ENDNOTES: May 2019

Sir Adrian Boult, painting by Ishibashi Kazunori (Royal College of Music)

Endnotes: May 2019

From Meadow to Mayfair – Stuart Millson pays tribute to the English light music tradition

The great tone-poems of English music need little introduction: Bax’s epic evocation of Cornish myth and landscape, Tintagel, and Holst’s mysterious Dorset fantasy, Egdon Heath, are just two examples of this native genre. We might add to the list depictions of urban Britain – John Ireland’s wistful A London Overture, Vaughan Williams’s darker, A London Symphony, or even the ‘Nottingham’ Symphony by, Alan Bush. But there is also a body of work within our musical tradition which, whilst not having the introspection, or stature, or timescale of the works just listed, nevertheless presents us with a faithful representation of the places and character of our country: the orchestral tradition, as developed by composers such as Eric Coates, Haydn Wood, Ernest Tomlinson and Ronald Binge – skilled miniaturists, capable of producing pen-portraits of scenes as diverse as Oxford Street, Knightsbridge, or a sleepy Arcadian stream flowing somewhere through the heart of the shires.

Often referred to as “the uncrowned king of light music”, Northamptonshire-born Eric Coates (1886-1957) is undergoing something of a revival, thanks in great part to the work of conductors such as John Wilson, Rumon Gamba and Gavin Sutherland – all of whom have produced well-engineered recordings of his music, which have succeeded in showing a greater depth and strength to a style often considered dated. Continue reading

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The Science of Power

Kirby Misperton, credit Frack Off

The Science of Power

Bill Hartley defends Fracking 

April 10th 2019 dawned with a light covering of frost over North Yorkshire. Despite this, the local BBC news announced there would be an open air tea party in the village of Kirby Misperton. The village’s population of 370 wished to celebrate the fact that it had been ‘free of Fracking for a year’.

Kirby Misperton lies in the scenic and rural Ryedale District of North Yorkshire. Anti-Fracking campaigners here have a website. The site is an example of a single issue edging towards monomania. It may be Ryedale at the moment but tomorrow it could be you, is the ominous message. There is no sense of a wider community beyond Kirby Misperton or the benefits to the nation of energy security. Incidentally, according to a recent report in the Daily Telegraph, this country spends £400,000,000 per month on imported gas. HM Mines Inspectorate estimates that if properly developed, Fracking has the potential to create 300,000 new jobs and reduce our dependence on imported supplies. None of this matters to the folk of Kirby Misperton: the big picture is displaced by a ‘not in my back yard’ attitude, masked by bad science and some shroud waving. Continue reading

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Kirstjen Nielsen, Leaving Neverland

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen answers questions from reporters

Kirstjen Nielsen, Leaving Neverland

by Ilana Mercer

The New York Times reports that “More than 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorization in February” this year. March saw 100,000 merry migrants waltz into the U.S., undisturbed. Caravans are getting larger, not smaller. “Newcomers continue to arrive, sometimes by the busload, at the rate of 2,200 a day,” said the same source. Border agents are bracing “to meet the medical needs” of the newcomers. Monthly apprehensions average 32,012.

“Apprehension”: that’s Orwellian newspeak for you. A more accurate description is briefly stopped for a cursory wellness check before being sent on their way. For children are the charm, the magic amulet. Here’s a reenactment of “apprehension”: Customs and Border Protection agent to migrant: “Got kids?”, New arrival at the U.S. southern border, turns to a large, brooding male: “You bet.” “Pepito, say hello to the nice policeman.”American agent: “Pepito is a little hairy for a kid and he’s covered in ink.” Future American citizen from Salvador, with the aid of a translator paid for by the U.S.: “Pepito is mature for his age. It’s the chemicals. They’re killing us. Asylum. Hurry. We’re dying.”Agent sworn to protect Americans: “You’re good to go”, reported the New York Times. Stamps a bit of paper and waves the new Americans by. “Don’t forget to return for your asylum court hearing, amigos.”

