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Photo by Dan Chapman ©2001 Stanyan Entertainment Group

A Thought for Today

Plant something in a friend’s garden. Even if it’s only a new idea.

 

Good Monday morning. I hope you had some refreshment over the weekend and better still that you feel refreshed for the week ahead. On to the mail.

JULIE ANDREWS’ FACE

Dear Mr. McKuen, I am not sure if you ever comment on particular lines of your poems but here goes! This work is one of my greatest favorites of yours and I enjoy reading it myself and, from the same book, both reading and listening to a recording of you reading, The Art of Catching Trains.

What I have always wondered is this ... 'Three' is one of the most fabulous love poems every written. It is whimsical yet visceral. It is delicate yet crude. What made you place such a devastating last sentence on this piece?

"I've yet to think of last week's friend or Julie Andrews' face."
Yours respectfully, Simon Allen, Herts, United Kingdom


Dear Simon, From the time I start a poem until it is finished it seems to take on a life of its own. Often it feels as if the poem is writing me.

I fanaticize about a lot of things and long before I met her and we became not close but pretty good friends and mutual admirers, Julie Andrews was a fantasy figure to me.

The “San Francisco Morning” poems are very personal and I suppose I was trying to say that while the mind is given to its wanderings, once it fixates on something special outer thoughts and musings cease. Does that make any sense to you?

I find it very difficult to explain a poem, account for its meaning and impossible to describe the process that produces a particular work.

For me, poems happen – sometimes they come easily and often writing a single sentence or verse is as heavy and hard as any manual labor I’ve ever been involved in.

Considering what has come before it, the Julie Andrews line is indeed devastating, but the poem is what it is. Warmly, Rod

ROD & JERRY HERMAN: ANOTHER APPEARANCE

Dear Rod: I can't keep up with you--Ann has been keeping me abreast of your schedule. We are so happy for you AND US with all these new Concerts. It was about one year ago that Dave and I first met you -- I can't believe how wonderful it has been. Please, Please when is that Fall Jerry Herman concert? I am saving my pennies for it. And dreaming of hearing your voice once more. Much love and happiness to you. Nan

Dear Nan, Sorry It’s taken a while for me to get back to you with “The Salute to Jerry Herman” Concert date, but I finally have it. It takes place at the Luckman theatre in Los Angeles (where we met last year) on Saturday Evening November 10th. So far the other guest performers include Jane Oliver, Carol Chaining, Susan Johnson, Brian Green & Leroy Reims with a lot more names to be announced.

Of course David Galligan is producing and directing again with Ron Ables conducting the orchestra. To have been able to sing “Look For the Silver Lining” at a Jerome Kern tribute, then “September Song” at the Kurt Weill Centenary and now be involved with a Jerry Herman salute would be special to any performer, but it sends me over the moon. Jerry is an old friend and to sing one of his major songs (and I do mean major) with him in the audience is, well let’s just say very special indeed.

Thanks Nan for being so patient while I tried to discern the date. As usual as soon as I know more about the ticket availability, Ken will post it. Luv, as ever. Rod

CHAMBER MUSIC

Dear Rod It was great meeting you at our ‘51 50 year reunion in San Ramon! Thank you so much for your book and CDs, I've really enjoyed them. I don't know if you ever heard me play the violin. I always got to play for assemblies and was concertmaster of the orchestra.

I Was also soloist with the Oakland Symphony in our senior year. Jim Lieberman and I had a trio (with various pianists). That started my love for chamber music which is about all I have played for the last 40 years.

So, the question is: Where do I find your piano trios and quartets? Wouldn't it be a kick for your works to be performed by classmates 50+ years later? Love, Doralyn (Parkins) Poirier


Dear Doralyn, Not only do I remember you from our days at Tech but I was disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to speak with you or Jim at greater length during the reunion. I remember you playing solo at assemblies and that even you gave your instrument a sweet tone. I never realized you were concertmaster of the orchestra or that you played with the Oakland Symphony.

With so many arts programs having been cut from today’s schools it’s almost astonishing to remember that at Tech we had a fine orchestra and drawn from that a good marching band. We had a pretty versatile choir too and a drama department run by an often quirky (aren’t all drama teachers a little off the wall?) but very committed instructor who inspired all of us in her class.

I can’t imagine anything nicer than hearing my trios and quartets played by you and Jim & the pianist and reed player of your choice. In fact, if you end up liking them enough to learn them I’d even consider recording them with you. Every good musician deserves to be recorded. What a thrill it would be to have my music come full circle with my classmates.

I like very much the recordings made by The Rachmaninoff Trio of the trios and quartets and they are scheduled to come out on CD coupled with my Piano Concerto #1, Birch Trees (for piano & Orchestra,) several of my sonatas, and "Night" from my Cantata "The City." They’ll be on a 2 CD set entitled "Piano Works."

I was driven to listening to and then composing classical music when I found myself unable to get much from popular music after it took a turn my ears objected to. In the beginning I was drawn to large-scale works but like you ended up appreciating chamber music because of its intimacy and the interplay (very conversational) between just a few instruments with no leader.

