Friday 30 October 2015


“Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” - Winston Churchill

Reinhold Glière, Russian in full Reyngold Moritsevich Glier (born December 30, 1874 [January 11, 1875, New Style], Kiev, Ukraine, Russian Empire [now Kyiv, Ukraine]—died June 23, 1956, Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R.), was a Soviet composer, of German and Polish descent, who was noted for his works incorporating elements of the folk music of several eastern Soviet republics.

Glière was the son of a musician and maker of wind instruments. He attended the Moscow Conservatory, where he studied violin, composition, and music theory with such notable composers as Sergey Taneyev, Anton Arensky, and Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov and from where he graduated in 1900. After teaching for a while in Moscow, he studied conducting in Berlin from 1905 to 1907, first appearing in Russia as a conductor in 1908, the same year his tone poem Sireny (“The Sirens”) was enthusiastically received. Glière taught at the Kiev Conservatory and was appointed director in 1914.

He returned to Moscow in 1920, taught at the conservatory there, and became involved in studying folk music, traveling widely to collect material. The opera Shakhsenem (first performed 1934) resulted from his study of the national music of Azerbaijan, and Uzbek elements appear in the opera Gyulsara (1936). Glière achieved a high status in the Soviet musical world after the Russian Revolution, largely because of his interest in national styles. He organised workers’ concerts and directed committees of the Moscow Union of Composers and Union of Soviet Composers.

At the end of the 20th century, Glière’s music was principally performed in countries formerly of the Soviet Union, although his ballet Krasny mak (1927; The Red Poppy) won wider international popularity for a time. Also well regarded were the ballet Medny vsadnik (1949; The Bronze Horseman) and his Symphony No. 3 (1909–11; Ilya Muromets). Although Glière was highly respected by many, his often politically motivated works—e.g., the overture 25 let Krasnoy Armii (1943; Twenty-five Years of the Red Army and Torzhestvennaya uvertyura (K 20-letiyu Oktyabrya) (1937; Solemn Overture for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution), were criticised by others for lack of depth and originality. Nevertheless, his influence on younger Soviet composers was profound. Among his pupils were Sergey Prokofiev, Nikolay Myaskovsky, and Aram Khachaturian.

Reinhold Glière wrote his Concerto for Harp and Orchestra in E-flat major, Op. 74, in 1938. It lasts about 25 minutes and is in three movements:
I. Allegro moderato in E-flat major
II. Tema con variazioni in C-flat major
III. Allegro giocoso in E-flat major

Glière sought the technical advice of the harpist Ksenia Alexandrovna Erdely (1878-1971). She made so many suggestions that he offered to credit her as co-composer, but she declined. The work was published as the work of Glière as edited by Erdely. The music is immediately accessible although it breaks no new ground in terms of compositional techniques or technical demands on the solo harpist. It combines features that are redolent of both the Viennese classical style and Russian romantic nationalism.


“I love the scents of winter! For me, it’s all about the feeling you get when you smell pumpkin spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, gingerbread and spruce.” - Taylor Swift

We are seeing more and more merchandising and brou-ha-ha about Halloween in the last few years in Australia. Twenty years ago, one hardly heard anything about it. Now, it is getting a great deal of air time and children especially are getting into it. The last couple of years we have had the great big orange pumpkins for carving sold by supermarket chains. Here is my contribution to Halloween, with this delicious recipe:

650g butternut pumpkin, peeled, deseeded
110g butter, softened
1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
1/2 cup of chopped dates

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease base and sides of a 6cm deep, 10.5cm x 20.5cm (base) loaf pan. Line with baking paper, allowing a 2cm overhang at both long ends.
Wash and cut pumpkin into 4cm pieces. With water clinging, place pumpkin in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high power (100%) for 3 to 4 minutes or until pumpkin is tender. Set aside to cool. Drain and place cooled pumpkin in a food processor. Process until smooth (you should have 1 cup).
Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until well combined. Stir in pumpkin.
Sift flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves over pumpkin mixture. Add walnuts and dates, stirring gently to combine. Spoon into prepared pan. Smooth surface. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Stand in pan for 10 minutes. Lift onto a wire rack. Serve warm or cold.

