View Mark Twain in New York in a larger map
He also seemed to have had an altercation on a streetcar in 1890 that rankled him most severely, according to a letter he wrote to the New York Sun. The author jumped on the streetcar at Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street. An excerpt:
"Of course there was no seat -- there never is: New Yorkers do not require a seat, but only permission to stand up and look meek, and be thankful for such little rags of privilege as the good horse-car company may choose to allow them
...After a moment, the conductor, desiring to pass through and see the passengers, took me by the lappel and said to me with that winning courtesy and politeness which New Yorkers are so accustomed to: "Jesus Christ! what you want to load up the door for? Git back here out of the way!".....This conductor was a person about 30 years old, I should say, five feet nine, with blue eyes, a small, dim, unsuccessful moustache, and the general expression of a chicken thief -- you may probably have seen him.
I said I would report him, and asked him for his number. He said, in a tone which wounded me more than I can tell, "I'll give you a chew of tobacco."
I went up to Sixth avenue and Forty-third street to report him, but there was nobody in the superintendent's office who seemed to want to converse with me. A man with "conductor" on his cap said it wouldn't be any use to try to see the President at that time of day, and intimated by his manner, not his words, that people with complaints were not popular there, any way.
So I have been obliged to come to you, you see. What I wanted to say to the President of the road was this -- and through him say it to the President of the elevated roads -- that the conductors ought to be instructed never to swear at country people except when there are no city ones to swear at, and not even then except for practice. Because the country people are sensitive. Conductors need not make any mistakes; they can easily tell us from the city people. Could you use your influence to get this small and harmless distinction made in our favor?"
Courtesy Twain Quotes
It is easy to get carried away with our day to day lives and forget to stop and do something for someone other than ourselves. Even the slightest act of kindness could change someones entire day. I was messing around on Pinterest (no surprise) and came across the following link. This girl celebrated her 38th birthday by completing 38 random acts of kindness. You HAVE to read about it here. What an awesome way to spend your birthday! I am going to make it my goal to do think of others a little more and do kind things just because.
Esplanade Recital Studio
Sunday (27 November 2011)
Five years is about the age a child begins to remember the melodies he or she has heard, sung or played by a parent, or via any other media. Childhood memories and yearning for simpler times are the premise of the 5th anniversary concert of the string ensemble re:mix, that untiring purveyor of musical nostalgia.
The supreme irony is that much of its music is played by people who were born long after the original music first came out. They were essentially playing their parents’ music. As for their children, and there were many noisy toddlers in the matinee, numbers like the titular Que Sera Sera (from Hitchcock’s 1965 movie The Man Who Knew Too Much) or any of the Beatles songs, The Yellow Submarine and Eleanor Rigby, belong in the realm of classical music.
Further arrangements by younger colleagues Wong Kah Chun and Chen Zhangyi gave new life to Dvorak’s Songs My Mother Taught Me and Chris Babida’s Xin Bu Liao Qing (New Everlasting Love) respectively, the former sung with some longing by the Singapore Lyric Opera Children’s Choir. Yet the sheer cleverness of the arrangements sometimes put the string players to a test in which they did not always emerge with flying colours.
The movement Pianists saw pianists and violinists swap places, and cue total mayhem. If that reminded one of school recess periods, this conception would have succeeded beyond its wildest dreams. Happy fifth birthday, re:mix, and may you always retain that inner child in yourselves.
You'll still find a few free-standing homes on this tip of Astoria. Queens -- traditionally called Hallet's Cove -- but you won't find the one above, a veritable (if ramshackle) plantation getaway as photographed by Berenice Abbott in 1937. The caption of this picture places this house in the hands of Joseph Blackwell, an ancestor of an early settler to this area. Another descendant, Col. Jacob Blackwell, remained loyal to the British during the Revolutionary War; it was his home, named Ravenswood, that gave its name to the neighborhood just south of here.
This was one of many such multi-story single-family homes that lined Franklin Street, in the shadow of 'The Hill', an elegant neighborhood in the days soon after the borough of Queens was created and incorporated into New York City in 1898. This property was but a short stroll from the original estate of Stephen Ailing Halsey, the founder of the original village of Hallets Cove. The village was later renamed Astoria in order entice John Jacob Astor to invest here. Barely interested, Astor did manage to give Halsey $500.
Franklin was later ingloriously renamed to 27th Avenue.
Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Esplanade Concert Hall
Forget the few wrong notes in the fray, these were swept away by the oncoming tsunami of sound. There was some respite in the short nocturne-like second movement, but then it was action stations and adrenaline on overdrive all the way to the final bar. Credit also goes to percussionist Mark Suter for his all-important contribution on the humble triangle; timing it to perfection is far more difficult than one imagines.
