Carl Sandburg and My First Poem

Carl Sandburg portrait

Carl Sandburg portrait by William Smith, 1959

I had no idea who Carl Sandburg was when my distant and pretty cousin led the way on horseback from the stables along a mountain trail to Connemara, a goat dairy farm in Flat Rock, North Carolina. My father had brought our family to nearby Hendersonville to visit a favorite cousin who owned a restored antebellum restaurant and inn. We ate supreme southern cooking in the historic restaurant but stayed overnight in the cousin’s home. Their sophisticated daughter was put in charge of showing me the sights. We matched ages at fifteen.

Connemara home

Connemara

The horse trail emerged a distance from the goat pens and the dairy barn to the back of the owner’s residence. There was a low picket fence to keep out the goats. Mrs. Sandburg was a celebrated goat breeder, and she operated this premiere goat dairy farm from 1935 until her husband’s death in 1967.

Goats at Connemara

Goats at Connemara

My cousin halted her horse at the low fence and addressed an elderly man who was sitting in a high-backed chair on the long wooden porch. He had a stack of magazines at his feet, and he put down a copy of Look Magazine when she spoke to him. It was clear to me that he recognized her as a neighbor child, and I was introduced as a visiting cousin. Mr. Sandburg’s face was angular and his frame had the narrowness of hard labor. His shock of parted white hair seemed somehow biblical to me. Maybe the Old Testament Moses looked like him.

We were not offered to dismount, so the conversation was brief, and it ended when Mr. Sandburg said something like, “I guess you best be going,” and the Look Magazine was brought up to cover his face. In 1956, as young teenagers, we were not offended as we turned our horses and rode away.

Later in high school, I was taught about Carl Sandburg and read a few of his poems and excerpts from his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Abraham Lincoln: The War Years. He also won two additional Pulitzers for his poetry. Much later in my life, while doing post-graduate literary work in Sweden, I became aware that Mr. Sandburg was the son of Swedish immigrants to the United States.

Carl Sandburg bw National Park Service

Carl Sandburg

When I met Carl Sandburg, I was saying that I intended to become a medical doctor, and that intention continued as I entered the University of Virginia. But my ambitions changed, and I became a writer of novels, biographies, and poems that include the libretto for a classical music oratorio.

At some mature reflective moment, I realized that I had composed my first poem on the day after meeting Carl Sandburg. I had no literary goals at age fifteen; and being unaware of Mr. Sandburg’s greatness, I could claim no porch-front benediction from him. Nevertheless, I wrote an honest expression of the heart with no anticipation of writing hundreds more.

Many years later, I brought my wife Pat to Flat Rock and took the National Park Service tour of the Sandburg home and grounds. In the attic of the house was Mr. Sandburg’s reading retreat, and there was a straight-back chair amid piles of Look and Life magazines. Outside the house, I took the opportunity to stand at the back porch and recite my first poem to Pat. It is still the only poem of mine that I can recite spontaneously from memory. So wherever you are, my sweet and endearing cousin, thank you for that horse ride into poetry.

Connemara lake with Sandburg photo

Carl Sandburg’s home

        AFTER AN ACQUAINTANCE

                          by Monty Joynes

 You meet and then you part.

 An empty feeling grips your heart.

You’re sure a friendship

Could have grown,

If time had ceased and

You had known

A love so true could

Make you cry.

But a bit of your heart

Did die

After an acquaintance.

 

 

 

 

 

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Treasure Hunting: Documenting the Continuing Odyssey of the World’s Most Famous Treasure Hunters

Love&Treasure Cover_07-1   Adventure seekers have a different genome than most of their fellow human beings. They are programmed “to go where no one has gone before,” as Gene Roddenberry recognized in his Star Trek explorers. Human history celebrates the great risk takers among us who demonstrate an irrepressible drive to explore and to discover the limits of our endurance and our imaginations. Each one is a determined treasure hunter although the goals may be as diverse as a scientific breakthrough, a new direction in classical music, art, or literature, or even the gymnastic miracle of a quadruple spinning jump. There are those among us who dare the impossible and achieve amazing results. For Love and Treasure documents the continuing odyssey of the world’s most famous treasure hunters.

The recovery of the $400 million Atocha treasure in 1985 made Mel Fisher and his family worldwide celebrities, but this was not the end of the quest. For 25 years Kim Fisher (President of Mel Fisher’s Treasures) and wife Lee Fisher (Vice President) have continued the search for the missing Atocha sterncastle, which is believed to contain a chest of Muzo emeralds worth hundreds of millions of dollars. With advanced technology of treasure hunting into the space age; and with additional undersea treasure targets, an underwater trail of emeralds, silver pieces-of-eight, gold bars, and important archaeological artifacts is still productive dive season after dive season off the Florida Keys.

Author Monty Joynes in Key West. Photo by Shawn Cowles.

Author Monty Joynes in Key West. Photo by Shawn Cowles.

Serious discussions about writing the Kim and Lee Fisher biography began early in 2014, and I began a month-long residency in the Fisher home where I shadowed them daily through their personal and business lives. In their corporate executive office, I sat at a desk across from their administrative director, dove into their company archives, and began to interact with and interview the key individuals of the company that included department heads, archaeologists, artifact conservators, boat captains, and the certified diver crews.

I attended the adjudication of treasure artifacts (found in 2013) by the Federal Court and then joined the festivities of Division Week when expedition members came to Key West to receive their share of the treasure itself. With this unique access, I was able to talk to scores of expedition members about their dive adventures and get to the heart of their motivations. Along the way, I made friendships with some of the most significant individuals in treasure hunting history, and there are individual chapters in the book that tell their exciting stories.

