La Nit de Sant Joan

La nit de Sant Joan, és nit d’alegria
Estrellat de Flors, L’estiu ens arriba
De mans d’un fillet que li fa de guia.
Primavera mor, l’hiverm es retira.
Si arribes l’amor, mai mes moriría.

Yesterday night was the Nit de Sant Joan and Jaume Sisa composed this song in its honour. Jaume Sisa, composer and singer, has created some of the most iconic songs of contemporary catalan popular music. El setè cel, Qualsevol nit pot sortir el sol or Nit de Sant Joan belong already to the catalan collective subconscious.

Among the catalan festivities, there are two that, in my view, stand out as faithful “avatars” of the “catalan soul”.  One of them, el Dia de Sant Jordi, the day on which men give roses to their significant ones and everybody gives books to everybody, is quite well known even outside of Catalonia. Not so much with la Nit de Sant Joan, celebrated on Saint John’s eve, the night of the 23rd to the 24th of June, around the summer solstice. With roots in pagan times (probable but not proven), it is a night not to sleep…but to eat, drink, dance…a night of love…and pleasure…of fire, of fireworks and bonfires…a celebration of excess and of life.

There is a saying stating that the character of Catalonia fluctuates between el Seny i la Rauxa. El Seny, “reasonableness, integrity, common sense, right action”, would be Sant Jordi. La Rauxa, “passion, excess, sentimentality”  would be la Nit de Sant Joan.

If you ever visit our land, care to include one of these 2 festivities (or both!) in your schedule. And if it is la Nit de Sant Joan be ready to let loose because…”Si arribes l’amor, mai mes moriría.”

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

Pete Seeger one of the fathers of american folk music, loved and revered by so many, died yesterday. In 1955 he wrote and composed Where Have All the Flowers Gone? The song has become a classic pacifist hymn. We publish 2 versions, one by Pete Seeger and one by Marlene Dietrich.

Seeger recalled about the song:

“I had been reading a long novel – And Quiet Flows the Don – about the Don River in Russia and the Cossacks who lived along it in the 19th century. It describes the Cossack soldiers galloping off to join the Tsar’s army, singing as they go. Three lines from a song are quoted in the book: ‘Where are the flowers?/The girls plucked them/Where are the girls?/They’re all married/Where are the men?/They’re all in the army.’ I never got around to looking up the song, but I wrote down those three lines. Later, in an airplane, I was dozing, and it occurred to me that the line “long time passing” – which I had also written in a notebook – would sing well. Then I thought, ‘When will we ever learn’. Suddenly, within 20 minutes, I had a song.”

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone, long time passing?
Where have all the young girls gone, long time ago?
Where have all the young girls gone?
Gone for husbands everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the husbands gone, long time passing?
Where have all the husbands gone, long time ago?
Where have all the husbands gone?
Gone for soldiers everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?
Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

The Future of Catalonia’s Casteller

My friend and photographer Ann Gagno exhibits a set of pictures about Castellers, an old catalan tradition, in Toronto…have a look at them and enjoy 🙂  here you have the link to the Facebook page of the exhibition and here a picture of the exhibition itself.

Food Trippin'

As I open my month-long show Catalonia’s Castellers, at the Oakwood Public Library today, it brings back fond memories of things that happened that I can never immortalize in images.  As I have once said before, I went home with about 120 Gig of images and it was painful to choose one over the other.  Some of the ones that have touched me most were hard to recreate if there was no story to go with it.  I thought I’d share one today.

As I was standing by the heat of watching the Castellers de Vilafranca at Festa major de la Bisbal del Penedès, last August 2012,  a man who introduced himself as  Jeroen,  approached me because of the camera I carried.  I guess the massive long lens does merit attention and we had a lengthy conversation of what Castellers was all about.  Before we parted ways, he invited me and my…

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Cavalleria rusticana (Intermezzo)

Lim Kek-tjiang conducts the Evergreen Symphony Orchestra

Cavalleria rusticana is an opera in one act by Pietro Mascagni to an Italian libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci, adapted from a play and short story written by Giovanni Verga. Considered one of the classic verismo operas, it premiered on 17 May 1890, at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome.

The opera’s symphonic Intermezzo has figured in the sound track of several films, most notably in the opening of Raging Bull and in the finale of The Godfather Part III, the latter of which featured a performance of the opera as a key part of the film’s climax.

Alexandra Leaving, Alexandria Lost

Suddenly the night has grown colder.
The God of love preparing to depart.
Alexandra hoisted on his shoulder,
They slip between the sentries of the heart.

