s in a pool of blood on the floor.’

I stepped to look, but she pushed me towards the door.

‘You knock that door open now, young lady. It shouldn’t give a big girl like you any trouble. Put your shoulder to it.’

‘But …’ I tried the handle to make sure the door was locked. It was. I had hoped the postal uniform would put an end to my being called a ‘girl,’ big or otherwise, yet after three years of the same mail route it still happened.

‘No buts …’


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