In all, For Love and Treasure took more than a year to research and write. The final month was devoted mostly to editing the nearly 100 photos that appear in the book from more than 1,000 that were found and evaluated. My intention in writing For Love and Treasure was to provide a historically authentic reference to the field of modern treasure hunting while honoring the Fisher family’s contributions to this still challenging and dangerous adventure.

These explorers are not like us. They possess an indomitable drive to search and discover. In essence, their quest is not for either wealth or fame. They rather pursue the thrill of discovery itself. For Love and Treasure is their story, and I trust that meeting these unique individuals on the page will provide a kind of treasure for you, too.

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Frank Sinatra and Don Budge: The 100th Anniversary

Frank Sinatra My Way cover with cigaretteTwo of the 20th century’s most accomplished performers were born in the same year—1915. Don Budge, a prodigiously talented tennis player, won back-to-back championships at both the U.S. Open and Wimbledon in the tense pre-war years of 1937 and 1938. In 1938, he then became the first tennis player to win all four Grand Slam titles in the same year, a feat matched by only four players since. The tall, redheaded Budge pioneered the power game in tennis and became one of sports’ greatest figures. During Don Budge’s rise to celebrity status, a band singer named Frank Sinatra became a don-budge-autographhousehold name, with hit after record hit and sold-out performances at Paramount Theatre in New York City. Frank Sinatra did not invent pop vocal crooning—Bing Crosby did that—but Sinatra raised the male vocal to an art form. To hear Frank and Bing together at their best, view their duet “What a Swell Party This Is” from the 1956 film High Society.

Both Don Budge and Frank Sinatra loved the after-event party, and they made their connection through the great bandleader Tommy Dorsey. With Frank on the Dorsey bandstand at the New Yorker Hotel, Don arrived to party after winning a tournament at the sold-out Madison Square Garden. There is a story that Budge once came to the New Yorker’s Manhattan Room at midnight and that Tommy Dorsey turned the band over to him for the rest of the night. Since Budge had been an amateur drummer since age 12, it can be believed that he could lead the band. Dorsey and Frank In addition to the Dorsey brothers, Tommy and Jimmy, Budge had other bandleader friends like Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. He also partied with sports celebrities of his era like Sugar Ray Robinson at the famous Billy Goat Inn in Chicago. There is no need to document Frank Sinatra’s propensity for after-event private parties. And there is evidence that whenever Frank and Don Budge were in the same city, they got together. When Don played charity matches at the Palm Springs Racquet Club, where Frank, Bob Hope, and Kirk Douglas were long-time residents, they must have renewed their social friendship. In the Los Angeles area, the brother of my father-in-law managed a very popular nightclub where the stars came to party.

Frank Sinatra’s party clan was called the Rat Pack and included singers Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr., actor Peter Lawford, and comedian Joey Bishop. The Rat Pack appeared together on the Las Vegas stage and in feature films in the early 1960s. Their major movies were Oceans 11, Sergeants 3, and Robin and the 7 Hoods. Associate members of the Rat Pack were the most beautiful women in Hollywood. Marilyn Monroe, Angie Dickinson, Juliet Prowse, and Shirley MacLaine were welcome as were celebrity male pals from show business and sports.

rat-pack Dom Giallanza told his older brother Sal that he often closed his nightclub to the public for the sole purpose of hosting Frank Sinatra’s private Rat Pack parties. He especially enjoyed the fun of being around Sammy Davis, Jr., the celebrated singer, dancer, and actor whose color prevented him from being universally welcomed in a still segregated America. With Sinatra, Sammy was accepted as one of the leaders of the pack.

Don Budge Watch.for blogThe Giallanzas had homes in the French Quarter of New Orleans and were major vegetable merchants prior to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Sal, my father-in-law, then went to the docks of New Orleans as a stevedore, while his brother Dominick sought his fortune in California. Dom’s club must have been central to the Budge and Sinatra after-hours parties because in friendship, Don Budge gave Dominick Giallanza his pocket watch. The watch came to Sal about 1970 on the death of his brother and thus to me on Sal’s death in 2006.

The watch is a working gold Waltham 17 jewels, shock-resistant, antimagnetic, large numeral, two-inch diameter pocket watch, with a separate circle for the second hand, and attached 19 1/2-inch gold chain with 3/4-inch gold-letter linking charms that spell out the name “Don Budge.” What hours this watch must have recorded during the years of America’s greatest generation.

Although I never saw Don Budge on the court, I have seen some great tennis players. I once had

Arthur Ashe an all-access press pass to see my fellow Virginian Arthur Ashe in a semi-final at Wimbledon. He remains the only black man to win Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and the Australian Open. I also attended a U.S. Indoors tournament as a journalist and went into the locker room with players like Ilie Nastase and Stan Smith. I once saw the legendary Pancho Gonzales, who was the world’s top player for eight consecutive years (1952-1960) play doubles with partner Pancho Segura against Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase in an exhibition match to open the Chris Evert Tennis Academy in Florida. Don Budge toured with Gonzales in 1950-51, so they obviously had mutual respect.

