Friday, May 31, 2013

Ramesses II becomes Pharaoh of Egypt ~ May 31, 1279 B.C.E.

Ramesses II (also known as Ramesses the Great and alternatively transcribed as Ramses and Rameses *Riʕmīsisu; also known as Ozymandias in the Greek sources, from a transliteration into Greek of a part of Ramesses' throne name, User-maat-re Setep-en-re) was the third Egyptian pharaoh of the Nineteenth dynasty. He is often regarded as Egypt's greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh. His successors and later Egyptians called him the "Great Ancestor".
He was born around 1303 BC and at age fourteen, Ramesses was appointed Prince Regent by his father Seti I. He is believed to have taken the throne in his early 20s and to have ruled Egypt from 1279 BC to 1213 BC for a total of 66 years and 2 months, according to Manetho. He was once said to have lived to be 99 years old, but it is more likely that he died in his 90th or 91st year. If he became Pharaoh in 1279 BC as most Egyptologists today believe, he would have assumed his throne on May 31, 1279 BC, based on his known accession date of III Sheu day 27. Ramesses II celebrated an unprecedented 14 sed festivals during his reign—more than any other pharaoh. On his death, he was buried in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings; his body was later moved to a royal cache where it was discovered in 1881, and is now on display in the Cairo Museum.
Ramesses II led several expeditions north into the lands east of the Mediterranean (the location of the modern Israel, Lebanon and Syria). He also led expeditions to the south, into Nubia, commemorated in inscriptions at Beit el-Wali and Gerf Hussein.

The early part of his reign was focused on building cities, temples and monuments. He established the city of Pi-Ramesses in the Nile Delta as his new capital and main base for his campaigns in Syria. This city was built on the remains of the city of Avaris, the capital of the Hyksos when they took over, and was the location of the main Temple of Set.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Founding of St. Petersburg ~ May 27, 1703

Photo of Winter Palace courtesy Robert Breuer:

Saturday, May 25, 2013

H.M.S. PINAFORE London Opening ~ May 25, 1878

Image from a D'Oyly Carte Opera Company souvenir programme, dated 23 January

Just before moving to San Francisco in 1973, I directed a church production of H.M.S. Pinafore and played Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B., First Lord of the Admiralty, with the delightful song "When I was a lad." (I polished up the handle of the big front door.) That was for the Wednesday School at my Dad's church, Grace United Methodist in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

GUSTAV MAHLER ~~ July 7, 1860 ~ May 18, 1911

Gustav Mahler; (7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was a late-Romantic Bohemian-Austrian composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer, he acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. While in his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of relative neglect which included a ban on its performance in much of Europe during the Nazi era. After 1945 the music was discovered and championed by a new generation of listeners; Mahler then became one of the most frequently performed and recorded of all composers, a position he has sustained into the 21st century.
Born in humble circumstances, Mahler showed his musical gifts at an early age. After graduating from the Vienna Conservatory in 1878, he held a succession of conducting posts of rising importance in the opera houses of Europe, culminating in his appointment in 1897 as director of the Vienna Court Opera (Hofoper). During his ten years in Vienna, Mahler—who had converted to Catholicism from Judaism to secure the post—experienced regular opposition and hostility from the anti-Semitic press. Nevertheless, his innovative productions and insistence on the highest performance standards ensured his reputation as one of the greatest of opera conductors, particularly as an interpreter of the stage works of Wagner and Mozart. Late in his life he was briefly director of New York's Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic.
Mahler's oeuvre is relatively small—for much of his life composing was a part-time activity, secondary to conducting—and is confined to the genres of symphony and song, except for one piano quartet. Most of his ten symphonies are very large-scale works, several of which employ soloists and choirs in addition to augmented orchestral forces. These works were often controversial when first performed, and were slow to receive critical and popular approval; an exception was the triumphant premiere of his Eighth Symphony in 1910. Mahler's immediate musical successors were the composers of the Second Viennese School, notably Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern. Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten are among later 20th-century composers who admired and were influenced by Mahler. The International Gustav Mahler Institute was established in 1955, to honour the composer's life and work.
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Mahler is one of my favorite composers. I sang in the chorus for the Second Symphony with the Yale Symphony Orchestra back in college. Later I sang it again with the San Francisco Symphony. I sang in the chorus for the Eight Symphony for the opening of Davies Symphony Hall, I think in 1980. Both of those are thrilling choral-orchestral works. My favorite sections of Mahler, however, are the Adagios, particularly the last movement of the Third and Ninth Symphonies -- also the slow movement of the Sixth.

