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Spring 2010

Selling Bibles in Rockingham
Dennis Rickman
Charles Villiers Stanford
Sabine Baring-Gould

THE BELLE OF THE WABASH had its world premiere the weekend of April 30th, 2010 in Orangeville, IL, and ran for the two following weekends, in Hanover, Galena and Stockton. I was very pleased with the show and a good time was had by all.

the BELLE featured Emily Evans, Paula Fulton, Phil Jackman, Terri Jackman, Terrie Miller, Josh Ryan, Jane Van Hamme, and Peter Woodruff. Also featured were Glenda Adams, Jim and Mary Jo Fredericks, Chuck Hancock, Sandy Janicke, Sue Wichman, and yours truly. The band was Sheri Novak, and Carl & Joan Sanford. John Buford directed. A.J. Adams & Brandon Mills did the audio-visuals and Caryl Buford cleaned up everybody's mess.

This is a great group of people. We all enjoy each other, and I think we are going to do it again next spring, with a new show -- the third installment of the "Bosh and Moonshine" trilogy! profile in Freeport Journal Standard

FLASH!! Some of the BELLE kids are joining me the afternoon of July 18th in Bloomington Indiana, for a skit and a song or two on WFHB's Live Radio Variety Show, with my good buddy Mike Kelsey. Anyone interested can listen in live via WFHB's MP3 webstream.

LEARNED PLACE is a house concert series presented by Jim Robertson and Deborah Jakubs in their lovely home situated in a secluded and woodsy little nook of Durham. Jim and Deborah go out of their way to make the musicians welcome, down to putting on a gourmet pre-show spread and their (musicians') mugs on the water bottles! Clyde Edgerton and I just did a show there ( INDEPENDENT WEEKLY profile) and Jim and Bill and Joe and I did one back in the fall. It doesn't get much better than this! Go to learnedplace.net for more information and a sampling of past concerts. The venue has received high praise from a variety of musicians who have enjoying playing there.

Justin Come Here I Want You

15 year old Justin Guignard sang my song "Watson Come Here I Want You" in the Greater Moncton Music Festival of New Brunswick. He was quite a hit! >>>YouTube vid

Justin's interpretation also made the cover of the Times and Transcript.

Justin is a good singer and has a nice comic presence. (Oh, and dig the tie!)


From Garbo biographer Barry Paris's excellent commentary track on the TCM Archive DVD reissue of Clarence Brown's 1926 film of FLESH AND THE DEVIL:

Ben Hecht has written: "I met John Gilbert at a dinner party. He came home with me and we talked all night. In Hollywood's most glittering days, Jack Gilbert glittered the most. He got $10,000 dollars a week and he was allowed to keep most of it. He lived in a castle on top of a hill. Thousands of letters poured in daily, telling him how wonderful he was and there were no enemies in his life. He was as unsnobbish as a happy child. He went where-ever he was invited. He drank with carpenters, danced with waitresses. He made love to whores and movie queens alike. He swaggered and he posed, but it was never to impress anybody. He was just being "Jack Gilbert" -- a butterfly, a Japanese lantern, and the spirit of romance."

Paris continues:

Well, Ben Hecht was almost but not quite right. John Gilbert had one powerful enemy: Louis B. Mayer. Once during a script discussion Gilbert expressed interest in both ANNA CHRISTIE and CAMILLE. But the moralistic Mayer said he objected to turning those stories into movies because their heroines were essentially just prostitutes.

"Well, what's wrong with that?" Gilbert famously replied, with his usual off hand candor. "My own mother was a whore."

Mayer was so enraged at this affront to motherhood in general that he jumped up and nearly attacked Gilbert on the spot.

Gilbert was born John Pringle, in Logan Utah in 1897, to actor parents who worked in stock companies. He found work as an extra in Thomas Ince's film company in l916. He later signed with Fox and then MGM in 1924. His breakout role was in King Vidor's 1926 version of LA BOHEME, with Lillian Gish. After the death of Valentino, Gilbert was second to none in the male romantic lead department.

The News and Record is reporting that Peter Bogdanovich is joining the faculty of the School of the Arts. FMI
Connie Ray has gotten herself into a good Broadway show. Next Fall, by Geoffrey Nauffts, opened recently and has gotten some glowing notices. Brantley proclaims it as "a flourishing member of a precious and nearly extinct species so often given up for dead: a smart, sensitive and utterly contemporary New York comedy." Next Fall transferred from Off-Broadway and Connie did her role in that production too. Connie is a North Carolina gal, and wrote the SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN shows with Alan Bailey. She's a fine writer and also a fine actress. Geoffrey Nauffts, the guy who wrote the play, is mostly an actor and this is evidently his first produced play. I met Geoffrey in l984, in California, when we both had little parts in the very first ever production of BIG RIVER. Geoffrey's a nice guy, so I am very proud of and happy for both Connie and him!
Clyde and I recently did THE BIBLE SALESMAN at the Rockingham County Community College in Wentworth. It was a wonderful show, and a wonderful capacity audience at the "Advanced Technologies Auditorium" -- a name that didn't do justice to the place, or the evening! We met Daphne, an African American woman whose parents named her after Daphne du Maurier. Daphne's ambition is to visit all the towns named Daphne and research all the historical references to that name, beginning with the girl in Greek mythology who turned into a tree. We also met aspiring writer Ethan Hughes, a mountain of a young man, who is transferring to UNC-CH in the fall. "I expect to hear great things from you within ten years," Clyde told him. When the concert was over we walked out into a warm spring night, with cows lowing in the meadows nearby. Spring is here!

