Greenwich Gossip

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Discretion is the Better Part of (Non-) Valor

Word comes today that Dick Blumenthal has canceled his Memorial Day appearances in Greenwich, including being the featured speaker at the Indian Harbor Yacht Club's annual commemoration. This is, your scribe believes, a wise move on his part.

Dick has been a steady attendee at this event over the years, as well as at the parade in Old Greenwich. He has lent an aura of gravitas to these occasions, being, as he is, our State's top law enforcement official. As recently as last November 11, Veterans' Day, he spoke movingly at the ceremony in front of the war memorial at the post office.

But at that event, as at so many others, Dick dressed himself in borrowed feathers, speaking eloquently if misleadingly of the taunts he and others had to bear as a result of being Vietnam vets. As we now all know, Dick was nothing of the sort, being at best a Vietnam-era Marine Reserves vet.

One is reminded of the hapless Falstaff playing possum on the battlefield of Shrewsbury, having proclaimed that "the better part of valour is discretion," and then rising from the dead to stand victoriously over the body of Henry Percy, whom he has the effrontery to claim that he "fought a long hour by Shrewsbury clock." Falstaff's lies are so egregious that we laugh, as Shakespeare uses him yet again for comic relief against the high drama of a realm torn by civil war.

Dick Blumenthal's "misstatements", however, are no laughing matter. He is no comic, bumbling stock figure of a Vice left over from a medieval morality play, but a highly-trained lawyer supposedly dedicated to the facts and the truth. He did not need to exaggerate his military service during the Vietnam period, but the fact remains that for whatever reason he did. And so his credibility is in shreds, just like that of fat, old, pathetic Jack Falstaff.

If one were to continue the drama metaphor another step or two, one might be tempted to say that it was hubris that has brought Dick Blumenthal to grief. He thought he could lie, over and over and over again, and that no one would ever notice. And thus in the end, it seems, we are indeed left with a morality play on our hands. "Trouthe will oute": the words are as old as the English language. And still as true as ever.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Times of London on Dick Blumenthal: Lies, Damned Lies, and "Misspeaking"

It used to be that there were three types of lies: "lies, damned lies, and statistics." But that is so 20th-century, it now appears.

Today's Times of London has an interesting article about events right here in our own little cabbage patch of Greenwich, Connecticut. It's titled, "Don't Lie -- Try Misspeaking Instead":

Sunday, May 02, 2010

"Almost brings the roof down but doesn't quite..."

Your scribe has been wondering how to follow up on his post about Isabelle Demers, and so far somehow nothing has seemed to fit the bill—until last night, that is. David Flood, Organist and Master of the Choristers at Canterbury Cathedral, is one of those gifted and tireless performers who will never give merely one recital when two will do just as nicely.

Well, it was in fact only a single recital he gave in the Cathedral on the evening of May 1, but as usual there was enough music and musical brilliance to comprise two normal recitals. In fact, David did everything himself, from unlocking the south door to let us all in (was that the same wrought iron key your scribe had used in years past?) to introducing himself (the Archdeacon of Maidstone having decided not to put in an appearance on David’s behalf) to playing one of the best recitals Canterbury—and indeed the rest of the musical world—has yet heard.

The first selection was the Allegro Maestoso from Elgar’s Sonata in G. Like the consummate artist he is, David used the opportunity to showcase different stops that are rarely heard in the day-to-day use of the organ. Likewise, his rendition of Jehan Alain’s Le jardin suspendu was an aural palette of sounds incorporating typical Alain idioms with long sustained notes from which the delicately contrapuntal musical garden hung.

One of the most exciting pieces in organ literature is Alexandre Guilmant's March on a theme of Handel, that theme being, of course, the "Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates" chorus from The Messiah. Rich in French Romantic tonalities and harmonies, the march devolves into a massive fugue reminiscent of Bach on steroids. Hands and feet flying, David sailed through it flawlessly, sending chills up and down the spines of his listeners. The dimly-lit cathedral seemed like a stone forest, and the combined beauty of the music and the setting created a sense of sheer magic.

Franck’s Prelude, Fugue, and Variation were straightforward, although David diplomatically reminded us of the “joining movement" that leads into the fugue, saying that if we counted four movements we weren’t wrong, but delicately telling us to wait until the end of the work to applaud. Canterbury’s organ will never sound like a Cavaillé-Coll, but Franck himself would no doubt have approved of David’s masterful playing.

Next followed Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in E Minor, nicknamed “The Wedge” because of the fugue subject that continually widens until the organist’s fingers and feet, initially close together, wind up an octave apart. Just as Bach did, David basically set his registration and played, with none of the gimmickry that modern organists sometimes employ. The result was a pure and homogeneous performance.

Most organists would have ended their recital at that point. David, catching a second wind, kept on going. Alan Rideout’s Three Resurrection Dances were dedicated to David’s predecessor, Allan Wicks, who died just under three months ago, on February 4  of this year. Based on three paintings by Graham Sutherland, these whimsical pieces refuse to be serious about the subject of death. Well, the entire recital was a gloss on that text. Great music lives on, and as a result, the memories of those who compose it and perform it do also.

Flor Peeter’s Lied to the Flowers was a pastiche of soft, crisp lines again showcasing some of the lightest, most rarely heard pipes on the organ. A series of unresolved dissonances makes the listener positively hungry for the sweet harmonies that bring the piece to its lovely close.

The Finale from Widor’s Symphonie VI “almost brings the roof down, but doesn’t quite,” to quote David. ’Nough said. All in all, a fabulous recital. And what does all of this have to do with Greenwich, gentle reader? Well, David has promised to try to fit us in on the choir’s next trip to the US. Then everyone in our Town will have a chance to hear the superb musicianship which he has made a hallmark of Canterbury. Meantime, he sends his greetings to Philip Moore and Jamie Hitel of Christ Church, and his assistant organist John Robinson says hello to both Jamie and James Kennerley. It's a small world we live in these days.