A Baker’s Half Dozen

April 06, 2017

Can you name all 7 of them? Can you do it without looking up the answer? It’s more fun that way. Trust me.

I say that while remembering a conversation that took place at an outdoor restaurant table years ago. The patrons were trying to name the 7 Dwarfs. They didn’t do too badly, but always seemed to be missing just 1 or 2. They kept repeating the characters they thought they were sure of, but then others began to find their way into the contest, thanks to a somewhat mischievous member of the group. It seemed to make the dialogue more lively with names like Sneaky and Squeaky suddenly becoming candidates.

I don’t think they ever named all 7, but they certainly entertained everyone else around them. This was well before the days of hand-held devices. One of those might have put an end to all the fun and laughter. Any child overhearing the conversation would have provided the names. That could have made it memorable in an entirely different way. And I’m sure that a certain person would have tried, though unsuccessfully, to convince the child that Squeaky was indeed one of the Dwarfs.

The incident came to mind when I was planning the 7th anniversary celebration of Classic Mornings last week.  I began to think about “7s.” There are all sorts of famous groupings of 7 people or things – probably places too. For some reason I was reminded of The Magnificent Seven – the 1960 John Sturges film, which was the American remake of sorts of the 1954 Akira Kurosawa film: Seven Samurai.  And Antoine Fuqua directed an updated version of The Magnificent Seven in 2016.

I began to imagine a restaurant table somewhere in the world where a spirited group was trying to name the film characters or the actors of any of those films. I always seem to come up 1 actor short whenever I attempt to recall the 1960 cast.  I don’t get beyond Toshiro Mifune with the Samurai.  It’s been so long since I saw either of those films. I’ll admit that I gave in and looked them up. 

Anyway, I wondered whether I should put together a list of composers, compositions or performers I could call  “magnificent seven” for the Classic Mornings 7th anniversary. That seemed too much like a “best of” list . I would have trouble putting together a top 7, 70 or even 700 from all the composers, performers, compositions or performances I play. And I decided that because of the western adventure connotations of ‘magnificent seven,” I would have to coin a unique sort of grouping for the occasion, though one inspired by the legendary title. I decided on “The Mellifluous Seven.”  The word means pleasing and sweet – and often is used to refer to a voice. I would extend that to the voices of musical instruments.

I featured throughout the anniversary program 7 performers who were not a part of the Friends of WILL Library 7 years ago when we began Classic Mornings, but are now featured regularly. It was a somewhat different challenge than coming up with the names of the 7 Dwarfs, the Magnificent Sevens or the Seven Samurai. There were no right or wrong answers.

It didn’t take me very long to select 7: the Russian pianist Anastasia Injushina, German oboist Albrecht Mayer, guitarist Miloš Karadaglić from Montenegro, the Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili, Swiss pianist Olivier Cavé, Hungarian cellist István Várdai and the ensemble Artemandoline, which is based in Luxembourg.I played a selection by each of the 7 from the recordings which introduced us to them.

I didn’t expect even Classic Mornings regulars to memorize the list of the musical baker’s dozen. But I hoped that by re-introducing this little group of performers, I might generate a bit of excitement. If you happen to overhear a conversation around town that involves naming the “Mellifluous,” please let me know!

As a part of the anniversary program on March 31st, I added an excerpt from one of classical music’s magnificent “sevens,” namely Beethoven’s 7th symphony. I played a selection from English flutist Rachel Brown’s only recording of sonatas by the Bach & Vivaldi contemporary Johann Joachim Quantz. The recording of 20 years ago includes just 7 of the several hundred which Quantz wrote. As you may have guessed, I did play an excerpt from Elmer Bernstein’s music for the 1960 film The Magnificent Seven, with the legendary main theme. The program came to a close with a symphony by the 12 year-old Mozart – his 7th.

Already we’re into the 8th year. And it’s because of the magnificent thousands of supportive listeners that we continue to enjoy classical music on the radio in central Illinois. Next Wednesday is the first-ever WILL Marathon, during which we’ll attempt to raise the money we normally would raise in a week’s time in just 26.2 hours. That’ll give us more time to enjoy the music. You can help make it a success with your participation during the marathon or even before it begins. Call 217-244-0025 or contribute online at willpledge.org. And thank you for your support!


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