A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Erik Satie, Jamie Reid, No Performance Today & A Row Of Paper Boats
Sunday, February 15, 2009

Yesterday, Saturday, Rebecca and I went to the Playhouse Theatre to experience a matinée performance of the Turning Point Ensemble (in association with Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad and the SFU Contemporary Arts) of Erik Satie's Relâche. As we entered I spotted a friend. "Rebecca I want you to meet a poet, he is a member of the Canadian Communist Party." With a smile on his face Jamie Reid said," I am not a member of the Canadian Communist Party. I was a member of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist)." Reid handed me a copy of his latest poems. In it I found a poet who had collaborated with Satie in his Furniture Music:

homage to max jacob

I was severely mistaken in writing to a poet acquaintance that
Max Jacob took his own life.

In fact, it was only and maybe merely his afterlife he took, and he
took it deliberately as a Catholic, which he had become by
choice, not birth.

After converting to the Church of Rome, he joined the gang of
Poets and artists on Montmartre in order to sin disgracefully, so
he said.

It was not for this reason that the Gestapo later arrested him and
put him in the concentration camp where he died of lung
disease. It was because he had been born a Jew.

His conversion therefore completely failed to save his life.

I hope my poet acquaintance, who told me he feels his own
work is most like Max Jacob’s, does not come to suffer a similar

May he contrive to enjoy all sins untramelled, no matter how
considerable, without feeling any need for punishment, as did
poor Catholic Max.

May I, too, live in hope
to do the same, dear,
merciful God.

From homages by Jamie Reid, January 2009 by permission from author.

Rebecca had a chat with Christopher and Jennifer Gaze. She talked to heart surgeon Larry Burr about cross country skiing and violinist Marc Destrubé explained to Rebecca, "Erik Satie did not like anything. He only ate white foods like eggs, sugar, shredded bones, animal fat, salt, coconuts, rice, turnips, pastry, cheese (white varieties), cotton salad, and certain kinds of fish."

Phoebe MacRae (seen here sitting with her sister, Caitlin, standing), we were most surprised, did not play the Virgin Mary nor did she appear with a croquet mallet. She opted for singing in her beautiful soprano the Trois Mélodies de 1886.

Both Rebecca and I noticed the man, Edmond Kilpatrick. (here seen with Rebecca at Arts Umbrella) who was making the rows of paper boats on a table while cooly watching a woman, Tiffany Tregarthen (as sinuous as a snake so said Jamie Reid) dance (beautifully choreographed by Simone Orlando) as if she had not been wearing high heels.

I could go on and on in the above pseudo-Dadaist/Surrealist vein. Or I could tell you what a good time Rebecca and I had at the performance. I will do neither.

My preference is to point out the strange but wonderful paradox of Vancouver that so often feels like a backwater (especially culturally) to the rest of Canada and the world.

On Friday I attended a performance of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra at St James Anglican. The leader of the group was the renowned violinist Marc Destrubé who also leads the Axelrod Quartet that is playing in Vancouver on February 27. Why was he at the 2pm matinée? Destrubé knows a rare and good thing when he sees it. The chances that anybody would ever see a live performance of Erik Satie's Relâche in one's lifetime are most unlikely. And even more so that the unlikely event would be held in Vancouver.

So the paradox is that our city offers a variety of cultural events that are first notch yet attendance is sparse in many cases while people complain that there is no culture in Vancouver, that periodicals, newspapers and magazines do not promote culture and the arts. They further add that they do not inform us or urge us to attend these events. People that I know at the CBC tell me that they have orders from above that culture and the arts are at the bottom of their priorities. People I know at the CBC tell me that no CBC affiliated radio station in the interior of BC would be interested in covering this month's tour of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra. One of the CBC spokepersons told me, "In the interior they are only interested in sports and jobs."

At yesterday's matinée of Relâche I saw no more than 5 children including my Rebecca. Just a few days ago I had been talking to art gallery owner Linda Lando and she told me, "Part of the problem lies in the school. They just don't teach them"

All I had to do to turn on Rebecca to Eric Satie was to play in our car my copy of Satie - Piano Works with Daniel Varsano and Philippe Entremont. Satie's 3 Gymnopédies are instantly charming to children. When Rebecca asked me a bit about what we had seen I told her that Satie was protesting against the idea that music, dance, culture and the arts did not have to be serious or overly long. It could be funny, entertaining, accessible and, best of all, did not have to be "understood" to be enjoyed.

Jamie Reid reads his Homages


I should also mention that I had a second reason for being at the Satie performance which is that I'm a member of the Turning Point Enemble (and couldn't do the Satie because of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra conflict). Should also mention that the Pacific Baroque Orchestra West Van concert this afternoon was rather well-attended. I should also mention that I did a half-hour interview about the Satie program, even though I wasn't playing, for Radio Canada's Le Pont des Arts. The fact that they have a two-hour arts journal in the rush-hour time slot on their Radio One says something about different priorities in our different cultures...And this was my third lengthy interviewd for them in the past three months.

Marc Destrubé


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