Classical music to end all wars

Ralph Vaughn Williams

Ralph Vaughan Williams by Hoppé-1921
Ralph Vaughan Williams by Hoppé-1921

From a Zoom discussion meeting of the choir folk on a recent Thursday night, I discovered that quite a bit of classical music was written to commemorate the Great World War.

I knew about a number of pop tunes for “the war to end  all wars.” It’s A Long, Long Way to Tipperary; I Didn’t Raise My Son to Be A Soldier; Keep the Home Fires Burning; and of course, Over There, were all #1 charters in the United States. The latter was a #1 hit by three different artists in a row, American Quartet, Peerless Quartet, and Nora Bayes in the fourth quarter of 1917.

Here are nine classical compositions, with music links. I was familiar with Britten’s War Requiem. I have a recording of Gustav Holst’s The Planets, but I did not know of its WWI connection. Perhaps I should have. “In the opening section of the suite, ‘Mars, The Bringer of War,’ there’s a truly visceral sense of horror; what must have seemed like the end of the world to those who experienced The Great War.”

Ralph, pronounced Raif

This article from the British Library notes the number of young composers killed in the conflict. One noted composer who physically survived the conflict was  Ralph Vaughn Williams (12 October 1872 – 26 August 1958).

“He enlisted as a Private in the Royal Army Medical Corps… on New Year’s Eve 1914. At 42 he was old enough to have been excused service, but the medical corps were often chosen by older… men who wanted to serve.

“Maurice Ravel, who had tutored Vaughan Williams in orchestration in 1907-8 also became an ambulance driver. Becoming a medical orderly was not an easy posting, however.

Many of Vaughan Williams’ friends died. “Ralph wrote to Holst in 1916 about the loss of his contemporaries and his fear of returning to civilian life. ‘I sometimes dread coming back to normal life with so many gaps…out of those 7 who joined up together in August 1914 only 3 are left.'”

Listen:

Symphony No. 3, “A Pastoral Symphony” (June 1921) Haitink conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra

Dona Nobis Pacem cantata (1936) London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, Conductor: Richard Hickox – Soloists: Bryn Terfel (baritone), Yvonne Kenny (soprano), Philip Langridge (tenor)

November rambling: triple plays

Rebecca Jade And The Cold Fact

Awkward
From TheAwkwardYetti.com
The Violent History of the U.S.-Mexico Border

The Revolution Isn’t Being Televised

Stephen Miller E-Mails Show How He Promoted White Nationalist Ideology In Media, going back to when he worked for then-Senator Jeff Sessions

How women fall into the white supremacist movement

Maligned in black and white– Southern newspapers played a major role in racial violence. Do they owe their communities an apology?

Religious Freedom for Loganists!

My Childhood in a Cult

Republicans want to out the whistleblower because they can’t defend him on the merits

His tortured English

The Obama date-night controversy

Amazon’s Absence from Worker Safety Alliance Highlights Dangers of Unsafe Supply Chains

How One Employer Stuck a New Mom With an $898,984 Bill for Her Premature Baby

Charles à Court Repington and when did we start to refer to the horrors of the 1914-1918 conflict as ‘The First World War’?

Weekly Sift: Sacrifices

Yvette Lundy: French Resistance member who survived Nazi camps dies at 103

UK halts fracking, effective immediately

The Untold Story of the 2018 Olympics Cyberattack, the Most Deceptive Hack in History

AIER: Questions for Immigration Skeptics

Court Allows Police Full Access to Online Genealogy Database

In a rural Wisconsin village, the doctor makes house calls — and sees some of the rarest diseases on Earth

Dial 911 if there’s an emergency, not 112

Social Security and SSI Benefits Are Increasing in 2020

Wealth Is About Much More than Physical Things

New Airplane Feature Could Save You If Your Pilot Can’t

There’s no reason to cross the U.S. by train. But I did so anyway.

Fully Accessible Guide to Smart Home Tech for Disabled and Elderly

That’s entertainment

Washington Grays baseball, in honor of the Homestead Grays, a Negro League Team

All 720 Triple Plays in Major League Baseball history

Beany and Cecil

The accidental brilliance of Silly Putty

Four toy commercials from the sixties – I definitely had a Slinky, and I know I played someone’s Rock ’em, Sock ’em Robots

Tips on attending TV Tapings

Amy Biancolli: I Really Don’t Care

Now I Know: The Last Army Pillow Fight and Why Filmmakers Use That Black and White Flapped Board and The Ark That Went Full Circle

MUSIC

Rebecca Jade And The Cold Fact: Songs From Their New Album ‘Running Out Of Time’ and Gonna Be Alright and how they began

Viola Sonata in D minor by Mikhail Glinka.

