Music and Vision homepage 'Elgar and Chivalry' by Robert Anderson - available now from Elgar.org

 

<<  -- 5 --  Jennifer I Paull    HIGH JINX AND HAUTE COUTURE

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The Fontane-pruning still contains Tom's comments upon the fair maiden he beholds with wonder.

Du bist die Himmelskönigin!
Du bist von dieser Erde nicht!

Well, she had a field day with that one, especially in the heroine's reply.

Ich will dir sagen, wer ich bin;
Ich bin die Himmelsjungfrau nicht,
Ich bin die Elfenkönigin!

Naturally, Fontane had intended Himmelsjungfrau as 'young maid from heaven'. By changing her facial expression, stretching out her arm with subsequent wrist-flop, and making a subtle alteration in her stance, Cathy's inference was unmistakable. She had been called a königin after all and her audience rolled in the isles. Just as she used jungfrau in its alternative meaning of 'virgin' (innocent wide-eyed gaze), she implied that the realm of the 'Queen of the Elves' would encompass goblins, gremlins and fairies. Although singing the exact words of the German translation, she managed to portray

I'll tell you who I am all right! I'm not heaven's young virgin, I'm an old queen!

Her performance of There are Fairies at The Bottom of Our Garden (Proust recital) went very deep, whilst appearing simply hilarious. She managed to make 'bottom' a self-evident justification for her interpretation, which wove in a few bars of The Beatles into the piano accompaniment at the moment the word beetles entered the text.

Music by Rose Fyleman (1877-1957): Music by Liza Lehmann (1862-1918) (Recorded by Beatrice Lillie, 1934)

There are fairies at the bottom of our garden!
[...]
I do so hope they've really come to stay.
There's a little wood, with moss in it and beetles,
[...]
You wouldn't think they'd dare to come merrymaking there --
Well, they do.
[...]
They often have a dance on summer nights;
[...]
The King is very proud and very handsome;
The Queen -- now you can guess who that could be
(She's a little girl all day, but at night she steals away)?
Well -- it's Me!

This wouldn't quite carry the same weight today since 'gay' has now been kidnapped and 'fairy' (as well as 'queer') returned to its original sense (more or less). But if we consider which of The Beatles' bars she used, there is another layer of meaning. The unmistakable snippet was taken from the following:

Here I stand head in hand
Turn my face to the wall
(garden wall?)
If she's gone I can't go on
Feeling two foot small
(as in elves and fairies?)
Everywhere people stare
each and every day
I can see them laugh at me
And I hear them say

Hey you've got to hide your love away (in a closet?)
-- Lennon/McCartney (1965)

Was this one of the earliest Gay Pride salutes (1971) hidden very cunningly? I discussed this hypothesis with Harold Lester who performed it with her frequently. He shares my opinion that it was, and mentioned her 'feminist' recital in which she performed works by 'ladies only'. She chose well, very much the 'Women's' Lib'/Gay Pride/ freethinking activist, if not an overt feminist herself. One must admire her cleverness that was always present on so many levels. The Beatrice Lillie version of this song was broadcast on 28 June 2006 by Queer Music Heritage.

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Copyright © 4 July 2006 Jennifer I Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland

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