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ONE MAN'S VIEW

On Thursday each week my column appears in the Euro Weekly News. My opinion is just that, an opinion. Feel free to put your oar in but in a constructive way if you please. Thanks so much. - Michael

A BRIEF ENCOUNTER WITH GREAT MUSIC
28 November 2013

A BRIEF ENCOUNTER WITH GREAT MUSIC

Mike Walsh

 How I scorn modern music. True talent has been shouldered aside by electronic gimmickry and vulgarity. Elton John says it for me: “I regard all pop music as irrelevant in the sense that people in 200 years won‘t be listening to what is being written and played today. I think they will be listening to Beethoven.”

What music will our age group leave to future generations? Only the soundtracks from the movies? Often, more money is taken from motion picture soundtracks than is taken at the box office.

The story behind these compositions can be as interesting as the movie. One of the 20th Century’s most poignant melodies was Lara’s Theme that underscored the movie Doctor Zhivago.

This haunting melody was not the first choice of the film’s director. David Lean, unable to ascertain rights to a preferred Russian ballad, turned to the composer Maurice Jarre. “Go up into the mountains and take your girlfriend with you. Write the music, not for the movie but for her.” Lara’s Theme was the outcome but begs the question who was the real Lara?

A mystery source of inspiration lies behind Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Voted the most romantic music ever composed it was the musical score for Brief Encounter, the award winning iconic movie. The 1945 film tells the heart-wrenching story of a middle class English wife and mum. Fate brings her to a brief encounter (hence the movie’s title) with a doctor travelling on the same train.

The tender romance between the two strangers begins when Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson), returning home from her weekly shop, suffers a little grit in her eye. A sympathetic Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard), a local doctor comes to her aid and removes the grit.

The action or rather the lack of it for the dalliance remains unconsummated, takes place at an urban railway station during the last months of World War 11.

A triumph for David Lean the movie captured the mood of a sombre nation. The film came second in a British Film Institute poll (1999) of Top British films. Why Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto was chosen as the movie’s theme music was a mystery.

Another matter of speculation is what inspired the Russian composer to write this touching keyboard melody. Depressed after the failure of his first concerto the musician was referred to neurologist and amateur musician Dr Nikolai Dahl. Only after four months of daily remedial sessions did Rachmaninoff’s creativity return and the second concerto was the result.

Howard Shelley, an expert on Rachmaninoff reveals the real inspiration behind it. He says, “One member of Rachmaninoff’s family suggested to me that rather than Dr. Nikolai Dahl’s hypnotherapy having been responsible for Rachmaninoff’s miraculous recovery, it was actually his interest in Dahl’s highly attractive daughter that got him composing again. Was that a brief encounter too?

 

NOTE: Every week 400 to 500 browsers read this column. Those who find Mikes Walsh columns of interest have easy access to several hundred of them. Go to Euro Weeks News online. Click columnists then click michael walsh.



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IS IT ADIOS AMERICA
21 November 2013

IS IT ADIOS AMERICA!

Mike Walsh

 

When a friend spent a month touring the United States, I could appreciate his being impressed.  It is easy to be seduced by panoramic grandeur and the colour of new cultures vastly different from one’s own.

Had his itinerary taken him to the hundreds of tent cities, to bankrupt metropolis like Detroit that now resemble Berlin 1945 he might have been less impressed.

Country music icon Merle Haggard must have had psychic powers when in 1982 he penned the ballad Are the Good Times Really over for Good.  The country song’s poignant lyrics hark back to Paradise Lost, a countrified America of domestic bliss, of values that have since disappeared.  It was ‘a time before Elvis, before the Vietnam War came along.’

Change means that Haggard’s longed for America can now be found only in a few remote towns.  Saturday Evening Post illustrator, Norman Rockwell (1894 - 1978), depicted the lost America evoked by the wistful melody.

A flick through his illustrations will tell you more about ordinary life in the United States 1921 - 1960 than any number of history books.  In Haggard’s country music hit, he describes the United States as now ‘rolling down hill like a snowball rolling to hell.’  Today, the country’s leading politicians and its best journalists repentantly contemplate the abyss. The American dream has turned into the American nightmare.

If the U.S. was United States Inc.  the it would be declared insolvent. The directors would likely be gaoled for embezzlement, counterfeit money printing, corruption, share dealing, lying to the receivers; barred from holding office.

