The Passing…

… of all things is inevitable, be they empires, monuments of stone or ourselves.

This past week has been one of both excitement and of sadness tinged with the warm glow of fond reflection. Firstly came the sad news from my cousin Sally that Andre, her husband, had passed away after a very protracted illness. Sobering thought that now there are just the two of us left from the older generation.

Blaauw
My cousin Andre.
Rest peacefully.

A good friend of mine from my opera days in Cape Town, the tenor Anton Stolz, celebrated his 60th on the Sunday and joined the club of which many of us are already members. Then, on the following Thursday, he, too, passed away. I’m sure that Anton would have been chuffed at the many expressions of gratitude for his friendship and at the many warm memories that have appeared on Facebook. Still, the gaps are still there, despite the pleasant memories. The rest of us just have to carry on …

Anton
Anton in the centre with Henry on the left and myself. Cavalleria Rusticana, Cape Town in the early 1980s.

Last week’s excitement was a visit to the Book Guild in their new home in Hove. We had a very productive meeting and the exciting news is that FATAL TEARS is going to be an e-book; contractural negotiations are underway. The Book Guild have just signed up with a large distributor in this format, who cover all format of e-books as well as promoting same through Barnes and Noble in the USA. I also saw the finished dust jacket for ERRANT ANGELS, which is the first in the AN ECCENTRIC IN LUCCA series of music-based novels. It is due for publication on 27th November (hardback).

Thumbs up
Unsolicited thumbs up from another happy reader !

We also have the sheep back in the farmer’s field that borders our postage stamp garden. Funny things – they bleat constantly (including through the night) and I wonder if they actually say anything or if it is some sort of communal security blanket. For those of you of a musical disposition, they also seem to bleat in minor seconds a lot – enough to set your teeth on edge !

Is it not written that it is better to lead than to be led… Who’d be a sheep ? Unless, of course, you’re an animatedly smart one like Shaun the Sheep !

It’s in the Genes…

… or so we are led to believe, according to current research. Or is it ? If an immediate ancestor was a gifted thinker, does the offspring become a philosopher?; does a highly successful economist produce a millionaire?; would Dr Crippin’s offspring have followed in their father’s footsteps?

How do we differentiate between intellectual capacity and inherited, coded instructions as to what we look like or might eventually become? Answers on a postcard please, as they used to say on the wireless…

What’s brought this on is some research I’ve been doing into my maternal grandfather’s career. He was a pharmacist with the Royal Army Medical Corps, before ending up – by a circuitous route that I am still trying to discover – as the bandmaster of the embryonic Mauritius Police Band in the years before the Second World War. Of diminuitive size (so that, at least, I didn’t inherit!), Inspector Harry Stephen Rolfe built up both the band and his reputation on the island. I’d like to think that his music genes were passed on to me; can’t think of what other source pushed me in a musical direction …

This is the only photo I have that shows both him and the band:

MPB pre 1939
Bandmaster Rolfe and the Mauritius Police Band, c.1926 [?].

I have a baton that was presented to him in 1925 as a token of apprecitation by the residents of Port Louis. It is of ebony with decorative gold bands; he never used it to couduct, as he found it too heavy. He was very forthright and I can imagine his response when the suggestion to use it to conduct was made …

Nearly 90 years on and his grandson uses a much lighter wooden one:

EGCB baton
A lighter baton guiding the East Grinstead Concert Band.

And to finish off this time, a couple of before and after photos …

MPB marching
Band Master Rolfe and the Mauritius Police Band c. 1926
MPB today
The modern day Mauritius Police Band

It’s in the can…

… as they used to say on the film set or in the editing suite, once the movie was complete. Or, as in the case of the infamous CLEOPATRA [the Holywood one] it very nearly ended up in the pan. Hopefully, being lovingly produced on an extremely modest budget, my latest offering will not suffer a similar fate ! Desides which, these days it’s probably more appropriate to say its on the memory card … or on the disc.

