Thursday, December 31, 2009

Auld Lang Syne

A beautiful scene from the 1940 film "Waterloo Bridge," a World War II movie about World War I, which stars the impossibly gorgeous pair of Robert Taylor and Vivien Leigh as, respectively, a Scottish officer (with an American accident) and an aspiring ballerina (who descends to prostitution).

A happy and blessed new year to all.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Me Too

[The] great Romantic symphonists [are] great companions, especially on those nights when talk is impossible, when the only understanding companion is the radio. Some of the greatest pleasures I’ve had in life are late nights in bed, tired and restless, and turning on a low-fidelity clock radio. Classical music stations not infrequently abandon the Baroque and Classical top 40 late at night for the longer, deeper, darker works of Romanticism. I first heard [Ralph Vaughan Williams's] 9th and Prokoviev’s 7th in just those moments, and was utterly fascinated. It seemed I was hearing a profound riddle of a bed-time story, a lullaby of contemplation, and in my own moments of fear and doubt knew that there were others listening in tandem to the broadcast, and that the radio was offering companionship to us, and that we were not alone.

-- George Grella, writing at The Big City

Update:  A great radio tradition is going on right now:  the annual Bach Festival on WKCR, Columbia University's radio station. From December 21 to December 31, WKCR plays something like Bach's entire recorded output, and there are some neat oddball segments like jazz commentator Phil Schaap's show featuring Bach in jazz. Lots of room for great radio moments.  Listen here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Once In Royal David's City

Merry Christmas to all. May Christ, our hope, light all our paths, and may He, through the beauty of music and of the created world, allow us a glimpse of His own beauty.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"God gave me the gift of playing cards"

It confirms me in my hope that God can use even those aspects of our personae that tread the fine line between harmless fun and soul-searing vice for His glory and the good of all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Moving On Up

It's funny how my husband and I are homeowners now -- we moved into what my son calls "our new house-home" yesterday -- and yet my life hasn't changed, excepting the obvious; it hasn't, in other words, magically become more wonderful, beautiful, or thrilling.  And I'm a little pissed off by that.

I'm also chagrined to find that the loveseat I was so hoping to leave by the curb has somehow made its way into our new house-home.  There's nothing, technically, wrong with this piece of furniture, aside from the fact that it's rather unlovely.  It's actually quite comfortable.  But it came to us third-hand by way of a bartender friend of my husband's who, along with about forty percent of our old neighborhood in the Bronx, decided to repatriate to Ireland a few years ago, before the economy there collapsed.  Something about knowing that this loveseat spent most of its life on McLean Avenue in Yonkers just bothers me, though I can't quite put my finger on it.  I just want it gone, but then there would be nowhere to sit in the family room.

I've been offering my Saint Andrew's novena for my intentions and those of my family, and also for the special intentions of some readers, including Sally T, Emily J, Josh Snyder, and Mrs. Darwin.  Dear all, I fell asleep while praying for you last night.  I hope it still works.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bedtime Story for my Son

Where did the voice come from? I hunted through the rooms
For that small boy, that high, that head-voice,
The clatter as his heels caught on the door,
A shadow just caught moving through the door
Something like a school-satchel.  My wife
Didn't seem afraid, even when it called for food.
She smiled and turned her book and said:
"I couldn't go and love the empty air."

We went to bed. Our dreams seemed full
Of boys in one or another guise, the paper-boy
Skidding along in grubby jeans, a music-lesson
She went out in the early afternoon to fetch a child from.
I pulled up from a pillow damp with heat
And saw her kissing hers, her legs were folded
Far away from mine.  A pillow! It seemed
She couldn't love the empty air.

Perhaps, we thought, a child had come to grief
In some room in the old house we kept,
And listened if the noises came from some special room,
And then we'd take the boards up and discover
A pile of dusty bones like charcoal twigs and give
The tiny-sounding ghost a proper resting-place
So that it need not wander in the empty air.

No blood-stained attic harboured the floating sounds,
We found they came in rooms that we'd warmed with our life.
We traced the voice and found where it mostly came
From just underneath both our skins, and not only
In the night-time either, but at the height of noon
And when we sat at meals alone.  Plainly, this is how we found
That love pines loudly to go out to where
It need not spend itself on fancy and the empty air.