JOHN PAUL II ~ May 18, 1920 ~ April 2, 2005

Friday, May 17, 2013

ERIK SATIE ~ May 17, 1866 ~ July 1, 1925


Éric Alfred Leslie Satie (Honfleur, 17 May 1866 – Paris, 1 July 1925) was a French composer and pianist. Starting with his first composition in 1884, he signed his name as Erik Satie.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI ~ baptized May 15, 1567 ~ November 29, 1643

Claudio Monteverdi in 1640 by Bernardo Strozzi.
Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi (15 May 1567 (baptized) – 29 November 1643) was an Italian composer, gambist, and singer.
Monteverdi's work, often regarded as revolutionary, marked the transition from the Renaissance style of music to that of the Baroque period. He developed two individual styles of composition: the new basso continuo technique of the Baroque and the heritage of Renaissance polyphony. Enjoying fame in his lifetime, he wrote one of the earliest operas, L'Orfeo, which is still regularly performed.

Claudio Monteverdi, circa 1597, by an anonymous artist, (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford). Thought to be the earliest known image of Monteverdi, at about age 30, painted when he was still at the Gonzaga Court in Mantua.

Claudio Monteverdi was born in 1567 in Cremona, a town in Northern Italy. His father was Baldassare Monteverdi, a doctor, apothecary and surgeon. He was the oldest of five children. During his childhood, he was taught by Marc'Antonio Ingegnei, the maestro di cappella (The Maestro di capella’s job was to conduct important worship services in accordance with the liturgy books of the Roman Catholic Church.), at the Cathedral of Cremona. Monteverdi learned about music by being part of the cathedral choir. He also studied at the University of Cremona. His first music was written for publication, including some motets and sacred madrigals, in 1582 and 1583. His first five compositions were: Cantiunculae Sacrae, 1582; Madrigal Spirituali, 1583; the three-part canzonets, 1584; and the five-part madrigals– Book I, 1587, and Book II, 1590. By 1587, he had produced his first book of secular madrigals. Monteverdi worked for the court of Mantua first as a singer and violist, then as music director. He worked at the court of Vincenzo I of Gonzaga in Mantua as a vocalist and viol player. In 1602, he was working as the court conductor.

In 1599 Monteverdi married the court singer Claudia Cattaneo, who died in September 1607. He and his wife had two boys and one girl, who died shortly after birth.
By 1613, he had moved to the San Marco in Venice where, as conductor, he quickly restored the musical standard of both the choir and the instrumentalists. The musical standard had declined due to the financial mismanagement of his predecessor, Giulio Cesare Martinengo. The managers of the basilica were relieved to have such a distinguished musician in charge, as the music had been declining since the death of Giovanni Croce in 1609.
In 1632, he became a priest. During the last years of his life, when he was often ill, he composed his two last masterpieces: Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (The Return of Ulysses, 1641), and the historic opera L'incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea, 1642), based on the life of the infamous Roman emperor Nero. L'incoronazione especially is considered a culminating point of Monteverdi's work. It contains tragic, romantic, and comedic scenes (a new development in opera), a more realistic portrayal of the characters, and warmer melodies than previously heard It requires a smaller orchestra, and has a less prominent role for the choir. For a long period of time, Monteverdi's operas were merely regarded as a historical or musical interest. Since the 1960s, The Coronation of Poppea has re-entered the repertoire of major opera companies worldwide.
Monteverdi died in Venice on November 29, 1643 and was buried at the church of the Frari.
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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

John Stuart Mill ~ May 20, 1806 ~ May 8, 1873

John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 – 8 May 1873) was a British philosopher and civil servant. An influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy, his conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. He was a proponent of utilitarianism, an ethical theory developed by Jeremy Bentham, although his conception of it was very different from Bentham's. Hoping to remedy the problems found in an inductive approach to science, such as confirmation bias, he clearly set forth the premises of falsification as the key component in the scientific method. Mill was also a Member of Parliament and an important figure in liberal political philosophy.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

JOHANNES BRAHMS ~ May 7, 1833 – April 3, 1897

One of my all-time favorite composers. As a young man he showed an uncanny resemblance to Bob Bruner, my college roommate, who is now Dean of the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia. You can understand how Clara Schumann was smitten. I guess it really was the other way around. Still, he was then quite the catch.