Follow this link to learn all about being an archaeologist-tour guide on the Nile in the late 20s:

With the breadth of the African continent out of the way, Rupert moves into the geographically more concentrated, but no less dangerous, confines of Palestine in the early 1930s. Oh yes … and he crosses swords, in a manner of speaking, with Il Duce in distant Rome and meets Jewish aspirations head on in the Promised Land. And to think that it was all started by an innocuous professor in the vaults of the British Museum …

Apart from the proofing, this past week has been a good one for renewing broken links (to use modern parlance) with friends from the dim, but not too distant, past. It’s great to just pick up from where we left off some 30+ years ago (!!).

All that nostalgia got me scratching through my old photo albums … well, I say “albums”, but in reality a large shoe box … to see what was in there and what had been forgotten over the years.

In my younger days I was heavily involved in opera at the tip of the African continent. When I think back to the productions we mounted – when Performing Arts Council money was quite literaly no object -I remain in awe of the achievement. I found this picture of a production of Vedi’s OTELLO; appropriate, given the fact that it is Verdi bicentenary year.

CT_Otello
OTELLO in Cape Town’s opera house.

And yes, the costume really was that grubby, although it had been “distressed” in the best possible taste ! Viva Il Leone di San’ Marco !

Capital, capital !

Another busy week, what with the end of the school term (for me, at least), proofing my second book, arranging some music and conducting perhaps our most prestigeous concert of the year. And then, of course, there was the heat…

We never seem to be content with the weather – too cold, too much snow, too much rain, too hot…

Eastbourne_1_2013
Introducing an item via a retro-microphone.

Sunday evening on the Eastbourne Bandstand. For a change the wind was not blowing a gale, which meant that we had an audience of around 200+. Everyone played on top form and the concert was a great success, to the extent that the audience wanted and received an encore.

Eastbourne_2_2013
In full blow… Verdi’s “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves”. Viva Verdi !

My Year 5/6 class performed “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (drastically simplified !) to an appreciative audience of parents and fellow pupils. My class worked really hard and I would have loved to show you some photos, but – these days being these days – their efforts will also have to remain but a midsummer day[s]dream. Nevertheless, well done to them all.

This week my very dear friend celebrated being around for 65 years ! It was quite a party, surrounded by friends and colleagues – and isn’t that what it’s all about ?

Happy Birthday !
The 65-er before the party really got going !

Capital, capital, my dear fellow ! Good point. Have you ever come to grips with the correct usage of capitals in the wonderful English language ? King Henry is one thing, but the king had other ideas, even if we know it was Henry. The president is late, but President Obama’s car will be here shortly.The prime minister has lost his script for the welcome, but, it is to be hoped, Prime Minister Cameron or even the deputy prime minister will find something to say…

And on that illuminating point, that will do for now.

Publicizing…

…in the middle of a heat wave!

Singing_EG
Another reader begins Rupert Winfield’s first journey.

I spent a very pleasant day yesterday (over six hours) in the High Street, East Grinstead, seated at a table in the bright Sussex sunshine in what must have been one of the hottest days of the year. We haven’t had many of those so far this year, but yesterday went some way to making up for that!

My first novel, ‘FATAL TEARS’ is set against the vivid and often very hot background of 1920s Africa. It occurred to me during the course of yesterday that a certain High Street in West Sussex could well have been a deal hotter than some of the locations in the book. Despite that, there were intrepid shoppers about and it was a successfull day all round.

Members of the East Grinstead Concert Band kindly gave of their time in the afternoon and serenaded us with a selection of marches and other light music, which was much appreciated by both those who were passing by and by yours truly seated behind the table.

EGCB
Members of the East Grinstead Concert Band

Isn’t it amazing how a welcome shadow gradually approaches, with the promise of relief from the sun, but never quite seems to reach where you’re sitting? Odd, that.

If anyone wants to find out more about ‘FATAL TEARS’, feel free to either check out my website, http://www.stuartfifield.com or e-mail me on mail@stuartfifield.com.

A big THANK YOU to John Pye and his staff at The Book Shop, 22 High Street, East Grinstead for hosting us and keeping us supplied with coffee and water. We’ll be back…

Tonight it’s off to conduct a Prom concert on the bandstand in Eastbourne.

I hope your weekend was as enjoyable as mine.