<< -- 2 -- Robert Anderson STRANGE FARRAGO
The nub of the matter is contained in a letter to Elgar from Algernon Blackwood,
author of the original tale now made into a play: 'That you have written that
music to my words (which the papers now tell me are rotten) is one thing big in my
life; but that you have opened your deep, strange simple heart to me as you have,
is another thing.' The 'Express' itself is a 'train of thought', and its passengers
an assemblage of sprites which Cousin Henry has 'thought alive' out of his
English childhood and now brought to a village in the Jura mountains. Elgar uses his
enchanting 'Sun Dance' from Youth 1 for the train's arrival
[listen -- track 16, 0:00-1:18].
I must explain further. The villagers are suffering from lack of sympathy
(not just a wartime complaint), and are consequently 'wumbled'. Henry's
young cousins have formed a 'Star Society', linking each of them to a particular
constellation. When asleep, their spirits wander the heavens gathering star-dust,
which makes them shiny. Among the sprites is the Organ Grinder, from whom I cannot
withhold a certain sympathy when I think of my own childhod and the weekly 2d I gave
to an old Italian trundling down the street and churning out 'La donna è mobile'
plus all the catchiest Verdi. Blackwood's character opens each Act, and starts
[listen -- track 1, 2:41-3:47].
Copyright © 7 September 2004
Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt