Joy to the World

It was at my family’s Church of Redemption in New Delhi that as a child I first joined in the singing of the hymn Joy to the World and it was also when I first learned of the name of its composer, George Frideric Handel. Thereafter, I was at Christmas time regaled by his majestic Messiah, sung by our well-rehearsed Church choir with brio and full-voiced jubilation.

 

Ghostess with the Mostest

Margaret Nixon McEathron was born on February the 22nd, in 1930 – so today is her 88th birth anniversary!

Known professionally as Marni Nixon, she was an American soprano and ghost singer for featured actresses in movie musicals. She is now well-known as the real singing voices of the leading actresses in films, including The King and IWest Side Story, and My Fair Lady, although this was concealed at the time from audiences.

Besides her voice work in films, Nixon’s varied
career included some film roles of her own with appearances on television, and in opera, musicals on Broadway and elsewhere throughout the United States, as well as in concerts with symphony orchestras, including my own in 1976 – Florida Philharmonic!

Indeed, Marni turned out to be the highlight of one of the Philharmonic’s annual Miami summer concert series held at the outdoor Marine Stadium (pictured below) with a large and enthusiastic audience in attendance.

Marni’s career included Opera, (Seattle, San Francisco, Ford Foundation TV Opera Cameos), Chamber and Symphony, Oratorio soloist and Grammy Nominated recordings both popular and classical (Boulez, Villa-Lobos, Ives, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Copland) including conductors Wallenstein, Previn, Mehta, Stravinksy, Stokowski, Slatkin and Bernstein.

Latterly a frequent guest and sidekick for Liberace and Victor Borge, her national tours included her own show Marni Nixon: The Voice of Hollywood.

I’ll close this brief tribute to an inspiring figure, who was dubbed the “Ghostess with the Mostest” in the annals of popular music, with a rare version of her singing on YouTube the classic song “Climb Every Mountain.” 

Marni was the recipient of the George Peabody Award 2012 for “Outstanding Contributions to American Music”. She passed away on July 24, 2016.

References: Wikipedia; Marni Nixon Website; My Diary

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 since January 2015 just over three years ago, when I first began to put “some of my thoughts, written down” and posted them in the blogosphere. Since that time, many of you have urged me to seek support of my site and my writings by way of donations.

 My blog is about my life. It’s about what I’ve learned through the span of my life. It’s about things I love, and things I know and things I have experienced. I am humbled that so many of you want to join with me in my reflections. If you like what you find here, if it inspires or informs or amuses you, then I am content.  
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Adagietto for String Quartet

“The long and the short of it” sums up the background of a work I first penned in ink for solo piano at the beginning of spring on April 23, 1966 in Calcutta, West Bengal, India. It began with a slow tempo marked Adagio on my manuscript, but that sounded too sad to my ears and to my way of thinking. I purposefully changed it to Adagietto, a ‘lighter’ and less plodding way of marking the passage of time I had in mind. I completed the piece, but left the score to gather dust as there was still something missing – something intangible that I couldn’t quite lay my finger on.

Page 1Page 2
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Fast forward six years: It was midwinter in Eastern India, and on February 20, 1972 I felt the need to retrieve that nagging bundle of notes and update it. This time I introduced a cadenza in the nature of a recitativo after the animated, resolute, martial second subject.  Also, I had become quite involved with the Calcutta Symphony Orchestra, and I was happy when I was approached by its Concertmaster to recast the Adagietto for a string quartet for members of his orchestra. I got down to work and it was performed in its present form on February 2, 1974.

I moved with my family to the United States in 1975 to take up my new job as Assistant Manager of the Rochester Symphony Orchestra, New York. Ten years later, via Miami, Florida as General Manager of the Florida Philharmonic, I am happily ensconced with Lolita in Englewood, New Jersey,  where I am a congregant at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

And so it was, that on Sunday, February 18, 2018, Adagietto was performed at that Church –  as programmed by its Director of Music, Mark Trautman, and as part of its Music at St. Paul’s Series – by members of the Verismo Opera Orchestra, New Jersey. Their dress rehearsal of the work was recorded that day and uploaded to YouTube. You are welcome to listen to their beautiful performance right here with –

Catherine Yang (violin), Benjamin Hellman (violin), Tina Chang-Chien (viola),
and James Mark Pedersen (cello):

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 since January 2015 just over three years ago, when I first began to put “some of my thoughts, written down” and posted them in the blogosphere. Since that time, many of you have urged me to seek support of my site and my writings by way of donations.

