Today is the birthday (1882) of Percy Aldridge Grainger (born George Percy Grainger), an Australian-born composer, arranger, and pianist who, in the course of a long and innovative career, played a prominent role in the revival of interest in English folk music in the early years of the 20th century. Although much of his work was experimental and unusual, the piece with which he is most generally associated is his piano arrangement of the morris dance tune “Country Gardens” (which was later set to words). Sales of “Country Gardens” music and recordings alone produced a lifetime income for Grainger. Here he is playing one of his many versions:
Grainger left Australia at the age of 13 to attend the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt. Between 1901 and 1914 he was based in London, where he established himself first as a society pianist and later as a concert performer, composer, and collector of original folk tunes. As his reputation grew, he met many of the significant figures in European music, forming friendships with Frederick Delius and Edvard Grieg. He became a champion of Nordic music and culture, and this preoccupation with Nordic culture led him to develop a form of English which, he maintained, reflected the character of the language before the Norman conquest. He replaced words of Norman or Latin origin with supposedly Nordic word-forms, such as “blend-band” (orchestra), “forthspeaker” (lecturer) and “writ-piece” (article). He called this “blue-eyed” English. His convictions of Nordic superiority eventually led Grainger, in letters to friends, to express his views in crudely racial and anti-Semitic language. The music historian David Pear describes Grainger as, “at root, a racial bigot of no small order.”
Grainger had an “interesting” relationship with his mother, Rose – one that was often (falsely) seen as incestuous, yet was certainly strangling in many ways. For example, Rose savagely berated any woman who showed interest in Percy, and he made little effort at forming relationships until after her death. Indeed, she committed suicide in 1922 because of persistent rumors of incest. Rose raised Percy alone (because she separated from her philandering husband), taught him at home (as well as hiring private tutors), and traveled the world with him. Some music historians have suggested that he would have been more creative without her early influence, but such counter-factual speculations are worthless.
In 1914, Grainger moved to the United States, where he lived for the rest of his life, though he traveled widely in Europe and Australia. His move was almost certainly triggered by a desire to avoid service in the trenches, although he claimed he was concerned about his mother’s health. Regardless, he was roundly condemned in the press for dodging service, but between 1917 and 1918 he served as a bandsman in the US army – playing saxophone and causing a certain amount of hilarity in music circles.
In 1918, Grainger took U.S. citizenship, and in 1921 moved to White Plains, where he lived for the rest of his life.
The music conservatory at my college, Purchase College, SUNY, which is near White Plains, had a small collection of his papers and unusual music machines, but by the 1980s, when I began as an assistant professor, Grainger had fallen from vogue, and there was little interest in celebrating him. Perhaps one day I will indulge in a major rant on how narcissistic and egocentric the academic music world is, and how it drifts constantly with the tide of ephemeral fads. I have yet to meet a professional performer, composer, theorist, or historian who is not utterly self-absorbed. [correction – I know one concert pianist who is a thoroughly decent human being]. Meanwhile, I feel a certain (distant) kindred with Grainger because of his interest in morris dance tunes, along with his Australian heritage, and his residence in White Plains. Inadvertently, I have followed him from Australia to England to New York.
Grainger used to provoke his vegetarian friend, composer Cyril Scott, by eating huge slices of roast beef in his presence. But in 1924, Percy gave up meat entirely and labelled himself a ‘meat-shunner.’ He did not like vegetables, however, and mostly ate fruit pies, boiled rice, ice cream, oranges, and cream cakes. Cream cakes can be made in all manner of ways, but one of the most standard is to make a sponge cake and then fill (and top) it generously with cream:
Today is the birthday (1896) of reverend Gary Davis, a blues and gospel singer whose fingerpicking guitar style influenced a great many artists. Davis was born in Laurens, South Carolina. He was the only one of the eight children his mother bore, who survived to adulthood, becoming blind as an infant. He was poorly treated by his mother so that his father placed him in the care of his paternal grandmother. Davis reported that when he was 10 years old his father was killed in Birmingham, Alabama. He later said that he had been told that his father was shot by the Birmingham sheriff.
Davis starting teaching himself the guitar at age 6 and developed a unique multivoice style produced solely with his thumb and index finger, playing gospel, ragtime, and blues tunes along with traditional and original tunes in four-part harmony. In the mid-1920s, Davis migrated to Durham, North Carolina, a major center of African-American culture at the time. There he taught Blind Boy Fuller and collaborated with a number of other artists in the Piedmont blues scene, including Bull City Red. In 1935, J. B. Long, a store manager with a reputation for supporting local artists, introduced Davis, Fuller, and Red to the American Record Company. The subsequent recording sessions marked the real beginning of Davis’ career. During his time in Durham, he became a Christian, and in 1933, Davis was ordained as a Baptist minister in Washington, North Carolina. Following his conversion and especially his ordination, Davis preferred to play gospel music.
In the 1940s, the blues scene in Durham began to decline, and Davis moved to New York. In 1951, he recorded an oral history for the folklorist Elizabeth Lyttleton Harold (the wife of Alan Lomax).
The folk revival of the 1960s invigorated Davis’s career. He performed at the Newport Folk Festival. Peter, Paul and Mary recorded his version of “Samson and Delilah”, also known as “If I Had My Way”, a song by Blind Willie Johnson, which Davis had popularized. “Samson and Delilah” was also covered and credited to Davis by the Grateful Dead on the album Terrapin Station. The Dead also covered Davis’ “Death Don’t Have No Mercy”. Eric Von Schmidt credited Davis with three-quarters of Schmidt’s “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down”, covered by Bob Dylan on his debut album for Columbia Records.
Davis died of a heart attack in May 1972, in Hammonton, New Jersey. He is buried in plot 68 of Rockville Cemetery, in Lynbrook, Long Island, New York.
Dinner-on-the-grounds, a potluck dinner after the last Sunday service or on a special occasion, is bedrock in North Carolina, Southern Baptist tradition. In every town and village there are renowned cooks, and someone’s potato salad will be talk of the town. Potatoes, mayonnaise, and eggs are the normal key ingredients with any number of additional possibilities. Here’s one of a thousand varieties:
Southern Potato Salad
3 ½ lb potatoes
6 hard-boiled large eggs, peeled
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup evaporated milk
3 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp prepared mustard
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and cool. Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites, and set the yolks aside. Chop the whites and mix them with the potatoes and onion in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, mash the yolks, then stir in the mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the potatoes, and toss well to mix. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
Spoon into a serving bowl and chill until ready to serve. Garnish with a little paprika.
I am finally back from my travels through Vietnam and Laos in time to wish you a joyous New Year, and peace, health, and happiness for 2019. Here’s a Scots custom for the day to mark the beginning of blogging for 2019 – without too many interruptions, I hope.
In Scotland, the first Monday of the New Year was traditionally known as Hansel Monday, or Handsel Monday, and gifts (Scots: hansels) were given at this time. Among the rural population of Scotland, Auld Hansel Monday, is traditionally celebrated on the first Monday after January 12. This custom reflects a reluctance to switch from the old (Julian) style calendar to the new (Gregorian) calendar.
The word “hansel” originates from a mix of an Old English word “handselen” which means “to deliver into the hand” and an Old Norse word “handsal” meaning “to seal a promise with a handshake,” and evolved into the Middle English “hansel” which refers to small tips and gifts of money given as a token of good luck, particularly at the beginning of something. The modern house-warming gift is a hansel. John Trotter Brockett’s 1825, A glossary of north country words, in use, describes Handsel Monday as an occasion “when it is customary to make children and servants a present.” On this day, tips of small gifts were expected by servants, as well as by the postman, the deliverers of newspapers, and all people who serve a house or houses. In this respect it is somewhat similar to Boxing Day, which eventually supplanted it. If the handsel was a physical object rather than money, tradition said that the object could not be sharp, or it would “cut” the relationship between the giver and the recipient. The day is known in Scots Gaelic as Diluain Traoighte (drained Monday).
It was custom when I was growing up not to give a new purse or wallet to someone without placing a token coin in it, and at one time this custom was known as “handseling a purse.” Not to do this supposedly meant that the purse would always be empty. Money received on Handsel Monday is supposed to insure monetary luck all for the rest of the year. Similar customs accrue to New Year’s Day in other parts of the world, where giving small tokens of food, especially green food (because money is green), ensures financial fortune in the coming year.
In his Statistical Account of Scotland (1792) John Sinclair notes:
It is worth mentioning that one William Hunter, a collier (residing in the parish of Tillicoultry, in Clackmannanshire), was cured in the year 1738 of an inveterate rheumatism or gout, by drinking freely of new ale, full of harm or yeast. The poor man had been confined to his bed. for a year and a half, having almost entirely lost the use of his limbs. On the evening of Handsel Monday, as it is called, some of his neighbours came to make merry with him. Though he could not rise, yet he always took his share of the ale, as it passed round the company, and in the end he became much intoxicated. The consequence was that he had the use of his limbs next morning, and was able to walk about. He lived more than twenty years after this, and never had the smallest return of his old complaint.
So, Handsel Monday has multiple benefits.
These days, people who make regular deliveries expect money in their Christmas “boxes” rather than small gifts, and I understand the change in customs. Nonetheless, I lament the passing of the old ways because money, while welcome, is impersonal. At Christmas in the Catskills I always spent several days making a wide range of cookies to make up mixed plates to give to friends and neighbors, inspired by an old friend who used to do the same. It seems like a lot of work, and it is – no question. You have to love baking and the expectation of the joy of the season you will bring. I don’t do this any more because I live in countries that do not celebrate Christmas, and I do not have the circle of friends close by that I once had. Still, I recommend the practice. I always made springerle along with other cookies. Here is a good video:
Today is the birthday (1764) of Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith, GCB, GCTE, KmstkSO, FRS a British naval officer who served in the American and French revolutionary wars, as well as the Swedish Navy, who later rose to the rank of admiral. Chances are that you have never heard of Sidney Smith (as he called himself), but have heard of the Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson. Yet . . . Napoleon Bonaparte, reminiscing later in his life, said of Sidney Smith: “That man made me miss my destiny.” Why is this?
