Saturday, 4 November 2017

Elvis Presley's Pink Cadillac, but which one?


Elvis Presley’s pink Cadillac (with a black roof, please note) is up for auction for up to three million dollars. A BBC TV presenter told us it is a 1957 model. But is it THE pink Cadillac? Well, yes, it is, according to the Daily Mail. And it comes with authentification, etc. But I hope the buyer will know exactly what he’s buying....

Elvis owned not one, not two, but three pink Cadillacs at various times. Elvis’s original genuine pink 1954 Cadillac Fleetwood, which he bought in early 1955, “burned up on the road” in the summer of that year. (Colour of roof unknown). He even sang about having a pink Cadillac in 'Baby Let's Play House' when he recorded it at Sun Studio earlier that year. Elvis then immediately bought a blue 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood (which had a black roof) as a replacement, and had it resprayed in a customised ‘Elvis Rose’ pink (keeping the black roof). Two months later, the car was in a collision with another vehicle, suffering minor damage, and in early 1956 Elvis had the paintwork retouched (and the roof resprayed white). in Between 1956 and 1960, he bought other cars, and perhaps one of these was the 1957 pink soon to be auctioned. In 1960, Elvis bought a white Cadillac Coupe de Ville (which had a pink roof). Was this one also resprayed pink? No idea. Thereafter he bought many cars (Cadillacs, Lincolns, Stutzes, Rolls Royces, etc.).

Some time after Elvis died, in 1977, Elvis’s ‘original pink Cadillac’ (restored and looking new) was put on display at Graceland, and it’s still there - although it has been sent on exhibition tours to other countries at various times. But which one is it? The first photo below, seen on display somewhere, is one of them, anyway. Probably either the first or the second of the pink Cadillacs. And this is not the 1957 model whose copyrighted photos can be seen in the Daily Mail.


To add to the confusion, an unspecified number of 1950s Cadillac Fleetwoods over the intervening years have been restored and sprayed pink (with pink, white or black sprayed roofs), and sold as ‘Elvis pink Cadillacs’. Phenomenal!

Remember - how could we forget? - forty years after his death, ‘Elvis’ continues relentlessly to grow. More and more merchandise is marketed. Elvis’s denigrated manager, ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker, who fleeced Elvis of millions of dollars of his earnings (and eventually gambled it all away) while marketing his ‘boy’ with numerous cheap items, had nothing on the present day ‘industry’. Top of the field is Elvis Presley Enterprizes, although, to their credit, they have preserved Elvis's mansion and estate (Graceland, etc., including the family graves) as one of America's popular tourist attractions.

Meanwhile, right now at London’s O2 arena, another Elvis exhibition has opened. This one, much smaller than the previous one, and sharing the space with a Prince exhibition, is essentially just a display of many of Elvis’s concert dress items (jumpsuits, shoes, etc.). Reportedly (from someone who really knows), the clothes are not displayed in the manner in which Elvis wore them, nor are there any accompanying photos to prove their authenticity, despite many being available from various sources. Admission price: £25. Car park price: £30. Astonishing commercialism! And our local newspaper, the Kent Messenger, currently has a two-page illustrated spread. And the event is not in Kent. Here’s one 1950s/1960s fan and admirer who will NOT be going.

Back in the 1950s, when Elvis was the real singing, trend-setting Elvis, performing and recording, generating real news, he was largely shunned by the British news and broadcasting media.

The King is long dead. Long live his music, his real legacy.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Elijah and his fiery chariot - amended repost from 2007

The choir of which I was chairman until a couple of years ago, East Malling Singers, performed Mendelssohn's splendid oratorio Elijah at the Church of St James the Great, East Malling, Kent, in June 2007. The biblical text of one part of Elijah - No. 38 - had been part of the inspiration for the name of this weblog, Fiery Chariot:

"Then did Elijah the prophet break forth like a fire; his words appeared like burning torches. Mighty kings by him were overthrown. He stood on the mount of Sinai, and heard the judgments of the future; and in Horeb, its vengeance. And when the Lord would take him away to heaven, lo! there came a fiery chariot, with fiery horses; and he went by a whirlwind to heaven."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yhoC-iFuro