The Second Piano Concerto in A major, the greater work of the two, provided more semblance of sanity. Not only is the piano better integrated with the orchestra, its unfolding narrative showed Hough to be more than flashy fingers. His overall finesse and magisterial control were a joy to behold, and there is no finer moment than that wonderful passage when he sensitively accompanied cellist Ng Pei Sian’s lovely solo.
Without Beethoven, there would be no Liszt or Wagner. That was the thematic thread of the concert which began with Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No.2. It shares the same themes as the far better known and definitive Overture No.3, but made for fascinating listening with its thrilling build-up to the climatic offstage trumpet solo.
Wagner’s Tannhäuser Overture and Venusberg Music closed the concert on a high, with conductor Ang’s direction emphasising on lightness and movement rather than solemn penitence. The concert’s muted ending more than made up for the revelry and wildness that came before.
THE TALES OF LOVE AND DEATH
Esplanade Concert Hall
This review was published in The Straits Times on 28 November 2011 with the title "Love, death and sympathy for a courtesan".
This review was published in The Straits Times on 28 November 2011 with the title "Love, death and sympathy for a courtesan".
The combo of love and death, inseparable as Siamese twins, was the subject of the Singapore Lyric Opera’s annual gala, but there was to be no Tristan or Isolde. Given that the tradition of performing Wagner is close to non-existent here, the tried and tested Puccini verismo operas were among the unsurprising offerings.
Why not, as the music has popular appeal and there are no shortage of good singers in this repertoire. The usual stars who have graced SLO’s productions returned, and all three were in superb voice and form. The ageless soprano Nancy Yuen (left) was the chief protagonist with bleeding chunks from her signature roles in Tosca and La Bohème.
Nobody here does dying consumptive divas better, except in this case Floria Tosca leaps to her demise rather than wastes away. Her duet Mario, Mario, Mario (Tosca) with Korean tenor Lee Jae Wook (left) simmered and then sizzled, aglow with the anticipation of a late night tryst. The famous sequence in La Bohème which begins with Rodolfo’s Che gelida manina and closing with O soave fanciulla also sported the chemistry which has made this pairing a very special one. So far no deaths.
It was in the final moments of Massenet’s Thaïs, with Korean baritone Song Kee Chang (left), that the tears flowed. Who could not have sympathy for a courtesan turned nun who succumbs, predictably but beautifully, to the strains of the familiar Meditation. For once, that most overplayed of melodies is heard in its proper context.
As a preview to next February’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, highlights were performed, including Yuen and Song in the tender duet La ci darem la mano. Meanwhile Lee, as the roving Don, flirted with a lady in the audience in the Window Serenade by way of a rose, and then polished off the Drinking Song.
The SLO Ladies and Children’s Chorus made credible short appearances in Bizet’s Carmen and Verdi’s Macbeth, while the SLO Orchestra conducted by recently conferred Young Artist Award winner Joshua Tan Kangming (left) played rather many minutes of orchestral excerpts. While Puccini’s youthful Symphonic Prelude came off half-baked, there was no denying the passion in the Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut.
The sole encore was, of course, the
They performed a short programme of works which included pieces which they had specially commissioned as well as their own arrangements of popular classics tangos.
Live from Lugano 2010
EMI Classics 708362 (3CDs) / ****1/2
The Martha Argerich Project of the annual Lugano Festival brings together the world’s top young musicians in a feast of chamber music, inspired by the sheer presence and personality of the Argentine piano legend herself. Every edition throws up a panoply of works, familiar and obscure. Argerich appears only in the first two discs, but her effect is electric, not least in Chopin’s First Piano Concerto – a signature favourite of hers – with the Orchestra Svizzera Italiana conducted by Jacek Kaspszyk. She also joins some-time partner Stephen Kovacevich in Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos & Percussion in a fiery performance, reliving the good old days of their famed collaboration.
Rarities make this box-set a keeper as well. Where else would one get performances of piano quintets by Enrique Granados, Erich Korngold or Alfred Schnittke? The last is a particularly acerbic work that closes the collection on a pall of depression. But that is offset by sparkling works for multiple pianos by Chopin (Rondo Op.73), Brahms (Schumann Variations Op 23) and the scintillating Gershwin-Grainger (Porgy & Bess Fantasy). The pick of the crop are Liszt’s Les Preludes on two pianos (with Argerich and Daniel Rivera) and the three-piano transcription for three pianos by Carlo Maria Griguoli of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite (Griguoli, Giorgia Tomassi and Alessandro Stella). Enjoy!