 My blog is about my life. It’s about what I’ve learned through the span of my life. It’s about things I love, and things I know and things I have experienced. I am humbled that so many of you want to join with me in my reflections. If you like what you find here, if it inspires or informs or amuses you, then I am content.  
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Copyright © 2018 Azim Lewis Mayadas

Titanic Wagner’s Total Work of Art

Wilhelm Richard Wagner, who was born on May  22, 1813 and died on this day, February 13 in 1883, was an opera composer, theater director, polemicist, and conductor, who came from an ethnic German family in Leipzig.

His family lived there at No. 3, the Brühl (The House of the Red and White Lions) in the Jewish quarter of the city (pictured below.)

Wagner revolutionized opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”), by which he sought to synthesize the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama. He described this vision in a series of essays published between 1849 and 1852. Wagner realized these ideas most fully in the first half of the four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung).

Wagner’s compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex textures, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs—musical phrases associated with individual characters, places, ideas, or plot elements. His advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism and quickly shifting tonal centers, greatly influenced the development of classical music. Indeed, what is sometimes described by musicologists as marking the start of modern music is his Tristan und Isolde (sung here on YouTube by Maria Callas.)

Wagner had his own opera house built, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which embodied many novel design features. The Ring and Parsifal were premiered here and his most important stage works continue to be performed at the annual Bayreuth Festival, run by his descendants. His thoughts on the relative contributions of music and drama in opera were to change again, and he reintroduced some traditional forms into his last few stage works, including Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg).

Until his final years, Wagner’s life was characterized by political exile, turbulent love affairs, poverty and repeated flight from his creditors. His controversial writings on music, drama and politics have attracted extensive comment, notably, since the late 20th century, where they express antisemitic sentiments. The effect of his ideas can be traced in many of the arts throughout the 20th century; his influence spread beyond composition into conducting, philosophy, literature, the visual arts and theater.

Afterword: More than 50 years ago I had the opportunity of visiting Leipzig, then in East Germany, and apart from visiting a number of must-see places connected with famous musicians, I dropped in at The House of the Red and White Lions to savor the history of the young Wagner and learn about his eventual marriage to Cosima, the daughter of the famous Hungarian pianist Franz Liszt.References: Wikipedia; On This Day Website

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 since January 2015 three years ago, when I first began to put “some of my thoughts, written down” and posted them in the blogosphere. Since that time, many of you have urged me to seek support of my site and my writings by way of donations.

 My blog is about my life. It’s about what I’ve learned through the span of my life. It’s about things I love, and things I know and things I have experienced. I am humbled that so many of you want to join with me in my reflections. If you like what you find here, if it inspires or informs or amuses you, then I am content.  
It would mean a lot to me if you would please consider making a donation of US $1.00, $5.00, $10.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
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Northeast Blizzard of 1983

Thumbing through my company office diary of 1983, I was struck by the fact that
weather forecasts can be, at times, unpredictable at the height of winter –
especially in the Northeast of the US of A! Witness the photo above captioned
 Winter in New York City, 1983
The blizzard of 1983, which hit from Feb. 10-12, dumped so much snow
on
New York City that cars were stranded on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
____________________________________________________________

After meticulous planning of international meetings in late December through early January, whereby Government officials from India’s SAIL (Steel Authority of India Limited) and Canada would be forgathering in Toronto mid-February with my company officials, drawn from Pittsburgh and New Jersey, all was going pretty smoothly until Mother Nature put a spanner in the works as recorded in caps in my diary on February the 11th:

“NORTHEAST GRINDS TO A HALT.
FLIGHT 109 (AIR-INDIA) DIVERTED TO MONTREAL.
JFK CLOSED DOWN.”

Suffice it to say that in those days there were no instant means of communication except long-distance telephone calls and Telexes. I called in quick succession J.F. Kennedy International Airport, Air-India, Airport Authority, Montreal, Pittsburgh, and New Delhi.

On February the 12th I wrote pithily:

“DIGGING OUT”

Further calls to Newark International Airport and Air-India revealed there were further delays and flight Air-India 109 was not expected until early Sunday a.m. with no particular ETA offered. I suggested to my colleagues in Pittsburgh and New York that they go directly to Toronto come what may.  In essence, February the 13th was, as I penned:

“A LOST DAY”

Eventually, the Indian team got a flight on Air Canada 781 and my team and theirs reached Toronto almost together for the first of several fruitful meetings in the USA and India.

Reference: My Daily Reminder 1983

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 since January 2015 three years ago, when I first began to put “some of my thoughts, written down” and posted them in the blogosphere. Since that time, many of you have urged me to seek support of my site and my writings by way of donations.

