All posts for the month January, 2014

I grew up as a pretty typical middle class 1950’s American kid. It was George Reeves’ Superman, The Lone Ranger and “How Much is That Doggie in the Window” all the way.

In my circles it was always real important to be a ‘regular guy’. I’m not sure I can tell you everything that a ‘regular guy’ had to be in the 1950’s but I can tell you one thing he was not. A ‘regular guy’ was not an egghead. For those of you not familiar with that quaint term here is an example. In the comic strips an egghead was usually drawn as a character carrying around a very fat volume of War and Peace.

Right, War and Peace was considered intellectual, cultured, serious. Sorry Tolstoy but we’re into Yankees, Chevys, Disney’s and Larry ‘n Curly ‘n Moe.

So it’s not surprising that I was unfamiliar with Shakespeare. The first play I suffered through was The Merchant of Venice when my sophomore class had to read it aloud. We understood maybe every fifth word and it was a great relief to close that book and get back to some good ol’ regular entertainment like Ozzie and Harriet.

Okay, let’s fast forward to 1965. It’s my senior year in high school. I was in a band and we played Surf Music, Beatles and R&B covers, the real R&B that is. Classical music? Well my mom had some Strauss waltz records and I had liked them a lot when I was a kid, but that had been a long time ago. Oh, I had also seen little Jinny Tiu play Chopin’s Minute Waltz several times on the Ed Sullivan Show. I’d assumed it was the only tune she knew.

Okay, back to high school. It’s third period art class and we’re finishing up some project or other. Maybe it had something to do with the project we were working on (who remembers?) but our teacher took out a record and put it on the turntable.

The needle dropped.                         Poof.                         The room disappeared and I vanished along with it. I’m sure I had to have been breathing but I can’t swear to it. When the room and I re-appeared the class was staring at me. I was standing there like a big dummy with tears cascading down my cheeks.

I had been hit over the head with “The Willow Song” from Verdi’s Otello.

I guess I was no longer a ‘regular guy’.

For those of you who have already asked, future posts will eventually include Sweet Willow’s script, music demos and video.

  • Kiri Te Kanawa as Desdemona at the Covent Garden performs the Willow Song, from Verdi’s Otello in 1983, with Placido Domingo conducted by Sir George Solti before Lady Di and Prince Charles.

Leave a Comment

Have to ‘fess up here. I wasn’t completely honest in that first chapter.

The classroom and I didn’t really disappear but you probably already figured that out.

There’s also that last sentence, the one that goes, “I guessed I was no longer a regular guy.” That one. Well, truth be told I had never been a regular guy.

Dad was in the military, we moved a lot and I was often the new kid in school, an Outsider. How did this impact me? Well, I got to make up and live in my own worlds and I enjoyed all that very much thank you. Oh I wanted to be a regular guy for a long time to be sure, that is until I finally figured out that maybe being a regular guy wasn’t so wonderful. Okay, that’s out of the way, time to move on.

On to college. Music was definitely what I wanted to be studying and our local college was a very good place to be doing that. Dave Brubeck’s brother Howard was the theory teacher there. He inspired me to major in music.

However, I had some subversive friends up in the drama department who talked me into coming up to join the party.

I found out that actors were a whole lot more fun to hang out with than musicians and…, even though I wasn’t good at the drama stuff I managed to get cast as Kent in the school’s production of King Lear. ( I’m now a reguLear guy. Get it?)

Shakespeare was beginning to feel like an old friend. Still, Othello would be another year away and in another University.

Okay. Another fast forward. Whoosh, a year has gone by and I have transferred to San Francisco State. I’m still a music major but it is here that I see my first production of Othello.

Sidebar: Man, were the 60’s ever a great time to be in San Francisco! (Like man, like groovy, yeah way cool)

I honestly can’t recall a damned thing about that play except I thought the actor who played Iago was very good. Actually, considering my level of theatre acumen at the time combined with the culture of the period, it’s possible he was a ham and I made an assumption.

Still, I remembered something. The name Iago for a start and that he was a right bastard. It must be a great role to play, eh?

In my mind the thought of Othello was now simmering somewhere. We never know when these back burner stews will, or ever jump out to feed us do we?

I promise, this narrative will get to Sweet Willow soon. Be patient. Some music will come soon too.

Leave a Comment