Wilhousky

 

Image result for carol of the bells peter wilhousky sheet musicwww.musicscore.com

A prolific paleontologist reflected on his mentor, Peter Wilhousky, for a 1988 issue of the New York Times Sunday Magazine.  Stephen Jay Gould and another alumnus of the New York All City High School Choir had returned to listen to the group thirty years after they’d been members (In their day, there were equal numbers of SATB and the director frowned upon rock and roll).  As they listened, there was a noticeable imbalance of male voices, with the tenors nearly screaming by the end of the number Jeanette.  More fascinating is the fact that the writer’s career path had been not in music, but in science education at Harvard.  He remembered the rigorous training and Wilhousky’s insistence on perfection.  “Fourth row, fifth seat: You’re flat.”

http://www.centralfloridamusical.com

Peter J. Wilhousky (1902-1978) grew up in Passaic, New Jersey.  His parents had emigrated from what is now northern Czechloslovakia, and sang in the choir of SS Peter and Paul Greek Catholic Church (which in 1920 changed to Russian Orthodox).  Young Peter went to live at the school of the Russian Cathedral Boys choir as a soprano soloist.  He performed with them at the White House for President Woodrow Wilson in 1920.

After graduating from the Damrosch Institute of Musical Arts (now Julliard), he got a job teaching high school music in Brooklyn.  Gradually he built the program and became Director of Music for New York City Schools; in 1936 he trained 1500 students for a concert at the opening of Madison Square Garden.  Later he whittled the number to 250 for annual performances at Carnegie Hall.

The two songs for which he is remembered are Carol of the Bells and The Battle Hymn of the Republic.  He wrote the notes for neither, but arranged their scores with musical genius, adding English words to Carol (Schedryk), which had been composed by Mykola LeontovychHis stirring version of Julia Ward Howe’s Battle Hymn was made famous by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and is known to choirs young and old everywhere.

When Wilhousky died at the age of 76, the New York Times noted he had once played violin for Ozzie Nelson’s orchestra.  Then again, he conducted the NBC Symphony in a 1947 radio broadcast of Otello.  A versatile and accomplished artist, he left an everlasting mark on students he touched personally — in the opera, in symphonies, on Broadway, as teachers in their own classrooms, and across their daily lives.  And on all of us who ever memorized his combination of notes, dynamics, and timing for a concert.

I copied a boys’ choir performance of Carol of the Bells, a group probably much like the one Peter Wilhousky sang in when he was young.  Except the song would not be written by him for another thirty years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Holiday High Five

Image result for it's a wonderful life

http://www.tvguide.com

Before Kevin McCallister, Scott Calvin, and Buddy the Elf entertained us on big and small screens at this time of year, there were already some really great black and white Christmas movies.  I’ll tell you my top five in descending order, because I don’t care much for building up to Number 1 (It doesn’t follow the inverted pyramid).  Here they are, with notes on a few others:

  1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  2. A Christmas Carol (1938)
  3. Miracle on 34th Street (1938) 
  4. Holiday Inn (1942)
  5. The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

It’s the cast that makes It’s a Wonderful LIfe so wonderful.  And the simple story Frank Capra chose about appreciating life itself, which began as a greeting on a Christmas card.  But not much beats watching Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell and Beulah Bondi at home in the same small town.  There’s even a short performance from Sheldon Leonard, the television genius, as Nick the bartender.

You’d think we would have said good-bye to all of its adult actors by now, but there is one who is still living in the Midwest. The beautiful Virginia Patton, who played Harry Bailey’s new wife is at home in Michigan with her real-life husband, Cruze Moss.  The Mosses are retired Ann Arbor business owners and true-maize-and blue University of Michigan supporters. They still enjoy giving interviews.

John Wayne’s buddy Ward Bond played Burt the cop, just one of his supporting roles on the big screen. He was also in Gone With the Wind, the Wagon Train television series and many, many westerns.

Jimmy Hawkins was the youngest Bailey child (“Scuse me! Scuse me! I burped!”) He was a teen actor with Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap and also The Donna Reed Show in the 1960s.