Ludwig van Beethoven was completely deaf when he composed his ninth symphony.
The Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral" is the last complete symphony composed by Ludwig van Beethoven. Completed in 1824, the choral Ninth Symphony is one of the best known works of the Western repertoire, considered both an icon and a forefather of Romantic music, and one of Beethoven's greatest masterpieces.
Symphony No. 9 incorporates part of An die Freude ("Ode to Joy"), a poem by Friedrich Schiller written in 1785 (first published in 1786 in the poet's own literary journal, Thalia), with text sung by soloists and a chorus in the last movement. It is the first example of a major composer using the human voice on the same level with instruments in a symphony, creating a work of a grand scope that set the tone for the Romantic symphonic form.
Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 plays a prominent cultural role in the world today. In particular, the music from the fourth movement (Ode to Joy) was rearranged by Herbert von Karajan into what is now called the Anthem of Europe. Further testament to its prominence is that an original manuscript of this work sold in 2003 for $3.3 million USD at Sotheby's, London. Stephen Roe, the head of Sotheby's manuscripts department, described the symphony as "one of the highest achievements of man, ranking alongside Shakespeare’s Hamlet and King Lear."
Text courtesy:

Monday, May 6, 2013

La Tour EIFFEL~ Official Opening May 6, 1889

Photo: Rudiger Wolk, Munster, Germany

The Eiffel Tower (French: Tour Eiffel, [tuʁ ɛfɛl]) is a 19th century iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars in Paris that has become both a global icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The Eiffel Tower, which is the tallest building in Paris, is the single most visited paid monument in the world; millions of people ascend it every year. Named after its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel, the tower was built as the entrance arch for the 1889 World's Fair.
The tower stands 324 m (1,063 ft) tall, about the same height as an 81-story building. It was the tallest man-made structure in the world from its completion until 1930, when it was eclipsed by the Chrysler Building in New York City. Not including broadcast antennas, it is the second-tallest structure in France, behind the Millau Viaduct, completed in 2004.
The tower has three levels for visitors. Tickets can be purchased to ascend either on stair or lift to the first and second levels. The walk to the first level is over 300 steps, as is the walk from the first to the second level. The third and highest level is accessible only by lift. Both the first and second levels feature restaurants.
The tower has become the most prominent symbol of both Paris and France, often in the establishing shot of films set in the city.
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Sunday, May 5, 2013


Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for "Fifth of May") is a regional holiday in Mexico, primarily celebrated in the state of Puebla, with some limited recognition in other parts of Mexico. The holiday commemorates the Mexican army's unlikely defeat of French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín.

The Battle was significant for at least two reasons. First, while outnumbered almost two-to-one, the Mexicans defeated a much better-equipped French army that had known no defeat for almost 50 years. Second, this battle was important because it would be "the last time that an army from another continent invaded the Americas. While significant, however, Cinco de Mayo is not an obligatory federal holiday in Mexico.

While Cinco de Mayo has limited or no significance nationwide in Mexico, the date is observed in the United States and other locations around the world as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. However, a common misconception in the United States is that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's Independence Day. Mexico's Independence Day is actually September 16 (dieciséis de septiembre in Spanish), which is the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico.
Courtesy:wikipedia .com


Koinobori (The large carp at the top represents the father, the second carp represents the eldest son, and additional carp are added to represent each subsequent son with color and position denoting their relative age.)

Kodomo no Hi (こどもの日, meaning "Children's Day") is a Japanese national holiday which takes place annually on May 5, the fifth day of the fifth month, and is part of the Golden Week. It is a day set aside to respect children's personalities and to celebrate their happiness. It was designated a National holiday by the Japanese government in 1948.

