Wednesday, August 16, 2017

ABRAHAM, ISAK and ISRAEL … Found! Our founding fathers

I’m probably going off half-cocked. But never mind. If I post this, some wonderful Hungarian from the province of Fejér might come to my aid with tombstones and documents.

As habitual readers of this blog will already know, in my late 60s, I suddenly launched into the fashionable but fun occupation of family finding. My family. I’d done a thousand others in the course of writing my newest book.

I didn’t really imagine I’d have much luck. But I didn’t know, then, that so much which my father must have known of and about had been carefully hidden from his New Zealand sons. Most specifically the fact that his father’s family was Jewish. And that they weren’t ‘all dead’, far from it.

So, having inherited grandmother’s papers (in Sütterlin!), I had a scout around, blogged the considerable amount that I found about the Viennese great-grandparents, and shrugged my shoulders over the Hungarian Gansl/Gansel/Ganzl strain which came to a dead end in a Viennese grave in 1889. And got back to work on the newest book of nineteenth century singers.

Enter Petra. She, too, is descended from a Gansl (by whichever spelling) from Fejér and has actually been there. My Gansls, so greatgrandfather Adolf’s grave tells us hailed from Mór, she knows that hers came from Lovasberény, another of villages satellite to the local capital of Székesfehérvár, in which city Jews were not permitted to live before 1870. So, since there was a certain amount of intermarriage between the Jewish folk of the Fejér villages … well, we could be related!

We looked desultorily for a bit, a while back. Picked up a few fellows. But didn’t make a major breakthrough. Until yesterday. I’d been slogging away for a few days at the Real Story of Lydia Thompson’s Burlesque Blondes, when Petra came on line. Did I know Family Search had the birth, death and marriages, for Mór, unindexed, on line. No, I didn’t. I was in the middle of busty antique ladies in tights. From whom a wee break seemed indicated. So I followed Petra’s lead, brushed up my Hungarian and my Sütterlin, and started from page one of the registers. Disappointment! Only the marriages start before 1850. But I persisted. And soon the Gansels of Mór started to flow. 

The first important one appeared to be Abraham otherwise Hermann (b Mór, ?1801; d Buda 12 June 1863) who seemed to be a notable local ‘pate’ (godfather) and circumciser (korulmetelö) of other people’s babies. Notably those of three other Gansels. Josef (b 1807), Izak known as Ignáz (b 1813) and Fulop known as Phillip (b 1817). I don’t think that it is an unfair jump to assume that the four men were brothers. And Izak-Ignáz got wed in Mór within the available registers’ time span, so we know that his parents were Isra(e)l Gansel and Judith Móor … We also know that he worked as a tailor. But his brothers each seemed to be nebulously ‘kaufmann’ or ‘handelsmann’.

 All four brothers wed. Hermann married Eva, then Karoline Kuh (d 9 November 1882) .. oh please don’t let my ancestor be Caroline Cow! .. Joseph wed Leni Lip(p)man (b Temesvár 1812; d 17 July 1883), Ignáz wed Hany Bader, and Phillip, Juliana Schönberger. And they all bred. Freely. Jakab otherwise Károly, Israel otherwise ?, Lazar otherwise Lájos, Heinrich otherwise Henrik … all these otherwises! Half the world seems to be equipped with an alternative Hungarian or German or Jewish name. But there is no Adolf. Why? Why? Why?

And then, yestereve, after the first brain-liberating cocktail, a thunderbolt struck. Maybe Adolf was an otherwise too. So who is left? Who is four years old in the 1848 census. There’s only one and its … Abraham. A decidedly frequent otherwise for Adolf. Yay! Gotcha great-grandad!

So brother John otherwise Gallas and I, otherwise Kurt Gänzl, have finally found the last quarter of our missing family.
We are descended from Joseph Gansel of Mór (Joseph! Our grandfather’s name!), son of Israel and Judith of that place, and from Leni née Lip(p)man of Temesvár.

And that ‘all dead’ bit? Well, putting aside the myriad descendants of the putative brothers and sister Erszébet otherwise Lisi (Fr Napthali Lewy, 1808-1888), greatgrandad himself had siblings Regina (Fr Sandor SCHOLZ or SCHLOZ), Israel, Theresia (Fr Simon WALLNER of Imota), Jakob-Karoly (m Betti NOBEL), Mari (Fr Karoly FLEISCHMANN) and Lazar …

A few more days work in there, I feel.

