VICTOR BORGE – A GREAT COMIC REMEMBERED

This brief article is not about politics, cops, crime, drugs or sex. It’s about a great man who brought the lighter side of life into our hearts, who was equally as funny as he was musically brilliant. We old folks will remember him well. It’s too bad such a dear-hearted soul is not still around, to bring joy, love and laughter into our lives. Examples:

 Who said…

      Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

      Santa Claus has the right idea – visit people only once a year.

      I only know two pieces; one is ‘Clair de Lune’ and the other one isn’t.   

      I wish to thank my parents for making it all possible… and I wish to thank my children for making it necessary.

      My father invented a cure for which there was no disease and unfortunately my mother caught it and died.

      When an opera star sings her head off, she usually improves her appearance.

      If I have caused just one person to wipe away a tear of laughter, that’s my reward.

Born Borge Rosenbaum in Denmark, 1909, Victor Borge was blessed to be the son of professional musicians, where he began studying piano at the age of two. He performed his first major piano concert in 1926. Soon after, the Nazi war machine was creeping into all of Europe, rounding up Jews by the millions. Young Borge, a Jew, was playing a concert in Sweden in April of 1939 where he managed to escape to Finland. He arrived in the U.S. in August of 1940, unable to speak a word of English.

America was fortunate to be graced by this man’s warmth and genius. His talent, not only in music but in humor as well, soon became recognized by some of the most famous performers in America (at the time), including Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee who first featured Borge on his radio show.

The rest is history, most of which has been recorded for show biz addicts to enjoy, including modern times. He died in the year 2000.

What astounds me the most about Borge besides his obvious musical talent, is the effortless manner in which he cracked jokes or engaged in physical stunts while playing the most difficult of classical music. He was not a typical  “stand-up” comic. He never needed to rely on crude language, insults, politics or sex for his audiences. He was an all-around comedian in a genre that belonged to him alone.  No one has copied his style, before or since.

Now I’ll shut up and provide the link in which he was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1999. Enjoy. 

Victor Borge – Honored by Kennedy Center, Lifetime Achievement 1999 – YouTube

And if you’ve never seen a Borge performance in which he uses “phonetic punctuation” to tell a story, you’ll be amazed.  Less than 3 minutes. Here’s a link:

Victor Borge – Phonetic Punctuation – YouTube

And…A typical Victor Borge performance at the Eisenhower White House, where people were stricken with powerful stomach aches…

 

 

CAFOB Prodigy 1 – Dorothy Gal

 Meet Dorothy Gal, soprano, Houston Opera Company.

     We first met Dorothy when she was 15 years old, auditioning to compete in Brevard’s Got Music Talent at the Henniger Center.  The Creative Arts Foundation (CAFOB) was new in Brevard County then, a non-profit group that seeks out special talents among young music students of the region. As one might imagine Dorothy was a stand-out, singing the Laughing Song by Mozart.  I know, because I sat in as one of the audition judges. We were all “wowed.”

Since, Dorothy has continued to study music, piano and voice, plus learning a number of foreign languages. She participated in many of the CAFOB Music on the Hill series, plus she won first place in the third season of Brevard’s Got Music Talent competition (winning $1000). A native of Cocoa Beach, she is surely a local treasure.

She eventually went on to complete her college studies a Rice University and is now a full-fledged operatic performer at the Houston Grand Opera, one of the most prestigious in the United States. We are all very proud.

      Here is a recent performance by Dorothy in Houston:

Ho perduto, il caro sposo from Handel’s Rodelinda – YouTube

     Here is a duet rendition of “O Holy Night.”  you don’t want to miss this.

Dorothy gal – YouTube

 

(A non-profit organization, the Creative Arts Foundation’s sole purpose is to help advance students of music in their chosen instruments. Since 2008, over$90 thousand has been awarded to youngsters from age 10 to 19, for partial scholarships, travel and audition expenses, instruments, solo performances, private lessons and much more. Over three hundred student have been featured in our programs. All tax-deductible contributions are aimed toward assisting students of music. For more info, visit www.cafob.org )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

OH BEAUTIFUL FOR SPACIOUS SKIES

We’ve lived in the best of times. We should be thankful.

     This is about having a great day this past Sunday, when the patriotic aura among Americans got caught up in the moment, without prompts.

     Yes, gone are the days when we would see all Americans, of all colors, ages, ethnic background, religions and sexual orientations, stand to express their love of country. Yes, we are imperfect and mistakes are made, and individual prejudices exist to be sure, but when comparing the USA to the rest of the planet, I’ll take our freedoms and opportunities before any other nations in the world.

     Retired Medical Examiner, Dr. Jay Barnhart and myself have been entertaining and playing at private clubs, civic organizations, libraries, assisted living facilities and many other private stages for the last twelve years, a couple old-timers with long careers in public service who still like to play with their toys.