-- Peter Redgrove

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Birthday, Brother

Today is believed to be Beethoven's 239th birthday.  There is no record of his birth, but we know he was baptized on December 17th, and it was customary at the time for infants to be baptized the day after they were born.  The son of an abusive, alcoholic father, Beethoven was himself surly, cruel, lonely, despairing, frequently ill, sometimes suicidal, and, in the latter third of his life, more and more profoundly disabled.  His inability to successfully carry out a courtship and achieve a reciprocal love that would culminate in marriage was a terrible difficulty to him.  He is the kind of man that history would scorn, except for the fact that he wrote music that is more than music; it is, to paraphrase the Schiller text that he set in his Ninth Symphony, a spark from heaven that illuminates the soul of man.  I can hardly hear his music without weeping; it makes me want to die and live, which I suppose is what teen groupies have historically felt for their heartthrobs.  As composer and critic George Grella so memorably wrote on his blog, The Big City:

Beethoven is not my friend . . .  and I don’t always like him.  He can infuriate me with his scorn, his pettiness, his arrogant and cruel moods – he’s not a person who, if I did not know, I would pursue a friendship with.  That doesn’t matter, though, because I do know him, and he knows me.  He’s my brother, and so I will always love him.

Happy birthday to one of the greatest of mortal men.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

So Much for Art for Art's Sake

Although I'm not at all sure that I'll ever read all the books I have, some of them are just too good to get rid of.  From Donn Pohren's 1962 The Art of Flamenco, another one of those enchanting lists that I so love:

 The Cante is the least likely flamenco form to be mastered by a non-Spaniard. . . . [But] there are exceptions . . . . perhaps the most interesting example of a non-Spanish singer that I know of is the Pakistanian [sic] Aziz Balouch, a singer of both Pakistanian folk songs and flamenco . . . . Mr. Balouch claims that flamenco is a direct descendant of Indo-Pakistanian religiou and folk songs.  Based on this premise (very likely correct, at least in part) . . . Mr. Balouch sets about to purify the flamenco "way of life" by applying Yoga and operatic training techniques to the flamenco singer.  He suggests the following:

(1) Abstention from all alcoholic beverages, especially during and before singing.  He suggests that the signer drink weak tea or tepid water.
(2) Special dietary practices.  For best results it would be wise to go all out and become a vegetarian.
(3) Limiting sexual activities to a bare minium, with complete abstention on singing days.  He has offered no solution for those who sing every night.
(4) 15 minutes of lung development a day by vigorously inhaling and exhaling fresh air.
(5) Cleaning of the nasal passages daily by sucking water up one nostril and releasing it through the other, and vice versa.  Repeat as desired.

It must be recognized that these practices may give the singer a clear, bell-like tone, and perhaps an operatic resonance.  What Mr. Balouch apparently does not realize is that these are the very vocal qualities that the flamenco singer avoids.  He also seems unaware that flamenco is not just singing, but a unique philosophy, a way of life.  These people are born flamencos, with everything the word implies: quantities of booze, women whenever and wherever possible, long lasting blasts.  Their art is vital, but flamenco is their life.  If they are blessed with artistic talent, well and good.  But they do not see things as other cultures do, and will not behave like other cultures; they won't give up life's pleasures (and the flamenco way of life is definitely a pleasurable one) and their inherent philosophy merely to delicate [sic] themselves to an art form.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

And So Much for the Chouchou's Master

In the midst of packing, I've stumbled upon another one of my favorite books about singers and singing, the delightful 1923 memoir Singer's Pilgrimage by Blanche Marchesi, daughter of two of the most prominent voice teachers of the nineteenth century (if you want to hear something truly remarkable, here is a recording Mme. Marchesi made in her seventies of a "Sicilian Cart Driver's Song" -- listen for the splendid spoken asides, as the cart driver urges on his team.  Some of the best singing I've ever heard).

In her childhood and young adulthood, Mme. Marchesi rubbed shoulders with many of the great musicians of her day.  Here is her description of the conversion of Franz Liszt: 

. . . at that time artists like Liszt were very rare, and the admiration and hero-worship were almost stronger than to-day, while the romances they encountered would fill a dozen volumes.  Goethe's Werther was still the fashionable book, read by sentimental ladies, and poetry reigned supreme . . . . Virtuosos like Paganini, Liszt and [Anton] Rubinstein were demigods, and women, poor butterflies, or rather moths, would gaily burn themselves to death in their radiant light.  