Oh, two other discoveries. I complained about finding no trace of Adolf before his arrival in Vienna? I think he may have visited quite a lot. From 1858, when he was but 14, several Gansls from Mór can be seen making twice yearly commercial trips to the Austrian capital. They always stay at the once grand, now second-level, Weisser Wolf Hotel at 20 Fleischmarkt. Jakob (I suspect this may be an otherwise for Joseph), Ignaz, M(ihaly? oritz?), Heinrich, and finally ‘A Ganzl kaufmann aus Pest’. So that’s where he hived off to?

And the other. Totally unexpected. I recorded that before their three sons Adolf and Juli had given birth to three daughters ‘who did not survive’. I now see that one did. For a while. Great aunt Ida was born in Vienna in 1876. And the Fejer registers record that Ida Gansl, merchant’s daughter, from Vienna died in the Uri utca, Mór 13 January 1893.
We were told of Adolf and Juli’s untimely deaths, and of the three little boys split up between an orphanage in Vienna and the care of Tante Rosenbaum … but never, never was their older sister mentioned. It seems 13 year-old Ida was sent home to Hungary to be cared for. Or was she already there? For her death record reveals that she was 16 years of age, and the cause of death was … dementia.

Well, that’s enough of our family for today. I’ll play with the sisters and the cousins and the aunts another day. For now, it’s … cheerio Abraham! Rock my soul …

Friday, August 11, 2017

CRABLO KICKASSO, a retrospective

the fascinating (and sadly temporary) work of Crablo Kickasso

Having been coaxed shyly from amongst his twenty-four-hour artworks, Crablo was interviewed yesterday in his burrow in Yamba's Main Beach by investigative photo-reporter Paul Hankinson.

"Gull...p" - The simplicity of this work accentuates the horror. No crab can look at this depiction of a Seagull's footprint without shuddering in his shell.

"Australia & New Zealand" - People are baffled by this work. It certainly gives credibility to Crablo's story that he once got his pincer caught in a weather balloon.

"Crabstract I" - whilst some of his works depict objects or events there are many which he calls Crabstract: "I take twisted pleasure in sending mixed messages to my Crab friends and also rather enjoy overhearing humans discuss what they see in my work"

"Hook" or "Avoid at all costs"

"Crabstract II" - says Crablo, "this one was created with help from a friend. Can you guess who?"

"Crabstract III"

"fireworks over a desert island" - perhaps his most accessible and well-loved work. When asked "How can there be fireworks when there is nobody there to set them off and nobody there to appreciate them?" Crablo replied, "How do you know there were NOT fireworks when there was nobody there to say otherwise?" .. he went on to say that for him the work represents "the ironic joy of being alone. I envy the hermits".

"Propellor" - a horrifying depiction of his father's untimely death.

"M" - when asked what the M stands for Crablo simply winked and whispered "Maybe it's for Mystery"

"Crabstract IV"

"Crabstract V"

"Low Tide" - his largest work to date.

The artist at work.

Crablo, who uses shadow to great effect in his work, said "See how menacing I seem if I balance on my back feet?" then with a chuckle he dropped to the sand and muttered "I'm actually quite shy."

Crablo's humble home is almost enveloped by his work.

the artist poses humbly beside one of his larger works. "This'll all be gone once the tide comes in," he said, "but that's the joy of it... blank canvas tomorrow... start again"

Main Beach, Yamba. Crablo's favourite canvas.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Straddie Snaps ...

A few snaps of fond or fun memories from a grand weekend... 

On the way north, we stopped off to visit Our Harry at his University digs. This photo was taken a few metres from his house ... some people choose their University with great skill

Our digs for the weekend were at the Samarinda. We've stayed there three years in a row and it is very pleasant, even if wifi and mofone are, as everywhere on the island, a bit underpowered

Also a grand spot for whale watching. Kaikoura Schmaikoura. We stood on our balcony and watched the monsters go gallivanting past, at almost any time of the day, often seemingly dangerously close to shore.

Little post-concert jaunt out to Amity Point. As soon as I pointed my camera at this chappie he caught a fish. I'm clearly more adept at 'catching' bream than whales.

