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Author Archive: Eamonn Fitzgerald

Ex-pat Irishman keeping an eye on the world from the Bavarian side of the Alps.

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Colm and Tadhg and Turlough

Sunday, 17 December, 2017 0 Comments

Back at the beginning of this month, the Irish uilleann pipes were honoured as an important and unique cultural heritage symbol by UNESCO, the controversial UN organization that was founded in 1945. The move was a “valuable recognition of the skills, imagination, creativity and importance of those who make, restore and play na píobaí uilleann,” said President Michael D. Higgins. One of those who plays them increasingly well is a young lad from County Carlow, Colm Broderick, and here he’s accompanied on the organ by Tadhg Griffen as they play O’Carolan’s Concerto, which was composed by the 18th century harper, Turlough O’Carolan.


The indispensable Hitchens

Saturday, 16 December, 2017 0 Comments

What a tragedy that Michael Moore has been spared and Christopher Hitchens has not. The great contrarian died six years ago yesterday and his loss is more acute with each passing day. Speaking once about Moore, Hitchens said: “Europeans think Americans are fat, vulgar, greedy, stupid, ambitious and ignorant and so on. And they’ve taken as their own, as their representative American, someone who actually embodies all of those qualities.” Here’s the late, great Hitchens in full flight.

“There is a widespread view that the war against jihadism and totalitarianism involves only differences of emphasis. In other words, one might object to the intervention in Iraq on the grounds that it drew resources away from Afghanistan — you know the argument. It’s important to understand that this apparent agreement does not cover or include everybody. A very large element of the Left and of the isolationist Right is openly sympathetic to the other side in this war, and wants it to win. This was made very plain by the leadership of the ‘anti-war’ movement, and also by Michael Moore when he shamefully compared the Iraqi fascist ‘insurgency’ to the American Founding Fathers. To many of these people, any ‘anti-globalization’ movement is better than none. With the Right-wingers it’s easier to diagnose: they are still Lindberghians in essence and they think war is a Jewish-sponsored racket. With the Left, which is supposed to care about secularism and humanism, it’s a bit harder to explain an alliance with woman-stoning, gay-burning, Jew-hating medieval theocrats. However, it can be done, once you assume that American imperialism is the main enemy. Even for those who won’t go quite that far, the admission that the US Marine Corps might be doing the right thing is a little further than they are prepared to go — because what would then be left of their opposition credentials, which are so dear to them?” Love, Poverty and War, Christopher Hitchens (13 April 1949 — 15 December 2011)

Hitchens


Master and Commander Boccherini: 5

Friday, 15 December, 2017 0 Comments

And so we come to the end of our week of interpretations of Boccherini’s Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid, which became famous through its use in the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World starring Russel Crowe and Paul Bettany. So far, we’ve had the original from the film, a family performance, a violin/viola duet and an orchestral version.

Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid was written around 1780 by Luigi Boccherini and he scored it for two violins, a viola and two cellos. It’s exuberant music and depicts the night life of Madrid near an 18th-century military outpost. Drums can be heard and various nocturnal sounds, including cats calling and church bells ringing, are woven into the piece. Boccherini was quoted as having said: “The piece is absolutely useless, even ridiculous, outside Spain, because the audience cannot hope to understand its significance, nor the performers to play it as it should be played.” Given that, it’s only appropriate we end with the Master and Commander segment being played by el dúo Bagatela, featuring Javier Abraldes on guitar and Plamen Velev on cello. ¡Olé!

“The newly-minted captain admits the irony between the gold on his shoulders and the lack of gold in his pockets. The newly-minted captain is told to let nothing stop him but to do nothing that would risk his ship or his crew.” — Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander


Master and Commander Boccherini: 4

Thursday, 14 December, 2017 0 Comments

Jaesik Lim studied music at Hanyang University, one of the leading private research institutions in South Korea, and then moved to Madrid to continue his studies, saying: “I didn’t want to fly to Italy like everyone else does. I wanted something different.” Furthermore: “Both Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras are from Spain, so I thought this country must be special,” he told the Korea JoongAng Daily. There was a phase of culture shock, however, when he discovered that most Spaniards spoke Spanish instead of English. Still, he didn’t shirk the challenge of survival so he set up a stall at a flea market “for earrings and women’s underwear.”

Perseverance pays. Here, the maestro conducts the Master and Commander segment of Boccherini’s Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid performed by the Orquesta de Cámara y Grupo Vocal Millennium in Madrid’s Teatro Monumental.

