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April 20, 2020:

THE HARMONICA AND I

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, I am sitting here like so much fish listening to a harmonica concerto, this one by a composer I’ve never heard of named Michael Spivakovsky.  It’s delightfully delightful, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a harmonica concerto that wasn’t.  And I’ve heard most of ‘em, including great ones by Malcolm Arnold, Vaughan Williams, Alexander Tcherepnin, and Arthur Benjamin, and Villa Lobos, to name a few. Many were written for specific harmonica players like Larry Adler and Tommy Reilly.  My love for the harmonica, though, came via the amazing Toots Thielmans.  When I discovered Bluesette, which he not only played but wrote, I could not believe such sound could come out of such a small thing.  I’d had toy harmonicas aplenty as a youngster, but the only thing I could make happen was by breathing in and out and getting nothing resembling a melody, no matter how hard I tried.  If you’ve never heard a proper harmonica concerto simply hie yourself to the Tube of You and search “harmonic concerto” and Michael Spivakovsky, Arthur Benjamin, or Vaughan Williams.  And if you’ve never heard Mr. Thielmans, do something about it right now.  I now return you to our regularly scheduled notes.

Yesterday was Sunday – I figured that out around five o’clock.  I did get eight hours of sleep, got up, did the usual things like answering e-mails and doing a few things on the computer.  Actually, yesterday was a productive day and although I haven’t yet talked about it, the last few days have been productive days and now I’m happy to tell you why.  On the first Sunday in May, the third to be exact, we will be doing the next Kritzerland show, which I believe is show 105.  Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, on May 3 there will be a new Kritzerland show.  No, it won’t be at Vitello’s, it will be live streamed on Facebook Live and possibly at the same time YouTube Live.  I started working on this right after the little April live thing we did where we linked to old stuff.  So, I’ve been casting, choosing songs, and working out the very complicated logistics of doing this.  We don’t have the resources of things like Stars in the House or those kinds of things, which, one must believe, has some kind of funding because frankly it ain’t that easy.

We’ve explored many options and done tests and have figured out what’s going to work best for us and be the smoothest and hopefully have no technical glitches.  Some of the tests were instant fails, some were promising, and we simply had to boil it down to where it was manageable.  It will be a real Kritzerland show, in that I’ll host and do commentary, and five singers will do three songs each.  There will also be two or three guest stars, as I’m calling in some favors.  I could have JUST done that, loaded it up with New York folks I’ve worked with, but that wouldn’t be a Kritzerland show and I’m very loyal to our performers here.  I came up with a fun theme for the show and we’re in the process of getting everyone their songs, figuring out keys (a lot of that happens via Skype), and then each singer will get tracks to sing to.  The singers all have set ups to do this, so that was very helpful.  We’re all excited about doing it and I’ll keep you posted on how it all progresses.  So, mark your calendars and plan to be there.  The show will begin at six and run approximately eighty minutes.  There’s a chance we may start at five here, just so it doesn’t get too late on the East Coast, but we’ll see.

I ate half of what was left of the tuna salad, did some work at the piano and recorded an old/new song, about which more later.  I let the engine run on the motor car for about thirty minutes, which I’m now going to do every day.  Then I finally sat on my couch like so much fish.

Last night, I watched a motion picture on DVD, titled Five Finger Exercise, starring Rosalind Russell, Richard Beymer, Maximillian Schell, Jack Hawkins, and Annette Gorman.  Mr. Rosalind Russell, aka Freddie Brisson, produced Peter Shaffer’s play on Broadway specifically so he could give the film version to his wife.  It was a mistake, much as I like Miss Russell.  Mr. Shaffer’s play was, of course, set in England, where it was first done.  When it came to Broadway it came with its entire British cast save for the Russell role, which was played by Jessica Tandy.  Brian Bedford was in it, as was a barely teen Juliet Mills.  That cast also did the tour, which played LA’s Biltmore Theater and I wish I’d seen it.  Miss Mills didn’t tour, so her Broadway replacement did.  In giving Miss Russell the lead, the thing had to be transplanted to the US, with the husband having come here from England, but the kids being American.  Miss Russell isn’t really right for the role, Mr. Hawkins isn’t the best choice for his, Richard Beymer is really at sea in this one, and Maximillian Schell is a decade too old for his role of a twenty-two-year-old tutor to the teen girl.  Only the latter is well cast.  It also features the plodding and pedestrian direction of Daniel Mann.  And it has a score by the great Jerome Moross, which, unfortunately, does not work at all in this film.  In fact, it’s positively destructive at times.  It’s nicely shot by Harry Stradling, Jr. in black-and-white, with a lot of diffusion on Miss Russell’s close-ups.  I checked out the play, which I have a first edition of, and as you’d expect it’s much better because there are themes in the play that were under the surface – they’re there in the movie but it doesn’t work because Mr. Schell is so wrong (good an actor as he is) age-wise.  It throws everything off-kilter.  The transfer was actually quite nice.

After that, I ate the other half of the half of the tuna pasta salad that was left.  Then I took a brief drive.  This was at ten o’clock at night – there was a long line of cars at Taco Bell and an equally long line of cars at In ‘N’ Out.  I really don’t understand that at this particular time, so if anyone has any ideas about I’m happy to hear them.

Then I came home, had a Klondike bar as a treat, and listened to the Spivakovsky harmonica concerto.  And now we’re all caught up.

Today, I think for a real change of pace I’ll get up when I get up, I’ll do whatever needs doing, I’m not at all certain what I’ll do for food, but whatever it is it won’t be making anything – could be Taco Bell or maybe Jersey Mike’s, although Taco Bell is always the least expensive option.  I’ll hopefully pick up some packages and mail, I’ll take a drive, and I’ll watch and listen.

The rest of the week is more of the same, and I’m hoping the test books arrive, hoping for some necessary and needed miracles, we’re shipping out our three very errant and truant titles, and getting everyone ready for our grand experiment of Kritzerland Live.  It’s a lot of work – we have to set keys, Richard Allen has to make the tracks and we have to figure out the arrangements.  Skype makes that somewhat easier.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, get up when I get up, do whatever needs doing, figure out the food situation, hopefully pick up packages, finish choosing songs and getting them to singers, take a drive, then watch and listen.  Today’s topic of discussion: What are your favorite films of Miss Rosalind Russell?  Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, happy to have been hearing wonderful harmonica concertos.

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