Posts Tagged ‘Mantovani’

Meeting The Maestro

Friday, March 24th, 2017

A while back – four years ago – I wrote about the Civic Music concerts my sister and I attended with my mom for maybe five years during the mid-1960s: About five times during each school year, we’d put on our Sunday clothes – nice dresses for Mom and my sister and dress shirt and pants with a sport coat and (clip-on) tie for me – and head over to St. Cloud Tech High School for a classical performance.

Those performances were almost always concerts, though once or twice the Civic Music organization offered a performance by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to end the season. Several times the last concert of the season was by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (now the Minnesota Orchestra). And as I wrote four years ago, I recall the piano duo of Stecher & Horowitz and the Robert Shaw Chorale, and there are a few other performers whose names do not come immediately to mind but whose programs are tucked into my old scrapbook.

(In that piece four years ago, however, I ascribed performances by pianist Van Cliburn and by the Vienna Boys Choir to Civic Music; after some thought and some digging, I’ve decided those two concerts likely took place at St. Cloud State.)

I’ve noted several times in various posts here that among the performers who came through St. Cloud was Mantovani, who brought his orchestra to Tech High sometime during the 1965-1966 season, when I was twelve. I don’t have the program from that concert, but I do have an autographed postcard, one that I found a while back as I dug through that scrapbook. As was customary after the concert, Mantovani spent some time onstage while a cluster of urchins and some older folks gathered to talk and to get autographs. Mantovani, ca. 1965 As you can see, the maestro was not at all concerned with legibility. That was okay, though. I have a very clear memory of the man – his full name was Annunzio Paolo Mantovani – standing in his tuxedo near the piano, sweat beading his face as he smiled, chatted and scrawled his name on card after card.

I doubt if Mantovani said anything to me as I got to the front of the cluster of folks at the piano. From what I remember, he was smiling as he chatted with others in that cluster. (Performers weren’t always genial during meet ’n’ greet sessions after Civic Music concerts; I recall a few who seemed downright surly as they dealt with after-concert duties.) But I do not remember that I got any particular attention from Mantovani other than a smile as he handed me the signed postcard.

Even though I’ve always been a fan of easy listening music from the 1960s and 1970s, Mantovani and his cascading strings have never been among my favorites. Ray Conniff and Paul Mauriat were my easy listening guys, more or less, when I was buying vinyl. (I’m not certain if Al Hirt and Herb Alpert fall into easy listening or not, but there was a lot of their stuff on the shelves, too.) Since the advent of digital music, I’ve added Percy Faith, Enoch Light, Larry Page, Franck Pourcel and a lot of others to the list of folks whose music I seek out and whose music I listen to when I need to remember how the Sixties often sounded on Kilian Boulevard.

I have collected a little bit of Mantovani’s stuff, too, but just a bit: fifty-five tracks out of the 91,000 that now clutter the RealPlayer. It’s not that hard to find, and I imagine I’ll get some CDs from the public library and see if I want to add any more. But as I noted above, the cascading strings – Mantovani’s signature sound – isn’t my favorite.

Every once in a while, thought, it’s a nice change of pace. One of the pieces I like most among the Mantovani tracks I have in the collection is one that we very likely might have heard that evening more than fifty years ago. The concert was, if I recall correctly, mostly classical pieces as filtered through Mantovani’s arrangements, and his take on Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dance No. 2” would have fit right in. It was first released, I think, on the 1963 album Classical Encores.

Saturday Single No. 322

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

On the last lap of some errands with my mother yesterday, we crossed the Mississippi River near St. Cloud State and then turned left onto Kilian Boulevard. Only occasionally do our errands take us near there, and when they do, I make sure to drive past the house at the corner of Eighth Street and Kilian, the house where she and Dad lived for forty-six years and where she stayed for another eighteen months without him.

The house has new owners: The young family that bought the house from her has sold it, and a new young family lives there now. As we pass the house, she looks closely to see if there are any obvious changes. Nothing stands out this winter. Summertimes have shown a few different flowers along the walk and a different set of shrubs in the back yard, but that’s about it.

There are changes, however, inside the house. When it was on the market a couple years ago, Mom, along with my sister and my cousin, took advantage of an open house and went through the place. Mom didn’t care for some of the new wallpaper: It made the dining room too dark, she said, and I got the sense that she felt a little offended that anyone would change things in her house.

And it’s still her house. It always will be. It made sense to sell it eight years ago, and it made sense eighteen months later for Mom to move into an assisted living center, but the house on Kilian Boulevard will always be hers. I understand that. I spent only two years in Minot, North Dakota, about twenty-five years ago. The house where I lived was near the Souris River and was certainly damaged, if not destroyed, by the disastrous flood during the summer of 2011. That pains me. And if I feel something for a home I lived in for just two years a quarter-century ago, what must Mom feel for the house on Kilian where she spent more than half her life?

So we drive by whenever our errands take us near there. Sometimes we go down the alley, so she can see how the flower bed by the garage looks. When we last drove that way during autumn, she noted with a grimace that the row of bricks behind the garage – laid down to separate the lawn from the steep bank down to the alley – needs to be aligned. But  she also noted that the trashcan stand that my dad made out of galvanized pipe more than fifty years ago still looks sturdy.

Mom turned ninety-one on the first of the month. She’s moving a bit more slowly these days, but she still uses the stairs instead of the elevator when she comes down to get her mail or to wait for me to pick her up. There are days when she doesn’t feel up to going out, days when I pick up her shopping list and run her errands alone. Ninety-one years is a long time. As I similarly wrote a couple of months ago about the age my father would be if he were still alive, that’s a length of time I cannot grasp.

I have a good memory, and sometimes the weight of the memories I carry in my head and heart feels heavier than I’d like. If anything, my mother has a better memory than I do, and I wonder sometimes about the weight of her memories. Quite often, during our nearly weekly lunches at the Ace Bar & Grill, I’ll ask her a question designed to get her talking about her childhood, her youth or the early days with Dad. As I listen, I often learn something, and I hope that telling her tales makes the weight of her memories just a little bit lighter.

One of the best songs ever written about memories is “Try to Remember” from the 1960 musical The Fantasticks. Ignore the fact that the lyrics are written from a male point of view – recall the “callow fellow” – and just hear the song’s title as the tune begins. Then let the song take you to your own Kilian Boulevard. This lush version by Mantovani and his orchestra (whom Mom and I saw in concert many years ago) comes from the 1971 album From Mantovani With Love, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.