The Trios and quartets have not been published but there’s no reason I couldn’t dig out the parts from my music library and get them copied for you. I'll send you my phone number and lets talk about it.

I want to write more chamber works and since my classical music seems to be played more often and most of my commissions come from there, I suppose I’ll have to turn to overseas sources to continue composing music in a classical vein.

I’m pleased you like the new book and CD’s. When I was scoring the CD’s I turned to some of my classical compositions so try listening again carefully & you’ll hear several of the trios in the mix.

Thanks for an inspiring letter. As a man known better for his poetry and popular songs I need the encouragement a letter like yours provides to keep my enthusiasm for formal writing moving forward. Luv, Rod.

THE FISHERMAN IN BLUE

You are probably going to be flooded with requests, so let me add my name to the list - any way you can scan a picture in one of your flight plans of the Fisherman in Blue? I loved that piece and would love to see for myself one of your inspirations. Deb

Dear Deb, The Blue Fisherman has followed me from house to house over the years but has never made known his intentions to be photographed or scanned. I think I’ll pass on this request, but thanks for asking all the same. As ever, Rod

WORKS

Is the majority of your work from past experience or mere ponderings? You're the greatest! RUREADY2RHUMBA

Dear RU, Thanks for the compliment. No poem ever comes along the same road as the last one did. Every writer combines reality and inspiration in different measure at different times. For instance tomorrow’s Flight Plan closes with the opening poem from “The Sea Around Me,” written in 1976. It is a long and very honest account of a summer I spent in Santa Monica 20 years before. It is accurate enough to be reportage and 43 years later it is as vivid to me as when it happened. All of my poems are not as accurate in their detail as this one is, but each springs from an element of truth or they wouldn’t connect as often with others as I’m told they do. Best Regards, Rod. PS: Great handle.

IN SEARCH OF EROS

I have been trying for a long time to get "In Search of Eros" on tape and compact disk. Everyone is out of stock and I am sure that I am not the only one in need. Could you possibly advise me where I can get a copy? Respectfully, M.J.Miller

Dear MJ, “In Search of Eros” is available on cassette from Stanyan By Mail, but there’s no CD of it yet. All the best, Rod

THE FINAL WORD

This was written by Frederick Earl Gary and submitted by
Sharonann.

THE TRUTH IN 13 WORDS

Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the hell happened.

Two more valuable and talented people have left us.

Arlene Francis and I go way back to the 1950’s. We met when she was a panelist on a quiz show and I was a contestant. In later years we became close friends. She was one of the six people Frank Sinatra invited to hear my demo of “A Man Alone" the night I first played it for him. She told Frank, “I want the first copy when it’s completed.” She got it and it was one of less than a dozen copies we both signed. Arlene was a sweet and talented woman and a better writer than most people ever released. She was concerned, dependable and beautiful as a friend.

I knew Hank Ketcham only slightly. I met him through Bill Melendez who did the animation for both “Peanuts” and “Dennis the Menace” and Lee Mendelson the longtime producer of both series for film and television. The common denominator for the father of Charlie Brown and Dennis is that they were both kind men. The supply of kindness is always in short supply. On that level alone Hank Ketcham will be badly missed. As for the smiles of recognition and morning escape, who can estimate the number that have passed across our faces over the years because of him.

Go meet the angels.

Sleep warm.

RM 6/2/2001 Previously unpublished

Two new appearance dates just announced!

Booking for "An Evening with Rod McKuen" at the Riverton Rendezvous is open! Click below for more details:

Concert & Appearance Details

notable birthdays Robert Anderson o Gene Barry o John Drew Barrymore o Charles Collingswood o Bruce Dern o Freddy Fender o King George III of England o Sam Harris o Angelina Jolie o Morgana King o Robert Merrill o Michelle Phillips o Rosalind Russell o Parker Stevenson o Dennis Weaver o Dr. Ruth Westheimer o Scott Wolf o Noah Wylie
Rod's random thoughts There are angels in the alcoves we have never met but will.

Being born amid the wealth and health of this prized nation, without the need to earn or win your share, is to be yet unborn.

Loving for the sake of love, serves as much purpose as hating for the sake of hate.

SUN SONG

The sun is in full flight
                   but hovering,
guarding us
and saying I approve.

Your bare shoulders
brown like brown.
And now you move,
turn slowly
so that I might see
the bottoms of your feet
then move my eyes
the length and breadth
of your whole body.

The sun's approval
won so easily
and he's been making
love to you all day.

Aware of my turn now
he slips behind a cloud.

Riding home
from Saint Giles Church
I made a new
cantata for you.
All brass and heavy
but gentle with Cuban rhythm,
something you might
bend and sway to
underneath tomorrow
or the next day's sun.

-from "Coming Close To The Earth," 1977, 1978

 
© 1968, 1977, 1978, 1995, 2001 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Coordinated by Melinda Smith
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