I Blush for my Wild Extravaganzas

Funny how one word can bring a hundred memories.

Camp, 1951 — there on the beautiful blue (now greenish) Otsego Lake near Cooperstown, NY.  It wasn’t a music camp, but the director of the camp was a choral conductor and one of the counselors was his accompanist.

Bernie was a revolutionary.  In school, he procured hard-to-find Haydn oratorios for his high school chorus, so I learned Latin and German phrases, mostly biblical.  It was unheard of back then for high school groups in the USA to sing anything so … classical!

At camp?  Gilbert & Sullivan was foisted upon unsuspecting campers.  Do I need to say to you younger things that they were the British musical team who wrote great satiric operettas like H.M.S. Pinafore, Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, Ruddigore and many more in the second half of the 19th XX and were so very popular among the early and mid 20th century generations all over the world!*

My connection?  I’d never heard of them.  I was 11.  My father had died the summer before.  I was given the role of Mad Margaret in “Ruddigore.”  My front tooth was blacked out … and the last song was sung after I’d regained my sanity and was a respectable lady now:  ‘I Once Was a Very Abandoned Person.’  I apologize for my former bad behavior, and sing the line above: “I blush for my wild extravaganzas,” explaining that my husband and I were “the victims of circumstances.”

How well I remember how the colorful world of G & S surrounded all of us, taking us away from lost fathers, absentee mothers, teasing siblings, snooty teachers and the like.  Our changing bodies, so problematic in many ways, were hidden in the glorious costumes we wore. We were pirates, Japanese ladies, sailors.

Day after day we were plunged into their wonderful words and music, summer after summer.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

*Do rent the wonderful movie “Topsy Turvy” about their lives, with plenty of scenes from their wonderful operettas.



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