A Pair of Good Razors & No Wedding Shoes
Sometimes my lazy city of Vancouver surprises me with stuff that is out of the norm. This happens a lot with modern dance and new music. This essay is about a concert I attended in North Vancouver.
Miss Donnithorne’s Maggot (1974)
Duration: 32 minutes
Music-theatre work for mezzo-soprano and ensemble
Text by Randolph Stow
fl(=picc,afl).cl-perc(1):2susp.cym/BD/tpl.bl/4wdbl/tam-t/ football rattle/SD/bell tree/BD and cym with foot pedal/sandpaper/ glass wind chimes/police whistle/bosun’s whistle/chamois leather rubbed on glass/balloon to pop/thunder sheet(tam-t)/glsp/marimba/crot -pft(=balloon)-vln.vlc-4metronomes set in motion by the players.
On Sunday I attended a concert which was part of this year’s Blueridge Chamber Music Festival. The one in question was a repeat (first last week at the Orpheum Annex) called Let Them Eat Cake featuring soprano Dorothea Hayley and a small ensemble, Paolo Bortolussi, flute, Jenny Jonquil, clarinet, Jasper Wood, violin, Rebecca Wenham (she of the baroque red hair), cello, Jeremy Chalk, piano, Manuel Laufer, piano and Katie Rife, percussion. The festival is co-produced by Dorothea (Dory) Haley and pianist Alejandro (my tocayo) Ochoa.
Rebecca Wenham, Dorothea Haley & Diana Park
The first part of the program was a palate cleanser before the big meal. It was Joseph Haydn’s Adianna a Naxos Hob.XXVlb:2. Haley was accompanied by Jeremy Chaulk on piano. I found this wonderful stuff on the composition. Who would have known that it involved a couple of sharp razors?
The second work, Sir Maxwell Davies’ Miss Donnithorne’s Maggot is a rare (from the point of view of this amateur) one-person and short opera that involves lots of acting and a few four letter words here and there including piss. The work if you happen to be curious enough to read the above-mentioned scoring included balloons and two (not four, perhaps to save a tad of money, but there could have been two more. From my vantage point I saw two) metronomes.The work is about a real woman, Eliza Donnithorne who was born in South Africa but lived in Australia in the 19th century. It seems she was jilted by a British naval captain. Scholars are pretty sure Miss Donnithorne was the inspiration for Charles Dickens’ Miss Havisham in Great Expectations.
To add to the drama of the jilted and now crazy spinster was a dress designed by Diane Park, who also designed the dress for the Haydn. We had a tough time getting into the bathroom for the three shot. The dress hoop could not go through the door so Haley had to flip it up.
It is not often that one gets to listen to a modern opera and much less sung in its original English.
When Haley came to my studio last week to pose for some portraits she was apologetic about the fact that the concert was going to be held at a church.
With the Queen Elizabeth a white elephant and the Orpheum perhaps on its way in the same direction small venues are the future of music in our city. Thanks to intelligent programming Matthew White of Early Music Vancuver is able to fill the Chan Centre at least three times a year. It is the small venue like the Orpheum Annex and Pyatt Hall plus all those churches (in this case the lovely modern Mount Seymour United Church in North Van) that save the day for small ensembles who do their damn best to bring us stuff to push us into an awareness the culture in small packages can be as satisfying as the big ones.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.