24 October 2014

Above the flood

Choir worked hard at last night's rehearsal. There is a fair deal of work for each rehearsal, as we gear up for the 14 December concert (and, of course, keep atop of the week-to-week service requirements). Sometimes I feel that the gains are not more than incremental, but I think that all the same there is fundamental progress being made.

Insofar as I have free listening time, this week I have been spending more time with the Shostakovich Op.87, as played by Muza Rubackyté, Aleksandr Melnikov, and Konstantin Shcherbakov.

This weekend is time for my inaugural listen to Vaughan Williams's setting of J.M. Synge's Riders to the Sea, a short opera I have been itching to hear for decades.

Busy weekend, too, all in good ways.

22 October 2014

Same Piece, Different Choir

It was great fun, working with (I mean, singing in, and with the lightest touch, assisting in the rehearsal of) a "new" choir as they prepare Love is the spirit. It will go very well on Sunday.

21 October 2014

A little listening

The latest recordings to provoke obsessive listening have been Ian Anderson's Homo Erraticus, and Mūza Rubackyté's recording of the Shostakovich Op.87 Preludes & Fugues.

20 October 2014

Rambling through the Gallery

I’ve evolved considerably viz. Night Gallery. As I think about it, my own history with the matter is peculiar.

I am not sure that I had ever actually watched any of The Twilight Zone; but I had absorbed the awed respect for the show which generally surrounded me. The only Night Gallery story I had seen when growing up was “The Caterpillar,” which made a powerful impression; nevertheless (again, probably by absorption), I had somehow ‘acquired’ the opinion that, as a series, Night Gallery is but a weak shadow of The Twilight Zone.

Having at last seen all of the original Twilight Zone (and much of it twice now), I do not find any of the praise of the series too lavish. Perhaps I was a ‘soft touch’ here, but even the comparatively weaker episodes do not inspire any derision from me. I also read Scott Zicree’s splendidly informative book (in which he shows, probably becomingly, a journalistic impartiality, and he calls some episodes poor with a readiness which may strike some as oddly harsh, for a fellow whose overall tone is greatly laudatory . . . but I suppose that shields him from the charge of hagiography). In a late chapter of that book, he briefly chronicles Serling’s life after Twilight Zone, and while the brace of paragraphs on Night Gallery might require a dose of salt, the fact of Serling’s dissatisfaction with not commanding artistic control of the series, and his eventual disenchantment with the project tended to color my view as I approached Night Gallery.

However, I was keen to revisit “The Caterpillar,” at the least.

Probably I started out with the 2-DVD set of Season Three which is available at the BPL. Probably I watched “The Girl With the Hungry Eyes” first, which I liked very well right off, partly because the cast included John Astin (I suppose); I was curious about a story which had both Vincent Price and Bill Bixby in the case, “The Return of the Sorcerer” – probably not genuinely bad, but I had the feeling of a B-movie vignette; and, curious to see Leonard Nimoy in this context, I watched “She’ll Be Company for You,” a story to which I do not think I was fair, that first time of watching.

Then (because I should need to return the DVD to the Library), I targeted the four stories of Season Three with scripts by Serling. Two are based on stories by other authors: “Something in the Woodwork” (which I think very good, indeed), and “You Can Come Up Now, Mrs Millikan” (which I thought one of a piece with some relatively clumsy attempts at humor). Two seem to be purely original scripts: “Rare Objects,” which is good (could have served as a Twilight Zone episode, in the character of the story, I mean); and “Finnegan’s Flight” . . . which I wanted to like better than I did, as it rejoined Burgess Meredith and Serling, but there was something a little sour about the development of the plot. (Probably, I should give it a fresh viewing). And with that bit of cherry-picking done, I returned Season Three only partly watched, indeed only a minority.

Season Two, I began with revisiting “The Caterpillar,” which I think I have praised earlier. Then, I set myself to watching the entirety of Season Two in order. While the odd Jack Laird miniature is trite enough, a kind of “slapstick Gothic,” that it tends to lower the tone, most of what I saw was very well done, and some of it as good as (or even better than) the top tier of The Twilight Zone. (In Jack Laird’s defense – as a writer, I mean, for clearly he was important to the series as its producer – “I’ll Never Leave You – Ever” rises above the level of his typical “blackout” sketches.)

So, I went back to view the rest of Season Three, and (to be sure) I found that in my haste, I had missed out on some of the best stories of that season (“The Other Way Out,” “The Ring With the Red Velvet Ropes,” “Death on a Barge,” “Whisper,” e.g.)

And here I’ve started in on Season One – or, properly speaking, I have now watched the three stories from the pilot, all of them (of course, since he was the one pitching the show) Serling scripts: “The Cemetery,” with a scoundrelly Roddy McDowall; “Eyes,” featuring one of the last appearances by Joan Crawford (and Tom Bosley in an interestingly ‘against-type’ role: and “Escape Route,” the latest in a number of Serling “revenge fantasies” against surviving Nazis. (I mean, obviously there ought to be, to have been, justice done to them; but I don’t feel comfortable being implicated in a wish to make them suffer cruelly, as retribution. Is it artistically satisfying? I find myself wondering if this third story is as good as the first two.)

19 October 2014

The day

My choir did a fine job singing I Want Jesus to Walk With Me;  and we had an excellent rehearsal after church of Lord of the Dance with the handbells.

And now I've sent off the Allegretto grazioso dance from the Sinfonietta to the brass quintet.

18 October 2014

Galerie de la nuit

As to the third season of Night Gallery, I've come around;  and while the dogs of the series remain canine, I find many of the non-Serling stories in the third season as good as almost any.  Still waiting to watch the first season.  I am glad that I started actually watching the show, before I read a certain remark by one of the show's chroniclers.

His larger point, that Night Gallery has in some circles suffered short shrift, in unfair comparison to The Twilight Zone, is reasonable.  He goes a bit far, I think, in his derision of the lesser episodes of Twilight Zone.

I don't think he can have it both ways.  That is, I don't think he can selectively disregard Serling's expressed negativity about the later Night Gallery, and yet take Serling at his word when belittling some of the Twilight Zone episodes.

Well, finding the right balance is so often the challenge, isn't it.

17 October 2014

An evening's entertainment

Perhaps a quiet matter, but ... "The Red Velvet Ropes" is up there among the strongest Night Gallery stories.

Already a little revisionist, I am thinking better of the third season of the Night Gallery than the conventional wisdom. But this story, particularly, is straight out of The Twilight Zone. May be the peak, or nigh thereunto. And all the same, all credit to the esteemed Mr Serling.