October 19, 2010


October 19, 2010


At today’s meeting, President Vivienne Carey reminded members that we gather Big Y coins in the white box at the podium and nonperishable foodstuffs to benefit the Amherst Survival Center, and that we might take Susie Lowenstein’s lead in bringing the likes of warm hats and scarves for the Center as the cold weather descends.  Books and magazines are taken to Cooley-Dickinson Hospital.  

She encourages those who make announcements to also write them out on chits available on the back table at lunch and give them to the day’s note-taker.  

Vivienne announced the sad news that Cynthia Brubaker has lost her sister, to whom she was especially close, to cancer recently. 

Vivienne noted that our newest member, Amanda Lang, a curator at the Deerfield Museum, will be inducted at a Tuesday lunch soon.



Joan Hanson brought Alice Swift, who is active in the League of Women Voters and is currently working on the issue of Single Payer Health Care.

Rachel Mustin’s guests were her daughter, Sharon Hare, visiting from Los Angeles and her son, Christopher Hare, here from Albuquerque.

Ellen Kosmer introduced Debbie Windeloski, a landscape designer who also, with her husband, owns Carmelina’s Restaurant.

A cadre of VLO staffers came to hear Michael Greenebaum’s talk today:   Bill and Sally Venman, founders of VLO;  Jim Ellis, a frequent director and actor, and Trish Farringdon;  Mary Jane Disco, stage director of “Iolanthe”;  Ken Sammonds, costume designer and builder;  Lew Jordan, set builder;  Jim and Elaine Walker, VLO treasurer and costume designer; and Carl Erickson, stage manager.



Arthur Kinney: Two free events in the Renaissance Center’s Reading Room this week:  4 pm on Wed., Oct. 20, a free talk and demonstration of the printing press given by Penni Martorell; and 7:30 pm on Fri., Oct. 22, a showing of “The Bard,” a short film about the death of Christopher Marlowe.

Rachel Mustin: Candidate’s night sponsored by the League of Women Voters at 7:15 pm on Wed., Oct. 20, at the Amherst middle school, with candidates for state and national political offices.

Jean Miller: A short meeting of the Party Committee following lunch today.

Ruth Hooke: “Rise Up Singing,” a concert with singers Peter Blood and Annie Patterson on Sat. evening at 7:30 pm at Northampton Friends Meeting, 43 Center St., Northampton.



Phyllis Lehrer introduced today’s presenter, the redoubtably knowledgeable Michael Greenebaum speaking on Gilbert and Sullivan as a team writing lyrics and music, respectively, and on “Iolanthe,” this fall’s Valley Light Opera offering. 


Michael noted that Gilbert and Sullivan didn’t much like each other and volubly complained about one another.  The wonder is that each partner inspired the other to write musicals with tunes, lyrics, and dialogue that were both witty and sublimely beautiful.  Though each man achieved professional success aside from their jointly written works, what they wrote together ascended to great popularity in England and abroad, especially after producing the three “Ps”: Pinafore, Pirates, and Patience.


Michael focused on “Iolanthe,” exploring the added depth that Gilbert and Sullivan brought to the musical they wrote after the three Ps and hoping that his explication would entice folks to attend the play this November.  He recalled that Gilbert and Sullivan were unhappy with the success of their early plays, which parodied the British peerage, because they felt that they could do better.  Along with their stock dim-witted characters and quickly worded songs, in “Iolanthe” they impacted playgoers’ emotions by introducing fairies, which in English literature are often malicious and invested with supernatural power.  Via the appearance of fairies, Gilbert and Sullivan introduced deeply considered questions of life and death, danger, mischief, and aging.  Such issues, together with a sense of yearning that cannot be acted upon, suffuse “Iolanthe” and their later musicals.


Michael pointed out that the overture to “Iolanthe” departs from tradition in two ways, in that, Sullivan, who did not usually write overtures himself, wrote this one, and in that this overture is not the usual medley of tunes that later appear throughout the play but, rather, contains tunes that never appear again as the play unfolds.  “Iolanthe” is a watershed Gilbert and Sullivan musical for yet another reason: an individualized musical motif accompanies the appearance of the fairies and each main character.  If his talk had not so far beckoned today’s audience to attend the play, Michael’s description of the “grandest finale” in all of Gilbert and Sullivan at the end of Act One may do the trick.  He described that finale as a “cascading waterfall of 18 melodies that set up a dramatic situation that will be resolved in a later act.”  Your scribe has been bitten by the lure of “Iolanthe”!


Michael and some of his VLO guests responded to questions thusly. VLO is community theatre in that the cast is not paid, but many are professional singers.  The best acoustics are in the middle to back orchestra.  Costumes are a mix of newly made ones and decades-old ones that are reworked for anew.  The company is made up of 8-to 88-year olds, with enough younger people that Michael feels secure that VLO will enjoy a hearty future.


Chris Blauvelt won the wine.

Joan Hanson won the cash.


Your scribe, Jacquie Price