Tuesday, December 4, 2018

TheIdler, November 6, 2018


finale at

St Clement's


Dearest Fadduh, darling Muddah
How's my precious little bruddah …


THE final St Clement's arts soiree of the year resounded the other evening to the music of Wagner, Verdi, Puccini and other classical opera. But what do these classics have to do with the hilarious drivel by Al Sherman about the homesick American boy on vacation in Camp Granada?

Quite a bit actually. As retired judge Chris Nicholson pointed out in his presentation on opera, Sherman actually pinched the music backing his doggerel from classical opera. So did Nancy Sinatra with her songs.

Chris's point is that classical opera is not quite the removed, erudite business that many imagine. Passages of the music have become the backing to popular songs, familiar to people who have never set foot in an opera house.

He went on to play a succession of passages to illustrate his point, and it was astonishing. It turns out that a number of rugby songs actually have their melodic origin with composers like Puccini. Does this cloak them in a new respectability?

Chris is a fundi on the music of Wagner, but this was an all-round look at the popular strands in classical opera and, as his audience recognised the popularised bits, they sang along with gusto. Quite an evening, though I found my background with Maritzburg Collegians had provided me with rather different lyrics.

A stirring finale it was. Chris was called on again and again for encores. Lovely music, all of it. Wonderful that recordings can be played with such quality sound. A great way to wind up the year.


STILL with St Clements, Belgian Walloon Dr Jean-Marie Spitaels tells me he fears prosecution by the Belgian authorities for a banknote produced by a rascally graphic artist, purporting to be from the colonial era in the Congo – where Jean-Marie began his medical career. On this banknote Jean-Marie impersonates King Leopold II, of Belgium.

As mentioned in a previous column, the note has been produced to celebrate Jean-Marie's birthday early next year. But a correction. He is not turning 90, as mentioned, he is turning only 80 - the whippersnapper.

Jean-Marie plays up a storm on the harmonica. We look forward to another rousing performance.


IT'S with pride tinged with sadness that one reflects on Harvey Tyson, former editor of The Star, in Johannesburg, who died last week aged 90.

Harvey knew and was a confidante of General Jan Smuts, prime minister and world statesman, who wrote the preamble to the founding document of the UN.

Harvey also knew and was a confidante of Nelson Mandela, from the days before his imprisonment on Robben Island.

He steered The Star – and by example much of the rest of the English-language press - through a minefield of apartheid security legislation and states of emergency, ensuring, with great skill and often at great risk, that the reading public were not fooled. They knew what was going on.

Harvey was the ultimate professional, yet a man of great personal modesty. He never gave up, writing books in retirement. On a purely personal note, he introduced me to Famous Grouse whisky. Harvey also had taste.



WHAT do you call a woman with a bottle-opener in one hand, a knife in the other, a pair of scissors between her toes on her left foot, and a corkscrew between her toes on her right foot?

A Swiss Army wife.




Last word


Mustard's no good without roast beef.

Chico Marx

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