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Thursday 29 October 2015


“A lover fears all that he believes.” - Ovid

One of the most fundamental and universal of human needs is that of finding a special person to share one’s life with. A soul mate, a life-partner, a person whom we can love and who loves us. That other half whom we seek in order to feel complete as individuals.

Plato in “The Symposium” says that according to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves. When one of the halves meets its other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy and one will not be out of the other’s sight even for a moment...

Our need to love and feel loved in return often will dictate extraordinary behaviour and may cause us to go to astonishing lengths in order to attain our goal. Our interaction with people that come in and out of our life may go through different stages of intimacy until we meet “the one”. Quite often circumstance may conspire against us and the level of interaction with the object of our affection may be hampered by other people, distance, misunderstandings, misconceptions, inability to express our desires, failure of articulating our needs, or lack of courage to make ourselves vulnerable to another person.

To declare one’s love to another always is a difficult step and in order for it occur the time and place must be right. Sometimes it only takes an instant and two people fall into each other with the force of locomotives on a collision course. More often than not, the journey is slow and painful, full of wrong turns, dead ends and maze-like corridors with many branches and the encounter that occurs at long last is as gentle as a butterfly alighting on a flower.

But if the stars are aligned and if the two halves that meet are truly complementary, what joy! It is love, for what is love but the name for our pursuit of wholeness, for our desire to be complete!

Wednesday 28 October 2015


“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” - Confucius

The theme for this week’s Poets United challenge is “animation”. My response to this is the poem below:


Deep in the wet and cold, black earth

A seed sleeps, profoundly, silently.
The sleep of a long, insensate death
A state of quiet, suspended animation.

The days, weeks, months and years pass,

As sun and moon revolve tireless, endlessly.
The seed sleeps, and yet as sure as greening grass
Will grow, the seed awaits life’s creation.

Some hidden internal clock marks time and ticks,

The seed stirs and juices start to flow secretly.
There is awakening: A myriad of chemicals mix
And the seed cracks open with the force of animation.

A common occurrence, a billion times replayed,

But always a wonder, as nature intends, instinctively.
A tiny seed, will live again and sprout forth in a glade
To form a flower, a bush, a tree, in glorious foliation.

What mystery in a tiny, sleeping seed enclosed,

What coexistence of death and life mixed intimately!
What joy to see the seed’s hidden, inner life exposed,
What evidence of a divine purpose and the power of animation!

Tuesday 27 October 2015


“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Gautama Buddha

The Catholic faith celebrates the feast day of St Frumentius today, while the Greek Orthodox church commemorates St Nestor the Martyr’s Feast Day. St Vincent and The Grenadines celebrate their Independence (National) Day (since 1979); while in Turkmenistan it is Independence Day and in Zaïre - Naming Day.

Today is the anniversary of the birth of:
 Niccoló Paganini, composer/violinist (1782);
 Isaac Merrit Singer, inventor of home sewing machine (1811);
 Klas Arnoldson, Nobel laureate (1908) pacifist (1844);
 Theodore Roosevelt, Nobel laureate (1906), 26th president (1901-09) of the USA, (1858);
 Emily Post, etiquette expert (1872);
 Dylan Thomas, writer (1914);
 Oliver Tambo, ANC leader (1917);
 Nanette Fabray, actress (1920);
 Sylvia Plath, writer (1932);
 John Cleese, English comedian (1939);
 Carrie Snodgrass, actress (1945);
 Fran Lebowitz, writer (1950);
 Jayne Kennedy, entertainer (1951).

The lemon scented gum, Eucalyptus citriodora, is the birthday plant for this day.  It is a tall graceful tree whose many elongated leaves exude a wonderful lemon scent when bruised.  The plant symbolises nostalgic memories. In the language of flowers it says: “I remember your charms”.

