Monday, February 3, 2020

2020 so far ...to 1920s and 30s

While I was still in Georgia before the Holidays I visited again the historic antebellum mansion Bulloch Hall as it was decorated for Christmas.  I took many pictures and was going to write a post in early January, but as you'll see below, something happened and I could not.  January started well, though.  On Thursday, January 2, 2020, my daughter, son-in-law and I went to a movie matinee to see the modern but faithful adaption of "Little Women" directed by Greta Gerwig.  I had read Louisa May Alcott's classic book, translated into French and titled "Petites Femmes" or "Les 4 Filles du Docteur Marsh" when I was eleven years old.  I did not remember it very much.  We all enjoyed this period drama, so beautifully acted.  (below photos from the film, courtesy Sony Pictures and LA Times.)

 Later I watched a PBS documentary on the 350 years old Orchard House (the home of the Alcott family in Concord, Massachusetts.)  It was full of interesting history and information.  Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) wrote her two-part novel in this house in 1868 and 1869.  Her book was successful from the start.  It was translated into 50 languages and has never been out of print.  The virtual tour of the well-maintained house, with its original furnishings, was quite moving.  I have gathered several postcards of the house and its interior.  (Please click on collage to enlarge.)

While looking at vintage postcards of Concord, Massachusetts, I came upon one featuring Ephraim Wales Bull - so had to find out who he was.  It turns out he was a farmer in Concord, also in the 1800s, and a neighbor of the Alcott family.  Around 1849 Ephraim planted seeds from the wild vine Vitiz labrusca.  After evaluating more than 22,000 seedlings he decided on the ideal one and called it "Concord Grape."  The Concord Grape won first place in 1853 in a Boston agricultural exhibition and was introduced commercially in 1854.  I had no idea.  In the fall if I can find fresh Concord grapes I always buy them as I like their sweet but slightly acid taste.  The Concord grape is popular for jellies, juice and more.  Poor Ephraim Wales Bull (1806-1895) never obtained any money for his grape discovery.  On his grave it reads "He sowed.  Others reaped."

On the following day, Friday 3, 2020, my daughter and I went to Nashville's first "Salute to Vienna" New Year Viennese style celebration.  Maestro Bernhard Schneider, from Vienna, conducted the Strauss Symphony of America as well as dancers from the National Ballet of Hungary, Ballroom Dancers, a soprano and a tenor.  The program included waltzes, polkas, with The Blue Danube towards the end.  The lyrics of the classic "Auld Land Syne" were printed in the back of the program so the audience could sing along.

This concert was performed at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in downtown Nashville.  I had never seen it before and thought it was an old building.  But no, construction had begun in 2003 and the building formally opened in 2006.  It is named in honor of Kenneth Schermerhorn, the late maestro of the Nashville Symphony.  It has a neo-classical style with modern acoustic features and has won several design awards.  Coming out of the dark parking area, the brightly lit symphony building looked imposing.  Once inside I was surprised to see spectators seated behing the orchestra, under the large custom-built organ.  It is a special choral loft that can be available during non-choral performances.



This Salute to Vienna concert had been touring the US close to New Year for many years.  There are performances in major cities, but in the South, only some cities in Florida and for the first time in Nashville.  The concert included mostly Johann Strauss, Jr. (Austrian, 1825-1899) waltzes but also a couple from Franz Lehar's.  I knew all of them and I'll tell you why below.  It certainly was a delightful evening with lovely music, songs and dances.  A great start to the New Year.  I just took a few photos with my iPhone.

My mother loved dancing when she was young, in the 1930s.  She had spent some time in Juan-les-Pins and told me that she used to go dancing almost every evening.  It was the "jazz age" period and people like author Scott F. Fitzgerald lived there as well and had made this French Riviera resort town quite fashionable and in vogue.  Mother particularly enjoyed dancing the tango and the waltz.  Unfortunately my father was badly injured and handicapped in WW2.  But if on the radio a Strauss waltz was played she would stop everything and have me dance with her - even if I was in the middle of playing or doing my homework.  By 6 years of age I could dance the waltz, the tango, fox-trot, polka, Charleston and more.  This is why I knew all the waltzes and polkas played during the concert.  Below is my mother (on the right) with my grandmother, mother (on the right) with a friend and in a small ID photo.  She had red hair and pale turquoise eyes.