Image result for ann rutherford a christmas carol

http://www.arts-stew.com

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens probably has the most movie adaptations.  The one that stands out for me was made in 1938, starring Reginald Owen as Scrooge.  He was actually much younger than Scrooge would have been, and ended his career with Mary Poppins in 1964.  The Gene Lockhart family played the Bob Cratchit family, with another Gone With the Wind alum, Ann Rutherford,  as the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Who can forget little Natalie Wood’s performance in the original Miracle on 34th Street? The story that begins with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and ends with Santa Claus delivering her to a real home is on many lists of favorites. Edmund Gwynne and Maureen O’Hara were perfectly cast, with John Payne in the part he is most identified with.  It was a busy year for Gene Lockhart, who plays the judge in the trial courtroom.

Image result for miracle on 34th street

http://www.bristolfilmfestival.com

,Holiday Inn

http://www.tcm.com

Then there’s all the song and dance talent of Holiday Inn, featuring Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, and Marjorie Reynolds.  Why Ms. Reynolds was not a major star has certainly to do with studio politics, not her ability (She also played a belle in GWTW).  Irving Berlin classics, including Easter Parade and White Christmas light up the screen.  According to my aunt, the number Be Careful, It’s My Heart was supposed to be the big hit of the film.  As much as I love the later movie White Christmas with Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen, it heralded the beginning of Technicolor, and so is not in the b/w category. 

Lately Holiday Inn has been criticized for racial reasons, and rightly so.  Let’s remember that it was a different time, and not diminish the film’s good points.  Minstrel shows are part of our history.   I also think the black actors outshine their white counterparts in many scenes.  Little Daphne and Vanderbilt are adorable.

Image result for the bishop's wife cary grant

http://www.classicmoviereviews.com

Does anyone not love to watch ice skaters?  Cary Grant’s faux performance on the rink is noteworthy in The Bishop’s Wife.  As another angel sent to earth, he encourages Loretta Young in her unenviable position as the wife of David Niven, an ambitious man of the church.  Grant was a master of timing and facial expression.

Barbara Stanwyk, the iron woman of The Big Valley and other shows, plays quite different parts in two early movies, Remember the Night and Christmas in Connecticut.  I favor the former because I think the portrait of rural Indiana in the early 20th Century is right on.  Beulah Bondi appears again, as the mother of Fred MacMurray, who was quite different looking when he was young  (Don’t think of him only as he was in My Three Sons).  In the second movie, Ms. Stanwyk is a society columnist who gets caught in her fake story of ideal country living, and has to hire a husband to play it out.

Many black and white pictures have memorable Christmas scenes – including Little Women.  I like the one in which Jo March is played by June Allison.  Peter Lawford doesn’t hurt it any, either.

The current deluge of Hallmark movies is nice, with several that I enjoy watching more than once.  But best are the ones with interesting shadows, old actors, and timeless music.  To me, they are the real Christmas gems.

 

The Folks

Folks on the Home Front: Letters from the First World War by [Griffin, Margaret Porter]

I wish I could have known the grandparents on my mother’s side of the family like I did on my father’s side.  Having older relatives to mentor and dote on you as a child is something that can never be replaced.  But I came close to getting acquainted with their lives, at least a part of them, when I transcribed and typed around 400 letters they wrote to each other when they were courting.  I thought, “This is a wonderful story.”  So I’ve edited and published their correspondence in a new book.

Its working title was “Miss Maggie and the Captain.”  The era was World War I, and he (Jesse) was in a Mississippi training camp while she (Margaret – yes, I’m named after her) taught school back in northeastern Indiana.  But I thought it should be called something to do with the times, so I settled on Folks on the Home Front: Letters from the First World War.  The term “home front” was actually first used in 1917.

As I say in the synopsis on the back cover, things took more time then: corresponding, cooking, cleaning house, and traveling.  But we do much of what they did, one hundred years later.  We work at home and school.  We look at the new cars coming out (although these were really the new cars, the first that families bought).  We like to watch baseball games as they did.  And we get together with our friends, eat, tell stories, tell jokes.

There was a frightening World War in progress, and the United States was gearing up for the effort.  Everyone was concerned, pro or con; and many like my grandfather involved directly as soldiers.

To make more sense and to connect my grandparents’ story to what was going on around them, I researched World War I events for quite a while.  In the library there are many books on the Civil War and on World War II, but not so for World War I.  I hope that this book will help fill in a bit of the gap.  And that readers will enjoy their expressions, their experiences, and their devotion to each other.