The day was originally called Tango no Sekku (端午の節句 ), and was celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th moon in the lunar calendar or Chinese calendar. After Japan's switch to the Gregorian calendar, the date was moved to May 5th on the Gregorian calendar. The festival is still celebrated in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as the Duanwu Festival or Duen Ng Festival (Cantonese), in Korea as the Dano Festival, and Vietnam as the Tt Đoan Ng on the traditional lunar calendar date.

Sekku means a season's festival (there are five sekku per year). Tango no Sekku marks the beginning of summer or the rainy season. Tan means "edge" or "first" and go means "noon."(It also means 5) In Chinese culture, the fifth month of the Chinese calendar was said to be a month for purification, and many rites that were said to drive away evil spirits were performed.

Until recently, Tango no Sekku was known as Boys' Day (also known as Feast of Banners) while Girls' Day (Hinamatsuri) was celebrated on March 3. In 1948, the government decreed this day to be a national holiday to celebrate the happiness of all children and to express gratitude toward mothers. It was renamed Kodomo no Hi. There is some concern that, despite its renaming, it is still Boys' Day and it is inappropriate that Boys' Day is a national holiday, while Girls' Day is not.

Before this day, families raise the carp-shaped koinobori flags (carp because of the Chinese legend that a carp that swims upstream becomes a dragon, and the way the flags blow in the wind looks like they are swimming), one for each boy (or child), display a Kintarō doll usually riding on a large carp, and the traditional Japanese military helmet, kabuto. Kintarō and the kabuto are symbols of a strong and healthy boy.

Saturday, May 4, 2013



Description: Mary Ann Vecchio gestures and screams as she kneels by the body of a student, Jeffrey Miller, lying face down on the campus of Kent State University, in Kent, Ohio. On publication, the image was retouched to remove the fencepost above Vecchio's head.
Source: © 1970 Valley News-Dispatch
Date: 1970-05-04

Forty-three years ago, I had dropped out of college for a semester and was working in a small family grocery store next to the Yale Co-op. Yale was already on strike in support of the Black Panthers on trial at the courthouse by the New Haven Green. It was a strange time. I had a completely different perspective on things now that I wasn't living on campus. I was staying with a seventy-eight year old widow, Marie Bronson, Mrs. Clarence Bronson, whose husband had been Yale Class of 1900. Two of Mrs. B's daughters had been friends of my father when he was at Yale Divinity in the 1930's. Marie became one of my best friends.

On May 1st, President Nixon ordered the invasion of Cambodia (which ended up completely destabilizing that country). There were demonstrations and strikes on campuses all around the U.S. On May 4th the Ohio National Guard overreacted to demonstrations at Kent State University. The result is shown in the photograph above.

Friday, May 3, 2013

MARCEL DUPRE ~ May 3, 1886 ~ May 30, 1971


Marcel Dupré (3 May 1886 – 30 May 1971) French organist, pianist, composer, and pedagogue.

GOYA'S Painting The Third of May, 1808

One of Napoleon's biggest mistakes was his interference in Spain, where he set his brother Joseph on the Spanish throne. French brutality against nationalist partisans helped foment united resistance to French rule, as was depicted by Francisco Jose de Goya in his painting above. The resulting Peninsula Wars gave Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington, his first victories against the French Emperor.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

J. Edgar Hoover ~ January 1, 1895 ~ May 2, 1972 edgar-hoover-bulldog

John Edgar Hoover (January 1, 1895 – May 2, 1972) was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation—predecessor to the FBI—in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972. Hoover is credited with building the FBI into a large and efficient crime-fighting agency, and with instituting a number of modern innovations to police technology, such as a centralized fingerprint file and forensic laboratories.

Late in life, and after his death, Hoover became an increasingly controversial figure. His critics have accused him of exceeding the jurisdiction of the FBI. He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and to collect evidence using illegal methods. It is because of Hoover's long and controversial reign that FBI directors are now limited to 10-year terms.

Titian in the Frari (Venezia)