I also saw Martina Navratilova play a match from a courtside box at a 1984 Virginia Slims tournament stop in New Orleans. Sports Illustrated has named Serena Williams as the number one women’s player of all time, but Martina, with 18 Grand Slams and 167 titles, still gets my vote. After all, I was once so close to her that I could have handed her a towel between sets. Virginia Slims The closest I ever got to Frank Sinatra was in July 1975. I had been included in the Savalas family party who gathered in Las Vegas to celebrate Telly’s opening night cabaret act at the Sahara Hotel and Casino. As a movie star and lead actor in the top-rated television detective show Kojak, Telly Savalas was one of the most popular celebrities in show business. When the wives in our party decided that they wanted to see Frank Sinatra’s show at Caesar’s Palace, even our high rollers with the pit boss connections could not get us a table. We had waited too long. It was Sinatra’s last night, and the show was sold out. Sinatra program One of the younger guys in our party group asked if he might try to get us into the Sinatra show. The older men (who had failed) raised eyebrows, but they did not discourage him. Being the day before the actual concert, what were his odds of getting all of us in? The men were dumbfounded when the miracle was announced. Our wives went wild! Caesar’s Palace must have moved a lot of tables closer together at the right center of the stage to accommodate our last-minute oval for ten. The quarters were tight, but who cared? We were ringside. When Frank moved across the stage and sang, he was often standing within ten feet above us. Frank was still in his vocal prime, and his performance was electrifying. How had our new friend gotten the table? He would not be specific. The fact that he was the son of Robert Strauss, then Chairman of the Democratic Party, might have been a clue.

Photography... gigs 035

For me, there will always be a link between Don Budge and Frank Sinatra. I have the pocket watch of the one and the timeless image and recordings of the other. My only regret is that I never got to hear the stories that Dominick Giallanza might have told me about Don and Frank.

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Prince Henrik of Denmark: A Royal Collaboration

The Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark

The Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark

Classical music performance artists dream of recognition in the places where concerts are sponsored by royalty. Here is the story of how an American composer rose to acclaim in the châteaux of European royals in the dreamtime of a single year.

Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, as the husband of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, is titled His Royal Highness, the Prince Consort of Denmark. A native French Comte (Count) before his wife came to the Danish crown in January 1972, Henri, or in Danish, ‘Henrik’ is a published poet of some regard, having authored five books since 1982, and a prize-winner in several European literary academies. Prince Henrik writes in French and maintains a part-time residency at his château and winery in France. As it evolved, Prince Henrik and I have a great deal in common. We are both poets and collaborators to the same Franco-American composer Edmund Barton “Bart” Bullock.

Long before Bart and I began our partnership on the oratorio, The Awakening of Humanity, Bart has had a long-term interest in the composition and performance of art songs like those based on the poetry of Prince Henrik. In 1999, Bart began a collaboration with the Académie des Jeux Floraux de Toulouse (Academy of the Floral Games), the oldest literary society in the western world, founded in 1323. Bart composed an art song in 1999 based on a poem by Prince Henrik, “Descent on the river of the catafalque of Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse”, which opens his Cycle of Seven Arts Songs in honor of the Seven Troubadours and of Clémence Isaure, founders of the Jeux Floraux de Toulouse.

Edmund "Bart" Bullock in performance

Edmund “Bart” Bullock in performance

The art song was composed with permission, but Bart had no personal contact with the Prince. This work was premiered in the Clémence Isaure Hall in Toulouse in 2001, with a repeat performance that same year in a Carnegie Recital Hall concert in New York City. Then in August 2013, Bart’s friend and landlord Marquis Robert de Palaminy invited him to attend the annual charity concert sponsored by Prince Henrik and Queen Margrethe II. Bart decided to package the song cycle, published in the U. S., for Prince Henrik on the chance that he might be presented to him.

When the Honorary Consul of Denmark in Toulouse, an acquaintance who was also attending the concert, learned about Bart’s gift package, he offered to convey it to the Prince. The Prince, an excellent classical pianist himself, was able to read the score and was impressed enough to call Bart to him during the concert intermission. Thus began a conversation about music that led to Bart being invited to the Prince’s after-concert dinner party.

Queen Margrethe and Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark

Queen Margrethe and Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark

Amid a roomful of close friends and family of the Prince and Queen Margrethe II, the Prince asked Bart if he would compose another art song from a poem that he had written about Toulouse. The composition of that song led the Prince to send Bart a book of his poems for the creation of an art song cycle that he would commission. The commission of the six new art songs included a performance contract to perform the music at the Prince and Queen’s 2014 benefit concert. The arc of that year between concerts must now seem as magical as a fairy tale for Bart.

The concert in the Château de Cayx in Luzech, France will be held on

Chateau de Cayz Luzech, France

Chateau de Cayz
Luzech, France

Thursday, August 21st at 6:30 p.m. As sponsored by Prince Henrik and Queen Margrethe II, Bart will perform his Three Tango Fantasies, a Cycle of Seven Troubadour Art Songs, a Cycle of Six French Art Songs based on Prince Henrik’s poems from the poetry book “Cantabile,” and his Prélude Elégiaque, from the oratorio Le Cortège de Lucie, based on the libretto by the Franco-Belgian poet and philosopher Bernard Van Brugghe.

The second half of the concert will hear Bart play famous Opera Arias with mezzo-soprano Christine Labadens. A DVD recording will be made of the concert with a royal dinner party to follow.

Bart was no stranger to French nobility when he began his collaboration with Prince Henrik. His home base in France is on the estate of the Marquis and Marquise Robert and Jeanne-Marie de Palaminy. Bart had leased the historic estate manager’s cottage, on the grounds of the Château de Palaminy . In cooperation with the Palaminys, he has restored it to be the ideal composer’s environment.

