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I post a weekly diary of the historical notes, arts & science items, foreign news (often receiving little notice in the US) and whimsical pieces from the outside world that I featured this past week in "Cheers & Jeers". For example .....

Talk about skipping generations ....

GRANDFATHER-GRANDSON? - two English singers: Mick Jagger and Harry Styles (from the boy band One Direction).

   

OK, you've been warned - here is this week's tomfoolery material that I posted.

ART NOTES - an exhibit entitled Espoused - with works by 36 contemporary Texas artists who are partners either in marriage, as significant others or as a collaborative team - is at the The Art Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaumont through January 6th.

THE RIGHT-WING hard-talking mayor of Toronto, Canada named Rob Ford is a hero to conservatives: who overlook his hitting up city hall lobbyists for his personal charity, his use of staff and a city car to help with his football teams and even for reading while driving - now, not to be outdone: his city council brother Doug Ford described reporters as 'sucky little babies', and a 'bunch of pr---s', issued a near apology then made it clear ... he wasn’t actually sorry.

BRAIN TEASER - try the latest Weekly World News Quiz from the BBC.

WEDNESDAY's CHILD is named Tuxedo Stan the Cat - a mayoral candidate in Halifax, Nova Scotia, whose campaign is highlighting the city's problem with feral cats.

WHEN high school student Merthe Weusthuis planned a small gathering with friends to mark her 16th birthday in a small Netherlands town: she had no idea that merely omitting to click private event on her Facebook invite would lead to a riot-filled night with thousands of sensation seekers.

LAST YEAR the most multiethnic school in Italy (Lombardo Radice public school in Milan) wasn't allowed to open to an incoming first grade class ... because it had too many foreigners in the eyes of a Berlusconi government edict. But this month the school did welcome a new class, as the old rule has now been (largely) abolished by the new education ministry.

ART NOTES - works by Ben Gibson in an exhibit entitled Out & InScapes are at the Erie Art Museum in western Pennsylvania through January 12th.

AFTER LEARNING that the White House had released two of President Obama's favorite beer recipes - a British home-brew essayist tried making both at home ... and pronounced one of them as excellent.

THIS PAST THURSDAY yours truly hosted the Top Comments diary, with a look at the jazz guitarist Emily Remler - a woman who made it in a male-dominated world, yet left this earth way too young.

THURSDAY's CHILD is Skinny the Cat - a 41-pound stray up for adoption at a Texas animal shelter.

MORE THAN TWO DECADES after the (still unsolved) assassination of the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme - a new film is once again turning Swedes' attention toward him .... and with one historian arguing that Palme (in some ways) was more of an American politician than a Swedish one.

WHILE the practice of men marrying underage girls was an accepted social norm for centuries (of getting around underage sexual activity laws) the African nation of Swaziland has recently declared the practice illegal.

SEPARATED at BIRTH - two Canadian-born celebrities: the recently deceased film producer Jake Eberts as well as Alex Trebek the veteran game show host.

 

AN ESSAYIST is quite dismayed that promises to ease air travel rules (and prices) between Australia and New Zealand - by designating these as domestic routes - have not come to pass, three years later.

A PHOTO LISTING of what entertainment Weekly considers as the 17 Greatest Emmy Moments should have been expanded to include Julianne Moore's line about her Emmy for "Game Change" ... and Sarah Palin's lack of enthusiasm for that role. Julianne Moore looked even more like the Alaska governor than Tina Fey.

FRIDAY's CHILD is Gypsy the Cat - found malnourished and bedraggled in Scotland, and whose microchip indicates a home in Germany.

HAIL and FAREWELL to the dean of American motorsports journalism, Chris Economaki - who began selling single copies of National Speed Sport News at age 14 and eventually became the publication’s editor, a position he held for 60 years - who has died at the age of 91.