You do not believe me.  Google ‘List of American federal politicians convicted of crimes.’  You will be forgiven for thinking that you mistyped and found San Quentin Penitentiary by mistake.

A cartoon depicts a small boy pondering his career.  He explains to his father that he can’t make up his mind whether he should go into politics or organised crime.  “Choose politics.” his father advises. “It’s the same thing but you don’t go to gaol for it.”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is now engaged in a massive, covert military build-up.  An Associated Press article in February confirmed a purchase order for 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition.  That is enough to sustain an Iraq-sized war for over twenty years.  DHS also acquired heavily armoured tanks, since seen roaming the streets. Evidently, somebody in government is expecting some serious civil unrest.

If the social and economic fabric of the United States shreds, if it collapses into bankruptcy and the dollar ceases as a trading currency, what then for Europe?  American isolationism could leave the anti-Russia debt-riddled EU isolated too.

It would be easy to fall back on the words of the great American writer, Mark Twain: ‘The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated. Who is right, the nation’s writer laureate or a country music singer? Interesting times lie ahead.

 

Those who may find Mike’s Walsh columns of interest have easy access to several hundred of them. Go to Euro Weeks News online.  Click ‘columnists’ then click ‘michael walsh.’ quite_write@yahoo.co.uk



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THE SPIRIT OF ANDALUCÍA GALA (Nr. Torrevieja)
19 November 2013

THE SPIRIT OF ANDALUCÍA GALA

Mike Walsh

 

A dance gala with a hand-clapping difference is in the diary for Saturday, November 30 at La Zenia’s Orihuela Costa Resort.  Flamenco maestra, Raquel Peña and her award-winning artistes will host the annual Asociacion Flamenco for All events.

The 8 pm start social occasion is not exclusive. Anyone interested in an amazing evening, with appetites sharpened by the exuberance of flamenco high spirits, are invited to purchase tickets.

Set in the sub-tropical atmosphere of the resort’s exquisite location, at just €25 per head, the cuisine and elastic-time performance could be a sell-out.

The social evening is not so much adios to the passing year as a welcome to the new. Sevillanas dancing classes begin early in January.  For gala tickets or information call Raquel direct on 630 689 431.



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FINE BUT NOT DANDY
14 November 2013

FINE BUT NOT DANDY

Mike Walsh

 

Neither a dandy nor a metro-man I hesitate to comment on men’s fashion. As an overview, I suppose menswear is boring and predictable compared with the choice in women’s fashion.

This is particularly notable at evening events. A few score women will be well dressed. Chances are there will not be two women in the same outfit. How do the men stack up? If it is cool it will be long jeans and sleeved shirts. If warm khaki shorts and short-sleeved shirts likely purchased for a few Euro at the market.

For good reason one no longer hears the expression epitome of sartorial elegance applied to men. When did dressing down become a fashion statement? Bizarrely, one has to turn to the armed forces to see how smart men can be when they want to be.

There is an unattractive sameness about men’s attire. It is akin to the sameness of the tunics worn in the Chinese People’s Republic when Mao Tse Tung was running things. They had no choice, we choose not to choose. In a dress sense, one cannot tell the difference between a male rock star and a penniless drifter.

Does it have to be that way? Not at all. The ballad being sung by Latvian singer Zigfrids Muktopavels was a treat for the ears but his fashion sense is a treat for the eyes.

A popular and undeniably masculine singer, Zigfrids is no Burt Reynolds in looks. However, he more than makes up for it with his sharp style of dress when singing his popular ballads. Typically, a knee length slim black jacket and cut slacks. A white shirt with winged neckline and black cravat complements the waistcoat with collar. Great for the stage, why not for socialising?

Local male flamenco dancer Daniel Asiz has a reputation and dress panache that goes far beyond the Costas. The audience at Orihuela Costa Resort was mesmerised. The artiste’s ricocheting heels cannot take all of the credit. Daniel cut a fine and romantic figure in hip-hugging black slacks, waistcoat, white open-necked shirt and red neckerchief.

Imagine the reaction had either of these men strolled the shopping malls of Riga or Murcia in the same attire. I doubt their departure from male dress convention would be as well received. They would likely be dismissed as dandies.

When women step out in an appealing outfit, they attract compliments. Why is unimaginative, often tasteless and universal drabness a male fashion preserve? Perhaps it takes courage for men to be a little different from their peers, for them to dress with élan and elegance.