Sidney Smith was born into a military and naval family with connections to the Pitt family. He was born at Westminster, the second son of Captain John Smith of the Guards and his wife Mary Wilkinson, daughter of wealthy merchant Pinckney Wilkinson. Sidney Smith attended Tonbridge School until 1772. He joined the Royal Navy in 1777 and fought in the American Revolutionary War, where he saw action in 1778 against the American frigate Raleigh. For his bravery under Rodney in the action near Cape St Vincent in January 1780, Sidney Smith was, on 25th September, appointed lieutenant of the 74-gun third-rate Alcide, despite being under the required age of 19.
He distinguished himself under Admiral Thomas Graves at the Battle of the Chesapeake in 1781 and under Admiral George Rodney at the Battle of the Saintes and in consequence was given his first command, the sloop Fury. He was soon promoted to captain a larger frigate, but following the peace of Versailles in 1783, he was put ashore on half pay. During the peace, Smith chose to travel to France and first became involved with intelligence matters while observing the construction of the new naval port at Cherbourg. He also traveled in Spain and Morocco which were also potential enemies. In 1790, he applied for permission to serve in the Royal Swedish Navy in the war between Sweden and Russia. King Gustav III appointed him to command a light squadron and to be his principal naval adviser. Smith led his forces in clearing the Bay of Viborg of the Russian fleet, known as the Battle of Svensksund. The Russians lost 64 ships and over 1,000 men. The Swedes lost 4 ships and had few casualties. For this, Smith was knighted by the king and made a Commander Grand Cross of the Swedish Svärdsorden (Order of the Sword). Smith used this title, with King George III’s permission, but was mocked by fellow British officers as “the Swedish knight.” There were a number of British officers, on half pay like Smith, who had enlisted and fought with the Russian fleet and six had been killed in this action. As a result, Smith earned the enmity of many British naval officers for his Swedish service.
In 1792, Smith’s younger brother, John Spencer Smith, was appointed to the British embassy to the Ottoman court in Constantinople. Smith obtained permission to travel to Turkey. While there, war broke out with Revolutionary France in January 1793. Smith recruited some British seamen and sailed to join the British fleet under Admiral Lord Hood which had occupied the French Navy’s principal Mediterranean port of Toulon at the invitation of the French “Royalist” forces (they were not so much pro-royalty, as against the Reign of Terror). By Smith’s arrival in December 1793, the Revolutionary forces, including a colonel of artillery, Napoleon Bonaparte, had surrounded the port and were attacking it. The British and their allies had insufficient soldiers to mount an effective defense and so the port was evacuated. Smith, serving as a volunteer with no command, was given the task of burning as many French ships and stores as possible before the harbor could be captured. Despite his efforts, lack of support from the Spanish forces sent to help him left more than half of the French ships to be captured undamaged. Although Smith had destroyed more French ships than had the most successful fleet action to that date, Nelson and Collingwood, among others, blamed him for this failure to destroy all of the French fleet. Smith and Nelson were, at the same time, both friends and rivals. Both were strong-willed individuals with giant egos who preferred to buck the system rather than follow orders.
On his return to London, Smith was given command of the fifth-rate HMS Diamond and in 1795 joined the Western Frigate Squadron under Sir John Borlase Warren. This squadron consisted of some of the most skillful and daring captains including Sir Edward Pellew. Smith fitted the pattern and on one occasion took his ship almost into the port of Brest to observe the French fleet. In July 1795, Smith, commanding the western frigate squadron in HMS Diamond, occupied the Îles Saint-Marcouf off the coast of Normandy. He sacrificed two of his gun vessels, HMS Badger and HMS Sandfly, to provide materials and manpower for fortifying the islands and setting a temporary naval garrison. Further defenses were constructed by Royal Engineers, and Royal Marines and Royal Artillery detachments were established. The islands served as a forward base for the blockade of Le Havre, a launching point for intercepting coastal shipping, and as a transit point for French émigrés, and were held by the Navy for nearly 7 years.
Smith specialized in inshore operations, and on 19th April 1796, he and his secretary John Wesley Wright were captured while attempting to cut out a French ship in Le Havre. Smith had taken the ship’s boats into the harbor, but the wind died as they attempted to leave the harbor, and the French were able to recapture the ship with Smith and Wright aboard. Instead of being exchanged, as was the custom, Smith and Wright were taken to the Temple prison in Paris where Smith was to be charged with arson for his burning of the fleet at Toulon. As Smith had been on half pay at the time, the French considered that he was not an official combatant. Whilst in the Temple prison he commissioned a drawing of himself and his secretary John Wesley Wright from the French artist Philippe Auguste Hennequin, which is now in the British Museum.
He was held in Paris for two years, despite a number of efforts to exchange him and frequent contacts with both French Royalists and British agents. Notably Captain Jacques Bergeret, captured in April 1796 with the frigate Virginie, was sent from England to Paris to negotiate his own exchange; when the Directoire refused, he returned to London. The French authorities threatened several times to try Smith for arson, but never followed up on the threats. Eventually in 1798 the Royalists, who pretended to be taking him to another prison, helped Smith and Wright to escape. The royalists brought the two to Le Havre, where they boarded an open fishing boat and were picked up on 5th May by HMS Argo on patrol in the English Channel, arriving in London on 8th May 1798. Bergeret was then released, the British government considering the prisoner exchange as completed.
Following Nelson’s overwhelming victory at the Battle of the Nile, Smith was sent to the Mediterranean as captain of HMS Tigre, a captured 80-gun French ship of the line which had been brought into the Royal Navy. It was not a purely naval appointment, although he was ordered to place himself under the command of Lord St Vincent, the commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean. St Vincent gave him orders as Commodore with permission to take British ships under his command as required in the Levant. He also carried a military and diplomatic mission to Istanbul where his brother was now a Minister Plenipotentiary to the Sublime Porte. The mission’s task was to strengthen Turkish opposition to Napoleon and to assist the Turks in destroying the French army stranded in Egypt. This dual appointment caused Nelson, who was the senior officer under St Vincent in the Mediterranean, to resent Smith’s apparent superseding of his authority in the Levant. Nelson’s antipathy further adversely affected Smith’s reputation in naval circles.
Napoleon, having defeated the Ottoman forces in Egypt, marched north along the Mediterranean coast with 13,000 troops through Sinai and into what was then the Ottoman province of Syria. Here he took control of much of the southern part of the province, now modern-day Israel and Palestine, and of a single town in today’s Lebanon, Tyre. On the way north, he captured Gaza and Jaffa and massacred captured Turkish soldiers, whom he was unable to take with him or send back to Egypt. Napoleon’s army then marched to Acre.
Smith sailed to Acre and helped the Turkish commander Jezzar Pasha reinforce the defenses and old walls and supplied him with additional cannon deployed by sailors and marines from his ships. He also used his command of the sea to capture the French siege artillery being sent by ship from Egypt and to deny the French army the use of the coastal road from Jaffa by bombarding the troops from the sea. Once the siege began in late March 1799, Smith anchored HMS Tigre and Theseus so their broadsides could assist the defense. Repeated French assaults were driven back, several attempts to mine the walls were prevented. By early May, replacement French siege artillery had arrived overland and a breach was forced in the defenses. However, the assault was again repelled and Turkish reinforcements from Rhodes were able to land. On 9th May after another fierce bombardment, the final French assault was made. This, too, was repelled and Napoleon began making plans for the withdrawal of his army to Egypt. Shortly after this, Napoleon abandoned his army in Egypt and sailed back to France evading the British ships patrolling the Mediterranean.
Smith attempted to negotiate the surrender and repatriation of the remaining French forces under General Kléber and signed the Convention of El-Arish. However, because of the influence of Nelson’s view that the French forces in Egypt should be annihilated rather than allowed to return to France, the treaty was abrogated by Lord Keith who had succeeded St Vincent as commander-in-chief. The British decided instead to land an army under Sir Ralph Abercromby at Abukir Bay. Smith and Tigre were involved in the training and transport of the landing forces and as liaison with the Turks, but his unpopularity resulted in the loss of his diplomatic credentials and his naval position as Commodore in the eastern Mediterranean. The invasion was successful and the French defeated, although Abercromby was wounded and died soon after the battle. Following this Smith then supported the army under Abercromby’s successor John Hely-Hutchinson, which besieged and captured Cairo and finally took the last French stronghold of Alexandria. The French troops were eventually repatriated on similar terms as those previously obtained by Smith in the Convention of El-Arish.
1801, Smith received some honors and a pension of £1,000 for his services, but he was overshadowed again by Nelson who was being acclaimed as the victor of the Battle of Copenhagen. During the brief Peace of Amiens, Smith was elected Member of Parliament for Rochester in Kent in the election held in 1802. There is strong evidence that he had an affair with Princess Caroline of Brunswick, the estranged wife of the Prince of Wales. Although she became pregnant, she was notorious for having a number of other lovers at the same time, such as George Canning and Thomas Lawrence, so it is doubtful that the child was Smith’s. With the resumption of war with France in 1803, Smith was employed in the southern North Sea off the coast between Ostend and Flushing part of the forces gathered to prevent Napoleon’s threatened invasion.
Like Nelson, Smith was interested in new and unusual methods of warfare. In 1804 and 1805, he worked with the American inventor Robert Fulton on his plans to develop torpedoes and mines to destroy the French invasion fleet gathering off the French and Belgian coasts. However, an attempt to use the new weapons combined with Congreve rockets in an attack on Boulogne was foiled by bad weather and the French gunboats that came out to threaten the attackers. Despite this setback, suggestions were made that the rockets, mines and torpedoes be used against the combined French and Spanish Fleet in Cádiz. This was not necessary as the combined fleet sailed to defeat at the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805.
