Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Mad March!

What a day this has been … well, what a few days … what a fortnight …

In 18 days I fly out of New Zealand, back to my Winter Palace, in Yamba NSW, where the sun shine always (nearly) and the waves schlepp around my front doorstep …

 So it has been time to get Gerolstein dressed up for the winter, when Wendy has to cope alone with 35 acres, 13 horses, 30 odd peafowl, 3 kitties, the weather … but not me.

This season’s first buy was a new ride-on mower. From the Stihl shop. But it’s not a Stihl, and it will be in on guarantee if it doesn’t start starting more efficiently.

 But this month the fatidic date is suddenly closer. Time to move!!

The Drive. It has been wrecked into potholes over the years by Mainpower and other Public companies who have dug trenches through it for other folks’ water, electricity, phone lines, and sogged by the water from the adjacent council land. It’s also partly shared with the neighbours. But who pays for the maintenance? We do. Call the irreplaceable Taggarts. $4,000 this week.

Then, the Trees. In spite of the destruction of our forest in the storms of former years, we still have a helluva lot of trees. Mostly shelter belts, which, when we had 30 plus horses were needed. Now we have 13. And just as many trees. We’ve had a few different contractors in (cut only, cut and clean, double act, cut and clean) and we’d sort of settled into a painful routine. The worst days of the farmer’s year. But this year our ‘usual’ couldn’t fit us in … so we went searching for HELP. What? They’ll come tomorrow?

Well, I am here to say that if you want tree-trimming, hedge-cutting, immaculate clean up in North Canterbury, call Steve at Tiger Trim (large hedges) and Mike at Grasshopper (smaller hedges and clean up). They are by Royal Appointment here now!

 Clean-up doesn’t include rubbish disposal. So we were left with two huge heaps of branches … oh well, they’ll be dry and burnable by the spring. At 7am Wendy took out the domestic rubbish . and at 10pm the heap burst into flame

By 5pm it was a little splodge of white ash ..

And by 5pm the season’s final extravagance had arrived. A horse manure vacuum. No more shovelling! Brent and Kelley delivered it from Ashburton. Alas, we couldn’t do a test run because the tow-ball didn’t fit …one more thing!

But by and large that’s it. We’re pretty well in order. I just have to restock the bank account! And here comes the rain ...!

Baby, it's cold outside!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Eighteenth century show tunes ....

Any collection of vocal music from the turn of the 18th century is going to include numbers from the most popular musical plays of the time, and my big volume is no exception. Storace, Shield, Linley are names that appear over and over again, and of their most durable works there is very little new to say. I don’t think I could rate the biggest favourites amongst the operas of the time from one to ten, but I think I would be safe in saying that the granddaddy of them all must be R B Sheridan’s The Duenna, or the Double Elopement, with songs by Thomas Linley, produced at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 21 November 1775. The press reported that the piece pulled 6,000 guineas in its first season, giving the theatre its most successful term in history. And it went on from there. I have actually seen a version of this delightful piece on the London stage (unfortunately, fiddled with and remusicked) during my lifetime, so it has indeed proven durable.

 I am not going to attempt to summarise Sheridan’s plot. It is dizzying farrago of mistaken identity, strayed letters, plots, disguises and all the other devices that can keep young lovers apart for two hours. We have two pairs of juveniles (Clara and Ferdinand, Louisa and Antonio), a not really stern father (Jerome), an ugly but warm-hearted and marriageable Portuguese Jew (Isaac), an enabler (Carlos) and the unstarchy duenna of the title, all of whom are intricately involved in the plot, and all of whom get more or less music to sing.

 Personally, I have a preference for the character songs allotted to the elder characters, but it was the ballads and bravuras of the young folk which found their way on to a million British and colonial pianos and into a grand popularity – up to the top of the hit parades of the era.

 My book includes no less than four numbers from the sizeable score of The Duenna. The showy ‘Adieu, thou dreary pile’ a favourite song sung by Miss Stephens’, in the role of Clara, created by Mrs Cargill; ‘Ah! Sure a Pair’ ‘a favourite song sung by Mr Incledon’ as Carlos and his other main song ‘Had I a Heart for Falsehood Fram’d’ (the original Carlos was, curiously, the overtly Jewish ‘Michael Leoni’), plus ‘How oft Louisa hast thou said’, ‘a favourite song sung by Mr Broadhurst at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden’ in the role of Antonio, originated by Dubellamy.

 These, we thus see, are much later examples than the original publications, which hit the music shelves within weeks of the show’s production, as rivals hurried to plagiarise, ‘parody’ and imitate the triumphant piece. I see the publisher Wilkie advertising ‘the songs, duets trios in The Duenna’ by new year’s day 1776 and The Convivial Magazine featured the piece in its pictorial pages alongside ‘a beautiful etching of the Tarring and Feathering of Three American Ladies’.