“‘Are you very much attached to money?’ asked Stephen. ‘I love it passionately,’ said Jack, with truth ringing clear in his voice. ‘I have always been poor, and I long to be rich.'” — Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander

Tomorrow, we end our series on the Master and Commander Boccherini with an interpretation by el dúo Bagatela from Galicia.


Master and Commander Boccherini: 3

Wednesday, 13 December, 2017 0 Comments

All was well in the world of the Italian composer Luigi Boccherini when he was in service to the Spanish Court, until a succession of unfathomable tragedies occurred. The series began in 1785 with the death of his Spanish patron, and in that very same year his wife passed away. The first of their four daughters died that year as well and the remaining three died between 1802 and 1804. Boccherini remarried but his second wife died in 1805. It was all too much and he died that same year. The body of Boccherini lay buried in Madrid’s Pontifical Basilica of St. Michael until 1927, when his remains were repatriated to Italy and buried in the church of San Francesco in his native Lucca.

Boccherini’s Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid became famous through its use in the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World starring Russel Crowe and Paul Bettany. Here, Sydney Rae and Stephanie Lyn give us their version.

“The pleasant thing about fighting with the Spaniards, Mr Ellis, said Jack, smiling at his great round eyes and solemn face, is not that they are shy, for they are not, but that they are never, never ready.” — Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander

Tomorrow, the Master and Commander Boccherini gets the full orchestral treatment with Jaesik Lim conducting.


Master and Commander Boccherini: 2

Tuesday, 12 December, 2017 0 Comments

Luigi Boccherini (1743 – 1805) was an Italian composer whose music was written in a courtly style that quickly became popular in the major European musical centres of the day. His patrons included the French ambassador to Spain, Lucien Bonaparte, and King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, a talented amateur cellist and flautist. Boccherini’s Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid (String Quintet in C major, Op. 30 No. 6, G324), became famous through its use in the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World starring Russel Crowe and Paul Bettany. Here, Bellai (10), Gani (12) and their father jam a family interpretation of the piece.

“Where there was no equality there was no companionship: when a man was obliged to say ‘Yes, sir,’ his agreement was of no worth even if it happened to be true.” — Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander

Tomorrow, a duet interpretation of the Master and Commander Boccherini by Sydney Rae and Stephanie Lyn.


Master and Commander Boccherini: 1

Monday, 11 December, 2017 0 Comments

Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid is a quintettino for stringed instruments written around 1780 by Luigi Boccherini, an Italian composer who was in service to the Spanish Court at the time. The main violin theme from the work was used throughout the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and in the final scene, Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany as the ship’s surgeon, Dr. Stephen Maturin, play the piece together in the captain’s quarters.

“I have had such a sickening of men in masses, and of causes, that I would not cross this room to reform parliament or prevent the union or to bring about the millennium. I speak only for myself, mind — it is my own truth alone — but man as part of a movement or a crowd is indifferent to me. He is inhuman. And I have nothing to do with nations, or nationalism. The only feelings I have — for what they are —- are for men as individuals; my loyalties, such as they may be, are to private persons alone.” — Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander

Tomorrow, Bellai (10), Gani (12) and their father jam a family interpretation of the Master and Commander Boccherini.


When the MSM “resistance” cries “Wolf!”

Sunday, 10 December, 2017 0 Comments

“I remember Watergate pretty well, and I don’t remember anything like this level of journalistic carelessness back then. The constant stream of ‘bombshells’ that turn into duds is doing much more to damage the media than anything Trump could manage.” So commented Walter Russell Mead yesterday. He was responding to this tweet by CNN Communications:

CNN’s initial reporting of the date on an email sent to members of the Trump campaign about Wikileaks documents, which was confirmed by two sources to CNN, was incorrect. We have updated our story to include the correct date, and present the proper context for the timing of email

Glenn Greenwald provided readers of The Intercept with the background to this PR disaster for CNN, in particular, and US journalism, in general: “The U.S. Media Yesterday Suffered its Most Humiliating Debacle in Ages: Now Refuses All Transparency Over What Happened.” Snippet:

FRIDAY WAS ONE of the most embarrassing days for the U.S. media in quite a long time. The humiliation orgy was kicked off by CNN, with MSNBC and CBS close behind, with countless pundits, commentators and operatives joining the party throughout the day. By the end of the day, it was clear that several of the nation’s largest and most influential news outlets had spread an explosive but completely false news story to millions of people, while refusing to provide any explanation of how it happened.

The MSM “resistance” has thrown caution to the wind in its “gotcha” coverage of President Trump, but it’s a very risky strategy and those who have spent the past year crying “wolf” might find themselves being called “fakenews” in return.


Gin of the week: Helsinki Dry Gin

Saturday, 9 December, 2017 0 Comments

The Helsinki Distilling company was founded in 2013 in the capital of Finland by three entrepreneurs: Kai Kilpinen, Mikko Mykkänen and Séamus Holohan. Thanks to them, Helsinki’s first distillery for over a century is located in Teurastamo, a former slaughterhouse that has become central to the city’s food culture.

Along with akvavit and applejack, Kilpinen, Mykkänen and Holohan also produce liquors, including the very tempting-sounding Puolukka Gin-Likööri, but pure gin is their premium product: “Helsinki Dry Gin is an artisanal, premium gin distilled with nine choicest hand-picked botanicals including the Arctic lingonberry. Blended with the purest Finnish water, Helsinki Dry Gin is full-bodied and balanced, with aromas of the Nordic forest and floral citrus flavours.”

We purchased bottle number 33-717 to celebrate Finland’s 100th birthday on Wednesday and everything about the experience, from removing the stylish glass stopper to inhaling the first rush of timberland aromatics, was sublime. As this Gin Foundry review from 2015 puts it:

“Helsinki Gin has bright and light floral aromas of citrus, rose, fennel and a verdant juniper on the nose, which are echoed upfront on the palate. The piney elements of juniper come to the fore alongside sharp coriander, presenting an unmistakably ginny profile. However, lingonberries and fennel take it in new directions while a delicate citrus zing balances out the gin. The finish is evocative of walking in a deep Nordic forest with mossy herbaceous tones emerging.”

Helsinki Dry Gin

Note: Helsinki Dry Gin is the sixth in a gin series that began with Blackwater No. 5, was followed by Friedrichs and continued with Dingle, Bulldog and The Botanist.


The lamb and the wolf on 8 December

Friday, 8 December, 2017 0 Comments

The increasingly oppressive commercial Christmas begins on 1 October and then bludgeons consumers into submission with an incessant drumbeat of shopping commands and mawkish carols all the way until midnight on 24 December. The Christmas of the faithful, on the other hand, starts on the first Sunday of Advent and ends on 6 January, the feast day that commemorates the visit of the Magi.

But there is another date, and it’s to be found in the calendar of popular piety: 8 December. Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and it once marked the point when Christmas began in earnest. For my mother, the 8th of December was a serious shopping day and many essential “messages” were purchased in “Town” in preparation for the festivities.

Note: The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was officially defined as an article of the Catholic Faith by Pope Pius IX in 1854, and the dogma professes that Christ’s Mother was exempt from original sin from the moment of her conception. Traditional belief in the Immaculate Conception long preceded its formal definition, however, which is evident in this 16th century Spanish villancico:

Riu, riu, chiu
The river bank protects it.
God kept our lamb
From the wolf.
The rabid wolf
Wanted to bite her
But Almighty God knew
How to defend her.
Riu, riu, chiu

The lamb there is a stand-in for the Mother of Christ while the wolf is the devil. The words “riu, riu, chiu” are meant to evoke the call of the nightingale — a bird whose call has traditionally served as a muse to poets down the ages.


Lapland

Thursday, 7 December, 2017 0 Comments

Yesterday, here, we paid tribute to Finland, which is celebrating its 100th birthday, and today we’re visiting Lapland, where the salmon are yuuuuuge! As Hooké, who filmed this clip, says: “Laplanders trace le portrait de ceux qui vivent en harmonie avec les rivières dans le nord de la Suède où l’on y retrouve le Saumon Baltique. Voici leur conquête infinie pour essayer de le capturer.”

Hooké: “Born on the river in 2012 Hooké is a crew of artists, photographers, filmmakers, and writers who are passionate about creating a fly fishing community, experiencing epic journeys, and giving a voice to those we meet along the way. Hooké is the story of the people who live for and by nature : the pilot and the guide, the hunter and the hermit, the fly tier and the outfitter. At the end of the day they are the people who prolong the existence of traditions, protect their environment, share their knowledge and influence our practices.”