    His toy is a piano. Mine is a violin. Our mothers forced us to practice and take lessons when we were kids, and we are forever grateful. We came to call ourselves the Dick-Doc Duo, a former Homicide “Dick” and Medical “Doc.” People love us because they see how much we enjoy music and the smiles from people in the audience.

     The key is to have fun, not being so serious. We may include audiences in our repertoire, often playing requests from the old days, or presenting a myriad of genre, including love songs, Movie themes, Broadways hits, ethnic stuff like Gypsy, French, Spanish, Irish whatever, even a mix of George Gershwin or Stephen Foster. Yes, we can also do classical…in which we never make mistakes (ahem).

     One of our most memorable on-stage moments came last Sunday, February 17, 2019, at the Cocoa Beach Library which was filled to capacity, as it is every year when we’re invited to entertain. It was a particularly good day as this audience was truly engaged. “La Vie en Rose,” asked one lady, who then sobbed when we played that song. “Fiddler on the Roof,” was one request as was “Ashokan Farewell” from the Civil War television series. Many more.

     It was time to finish. We always wrap up with a tribute to our beloved country. After thanking everyone for being there, we embarked on a rendition of “America The Beautiful.” No sooner than the first line was played, and without prompts, every human being in the room rose to their feet and joined in singing the song of America. The moment was so genuine, my hair rose on my arms.

     Yes, we have lived in the best of times.

Here’s a brief cell phone video of that moment (URL):

https://www.facebook.com/marshall.frank.77/videos/10216311342910729/

ESTHER: A STORYBOOK PRODIGY

October 21, 2006 — Ten years past.

That day helped change lives for many, in a very good way:

Esther Muradov was a delicate, 13 year-old young lady when we met her ten years ago today at our private home. With her mother on piano, she lifted her violin and played the first long note of a Vieuxtemps Concerto. Hair rose on my arms.  Suzanne and I, and friends, sat stunned as this child mastered the music as though in a concert hall.  When she finished, I lifted my jaw off the floor as a zillions questions flowed through my brain.

“How much do you practice?”

“About four hours a day.”

“Who’s your favorite violinist?” I asked

“Jascha Heifetz,” she responded.  

“But he died long before you were born.”

“I know,” she replied. “But he was the greatest of the 20th century.”

She was right.

“What are your ambitions, Esther?”

“Well, I’d like to go to Europe and compete internationally against other violinists. Maybe, someday I can play in Carnegie Hall.”

Her Russian-born mother, Pervin Muradov, answered for her, “Too expensive.  Besides that, her violin no good. Other kids will have much better instruments.”

“Perhaps we can do something,” I said.  

The next day, my wife and I began planning a special recital as a fund raiser for Esther, hopefully to give her a chance to compete in Europe. Three months later, we filled the small double-wide mobile building at the Unitarian Fellowship with 100-plus people willing to pay $50 a seat to hear and see this phenom. I had also loaned her my 225 year-old Italian-made violin to use for practice and recital.

She performed several impressive pieces, some quite difficult. The audience was amazed, with standing ovations. They were also enamored by her personality, so sincere, so articulate, so dedicated to music. The money came in, and Esther was on her way to Ibla, Italy, for international competition.

Here’s a  five-minute video of her playing one of the numbers, “Caprice Basque” by Sarasate, during that fund raiser. Watch and listen, she is quite amazing.

Among her awards for doing so well in Ibla, was an opportunity to play a recital in Carnegie Hall, which Suzanne and I proudly attended. There was my violin up there on the stage in Carnegie Hall playing a Lalo Concerto.  My mother would have been so proud.

There’s more to the story.  The recital in that Unitarian double-wide led to a four-year high-school scholarship the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. From there, she became a wonder student in Columbia University in New York from which she graduated with honors in 2016.

Goodness cascaded as the story doesn’t stop there. Esther would be indirectly responsible for helping many other young prodigies like herself attain their goals and ambitions in art and music. A group of local friends got together wondering how many other “Esthers” are out there, prodigies lacking the means to attain their musical dreams. Thus, we formed a non-profit group called, “The Creative Arts Foundation of Brevard.” Operating solely on tax-deductible contributions, and some fund-raising performances, the group provides incentives, opportunities and in some cases, partial scholarships for gifted prodigies who need instruments, instruction or schooling.

In the years hence, the foundation has promoted scores of shows and competitions, awarding numerous scholarship grants allowing brilliant youngsters to pursue their dreams. One young concert pianist who received such assistance, spontaneously took the microphone on stage and emotionally announced to the crowd, “I now have a full ride, 4-year scholarship to the University of Michigan School of Music,” said 17 year-old Sonya Belaya. “If it were not for the Creative Arts Foundation, it would never have been possible.” 

There are many such examples.

