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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Music either side of the big duck pond
with Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Hello Alice,
I continue to follow and enjoy your work. I wonder sometimes, why British instrumental music is not played more here in the US. Do your audiences there hear much American music outside of Copland? British choral music is, of course, much appreciated. I love all of Britten's vocal and choral writing. The 'War Requiem' is a special favorite.

Bob Jordahl

Hi Bob,
Thanks for your note.

It's a good question why there seems to be a special resistance (on, I feel, both sides of the big duck pond) as to each other's instrumental music.

For example, Elgar's cello concerto is embraced everywhere (but then, we cellists have few alternatives!!!) but Elgar's sublime -- indeed, I feel, even MORE sublime violin concerto doesn't seem to travel ... And then, you assume that Copland has taken Europe by storm, whereas, in fact, only the occasional Fanfare for the common man or Quiet City seems ever programmed.

Copland and Elgar

I have several provocative theories about this, all of which you (or, indeed, others) may be at liberty to shoot down (whereupon I am at liberty not to publish your letters ... oops, don't worry, just kidding!!!!)

  1. American earnestness is more temperamentally suited to the angst of German music than its British alternative.
  2. As for UK audiences, George W is to blame, with the US regarded as a disaster-zone in every respect.
  3. American music-lovers generally find English music either droopy (Delius) or long-winded (Elgar).
  4. British music-lovers never hear enough American composers in order to even develop a controversial opinion (witness: my recent effort -- successful only because the conductor really supported me -- to play Bloch's Schelomo with my local orchestra. Seasoned and really excellent players of instruments ranging over every section made comments including 'too self-indulgent ... never heard of it ... gloomy and boring ... never heard of it ... pompous ... never even heard of it ...'

Yours controversially (practicing Bloch's Schelomo)

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,
Have you heard these before?
If not, enjoy!
From (your southern cousin) Tom


In the South: If you run your car into a ditch, don't panic. Four men in a four-wheel drive pickup truck with a tow chain will be along shortly. Don't try to help them, just stay out of their way. This is what they live for.

Don't be surprised to find movie rentals and bait in the same store ... do not buy food at this store.

Remember, y'all is singular, all y'all is plural, and all y'all's is plural possessive

Get used to hearing 'You ain't from round here, are ya?'

Don't be worried at not understanding what people are saying. They can't understand you either.

The first Southern statement to creep into a transplanted Northerner's vocabulary is the adjective big'ol truck or big'ol boy. Most Northerners begin their Southern-influenced dialect this way. All of them are in denial about it.

The proper pronunciation you learned in school is no longer proper.

Be advised that 'He needed killin' is a valid defense.

If you hear a Southerner exclaim, 'Hey, y'all, watch this', you should stay out of the way. These are likely to be the last words he'll ever say.

If there is the prediction of the slightest chance of even the smallest accumulation of snow, your presence is required at the local grocery store. It doesn't matter whether you need anything or not. You just have to go there.

Do not be surprised to find that ten-year-olds own their own shotguns. They are proficient marksmen, and their mammas taught them how to aim.

In the South, we have found that the best way to grow a lush green lawn is to pour gravel on it and call it a driveway.

AND REMEMBER: If you DO settle in the South and bear children, don't think we will accept them as Southerners. After all, if the cat had kittens in the oven, we wouldn't call 'em biscuits.

Copyright © 16 March 2007 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

Ask Alice



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