Chateau de Palaminy

Chateau de Palaminy

 Interior alterations allowed for the entry of Bart’s huge Steinway D concert grand piano and a staging area to accommodate forty guests for intimate concerts in the composer’s home. Bart also gave private concerts for the Palaminys and their guests in the old wine storehouse of the château, a late 18th century addition whose walls were built out of the distinctive Toulouse brick and stones from the adjacent Garonne River, a vast space with a wood beam ceiling seating up to 400 people. Other noble acquaintances then wanted Bart to perform at their château, so Bart was kept busy, making new friends and supporters at these intimate cultural gatherings.

Edmund Barton Bullock Photo by Maurice Petit

                                                         Edmund Barton Bullock
                                                          Photo by Maurice Petit

In addition to concert appearances in Europe and the United States and recording sessions of his major works, also on Bart’s agenda are my oratorio, The Awakening of Humanity, and his French oratorio, Le Cortége de Lucie.

After the anticipated triumph of the Prince Henrik art song cycle concert in August, there is hope that it will be repeated in Denmark and the United States.

My own collaboration with Bart will have the premiere performance of its first two movements on January 11th in Toulouse by the Ensemble Vocal Unité under the artistic direction of Christian Nadalet. Our hope is that the recording of this concert will stimulate interest leading to a commission for Bart to complete the entire six-movement work. We would like to see The Awakening of Humanity premiered in France with a symphony orchestra, followed by a United States premiere in Washington, DC or in our native North Carolina.

"Bart" Bullock and Monty Joynes in their oratorio collaboration

“Bart” Bullock and Monty Joynes in their
oratorio collaboration

I can also imagine a day when a concert program might include the Prince’s art song cycle as well as my oratorio. Perhaps as the attending collaborators, we would be introduced—Henrik as a Royal Prince and me with a kind of title awarded at birth. I am a Saint. St. Leger Moncure Joynes. I hope that my joke makes the Prince smile. We do, after all, share a composer.

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Confessions of a Channeler: Am I In The Twilight Zone?

ConfessionsCover1 Publisher, author, and film producer Bob Friedman has accused me of being a mystic.  After years of resisting, I had to determine if he was right.

Bob has known me as a friend since we were in George Garrett’s University of Virginia writing class in 1962. Bob and I traveled Europe together after earning our degrees, we met our first wives together, and even worked for each other in various publishing ventures. Bob has known me best for over 50 years. Still, he wondered how I could write what I wrote in The Booker Series novels.

First book in the Booker Series

First book in the Booker Series

Finally, in 2011, he confronted me with the fact that I must be channeling the mystical content in my books. And Bob knows something about channeling! He discovered and published the first Conversations With God books by Neale Donald Walsch as well as many other non-fiction books in the Mind, Body, Spirit genre over a long career.

Confessions of a Channeler is the result of Bob Friedman’s request that I write an autobiographical book about how and under what circumstances I managed to write the wisdom content of The Booker Series. My wife Pat had already collected these wisdom pieces as aphorisms that she printed on decorative sets of cards and gave to close friends and family members.

Photo by Pat Joynes

Photo by Pat Joynes

Pat has also taken numerous photographs that in both mood and subject were perfect illustrations for such a book. In fact, her photo of our mailbox became a striking metaphor for the book’s cover. A heavenly light streams out of the trees and illuminates the wooded road as the mailbox stands sentinel to receive the messages.

The Woods

As you read Confessions of a Channeler, I hope that you will find a method for your own personal revelations.  I hope that you will also discover, as I did, that the Great Mystery has always been indwelling in you.

Photo by Pat Joynes

Photo by Pat Joynes

Pat and I wish to express our deepest appreciation to Joe Nusbaum, our publisher at Eltanin Publishing in Vermont, for his creative sensitivity in bringing Confessions to print.  Here are links to purchase the paper back book and the  e-book.

Confessions covers

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N. Scott Momaday: Native American Arts Champion

House made of dawn cover no picScott Momaday is credited with leading the way for a breakthrough in Native American literature when his novel, House Made of Dawn, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969. Scott, who had a high level academic career, was also a poet and playwright. His participation in the second year of the Playwrights’ Project was then considered a literary coup. I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet Scott over a period of a week where I sat as an observer to the dramatists’ creative process. Little could I have anticipated that I would later hold Scott Momaday as a three-hour conversational captive in my car.

Edith Crutcher with Monty at the Playwrights Project

Edith Crutcher with Monty at the Playwrights Project

I was introduced to N. Scott Momaday in 2000 by Edith Colvard Crutcher, a distinguished North Carolina Cherokee elder who had a significant role in preserving American Indian culture as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Department of the Interior’s Indian Arts and Crafts Board. Edie had read and admired the first three novels in my Booker Series that deal with the metaphysics and social issues of contemporary American Indians, and she was very generous in inviting me to participate in the first sessions of The Playwrights’ Project.

Healing SpringAlthough I was the 1986 founding president of the Blowing Rock Stage Company, an award-winning Equity professional summer stock theatre that produced five shows each season, I had no playwright credits to become a writer or actor at the Playwrights’ Project. That first session, March 14-21, 1999, my wife Pat and I drove from Boone, NC beyond West Jefferson to the remote rural location of Healing Spring where the invited writers and actors worked in a country school being restored as a theatrical center. Pat and I brought small gifts and acted as an unofficial welcoming committee.  We also sat in on the sessions where individual playwrights presented the most recent rewrites of a scene, and actors performed dramatic table readings.  Then Artistic Director, M.Z. Ribalow, a playwright himself, led a critical discussion of what had just been presented.