After my father died in 1974 I went back to visit mother every year after Christmas to be with her about 10 days around New Year.  She always had bought some tickets to a musical, tango or Viennese waltzes spectacle, operetta or play in a theatre for the two of us to attend.  Then when she became stricken with Parkinson's disease and could not go out she would send for a ticket for me by checking her weekly magazine "Pariscope" that listed all the shows in the capital (and being in the center of Paris there were always a multitude of them.)  When I arrived in Paris she would tell me what kind of show I was going to attend.  She would wait for my return from the show to listen with excitement for my descriptions and impressions.  She did get a tremendous vicarious enjoyment from it.

As you can see I have started the new years with songs and dances for a very long time.  It was nice that my daughter invited me to watch the Salute to Vienna to continue the tradition.  As my readers know I have been traveling monthly to Georgia to clear out our house there.  Last August I became very tired and short of breath.  It got worse and worse.  I just thought I was aging and kept going on.  But by Sunday January 5, 2020, I could not walk across a room without catching my breath and had to sit down.  When I finally went to see my doctor he diagnosed Atrial Fibrillation (Afib) which is an iregular heart beat.  Because my heart had been running so high for so long I also developed acute heart failure.  Bother - now I can't go back to GA for a while.  I'm taking a bunch of pills daily and am scheduled for a battery of tests: breathing, stress, MRI, and more and will have to wear a heart monitor for a while until they understand where the heart failure comes from.  I can barely walk so have been spending time reading, and listening to music.  A friend sent me links to black and white old movies from the 1930s that I can watch on my iPad.  I'm trying to watch upbeat movies with dancing and songs.  I just watched a couple of old Bob Hope and Bing Crosby films and also "Dancing Feet."  It is a 1936 American comedy with a lot of dancing.  Here are a couple of pics from this film.

Then I found music from that era on my iPad as well; the type of music famous in the 1920s and 1930s, a time known as the Roaring Twenties and the Jazz Age.  I even found a second-hand CD on line featuring "The Great British Dance Bands" from those years.  Right now, I prefer to listen to the music from that period - a time of flappers, Art Deco and jazz, instead of turning on the TV and watching more shootings, the terrible epidemic from the Coronavirus or endless political talks.

One of the songs I like was played by Mrs. Jack Hylton and Her Band.  I found it also on youTube.  It is called "Got to dance my way to heaven."  You can listen to it below.





She had a very good and successful band in the UK in the 1930s and sold many records through the Woolworth's stores.  I remember when I was in London as a teenager - there was a Woolworth's close
to my host family house.  I had not seen those Woolworth's stores in Paris and I thought they were "smashing."  I also remember going to change my Francs into Pound Sterling at the Foreign Exchange booth in Victoria Station.  Then I'd go to Piccadilly Circus and have tea at Fortnum and Mason, or if money was tight, I'd have a cup of tea at Lyon's Corner House.

As I sat listening to that music it seemed kind of familiar to my ear.  It was before my time though as I started traveling to London in 1953 when I was 13 years old.  But still.  Then, in my mind's eye I could see myself in the late 1950s studying my English on the weekends for my Cambridge exam while staying at my pen friend's home.  Wasn't that the music playing in the background?  Did I imagine it?  So I telephoned my British pen-pal (I have known her since 1953) who is now retired in Florida and asked her.  No, she could not remember ...but then... she said "you are right! Mum had an old Gramophone radiogram and she used to play her old 78 records of big bands from the 30s while doing her house cleaning." Her mother, Gladys, just like my mother, had loved dancing in the 1930s.  My friend added "but you did not like that type of music then, you liked Dixieland jazz and Fats Domino!"  Tastes change, just like in fashion, and mine can change in ...what? over 65 years?  Well, here you are, I started 2020 with music and am still listening, even if the melodies are from the 1920s and 30s.  I explained my health issues to my friend.  She told me, and insisted "you are not sick - you just have a "condition."  She is British and speaks proper English, so she must be right - I just have a condition, a heart condition.  I feel better already!  Wish I could dance ...