Sloes (Prunus spinosa) should be gathered at around this time in the Northern Hemisphere, as they are ripening.  If you intend to keep sloes, pick them not quite ripe and store them on the bough.  Sloes for wine, sloe gin or jelly should be gathered quite ripe after they have gone through a frost or two. Sloes can be used as a cure against lax bowels:
  “By th’ end of October, go gather up sloes
  Have thou in readiness plenty of those
  And keep them in bedstraw, or still on the bough
  To stay both the flux of thyself and thy cow.”
       Five Hundred Good Points of Husbandry  (1573); Thomas Tusser (ca 1520-1580)

1 and 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 pound (≈ 454 g) sloes
3 cups of gin

Remove the stalks from the sloes, wash and dry them thoroughly.  Prick the fruit with a large needle and put them into a large screw top jar, in alternating layers with the sugar.  Leave for three days, shaking the jar from time to time.  Add the gin on the fourth day and leave in a dark, cool place for three months, shaking occasionally.  Strain, bottle and cork and leave to mature for one year.  Filter and rebottle, drink in moderation and enjoy.

Niccolò Paganini (1782–1840) was an Italian violin virtuoso and composer. He extended the violin’s compass by employing harmonics, perfected the use of double and triple stops, and revived scordatura, diverse tuning of strings. He wrote for the violin predominantly, for example Concerto for Violin No 1 in D. His 24 caprices for violin solo were adapted for piano by Schumann and Liszt. Rachmaninov also was inspired by this composer and worth listening to is the Rhapsody on aTheme by Paganini, by Rachmaninov. 

Monday 26 October 2015


“Older men declare war. But it is the youth that must fight and die.” - Herbert Hoover

We watched a film classic last weekend. It was the 1956 Fred Zinnemann movie, “From Here to Eternity” with a screenplay by Daniel Taradash, based on James Jones’ novel and starring Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed and Ernest Borgnine. This was classic 1950s black and white Hollywood, with a star-studded cast and a plot that seemed to be made to please everyone.

The action takes place in Hawaii, in 1941. Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Clift) has requested Army transfer and has ended up at Schofield in Hawaii. His new captain, Dana Holmes (Philip Ober), has heard of his boxing prowess and is keen to get him to represent the company. However, 'Prew' is adamant that he doesn't box anymore, so Captain Holmes gets his subordinates to make his life a living hell. Meanwhile Sergeant Warden (Lancaster) starts seeing the captain’s wife (Kerr), who has a history of seeking external relief from a troubled marriage. Prew’s friend Maggio (Sinatra) has a few altercations with the sadistic stockade Sergeant ‘Fatso’ Judson (Borgnine), and Prew begins falling in love with social club employee Lorene (Reed). Amidst all of this, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor will cause havoc and loosen in one way or another some of the plot knots.

The film is an ensemble piece for the cast with quite interesting parts for both leads and supporting actors. Many of the actors were cast against type, but it all works well and they are quite believable in their role. The film is essentially an army story, telling of the lives of soldiers in peacetime Hawaii before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It is a fairly good description of army life then (and the film is of sociological and historical interest, if nothing else), and the relationships that it depicts are genuine and believable, even if the whole turns out to be a bit of a pot-boiler.

Most of all, the acting credits go to Montgomery Clift, in what possibly is the best role of his career. He plays the assertive, funny, tough, sensitive and charismatic soldier, the rebellious loner with the streak of nobility. James Dean idolised him after seeing his portrayal in this film.

This was “the” film of 1953, having won eight Oscars, including Best Picture, against a very strong field which also included “Roman Holiday”, “Julius Caesar” and “Shane”, as well as Best Director for Fred Zinnemann. Five of the cast were nominated and two of them, Donna Reed (Alma) and Frank Sinatra (Maggio) won. This was the film that made Sinatra a big star as an actor as well as a singer. It is interesting that Frank Sinatra took the Oscar, when I thought Clift clearly deserved one more than Sinatra did.

Overall, we enjoyed seeing this film, which despite its age engaged and interested us for its whole nearly two-hour duration. The two scenes that are memorable are legendary in moviemaking are quite diametrically different: Lancaster and Kerr rolling around and being passionate in the Hawaiian surf while a wave rushes over their bodies; and the other being the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, brief, and with multiple inserts of newsreel footage and shots from an earlier documentary by Gregg Toland, but exciting and well done. Well worth seeing this bit of Hollywood history…

Sunday 25 October 2015


“Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.” - Claude Monet

William Blamire Young (1862-1935), artist, was born on 9 August 1862 at Londesborough, Yorkshire, England, son of Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Young, land agent, and his wife Mary, née Bowser. William was educated at Forest School, Walthamstow, Essex, and Pembroke College, Cambridge (B.A., 1884; M.A., 1897). In 1885 he was appointed mathematics master at Katoomba College, New South Wales. “Enthusiastic, 191 cm tall, strong and healthy and very fond of cricket”, he was active in the local community and established a friendship with the cartoonist Phil May.

