Friday, June 17, 2016

In the World of the Arts, It's Never Too Late...

At age 65, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of England. At a time when most men have either retired from a lifetime of work, or are preparing to retire, Churchill was asked by his King to assume his most important task.
And for a fleeting moment about eleven months ago, I felt like another Churchill (well -  perhaps not...) by my being asked to consider doing a bit of radio work on  a nearby university radio station.
Having been retired from my dual tasks at both high school and college teaching for a bundle of years, I thought that it might be fun to resume being useful once again.
Well, looking back at these past months, I'm reasonably confident of   at least one result of my latest escapade; and that is, I may well be the civilized world's oldest disc jockey.
Happily, audience reaction to the programs I have done up to the present time has been positive, and the manager of the station has given me carte blanche to choose whatever subjects I want to put on the air.
From the beginning, I was expected, of course, to project subjects dealing with classical music. However, I suggested that I start with subjects dealing with popular music, and then gradually wean the audience, less painfully, over to the classics -seems to have worked, as I have just during these past months gone over to subjects such as   the transcriptions of Vladimir Horowitz.
At the beginning, I did short histories, followed by recordings of such great, but perhaps lesser known  pop vocalists as Diane Schuur, doing her magic with trumpeter Maynard Ferguson,   and Dame Cleo Laine of England with her arranger/husband Sir John Dankworth performing their legendary version of the Mozart Turkish Rondo, which includes almost unbelievable scat singing of  Dame  Laine.
Another program demonstrated the wonderful fusion of pop and classical by way of George Shearing and his epic arrangement of Richard Rogers' "My Funny Valentine" in the styles of composers ranging from Bach to Delius. More recently I shared some of the wonders of Art Tatum by way of the legendary recordings of 1953  organized  and financed  by recording impresario Norman Granz.
Some weeks ago  I did a program on the three most unusual pianos extant; namely, the Vorsetzer, the double- keyboard piano at the University of Wisconsin, and the Siena piano.
So you can see, I am indeed moving over to the classical aspect.
And reaction has been gratifying; for instance, one listener called in and stated that  his wife would be happy just listening to my reading of the local telephone book - and this call came into the station while I was on the air.
Future plans may include such diversions as bioacoustics , with a recording of an orchestra devoid of any human performer, produced by the  bioacoustician Bernie Krause.
Also, in future perhaps, the art of circular breathing, as exampled by the Paganini Moto Perpetuo  for violin,  done on saxophone and trumpet. A recording by the legendary trumpeter from Mexico, Rafael Mendez, will be included, if I do this program.
And so, you will have noticed that I am having great fun in my latest career. It brings back a rather derisive comment made by a critic after a recital by Artur Rubinstein, then in his eighties - "nice to see an old man on his way up."...
As the great comedian Stan Laurel once sighed, "life isn't short enough."

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