Another factor in choosing the name Fiery Chariot was my fascination for powerful jet aircraft and rockets, the most astonishing of which, in terms of sheer size, weight, power and speed, was the Saturn V launch vehicle, a gigantic 3-stage rocket, employed in the United States' 1960s/1970s Apollo Project for landing men on the moon and bringing them back safely. At launch the Saturn V was 110 metres high, 10 metres diameter, 3,000 tonnes weight, over 4,000 tonnes thrust; and ultimately it had a 40,000 km/hr maximum speed in space. Mind boggling? Well, in English money that's as high as St Paul's Cathedral, as wide as a 3-line motorway carriageway, as heavy as 2,000 large cars, 60 times more powerful and noisy than Concorde at take off; and at maximum speed an equivalent journey time for London to Paris of about 35 seconds! OK, it's still mind boggling. It's also the ultimate fiery chariot. Photos and videos simply cannot convey its audacity but, for the record:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24v8zRaXLiY&t=271s


After my little digression, and prompted by the fact that I have since sung this work several times, and am currently rehearsing it with a special choir to perform it in Canterbury Cathedral as part of this year's Canterbury Festival, and in aid of Save the Children, back to the music.  First, the composer:

Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn was born in Leipzig in 1809, the grandson of a famous Jewish philosopher, Moses Mendelssohn, and the son of a banker. The family took the name 'Bartholdy' when they converted from Judaism to Christianity, but Felix insisted on keeping both names. He belonged to the class of educated people in easy circumstances: his musical genius was quickly recognised and encouraged - before he was 15 he had written as many symphonies and an opera, all of which were discarded! In his early twenties, Mendelssohn travelled the world becoming a great favourite in England. He had a penchant for making and keeping friends, among them Queen Victoria, and in rehearsals he was described as being modest and charming, with unfailing tact and politeness. As Director of Music at Düsseldorf and in Leipzig, with its famous Gewandhaus concerts, Mendelssohn was influenced in his composing by Handel and Bach, and their musical styles are evident in Elijah.

Mendelssohn can be said to be a classical Romantic composer in that he used the classical forms, but belonged, with Liszt, Berlioz and Chopin, to the composers of the new music coming from Europe with its exciting virtuosity and exotic harmonies. His appeal to the English was the result of a number of circumstances. England's new concert halls, fulfilling the Victorian philosophy of moral and social improvement for the middle and working classes, were built to house large choral concerts usually accompanied by the organ, and could satisfy the Victorian's love of contrasts in volume and sound. But music and morals were closely tied in Victorian England. Here the oratorio came into its own - a drama, usually based on a Biblical or other sacred subject, but without the limitations of an operatic staging. It could, therefore, have an epic or contemplative breadth not possible in an opera and could be staged in the new concert halls around the country.

So, when Mendelssohn stood on the rostrum of Birmingham Town Hall on 26 August 1846 to conduct the first performance of Elijah, success was assured. The Times wrote: "Never was there a more complete triumph". From the daring harmonies of Thanks be to God to the anger of the mob in Woe to him, the audience enjoyed the 500 voices and the mighty organ, happy in the knowledge that they were improving their minds and their morals!

Mendelssohn's death followed shortly afterwards. He returned to England the following year with a revised Elijah and gave four performances. But he had been shocked and depressed by the death of his older sister Fanny and in October 1847 was himself dead at the age of 38.

(EMS programme notes courtesy of Christine Hide of Daventry Choral Society)


Some more video excerpts:

No. 1: 'Help, Lord! wilt Thou quite destroy us?'

chttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sSEdTaWBVc

No. 29, 'He watching over Israel slumbers not nor sleeps'. Well, at this speed he wouldn't:

ghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqhBvwL5QBg

Now for a piece of history. Ernest Lough sings 'Hear ye, Israel!', the aria which launches the Second Part of Elijah. As you will hear, this was a 'scratch' performance given when Lough was aged 16 (although he sounds more like he was half that age):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jq-ti1PVjvg

And a 'moving' performance by the accompanist's page turner:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=28&amp=&v=ESGHjqz5B_s



Here's the story of Elijah:

As told in the Old Testament (1 and 2 Kings), Elijah is characterised as a stern, unyielding prophet of God called to lead the Israelite people back to worship of their one true God. He has a pivotal role in acting between the true, just God and the Israelites, called to serve God as His loyal interpreter to a fickle and wayward people. They are swayed first one way in response to God's miracles and then the other by Queen Jezebel as she incites them to crowd violence. The mainspring of the drama is the tension between the Israelites and Elijah: a series of powerfully dramatic choral movements convey the role of the population while Elijah's response to them is vividly portrayed in his three main arias - his opposition to them (Lord God of Abraham), his winning back of the people's trust (Is not His word like a fire) and his desertion by them (It is enough). Mendelssohn's music shows his effective use of the dramatic Handelian sweep of the oratorio, interpolated with Bachian-style meditations on the story.

Elijah takes centre stage from the beginning, calling down a drought upon the land as punishment for the people's deserting the true God and worshipping Baal. (Queen Jezebel had brought her heathen Baal gods with her to Israel and King Ahab had allowed their infiltration into the people's beliefs and worship.) The theme of drought and God's ultimate sending of rain takes up the first half of the oratorio, with two side plots in which God shows his mercy and his power. He shows his care by bringing back to life the widow's son and promising that her food supply will not run out. He provides dramatic evidence of his power to the Israelites in the contest on Mount Carmel between God and the prophets of Baal. The first half of the oratorio ends with the crowd acknowledging God's mercy and omnipotence.

The second part opens with God's words of reassurance to his people. Then Elijah confronts King Ahab. This gives Jezebel the chance to incite the people against Elijah and Elijah despairs of his mission. Angelic care and his witnessing the glory of the Lord at Mount Horeb restore his courage. The people describe the vigour with which Elijah returns to proclaim God's power and the miraculous consummation of his life as he is taken up into heaven in a 'fiery chariot'. Mendelssohn sees Elijah's life in its scriptural context as the forerunner of the Messiah, and in the final chorus he looks to the completion of Elijah's mission in the coming of the Christ.

(EMS programme notes courtesy of Christine Hide of Daventry Choral Society)


Here are some fiery chariot paintings (I couldn't find any featuring the Saturn V):


Ascension of Elijah by Juan de Valdés Leal

Elijah Taken up in a Chariot of Fire by Giovanni Battista


Russian Icon: The Prophet Elijah and the Fiery Chariot


Russian icon: The Fiery Ascension of Elijah the Prophet - Northern School


Russian icon of unknown name - Novgorodian 16th century


For a comprehensive collection of Elijah paintings you cannot do better than look at https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=The+Fiery+Ascension+of+Elijah+the+Prophet&client=firefox-b&dcr=0&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiKgcCZts_WAhXJCBoKHQMfD2cQsAQILg&biw=1126&bih=1186


Finally, the Overture from Elijah fits remarkably well over this Flight to the Ford scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Both the audio and the video are completely un-cut. It was a miraculous coincidence the way the music fit the video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RniDZs9IAZw&t=22s



Thursday, 7 September 2017


The Long homostyle Primrose
and its discovery by my parents
 


Botanists and lovers of flowers will be familiar with the two well-known heterostyle types of Primula vulgaris, commonly known as the Primrose, which are: pin-eyed and thrum-eyed. In figure 1 we see (a) the former type, where the stigma is positioned above the level of the anthers, causing floral visitors to first contact the stigma before removing pollen from the anthers, and (b) the latter type, where the stigma is recessed below the level of the anthers, causing floral visitors to first contact the anthers before the stigma:
J. L. Crosby

This spatial separation of the anthers and stigma serves to reduce self-fertilization between male (anthers) and female (stigma) function'. With the pin-type flower, pollination occurs when they are visited by a large, diverse fauna (e.g. bees), whereas with the thrum-type flower, pollination occurs typically through visits by moths and butterflies. 

But there is another type of Primrose flower - the third type: which is the 'long homostyle' - figure 2 - where the anther and stigma are in close proximity to each other, enabling self-fertilization instead of relying on visiting insects for pollination.
 J. L. Crosby

With the exception of botanists, most people do not know about the long homostyle type because, to date, it is has been found only in a very small area of Somerset, and in another very small area in the Chilterns. The long homostyle Primula vulgaris, previously unknown to Charles Darwin and botanists, was first found by my late parents, Marian and David Greenham.