At that time in Weimar Liszt was one of those suns who shone brightly on all the litle flowers that gathered around him, hoping to be loved, or even noticed.  Liszt could not see all these little flowers, his life being intimately linked at that time and filled with a great love affair, which it is not indiscreet to mention, as it is known all over the world.  his lady-love was the famous, beautiful Princess Wittgenstein, who lived in the same house with him in Weimar, having even taken her daughter with her . . . . it was like a fairy tale to see that wonderful Princess lie, clad in beautiful velvet frocks and veils, on a low couch, listening to the playing of her worshipped hero.  She was very proud of her lovely hands, and still more so of her feet.  At home she would wear silk or velvet slippers to go from one room into the other, and when lying down on her couch would drop them and put her two wonderful ivory-coloured feet on a red velvet cushion, in view of all persons present.  At dinner, when dessert was nearing, her little daughter was allowed to come down and greet the guests, and after making a few bows and kising Liszt's hand was allowed to retire with some sweets and fruit.

These quiet evenings at Weimar were followed by tragic days.  Liszt had great patience with the extravagant tastes of his Princess . . . . Mistaking this kindness and patience, she thought that she had made his heart a prisoner for ever.  Her dream was to unite her fate to Liszt's life of glory, and, desirous to break her marriage bonds and to marry Liszt, she dispatched him to Rome to try to bend the Pope to her will.  What was her surprise, her grief and her distress, when Liszt returned from Rome, to find that he had not only failed to bring the dispensation, but that he had entered Sacred Orders, and when he entered her room dressed as an abbé she fell in a dead faint at his feet.  Thus he cut off for ever the hopes of all the little flowers who would bewitch him on his further earthly artistic pilgrimage.

Friday, December 11, 2009

So Much for the "Chouchou de Paris"

From Richard Cross's wonderful article about the conversion of pianist and composer Hermann Cohen.  I love that one of the monkeys on his back as a novice was . . .  coffee (I'm down with the malicious wit part, too).

When Hermann presented himself at the Carmelite convent in Agen he brought a great deal of emotional baggage with him. Here was a young man who only a short while ago had been a dandy and dilettante. He had bad habits to overcome: a malicious wit, a tendency to backbite and gossip. He was addicted to gambling, he smoked, he took snuff, he loved coffee. What he faced was bare feet in the winter, rising in the middle of the night for prayer, total abstinence from meat, fasting throughout the year, sleeping on a board without a mattress, long periods of silence in a small cell, and no keyboard during his novitiate. So much for the "chouchou de Paris."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


In the 1990s, my first husband, M., had the type of day job that was much coveted among struggling New York artists.  He worked in the word processing center of a global investment bank, using the most arcane and esoteric features of Microsoft Office to create marketing materials that helped bankers pitch high-level investments to potential clients.  The work was highly skilled and well paid, and, best of all, the word processors didn't have to deal with the bankers themselves, for whom, it must be admitted, they had little respect.  That was the job of the word processing center supervisor, who was the liaison between the center workers -- all of them highly-educated, underemployed artists, or doctoral candidates who would probably never finish their dissertations -- and the bankers, who were generally first- and second-year analysts just out of college, living four or five to an apartment (but always in doorman buildings in tony neighborhoods) and working a hundred hours a week in expectation of Christmas bonuses that often far exceeded their annual salaries.

M. was very good at his job (he was good at everything he did), and he and his supervisor, a young black grandmother named Margaret, held one another in affection and esteem.  But his temper was such that, in those pre-iPod days, after he threw his Discman at his typing stand in response to a banker's unreasonable request and told Margaret to tell the banker to do the effing job himself, she said to him, "M., I love you, but I can't have you on my shift no more" (my friend Soprannie, who worked with M., was an eyewitness to this event).  After that, M. worked the evening shift.