 My blog is about my life. It’s about what I’ve learned through the span of my life. It’s about things I love, and things I know and things I have experienced. I am humbled that so many of you want to join with me in my reflections. If you like what you find here, if it inspires or informs or amuses you, then I am content.  
It would mean a lot to me if you would please consider making a donation of US $1.00, $5.00, $10.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
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Handsome Score by Hanumant Singh

Hanumant Singh
Prince of Banswara
(b. March 29, 1939 – d. November 29, 2006)

Today is a day to remember in the annals of Indian cricket:

On February the 9th back in 1964, Hanumant Singh, born on March 29, 1939 in the then British-Raj province of Rajputana (now the state of Rajasthan) made his debut as a 25-year-old cricketer in Delhi in an India v. England Test Match when he scored over a century – 105 no less!

Thus, he became the fifth Indian to make a Test century on his debut, emulating the likes of Lala Amarnath, Deepak Shodhan, A. G. Kripal Singh and Abbas Ali Baig. Later that year, he reached 94 in his first Test against Australia, out of a total of 193.

Hanumant was initially educated at Welham Boys’ School in Dehradun. Later he completed his education at Daly College, Indore. He also has a Cricket Ground named after him at Daly College by the name Hanumant Oval.He was a team member of the Madhya Bharat cricket team. He was the second son of Chandraveer Singh, Maharawal of Banswara from 1944 to 1985, making him Maharajkumar (Prince) of Banswara. His mother was the sister of Kumar Shri Duleepsinhji, making him the grandnephew of Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji. His older brother, Suryaveer Singh, also played first-class cricket, as did his son, Sangram Singh. A cousin, K.S. Indrajitsinhji, also played in 4 Tests for India.

He served as an International Cricket Council match referee in 9 Tests and 54 ODI’s (One-Day Internationals) from March 1995 to February 2002. He was also chairman of the National Cricket Academy, based in Bangalore, and a coach for Rajasthan. Outside of cricket, he was an executive for State Bank of India.

Hanumant Singh died on November 29, 2006 at the age of 67 in Mumbai of lung and kidney failure, after contracting earlier on dengue fever and hepatitis B.

References: Wikipedia; On This Day Website

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 since January 2015 three years ago, when I first began to put “some of my thoughts, written down” and posted them in the blogosphere. Since that time, many of you have urged me to seek support of my site and my writings by way of donations.

 My blog is about my life. It’s about what I’ve learned through the span of my life. It’s about things I love, and things I know and things I have experienced. I am humbled that so many of you want to join with me in my reflections. If you like what you find here, if it inspires or informs or amuses you, then I am content.  
It would mean a lot to me if you would please consider making a donation of US $1.00, $5.00, $10.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
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Ranchi Rambo to Retired Rancher

YOU HAVE TO VISIT INDIA with no preconceived notions when it comes to the clash of civilizations during your travels, especially by road. The contrasts are vivid from hour to hour, day to day, as you try to come to terms with the sheer vibrancy of color in the villages contrasted with the depressing drabness of diurnal encounters of third-world poverty.

And so it was when Lolita and I spent a few days leading up to April Fools Day in 2003 touring Ranchi with my elder brother Misbah followed by a brief stay at his newly established ranch 40 miles away nestled in an out-of-the way village called McCluskieganj – once touted as “Little England” by its retirees of Anglo-Indian heritage.

As a retired General of the Indian Army, Misbah insisted that we first repair to the Officers Mess, all very spruce, spic and span, and adorned with pictures on the wall of past commandants – including his! There, all the officers on duty – senior and junior – welcomed us with due deference both before and after a right royal lunch:

Lolita (right) being shown around the Mess         Gallery Portrait of Misbah on the Right

Relaxing in The Comfortable Mess Lounge for a Cup of Tea

After taking in the local sights, the three of us took to the road and headed for Misbah’s ranch 40 miles away. The hilly countryside was a joy to traverse and along the way we came across a variety of scenes that I can recall all these years later:

 

En Route from Ranchi to McCluskieganj

The Ranch was a game-changer – a place in the wild that only an outdoors-man could or would relish with enthusiasm. But the ranch house itself was warm and comforting.

                    

References: Wikipedia; My Photo Album

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 since January 2015 three years ago, when I first began to put “some of my thoughts, written down” and posted them in the blogosphere. Since that time, many of you have urged me to seek support of my site and my writings by way of donations.