I had a lovely time driving to and from Rockingham County, through countryside unfamiliar to me for the most part -- up Hwy 311, which partly follows an old railroad track (the Norfolk Southern? The Atlantic and Yadkin line?) evidenced by some ghostly grand old homes along the way, in Walkertown, and Walnut Cove (which 'began' in 1830's from land purchased by two Moravians, Mr. and Mrs. William Lash. Through the years the family developed it into a large plantation which was named Walnut Cove, supposedly from the sheltered coves of the meandering Town Fork Creek and the walnut trees that grew abundantly in the area.) -- and Madison, and other towns, such as Dennis, that I had never heard of. On the radio: a beautiful Dmitri Shostakovich sound track to a 1955 Russian movie called "The Gadfly" ("Ovod" in Russian).
(Yellow car painting by Clyde.)

Dennis Rickman

Dennis Rickman passed away February 21st. A memorial service was held Friday Feb. 26th at the Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Durham. There were lots of folks there from the old Cradle days. Jim, Bill Joe and I provided some music. Gary Christopher has posted photos (thanks to Jan Pulley) from the memorial reception on Snapfish.

Dennis was sweet person and a surprising friend and had a very interesting life: FMI. I had the honor, as did a couple other folks, of recording some of his short stories, which his brother Bryan would like to collect on CD. I will definitely have news about that when it happens.

Charles Villiers Stanford

He's news to me anyway, though I'm sure most conscientious appreciators of 19th and 20th century music is already familiar with Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924). I only heard his music this week, very early Sunday morning. I was sleepily listening to "With Heart and Voice" the excellent choral music show hosted by Richard Gladwell, from WXII Rochester. This is one of the best pure music shows on the radio, and happily my local NPR affiliate (WFDD) carries it. Anyway, I am lying in bed watching the first beams of the sun on the pine trees and this gorgeous choir comes on singing this gorgeous hymn "O For A Closer Walk With God" (musical setting of 17th century Scottish plainsong by Stanford, and words by William Cowper). Though I'd grown up hearing the hymn I was riveted by the setting and performance. Stanford's setting sounds like it could have been written yesterday or twenty years ago, or a hundred years from now (hopefully!) The recording I heard was from the CD "In Tune With Heaven" featuring the Girls and Men of Norwich Cathedral and Thomas Leech, conducted by Julian Thomas. There's a great YouTube vid, a little 7 min documentary of this song being recorded by the choir of St. Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland. It's wonderful to see the actual human beings who sing and record this stuff and sound like the angels they must be. And they are little KIDS! Little girl and boy choristers, and some older kids mixed in. All standing around a mic in their shirt-tails, twisty legged and cowlicked.

Charles Villiers Stanford was a native of Dublin. Several of his songs and piano pieces were published while he was still a child. He studied at Queens’ College, Cambridge, and eventually became the conductor of the Cambridge University Musical Society. He was a Cambridge Professor of Music all his life and was one of the founding members of the Royal College of Music. Two of his pupils were Ralph Vaughn Williams and Gustav Holst. He was organist of Trinity College and also held the post of conductor to the Bach Choir (you can tell he'd listened to a LOT of Bach choral cantatas!) He wrote all kinds of music, even romantic comic operas, in particular "The Critic" and "Shamus O'Brien". He was knighted in 1901. He was said to be irascible. Lord knows he pulled off one absolutely gorgeous life changing piece of music. (Listening to that tune all day and then finding out in the evening that Dennis Rickman had passed away are linked in my mind.) Anyway, I'm happily adding Stanford to my gallery of eccentric Victorian mensas, including:

Sabine Baring-Gould

I've been fascinated by Sabine Baring-Gould since I was a kid. It was the name, really. (In my childish mind it meant "Ancient Exotic Italian Bringing Money".) I'd see it in the hymnal at our church. Baring-Gould wrote the words to "Onward Christian Soldiers" and "Now the Day is Over" -- not too shabby! Then, sometime in the 70's I went into the book store one day and saw a Dover Press-like reproduction of Baring-Gould's THE BOOK OF WERE-WOLVES, which was a treatise on Lycanthropy ["the magical ability to assume the form and characteristics of a wolf" -- see Nicholas Cage in MOONSTRUCK!] I had to buy the book, of course. I'm sure if I had been born in the 60's or 70's I would have been a goth.

The wikis report: "Stories of Baring-Gould's eccentricity have been exaggerated. He did for a time, have a bat in his care while he was teaching at Hurstpierpoint. More usually it lived in an old sock in his room, where its life was ended when a housemaid stepped on it. It is also told how, at a children's party he asked a small girl, "And whose little girl are you?" whereon she burst into tears, and said: "I'm yours, Daddy." This story was verified by his daughter, Joan, who said that the little girl had been herself."

According to Cyberhymnal, Baring-Gould "had one of the most brilliant, eclectic minds of Victorian England. Born into the landed gentry, he attended schools in Germany and France, then went to Clare College at Cambridge. He learned six languages, entered the ministry at age 30, and pastored in Yorkshire, Essex, and Devonshire."

"He also found time to write over 100 books, including 30 novels and a mammoth 16-volume Lives of the Saints. His works cover a huge range of topics: theology, folklore, social commentary, travel & history. At one point there were more books listed under his name in the British Museum Library than under that of any other English writer." But he was not just an author: he was an archaeologist, architect, artist, teacher and a collector of English folk songs. But Baring-Gould (or should I just call him Sabine?) regarded his principle achievement as the collection of folk songs. He published several influential volumes: one of which, SONGS OF THE WEST, was edited by none other than Cecil Sharp.

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