Instead of this “apprehension” farce, Kris Kobach, the former Kansas Secretary of State, has highlighted the many tactical strategies that could—still can—be operationalized at the border to halt the treasonous Catch-and-Release policy ongoing. Kobach faults former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen for looking to Congress for a legislative remedy. Continue reading

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In the Year of Three Kings

Edward and Mrs Simpson

In the Year of Three Kings 

The King Who Had to Go, Adrian Phillips, Biteback Publishing, 2016, isbn 978-1-78590-347-2, reviewed by Monty Skew

Recently revealed letters, hitherto kept secret, have dispelled any lasting illusions about Edward VIII’s short and inglorious reign during 1936. In proportion to its length, perhaps more has been written about him than any other monarch. Books continue to promise the ‘truth about the abdication’. But what more is there to say about this nonentity?

Baldwin, the prime minister, having known him before he ascended the throne, had long had misgivings. Edward was evidently no Prince Hal. In some ways the originator of celebrity culture, he was famous for being famous. Famous for being heir to the throne, then for being an unsuitable King. Then for wanting to marry a socialite divorcee. A less suitable monarch it would be hard to imagine. His exasperated father reminded him to ‘remember who you are’. The Japanese crown prince, on a visit to Buckingham Palace, was decidedly unimpressed by his encounter with the future king.

Concerning Edward’s suspected Nazi sympathies, Churchill was a supporter of the Duke, until Baldwin called him into No 10 and showed him the special branch and other reports. It is not clear if Edward was ever shown them, and there are persistent claims that certain items have not yet surfaced. And of course some things were never committed to print. Although much maligned, Baldwin, in his handling of the abdication crisis, acted for Britain. Continue reading

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Befuddled Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Befuddled Bernie Sanders

by Ilana Mercer

Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont, thinks that “everyone should have the right to vote—even the Boston Marathon bomber … even for terrible people, because once you start chipping away and you say, ‘Well, that guy committed a terrible crime, not going to let him vote,’ you’re running down a slippery slope.”

Bernie is right about a “slippery slope.” But Bernie is worried about the wrong slope. Denying the vote to some and conferring it on others is not a “slippery slope.” It’s exercising good judgment. Insisting that the vote in America belongs to everyone, irrespective: now that’s a slippery slope, down which the slide is well underway.

As it stands, there are almost no moral or ethical obligations attached to citizenship in our near-unfettered Democracy. Multiculturalism means that you confer political privileges on many an individual whose illiberal practices run counter to, even undermine, the American political tradition. Continue reading

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Alone on a Wide, Wide Sea

Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, by Gustave Doré

Alone on a Wide, Wide Sea

Review of Billy Budd, opera in two acts, music by Benjamin Britten, libretto by E M Forster and Eric Crozier, conducted by Ivor Bolton, directed by Deborah Warner, Royal Opera, 23rd April 2019, reviewed by Leslie Jones

The plot of Billy Budd hangs, no pun intended, on a somewhat implausible detail. Three sailors, including Budd, played by the excellent baritone Jacques Imbrailo, have been press-ganged from a merchant ship. It is 1797, during what Captain Vere of HMS Indomitable calls the “difficult and dangerous days”, following the naval mutinies at Spithead and the Nore, that “floating republic”. Billy, now a foretopman, sings farewell to his former shipmates on the Rights o’Man. Master-at-arms John Claggart (Brindley Sherratt, suitably sinister) takes this as an endorsement of Thomas Paine’s incendiary tome the Rights of Man. He persuades the repellent Squeak, a ship’s corporal, to spy on Billy.

“Life’s not all play upon a man-of-war”. Evidently not, with flogging for minor misdemeanours, such as slipping on deck, as in the case of the hapless Novice (Sam Furness). Bloodied and bruised, he can then only crawl across the stage. The remarkable libretto by EM Forster and Eric Crozier is replete with ironic observations, including Vere’s contention that the French “want all the world to be slaves”. Continue reading

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The Moral of the Mueller Inquisition

 The Moral of the Mueller Inquisition

by Ilana Mercer

One among many, former CIA head honcho John Brennan had famously asserted that President Trump was “treasonous” and “in the pocket of Putin.” It was “beyond a shadow of a doubt [that Trump] sought to…collude with the Russian government…to undermine and influence our elections,” seconded wonder boy Beto O’Rourke.

And that’s just a humdrum smattering of the folly force-fed to Americans for the two years of the Mueller Inquisition, from “respectable” TV megaphones, including legions of Never Trump Republicans. The same characters, in their many interchangeable iterations, will remind you that the omniscient Mueller had equivocated over the matter of obstruction of justice. Over this, the second part of his eponymous report, Mueller declined to prosecute Trump. The first part of Robert Mueller’s report “cleared Donald Trump of having conspired with Russia.”