Margaret was a born-again Christian who used to reminisce, not entirely without nostalgia, about her pre-conversion days of nightclubbing, promiscuity, and recreational drug use.  "Thank God for Jesus," she used to say.  " 'Cause if it wasn't for Jesus, I'd be bad."  We used to laugh at this, as if it were Margaret's standard shtick, but today at Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I realized how starkly honest she had been.  The priest noted that the Bible begins with the story of a woman -- Eve -- and ends with the story of another woman, the New Eve, the woman in Apocalypse who is clothed with the sun and has the moon and stars at her feet.  I thought about the fact that the Bible opens in paradise, where the man and woman are naked before one another and are not ashamed, and how, by page three, it's all over:  the angel drives our first parents weeping from the valley of joy and delight with a flaming sword, and now we eat our bread mixed with ashes.

The old joke is that, if you look hard enough, you can find your own phone number in the Bible.  Well, I know mine is in there.  Like our first parents, I have been tempted with the Ur-temptation, the one that has us believing we can have power equal to God's, which is certainly the root of all the nightclubbing, promiscuity, recreational drug use, and so forth.  But the education in evil I received before my conversion was nothing compared to what I've learned about it since.  I suppose it takes an egregious sinner to sneak up in among the righteous and see how very, very many of them take the stance of the Pharisee in the temple, and yet do not see themselves reflected in that parable.  (This is true in a special way in the pro-life movement, which is full of post-abortive women who hesitate to speak openly the joyful news that they have been forgiven, for fear of the poorly-concealed horror in which they are held by some of their less-egregiously-sinful comrades.)  I myself have incurred scorn in the comboxes on this blog from virtuous Catholics, who appear to believe that I don't deserve to call myself a penitent, penitence being reserved, perhaps, for those who sin but lightly.  Well, wake up, people: man is fallen, and we're all naked under our clothes, and not in a pretty, Renoir sort of way, either.  In this season of penitence, it's best to admit that, if it weren't for Jesus, you'd be bad. Maybe you'd be bad like Margaret, maybe you'd be bad like me, or maybe you'd just find your own particular level of badness.  But there are few transgressions of which that the human heart is not capable, no matter how virtuous the mind that believes it controls that heart; and to the good people who say to themselves and each other, "I would never do that" (an assertion I've often heard made, for instance, about abortion, from those on both the pro- and anti- sides), I say, "How do you know?"  We should pray in all humility that we'll never be tempted to see that (or any other sin) as a good option.  As Solzhenitsyn said, the line between good and evil runs through every human heart.  That means yours.

Which is why this feast day is so great.  Our last chance, our true medicine, our only hope, was born to a young girl not, perhaps, unlike the one pictured above, in John Collier's startling painting of the Annunciation, who was just like us, except for the fact that God honored her by removing from her the indelible bruise and brokenness resulting from our first parents' devastating fall.  O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us egregious sinners, who are the happiest of all people because we have recourse to you and your powerful intercession.

Now is a good time to revisit this stark, powerful performance of the old carol "Remember, O Thou Man."

Friday, December 4, 2009

King John's Christmas

And this poem still makes me cry:

King John was not a good man –
He had his little ways.
And sometimes no one spoke to him
For days and days and days.
And men who came across him,
When walking in the town,
Gave him a supercilious stare,
Or passed with noses in the air –
And bad King John stood dumbly there,
Blushing beneath his crown.

King John was not a good man,
And no good friends had he.
He stayed in every afternoon…
But no one came to tea.
And, round about December,
The cards upon his shelf
Which wished him lots of Christmas cheer,
And fortune in the coming year,
Were never from his near and dear,
But only from himself.

King John was not a good man,
Yet had his hopes and fears.
They’d given him no present now
For years and years and years.
But every year at Christmas,
While minstrels stood about,
Collecting tribute from the young
For all the songs they might have sung,
He stole away upstairs and hung
A hopeful stocking out.

King John was not a good man,
He lived his live aloof;
Alone he thought a message out
While climbing up the roof.
He wrote it down and propped it
Against the chimney stack:
F. Christmas in particular.”
And signed it not “Johannes R.”
But very humbly, “Jack.”

“I want some crackers,
And I want some candy;
I think a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I don’t mind oranges,
I do like nuts!
And I SHOULD like a pocket-knife
That really cuts.
And, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red, india-rubber ball!”

King John was not a good man –
He wrote this message out,
And gat him to this room again,
Descending by the spout.
And all that night he lay there,
A prey to hopes and fears.
“I think that’s him a-coming now!”
(Anxiety bedewed his brow.)
“He’ll bring one present, anyhow –
The first I had for years.”