Years ago, whenever "Wide World of Sports" or another TV show covered US motorsports, he was either at the race, or had his name mentioned. As Mario Andretti once said:

"If he wasn’t aware of you, you simply were not a factor in the sport - and if you weren’t on Chris Economaki’s radar screen, you probably weren’t on anybody else's."
SUNDAY's CHILDREN are Cheddar the Cat as well as Little Big Burger the Cat - examples of "runts" from a litter that can make for great family pets.

...... and finally, for a song of the week ......................................... if you were to ask the average person "Who was the most American from all of this nation's classical music composers of the 20th Century?" ... chances are they would say Aaron Copland - and they would have cause. He lived for the first 9/10 of the 20th century and - while he studied in Europe - he then used all that he heard into his works. His borrowing of old folk tunes to synthesize into his works, his odes to figures such as Abe Lincoln and his willingness to try almost any genre that could meld with his sense of classical music - well, gave him an air of patriotism that was valuable when he (like many others) was grilled about his, um, "loyalty" during the McCarthy Era. Like many, he saw solace in the Russian Revolution (although, like many, breaking from that admiration during the Stalin era).

The Brooklyn native was a prodigy yet never had a formal piano lesson until age thirteen (by which time he had already written some small pieces). Studying at the Paris Conservatoire, he had the good fortune to work with Nadia Boulanger - the first woman to direct the Boston Symphony and New York Philharmonic orchestras - who championed his works.

Copland drew not only from French composers such as Gabriel Fauré and Darius Milhaud (who became a mentor to Dave Brubeck) but also that nation's writers such as Marcel Proust and André Gide while Copland was one of many American ex-pats there during the Prohibition era. Returning home in 1925, he set out to be a full-time composer, which wasn't easy during the Depression. But along with a Guggenheim Fellowship, plus help from patrons of the arts: he was able to avoid taking a full-time teaching position; instead branching out into many different areas. Although a closeted gay man through the years, he led a relatively peaceful personal life.

His career is too extensive to list all, but here are some highlights:

His 1930 Piano Variations helped establish him, and although he wrote only three "numbered" symphonies he wrote many short works that have sometimes used the word symphony.

He wrote scores for Hollywood films: first for "Of Mice and Men" and in the 1940's his score for 1943's "The North Star" was nominated for an Academy Award and the one for William Wyler's 1949 film The Heiress won the Best Original Music Score award.

His ballet scores became especially popular: Billy the Kid as well as ... the western Rodeo and perhaps his best-known work: Appalachian Spring which won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for 1945.

His use of American and Western folk influences in these works helped solidify his image as an American composer - along with A Lincoln Portrait that often accompanies a reading of the Gettysburg Address. You may have even heard the US Beef Council use one part of "Rodeo" - called Hoedown in its old "It's what's for dinner" campaign.

While seeking to avoid writing operas: he received a commission from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein to create music for the opera The Tender Land based on James Agee's "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men". In his later years, he became a mentor for the likes of Leonard Bernstein and took to being a guest conductor of orchestras around the world.

Aaron Copland died in December, 1990 at the age of 90. His legacy is immense: just for starters he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from LBJ in 1964, and a special Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress in 1987. Perhaps the best legacy is the school that bears his name - the Aaron Copland School of Music was founded at the inception of New York's Queens College.

Here are examples of both his instrumental and vocal offerings.

First, a version of Fanfare for the Common Man that dates back to 1942, and which generated a cover version by Emerson Lake & Palmer in 1977, as well as many TV and radio programs. And below you can listen to it.

One of the movements in Appalachian Spring that borrowed from American folk music was the use of the Shaker dance tune Simple Gifts - largely unknown outside the Shaker community before its inclusion in this work. Written in 1848 by church elder Joseph Brackett, you can hear Marilyn Horne at this link sing it.

Tis the gift to be simple
tis the gift to be free,
Tis the gift to come down
where we ought to be

And when we find ourselves
in the place just right
Twill be in the valley
of love and delight

When true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend
we shan't be ashamed
To turn, turn will be our delight
Till by turning, turning
we come round right

Originally posted to DKOMA on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 08:40 AM PDT.

Also republished by Shamrock American Kossacks.

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