Marian and David made the unexpected discovery in the spring of 1939, at which time they were engaged to be married. Remarkably unselfishly - for while Marian lived and worked in the village of West Camel, Somerset, David had been living away, studying at Cambridge - they spent almost all of their Easter holiday collecting many samples of primroses in Sparkford Wood, Somerset, just two miles from their respective, permanent homes in West Camel. And they did this to help a Cambridge University botany graduate friend of my father's, Jack L Crosby, who, as part of his work for his PhD, was researching the distribution of the pin-eyed and thrum-eyed types of Primrose in many parts of the country, enlisting the help of many friends and colleagues around the country. Little did Crosby suspect that a significant discovery was about to be made. And how incredibly lucky it was that Marian and David happened to live near one of the only two now known locations of long homostyles, and that Sparkford Wood was chosen for sampling work!

In published articles, Dr. Jack Crosby explained that my father had found the first homostyle primroses and that my mother, then known as Marian Llewelyn Jones, had sent all the samples to him at Cambridge. I recall my parents telling me about this, except that they said that it was actually my mother who found the first long homostyle.

Many years later, BBC Television twice screened a 30-minute nature programme centred on this discovery. It was introduced by Dr. David Bellamy, and presented by Dr. Crosby, and, much to my parents' amusement, included filmed sequences with actors portraying my courting parents strolling romantically through woodland, occasionally stooping to pick primroses, and all the while dressed impracticably in fine clothes of the period.

My father came to know Jack Crosby while he, too, was at Cambridge University also studying botany.  They both completed their PhDs after the end of the Second World War. Jack Crosby made a career out of botanical research, securing a post at Durham University, while my father worked as a scientist at East Malling Research Station, Kent, becoming Head of the Fruit Nutrition Section.

References

Charles Darwin (1862). On the two forms, or dimorphic condition, in the species of Primula, and on their remarkable sexual relations. Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnaean Society (Botany).

Charles Darwin (1877). The Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species. London: Murray.

J L Crosby (April 17, 1940). High Proportions of Homostyle Plants in Populations of Primula vulgaris. Nature, April 27, 1940, Vol. 145. (And references to this in some subsequent articles published elsewhere).


Written in fond memory of my parents, Marian and David Greenham, who married at West Camel in November 1939, and lived in East Malling from 1946 until their deaths in 1991 and 2007 respectively.

From left: Robert, Marian, David, Stella (my sister) (c.1960)

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Maidstone Music Festival

Our Maidstone Music Festival is now in its fifth year and continues to grow steadily in strength and popularity. Here is the new brochure for 2012:

Saturday, 11 June 2011

MMF

Maidstone Music Festival is now in its fourth year, being an annual event which has become a useful and enjoyable addition to pre-existing opportunities for amateur musicians in the Maidstone area of Kent.

My wife, Sue, taught piano in Maidstone for many years and she always thought it ridiculous that the county town of Kent was one of the few large towns lacking its own educative festival for amateur musicians. Many other music teachers she knew felt the same way, and so it is for this reason that in 2007 she decided to organise one herself. The inaugural festival, mmf08, took place at the end of November 2008 and was very well received by participants, adjudicators and sponsors. The festival was also visited by a representative of the British and International Federation of Festivals for Music, Dance and Speech, and received praising comments; our festival became affiliated to the Federation shortly afterwards.


This festival is different from anything that previously occurred in Maidstone in that, like many festivals elsewhere, it provides opportunities for amateur musicians of all ages and levels of ability to perform individually to an audience and to receive educative adjudication from highly qualified musicians. All entrants are awarded a certificate, classified according to merit, and a personal written adjudication on their performance. The element of competition is kept to a minimum in order to encourage performers to learn from one another. There are both competitive and non-competitive classes, and the festival provides a friendly and supportive platform for musicians to share in the excitement of making music. Maidstone Music Festival, a non-profit organisation, now promotes a prestigious annual event which gives pleasure and real value to performers and listeners alike, and the most frequently heard comments from participants are that they had found our festival not only educative but also entertaining and great fun!