“Forget about the crackers,
And forget the candy;
I’m sure a box of chocolates
Would never come in handy;
I don’t like oranges,
I don’t want nuts,
And I HAVE got a pocket-knife
That almost cuts.
But, oh! Father christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red, india-rubber ball!”

King John was not a good man,  
Next morning when the sun
Rose up to tell a waiting world
That Christmas had begun,
And people seized their stockings,
And opened them with glee,
And crackers, toys and games appeared,
And lips with sticky sweets were smeared,
King John said grimly: “As I feared,
Nothing again for me!”

“I did want crackers,
And I did want candy;
I know a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I do love oranges,
I did want nuts!
I haven’t got a pocket-knife —
Not one that cuts.
And, oh! if Father Christmas, had loved me at all,
He would have brought a big, red,
india-rubber ball!”

King John stood by the window,
And frowned to see below
The happy bands of boys and girls
All playing in the snow.
A while he stood there watching,
And envying them all …
When through the window big and red
There hurtled by his royal head,
And bounced and fell upon the bed,
An india-rubber ball!

And oh Father Christmas,
My blessings on you fall
For bringing him a big, red,
India-rubber ball! 

(From Now We Are Six)

Pooh and Eden

Listening to Robert Tear's wonderful album of the Fraser-Simson-A.A. Milne songs -- and it is growing on me, though my ancient loyalties lie, of course, with the Jack Gilford recording -- is turning out to be a poignant, even painful, experience for me.   The songs are so curious -- art music written on children's poetry -- and their beauty is so anachronistic, that they seem almost an aural metaphor for the strangeness and fleetingness of childhood itself.  I wish I could preserve the wonder of childhood for my own son, and of course I wish it could have been preserved for me, and I wonder sometimes how I became so determined to fall so far from the innocence of childhood, which, paradoxically, I managed to retain for a longer time than most American girls.  When the world begins to appear the mirror opposite of how it formerly looked  and felt (the shock and processing of this experience are very much what Mozart's last opera, Die Zauberflöte, is about), some children feel as if they've been driven out of the safe world of childhood, which now seems utterly false, and begin to act out their anger and grief at this loss which reflects the primordial loss of Eden.  This, at least, is what happened to me.

Yet I am strongly drawn to the ethos of childhood.  Most of what I read in my limited spare time is children's literature, and I am always trying to devise ways to bring the things I loved in my own childhood into my son's life (though I will need to accept the possibility that he may not love them himself).  But, I wonder, is it right, is it good to create a world of wonder around childhood, when the real world is such a hateful, mean, dangerous place?

I fervently wish that all children might be immersed in the world of delight that's portrayed in H. Fraser-Simson's wonderful Milne songs.  In my new city,  however, where I see little boys with neck tattoos that match their dads', where I read in the paper every day about horrific acts of child abuse and neglect, and where I hear parents screaming and cursing at their children as they walk them home from school, I'm even more acutely aware that this world is a distant dream for most children.  How fortunate are the few who, through happy circumstance and the efforts of their parents, are able to live in a world of innocence for a few short years.

The existential sorrow that the Fraser-Simson/Milne songs evokes for me is, I think, most of all elegiac -- not only for the world of childhood, which is always slipping away, always being lost -- but also for life itself, which starts out as a trickle of small goodbyes and later turns into a torrent of big ones.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Three Cheers for Pooh

Some of my readers know of my fanatical devotion to what has got to be the best children's record ever made, a now-obscure 1952 recording of song settings of A.A. Milne's Pooh and Christopher Robin poems.  The record predates the Disney-Pooh industrial complex; the musical settings -- really art songs -- were composed in the 1920s, shortly after the first publication of the Pooh books, by English composer H. Fraser-Simson.  The excellence of the Fraser-Simson Pooh songs is enhanced even more, on this recording, by the rather odd fact that they are scored for woodwind quartet, and by the equally odd fact that they are sung and narrated by the wonderful blacklisted American actor Jack Gilford (the fact that he couldn't work in the 1950s is likely the reason he made this record to begin with).  Gilford is an idiosyncratic, but adorable, Pooh -- whoever imagined Winnie with a Brooklyn accent?  And the songs really are marvelous.

