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The local classickal station has gone to wall-to-wall Christmas musick this week.  The playlist is a continual procession of choirs and soloists singing appropriate carols.  The problem is that they seem to be singing the same half dozen carols in near constant rotation.  Despite its loveliness, there are only so many permutations of “Once In Royal David’s City” that one can withstand on any given day before one starts looking about for a brick with which to smash the radio.

And as for “The Twelve Days of Christmas”?  Aaaugh!!

Note to Self:  Bring in some CD’s tomorrow.

A historical campaign group has launched a £50,000 bid to have the world famous Uffington White Horse made into a unicorn.

Giving prehistoric landmarks the hope and change treatment:

The plan by the ‘Save the Unicorn at Uffington’ has more than 1,000 members and is being lead by Bronze Age enthusiasts.

They claim the 3,000-year-old horse made from crushed white chalk in Uffington, Oxfordshire, was originally meant to be a depiction of the mythical horned beast.

The amateur historians have now received financial backing from ‘well-wishers’ including a £50,000 anonymous donation towards adding a 75-foot long horn to the horse.

The Uffington White Horse – which measures 374 feet – or 110 metres – is owned and managed by The National Trust – who have now received a proposal about the horn from the campaigners.

Leading the group is children’s author Paula Broderick who claims to have uncovered the truth behind the giant carvings identity.

And what is the truth, you ask?

She said: “The Uffington White Horse has been a great British landmark for centuries, however its true form has always been shrouded in mystery.

“You only have to look at its head to see that it is not, strictly, a horse.

“We believe that the Uffington carving is actually one of a unicorn, a mythical creature known to have fascinated our ancient cultures and folklore.”

So, you’re asking, what happened?  I’ll explain in three words: Bastard Christian Conspirators!

It has been referred to as a ‘horse’ since the 11th-Century, primarily because ancient scripts from nearby Abingdon Abbey refer to ‘mons albi equi’ at Uffington – or the White Horse Hill.

According to Paula the figure is “most likely” a unicorn – a mythical beast resembling a white horse with a large horn projecting from its forehead.

Its original horn, she argues, would have been removed by over-zealous Christian scholars in the 13th or 14th centuries.

She said: “While researching material for my new book The Rowan Tree I discovered the amazing story of Dragon Hill, which is next to the Uffington Horse and is said to be the spot where Saint George slew the dragon.

“The whole area is wrapped in legend and mystery and there is little doubt in my mind that the Church and its scholars would have done everything possible to prevent the continuing rise of regional folklore.

“It’s plausible that they would have removed the horn in secret. Noah never led a unicorn into the ark, after all.”

Paula added that work on the site will continue “the moment” they receive the backing of The National Trust.

Somebody call Tom Hanks and tell him to wear old clothes for the next movie, ‘cos he’s going to get them rayther dirty digging about for that “missing horn” and all.

Fortunately, it appears that the National Trust has politely told Mizz Broderick to go pound sand.






Time for some festive musick.

I don’t know about my fellow port-swillers, but in all my years I have never, ever, got tired of this song (or, indeed, of the entire album).  But then again, I’ve always adored “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.  Sure, the animation is cheap and the story line is so-so.  But, as I say, the musick is great,  and Linus’ recitation of the Gospel of Luke is, well, transcendent.  (Indeed, I’m surprised it hasn’t been suppressed yet.)

Greetings, my fellow port-swillers!

As promised below, last evening ol’ Robbo ran off the 1999 movie Topsy-Turvy.   I had not seen it before, and I must say that the Mothe’s recommendation was perfectly justified:  I’ve always liked movies about the Theatre (everything from The Dresser to Noises Off!);  The film manages to portray Victorian London with a bare minimum of post-modernist snark; the score is, of course, all G&S; and the star of the show is Jim Broadbent.  I mean, Jim Broadbent! Say no more!

And most importantly, the movie presents the works of Gilbert and Sullivan the way they ought to be presented, namely straight.  These days, one can never (well, hardly ever) find a production in which the director is able to resist the urge to camp it up.  (The last production of Pirates I saw featured rubber chickens.)  This kind of archness is preposterous, presumptuous and puerile and does absolutely nothing to bring out the true humor and beauty of the pieces.  Mr. Gilbert was far funnier than you, I or any community-theatre tyro will ever be.  Best leave things up to him.

As to historickal accuracy, I am not really in a position to offer any intelligent observation.  The basic plot of the story is that Sullivan, after years of success working with Gilbert, has become burned out on Doyle-Carte productions and wants to write more serious musick.  He therefore goes off, leaving the company in the lurch.  Eventually, he agrees to come back if Gilbert can come up with Something Fresh by way of story line.  Then one day Gilbert, poking about a Japanese Exhibition, suddenly gets an inspiration.  The result is The Mikado.  Sullivan is delighted, gets back into the swing of things and all’s well that ends well.   I know that Sullivan spent a good bit of his professional career fretting about not being taken seriously, but I simply don’t know the details, or even if it came to the crisis portrayed in the movie.  Sullivan eventually did write one serious opera, but I’ve never heard it and really have no interest in so doing.  (BTW, Did you know that Sullivan also wrote “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Rock of Ages”?)

I suppose my only criticism of the movie, and this may just be my fault in viewing it after a fairly heavy din-dins, is that I thought there ought to have been more explanation as to why Gilbert’s Mikado proposal changed Sullivan’s mind.  Was it the mere exoticism of the subject matter?  Was it an opportunity to explore new musickal paths heretofore not open? Was it something particular about Gilbert’s treatment of plot and characters?  Was it a combination?  Was it something else?  I just didn’t quite get the sense that the motivations behind Sullivan’s creative renaissance, which was really the climax of the story, were as fully aired as they might have been.

Oh, and one other thing struck me as odd in the film.  The producers felt it necessary to insert a screen caption explaining the fate of “Chinese” Gordon at Khartoum in 1885 just before a scene in which some of the theatre troupe are gossiping about it over oysters and stout.  (I thought this scene one of the few snarky bits in the film, only the snark was aimed not at Victorian “prudery” but instead at the British Imperial mindset.)  It’s a sad commentary on the state of modern “education” that such a footnote would be felt necessary.  On the other hand, as the disaster at Khartoum plays no direct bearing on the plot of the movie, it seems to me that the caption could have been skipped.  Inserting it gave an exaggerated weight to an otherwise throwaway line.

But never mind.  The singing and acting were wonderful across the board.  The stages and costumes were terrific.  And the story was funny, intelligent and sympathetic.  If you have even a passing interest in Gilbert & Sullivan, you’ll enjoy this movie.


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December 2011