Let us unpack the obstruction-of-justice aspect of the ongoing farce: in the course of defending his reputation against silly, but gravely serious, smears—that he was a “Russian asset,” in the words of former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe—the president forcefully and publicly berated the Mueller proceedings and his turncoat attorney, Michael Cohen (who, though a hostile witness, testified that there was no collusion). Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, April 2019

Great War memorial at Jeparit – close up of the sculpured figure of a woman

ENDNOTES, April 2019

 by Stuart Millson

In this edition: musical meditations on death and national decline

From Chandos records, come two less-frequently-performed masterpieces by the doyen of English music, Sir Edward Elgar: The Music Makers (written in 1912) and The Spirit of England, a choral-orchestral heroic lament from the First World War. Both pieces exhibit all of the qualities of a composer still at the height of his power – and yet the music, for all its glories, transmits a sense of unease, valediction and of greatness, slowly ebbing away. The Music Makers sets the words of a 19th-century poet, Arthur O’ Shaughnessy:

“We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wand’ring by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world forsakers…”

After a brief orchestral introduction which establishes an immediate mood of stately melancholy – yet underpinned by a tide of turbulence – the choir (on this recording, the BBC Symphony Chorus) sings O’Shaughnessy’s lonely testament of all poets and artists: “…Yet we are the movers and shakers/Of the world forever, it seems…” In this work, Elgar followed a motif which surfaced time and again through his composing career: a desire to escape the life of an artist, as much as to create – and the idea that his works were sometimes failures; that he had failed to find that celestial high-note, that “God was against art”. The Music Makers unfolds as a memory-album of Elgar’s past triumphs: famous themes from works that made his name – the First Symphony, the Enigma Variations, Sea Pictures arise from the mournful depths, and it seems that we are listening to an Elgar requiem. Continue reading

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Fake Intel runs through it

A New York City fireman calls for 10 more rescue workers to make their way into the rubble of the World Trade Center. U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres.

Fake Intel runs through it

by Ilana Mercer

No, the moral of the Mueller inquisition is not that the Left is incorrigibly corrupt and morally and intellectually bankrupt, although this is certainly true. And, no. It’s not that the Republicans are meek, more eager for swamp-creature tenure than to save the country. However much state power flaccid Republicans capture, they quickly come to heel when Democrats crack the whip.

The moral of the Mueller inquisition, at least one of them, concerns the alphabet soup of acronyms that stands for the Permanent Security State—FBI, DOJ, DIA, DHS, CIA, NSA, on and on. That this intractable apparatus’ impetus is liberal is hardly new. What is counterintuitive to many is that the Permanent Security State’s modus operandi comports perfectly well with both Republican and Democratic administrations, alike.

When it comes to subverting an “America First,” sovereignty-centered, populist platform—the duopoly acts as one. Have not fans of Mr. Mueller kept reminding us that the man is a loyal Republican? And he is—Mueller’s a Republican stalwart of the managerial class. (By the way, Mueller fans can find “Mr. Mueller-face earrings and Mueller devotional candles on Etsy, the e-commerce equivalent of a hippie grandmother’s attic.”)
Continue reading

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Hell has no Limits

Erwin Schrott as Méphistophélès, photograph by Tristram Kenton

Hell has no Limits

Faust, opera in five acts, music by Charles-François Gounod, libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, conducted by Dan Ettinger, director David McVicar, 5th revival of the 2004 production, Royal Opera, Thursday 11th April 2019, reviewed by Leslie Jones

When Charles-François Gounod died in 1893, Faust had already been performed a thousand times. It is not hard to see why. Exquisitely orchestrated, with echoes of his protégé George Bizet’s Symphony in C (composed when the latter was only seventeen), there are compelling and beautiful arias, such as Salut! Demeure chaste et pure (Hail! Chaste and fair abode). Moreover, Faust addresses universal themes. “Who”, as one critic sagely remarked, “doesn’t long to be young again?” (lyricopera.org). Faust, a world-weary scholar, depicted by the American tenor Michael Fabiano as a doddering old man, feels that he has learnt nothing and has needlessly forgone opportunities for love. “Maudit soit le bonheur, maudites la science, la priere et la foi”, he exclaims (Cursed be happiness, science, prayer and faith). He damns everything that ties people to life – sex, youth, the beauty of nature and the thirst for knowledge. Continue reading

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