I admit to a persistent flaw in my manners. Despite my lack of rank or authority, I cannot keep quiet when I feel that an obvious point needs to be articulated. I have thus offered my unsolicited opinions to First Sergeants, Lieutenants, Captains, and even a Major when I was in the Army, and to Generals, Admirals, and Ambassadors when I was a lowly staff civilian. My faux pas at the Playwrights’ Project was to offer comments from my sidewall guest observation chair to the playwrights and actors at the conference table.  Meir Ribalow justifiably did not appreciate my remarks made from the peanut gallery, and thereafter I perceived his scowl whenever I approached. Nevertheless, I admired his talent and dedication to the creative process that lasted until his untimely death.

Momaday receiving the National Medal of Arts

Momaday receiving the National Medal of Arts

In the first ten years of operations, the Playwrights’ Project, also recognized as New River Dramatists, fostered 345 plays under the direction of Founder and Executive Director Mark Woods. In 2007, Scott Momaday received our country’s highest cultural award, the National Medal of Arts. Other playwrights in the program won a National Book Award and the August Wilson Prize. Perhaps half of the plays workshopped at Healing Spring saw production in New York City and elsewhere.

When Pat and I met Scott Momaday, he was a giant of a man at age 66.

Monty and Pat with Scott Momaday at the Playwrights Project in Ashe County

Monty and Pat with Scott Momaday at the Playwrights Project in Ashe County

Wearing a high crowned western hat, he seemed a head taller that I was. In the sessions where actors dramatized scenes from his play-in-progress, he responded to all suggestions generously, and he was obviously one of the group’s favorite participants. At breaks and at the mid-day meal catered by country ladies from their nearby home kitchens, Scott was always available for conversations. He also cooperated with anyone, like us, who wanted to be photographed with him.

In a two-week playwrights workshop Pat and I would commute and maybe spend three to four days on site. We were fortunately there when Scott needed transportation to the Charlotte airport.  Although it would be at least a three-hour detour for us, we readily volunteered. Scott carried a two-inch stack of airline tickets that he shuffled to find the flight to his next appearance on a long itinerary. He noted that he did not enjoy the travel, and that he would be happy when he could return to his mountain home in Jemez Springs, New Mexico.

Momaday pulitzer novelist banner

Pat drove our Dodge Caravan while Scott sat in the rear seat catercorner from me in the front passenger seat. As a former journalist, I had to avoid the temptation to interview the Pulitzer Prize author on Native American subjects that interested me, but then, too, I was not going to stay silent and miss the opportunity to engage him. I was then working on a long novel, Eagle Feathers In Glass, that was inspired by Lloyd Kiva New, a mutual friend of ours. Maybe that conversation about the Institute of American Indian Arts that had been founded by Lloyd occupied an hour or so. At some point on the journey to the airport, Scott and I found our most common ground: our passion for cooking soups. He described his Southwestern ingredient soups, and I told him my recipe and methods for creating an authentic Louisiana Cajun Chicken-Sausage-Okra Gumbo.  Scott then suggested that the most productive use of our next-time meeting would be in a kitchen for a soup and gumbo cook-off. Perhaps he hoped that I might talk less while preparing a gumbo.

When we left Scott at the airport terminal, Pat admonished me for talking non-stop. “Maybe Scott would have enjoyed a nap,” she chided. “I already apologized to him,” I said. “He can nap on the flight.” “Mark Woods will probably never ask us to take anybody to the airport again,” Pat added.

“I can’t help myself,” I confessed. “I would have done the same on a train ride with Mark Twain. If you don’t engage great men and women when you get the opportunity, you will regret that silence for the rest of your life.”

Since I was only 59 years old when I met Scott Momaday, I trust that he will forgive my behavior as a youthful excess of enthusiasm.

indians and mountains

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Edmund Barton Bullock: The Return to New York Recital

Bart and Monty working on The Awakening of Humanity oratorio

Bart and Monty working on The Awakening of Humanity oratorio

A North Carolina-born composing and performing artist returns from his home in France to once again triumph on a New York City stage.  “Bart” Bullock is my dear friend and the composer of The Awakening of Humanity, my oratorio libretto.  Bart is in the U.S. during January and February (2014) to give university recitals and master classes and to return to New York City where he enjoyed his early career successes.

If you are in the New York City area, I urge you to reserve your seat for an evening of great piano music when Bart plays Debussy, Rachmaninoff, and three of his own unique compositions.

Here are the date and venue details along with the program and program notes:

Bart on piano in website

 The E. Barton Bullock Piano Recital

Monday, February 10, 2014  8:00 PM

Klavierhaus Recital Hall

211 W. 58th Street  NYC

For reservations, please contact Nicholas Russotto, Recital Hall Manager, at nicholas@klavierhaus.com.  Although tickets may be available at the door, reservations are recommended due to limited seating.

Klavierhaus recital hall

_____________________________________________________

Children’s Corner, for piano solo                        Achille-Claude DEBUSSY

I.    Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum

II.   Jimbo’s Lullaby

III.  Serenade for the Doll

IV.  The Snow is Dancing

V.   The Little Shepherd

VI.  Golliwog’s Cake-walk

Three Tango Fantasies, for piano solo          Edmund Barton BULLOCK

I.    Allegro, molto ritmico e appasionata

II.  Canción d’amor

III. Allegro appassionato

– I N T E R M I S S I O N –

Prélude Elégiaque, for piano solo                     Edmund Barton BULLOCK

Excerpt from the Oratorio Le Cortége de Saint Lucie                                 

 Three Nocturnes, for piano solo                         Edmund Barton BULLOCK

I.     Andante, tempo rubato

II.    Ben moderato e espressivo  “September 11, 2001”

III.  Tranquillo, con molto tenerezza

Prelude in B Minor, Opus 32, No. 10                        Sergei RACHMANINOFF

Prelude en G Major, Opus 32, No. 5

Moment musical in E Minor, Opus 16, No. 4

piano clip art

PROGRAM NOTES

Under the auspices of the La Gesse Foundation, over a period of 6 years, pianist and composer Edmund Barton Bullock performed regularly in the Carnegie Weill Recital Hall, including an evening of his works for chamber music in 2002, as well as 2 world premiers. During this period, he met Sujatri Reisinger, Vice-President of Klavierhaus, and a musical friendship ensued. Reisinger ultimately loaned a Hamburg Steinway D for a memorable concert of Bullock’s works in the Weill Recital Hall.

