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Scotian News

May 2009

Edition 51


Congratulations to the following Former Pupils who have reached milestone birthdays this month:-

65 Tony Ward; Stephen Early; John Malone;

60  Lenny Oliver;

50  Peter Cranston; Hugh Kelly; Mike McEwan;


 School News

It is with regret that we announce the death of the mother of Andrew, Roger, and the late Tom Conlon. Condolences are offered to all the family.

New e-mail contact :- Peter Haynes (1966-1972) in North Berwick.

Change of e-mail address :- Peter McCloskey; Kevin Pia;

We have been contacted by Bert D’Agostino. He has recently left his Pub/ Restaurant at the Cramond Brig, Edinburgh, and is now Mine Host at the Castle Hotel, Dirleton, near North Berwick. Drop in if you are down that way. He will be delighted to see you. He tells us his brother, Gerry is making a good recovery from his recent illness. You never know. He might be propping up Bert’s main bar when you visit.

Another old friend has been in touch. Jean-Pierre Belleville, from Les Amis D’Arthur , in France has sent an article on Arthur Oldham’s tour to Columbia at Easter 1983. It is copied below:-

Easter 1983 in Popayán (Colombia):
Arthur Oldham conducting the Fauré Requiem

In late 1982, Arthur was invited to come to Colombia to prepare and conduct a programme of his choice at the festival of religious music of Popayán.  Arthur agreed, and proposed two works: Mozart "Exultate, jubilate" and the Fauré "Requiem", the financial arrangement was limited to travel and hotel expenses for Arthur and his wife Annie.

In March 1983, the welcome was “royal” on Arthur’s arrival at Popayán, a colonial city in south-west of the country. They were installed in the very pleasant “Hotel Monasterio” in a former Franciscan monastery next to the church of San Francisco and surrounded by tropical vegetation.

The singers came from different cities. Arthur notes painfully how they were very under-privileged. They did not have any music conservatory and most teachers of singing and music had immigrated to the United States where they could earn a livelihood. The only orchestra of quality in the whole country, “El Orquesta Nacional de Colombia” had been engaged for the occasion. Arthur was very impressed by the good level of choirs (singing while memory) given the lack of musical infrastructure.
Asked about his working methods, the leader of the choir of the city of Medellin says that with no pianist, he is repeating the sopranos by playing four bars on his violin until they know it. Then it proceeds along with altos, tenors and basses. What a great lesson in humility!

The concert was expected to close the official celebrations of Holy Week. Rehearsals were going well, Arthur managed to weld the disparate elements of this chorus into a coherent whole, even controlling to a large extent, the more uncontrollable musicians of the orchestra.

On the morning of the dress rehearsal, Arthur, Annie and their host were having breakfast in the hotel, when they heard a great noise resembling a long crescendo timpani roll. The pillars of the dining room were struggling, the host of the establishment screamed “Terremoto! “And everyone rushes out in a rain of various objects.

On this 31 March 1983, the tremor lasted 18 seconds but devastated south-west of Colombia, and destroyed much of the historical center of Popayán, making 3000 dead (including 500 people attending Mass in the Cathedral of Popayán, who died when the building collapsed) and many homeless. Fortunately, the singers and musicians were saved and joined Arthur in the garden of the hotel. It was a coming and going of helicopters, the streets were in ruins and the road to the airport was unserviceable.

Correspondents of international news agency arrived from the United States. A journalist asked Arthur without preamble: "How many of your party are dead?” He was brusquely rebuffed. However, one could read in the newspapers the next day, the following sentence taken from an alleged interview of Arthur: “The famous chef exclaims: Where's my orchestra?”  In fact, despite the pleas of Arthur, the orchestra had left Popayán by whatever transport was available.

The chorus, for its part, decided to stay for the concert in memory of victims of the morning. The orchestra was replaced by a piano carried over the rubble on the backs of four choristers to the hotel garden. Arthur conducted his choristers, perched on a table. Baritone, Neal Schwantes, began singing when a replica of the earthquake shook the city. The choir and the soloist continued singing. Arthur remembers this episode as one of the most moving of his career. The following year, an illustrated book will be published under the title "Eighteen Seconds in Popayán”. He tells the terrifying story and concludes with a photo of the Fauré Requiem showing the choir singing.

On March 2005, at the opening of the 42nd Popayán Festival of Religious Music, its president, Rodrigo Velásquez Àngel, recalled this event by introducing an interview by the Colombian press organ "ciudadblanca.com”.

Currently, the name of Arthur Oldham is mentioned on the website of two orchestras in Colombia, the "Orquesta Filarmónica Medellin” and the “Orquesta Sinfónica de Colombia." He is cited one of the "Maestros" who led their respective choirs. The "Estudio Polifónoco Medellin" created in 1970, mentions Arthur in its list of 16 conductors. For its part, the "Coro de Cámara de Popayán" (Popayán Chamber Choir) created on 18 December 1967, cites Arthur among 21 names of conductors, following Claudio Abbado.

In January 2009, I translated into French the Spanish text of the Website of the "Coro de Cámara de Popayán" and I sent this French version to the webmaster and the choirmaster, Señora Stella Dupont Arias, as a friendly gift of our association “Les Amis d’Arthur” in memory of the Maestro. Ms Stella Dupont Arias answered thanking warmly and telling me she well remembered Arthur with “especial cariño” (special affection). You can consult the beautiful website of the Popayán Chamber Choir at the URL:  http://corodecamaradepopayan.110mb.com/ Unfortunately the English version is still under construction for several months.

Vince James has asked us to advise you all of his business. He is an Interior renovator of bathrooms, kitchens, conversions and extensions. His wife is a fully qualified interior designer, and they will shortly have their own web page. He would be delighted to show any interested FPs some of the work he has done for clients, and allow them to speak independently to clients for references.

We are pleased to publish any details of FPs businesses to let our fellow Fps know what everyone is doing, and we are happy to help any of our august body.

We recently heard from Neil Allen. He wrote about Mike Maran “As Mike Maran told us all in his Valentine, Captain Corelli got back on the road at the Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival last night.  I had read good reviews of the show when it first opened (on the Festival Fringe?) but had never got round to seeing it.

Well, I saw it last night and (in common with the whole audience, from what I overheard on the way out) enjoyed it enormously.  It's funny, poignant and imbued with that particular characteristic that is (if we're still allowed such language in these politically correct days) Scoto-Italian humour.  And the music was excellent, though I'm not sure Verdi would have approved entirely of the Anvil Chorus sung solo and accompanied only by piano and trumpet!  Marvellous entertainment that nonetheless didn't trivialise dreadful events of WW2 which still (my daughter's working there, and I visited in April) has a resonance on the island as well as in Italy.

Good to see Mike looking pretty well after his medical horrors.  I'll now have to look out for 'My Funny Valentine'.  Indeed, I won't need to look far, as it's in Musselburgh on 4 July and at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival at the end of that month.”

We suggest you all make an effort to see a great show in the Festival. Tell Mike you are an FP. He may buy you a drink.

Talking of Festival, Philip Contini is doing a one man show about Dean Martin in Valvona & Crolla. If it is as good as last year’s music about Louis Prima, it will be well worth a visit.

Recently received a contact from Valerio Nannini’s father . His son is in Italy. If anyone would like the contact, please contact Lindsay Wilson. He has also sent us a school photo which has been added to the web site gallery.

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