Piano Quintets / Piano Sonata No.2
KRYSTIAN ZIMERMAN, Piano et al
Deutsche Grammophon 477 8332 / ****1/2
Only a pianist of Krystian Zimerman’s stature could have persuaded Deutsche Grammophon to devote an entire release to Polish music not composed by Chopin or Szymanowski. Grazyna Bacewicz (1909-1969) was without doubt Poland’s greatest woman composer. More of her music, obscured from the West because of her relatively early death behind the “iron curtain”, is being heard today. Perhaps the least unfamiliar is her Second Piano Sonata (1953), a virtuoso vehicle that possesses a fluent but turbulent lyricism, brilliantly realised by Zimerman. The finale is a coruscating toccata that will make it a concert hall favourite.
The two piano quintets are classically conceived despite the modern idioms employed. Tonality is retained, but with dissonance that goes beyond the pungent chromaticism of Szymanowski. The First Quintet (1952) is perhaps more memorable than the compact and ascetic Second Quintet (1965), largely due to the use of the oberek, a mazurka-like dance that goes back to before Chopin’s time. Bacewicz is a distinctive and original voice, and repeated listening will reveal a similar appeal enjoyed by established icons like Bartok, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Zimerman and his compatriots on strings invest their heart and soul in this musically rewarding outing.
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall
Thursday (24 November 2011)
Happy Thanksgiving Masking: The pleasures of mischief, featureless masks and cross-dressing children!
No, these children have not gotten their calendars confused. One early American Thanksgiving tradition amongst rascals and rowdies involved goofy costumes and disguised faces. Sometimes called 'Thanksgiving masking', the strange practice stemmed from a satirical perversion of poverty and an ancient tradition of 'mumming', where men in costumes floated from door to door, asking for food and money, sometimes in exchange for music. The annual Philadelphia Mummers Parade traces back to the original tradition which some believe began in the 17th century.
By the 1800s, those going door-to-door asking for handouts were most likely homeless and poor. This seems to have inspired a children's tradition not unlike modern trick-or-treat. "Every street had its band of children," proclaimed the 1901 Tribune, "dressed as ragamuffins, who kept in the open air for hours."
Newspapers advertised 'Thanksgiving masks' and 'lithographed character masks' for the tots. These featureless disguises were often sold in candy stores alongside holiday related treats like spiced jelly gums, opera drops, crystallized ginger and tinted hard candies.
"This play of masking is deeply rooted in the New York child," said Appleton's Magazine in 1909. "All toy shops carry a line of hideous and terrifying false faces or 'dough faces' as they are termed on the East Side."
Boys frequently wore girls clothing on this occasion, "tog[ging] themselves out in worn-out finery of their sisters" and spending their afternoon "gamboling in awkward mimicry of their sisters to the casual street piano."
The New York Times in 1899 found the streets filled with costumed tricksters that Thanksgiving. "There were Fausts, Filipinos, Mephistos, Boers, Uncle Sams, John Boers, Harlequins, bandits, sailors... In poorer quarters a smear of burned cork and a dab of vermilion sufficed for babbling celebrants."
Those that benefited most -- outside of the costumed children, obviously having a ball -- were the candy stores that both sold the masks and provided the sweets distributed to the little devils. In particular, Loft Candy stores, headquartered at the corner of West 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue, ran spectacular ads filled with Thanksgiving themed candy treats.
In general however it's difficult to find too much enthusiasm for this unsavory tradition in newspapers of the day. Thanksgiving was (and continues to be) one of the most austere holidays. Poor, cross-dressing, shoddy-garbed children in masks flew in the face of this perception and was generally discouraged. Editors preferred to focus on family gatherings, recipes and table placements, not only out of social convention but on the behest of advertisers, who made more money selling turkey and china than cheap masks.
While the chaotic tradition was associated with poverty and mischief, some educators saw a bright side to the tradition, especially in the waning years of World War I. One writer on early Kindergarten practices suggested that "the masking on the streets of Thanksgiving Day ... has its redeeming quality, in reminding the children of our dear soldiers' need for real masks." They would be referring to gas masks. Educational indeed!
Such mischief, not surprisingly, occasionally went out of control. For instance, the New York Tribune in 1907 reports a poor lad "in mask and fantastic garb" who was hit by a train and had his leg amputated.
With the rise and commercialization of Halloween, the practice of Thanksgiving masking seems to have died out. And the entrance of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in 1924 certain gave focus to the city's need for costumed celebration.
NOTE: These photos are from the Library of Congress. As such, the locations are unmarked. Most likely they are all of New York children, but a few may be children from other cities in delirious states of costume. (The top photo is courtesy Shorpy)