We’d been warned to come early for a special, longish program, and so were all seated behind well-laden plates from the buffet when the ship’s bell chimed. PP IPP AP Diane Good smiled and gave us the warm and friendly WVRC welcome. After the flag pledge, she called forward PP Mark Rogo, never slow to step up, for his Thought for the Day.
He quickly asked us to take our seats and we groaned. Yes, he had 24 lines of poetry for us, but he quickly jumped into it (the jist of the verse). Titled “It Couldn’t be Done,” it was a clever and humorous essay about human nature. Of the 10,000 or more poems written by the beloved American poet Edgar Guest, this is by far the most read and recited. A sample: “He started to sing as he tackled the thing that couldn’t be done, and he did it.” It was a well-chosen lesson for many of us beaten down by our political and economic situation.
Then, Diane the Good shocked us by announcing this was the last WVRC meeting at the Luskin Center. After 15 years meeting weekly at UCLA, we were casted adrift when the landlord doubled the rent. When she checked back with our previous venue, the Faculty Club, she was quoted the same egregious sum. We’ll all be stumbling around in a panic to find a new venue, though we have staged many virtual meetings on Zoom these past two years. On the lighter side, Diane did give us a quick listing of all the projects WVRC completed this year in spite of Covid-19, which gave us some solace. We actually completed all 17 of the
RI goals for the years ’20, ’21, ’22, which certainly would not have happened had Diane not stepped up as Acting President. And as role models of perseverance, Diane announced that June is the month of Dr. Jim and Dr. Eleanor Meyer’s 61st wedding anniversary. With wife Kathie at his side, PP Admiral Edwin Gauld leapt to his feet and claimed the exact same accomplishment. Kathie had come for the music program today despite recent major surgery and her hubby’s quick response cheered her, I’m sure, and both couples enjoyed our well-deserved applause.
Diane announced the next District “Breakfast” will be a lunch on Sunday, August 14, at the Proud Bird Restaurant. If you’ve never visited there, I highly recommend the WW II fighters on display and the voices of FDR and Winston Churchill in the restrooms. The Rotary Foundation Celebration will be later in the Fall at The Nova at L. A. Live downtown.
Then, PP Mark Rogo introduced his two guests, Carol Williams and Carmella Spears (my apologies if misspelled). PP Chris Bradford also introduced our current candidate for the Global Scholarship. Our last year’s candidate is now successfully studying abroad. It was also announced that Sherrod Hansen is now an official formal member of WVRC.
Our beloved, but retiring, Program Chair, John O’Keefe introduced our program speaker, his last gift to us. At an evening at the UCLA Chancellor’s residence, John met Professor Wendy Caldwell, Vocal Coach at the UCLA School of Music and Accompanist for many professional vocalists. John did not hesitate, but asked her to please recommend a young student artist to be the program at one of our meetings. She, too, did not hesitate, and brought with her today one of her graduating seniors who will now move on to Yale for graduate study, Finn Sagal. Finn is a tall, well-built young fellow, relaxed, with lots of charisma.
Finn first sang to an audience with his father, a professional jazz saxophonist. Entering high school, he was told he had a voice for opera if he was so inclined. He was, and decided on a singing career like many in his father’s family. He gave us four very different samples in four languages.
The first was in Italian, from Figaro. It was a teasing aria, mocking a young draftee and the soldier life. He displayed a wide range of emotions in the short piece, from a commander’s bombast to a loving comrade to an elder sympathetic with his fate. Next, a very serious aria in German from Tannhauser, a very long and serious opera. Fortunately, he then slipped into
playful mood in French to sing about dancing skeletons. The forth was also an “art song” (not from an opera) – a sweet serenade by Schubert whispered by a young beau to his love who is not receptive to his advances (he sang both parts). Finn’s expressions, gestures, and movement were big and operatic and showed a gift for the comic over-the-top passages. The audience was blown away.
Then PP Admiral Edwin Gauld arose and joined Finn at the front of the Room and revealed that they sing together most Sundays at St Albans Church just off the UCLA campus. Proclaiming that “two voices always sound better than one,” they blended a beautiful version of “God of our Fathers” for us. Without reservation, this was the Admiral’s finest performance that I have heard.
Finn’s finale revealed his love for comedy with Captain Hook’s Death Speech from Peter Pan. He sang so pathetically about Peter always winning the fight, his own ambition, and the “glittering bauble of Fame” that it gave me a new take on the play entirely.
So, I’ve written a review of a musical performance without trying. The crowd truly enjoyed this talented young graduate projecting his big voice into a small room, all the while close enough for us to see every gesture and chuckle.
Bravo to Finn Sagal. Brava to his teacher, Professor Wendy, Bow-wow to lucky Yale, and our condolences to Edwin---Ya coulda been a contenda!