 My blog is about my life. It’s about what I’ve learned through the span of my life. It’s about things I love, and things I know and things I have experienced. I am humbled that so many of you want to join with me in my reflections. If you like what you find here, if it inspires or informs or amuses you, then I am content.  
It would mean a lot to me if you would please consider making a donation of US $1.00, $5.00, $10.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
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13th Death Anniversary of Russian Musical Phenom

Lazar Berman was born on February 26, 1930 to Jewish parents in Leningrad. His mother, Anna Lazarevna Makhover, had played the piano herself until prevented by hearing problems. She introduced her son to the piano, he entered his first competition at the age of three, and recorded a Mozart fantasia and a mazurka that he had composed himself at the age of seven, before he could even read music. Emil Gilels described him as a “phenomenon of the musical world”.

When Berman was nine, the family moved to Moscow so that he could study with Aleksandr Goldenweiser at the Conservatoire. The following year he made his formal debut playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 1941, students, pupils and parents were evacuated to Kuibishev, a city on the Volga, because of World War II. Living conditions were so poor that his mother had to cut the fingers from a pair of gloves to allow him to continue to practice without freezing his hands.

His playing of Chopin is well documented, in both a concert film and a DGG recording of the polonaises from the 1970s. He subsequently began to acquire a small international visibility. At the age of 12 he played Franz Liszt‘s La campanella to a British audience over the radio; in 1956 he won a prize at the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition in Belgium, with Vladimir Ashkenazy; and in 1958, he performed in London and recorded for Saga records.

Although he was known to international music aficionados who had heard the occasional recording on the Russian Melodiya record label, as well as those who visited the Soviet Union, he was not generally well known outside Russia before his 1975 American tour, organized by the impresario Jacques Leiser. His now legendary New York debut at the 92 Street Y, where he played Liszt’s Transcendental Études, struck the music world like lightning. (Listen here to his performance of  Harmonies du Soir – the 11th Etude.) He became an overnight sensation. Before that, he had been generally restricted to the Soviet concert circuit, playing on old and decrepit pianos to audiences of varied degrees of interest. Invitations to tour outside the Soviet Union were ignored by the Soviet state concert agency, Gosconcert. He lived in a tiny two-room apartment in Moscow, with a grand piano occupying an entire room. But after his 1975 tour, he was immediately in great demand, with Deutsche Grammophon, EMI, and CBS vying to record him. He recorded the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto with Herbert von Karajan, as well as broadcasting it on international television with Antal Doráti, to mark United Nations Day in 1976.

Most of his British appearances came in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In December 1976, he performed music by Sergei Prokofiev and Franz Liszt at the Royal Festival Hall.

Afterword: On a personal note, I had a long association with Lazar starting in 1956 as a competitor at the International Franz Liszt Piano Competition in Budapest, Hungary, and continuing in the USA with his solo performances in New York, New Jersey and Florida.

Lazar died on February 6, 2005, survived by his third wife, Valentina Sedova, also a pianist, whom he had married in 1968, and a son, the talented violinist and conductor Pavel Berman.

References: Wikipedia; My Diary

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 since January 2015 three years ago, when I first began to put “some of my thoughts, written down” and posted them in the blogosphere. Since that time, many of you have urged me to seek support of my site and my writings by way of donations.

 My blog is about my life. It’s about what I’ve learned through the span of my life. It’s about things I love, and things I know and things I have experienced. I am humbled that so many of you want to join with me in my reflections. If you like what you find here, if it inspires or informs or amuses you, then I am content.  
It would mean a lot to me if you would please consider making a donation of US $1.00, $5.00, $10.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
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Pope Pays An Emotional House Call

[It’s Monday, February 3, 1986, and Pope John Paul II pays an emotional house call  at the home for the dying established by Mother Teresa in Calcutta on the third leg of his 14-city sojourn across India.

Mother Teresa
(August 26, 1910 – September 5,  1997)

Pope John Paul II
(May 18, 1920 – April 2, 2005)
After a 40-minute tour of the facility founded by the Nobel-laureate nun, the pontiff says the 120-bed hospice is a sacred place where “the mystery of human suffering meets the
mystery of faith and love.”
Mother Teresa appears enlivened by the papal presence despite her generally frail health at the age of 75, and says the Pope’s visit to see “the poorest of the poor” in her south Calcutta home makes this “the happiest day of my life.”]

On his arrival in India’s largest city on that memorable Monday 32 years ago, the Pope was greeted by more than 100,000 people lining his motorcade route from the Dum Dum airport to Mother Teresa’s home, known as the Nirmal Hriday Ashram. The sandstone structure, located on the grounds of a Hindu temple, has taken in nearly 50,000 homeless and gravely ill patients since its founding in 1952.