And the sun sank slowly

And then he was gone

The first year I came to Straddie was a culinary disaster. Nothing to be found but soggy fish and chips. Last year they were marginally less soggy and we found a proper (if overpriced) restaurant of reasonable quality. So I marked it down for Saturday (no concert) dinner, and we duly turned up. The sign said 'open Saturday from 11am'. And it was closed. Doing a Function at the surfclub, confided a passing local. How nice for the surfclub. The Whale's Way has been eradicated from my address book. But nowhere seemed to be open. Saturday night? Festival time? Oyoy, bit amateurish, eh? But we were in luck. A newly-opened (in this venue) café-resto with the un-Australian name of Cisco's was open, so in we trooped ...  Time for a family snap. Oh no! What was wrong with my camera? By the time I'd discovered I had my thumb over the lens, the lady of the house had come to my aid and in consequence I got to be in the photo too!

The room filled up fast, Cisco's has obviously been discovered by locals as well as visitors. And our food told us why. American-diner sized plates of excellent food. I had barramundi, Michelle an enormous pulled something burger and Rod scored with the beef special ...

A little interpolation here, just to remind one that, amongst all this, there was a Music Festival going on ...

Sunday brought the Festival to a close. And it also gave us a wee foodie treat. In the little group of shops at Dunwich not far distant from a yard called with probable truth The Most Amazing Shop in the World (closed) is a veggie shop-café called the Fruit Barn. Delicious salads, fab spinach rolls and quiches .. best food on the island!

And so the music came to its end for 2017. Festival supremo and violinist Rachel Smith (Mrs de Wit), pictured here with her apprentice page-turner, can start devising the 2018 festival ..

But in the end, its the cellos who have the most apt ideas

Bye bye Straddie. Rendez-vous same time, same place, next year ...


Day three, and the second part of the Festival has decamped, traditionally, from Lookout Point to the Memorial Hall at Dunwich, 25 kilometres away. Piano had made the journey in the night. The artists had been installing themselves since dawn, and we arrived at 10am for a somewhat different kind of concert to the gourmet slices of great works which the last two days had delivered to us.

 Today we had an Entertainment, devised by Rachel Smith, aptly titled Minjerribah Miniatures. Minjerribah is the place where Dunwich is situated and the miniatures were a series of short musical pieces, plucked from all round the world – Australia, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia – illustrating various aspects of the natural world, and linked by readings of a set of brief aboriginal tales, the creation myths of the local trees.

We had beautiful morceaux of Debussy (Smith, Hankinson) and of Dvorak (de Wit, Breen), alongside pieces by Jacob Druckman and Maria Grenfell featuring the water-shining marimba (Vanessa Tomlinson), a little Sculthorpe (Emmerson), Karin Schaupp’s light-fingered guitar both solo in atmospheric pieces by Paul Stanhope, Richard Charlton, and teamed with the strings of the festival in Paul Hoghton’s In Amber, and we had a little bundle of ‘firsts’ from Paul Hankinson: a new arrangement of the Elgar ‘Sea Slumber Song’ for string quartet, plus two items from his new Schubert-inspired collection: a solo Fantaisie for piano based on the very duo we had heard the previous day, and a freewheeling ‘Spinnrad’ (Smith, de Wit, Hankinson) which brought the hour and a bit of Entertainment to another standing ovation end.

It was a joyous morning only made tricky for me by the fact in this accoustically loud (and just how loud we were soon to find out) hall the young reader failed to project her voice beyond row four. Insert here my standard rant about ‘what do they teach in drama schools these days’.

Lunch. Lunch is always an event in Dunwich. I shot up the road to the local grocery-cum-café, the Fruit Barn, because I knew very well that (bypassing a number of other eateries) everyone ‘in the know’ would be doing the same, and the queue gets enormous. So I sat in the sun, in my new hat, and devoured an excellent spinach roll and a large plate of three-salads (no lettuce) with a grand milkshake in a good old-style metal container. It seems milkshakes, REAL milkshakes are making a comeback, in Queensland, at least. Hurrah, say I.

Back to the hall for a cold chardonnay before the afternoon’s final session. Just in time! The hall, in which both bar and toilets are situated, was closing for final rehearsals. So all we oldies, with failing legs and weak bladders, not to mention a thirst, had to stand around outside for 45 minutes before, a bare eight minutes before curtain time, we surged in, sprinting for seats and the loo and grabbing a hurried glass … something organisational is perhaps to be reviewed before 2018.