In November 1805, Smith was promoted to Rear Admiral, he was again sent to the Mediterranean under the command of Collingwood, who had become the commander-in-chief following Nelson’s death. Collingwood sent him to assist King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies to regain his capital of Naples from Napoleon’s brother King Joseph, who had been given the Kingdom of Naples.
Smith planned a campaign using Calabrian irregular troops with a force of 5,000 to march north on Naples. On 4 July 1806, they defeated a larger French force at the Battle of Maida. Once again, Smith’s inability to avoid offending his superiors caused him to be replaced as commander of the land forces despite his success. He was replaced by Sir John Moore, one of Britain’s most able soldiers. Moore abandoned Smith’s plan and resorted to making the island of Sicily a strong British base in the Mediterranean.
Smith was sent to join Admiral Sir John Thomas Duckworth’s expedition to Constantinople in February 1807. This was intended to forestall the French from making an alliance with the Turks to allow free passage of their army to Egypt. Despite Smith’s great experience in Turkish waters, his knowledge of the Turkish court, and his personal popularity with the Turks, he was kept in a subordinate role. Even when Duckworth eventually did ask for his advice, he did not heed it. Duckworth, instead of allowing Smith to negotiate with the Turks, which the French ambassador later said would have been the end of the French overtures, retreated back through the Dardanelles under heavy Turkish fire. Although this was a defeat, the withdrawal under fire was played up as a heroic feat. In the summer of 1807, Duckworth and Smith were recalled to England.
In October 1807, Spain and France signed a treaty to divide Portugal between them. In November 1807, Smith was appointed to command an expedition to Lisbon, either to assist the Portuguese in resisting the attack or to destroy the Portuguese fleet and blockade the harbor at Lisbon should that be unsuccessful. Smith arranged for the Portuguese fleet to sail for Brazil, at that time a Portuguese colony. He was involved in planning an attack on the Spanish colonies in South America, in combination with the Portuguese, contrary to his orders, but he was recalled to Britain in 1809 before any of the plans could be carried out. He received much popular acclaim for his actions and was treated as a hero, but the government continued to be suspicious of him, and he was not given any official honors. Smith was promoted to Vice Admiral on 31st July 1810. In the Royal Navy of the time, promotion was automatic and based on seniority, not a specific reward for good service. Upon safe arrival to Brazil escorting the Portuguese Royal Family, Smith was awarded the Grand Cross of the newly restored Order of the Tower and Sword by the prince-regent, John.
In July 1812, Smith again sailed for the Mediterranean aboard his new flagship, the 74-gun Tremendous. He was appointed as second in command to Vice Admiral Sir Edward Pellew. His task was to blockade Toulon and he transferred his flag to the larger Hibernia, a 110-gun first-rate. Blockade duty was tedious, as the French showed no inclination to come out of port and confront the British. Early in 1814, the Allies entered Paris and Napoleon abdicated, and was exiled to the island of Elba.
In March 1815, Napoleon escaped from Elba and gathering his veteran troops marched on Paris where he was reinstated as Emperor of the French. Smith traveling back to England had only reached Brussels by June. Hearing the gunfire of a great battle, he rode out of Brussels and went to meet the Duke of Wellington. Smith found him late in the day when he had just won the Battle of Waterloo. Smith started making arrangements for the collecting and treatment of the many wounded soldiers on both sides. He was then asked to take the surrender of the French garrisons at Arras and Amiens and to ensure that the Allied armies could enter Paris without a fight and that it would be safe for King Louis XVIII to return to his capital. For these and other services, he was finally awarded a British knighthood, the KCB, so he was not just “the Swedish Knight” any more.
Smith then took up the anti-slavery cause. The Barbary pirates had operated for centuries out of a number of North African ports. They had enslaved captured sailors and even made raids to kidnap people from European coasts, including England and Ireland. Smith attended the Congress of Vienna to campaign for funds and military action to end the practice of slave taking.
Smith had managed to run up significant debts through his diplomatic expenses, which the British government proved to be very slow in reimbursing. He also lived a high lifestyle and his efforts to mobilize opinion against the slave trade had cost a good deal of money. In Britain, at that time debtors were often imprisoned until their debts were paid, so Smith moved his family to France, settling in Paris. Eventually the government did reimburse his expenditures and increased his pension, allowing him to live in some style. Despite frequent attempts to obtain a seagoing position, he was never to hold a command again. He died on 26th May 1840 following a stroke. He is buried with his wife in Père Lachaise Cemetery.
I have known Sidney Smith for many years because Sir Sidney Smith’s March is popular in folk circles. Makes me want to buy a new instrument. It’s a common tune for Northumbrian small pipes, but here it is on button accordion – my instrument.
As a small amusement for you, I found this version played on an ensemble of yuèqín (月琴) in China. The rendition is painfully slow and precise, and why Chinese musicians would play this defeats me (although the 2 on the left are foreigners – the leader is Chinese).
This English recipe for raspberry pie (called raspberry tart in the original) comes from the period of the French/Napoleonic wars, taken from William Augustus Henderson’s The Housekeeper’s Instructor (c. 1800). Raspberry pie happens to be a particular favorite of mine, so why not use it to celebrate Sidney Smith? Or choose any other recipe from the period.
ROLL out some thin puff-paste, and lay it in a patty pan; then put in some rasberries, and strew over them some very fine sugar. Put on the lid, and bake it.- Then cut it open, and put in half a pint of cream, the yolks of two or three eggs well beaten, and a little sugar. Give it another heat in the oven, and it will be fit for use.
Today is the birthday (1891) of Cole Albert Porter one of the great composers and songwriters for the stage in the Jazz Age. Porter was born into a wealthy family in Indiana. His grandfather J. O. Cole (called at the time “The Richest Man in Indiana”) wanted his grandson to become a lawyer, and with that career in mind, he sent him to Worcester Academy in Massachusetts in 1905. Porter took an upright piano with him to school and found that music, and his ability to entertain, made it easy for him to make friends. Porter did well in school and rarely came home to visit. He became class valedictorian and was rewarded by his grandfather with a tour of France, Switzerland, and Germany. Porter entered Yale University in 1909, with a major in English and a minor in music, and also studied French. He was a member of Scroll and Key and Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, and contributed to campus humor magazine The Yale Record. He was an early member of the Whiffenpoofs a cappella singing group and participated in several other music clubs. In his senior year, he was elected president of the Yale Glee Club and was its principal soloist.
After graduating from Yale, Porter enrolled in Harvard Law School in 1913. He soon felt that he was not destined to be a lawyer, and, at the suggestion of the dean of the law school, switched to Harvard’s music faculty, where he studied harmony and counterpoint with Pietro Yon.In 1915, Porter’s first song on Broadway, “Esmeralda”, appeared in the revue Hands Up. The quick success was immediately followed by failure: his first Broadway production, in 1916, See America First, a “patriotic comic opera” modeled on Gilbert and Sullivan, with a book by T. Lawrason Riggs, was a flop, closing after two weeks. Porter spent the next year in New York City before going overseas during World War I.
In 1917, when the United States entered World War I, Porter moved to Paris to work with the Duryea Relief organization. Some historians have been skeptical about Porter’s claim to have served in the French Foreign Legion, although the Legion lists Porter as one of its soldiers and displays his portrait at its museum in Aubagne. By some accounts, he served in North Africa and was transferred to the French Officers School at Fontainebleau, teaching gunnery to US soldiers. An obituary notice in The New York Times said that, while in the Legion, “he had a specially constructed portable piano made for him so that he could carry it on his back and entertain the troops in their bivouacs.”
Porter maintained a luxury apartment in Paris, where he entertained lavishly. His parties were extravagant and scandalous, with “much gay and bisexual activity, Italian nobility, cross-dressing, international musicians and a large surplus of recreational drugs.” In 1918, he met Linda Lee Thomas, a rich, Kentucky-born divorcée eight years his senior.] She was well-connected socially and the couple shared mutual interests, including a love of travel, and she became Porter’s confidant and companion. The couple married the following year. She was in no doubt about Porter’s homosexuality, but it was mutually advantageous for them to marry. For Thomas, it offered continued social status and a partner who was the antithesis of her abusive first husband. For Porter, it brought a respectable heterosexual front in an era when homosexuality was not publicly acknowledged. They were, moreover, genuinely devoted to each other and remained married from December 19th, 1919, until her death in 1954.
Porter enrolled at the Schola Cantorum in Paris where he studied orchestration and counterpoint with Vincent d’Indy. Meanwhile, Porter had his first big hit with the song “Old-Fashioned Garden” from the revue Hitchy-Koo in 1919. In 1920, he contributed the music of several songs to the musical A Night Out. Porter’s time in Paris was only minimally successful in terms of his music, however. At the age of 36, Porter reintroduced himself to Broadway in 1928 with the musical Paris, his first hit. It was commissioned by E. Ray Goetz at the instigation of Goetz’s wife and the show’s star, Irène Bordoni. She had wanted Rodgers and Hart to write the songs, but they were unavailable, and Porter’s agent persuaded Goetz to hire Porter instead.The songs for the show included “Let’s Misbehave” and one of his best-known list songs, “Let’s Do It”, which was introduced by Bordoni and Arthur Margetson. The show opened on Broadway on October 8th, 1928 and was an instant success. From that point on, Porter was a fixture on Broadway and in Hollywood.
You may look upon his musicals as period pieces, but I think his individual hits have stood the test of time. That may just be me, of course, because I am not a big fan of contemporary musicals. At best I find them vaguely irritating – caught between serious drama and opera. I’m also not a huge fan of Porter’s great stars, such as Ethel Merman and Fred Astaire, in their performances of his music. I like his own renditions better:
After a serious horseback riding accident in New York in 1937, Porter was left disabled and in constant pain, but he continued to work, partly because it distracted him from the pain. He had been estranged from his wife at this time because of his increasingly open affairs with men, and because she had disliked Hollywood, she had moved back to Paris. After Porter’s injury, she joined him in a suite of rooms at the Waldorf Hotel where they lived for the remainder of their lives. The Cole Porter Suite at the Waldorf can still be rented by the month.