Bullock is honored to be invited to perform on Monday, February 10, 2014 in Klavierhaus’s intimately beautiful recital hall on renowned Greek pianist Gina Bachauer’s restored circa 1910 Steinway D, an instrument of exceptional technical and tonal qualities.

Bart full face portraitThrough the influence of renowned French pianist Daniel Ericourt, who performed Debussy’s piano works in legendary performances in Carnegie Hall, Bullock, a native of North Carolina, went to Paris to study with Paris Conservatory professor Pierre Sancan in 1978, after finishing his undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He began a love affair with France which continues to this day, after prizes from the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Musique de Paris towards the Licence d’Enseignement and the prestigious Licence de Concert, and private studies with French pianist Thérèse Dussaut and Russian pianist Yevgeni Malinin, once director of  Moscow’s ‘Tchaikovsky’ Conservatory.

In the 1990s Bullock began a parallel career as a composer, working with Dr. Robert Sirota, Director of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, and Guillaume Connesson, French composer. Many chamber music and piano works were created and performed during this period in the U.S., Canada, and in Europe. After a major commission for his Appalachian Concerto for Piano and Orchestra from private sources, Bullock embarked on a new journey of the creation of works for large ensembles, including the commissioned work A Spanish Concertina for Bandoneon and Wind Ensemble, premiered with renowned Argentinean bandoneonist Daniel Binelli and the Appalachian Wind Ensemble in 2005, based on the piano work Three Tango Fantasies, which will be interpreted on the Klavierhaus program.

In honor of Daniel Ericourt’s connection with Claude Debussy, Bullock will begin the February 10th program with Debussy’s Children’s Corner suite. Ericourt was the first pianist to record all of Debussy’s piano works, and even performed on a recital in his youth in which Debussy also performed and was close friends with Debussy’s daughter “Chouchou” to whom this work was dedicated.

Bullock’s Three Nocturnes were composed during 2001, and the second nocturne: Ben Moderato e espressivo “September 11, 2001” is a musical “witness” of the tragic “911” event, whose spiritual energy attempts to begin the collective humanity healing process.

Bullock is currently working on 2 oratorio projects—on the American side, The Awakening of Humanity, based on librettist Monty Joynes’s libretto, and in France, Le Cortège de Lucie, based on the libretto of Franco-Belgian poet and philosopher Bernard Van Brugghe. On the request of the author, Bullock created a transcription for piano solo of the Prélude Elégiague, originally composed for violin, cello, harp and piano, which also be performed on the program.

In honor of Yevgeni Malinin, also a very important mentor on Bullock’s path to becoming a concert pianist, three Rachmaninoff pieces will close this unique February 10th recital at Klavierhaus.

Visit Bart’s website.

To hear Bart performing his Three Tango Fantasies, click here.   Bart casually at piano

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Super Night at the Super Bowl

Joe Namath

Joe Namath

The National Football League’s Super Bowl is the most famous annual event in the United States.  Forget the game itself. If you were not a player, coach, or owner, it is the party that you will remember most if you were there.  Mostly, it’s the rich and the famous who enjoy the prime events outside the stadium, but during Super Bowl XII, I know somebody from the working class who can relate the inside story of its glamour and excitement.

In January 1978 my beautiful future wife Pat was the Administrative

New Orleans Hilton in the late 70s

New Orleans Hilton in the late 70s

Assistant to the General Manager of the New Orleans Hilton, and she personally handled arrangements for VIPs who visited the hotel.  Barron Hilton, the head of the Hilton Hotels chain, was famous for hosting Super Bowl parties in the game host cities.  For Pat and her New Orleans Hilton colleagues, it was a particularly exciting time to host their boss and his friends, and she stayed extremely busy seeing to the details of their transportation and accommodation needs.  Her rewards for a job well done were an invitation to attend Barron Hilton’s private dinner party in the Hilton Ballroom and to be given tickets to that night’s CBS live televised entertainment gala “Super Night at the Super Bowl” at the New Orleans Theatre of Performing Arts.

John Denver

John Denver

Pat’s seats for the “Super Night at the Super Bowl” television special were first-row mezzanine with just about five seats in her row.  Much to her surprise, when the lights dimmed, she saw John Denver and his entourage of four men enter the mezzanine as they walked past her and sat two rows behind.  For some reason the small row of seats behind her was empty, so she knew that Denver was sitting directly behind her.  She has always been, and still is, an avid John Denver fan, and so it took a great deal of restraint to concentrate on the show instead of her music idol.

Andy Williams album coverThe gala show hosts were Joe Namath, Andy Williams, and Paul Williams.  More than a dozen guest stars appearing on the program included Peter Falk, Pete Fountain, Vicki Lawrence, Henry Mancini, and comedians Foster Brooks, Norm Crosby, Minnie Pearl, Mel Tillis and Stiller & Meara.  It was a great show with appeal to the widest possible television audience.