And so, to the final concert.
Well, now I know what an oud is! And isn’t it a magnificent instrument? Like an overgrown lute crossed with a melon. Since Joseph the oudist is a master of his machine I was able to appreciate its intricacies as I dreamed myself back again in a smoky Tangiers bar of the 1960s… Well, almost. In Tangier the music was not amplified. I wish it hadn’t been here. The electrics made all the music sound rather unsubtly the same, and the volume, in the small hall, was somewhat overwhelming. However, when Jacob the oud was joined by the solo strings in a composition of his own (Eye of the Beholder), and tempered his instrument to blend with others, the result was truly lovely.

This weekend, this tale, has been pretty much one of undiluted enthusiasm. I suppose it needed one disaster, one full-scale failure, to bring me back into the real and too often unlovely world. We got it.

Commissioning an original work for a Festival is fraught with perils. Especially if you don’t play it safe. And this year Straddie didn’t play it safe. And they missed the target.
The four programme columns describing Yitzhak Yedid’s Chad Gadya for clarinet, violin, cello and piano spoke of a ‘playful children’s song’ which was quoted in full. The composer also spoke at length before the playing started. He refused the microphone, so I didn’t hear what he said. But it seems to have been mostly the same stuff. Why don’t composers simply let their music speak for itself? Admittedly Australia isn’t half as bad as Germany in this connection, but it’s a pernicious habit.
And then the piece. Well, I’d rather be trampled on by the unrecognisable goats than have to suffer it again. It goes down in my book on the page ‘great fiascos of my musical life’. The violinist (Smith) and the cellist (King) might as well have been miming. They were almost entirely obliterated by the young lady with the frightened hair who took the piano part. I couldn’t see from the back row seat that I had (forewarned) taken, but I’m pretty sure she was playing with her fists rather than her fingers. And, oh my heart went out to the clarinettist, who had played so gloriously and warmly in Schumann and Brahms: here he was reduced to imitating a train whistle, an eviscerated cat, a raped peacock, and other prosaic vulgarities.
Yes, undoubtedly one of the maxi-nadir moments of my 60 years of all-sorts of concert-going.

Fortunately, there was a second part to the concert. No amplification, no fisting, no factory whistles or crucified penguins, just fine music finely played. Dvorak’s piano quintet in A Major (Rowell, Smith, Henbest, King, Emmerson). Here the audience really leapt into its enthusiasms to such an extent that folk exploded into applause at the end of the first movement and I found myself following suit! And Dvorak gave us a sophisticated, musical sforzando, just to show how it can be done. It was a fine and fitting ending to a first-rate Festival, a hugely enjoyable extended weekend of music, on a sweet and sunny island amongst the most amiable of people …

Just say, I have already got my name in for a season ticket for 2108.

Oh!: The Kurt Award for my favourite musical moment of the weekend? You guessed it. The Poulenc. Run very close by a dead-heat between the Schubert duo and the opening Haydn …

Footnote: there must be thousands of Memorial Halls in Australia and New Zealand. Most, I suppose, just generally in memoriam of all the folk who died in this war or that. The population of Stradbroke Island being what it was, the walls of the Dunwich Hall seemingly hold just two plaques. The one above my seat was dedicated to infantryman Albert Joseph (‘Bert’) Tripcony (1893-1917). Bert was a Moreton Bay man. He died in action in Picardy, France, at the age of 24, one hundred years ago this year, in one of the most useless wars of last century. Requiescat in pace, Bert. Oh, although the plaque happily doesn’t mention the fact, folk of these racist days have seen fit to point out emphatically that Bert was of the aboriginal genre. Does his race matter? Never mind, Bert, to me you are just one more brave young Australian man who gave his life for … what?


Part two

Day Two on Straddie dawned bright and extremely fair. And with a whole lot of music in prospect.