Note to Naomi's readers - This post took several days to write.  Next post, I'll write about my latest conversation with Naomi.

15 comments:

DJan said...

Oh my goodness, this took awhile to make my way through! But I did, and I now know so much more about many different events than I did before. And I also know why you know so much about dancing. Your mother was quite an interesting person, much like you. :-)

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Your post was so interesting and full of the joy that music has brought to your family. I was so sad to read about your condition and I hope that the doctors can help you so that once again you will be putting on your dancing shoes.

Roderick Robinson said...

I was touched by the offhand way you referred to your ill-health; a few facts, delivered in the same detached tone of voice you employ when describing Vienna Night at the concert hall. Not a jot of self-pity or over-indulgence. Ending with the comically understated "Bother" which deserves a deliberately small medal, fashioned in lead, tin or some other non-noble metal and inscribed with the words Restraint is a Virtue. In comparison, my admiration overflows at this proof that ageing need not be synonymous with loss of dignity.

In your final paragraph I play the game of Near Misses. You in London aged 13; I down there on a brief visit (always my greatest treat) from Bradford, two years after starting work in journalism. We could have passed each other in Charing Cross Road, either or both of us en route to Foyles, the bookshop. Both, I hope, secretly convinced that the future would prove to be entertaining. Which it has.

Nadezda said...

Dear Vagabonde,
I enjoyed reading your post. It’s good to start the new year with a concert and good classical music. Your daughter and son-in-law did well to take you to the concert. Very beautiful theater, I carefully examined all the photos. When I was in Vienna I was also at a concert, I love live music in the open air.
It’s unfortunate that you have a heart condition. Your girlfriend is right - it's just a condition and you have to live with it taking medication. I wish you cheerfulness and new interesting stories about your life and memories of your youth.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Well that was an adventure just to read and enjoy the pictures. I an happy song and dance has been passed on. At my family too grandgals 2and 4 are getting lots of song and dance. It is so motivational as well as soothing.
Very sorry to learn of your condition but I understand it well. You will be on the mend soon.

David said...

Hi Vagabonde... My wife actually convinced me to go and see "Little Women" with her a couple of weeks ago. I have to admit that I enjoyed it. The acting was excellent. Sorry to hear about your Afib but with a bit of patience you'll get past the worst of it. One of my former high School classmates (1961) acquired this condition last year and he's made good progress...almost back to full function.

The story about Concord grapes was very interesting. A bit of history I didn't know that's for sure. It's great that you have such positive memories about your mom. Dancing apparently ran in your family but not in mine... I can't even keep time to music with my fingers and my wife is happy if she gets a slow dance with me. I do love all the old movies with music and dancing...they make me happy. Very nice of your daughter and son-in-law to take you to the Symphony Center. Beautiful music in a beautiful place!

I have other interests so I don't watch much TV although I do watch about 30 minutes of news in the morning and another 30 minutes at night. I just like to know what's going on. What I don't like is the lack of reporting by US media re: what's happening in the rest of the world. For example, Chile has been in an uproar for months now and it appears to me that no satisfactory end is in sight. Instead, too much of our news is focused on celebrities and sensationalism. I wish i could get BBC News but I'm not willing to pay for it! Be patient and heal... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Thérèse said...

Patience est mère de sureté, bientôt tu pourras remettre tes "chaussures de dance" en attendant je présume que tu remets les lectures mises de côté par manque de temps à l'ordre du jour. Quelles ont été tes dernières lectures.
Personnellement je recommanderai le livre phare de mon année 2019 "Le pont sur la Drina" d'Ido Andric avant et pendant notre visite de Visegrad en Bosnie herzégovine.
Bon courage.

Jeanie said...

OK, so much to love here. Let me start with the end -- Naomi in California? I've tried to contact her over the years and was fearing the worst, so I'll be very happy to hear your post if that's the same one.

I loved the audio of Dance My Way to Heaven. I love music from that period too and it's wonderful that you discovered your previous connection to it! Loved hearing about your mom and times in Paris and England. And the Vienna salute sounds fabulous. What a great event for you and your daughter to attend together.