The program from Super Night at the Super Bowl  1978

The program from Super Night at the Super Bowl 1978

Barron Hilton’s guest list for his after-show Super Bowl party included celebrities from movies, television, and sports, and so there was a gaggle of press photographers and onlookers at the entrance to the Hilton Ballroom to capture their entrances.  That night Pat had her blonde hair done up in great style, and she was wearing a silver fox evening jacket over a long formal dress.  I will mention here that after becoming an advocate for animal rights, she now refuses to wear it.  But that night when the photographers saw her approach, and people in the corridor began applauding, they immediately assumed that such a beautiful woman had to be a movie star, and they rushed her as if she had been Elizabeth Taylor.  It was a memorable moment for a working class gal.

Monty and Pat a few years later in 1983

Monty and Pat a few years later in 1983

Inside the ballroom, Pat and her escort sat at a reserved table that had a real NFL football ornamented as a centerpiece along with Denver Bronco favors.  Before the evening was over, a man representing John Denver, who sat at a nearby table, told her that the star would like to have her table’s centerpiece.  A bit flustered, Pat assented only to regret later that she had not insisted on personally delivering the football to Denver.  He and his entourage soon departed the party. That same night Billy Carter, brother to President Jimmy Carter, autographed a can of Billy Beer for Pat.  She still has it for the little that it is now worth.Billy Beer

The next day the actual Super Bowl game was played in the Louisiana Superdome.  The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Denver Broncos by the score of 27 to 10.  Pat didn’t see the game; she was too busy at the hotel serving the needs of the VIPs.

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The JFK Assassination: An American View from Europe

               Our country had seemed to go insane, and we were helpless bystanders disconnected by the width of an ocean.

Front pages of 7 British daily newspapers in London.  AP Photo/File

Front pages of 7 British daily newspapers in London. AP Photo/File

In September of 1963, Bob Friedman and I were newly graduated from the University of Virginia and, after a ten-day cruise on a German coal freighter, began hitchhiking our way across Europe as young writers who had read Ernest Hemingway and Henry Miller were expected to do. We had landed in Amsterdam, detoured to Denmark and Sweden, then crossed back into Germany, and spent our prerequisite time in Paris. The next objective was to cross the English Channel and stay some days in London. By the 20th, we had installed ourselves at the London YMCA.  Bob remembers that carved into the wall of that YMCA were the words, “Fear is the Beginning of Wisdom.”

While in Copenhagen Bob and I had met an Englishman of our own age, and we were invited to visit him at his parents’ home in Reading and at his workplace gentlemen’s residence club in Virginia Water, a small town near historic Windsor Castle. Kurt was a nurse at Holloway Sanatorium, a palatial hospital for the insane established in 1885. The Virginia Water Railway Station was on the London to Reading line and only 22 miles from London’s Charing Cross Station.

Virginia Water Railway Station

Virginia Water Railway Station

On the late afternoon of November 22nd, Bob and I took the train from London to Virginia Water to be the dinner guests at Kurt’s residence club. We had been to the club once before as it was our hub for exploring the historic sites and dance clubs in Windsor. We arrived at the door of the residence around 7 p.m. We rang the front door bell, and unexpectedly, we were met by the housekeeper who was usually not seen in the evening.

The middle-aged woman housekeeper appeared to us as someone sadly shaken. “I am so sorry,” she said sincerely. We were confused. What was she sorry about? Then her eyes widened in horror, and she asked, “You don’t know, do you?”  Before we could respond, she left us standing there outside the door. Her rapid departure surprised us as an unusual breach of English etiquette.

JFK in Dallas

JFK in Dallas

Kurt soon appeared with an apology that went far beyond the greeting faux pas. “I am so sorry,” he began. “Please come in. We are all gathered in the game room watching the television. Your President has been shot.”

There was no hot meal served that night in the residence club. Sandwich fare was available, but the focus was on the television news updates and on alcoholic drinks to calm a world turned upside down.  John F. Kennedy, our President, was shot in Dallas, Texas about 12:30 Central Time. In England, the first terrible news flash arrived after 6:30 p.m. London time. Bob and I stayed late with our consoling English friends, and then we walked back to the train station.

On the return trip to London, we wept for the first time in an otherwise empty compartment. The tears had no political or relationship bias. What we felt or imagined about JFK was not as heart stabbing as the isolation that we experienced as Americans abroad. Our country had seemed to go insane, and we were helpless bystanders disconnected by the width of an ocean.

Coming out of Charing Cross Station well before dawn, we encountered newsboys already hawking special-edition newspapers that headlined the Kennedy assassination. We bought a paper, but there were no further revelations in it.

The next day, we took the train to Dover and were going to cross into France. We went into an almost empty pub to wait an hour or two for the ferry.  There were only two Englishmen seated there, and they turned to look at us as we entered and took a table.  In those days, it seemed that everyone in Europe could tell we were Americans simply by the clothes we wore.  As we waited for the half-pints to arrive, one of the Englishmen, in a heavy cockney accent, said (not to us, as his back was turned, but just to the room), “’e was a bloody Christian martyr, ’e was.”

JFK lies in repose

Everywhere we traveled, European flags were at half-mast. And everywhere that we were recognized as Americans, strangers in varying degrees of English expressed sympathy to us as if JFK had been a close family member. By the time we returned to Copenhagen, the state funeral for our dead President was in progress, and Lee Harvey Oswald had been shot dead while in police custody.  We saw the massive television coverage of these events years later in replay. As students abroad, we knew only what was reported in the thin expatriate newspaper, The Herald Tribune.