At 8am, breakfast was served at the concert hall … I broke my fast on a spinach and feta (obligatory combo these days) muffin, a cheese and bacon muffin, and a nice cup of tea and a chat before we all filed into the SRO hall. The back wall of the hall is glass, so you look out past the performers on to the sunshiney sea … when there’s no breeze the glass doors can even be opened, alas, not today …

The concert was Spanish themed and we started with a mixture of Spanish poetry, familiar guitar solos by Tarregas and Albéniz (Schaupp), and six of de Falla’s characteristic Spanish songs (Suite populár Española) transcribed for piano and cello (King, Hankinson). The audience, which was already tapping its feet to the guitar dissolved into hilarity as the two artists put on a veritable high-comic double act, before launching into their music, accompanied by an obbligato from a tree full of crows.

Then came the serious stuff. The heart of the concert. Francis Poulenc’s only extant Violin Sonata. Not Spanish, Monsieur Poulenc, but the connection here with Spain is that the composer dedicated the work, goodness knows why, to the bones of the writer Garcia Lorca.
Apparently, so the programme note tells us, Poulenc disliked writing for solo string: ‘the violin prima donna over piano arpeggio ..’. Well, he certainly didn’t write like that. The violin in his sonata is a prima donna only to the piano’s primo tenore and the tenore frequently takes the front stage in a genuine partnership which, I have to agree with the musician, is vastly more satisfying than the old-fashioned way.
The work encompasses a mountain of moods, beautiful melody, excitement and, if it does not showcase the players’ technique in such an obvious way as the Szymanowksi, it has all those other human qualities that the earlier piece lacks. This is a very wonderful piece of music, it was beautifully played (Smith, Hankinson), and I shall be vastly surprised if it does not walk off with the Kurt Award for the Best Item of the Straddie Festival 2017.

But it will be no walkover. If there were an Audience Prize I have a suspicion that this morning it might have gone to the cleverly-placed last item on the programme: good old Boccherini’s quintet number 4 in D major (Rowell, Smith, Henbest, King, Schaupp). After a delightful pastorale and allegro maestoso, and a touch of assai grave, Signor B launches his players into a vigorous and lively Fandango. Ball, game, set and match. You can’t do better for a finale than can-can or a fandango. And this is a super one. It brought our audience to its combined feet, cheering and bubbling with felicity. I’ve never seen so many beaming countenances heading for the ‘Way Out’.

So, back to the digs for a wee bite and breather and then … a lavish afternoon of Teutonic tones: Schubert, Schumann, Brahms …

Well, concert number three rendered nothing to the first two in glory and enjoyment. We started off with the Schubert Fantasy in F minor for piano duo (Emmerson, Hankinson), moved on to the Schumann Märchenbilder for viola and piano (Henbest, Hankinson), and finished up with Brahms’ Clarinet Trio in A Minor (Stafford, de Wit, Emmerson). All mature works, as Eric de Wit reminded us in his introduction. He also twinklingly commented on the fact that this was ‘a concert without a violin!’. Mrs de Wit is violinist and festival supremo Rachel Smith.

What can you say about three such masterpieces? Not a lot! Just that they are masterpieces and that each of them was wholly given their due. I think the audience’s favourite this time was the piano duo, which rises so effectively from its delicate and familiar little theme to great storms of passion. Mr Piano was given a through workout in all his registers. His voyage across the bay for his annual working holiday on the Island has been a ‘none shall sleep’ one.

The viola suite is full of Schumannic charm. I don’t think the ‘stories’ are meant to represent any specific fairytales which we know today, but they have a personality, each one, of its own, and – well, admission time, I have a particular affection for the viola, especially when played as it was here by Caroline Henbest. The last ‘melancolische’ one was my favourite.

 When we had the clarinet teamed with the viola on Day 2, I amused myself concocting other tasty combinations. Cello and … bassoon? Double bass and euphonium? But here we had the clarinet again, this time in tandem with that creamy baritone cello. Well, you just sat back and luxuriated … right to the end of another wholly successful concert.

For the stayers amongst us, the evening brought a performance by the Joseph Tawadros Quartet. Mr T is an outstanding performer on the oud. No, not the Oxford University Dictionary. It is an Arab instrument which … well, I’ll find out today at the last concerts at Dunwich. For, for me, it was panned barramundi and chips and a bottle of Oyster Bay at Cisco’s delightful new little café, near the hall, and – while Mr Piano had his legs removed, prior to the next leg of his tour, from Lookout Point to the second date’s hall at Dunwich, I folded myself into my comfy white bed and slept very, very soundly…