Image may contain: one or more people

The young family at home on the farm in the late 1920s.  My mother, who is the baby in this picture, would save all of their letters; Jesse and Margaret had ten children in all.

Folks on the Home Front (175 pages; Dogear Publishing, Indianapolis, 2017) is available by ordering on Amazon or contacting me personally.

I am available for presentations on the book in general and have compiled activities for classrooms on locating primary source material.  I’d love to tell you more about my Folks on the Home Front.

Glinda

Wizard of Oz Glittering Ruby Red Slippers framed nursery playroom art sign Glinda the good witch

The childvoice behind the pink sheen and sparkle told Dorothy she could go home.  She looked and sounded like a fairy, so why wouldn’t anyone believe her?  We were relieved when Dorothy swirled back to Kansas; Glinda stayed in Oz, watching over the Land of the Quadlings.  Can it be almost eighty years since Billie Burke, then 54, played the part of the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz?  She was at the time an accomplished star of the stage and movie screen.

Mary William Ethelbert Appelton Burke was born August 7, 1885.  Her parents, a circus clown and his wife, traveled and then lived in London where Billie made her stage debut at 18.  When she was 22 she moved to the upcoming center for the theatre, New York City.

Image result for billie burke actress

http://www.biography.com

In 1921 she married Florenz Ziegfeld, impresario of the Ziegfeld Follies.  The couple lived comfortably on the show and their stock market investments, but after the crash of 1929 Billie had to go back to work.  Her husband died soon after, never getting to hear her first spoken role in the movies.

Image result for billie burke

http://www.solongletty.tripod.com

She had a steady career, making 25 films in the 1940s.  She’d been nominated for an Oscar for Merrily We Live in 1938.  Her last film was Sergeant Rutledge in 1960, and she passed away ten years later at the age of 85.

Image result for billie burke actress

http://www.theziegfeldclubinc.com

But that voice.  That red hair (under the wig, too).  That sheer, flowy butterfly-trimmed dress that flounced about and the tall glass crown on her head as she introduced the Munchkins.  She disappeared in a bubble and made us feel that somehow we’d always be looked over by a fairy godmother.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are; and meet the young lady who fell from a star…”  How many can sing her part and that of the Lullaby League, the Lollipop Guild, and the rest of the little people who lived in that land?

It’s nearing Trick or Treat time.  When kids ring our doorbell this year, they’ll be handed goodies from the pink-gowned, wand-waving lady I’ve always loved.  But even wearing a mishmash of things from Goodwill, Amazon, and Michaels, I could never delight them the way Glinda, and Billie Burke, did all of us.

Related image

http://www.moviepilot.com

image

http://www.recycledmoviecostumes.tumblr.com

http://www.costumesandcomicsblogspot.com

Treasure Viewing

No automatic alt text available.

Buckets of treasure wait for visitors in the archaeological museums of Greece.  We perused two in our recent trip: one large and one small, but each had its own highlights.

No automatic alt text available.

At the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, I stood in awe of this Olympic gold medal from the ancient games.

Image may contain: outdoor

According to the museum’s website, the Dervein Papyrus here is the oldest surviving book in Europe, enduring because it was charred in a fire.  Dating to 340 BC, it consists of theology and philosophy.  What else?  It’s from Greece.

No automatic alt text available.

Classic sculpture.

Image may contain: 1 person

Inside the smaller Archaeological Museum of Corinth, there were phenomenal pieces of sculpture and art, like this marble garment.  A nearby quarry provided the raw material.

No automatic alt text available.

Dozens of the iconic black and terra cotta pottery in all shapes and sizes stood on shelves there.  Many were from burial sites; Romans destroyed homes and their contents when they took over the area.  But they left the Temple of Apollo, because they worshipped the same god.

No automatic alt text available.

Mosaics depicted mythical scenes.  Others formed borders for walkways.

Image may contain: 1 person

This small sculpture intrigued me because it still showed some paint.  I’d assumed all statues were white.

No automatic alt text available.