… … …

Even though she sleeps upon your satin;
Even though she wakes you with a kiss.
Do not say the moment was imagined;
Do not stoop to strategies like this.

As someone long prepared for the occasion;
In full command of every plan you wrecked
Do not choose a coward’s explanation
That hides behind the cause and the effect.

And you who were bewildered by a meaning;
Whose code was broken, crucifix uncrossed
Say goodbye to alexandra leaving.
Then say goodbye to alexandra lost.

Say goodbye to alexandra leaving.
Then say goodbye to alexandra lost.

Today Financial Times publishes an article by Philippe Sands, “Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson: a special relationship”, that describes and explores the nature of the friendship between the poet/musician Leonard Cohen and the songwriter/vocalist Sharon Robinson. In it the process of creation of the song “Alexandra Leaving” is described. This song is based on a poem by Constantine Cavafy titled “The God Abandons Anthony”. Some excerpts:

“As we explore the lyrics of “Alexandra Leaving”, I ask whether she might sing the song. “Right here, in the bookshop?” Yes.”

“Downstairs, in the shop’s poetry corner, I come across a copy of C P Cavafy’s Collected Poems, translated by Daniel Mendelsohn, whose commentary on “The God Abandons Antony” explains that the title is taken from Plutarch’s Life of Antony. The poem describes the last night on earth of Mark AntonyCleopatra’s lover, as his troops desert him. As Mendelsohn notes, “All Alexandria knew that Antony’s cause was totally lost.” Subsequently defeated, and believing Cleopatra to be dead, Antony takes his own life. Plutarch’s account emphasises the importance of the act of hearing, a “vehicle for apprehending the true significance of what is taking place”. ”

“The connections between the song and the original poem are close. A beloved city (Alexandria, in Egypt) becomes a beloved woman (Alexandra), offering what Cohen has described as “a certain take on loss”. ”

Also today Monty Pelerin’s World publishes “Tyranny Rules”, where the unrelentless process by which the American Republic slides into tyranny is explained. Some Excerpts:

“The Founding Fathers knew the dangers of power and were especially concerned about preventing abuses. They established boundaries beyond which government and its agents were not to exceed. These constraints were codified by laws, a government made up of three equal branches and strong independent states. The Constitution provided the initial laws and defined allocation of power and responsibility among the branches of government and the federal and state governments.”

“Over the course of more than two centuries, these constraints have been under assault by those desiring more power. Time and opportunists have seriously eroded the original intentions and boundaries. “

“Historians in the future will use the concept of freedom to explain America’s decline. Just as increasing freedoms brought success, the diminution of this freedom (tyranny) will eventually be used to explain the downfall. The fall of freedom is the same as the rise of tyranny.”

“America is now run by political sociopaths, unrestricted by laws, ethics or tradition. That characterizes both political parties. It does not matter whether we elect a “good man” next. No country survives dependent on the masses electing the right man.”

“Countries survive with systems that protect them against the wrong man. We have lost that protection.”

Aware of this process it is difficult to avoid the feeling that what Cavafy’s poem and Cohen’s song both convey, of something valuable irretrievably lost, can also be applied to us, that our Alexandria, in western societies, is also lost, and that some of us, too, experience “a certain take on loss”.

Across the Borderland

“When you reach the broken promised land
Every dream slips through your hands
And you’ll know it’s too late to change your mind
’cause you pay the price to come so far
Just to wind up where you are
And you’re still just across the borderline
Now you’re still just across the borderline
And you’re still just across the borderline”

Ryland Peter “Ry” Cooder, born March 15 1947, is an American musician. He is known for his slide guitar work, his interest in roots music from the United States, and, more recently, his collaborations with traditional musicians from many countries. Ry Cooder grew up in Santa Monica, California. His solo work has been eclectic, encompassing folkbluesTex-Mexsoulgospel, rock, and much else. He has collaborated with many musicians, notably including Eric ClaptonThe Rolling StonesVan MorrisonNeil YoungRandy Newman, and The Doobie Brothers. He briefly formed a band named Little Village.

Across the Borderline is a 1993 album by Willie Nelson. It includes songs written by Paul SimonJohn HiattPeter Gabriel, Bob DylanLyle Lovett, and Nelson himself. The title track, “Across the Borderline”, was written by Ry CooderJohn Hiatt, and Jim Dickinson. It is a remake of a song by Freddy Fender, which was featured on the motion picture soundtrack for The Border starring Jack Nicholson.