Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Idle Hands, volume 875

So I went to Amazon looking for a CD containing Ralph Vaughn Williams' "Come My Way My Truth My Life." I was listening to my Vaughn Williams Xmas CD, to his Variations on a Theme From Thomas Tallis. My Dear Father, Raul Stanati, sang "Come My Way.." when I was growing up, so it's in my musical bedrock, and it's a beautiful setting of the George Herbert poem.

Fragments of Raul's repertoire -- he had and still has a lovely baritone voice -- litter my musical consciousness. Bits of Schubert's Winterreise, of Mendelssohn's Elijah, of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro and the Magic Flute, of Debussy's L'Enfant Prodigue, of the Messiah. There's a song I can't locate, maybe by Randall Thompson, that begins: I sit alone in a waystation/on a long railroad/waiting for a train to pick me up. Raul still sings at weddings. And funerals.

Suddenly, a few days ago, out of the blue, I thought of Percy Grainger. He's in my "English Folk Song Influenced Composer" brain file next to Ralph Vaughn Williams. I think we played a piece by him in high school band, a suite of country dances called "Lincolnshire Posy." I have carried around a mental image of him as a hoary, wooly-haired English gent. How could I not with that name -- Percy Grainger ? I mean, it reeks of sheep and shepherds. Tweeds. Pipe tobacco. Utterly bucolic.

Turns out he was an Aussie, who hung with Grieg and Dvorak, and is quite possibly the most beautiful man who ever lived.

Even if he falls into utter musical obscurity, he deserves to be remembered for his ravishing, pre-raphaelite looks.

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