Salisbury Theatre plagiarises the show months after its premiere
We have a fair idea of the dating of this volume by now, thanks to Princess Charlotte et al, but Incledon and Miss Stephens (in what had become the principal roles, often with added songs) are no help. Incledon was already playing Carlos in the 1790s, Miss Stephens had succeeded Mrs Billington as Clara by the 1810s, and both played those parts long and often. I see them actually featured together in the show in 1813, with special mention for her bravura ‘Adieu thou dreary pile’ and for his ‘Had I a Heart’. Kitty Stephens was still singing Clara – to the Carlos of Eliza Vestris – in 1830. William Broadhurst, however, slims the timespan more than a little. I see him playing Antonio at Covent Garden in 1814, with Miss Stephens and Sinclair, and again in – yes! 1822 – in a curiously cast edition which featured the juvenile Clara Fisher as … Isaac the Jew!

 So it seems Mr Shade merely attached a famous and/or topical name to his publication of each piece of music, rather than those of a current cast: Incledon was well past his best when Broadhurst appeared on the scene. And Miss Stephens: well, ‘as sung by Miss Stephens’ appears on so many Shade music sheets … why not? I’m sure she sang all of the music credited at some stage, and there was no better reference than her name for a budding boudoir young lady with soprano ambitions and two spare shillings to spend.

And all those amateur almost-tenors who strove to be Incledon …

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Debut of Mr Dynamite


Last night was the night that really wasn’t supposed to happen. Dynamite Paul (ka ‘Mister B’) stepped on to a real racetrack at a real race meeting …

I gave up racing some seasons ago and, for two years, my lovely Elena’s young son stood, unqualified, in a Gerolsteinian paddock eating grass. Retired before even starting. I’ve told the story of how a chance word resulted, last spring, in his ending up at Murray Edmonds’s barn to be tried as a trotter. But he didn’t want to be a trotter. Wendy and Chris McDowell had trained him as a pacer. Well, it seemed silly to waste all Murray’s preparation, so we decided to give him a go as a pacer, after all.

Baby B
Things have gone quickly since then! A learner’s heat, a qualifying trial (qualified), a maiden heat (easily won), an open heat … and whammee! Straight to the races.

I wasn’t going to go. I don’t much like Addington raceway at night. And Mister B had been placed in the very last race, at 10pm, at which hour I am normally in my bed, asleep. And, then, so much could go wrong! It was our boy’s first glimpse of a nighttime racetrack, first sight of the floodlights, first standing start from in the field (drawn 6) … but if all those things did go right. I had a big afternoon nap, the drizzle stopped, and at 8pm Wendy, Jen and I loaded into Jen’s car and headed for Addington.

Addington wasn’t too bad. The horses from the first seven races had done their thing and gone home. So those ear-piercing crashes from the box-chains were minimal. We popped in to see Mister B and, blow me down, he wasn’t a shivering wreck at all, but calm as a cauliflower! Good oh!

But what was this? He was paying only 16-1 and had even been tipped on the telly! Oy oop! We had a modest $5 each way, just in case.

The time finally arrived and the horses came out on to the track. The lights didn’t seem to worry him at all, the unfamiliar surroundings either … and then the big test. The start. Well, it was a copybook start. No one played up, there was no hanging about, and my goodness he did it! When the tape dropped, he glid away like an old professional!

The pace was fair, if not super fast, and Mister B sat peacefully mid-field, on the outside (hurrah!), and I felt very happy. He was going to make it around without doing anything wrong! Who could ask for anything more …

Round the home turn, the odds-on favourite well in control, Mister B and my soft-boiled egg silks umpteen widths wide and running on delightfully. 

He finished an unhoped-for third. Beaten 1 ½ lengths. Yes, it was being announced … Dynamite Paul, by Rob Roy Mattgregor out of Elena de Gerolstein. I must tell Elena: her name once more on those same speakers that once told tales of her wicked rodeo-ish behavior, but also her only win.

Elena wins at Addington
Our $5 each way returned us $19 too!

Well, it looks as if Wendy will have a fun autumn and winter with ‘P G B, the horse’ while I am sunning myself on the Australian seashore. Let’s hope he continues as he has begun. And let’s hope HRNZ schedules enough standing start races, NOT over sprint distances, for him to run in. And not at 10pm!

So here’s thanks to all concerned in making Dynamite Paul a racehorse. Wendy and Chris for his early days, Murray and all who sail with him for getting him to the races and around in one piece, and a special thought for the late Bob McArdle, who sold me Elena all those years ago, and who gifted me her service to Rob Roy Mattgregor. Bob, if you’re listening, I seem to be back in harness racing, and it’s all your fault!

Bob, Elena (aged 1) and Kurt