Since 2007, over 300 dedicated youngsters have directly benefited from the services of this non-profit group, some in a very big way. The annual awards competition “Brevard’s Got Music Talent” has featured nearly 100 young musicians and vocalists, eight of whom have won first prize of $1,000. Including special grants and awards, the foundation has doled out nearly $66,000 to youngsters in need thanks to a little girl who didn’t know she was destined to become the poster child for an organization that helped so many.

Thanks to her loving parents who are very talented as well, 23 year-old Esther Muradov of today has her sights set on becoming a medical doctor. But she will always have music that will remain a major part of her life along with the wonderful memories of high achievement. She can also bask in the satisfaction that she paved the way for many young prodigies to have been given golden opportunities that might not existed if not for her.

Here’s another Youtube of Esther performing part of the Brahms Concerto during an audition…

It can’t get better than that.

(The Creative Arts Foundation of Brevard, Inc., is a non-profit group of volunteers whose primary focus is to provide support and opportunities to young prodigies who have demonstrated talent and determination to excel. All contributions are tax deductible. For more information, visit www.CAFOB.org…or contact yours truly. 

 

 

 

 

A UNIQUE ANNIVERSARY – MEETING ESTHER

It was eight years ago today, October 21st, 2006, that I met a beautiful 13 year-old girl named Esther Muradov. Why is that such a big deal?

Because of her, the Creative Arts Foundation of Brevard, Inc., was born. This non-profit organization was formed to seek and assist exceptionally talented youngsters who have worked passionately toward improving their skills in music and the arts, and to help them realize their dreams. Since being formed, the foundation has provided more than seventy young musical talents with opportunities they may not have realized otherwise, including partial scholarships, music lesson, instruments, and venues in which to perform. More than $55,000 has been awarded in prizes and grants to the most needy of those youngsters. We have held over forty performance recitals featuring kids from ages 9 to 19, and five annual music competitions, awarding $1000 prizes to the winners, and lesser prizes to deserving young musicians and singers. The funding comes from generous lovers of talent within the community. It would never have happened if not for this young prodigy.

On that day in 2006, Esther visited our home with her mother, a piano teacher, to play the first movement from the Vieuxtemps Concerto.  Our expectations were low. She was petite and fragile for her age, but enormously confident as she raised the violin to her chin. I figured this would be a nice little tune. Instead, we were treated to a professional-level concert. Being a fair-to-middlin violinist all my life, I recognized superiority from the first note. My hair rose on my arms. I thought I was in the midst of greatness. By the time she finished her last note, our jaws remained on the floor.

Instantly, I seized the moment to pepper her with questions. Her hopes, her desires, her future ambitions, her idols, anything I could learn about her. She was as articulate as she was musical. She had practiced almost four hours a day since the age of four. She loved her music. Her favorite violinist of was Jascha Heifetz. Her greatest hope was to compete on an international level, and perhaps, one day play in Carnegie Hall.  Her mother said it would be a difficult dream to realize, because they didn’t have that kind of money, and her cheap violin was inferior compared to other advanced violinists from around the world.

EstherREhearse1

We held a fund raiser in a small Rockledge church double-wide with Esther as the star, providing a concert of several wonderful pieces for a small audience of nearly one hundred people, each paying $50 per ticket. I loaned her my 220 year-old Italian violin to use instead of her own. The room was filled. The recital drew standing ovations.

Esther went to Ibla, Italy and competed with the major youth prodigies from around the world, reaching the top of her category. One of her awards was the opportunity to play a recital  — where else? – in Carnegie Hall, New York City. Later that year, we attended her recital as I watched Esther and my treasured violin fill the entire room with a perfect rendition of the Lalo Concerto.

Talk about a feel-good moment.

Because of the contacts made through that first recital in Rockledge, Esther was awarded a full scholarship to attend Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, thereby by-passing Rockledge High where she had planned to attend. Fast forward: Esther is now in her senior year in Columbia University and plans to attend medical school next year. I’m sure she’ll be as great a doctor as she is a violinist. She’ll always have her music as one of her life’s enrichments, playing in ensembles and other venues whenever possible.

So, on this eight-year anniversary of first coming to know this prodigious young lady, I wish to thank Al and Sue Giddings of Suntree, who first introduced us to the Muradov family. We’ve also been privileged to maintain a wonderful friendship with Esther’s mom, Pervin, an outstanding pianist in her own right, and her dad, Nazim, a professor of science and talented musician as well.

But most of all, thank you, Esther, for being just who you are. There are many other young prodigies from your community who — as recipients of our assistance — appreciate you being the inspiration for the birth of this foundation. ( To get a video glimpse of Esther’s musicianship, and  other bright youngsters, visit www.CAFOB.org)

October 21st, 2006, was a day to remember. At least, for us.

Here is Esther in 2010, playing a segment from the Brahms concerto:   Click here: Esther Muradov – YouTube

Esther with me in 2013:

Me and Esther 2013

Me and Esther 2013