Encouraged by our initial success, we expanded the scope of the festival by adding categories - Plucked Strings; Accordion, Concertina, Harmonica; and Mixed Ensembles – to those of Piano, Bowed strings, Woodwind/Brass/Recorders, and Singing, and also by extending the range of classes. This year we are introducing, among other things, non-competitive classes for family ensembles within each category. In common with similar festivals, however, we have had disappointingly few entries from players of wind instruments and we are at pains to do what we can to stimulate greater interest.


Maidstone Music Festival 2011 will be held at Invicta Grammar School on the weekend of 26/27 November, 2011, with a concert on the evening of Saturday 3 December.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Maidstone Music Festival Friends

mmf SUPPORTING MAIDSTONE MUSIC FESTIVAL mmf


AIMS OF THE FESTIVAL

Maidstone Music Festival provides a friendly and supportive platform for amateur musicians, of all ages and abilities, to share in the excitement of making music. The competitive element is minimised in order to encourage performers to learn from one another. This educational festival, a non-profit organisation wherein the committee and additional staff all work entirely voluntarily, aims to promote a prestigious annual event giving pleasure and real value to performers and listeners alike.


THE FUTURE OF THE FESTIVAL WILL DEPEND ON FINANCIAL SUPPORT

Maidstone Music Festival is affiliated to the British and International Federation of Festivals for Music, Dance and Speech, and we intend to seek charitable status. We will continue to seek funding from various bodies, and sponsorship from private sector organisations, but we would like also to encourage the help of individuals for whom amateur music-making is close to the heart. Please consider supporting the Festival financially; three ways are open to you:


Make a donation

Make a legacy

Become a 'Friend'


FRIENDS OF MAIDSTONE MUSIC FESTIVAL

In return for a minimum lifetime donation of £250, or a minimum annual donation of £15, Friends of Maidstone Music Festival are entitled to unlimited audience entry to classes, free programmes, a guaranteed seat and programme for the concert, an annual newsletter and an acknowledgement in the programmes.


REGISTER YOUR INTEREST NOW

If you would like to know more about donations, legacies or Friends, please contact me via the comments facility below.

Maidstone Music Festival


Maidstone Music Festival is now in its fourth year, being an annual event which has become a useful and enjoyable addition to pre-existing opportunities for amateur musicians in the Maidstone area of Kent.

My wife, Sue, taught piano in Maidstone for many years and she always thought it ridiculous that the county town of Kent was one of the few large towns lacking its own educative festival for amateur musicians. Many other music teachers she knew felt the same way, and so it is for this reason that in 2007 she decided to organise one herself. The inaugural festival, mmf08, took place at the end of November 2008 and was very well received by participants, adjudicators and sponsors. The festival was also visited by a representative of the British and International Federation of Festivals for Music, Dance and Speech, and received praising comments; our festival became affiliated to the Federation shortly afterwards.


This festival is different from anything that previously occurred in Maidstone in that, like many festivals elsewhere, it provides opportunities for amateur musicians of all ages and levels of ability to perform individually to an audience and to receive educative adjudication from highly qualified musicians. All entrants are awarded a certificate, classified according to merit, and a personal written adjudication on their performance. The element of competition is kept to a minimum in order to encourage performers to learn from one another. There are both competitive and non-competitive classes, and the festival provides a friendly and supportive platform for musicians to share in the excitement of making music. Maidstone Music Festival, a non-profit organisation, now promotes a prestigious annual event which gives pleasure and real value to performers and listeners alike, and the most frequently heard comments from participants are that they had found our festival not only educative but also entertaining and great fun!


Encouraged by our initial success, we expanded the scope of the festival by adding categories - Plucked Strings; Accordion, Concertina, Harmonica; and Mixed Ensembles – to those of Piano, Bowed strings, Woodwind/Brass/Recorders, and Singing, and also by extending the range of classes. This year we are introducing, among other things, non-competitive classes for family ensembles within each category. In common with similar festivals, however, we have had disappointingly few entries from players of wind instruments and we are at pains to do what we can to stimulate greater interest.


Maidstone Music Festival 2011 will be held at Invicta Grammar School on the weekend of 26/27 November, 2011, with a concert on the evening of Saturday 3 December.