Porter’s mother died in 1952, and his wife died from emphysema in 1954. By 1958, Porter’s injuries caused a series of ulcers on his right leg. After 34 operations, it had to be amputated and replaced with an artificial limb. His friend Noël Coward visited him in the hospital and wrote in his diary, “The lines of ceaseless pain have been wiped from his face…. I am convinced that his whole life will cheer up and that his work will profit accordingly.” In fact, Porter never wrote another song after the amputation and spent the remaining six years of his life in relative seclusion, seeing only intimate friends. He continued to live in the Waldorf Towers in New York in his memorabilia-filled apartment. On weekends he often visited an estate in the Berkshires, and he stayed in California during the summers. Porter died of kidney failure on October 15, 1964, in Santa Monica, California, at the age of 73. He is interred in Mount Hope Cemetery in his native Peru, Indiana, between his wife and father.
Various chefs at the Waldorf have produced signature dishes that bear the Waldorf name, but none is better known than Waldorf salad. Unfortunately, it has changed beyond recognition from its simple beginnings. Waldorf salad was first created for a charity ball given in honor of the St. Mary’s Hospital for Children on March 14th, 1896 at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. Oscar Tschirky, who was the Waldorf’s maître d’hôtel, and who developed or inspired many of its signature dishes, is widely credited with creating the recipe. In 1896, the salad appeared in The Cook Book by “Oscar of the Waldorf.” The original recipe was just apples, celery, and mayonnaise. It did not contain nuts, but they had been added by the time the recipe appeared in The Rector Cook Book in 1928. Other ingredients, such as chicken, turkey, and dried fruit (e.g. dates or raisins) are sometimes added nowadays. The modern Waldorf salad also may include the zest of oranges and lemons. In truth, the original suits me better than all the later additions.
On 9th April, 1557 Mikael Agricola (Michael Olaui), the “father of literary Finnish” died, and Elias Lönnrot, a collector of Finnish folklore was born on this date in 1802. Because of the coincidence, today is marked as Finnish Language Day. Michael Olaui or Mikkel Olofsson (Finnish: Mikael Olavinpoika) was born in Nyland (Uusimaa) in the village of Torsby in Pernå (Pernaja), Sweden (now Finland), around the year 1510. He was named after the patron saint of Pernå’s church. The exact date of his birth, like most details of his life, is unknown. His family was a quite wealthy peasant family according to the local bailiff’s accounting. He had three sisters, but their names are not known. His teachers apparently recognized his aptitude for languages and his rector, Bartholomeus, sent him to Viborg (Finnish: Viipuri; now Vyborg, Russia) for Latin school and some priestly training, where he attended the school of Erasmus. It is not known whether his first language was Finnish or Swedish. Pernå was mostly a Swedish-speaking district, but the language he used in his works indicates that he was a native speaker of Finnish. However, he mastered both languages like a native speaker and was possibly a bilingual child.
When Michael studied in Viborg he assumed the surname Agricola (“farmer”). Surnames based on one’s father’s status and occupation were common for first-generation scholars at the time. It was probably there that he first came in touch with the Reformation and Humanism. Viipuri castle was ruled by a German count, Johann, who had served the king of Sweden, Gustav Vasa. The count was a supporter of the Reformation, and they already held Lutheran services.
In 1528 Agricola followed his teacher to Turku (Åbo), then the center of the Finnish side of the Swedish realm and the capital of the bishopric. There Agricola became a scribe in bishop Martinus Skytte’s office. While in Turku Agricola met Martin Luther’s first Finnish student Petrus Särkilahti, who eagerly spread the idea of the Reformation. Särkilahti died in 1529, and it was up to Agricola to continue Särkilahti’s work. Agricola was ordained for the priesthood circa 1531. In 1536 the bishop of Turku sent Agricola to study in Wittenberg. He concentrated on the lectures of Philipp Melanchthon. He also studied under Luther. Agricola got recommendations to the Swedish king, Gustav Vasa, from both of the reformers. He sent two letters to Gustav, asking for a confirmation for a stipend. In 1537 he started translating the New Testament into Finnish, thus helping establish Finnish as a written language.
In 1539 Agricola returned to Turku and ended up as the rector of Turku Cathedral School. He did not like his job, calling his students “untamed animals.” At the time Gustav Vasa had confiscated the property of the church when he was consolidating his power, but he also drove the Reformation. In 1544 Agricola received an order from the crown to send several talented young men to Stockholm’s taxing offices. For some reason, Agricola did not obey until the order was sent again the next year, with a more menacing tone. This episode probably affected their relations negatively.
In 1546 Agricola lost his home and school in the Fire of Turku. On 22nd February 1548, Gustav Vasa ordered Agricola to retire from his position as rector. At this time Agricola was already married, but history knows his wife only by her name: Pirjo Olavintytär (Bridget, “daughter of Olavi”; Birgitta Olafsdotter, Brigida Olaui). His only son, Christian Agricola (Christianus Michaelis Agricola), was born 11th December 1550, and became the bishop of Tallinn in 1584.
When an old bishop died in 1554, Gustav Vasa had Agricola consecrated as the ordinarius of Turku parish – for all practical purposes Bishop of Turku and by extension the first Lutheran bishop for all Finland. Agricola was not a particularly strict or dedicated reformer, although he did remove the Canon of the Mass. In 1557 Agricola joined the delegation going to Russia and was in Moscow from 21st February to 24th March negotiating a peace treaty, the Treaty of Novgorod (1557). On 9th April he fell ill and died in Uusikirkko (now Polyane) village, part of the Kyrönniemi parish on the Karelian Isthmus. Agricola was buried inside Viipuri’s church, but the exact location of the grave is not known.
Elias Lönnrot (1802 – 1884) was a Finnish physician, philologist and collector of traditional Finnish oral poetry. He is best known for creating the Finnish national epic, Kalevala, (1835, enlarged 1849), from short ballads and lyric poems, gathered from the Finnish oral tradition during several expeditions in Finland, Russian Karelia, the Kola Peninsula and Baltic countries. Lönnrot was born in Sammatti, in the province of Uusimaa, Finland, which was then part of Sweden. He studied medicine at the Academy of Turku. The Great Fire of Turku (not to be confused with the 1548 Turku fire when Agricola lost his home !!), coincided with his first academic year. Because the university was destroyed in the fire, it was moved to Helsinki, the newly established administrative center of the Grand Duchy and the present capital city of Finland. Lönnrot followed and graduated in 1832.
Lönnrot got a job as district doctor of Kajaani in Eastern Finland during a time of famine and pestilence in the district. The famine had prompted the previous doctor to resign, making it possible for a very young doctor to get such a position. Several consecutive years of crop failure resulted in losses of population and livestock. In addition, lack of a hospital further complicated Lönnrot’s work. He was the sole doctor for 4,000 or so people, most of whom lived in small rural communities scattered across the district. As physicians and novel drugs were expensive at the time, most people relied on their village healers and locally available remedies. Lönnrot himself was keen on traditional remedies and also administered them. However, he believed strongly that preventive measures such as good hygiene, breastfeeding babies, and vaccines were the most effective measures for most of his patients.
His true passion lay in his native Finnish language. He began writing about the early Finnish language in 1827 and began collecting folk tales from rural people about that time. In 1831, the Finnish Literature Society was founded, and Lönnrot, being one of the founder members, received financial support from the society for his collecting efforts. Lönnrot went on extended leaves of absence from his doctor’s office; he toured the countryside of Finland, Sapmi (Lapland), and nearby portions of Russian Karelia. This led to a series of books: Kantele, 1829–1831 (the kantele is a Finnish traditional instrument); Kalevala, 1835–1836 (the “old” Kalevala); Kanteletar, 1840; Sananlaskuja, 1842 (Proverbs); an expanded second edition of Kalevala, 1849 (the “new” Kalevala). Lönnrot was recognized for his part in preserving Finland’s oral traditions by appointment to the Chair of Finnish Literature at the University of Helsinki in 1853.
He also undertook the task of compiling the first Finnish-Swedish dictionary (Finsk-Svenskt lexikon, 1866–1880). The result comprised over 200,000 entries, and many of the Finnish translations were coined by Lönnrot himself. His vast knowledge of traditional Finnish poetry made him an authority in Finland and many of his inventions have stuck. Finnish scientific terminology was particularly influenced by Lönnrot’s work and therefore many abstract terms that have a Latin or Greek etymology in mainstream European languages appear as native neologisms in Finnish. Examples from linguistics and medicine include kielioppi (grammar), kirjallisuus (literature), laskimo (vein) and valtimo (artery).
Botanists remember him for writing the first Finnish-language Flora Fennica – Suomen Kasvisto in 1860; in its day it was famed throughout Scandinavia, as it was among the very first common-language scientific texts. The second, expanded version was co-authored by Th. Saelan and published in 1866. The Flora Fennica was the first scientific work published in Finnish (rather than Latin). In addition, Lönnrot’s Flora Fennica includes many notes on plant uses in between his descriptions of flowers and leaves.
I have chosen the Finnish dish kalakukko for today’s celebratory recipe. I have given some Finnish dishes before, and they are all a bit basic. Get behind the inscrutable Finnish name, and you have something quite ordinary found across Europe: Kaalikääryleet (stuffed cabbage), Hernekeitto (split pea soup), Perunamuusi (mashed potatoes). Of course these dishes have local twists, and local ingredients make a difference. Kalakukko is sort of a pie, sort of a stuffed bread, sort of a pasty. It is fish, pork belly, and sometimes vegetables, wrapped in a rye bread dough and baked. Here’s a video (in Finnish) to give you the idea, and then I will give a recipe.