In 1893 Young went back to England. After a short period at Herkomer’s art school at Bushey, Hertfordshire, he became involved with the innovative poster work of the ‘Beggarstaffs’. On 1 July 1895 at St Peter’s parish church, Bushey, he married Mabel Ellen Sawyer, an accomplished woodcarver whose work contributed to their support. He returned to Australia and in 1895-98 was art advertising manager to the Austral Cycle Agency, Melbourne, whose advertisements appeared in Cycling News, Sportsman, the Bulletin and other popular magazines.

Briefly engaged in producing posters with Norman and Lionel Lindsay and Harry Weston, Young became prominent as a poster artist. He next began to paint large watercolour scenes of Melbourne’s pioneering days, among them the printing of the first newspaper, the first christening and Lady Jane Franklin’s reception at Fawkner’s hotel. Abandoning such work about 1906, he then attempted to communicate his reaction to the Australian landscape in an imaginative way, for he believed the gulf between the European artist and his Australian subject to be so great that to depict the landscape realistically was an empty exercise.

His first one-man show in Melbourne in 1909 was followed by others in Melbourne (1910), Adelaide and Melbourne (1911) and Sydney and Melbourne (1912). When he left for England in December 1912, Young was well known in the Australian art world: His watercolours hung in several State galleries and he had exhibited with the Victorian Artists’ Society, the Society of Artists, Sydney, the Royal Art Society of New South Wales and the Royal South Australian Society of Arts. A member of the T-Square Club, he had attended meetings of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects and designed layouts for its Journal.

After eighteen months in Sussex preparing for an exhibition, which was cancelled by the outbreak of World War I, early in 1915 Young joined the British Army as an instructor in musketry; in 1917 he completed Landscape Target Practises for Miniature Rifle Shooting. He exhibited with the Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Society of British Artists, Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours and other groups. In 1920 he held a large exhibition in London and was invited to provide miniatures for Queen Mary’s dolls house.

Having maintained contact through several exhibitions held in Melbourne in 1920-21, Young returned there in 1923. “The Art of Blamire Young” had been published as a special number of Art in Australia (1921), its text echoing his articles in “Drawing and Design” (London, 1919-20) and his unpublished “Autobiographical Sketch” written in 1920. Securely established, he was recognized everywhere as one of the leading artists in watercolour in Australia. He showed regularly in most capital cities and was in demand for lectures and after-dinner speeches; a connoisseur of wine, he was also a member of the National Rose Society of Victoria.

Young was a voluminous writer and an astute critic: He had contributed to the ‘Argus’ in 1904-12 and sent articles and drawings to journals such as the ‘Lone Hand’. One of his plays, “The Children’s Bread”, was performed in Melbourne in December 1911. He published “The Proverbs of Goya” in 1923 and produced “Adventures in Paint”, a hand-written book with twenty-seven original watercolours in 1924. As art critic for the Melbourne Herald in 1929-34, he wrote over 400 articles.

Young cannot be identified with either the modernist developments or the conservative academic establishment of the 1920s and 1930s in Melbourne. He was responsive to a range of art, he campaigned for what he considered ‘modern art’, but remained friendly with conservatives like Bob Croll, Harold Herbert, Hans Heysen and Lionel Lindsay. While reviewing traditional artists appreciatively, he remained critical of attempts to emulate the early works of Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts, and deplored the effect on students of Bernard Hall and Max Meldrum. He welcomed the work of Margaret Preston, Arnold Shore, Rah Fizelle, Ola Cohn, Eric Thake, Ethel Spowers and J. K. Moore, yet warned against sacrificing conviction for fashion. Blamire Young died on 14 January 1935 at his Lilydale home and was buried in the local cemetery. His wife and two daughters survived him.

The watercolour above is his "The Argyle Cut" of 1890. It is characteristic of his early style, before he started to experiment with a looser, more transparent use of colour and freedom of form (for example, "Repairing the Viaduct" of 1922-24).