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I Am the Very Model of a Biblical Philologist


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So walking into a cocktail party in Cambridge some years back, first thing I hear is a woman remarking, "You know, you look just like Tom Lehrer."

 

Came a familiar voice in reply, "Maybe that's because I am Tom Lehrer."

 

Charming in person, though grown somewhat bitter in old age, understandably perhaps. In 2002 when a journalist asked why, with all the ripe subject matter lying around, he didn't keep doing his satirical songs, he said, "Things I once thought were funny are scary now. I often feel like a resident of Pompeii who has been asked for some humorous comments on lava."

 

He would happily sit at the piano playing old show tunes as we sang along, but only once in half a dozen evenings at this hostess's house did he ever consent to perform one of his own songs.

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Kind of recherche:

 

In Boston, from 1969 for many years, was a program on WGBH, from 7:00 to 12:00, called Morning pro Musica, with Robert J Luertsema. His voice was unique,

as weas his program, which was on for five hours every monring.

 

So, the last weekend at Tanglewood, in Western Massachusetts, I was in the chorus of Rostropovitch's performance of Verdi's Requiem. It was a very hot

weekend at 85 (104 in Worcester, MA), so we were all hanging down by the lake to keep cool.

 

There was an eight foot - by - eightfoot float in the lake, and it was crammed. Two of us were sitting on it, and this large, rather toady man

came swimming up. A friend asked: "Are you who we think you are?" and the answer came, "Yes." It was Robert J. himself.

 

"What are you doing here?"" we asked. He said "I understand Rostropovich has re-scored this performance for Soprano, Trio, Chorus and

Orchestra. The Soprano in question was his wife, Vishnevskaya, who the Chorus had labelled as "The All-Clear signal" for having an absolutely straight tone

on the high A (wherever it is in the piece).

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