2 lb small fish, cleaned and gutted (heads on or off as you choose)
1 ½ lbs belly pork, sliced like bacon
1 tsp allspice
2 ½ cups tepid water (approx.)
3 ¼ cups rye flour
1 ¾ cups whole-wheat flour
4 tsp salt
½ oz active dry yeast
Sift the flours and salt together into a mixing bowl.
Put the yeast in the water in a cup and stir.
When the yeast is fully dissolved, make a thick dough by pouring water into the dough and mixing well. The ratio of flour to water depends on the nature of the flours. This ratio of 1:2 by volume works well in Finland with Finnish flours. Where flours contain more gluten you should use slightly less water.
Set aside about 4 tablespoons of dough to be used later. Roll out the remaining dough into a circular shape about ¾ inch thick.
Assemble the meats on the dough. Use the video as a guide. Cover the inner half of the dough circle with half of the pork (the pork should cover a circle whose diameter is half the diameter of the rolled dough). Then put all of the fish over top of the pork, and add allspice and extra salt if you are using them. Finish with the second half of the pork.
Preheat the oven to 500˚F/260˚C.
Lift the edges of the dough all around the filling and glue together with a little water so that you have the filling surrounded from all directions with about ¾ inch-thick dough. Put upside down (the seam downwards) on a baking sheet and let it rise about half an hour at room temperature.
Put the kalakukko in a 500˚F oven for long enough to brown the dough, which will seal it against moisture. Then lower the temperature to about 250˚F/130˚C and let it bake for about 4 hours, or longer depending on the size of the fish (bigger fish need more cooking time). You can brush some melted butter over the top of the dough just after lowering the temperature. This will give it a prettier (browner) appearance. If it starts to leak while baking, fill holes with the dough which was set aside. In the video they wrap the kalakukko in foil for the second baking, which prevents leakage.
Cut a lid in the top to scoop out the filling, and serve accompanied by the bread casing. This dish may be eaten hot or cold.
On this date in 1963 Arthur “Spud” Melin, co-founder of WHAM-O, received U.S. Patent Number 3,079,728 for the company’s version of the hula hoop. The hula hoop can scarcely be said to be a modern invention. There have been various records of waist hooping for exercise, dance, and recreation from numerous cultures throughout history. Before it was known and recognized as the common colorful plastic toy (sometimes with water or sand inside the actual hoop), the traditional “hula hoop” used to be made of dried willow, rattan, grapevines, or stiff grasses. Even though they have existed for thousands of years, they are often misunderstood as having been invented in the 1950s. According to Charles Panati, there was a craze of using wooden and metal hoops in 14th-century England. He reports that doctors treated patients suffering from pain and dislocated backs due to hooping − and heart failure was even attributed to it. Panati also says that the name “hula” came from the Hawaiian dance in the 18th century, due to the similar hip movements.
The Native American Hoop Dance is a form of storytelling dance incorporating anywhere from 1 to 30 hoops (sometimes more) as props. These props are used to create both static and dynamic shapes, which represent various animals, symbols, and storytelling elements. The dance is generally performed by a solo dancer with multiple hoops.
The hula hoop gained international popularity in the late 1950s, when the plastic version was successfully marketed by California’s WHAM-O toy company. In 1957, Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin, starting with the idea of Australian bamboo “exercise hoops”, manufactured 1.06-metre (42 in) hoops with Marlex plastic. With giveaways and national marketing and retailing, a fad was started in July 1958. 25 million plastic hoops were sold in less than four months, and in two years, sales reached more than 100 million units. Carlon Products Corporation was one of the first manufacturers of the hula hoop. During the 1950s, when the hula hoop craze swept the country, Carlon was producing more than 50,000 hula hoops per day. The hoop was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York, in 1999. The hula hoop craze swept the world, dying out again in the 1980s, but not in China and Russia, where hula hooping and hoop manipulation were adopted by traditional circuses and rhythmic gymnasts.
Recently, there has been a re-emergence of hula hooping, generally referred to as either “hoopdance” or simply “hooping” to distinguish it from the children’s play form. The jam band The String Cheese Incident is widely credited with fostering a renewed interest in hooping. Band members started throwing larger adult-sized hoops into their audiences in the mid-1990s, encouraging their fans to hoop and dance, spreading the word and the fun.It wasn’t until 2003 with the launch of Hooping.org that these small bands of hoopers began to find each other online and a real community and movement began to grow. Bay Area Hoopers began in San Francisco at that time holding regular “hoop jams” with music to hoop to and the hooping group began being replicated in cities around the world. In 2006 Hoopin’ Annie had the idea to create a hooping holiday and the first World Hoop Day was held in 2007. Modern hula hooping is seen at numerous festivals and fairs in the USA, UK, Australia and Europe.
Many modern hoopers make their own hoops out of PVC piping, or polypropylene tubing (known as polypro). The polyethylene hoops, and especially the polyvinyl chloride hoops, are much larger and heavier than hoops of the 1950s. The size and the weight of the hoop affect the style of the hooper. Heavier, larger hoops are more often used for beginner dancers and easier tricks, while lighter, thinner tubing is used for quick hand tricks. These hoops may be covered in a fabric or plastic tape to create more of a visual image and distinguish between the hoop and dancer. Gaffer Tape is also used to line the inside of a hula hoop to add grip or when using a bare hula hoop it can be roughened by using sandpaper. Some use glow-in-the dark, patterned, or sparkling tape, and others are produced with clear tubing and are never filled with materials (usually hoops for children are filled with an array of materials). LED technology has also been introduced in the past few years, allowing hoops to light up at the flick of a switch or a remote control. Programmable ‘Smart Hoops’ are available which provide a range of special effects and some can even be customized through an application on a mobile device.
Given that hula is a Hawaiian dance, a Hawaiian recipe seems suitable, and since hooping is physically challenging why not try making Hawaiian poi (mashed taro root) in the traditional way? Here’s a video for you.
Time for another omnibus post because so many anniversaries associated with movie history collide today. On this date in 1861 Samuel Goodale of Cincinnati patented his moving picture peep show machine. On this date in 1870 Henry Renno Heyl used his phasmatrope to project moving images for an audience, which some historians credit as being the first movie show. On this date in 1919 Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and DW Griffith launched United Artists, and on this date in 1937 Modern Times, starring Charlie Chaplin, was released. Let’s see if I can make sense of all of this in a single post.
Samuel Goodale patented a kind of peep show he called a stereoscope which was later called a mutoscope. The term “stereoscope” is misleading because it was more commonly used to describe a viewer of twin images taken by a special camera that showed the image in 3-D. Goodale’s peep show worked on the same principle as the flip book. The individual image frames were conventional black-and-white, silver-based photographic prints on tough, flexible opaque cards. Rather than being bound into a booklet, the cards were attached to a circular core, rather like a huge Rolodex.
Goodale’s and later peep shows were coin-operated. The patron viewed the cards through a single lens enclosed by a hood. The cards were lit by candles and the reel was driven by means of a geared-down hand crank. Each machine held only a single reel and was dedicated to the presentation of a single short subject, described by a poster affixed to the machine. Because one machine contained only one subject, it made sense to have them transported by circus or carnival side shows from one location to another, rather than fixed in one place where audiences would soon tire of the same show being repeated.
Henry Renno Heyl’s Phasmatrope which was first publicly exhibited on this date in 1870 to a theater audience in Philadelphia was similar in operation to Goodale’s peep show in that it employed sequenced photographs on a reel, like a flip book. The difference was that Heyl’s machine allowed projection of the moving images, so that an entire audience could experience the show, not just one viewer at a time. Some historians have given Heyl the honor of being the first person to project photographic motion pictures, and an early promotional poster makes the same claim. In Popular Science Monthly of July 1898 Heyl wrote:
Among the earliest public exhibitions of photographs taken from living subjects in motion projected by the lantern upon a screen was that given at an entertainment held in the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, on the evening of February 5, 1870, and a repetition of the exhibition was made before the Franklin Institute at its next following monthly meeting, on March 16th, by [Heyl]. The printed programme of this event contains the following allusion to this feature of the entertainment:
“This is a recent invention, designed to give various objects and figures upon the screen the most graceful and lifelike movements. The effects are similar to those produced in the familiar toy called the Zoetrope, where men are seen walking, running, and performing various feats in most perfect imitation of real life. This instrument is destined to become a most valuable auxiliary to the appliances for illustration, and we have the pleasure of having the first opportunity of presenting its merits to an audience.”
The subjects exhibited embraced waltzing figures and acrobats, shown upon the screen in life size, while the photographic images were easily three fourths of an inch in height. At that day flexible films were not known in photography, nor had the art of rapid succession picture-making been developed; therefore, it was necessary to limit the views of subjects to those that could be taken by time exposure upon wet plates, which photos were afterward reproduced as positives on very thin glass plates, in order that they might be light in weight. The waltzing figures, taken in six positions, corresponding to the six steps to complete a turn, were duplicated as often as necessary to fill the eighteen picture spaces of the instrument which was used in connection with the lantern to project the images upon the screen.
The piece of mechanism, then named the ‘phasmatrope,’ consisted of a skeleton wheel having nine radial divisions, into which could be inserted the picture, in such relative position that, as the wheel was intermittently revolved, each picture would register exactly with the position just left by the preceding one. The intermittent movement of the wheel was controlled by a ratchet and pawl mechanism operated by a reciprocating bar moved up and down by the hand. It will be apparent that the figures could be moved in rapid succession or quite slowly, or the wheel could be stopped at any point to complete the evolution.
In the exhibition at the Academy of Music above alluded to, the movement of the figures was made to correspond to the time of the waltz played by an orchestra, and when the acrobat performers were shown, a more rapid motion was given, and a full stop made when a somersault was completed. A shutter was then a necessary part of the apparatus to cut off the light rays during the time the pictures were changing places. This was accomplished by a vibrating shutter placed back of the picture wheel, that was operated by the same draw-bar that moved the wheel, only the shutter movement was so timed that it moved first and covered the picture before the latter moved, and completed the movement after the next picture was in place. This movement reduced to great extent the flickering, and gave very natural and lifelike representations of the moving figures.
Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and DW Griffith incorporated United Artists as a joint venture on this date in 1919. Each held a 25 percent stake in the preferred shares and a 20 percent stake in the common shares of the joint venture, with the remaining 20 percent of common shares held by lawyer and advisor William Gibbs McAdoo. The idea for the venture originated with Fairbanks, Chaplin, Pickford and cowboy star William S. Hart a year earlier. As Hollywood veterans the four talked of forming their own company to better control their own work. They were spurred on by established Hollywood producers and distributors who were tightening their control over actor salaries and creative decisions, a process that evolved into the studio system. With the addition of Griffith, planning began, but Hart bowed out before anything was formalized.
When he heard about their scheme, Richard A. Rowland, head of Metro Pictures, apparently said, “The inmates are taking over the asylum”. The four partners, with advice from McAdoo (son-in-law and former Treasury Secretary of then-President Woodrow Wilson), formed their distribution company. Hiram Abrams was its first managing director, and the company established its headquarters at 729 Seventh Avenue in New York City. The original terms called for each of the stars to produce five pictures a year. By the time the company was operational in 1921, feature films were becoming more expensive and polished, and running times had settled at around 90 minutes (eight reels). The original goal was thus abandoned.
UA’s first film, His Majesty, the American, written by and starring Fairbanks, was a success. Funding for movies was limited. Without selling stock to the public, following the other studios, all United had for finance was weekly prepayment installments from theater owners for upcoming movies. As a result, production was slow, and the company distributed an average of only five films a year in its first five years. By 1924, Griffith had dropped out, and the company was facing a crisis; the alternatives were to either bring in others to help support a costly distribution system or concede defeat. Veteran producer Joseph Schenck was hired as president. He had been producing pictures for a decade, and he brought commitments for films starring his wife, Norma Talmadge, his sister-in-law, Constance Talmadge, and his brother-in-law, Buster Keaton. Contracts were signed with independent producers, most notably Samuel Goldwyn, and Howard Hughes. In 1933, Schenck organized a new company with Darryl F. Zanuck, called Twentieth Century Pictures, which soon provided four pictures a year, forming half of UA’s schedule. Schenck formed a separate partnership with Pickford and Chaplin to buy and build theaters under the United Artists name. They began international operations, first in Canada, and then in Mexico. By the end of the 1930s, United Artists was represented in over 40 countries.
Modern Times, starring Chaplin, premiered on this date in 1936. Technically it is a talkie because it has a sound track, but Chaplin’s character is silent. It was written and directed by Chaplin; his iconic Little Tramp character struggles to survive in the modern, industrialized world. The film is a comment on the desperate employment and financial conditions many people faced during the Great Depression, conditions created, in Chaplin’s view, by the efficiencies of modern industrialization. The movie stars Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman, Tiny Sandford and Chester Conklin.
During a European tour promoting City Lights, Chaplin got the inspiration for Modern Times from both the lamentable conditions of the continent through the Great Depression, along with a conversation with Mahatma Gandhi in which they discussed modern technology. Chaplin did not understand why Gandhi generally opposed it, though he granted that “machinery with only consideration of profit” had put people out of work and ruined lives.
Chaplin began preparing the film in 1934 as his first “talkie”, and went as far as writing a dialogue script and experimenting with some sound scenes. However, he soon abandoned these attempts and reverted to a silent format with synchronized sound effects and sparse dialogue. The dialogue experiments confirmed his long-standing conviction that the universal appeal of his “Little Tramp” character would be lost if the character ever spoke on screen. Most of the film was shot at “silent speed”, 18 frames per second, which when projected at “sound speed”, 24 frames per second, made the slapstick action appear even more frenetic. Available prints of the film now correct this. The duration of filming was long for the time, beginning on October 11, 1934 and ending on August 30, 1935.
Chaplin’s eating habits are well documented, fortunately. His son wrote:
Besides stewed tripe and onions, he likes lamb stew. Those are two of his three favorite dishes. He dislikes seasoning, never uses sauces or violent condiments and doesn’t care for highly spiced dishes. The one exception is curry, the hotter the better. That’s his third favorite dish. He is utterly inconsistent about eating. Sometimes he will go for twenty-four hours or longer without taking a morsel. Then he’ll eat four or five meals within the next day. He goes on diets but never keeps them up. He went rabidly on a raw vegetable diet for several days. “Look at animals,” he said, “they eat raw vegetables and are healthy. The elephant is the biggest and strongest animal; he eats only vegetables.” That night, Charlie ate two beefsteaks, rare.
Very well, I am partial to tripe too, although the English tripe and onions was the bane of my existence as a boy. If you don’t like tripe, make lamb stew or a curry with rice. Here’s Mrs Beeton on tripe followed with her onion sauce recipe. If my mother had cooked it this way I might have liked tripe – but I doubt it.
INGREDIENTS.—Tripe, onion sauce, No. 484, milk and water.
Mode.—Ascertain that the tripe is quite fresh, and have it cleaned and dressed. Cut away the coarsest fat, and boil it in equal proportions of milk and water for 3/4 hour. Should the tripe be entirely undressed, more than double that time should be allowed for it. Have ready some onion sauce made by recipe No. 4S4, dish the tripe, smother it with the sauce, and the remainder send to table in a tureen.
Time.—1 hour: for undressed tripe, from 2-1/2 to 3 hours.
Average cost, 7d. per lb.
Seasonable at any time.
Note.—Tripe may be dressed in a variety of ways: it may be cut in pieces and fried in batter, stewed in gravy with mushrooms, or cut into collops, sprinkled with minced onion and savoury herbs, and fried a nice brown in clarified butter.
WHITE ONION SAUCE, for Boiled Rabbits, Roast Shoulder of Mutton, &c.
INGREDIENTS.—9 large onions, or 12 middling-sized ones, 1 pint of melted butter made with milk (No. 380), 1/2 teaspoonful of salt, or rather more.
Mode.—Peel the onions and put them into water to which a little salt has been added, to preserve their whiteness, and let them remain for 1/4 hour. Then put them in a stewpan, cover them with water, and let them boil until tender, and, if the onions should be very strong, change the water after they have been boiling for 1/4 hour. Drain them thoroughly, chop them, and rub them through a tammy or sieve. Make 1 pint of melted butter, by recipe No. 380, and when that boils, put in the onions, with a seasoning of salt; stir it till it simmers, when it will be ready to serve. If these directions are carefully attended to, this onion sauce will be delicious.
Time.—From 3/4 to 1 hour, to boil the onions.
Average cost, 9d. per pint.
Sufficient to serve with a roast shoulder of mutton, or boiled rabbit.
Seasonable from August to March.
Note.—To make this sauce very mild and delicate, use Spanish onions, which can be procured from the beginning of September to Christmas. 2 or 3 tablespoonfuls of cream added just before serving, will be found to improve its appearance very much. Small onions, when very young, may be cooked whole, and served in melted butter. A sieve or tammy should be kept expressly for onions: an old one answers the purpose, as it is liable to retain the flavour and smell, which of course would be excessively disagreeable in delicate preparations.
Today is sometimes called “The Day the Music Died” after singer-songwriter Don McLean referred to it as such in his song “American Pie” in 1971. On this date in 1959, rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, together with pilot Roger Peterson. But we can also refer to it as “The Day the Music Was Born” because today is the birthday (1809) of Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, widely known simply as Felix Mendelssohn, one of the most influential composers and performers of the early Romantic period. I will take a stab at both anniversaries, Mendelssohn first (birth comes before death – and, besides, he was born well before rock and roll was invented). Because this is an omnibus post I cannot really do full justice to any of the musicians in it. I promise I will give each his due in later posts.
Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, which at the time was an independent city-state. His father, Abraham Mendelssohn, was a prominent banker and son of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. Mendelsshon’s parents did not wish to raise him in a traditional Jewish manner, so they did not have him circumcised, nor give him any religious training. At the age of 7 they had him baptized as a Reformed Christian. Felix had an elder sister, Fanny, whom I have dealt with in a previous post: https://www.bookofdaystales.com/manet-and-mendelssohn/ . Both Fanny and Felix showed early talents as both pianists and composers, and I argued in the previous post that Fanny might well have rivaled her brother if she had been encouraged to continue. As it is, her oeuvre is impressive.
Felix was recognized early as a musical prodigy, but his parents were cautious and did not seek to capitalize on his talent. As a young man Mendelssohn enjoyed success in Germany, and revived interest in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, notably with his performance of the St Matthew Passion in 1829. He became well received in his travels throughout Europe as a composer, conductor and soloist. His 10 visits to Britain – during which many of his major works were premiered – form an important part of his adult career. His essentially conservative musical tastes set him apart from more adventurous musical contemporaries such as Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner, and Hector Berlioz.
Mendelssohn wrote symphonies, concertos, oratorios, piano music and chamber music. His best-known works include his Overture and incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream (which includes the Wedding March), the Italian Symphony, the Scottish Symphony, the overture The Hebrides, his Violin Concerto, his String Octet, and Songs Without Words (which include “Spring Song”). Mendelssohn’s music fell into relative disfavor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, due partly because of changing musical tastes, and partly because his music was viewed by critics and concert promoters as rather backward-looking rather than innovative for its time. Later in the 20th century his creative originality was re-evaluated, and he is now among the most popular composers of the Romantic era.