JFK caissons

Bob remained in Copenhagen and found a room at one of the student dormitories at the university there.  He remembers that the Danish students were glued to the television for days, watching the news about the assassination, the Oswald murder, and the investigations that followed.  It appeared to him that the Danish people loved Kennedy and felt in some way that he was going to be the savior in a world deeply divided by a bitter cold war.  They were devastated that he was gone.

I migrated to Stockholm but got involved with painters and filmmakers on projects that did not qualify me for my graduate student draft deferment.  By October 1964, I was drafted into the U.S. Army and participated in President Johnson’s massive commitment of troops to the Viet Nam War.  Earlier in 1964, Bob had gone back to graduate school to pursue an M.F.A. and later became a publisher and published six of my books. We have remained close friends for over 50 years, and our sons and daughters think of us as brothers. I am “Uncle Monty” to Bob’s children.  I guess we’ll always remember being together, in a foreign land, on that momentous day in American history.

Bob and Monty many years later.

Bob and Monty many years later.

Monty (l) and Bob present a copy of New Writing from Virginia to UVA President Edgar Shannon in 1963 prior to sailing for Europe.

Monty (l) and Bob present a copy of New Writing from Virginia to UVA President Edgar Shannon in 1963 prior to sailing for Europe.

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Mel Tormé: Best Male Jazz Vocalist

Mel Torme first photoI was already a Mel Tormé fan when I began to go to New York City in the falls of the mid-1970s to solicit national print ads for Metro Hampton Roads Magazine from major advertising agencies. My boss, George Crump, installed me a week at a time at his favorite NYC hotel, the elegant St. Regis, with a prestigious signature account. Imagine my delight when I discovered that Mel Tormé unofficially opened New York’s fall cabaret season with a show in the Maisonette, the hotel’s nightclub.

With a magazine journalist’s panache I was never reluctant to stick my nose into things like celebrity rehearsals, and thus I bumped into Mel Tormé and engaged him in conversation. At age 49, without makeup, hairpiece, and perhaps a girdle, Mel resembled a middle-aged traveling salesman more than he did a musical prodigy and dynamic entertainer.

Normally, Mel explained, the club area was off limits to visitors during rehearsals, but for whatever reason, he made an exception for me although I was making sales calls out of the hotel for most of the day.

St. Regis Hotel

If you don’t know the genius of Mel Tormé, you should be advised that the Velvet Fog voice was one of the greatest musicians, singers, songwriters, and arrangers of his generation.  His hit records and recognitions included the Down Beat Award for Best Male Jazz Singer (1976), and two Grammy Awards for Best Male Vocalist (1983) and Best Male Jazz Vocalist (1984). You will certainly recognize Mel for writing the music to The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire) that was first made a hit by Nat King Cole.

Mel Torme with Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson

Mel Torme with Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson

Mel knew and learned from legendary drummers Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa, so when he steps away from the piano to do a drum set, you will be awed.  During the 1979 Chicago Jazz Festival, Mel played drums with Benny Goodman on the classic Sing, Sing, Sing. Who would have dared if he didn’t have the chops?

For Mel’s 1974 opening night at the Maisonette, I used the status of my St. Regis signature account to reserve a front-row table in the hotel showroom. My then-wife flew into New York from Norfolk, Virginia for the weekend, and I also invited another couple to join us.  I was recruiting the husband to be our magazine’s sales manager, and if my acquaintanceship with Mel Tormé didn’t impress him, nothing would. Also, I had a better table than many of the show business celebrities in the room.

The album Mel Tormé: Live At The Maisonette resulted from that September show, and it includes a medley of 17 George Gershwin songs that runs for more than 15 minutes. Mel’s arrangements and performance that night earned him a standing ovation.  He also did a fabulous drum set, and I also believe that he even played a trumpet solo! He was called back to the stage for two or three encores, and in one pass by our table, Mel leaned in and gave a long stem rose to my wife from those that had just been presented to him. Wow, Mel!  What had I done to deserve that!

Mel had invited me to visit the Maisonette off-stage Green Room after the show, so I left my wife and guests briefly to pay respects to one of the greatest examples of talent and showmanship that I had ever witnessed. The Green Room was crowded with Mel’s friends that included songwriter Burt Bacharach, comedian Henny Youngman, and television star Morey Amsterdam among others.

Then I witnessed a very shocking thing. The great Mel Tormé, drenched in sweat and fresh from repeated standing ovations, was yet pleading for our approbations. Did we really love the show? Did the Gershwin medley work?  When he shook my hand, I wanted to shout to him, “Mel. Relax! Tonight you are the king of the world.” But instead, I said something like “wonderful” and “incredible” and withdrew from the unexpected scene. Is it perfection that drives entertainers to self-doubt even in the hour of their greatest triumph?

Mel Torme Mel Torme open photoThe next time that I saw Mel Tormé was in Las Vegas at the Sands Hotel showroom. It was a year or so later, and Mel was opening for Rich Little, a comedic impressionist at the height of his fame. I happened to be staying at the Sands, and so I ran into Mel and his family at the huge central courtyard pool. I didn’t want to intrude on his privacy, so the greeting was brief with my mention of his kindnesses to me at the St. Regis.

Sammy Davis, Jr., one of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack, once allowed Mel Tormé to open for his Las Vegas act, but he soon discovered that Mel’s show was too hard to follow. The audience was totally spent by the time Sammy got on stage.  Anyway, that was the story told to me by a Vegas gambler.

From his first published song at the age of 16—“Lament to Love”—that became a hit recording for bandleader Harry James, Mel Tormé proved to be one of the top musical talents of his generation. And like the character Judge Harry Stone on the 1980s television situation comedy Night Court, I am also an unabashed fan of Mel Tormé.   That's All

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