I am concerned about your heart issues and I hope that the battery of tests in the offing will reveal good results that aren't too complicated to hand. Sending many good thoughts your way.

Shammickite said...

This was a fascinating post! I am so glad you had an opportunity to enjoy the music and dancing with your daughter, and I was very interested in the story of your mother's love of dancing!
I did a lot of shopping at Woolworths when I was growing up in England!
I can sympathise with you regarding the shortness of breath. I have Atrial Fib too, and have experienced it on many occasions over the past 15 years. I have had at least 4 cardioversions, and 2 cardiac ablations. I have no idea how or why the irregular heartbeat happens, but it is very unpleasant and inconvenient!

Vicki Lane said...

I'm sorry to hear about the condition but trust that medication will regulate matters. Meanwhile, I know your busy mind will never be still as you travel through memories, old and new.

I loved the pictures o Orchard House. The interiors seem perfect. I've read and re-read Little Women over the past 70 years and look forward to seeing the movie.

Joared said...

I’m pleased you were able to enjoy the concert and this music. A woman’s band that received much recognition must have been unusual in those days as it continued to be later, though a little less so in recent years. You’ve been through a lot so guess you’re slowing a bit as your condition continues to be addressed. My mother, too, loved to dance, appreciating the music of those decades. She had sheet music and enjoyed playing the piano. I’ll look forward to your next post about Naomi as I, too, have wondered how she is and miss reading her blog pieces. Do take good care of yourself.

Friko said...

Dear old girl,

I am sorry to hear that you too have Afib. I have had it for nearly 10 years and am still alive. In fact, the attacks are getting less. Perhaps I am growing too old for them? Now I have asthma - returned from my childhood - and find walking hard and fast quite difficult. My dog is dead too, so now I don’t have to walk her anymore.

I love all the music you mentioned. I have found a lot of the old songs on the internet and bought a lot of old albums for my iPhone.
I am glad that you are still filling your time happily, rather than sitting and feeling depressed.

My husband has been gone nearly 3 years, I still miss him terribly but it gets easier to cope with daily life.

Take care and look after yourself.

claude said...

Quelle publication intéressante Vagabonde mais je suis attristée de lire que tu as des problèmes cardiaques. Prends soin de toi ! Les photos anciennes de ta Maman et de ta Grand mère me font penser à toutes celle que j'ai trouvées chez ma Maman quand on a vidé son appartement de la maison de retraite où elle était. Je suis en train d'en mettre sur mon blog et sur ma page FB.
J'adore les vieilles comédies musicales américaines, j'étais dingue et je le suis encore de Fred Astaire.
J'ai bien reçu ta carte et je t'ai répondu par mail mais peut-être ne l'as tu pas reçu, Je vais t'envoyer un courrier par poste.
Repose toi !
Je t'embrasse

Arti said...

How are you doing now, VB? Hope your heart condition is under control and that you're recuperating well. I've enjoyed this post; as always, you've so much info in one post. First off, I must say I'm a fan of Greta Gerwig's Little Women and have written several posts around Oscars time hopefully to add some promotional effects. But to no avail as we all know now. Anyway, I visited Concord, MA, a few years ago and actually went into Orchard House for a tour. Would love to re-visit again but it's a long way from here. As you know, I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Take good care of yourself: read books and watch movies. Those are good medicines for your heart. :)

BeachGypsy said...

I haven't been by in awhile and I am so sorry to hear you have a "condition" and I am hoping they can get the tests done speedily and correctly and quickly dignose you and get you on the proper medicines so that you may feel normal and back to your normal self very very soon! I did love this post and all the pretty pictures! What a wonderful lively and interesting era, I do so love hearing about it, and reading about it. Always love to learn things. Just hearing the old music brings to life that era and makes it feel real, and makes me feel nostalgic for it, and I didn't even live in that era of the 20s and 30s. I also love the 1940's. I adore the old musicals, could watch them over and over and over.......and often do! THAT WAS ENTERTAINMENT. And THAT was talent. I sure hope you feel better soon, please keep us up-dated.

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