Felix Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” in C major, is perhaps his most frequently performed work because it is the commonplace recessional at the end of the vast majority of Christian weddings in the West. He wrote it in 1842, for his suite of incidental music (Op. 61) to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The first time that Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” was used at a wedding was when Dorothy Carew wed Tom Daniel at St Peter’s Church, Tiverton in England, on 2nd June 1847. It was performed by organist Samuel Reay. However, it did not become popular at weddings until it was selected by Victoria, the Princess Royal for her marriage to Prince Frederick William of Prussia on 25th January 1858. The bride was the daughter of Queen Victoria, who loved Mendelssohn’s music and for whom Mendelssohn often played while on his visits to Britain.
Franz Liszt wrote a virtuoso transcription of the “Wedding March and Dance of the Elves” (S. 410) in 1849-50. Vladimir Horowitz transcribed the Wedding March into a virtuoso showpiece for piano and played it as an encore at his concerts.
“Spring Song” is also incredibly well known because of its constant use (maybe overuse) as theme music for cartoons evoking spring or the dawn. It is #6 from Book 5 (Opus 62) of his Songs Without Words. Only a few of these short lyrical pieces have names, but he called this one “Frühlingslied.” In England it is sometimes called Camberwell Green, after an area in South London where Mendelssohn was living when he composed it.
The plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson occurred while they were playing on the “Winter Dance Party” tour across the United States Midwest.
The long journeys between venues on board the cold, uncomfortable tour buses adversely affected the performers, with cases of flu and even frostbite. After stopping at Clear Lake to perform, and frustrated by such conditions, Holly chose to charter a plane to reach their next venue in Moorhead, Minnesota with members of his band. Richardson, who had the flu, swapped places with Jennings (Holly’s bassist), taking his seat on the plane, while Allsup (Holly’s lead guitar) lost his seat to Valens on a coin toss. Soon after takeoff, late at night and in poor, wintry weather conditions, the pilot lost control of the light aircraft, a Beechcraft Bonanza, which subsequently crashed into a cornfield. Everyone on board was killed.
The “Winter Dance Party” tour was Holly’s first tour after splitting up with the Crickets. The tour was set to cover 24 Midwestern cities in as many days. New hit artist Ritchie Valens, J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and Dion DiMucci and his band The Belmonts joined the tour to promote their recordings. The tour began in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on January 23, 1959. The amount of travel soon became a logistical problem. The distances between venues had not been properly considered when the performances were scheduled. Instead of “circling” around the Midwest to each town, the tour zig-zagged with distances between cities sometimes over 400 miles. One musician said:
It was like they threw darts at a map … The tour from hell — that’s what they named it — and it’s not a bad name.
The entire company of musicians traveled together in one bus, although the buses used for the tour were wholly inadequate, breaking down and being replaced with astounding frequency. Griggs estimates that five separate buses were used in the first 11 days of the tour — “reconditioned school buses, not good enough for school kids.” The artists themselves were responsible for loading and unloading equipment at each stop, as no road crew assisted them. Adding to the disarray, the buses were not equipped for the weather which consisted of waist-deep snow in several areas and varying temperatures from the 20s to as low as -36 °F. One bus had a heating system that broke down shortly after the tour began, in Appleton, Wisconsin. Later, Richardson and Valens began experiencing flu-like symptoms and drummer Bunch was hospitalized for severely frostbitten feet, after the tour bus simply broke down in the middle of the highway in subzero temperatures near Ironwood, Michigan. The musicians replaced that bus with another school bus and kept traveling. After Bunch was hospitalized, Carlo Mastrangelo of The Belmonts took over the drumming duties. When Dion and The Belmonts were performing, the drum seat was taken by either Valens or Holly. As Holly’s group had been the backing band for all of the acts, Holly, Valens, and DiMucci took turns playing drums for each other at the performances in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Clear Lake, Iowa.
On Monday, February 2, the tour arrived in Clear Lake, Iowa, having driven 350 miles from the previous day’s concert in Green Bay. The town had not been a scheduled stop, but the tour promoters, hoping to fill an open date, called the manager of the local Surf Ballroom, Carroll Anderson, and offered him the show. He accepted, and they set the show for that night. By the time Holly arrived at the venue that evening, he was frustrated with the ongoing problems with the bus. The next scheduled destination after Clear Lake was Moorhead, Minnesota, a 365-mile drive north and northwest (and, emphasizing the poor planning, a journey that would take them directly back through two towns they had already played within the last week.) No let up after that was in sight, as the following day, they were scheduled to travel back almost directly south to Sioux City, Iowa, a 325-mile trip.
Holly decided to charter a plane to take his band and him to Fargo, North Dakota, which is adjacent to Moorhead. The rest of the party would have picked him up in Moorhead, saving him the journey in the bus and leaving him time to get some rest. Surf Ballroom manager Anderson called Hubert Jerry Dwyer, owner of the Dwyer Flying Service, a company in Mason City, Iowa, to charter the plane to fly to Hector Airport in Fargo, the closest one to Moorhead. Flight arrangements were made with Roger Peterson, a 21-year-old local pilot described as a “young married man who built his life around flying”.
The flying service charged a fee of $36 per passenger for the flight on the 1947 single-engined, V-tailed Beechcraft 35 Bonanza which could seat three passengers plus the pilot.The most widely accepted version of events was that Richardson had contracted flu during the tour and asked Waylon Jennings for his seat on the plane. When Holly learned that Jennings was not going to fly, he said jokingly: “Well, I hope your ol’ bus freezes up.” Jennings responded: “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes,” a response that haunted him for the rest of his life.
Ritchie Valens, who once had a fear of flying, asked Tommy Allsup for his seat on the plane. The two agreed to toss a coin to decide. Bob Hale, a DJ with KRIB-AM, was working the concert that night and flipped the coin in the ballroom’s side-stage room shortly before the musicians departed for the airport. Valens won the coin toss for the seat on the flight.
After the show ended, Anderson drove Holly, Valens, and Richardson to the Mason City Municipal Airport. The weather at the time of departure was reported as light snow, a ceiling of 3,000 feet (910 m) AMSL with sky obscured, visibility 6 miles (9,700 m), and winds from 20 to 30 mph (32 to 48 km/h). Although deteriorating weather was reported along the planned route, the weather briefings pilot Peterson received failed to relay the information. The plane took off normally from runway 17 (today’s runway 18) at 12:55 am Central Time on Tuesday, February 3. Dwyer, the owner of the flight service company, witnessed the take-off from a platform outside the control tower. He was able to see clearly the aircraft’s tail light for most of the brief flight, which started with an initial left turn onto a northwesterly heading and a climb to 800 ft. The tail light was then observed gradually descending until it disappeared out of view. Around 1:00 am, when Peterson failed to make the expected radio contact, repeated attempts to establish communication were made, at Dwyer’s request, by the radio operator, but they were all unsuccessful.
Later that morning, Dwyer, having heard no word from Peterson since his departure, took off in another airplane to retrace his planned route. Within minutes, at around 9:35 am, he spotted the wreckage less than 6 mi (9.7 km) northwest of the airport. The sheriff’s office, alerted by Dwyer, dispatched Deputy Bill McGill, who drove to the crash site, a cornfield belonging to Albert Juhl.
Maybe Iowa corn casserole is a little ironic for my recipe today, but somehow it seemed fitting.
Iowa Corn Casserole
1 lb bacon, diced
2 cups bread crumbs
¼ cup minced onion
½ cup chopped green pepper
2 cans (16.5 ounces each) cream-style corn
In a skillet, fry the bacon until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.
Pour ¼ cup of the bacon drippings over the bread crumbs. Set aside.
Sauté the onion and green pepper in 2 tablespoons of the remaining drippings onion and green pepper until tender. Stir in the corn and bacon. Spoon into a 1-qt. baking dish and sprinkle with crumbs.
Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes until bubbly and heated through.
Today is the birthday (1865) of Jean Sibelius, born Johan Julius Christian Sibelius, Finnish composer and violinist of the late Romantic and early-modern periods who is widely recognized as his country’s greatest composer and, through his music, is often credited with having helped Finland to develop a national identity during its struggle for independence from Russia. The core of his oeuvre is his set of 7 symphonies which, like his other major works, continue to be performed and recorded in his home country and internationally. His other best-known compositions are Finlandia, the Karelia Suite, Valse triste, the Violin Concerto, the choral symphony Kullervo, and The Swan of Tuonela (from the Lemminkäinen Suite). Yet other works include pieces inspired by nature, Nordic legend, and the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala. He wrote over 100 songs for voice and piano, incidental music for numerous plays, the opera Jungfrun i tornet (The Maiden in the Tower), chamber music, piano music, Masonic ritual music, and 21 pieces of choral music.
Sibelius composed prolifically until the mid-1920s, but after completing his 7th symphony (1924), the incidental music for The Tempest (1926) and the tone poem Tapiola (1926), he failed to produce any major works in his last 30 years, a perplexing decline commonly referred to as “The Silence of Järvenpää”, the location of his home. Although he is reputed to have stopped composing, he attempted to continue writing, including abortive efforts on an eighth symphony. In later life, he wrote Masonic music and re-edited some earlier works while retaining an active, but not always favorable, interest in new developments in music.
Sibelius was born in Hämeenlinna in the Grand Duchy of Finland, an autonomous part of the Russian Empire. He was the son of the Swedish-speaking docto,r Christian Gustaf Sibelius, and Maria Charlotta Sibelius née Borg. Sibelius’ father died of typhoid in July 1868, leaving substantial debts. As a result, his mother—who was again pregnant—had to sell their property and move the family into the home of Katarina Borg, her widowed mother, who also lived in Hämeenlinna. His uncle, Pehr Ferdinand Sibelius, who was interested in music, especially the violin, gave Sibelius a violin when he was 10 years old and later encouraged him in his interest in composition.