I found today that some Very Wonderful Person has made a zip file of a later recording of the Fraser-Simson Pooh songs of which I was unaware, this one by Welsh tenor Robert Tear and pianist Philip Ledger.  Though it lacks the eccentric charm of the Jack Gilford-woodwind quartet version -- Tear's reading of the songs is very straight -- it is a lovely recording of some wonderful, little-known music.  And this Same Wonderful Person has also uploaded the unavailable 1975 Maurice Sendak-Carole King television special, "Really Rosie" (from which my dear friend who posts on this blog occasionally derives her moniker), which you can watch in Quicktime.  Bless you, Wonderful Person, whoever you are -- you have improved my life immeasurably.

Advice to Young Singers, Part 1: Ham, Eggs, and Atlantic City

I was married in 2005, have moved three times since then, and am about to move again.  The first move was from my aerie in Washington Heights, a place where I spent what seem like the crucial years of my adulthood, to my new home as a bride in the Bronx, a few miles to the east.  My new husband had picked out a very nice apartment in an Italian neighborhood, because he thought I'd be happy around my own kind.  Alas, this was not to be, as our landlord, who lived downstairs from us, moonlighted as a deejay, and would spend the wee hours working on his mixes, causing me to drag my pregnant self out of bed on countless occasions to pound on his door.  So we soon moved to another Bronx neighborhood, known affectionately as "County Woodlawn," where my husband could be happy around his own kind, and where he'd lived for many years previously.   I loved this neighborhood, on the far northern fringes of the city, myself.  It felt like the land that time forgot.  We moved to a small city in Appalachia last year, and we are about to move into our first house, so hopefully we will stay put for a while.

The hardest part of every move for me has been the inevitable book purge.  I find it very hard to part with any book, though I know I will have to shuffle some off in the interest of moving sanity.  While making the initial pass through my library the other day, I found a book that I used to love, Great Singers on the Art of Singing, a collection of essays by the prominent opera stars of the day, published in 1921.  I turned immediately to my favorite essay, by Ernestine Schumann-Heink (above), the great German contralto who was extremely popular in the United States in the period around World War I.

The primary reason I love Mme. Schumann-Heink's essay is the same reason I love reading cookbooks and police procedurals:  it appeals to my deep hunger for order and ritual.   In one section, for instance, Mme. Schumann-Heink details the necessities of a singer's daily routine:

First of all comes diet.  Americans as a rule eat far too much [this in 1921].  Why do some of the good churchgoing people raise such an incessant row about over-drinking when they constantly injure themselves quite as much by over-eating?  What difference does it make whether you ruin your stomach, liver, or kidneys by too much alcohol or too much roast beef?  One vice is as bad as another.  The singer must live upon a light diet. . . . Here is an average ménu for my days when I am on tour:

Two or more glasses of Cold Water
(not ice water)
Ham and Eggs

Some Meat Order
A Vegetable
Plenty of Salad

A Sandwich

Such a ménu I find ample for the heaviest kind of professional work.  If I eat more, my work may deteriorate, and I know it.

Fresh air, sunshine, sufficient rest and daily baths in tepid water night and morning are a part of my regular routine . . . . There is nothing like such a routine as this to avoid colds . . . . To me, one day at Atlantic City is better for a cold than all the medicine I can take. . . . I always make a bee line for Atlantic City the moment I feel a serious cold on the way.

Sensible singers know now that they must avoid alcohol, even in limited quantities, if they desire to be in the prime of condition . . . . Champagne particularly is poison to the singer just before singing  [the idea of drinking champagne just before singing is akin, in my mind, to the adage about coloratura sopranos having sex during a performance]. . . I am sorry for the singer who feels that some spur like champagne or a cup of strong coffee is desirable before going upon the stage [I myself always eat dark chocolate just before singing.  I'm not sure why; I've been doing it for years.  I suppose it's the dread "spur" that Mme. Schumann-Heink deplores].

Writing like this sends me into ecstasies.  It's not just the idea of Mme. Schumann-Heink's "light" breakfasts; it's also the notion that following these steps, like reciting a spell, will have some sort of magically beneficent effect on one.

I will be posting more excerpts from this excellent book before I pack it up in the next few days.  In the meantime, enjoy Mme. Schumann-Heink's very beautiful singing of "Stille Nacht," which she sang every year on U.S. radio between 1926 and 1935, here.