The Wolf Glen scene from the opera Der Freischutz by Carl Maria von Weber

Coverville 1284: Cover Stories for Grace Slick and Katy Perry

Go up Moses – Roberta Flack

Polka and Fugue from Schwanda the Bagpiper! by Jaromir Weinberger

How to Play Guitar Like Keith Richards

What Does ‘Born In The U.S.A.’ Really Mean?

Disease: flu epidemic of 1918-1919

The flu epidemic spread following the path of its human carriers, along trade routes and shipping lines

flu epidemic.I knew there was a terrible flu epidemic near the end of what we now refer to as World War I. The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 struck young people particularly hard, and killed between 20 and 40 million people worldwide, including an estimated 675,000 Americans, far more than the war. But what CAUSED what was perhaps the second deadliest disease outbreak in human history?

The EcoHealth Alliance’s Robert Kessler shares some facts:

“In researching his book The Great Influenza, John M. Barry discovered that in January 1918, a doctor in Haskell County, Kansas reported unusual flu activity to the U.S. Public Health Service. By March, that had spread to nearby Fort Riley. On the morning of March 11, an Army private reported symptoms of fever, sore throat, and headache. By lunch that day, more than 100 soldiers on the base had fallen sick.

“At the time, very little was known about viruses and their transmission. In fact, the very first virus – Tobacco mosaic virus – had only been discovered 26 years earlier in 1892.”

Interesting that the recommendations against contracting the flu were slightly different from a century later. “Wash inside nose with soap and water each night and morning; force yourself to sneeze night and morning, then breathe deeply; do not wear a muffler; take sharp walks regularly and walk home from work; eat plenty of porridge.”

Kessler notes: “Diet and exercise are, of course, essential components of our health, but a brisk walk isn’t going to do much when it comes to preventing a virus from hijacking a host’s cells and replicating itself. From Fort Riley, soldiers carried the disease to other American military bases and, eventually, the battlefront in Europe.”

That first wave wasn’t particularly virulent. But, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control: “In September 1918, the second wave of pandemic flu emerged at Camp Devens, a U.S. Army training camp just outside of Boston, and at a naval facility in Boston. This wave was brutal and peaked in the U.S. from September through November. More than 100,000 Americans died during October alone.”

Stanford University notes the awful effects of the flu epidemic worldwide: “It spread following the path of its human carriers, along trade routes and shipping lines. Outbreaks swept through North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Brazil and the South Pacific In India the mortality rate was extremely high at around 50 deaths from influenza per 1,000 people. The Great War, with its mass movements of men in armies and aboard ships, probably aided in its rapid diffusion and attack.”

As the CDC notes, “Scientists now know this pandemic was caused by an H1N1 virus, which continued to circulate as a seasonal virus worldwide for the next 38 years.”

For ABC Wednesday

Movie review: They Shall Not Grow Old

Like all of Peter Jackson’ s work, it is first and foremost a special effects movie.

They shall not grow oldI can’t remember the last time I took off work to see a movie. But my parents-in-law, four of my wife’s cousins, and three of their significant others all traveled at least an hour to a Regal Theater in Albany to see They Shall Not Grow Old with my wife and me.

It was a curious release process, two showings, one in the evening of December 17, and the other the afternoon of December 27, in about 1,140 theaters. It was put out by Fathom Events, which specializes in one-day cinematic events such as opera performances.

Back in 2014, the centennial of the beginning of World War I, director Peter Jackson was commissioned to take 100 hours of footage and 600 hours of audio clips and make a movie out of it. As the director admitted in a clip before the actual film, he didn’t know WHAT to do initially.

Eventually, he came up with a narrative that involved the recruitment process in Britain, with many of the recruits underage; they should have been 18, and 19 to go overseas. And it’s when the story switches to France that the film changes from black and white to color.

They Shall Not Grow Old does not attempt to describe a specific battle, but rather the stress from training, boredom from waiting, to being in the trenches and experiencing German bombardments. It wasn’t until the 30-minute “making of” that I truly appreciated the astonishing work it took to make the film look as it did, from slowing down or speeding up the film to making film that appeared too dark or too light pleasing to the eye.