Who knows, if just a few men were to ditch their shorts and sleeveless shirts and dress like Zigfrid, the rest of us might follow. You first, mate.

 

Those who may find Mikes Walsh columns of interest have easy access to several hundred of them. Go to Euro Weeks News online. Click columnists then click michael walsh. quite_write@yahoo.co.uk



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Learn Flamenco (Sevillana)
12 November 2013

Training for Torrevieja Andalucía Feria

Mike Walsh

 

Following summer’s traditional break, Raquel Peña, celebrated flamenco artiste and choreographer, is offering lessons to Sevillana novices. The dance form, linked to flamenco, has its 18th Century origins in Seville’s April Feria.

The maestra’s affordable classes welcome learners of all ages and nationalities, lessons are in English and men are welcome too. The ever easy-going Raquel says, “Why not come along and see if it is for you?”

The studio at Pilar is easily accessed. Close to the N332 it has free and easy parking. The lessons are held on Monday and Wednesday evenings. The fees are just €25 per month.

The steps are easy to learn. These include La pasada, el paseo, la zapateado, el coreo and las vueltas. Known as the Bien Parado, a feature of Sevillana is the dramatic pose the dancer takes at the close.

Raquel Peña’s Sevillana dancers, when trained, raise substantial funds for local charities. They also have the best time possible at Torrevieja summer Andalucía’s feria and other fiestas. Contact Raquel at 630 689 431 or email raquelpena@hotmail.com



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THE CURSE OF THE MONTE ROSA
07 November 2013

THE CURSE OF THE MONTE ROSA

Mike Walsh

Not far from Costa shorelines lies the wreck of a once proud ocean liner.  Was the MV Monte Rosa cursed by fate? The ship’s damnation was to dog the graceful liner’s every nautical league on its last voyage.

Setting out from Japan in February 1954, its 1,276 passengers and crew had every reason to look forward to a pleasant voyage. Their ocean odyssey would be crowned by a homecoming to an England many had not seen for years. 

Passengers included military families of servicemen based in the Far East. Various were survivors of the Korean War.  Among the wounded were veterans of the Battle of the Hook.  Many were stretcher carried up the gangways, The ‘Dukes’ from the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, outnumbered in battle by five to one, had taken honours but casualties too.

Sailing from Yokohama and Kure the Monte Rosa’s passengers and crew were to endure the voyage from hell.  Seemingly reluctant to return to Europe, defects in the super liner’s propulsion system needed constant running repairs. 

The luckless liner spent more time wallowing helplessly in the Indian Ocean than sailing.  The three weeks anticipated passage to Port Said in Egypt took an excruciating eight weeks to accomplish. 

It must have brought great relief to all on board when Monte Rosa finally limped into Port Said.  Now, only the Mediterranean lay between them and England.

The liner had known far happier days. It had once cruised the sun drenched Aegean, Ionian, Adriatic and other seas that make up the Mediterranean.  However, that was before the 1939 - 1945 World War.

From 1930 to 1945, the 13,882 tonne twin funnelled liner had been one of Germany’s fleet of super liners.  Built by Hamburg shipbuilders Bohm and Voss the Monte Rosa was one of five sister-ships.

Under the Kraft Durche Freude (Strength through Joy) leisure scheme Monte Rosa was to later provide German workers and their families’ opportunity to take cruises that were previously the preserve of the elite. During the war the liner was used as a troopship.

Departing the Egyptian port, the ill-fated liner embarked on the last leg of its voyage.  But, sailing off Algiers an engine room fire resulted in a cataclysmic explosion.  Four crew members were killed. The rescue of the remaining 1,276 passengers and crew was successful but the hulk, whilst being towed to Gibraltar, sank beneath the waves.

The Monte Rosa, seized as a war prize in 1945 and renamed MV Empire Windrush, pioneered West Indian immigration to Britain.  Other liners such as Reina del Mar and the Georgic soon joined in the massive Caribbean exodus. However, the MV Monte Rosa aka MV Empire Windrush is best known and will forever be known for its part in changing the face of Britain forever.

 

Those who may find Mike Walsh columns of interest have easy access to several hundred of them. Go to Euro Weeks News online.  Click ‘columnists’ then click ‘michael walsh.’ quite_write@yahoo.co.uk



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