A small model of  a circle game, horses pulling children in a small carriage, and a metal wagon showed that people of all times have pondered youth.  Perhaps they also took their sons and daughters to museums, educating them in the Arts…until the next army overran the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wandering Greece

Image may contain: outdoor

Though Ephesus is across the way in Turkey, its ruins are essential to view while on a Grecian trip.

When you spend two weeks in Greece, your mind wanders as well as your feet.  The History of Western Civilization stands before you with no editorializing.  More mountains than valleys and fields loom in the background.  Olive trees present their cool blue-green leaves beside the road.  Columns, statues and mosaic walkways speak in a way all people of the world understand.

Image may contain: plant, grass, outdoor and nature

Remains of old cemetery markers at Philippi.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

Old Roman market.  Somewhere buried nearby is the dungeon where Paul and Silas were chained, but sang anyway.

Image may contain: cloud, sky and outdoor

Statue in Thessaloniki of the young conquerer, Alexander.

As we traveled north to south on the mainland and then took a short island cruise, we could see the new contradicting the ancient.  Sleek, modern hotels offering comfort and tantalizing Mediterranean fare.  Resorts beckoning the weary for a few days in the sun.  Tourists shopping for textiles and other local goods to bring home.  But not to be hidden is a very depressed economy blighted by ugly graffiti everywhere on vacant buildings.

No automatic alt text available.

Modern Thessalonoki on the Aegean shore.

Image may contain: one or more people, sky, outdoor and natureTemple of Apollo at Corinth.  The only Greek temple not razed by the Romans.

No automatic alt text available.Manmade canal near Corinth.

No automatic alt text available.

The famous Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens.  Though we visited up close, we could also see it from the rooftop restaurant of our hotel.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky, crowd and outdoor

On the way to La Plaka marketplace in Athens on a Sunday afternoon.

I do not wish to make a travelogue; Rick Steves has more than taken care of those.  But I will share, in coming weeks, more glimpses of what we were fortunate to see, lost in time, wandering Greece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stop Delivery

Image result for western auto girls bicycle

The announcement this week that the afternoon Fort Wayne News Sentinel was going completely digital hit me like the rolled-up newspaper I never threw.  You see, I had a paper route in Angola in the late 1960s.  When seventh grade classes were done for the day,  I’d stop outside the news stand/book store, fold about forty papers in thirds, and tuck and load them in my bike basket. Then I carefully crossed the highway to the other part of town.

My route took me past the old brick post office with CCC murals on the inside, maneuvering around sidewalk corners and familiar yards.  It was a neighborhood we’d lived in earlier, and I was glad to revisit some of the streets I used to walk to school.  I even delivered a paper to our old house which my sixth grade teacher had bought.

But I didn’t throw it.  Putting down the kickstand at each house on my subscriber list, I walked up to it and placed each paper inside the door or on the top step.  I wouldn’t have been able to trust my aim from a distance, anyway.

My legs had to pump hard uphill on the block beyond the elementary school. The area wasn’t developed then, but there were a few new ranch style homes at the top.  I knew the families who lived in them; it was strange to be a service worker who came up to the door, especially when I collected money for the week.  I felt like someone else.   Forty cents earned them a little date-stamped ticket which I deperforated as I was handed my quarter, dime and nickel.

I liked coasting down that hill afterward because I could see the layout of the city blocks below, a patchwork of Cape Cod and frame houses with grass of varying heights.

One two-story house was a bit different than the rest.  I only saw its resident once or twice, as she clothespinned an envelope of forty pennies to the mailbox for me on Fridays.  Beside the door was a handprinted sign, Ironing.  She was a tiny lady with upswept hair, little glasses and an ancient housedress.  I wondered if she even got forty cents for her work.  Probably not.

If it were a hot day, on my way back I’d stop at the news stand for a Yoo Hoo chocolate drink, feeling important that I could decide how to spend my own money.

There is still a morning Fort Wayne newspaper, whose editorial page is the opposing political side of the one I used to deliver. We subscribe to it. It comes by car delivery while it is still dark. I do hope there are enough people to sustain it, who still enjoy the crackle of large pages with their coffee and who budget more time to digest the news than is allowed by electronic media. The daily afternoon paper boy or girl in small towns is becoming a thing of the past.  Though I may not have thought so at the time, I am glad to have had the experience.

 

I