The Pope was escorted through the ashram by Mother Teresa, stopping by each of the 86 occupied beds to bless the patients. The vast majority of them were Hindu, but the Pope gave each a rosary.

He also helped the Missionaries of Charity sisters serve a modest evening meal of wheat bread, potato curry and sweet curds to the infirm. “I don’t know who he is,” said one emaciated patient, “but he must be a big boss.” Here are some notable dates before and after her death:

  • August 20, 1993 Mother Teresa hospitalized with malaria
  • September 13, 1997 Mother Teresa’s State Funeral held in India
  • October 10, 2003 Mother Teresa of Calcutta is beatified by Pope John Paul II
  • September 4, 2016 Mother Teresa canonized by Pope Francis in a ceremony at the Vatican

Afterword:
Long before the 1986 Papal visit, I had been a resident of Calcutta working in a mercantile firm and housed in a company apartment block that was a 20-minute walk away from the Ashram , which I passed by fairly frequently. Also, as the executive of the company’s charitable trust, I used to hand-deliver during my term as trustee an annual donation by way of a check made out to the Missionaries of Charity office, seen below:

I never met the now sainted Mother in the flesh, but was fully aware, almost on a daily basis, of the unbelievable role she played in easing the life of Calcutta’s poor in its teeming slum districts.

References: Chicago Tribune Correspondent Bruce BuursmaEncyclopedia Britannica; Wikipedia; On this Day Website

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 since January 2015 just over three years ago, when I first began to put “some of my thoughts, written down” and posted them in the blogosphere. Since that time, many of you have urged me to seek support of my site and my writings by way of donations.

 My blog is about my life. It’s about what I’ve learned through the span of my life. It’s about things I love, and things I know and things I have experienced. I am humbled that so many of you want to join with me in my reflections. If you like what you find here, if it inspires or informs or amuses you, then I am content.  
It would mean a lot to me if you would please consider making a donation of US $1.00, $5.00, $10.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
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Amahl in America

Gian Carlo Menotti, the Italian composer, whose operas gained wider popularity than any others of their time, died on this day – February the 1st – in 2007 in Monaco at the ripe-old age of 95. His realistic operas on his own librettos represent a successful combination of 20th-century dramatic situations with the traditional form of Italian opera. Menotti used largely traditional harmonies, resorting at times to dissonance and polytonality to heighten dramatic effect.

Mebotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors is an opera in one act with an original English libretto by the composer. It was commissioned by NBC and first performed by the NBC Opera Theater on December 24, 1951, in New York City at NBC studio 8H in Rockefeller Center, where it was broadcast live on television from that venue as the debut production of the Hallmark Hall of Fame. It was the first opera specifically composed for television in America. Here’s a YouTube scene “Do You Know A Child” from it.

Amahl and the Night Visitors

Menotti wrote Amahl with the stage in mind, even though it was intended for broadcast. He said: “On television you’re lucky if they ever repeat anything. Writing an opera is a big effort and to give it away for one performance is stupid.” The composer appeared on-screen in the premiere to introduce the opera and give the background of the events leading up to its composition. He also brought out director Kirk Browning and conductor Thomas Schippers to thank them on-screen.

Amahl was seen on 35 NBC affiliates coast to coast, the largest network hookup for an opera broadcast to that date. An estimated five million people saw the live broadcast, the largest audience ever to see a televised opera.

Menotti wrote his first opera, The Death of Pierrot, by the age of 11. He studied at the Milan Conservatory and in the late 1920s emigrated to the United States, where he continued his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia (1928–33), at the suggestion of Arturo Toscanini.

There he met Samuel Barber, who became his lifelong companion and frequent collaborator.

Although Menotti worked extensively in the United States, he retained his Italian citizenship.

References: Encyclopedia Britannica; Wikipedia; On this Day Website

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 since January 2015 three years ago, when I first began to put “some of my thoughts, written down” and posted them in the blogosphere. Since that time, many of you have urged me to seek support of my site and my writings by way of donations.

 My blog is about my life. It’s about what I’ve learned through the span of my life. It’s about things I love, and things I know and things I have experienced. I am humbled that so many of you want to join with me in my reflections. If you like what you find here, if it inspires or informs or amuses you, then I am content.  
It would mean a lot to me if you would please consider making a donation of US $1.00, $5.00, $10.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
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Copyright © 2018 Azim Lewis Mayadas