Paris Between the Wars – “Y” is for Maurice Yvain

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Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Maurice Yvain
Maurice Yvain

Born in Paris in 1891, Maurice Yvain was a French composer noted for his operettas of the 1920s and 1930s. The son of a trumpet-playing musician, young Maurice excelled as a pianist, and co-wrote the song “Mon Homme” (My Man) – you probably know the English version sung by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl.

In the 1920s, he began to compose operettas, 18 in all; his satirical “Ta Bouche” (Your Mouth) of 1922 was a particular success. The sequels which followed were the “Pas sur la Bouche” (Not on the Mouth) and the “Bouche a Bouche” (Mouth to Mouth) and both further established the musical virtuosity of Yvain.

Thanks to his success in the United States, several of his pieces appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway.

Paris Between the Wars – “I” is for Jacques Ibert

A2Z-BADGE 2016-smaller_zpslstazvib

Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Jacques Ibert
Jacques Ibert

Jacques Ibert (1890-1962) was a French composer.  He wrote (sometimes in collaboration with other composers) seven operas, five ballets, incidental music for plays and films, choral work, and chamber music. In addition to composing, Ibert was active as a conductor and in musical administration.

During World War II, he spent some time in exile in Switzerland while the Nazis occupied France.

Here is a lovely piece composed by Ibert


Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “M” is for MONTREAL

My husband says it’s like going to Europe without the hassle of a long, cramped flight. That’s true, since we live in New England. Each time I’ve traveled to Montreal, I’ve been in a car. I remember the time my college buddy Glenn and I drove up, after visiting with our friend Judy and her family in Vermont. It’s an easy drive from Vermont. We went to a comedy club and somehow the guy on stage found out that my buddy was a lawyer. Oh, it was priceless.

Back then, the American dollar went a very long way in Canada. We lived and ate very well on very little. Now, not so much.

My sister and I drove there, again from Vermont, for a day trip. Climbed up Mount Royal (for which the city is named), shopped on Sainte-Catherine Street.

photo by M. Reynolds
Montreal – photo by M. Reynolds

Jim and I traveled there in 2001 for our wedding anniversary, which is in late October. The Hilton Montreal Bonaventure is right in the middle of downtown, and I think the Montreal Canadiens hockey team played in the arena at street level. The hotel is above the arena. It has a swimming pool, outside, but it’s open year-round (or at least it was when we were there). So why not? You change and enter the pool from the toasty indoors, and the water’s nice and warm, but it was really cold outside the day we went for a dip – I’m talking icicles in our hair! We also found what would become one of our favorite restaurants everLa Gargote. What a jewel. When we returned to Montreal in 2010, I was afraid it might have disappeared, but it was there. And we were welcomed back like old friends. Oh, the wondrous fish soup. The roasted duck. The profiteroles. Perfection.

Last time we were in Montreal, we stayed at The Queen Elizabeth, which is now run by the Fairmont group of hotels, and it was very, very nice. I like the tradition known as “Cinq à sept” (five to seven), which is really an extended cocktail hour. The Queen Elizabeth knows how to do Cinq à sept quite well. They do everything very well – stay there, if you can.

Actually, being in Montreal is simply living well. I want to go back now.

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

Lost in Translation (or, leber is not liebe)

It’s happened to the best of us, and usually at the worst possible moment.  Misunderstanding a foreign word or phrase can have hilarious or disastrous results, but when you make a mistake, you’ll remember it for a long time.

“Let’s stop and eat.”

My mother and I were somewhere between Landquart and Chur, in eastern Switzerland.  I’d wanted her to see the country I loved so much, and we were enjoying a week of travel by rail, the best way to see Switzerland.  Having started from Zurich, we thought we might go all the way to Bellinzona, in the sunny canton of Ticino, where Italian is the main language spoken.  I’d been thinking about Italian food all morning, but my mom was hungry at the moment and really wanted to stop for lunch.

Outside the snow was falling, fast and heavy.  My mother’s face was bright like a child’s as she gazed in wonderment at the scenery beyond the train window.  We were as high as the treetops, and watched the snow fall from steel-gray skies as we descended into the valley approaching Chur.  I checked the timetables and figured we could grab a lunch at the station in Chur and still get a train to Bellinzona, arriving in the afternoon.

“Okay, we’re here.  We’ll cross the street and eat at the station café,” I said.  Every train station has a café, either within the station itself or just outside.  In our case, we had only to cross the deserted, snow-covered street to enter the warmth of the café.

This was German-speaking country.  I don’t speak German.  Even after a year in Fribourg, where both French and Swiss-German are spoken, I had concentrated on French, so reading a menu was a bit of a challenge.  I knew just a few words.

“Look, schweinen leber.  That’s pig, so it’s either ham or pork, and comes with frites (fries).  Sound good?”  My mother nodded happily and we ordered two lunch specials, plus a couple of beers.

Our plates arrived, and the pork or ham didn’t look like either pork or ham.  The thin slices of meat were covered with a brown gravy.  My mom took a bite and make a face.  “A little gamey,” she said, and picked up her glass of beer for a long swallow.  I tried mine.  Ugh.  Mom was right (of course!).  We ate fries and drank beer.  The schweinen leber remained on the plate.

Before boarding the train to lovely, sunny Bellinzona, I bought some chocolate and a German-English pocket dictionary on display at the kiosk.  Back on the train, I opened the dictionary to look for the word leberLeber, I should have guessed, means liver.