From an early age, Sibelius showed a strong interest in nature, frequently walking around the countryside when the family moved to Loviisa on the coast for the summer months. In his own words: “For me, Loviisa represented sun and happiness. Hämeenlinna was where I went to school; Loviisa was freedom.” When he was 7, in Hämeenlinna, his aunt Julia was brought in to give him piano lessons on the family’s upright instrument, rapping him on the knuckles whenever he played a wrong note. He progressed by improvising on his own, but still learned to read music. He much preferred it when he turned to the violin. He participated in trios with his elder sister Linda on piano, and his younger brother Christian on the cello. (Christian Sibelius was to become an eminent psychiatrist, still remembered for his contributions to modern psychiatry in Finland). In addition, Sibelius often played in quartets with neighboring families, adding to his experience in chamber music.
Fragments survive of his early compositions of the period, a trio, a piano quartet and a Suite in D Minor for violin and piano. Around 1881, he recorded on paper his short pizzicato piece Vattendroppar (Water Drops) for violin and cello although it might just have been a musical exercise. The first reference he himself made to composing comes in a letter from August 1883 in which he reveals he had composed a trio and was working on another: “They are rather poor, but it is nice to have something to do on rainy days.” In 1881, he started to take violin lessons from the local bandmaster, Gustaf Levander, immediately developing a particularly strong interest in the instrument. Setting his heart on a career as a great violin virtuoso, he soon succeeded in becoming quite an accomplished player, performing David’s Concerto in E minor in 1886 and, the following year, the last two movements of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in Helsinki. Despite such success as an instrumentalist, he ultimately chose to become a composer.
After graduating from high school in 1885, Sibelius began to study law at the Imperial Alexander University in Finland but, showing far more interest in music, soon moved to the Helsinki Music Institute (now the Sibelius Academy) where he studied from 1885 to 1889. One of his teachers was its founder, Martin Wegelius, who did much to support the development of education in Finland. It was he who gave the self-taught Sibelius his first formal lessons in composition. Another important influence was his teacher Ferruccio Busoni, a pianist-composer with whom he enjoyed a lifelong friendship. His close circle of friends included the pianist and writer Adolf Paul and the conductor-to-be Armas Järnefelt, (who introduced him to his influential family including his sister Aino who would become Sibelius’s wife). The most remarkable of his works during this period was the Violin Sonata in F, rather reminiscent of Grieg.
Sibelius continued his studies in Berlin (from 1889 to 1890) with Albert Becker, and in Vienna (from 1890 to 1891) with Robert Fuchs and Karl Goldmark. In Berlin, he had the opportunity to widen his musical experience by going to a variety of concerts and operas, including the premiere of Richard Strauss’s Don Juan. He also heard the Finnish composer Robert Kajanus conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in a program which included his symphonic poem Aino, a patriotic piece which may well have triggered Sibelius’s later interest in using the epic poem Kalevala as a basis for his own compositions. While in Vienna, he became particularly interested in the music of Anton Bruckner whom, for a time, he regarded as “the greatest living composer”, although he continued to show interest in the established works of Beethoven and Wagner. It was also in Vienna that he turned to orchestral composition, working on an Overture in E major and a Scène de Ballet. While embarking on Kullervo, an orchestral work inspired by the Kalevala, he fell ill but was restored to good health after surgery. Shortly after returning to Helsinki, he conducted his Overture and the Scène de Ballet at a popular concert. He was also able to continue working on Kullervo, now that he was increasingly developing an interest in all things Finnish. It premiered in Helsinki on 28 April 1892 and was an enormous success.
It was around this time that Sibelius finally abandoned his cherished aspirations as a violinist:
My tragedy was that I wanted to be a celebrated violinist at any price. Since the age of 15 I played my violin practically from morning to night. I hated pen and ink — unfortunately I preferred an elegant violin bow. My love for the violin lasted quite long and it was a very painful awakening when I had to admit that I had begun my training for the exacting career of a virtuoso too late.
In addition to the long periods he spent studying in Vienna and Berlin (1889–91), in 1900 he traveled to Italy where he spent a year with his family. He composed, conducted and socialized actively in the Scandinavian countries, the UK, France and Germany and later traveled to the United States.
Rather than take on Sibelius’ entire oeuvre, I’ll touch on Finlandia here, commenting also on the ways it has been reworked for other uses. Finlandia, Op. 26, is a tone poem first written in 1899 and revised in 1900. The piece was originally composed for the Press Celebrations of 1899, a covert protest against increasing censorship from the Russian Empire, and was the last of seven pieces performed as an accompaniment to tableaux depicting episodes from Finnish history. The premiere of the revised piece, now what is usually heard, was on 2 July 1900 in Helsinki with the Helsinki Philharmonic Society conducted by Robert Kajanus. In order to avoid Russian censorship, Finlandia had to be performed under alternative names at various musical concerts. Titles under which the piece masqueraded were numerous—famous examples include Happy Feelings at the awakening of Finnish Spring, and A Scandinavian Choral March.
The original movements for tableaux are as follows.
Preludium: Andante (ma non troppo)
Tableau 1: The Song of Väinämöinen
Tableau 2: The Finns are Baptized by Bishop Henry
Tableau 3: Scene from Duke Johan’s Court
Tableau 4: The Finns in the Thirty Years’ War
Tableau 5: The Great Hostility [referring to the scorched-earth and reprisal tactics of the Russian Army during its invasion of Finland, 1714-1721]
Tableau 6: Finland Awakes
In February 1899 Nicholas II, tsar of Russia, issued a “February Manifesto” which aimed to restrict the autonomy of the Grand Duchy of Finland. This stirred opposition in most Finnish cultural circles, and paintings with protest themes became very popular. Sibelius wished to use his music to add to the protests. In 1899 he wrote The Song of the Athenians and The Breaking of the Ice on Oulu River. The year was crowned by his music for tableaux staged as part of the main event of the Days of the Press. The performances took place at the beginning of November 1899 at the Swedish Theatre.
The tableaux depicted scenes from the history of Finland. In the “Great Hate” tableau the performance had a particularly sharp edge. Mother Finland was sitting in a snowdrift with her children who were shivering with cold. They were threatened by War, Frost, Hunger and Death. Sibelius composed the darkest and most ascetic music for this image. “Finland Awakens” was an early version of Finlandia. Finlandia itself was certainly not composed to describe these various stages in any precise way. Sibelius wanted to portray Finland’s awakening and its fighting spirit in more general terms. Later Sibelius told Jalmari Finne that he had no idea that there was anything special about Finlandia. It was not until he took the score to the copyist Ernst Röllig that it occurred to him that there might be something out of the ordinary in the composition.
During the following months Kajanus and Sibelius conducted the best pieces of the tableau music in Helsinki and Turku. They decided to take the finale of the suite on the European tour of Kajanus’s orchestra. The tour would end at the World Exhibition in Paris. Axel Carpelan became nervous:
Why will only the last piece of this suite, which is written in a “symphonic style” (probably the best), be played in Paris? If I can trust what others have told me about this tableau music, the music should be played in its entirety or at least 4 movements of it. And I wonder if the title ‘La Patrie’ is a good idea?
It turned out to be difficult to find a suitable title for the composition: in previous concerts it had been Finland, The Awakening of Finland or Finale. On the tour, it was called Vaterland and La Patrie (and possibly other titles). However, in November 1900 the piano arrangement of the tableau was given the name Finlandia – a title suggested by Axel Carpelan – and in February 1901 Kajanus finally conducted the orchestral version of the work under the name Finlandia. Soon the work was printed in an improved version. As early as 1909 an excerpt was recorded under Ronald Landon.
Most of the piece is taken up with rousing and turbulent music, evoking the national struggle of the Finnish people. Towards the end, a calm comes over the orchestra, and the serenely melodic Finlandia Hymn is heard. Often incorrectly cited as a traditional folk melody, the Hymn section is of Sibelius’s own creation. Sibelius later reworked the Finlandia Hymn into a stand-alone piece. This hymn, with words written in 1941 by Veikko Antero Koskenniemi, is one of the most important national songs of Finland. With different words, it is also sung as a Christian hymn (Be Still, My Soul, Hail, Festal Day, in Italian evangelical churches: Veglia al mattino), and was used as the national anthem of the short-lived African state of Biafra (Land of the Rising Sun). In the spring of 1963, the Rice University student body voted to establish a school song (Rice is Our Home), using the music from the Finlandia Hymn. The song was played at the 1964 Rice Commencement, but otherwise never officially adopted.
Joulupöytä (“Yule table”) is the traditional assortment of foods served at Christmas in Finland, similar to the Swedish julbord. It contains a variety of different dishes, most of them typical for the season. The main dish is usually a large Christmas ham, which is eaten with mustard or bread along with the other dishes. Fish is also served (often lutefisk and gravlax), and the ham is served with laatikkos, casseroles made with swede, potato and carrot, occasionally liver. A dish from the joulupöytä would be suitable to celebrate Sibelius, especially at this time of year. Karjalan Paisti (Karelian Hot Pot) is a very common dish on the yule table and, as is to be expected, varies from household to household. I’m using here a combination of three meats, beef, pork, and lamb, but two is more common. It is conventionally served with mashed potato and lingonberry preserves. Also, it can be cooked in three ways: on the stovetop, in the oven in a casserole, or in a slow cooker. The last method is the most common these days.
1 lb stewing beef, chopped into 1″ pieces
1 lb pork shoulder, chopped into 1″ pieces
1 lb stewing lamb (shoulder or breast), chopped into 1″ pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
2 tsp whole peppercorns
8 whole allspice
2 bay leaves
Brown the meats in small batches on all sides in a skillet over medium-high heat using the olive oil.
In whatever vessel you are using to cook the hotpot, layer the ingredients. Begin with half of the sliced onions, add half of the meat, and sprinkle with half of the salt, peppercorns, allspice, and add one bay leaf. Repeat the layers. Cover the meat with water, and tightly cover the vessel.
What happens next depends on your choice of cooking method. A slow cooker on low will take about 6 hours. A casserole in a slow oven (250˚F) will take around 4 or 5 hours. A pot on the stove on a slow simmer will take 3 to 4 hours. I prefer a slow cooker.