I was so taken by the film that I immediately had to find the two critics out of 68 who gave it a negative review. One said, “Like all of [Jackson’ s] work, it is first and foremost a special effects movie.” And it is, and an incredible one at that, but it’s an odd complaint.

The other groused that “the film is yet another erasure of soldiers of color who are nowhere to be found in what is otherwise a postmodern take on documentary filmmaking.” I don’t know was captured in those recordings so I can’t speak to this.

The truth is, and Jackson said so, that he could have made any number of films, including the role of women in the war effort, a generation before Rosie the Riveter. Or the war at sea. He was trying to create a coherent narrative. One does see, briefly, troops from other parts of the British Empire.

With the success of those two days, They Shall Not Grow Old will have another showing on January 21. An earlier report suggests it will receive a limited theatrical releases in NYC, L.A. and Washington DC starting on January 11, with plans to then expand into 25 more markets on February 1.

Here’s Chuck Miller’s take on the December 17 screening.

Joseph E. Persico, 1930-2014

As a speechwriter for the former New York State Governor and US Vice-President, Joseph Persico had unusual access to Nelson Rockefeller.

JoePersicoPressWebI went to see the author Joseph E. Persico on Saturday afternoon, May 21, 2005, at the Albany Public Library. Persico had been writing for over a quarter-century at that point.

His then-current book was Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918, World War I and Its Violent Climax. He stated that more people died on that last half-day of the Great War, for no particular strategic purpose, than died on D-Day (June 6, 1944) in World War II.

Persico talked about the process of researching and writing his books, which I found instructive in writing this blog.

While working on My Enemy, My Brother: Men and Days of Gettysburg (1996), he sought to pin down who fired the first shot in this pivotal Civil War battle. He believed he’d finally found the answer. He brought this to a gentleman at the Gettysburg Memorial who had provided invaluable assistance. The gentleman replied, “That’s one version.”

Persico interviewed Charles Collingsworth, one of “Murrow’s Boys” for Edward R. Murrow: An American Original (1988). At one point Collingsworth asked him to shut off the tape recorder, which Persico did. Collingsworth then told of Murrow’s affair with Winston Churchill’s daughter-in-law, Pamela Churchill (later Pamela Harriman), which almost wrecked Murrow’s marriage. Persico decided that Collingsworth wanted him to have the story, but didn’t want people to know that the information came from the now late newsman. Persico used the information in the book.

As a speechwriter for the former New York State Governor and US Vice-President, Persico had unusual access to Nelson Rockefeller. The author was waiting for Rocky to finish a lengthy meeting with black housing leaders. Finally, the exhausted official collapsed into a chair, looking haggard, and exclaimed, “Amos ‘n’ Andy got it right.” (For those of you too young to understand the reference, Amos ‘n’ Andy was a controversial radio and television program in the 1940s and 1950s.) Persico wrote this comment down at the time. He put it in the first draft of his book The Imperial Rockefeller: A Biography of Nelson A. Rockefeller, then took it out, then put it back in, ultimately leaving it out. He decided that the then-governor lashed out in frustration that was out of character, and would provide a distorted view of the man.

In that same book, he had to deal with how Rocky died. He was with a 22-year old assistant that Persico knew. Not to mention it would have made it “look like the book was authorized by the Rockefeller Foundation.” He told the tale succinctly, never mentioning the woman’s name (nor did he mention Megan Marshack by name in his talk.)

Persico co-authored Colin Powell’s autobiography, My American Journey. He believes his most important jobs were to keep in what was interesting to a broad audience and to delete what was not. In Powell’s case, the general wanted to put in a few sentences about his two tours of Vietnam. Persico found this not practical, given its import in American life. Conversely, Powell was a policy wonk, very proud of a report he had made. Persico argued that the audience would not be as interested in this story as he was, and the story was excised.

I enjoyed the talk, though I was troubled briefly that he thought I was there ONLY because I was on the Friends board. I do wish that more folks were present. It WAS a lovely Saturday afternoon outside, though, and that is tough competition in a spring that has been unseasonably cool and wet.

Joseph Persico died on August 30, 2014. He would have been 85 today.

This was an edited version of my post of May 27, 2005.