Bali Ha’i here I come

by Keith Clarke

If you’re in the classical music business and say you don’t much care for musicals, everyone just assumes you’re a musical snob. So I shall be turning up at London’s Barbican Theater tonight for the Lincoln Center production of South Pacific wearing as much of a smile as I can muster. But truth to tell, when it comes to musicals, a little goes an awfully long way for me.

True, I took to Showboat, and always include a few numbers from it in my let’s-scare-the-neighbors soirées, but Jerome Kern’s great (though overlong) score is an honorable exception.

I blame my lack of enthusiasm for musicals on a traumatic childhood. In my vulnerable early teens, we lived in a bungalow built on a former hop field in the county of Kent. Hop fields are jolly useful, because they produce the wherewithal for producing the fine ale that the Brits are famous for drinking warm. Bungalows have their uses, too, of course, but the problem with ours was that the design of the new housing estate meant that each pair of dwellings had bathrooms facing each other.

That need not have been a problem but for Ken Tripp. He was our neighbor, a salesman for a local floor tile company, and an enthusiastic member of LAMPS (the Local Amateur Musical Players – still going strong after all these years, and currently preparing a production of The Producers). They always seemed to have a new show in production – Carousel, White Horse Inn, you name it – and Ken’s favorite rehearsal venue was the bath tub.

So I would be minding my own business, enjoying a peaceful soak, when this awful whine would start up, like a troubled bison approaching at speed through the woods: “Ooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaak! Lahoma where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain.” And so on and so on.

What was worse, I didn’t just have to suffer the rehearsals. My parents were good, neighbor-supporting folk, who thought we ought to book tickets at the local town hall for every production and sit through the whole damned show.

No doubt this South Pacific will be my moment of epiphany. Certainly the editor of this site suggests that I should stop only at murder to get tickets. And we’re making up a party for a family birthday, the birthday boy in question being a dyed-in-the-wool South Pacific fan, so expectation is running high. Wish me luck.


The hi-jacking of the Israel Philharmonic Prom last week by protesters got all the column inches they may have wished, though rather less support. The UK communications minister Ed Vaizey, who was in the audience, tweeted: “Demonstrators seem to have turned entire audience pro-Israel.”

It was the biggest such rumpus in the Royal Albert Hall since Rostropovich played the Dvořák cello concerto with the USSR State Symphony Orchestra in 1968 on the very day that Russia’s tanks rolled into Prague. I was in the audience for that, and have never heard such a highly charged performance, the Russian cellist playing through tears.

The Palestinian protest has at least served to get some issues debated, and as is usual when the placards come out in the UK, it was not without its moments of humor. I particularly enjoyed the vision of one lady of a certain age mounting her own personal counter-campaign against the protesters, cuffing one of them round his neck with her walking stick.

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