The Last Lion and the Eagle

By Philip Pearce

WINSTON CHURCHILL is the latest subject in Howard Burnham’s exciting series of on-line Zoom biographies under the auspices of Monterey County Theatre Alliance.

It’s no surprise that his portrait of the great man in The Last Lion and the Eagle is compelling and the slide show vivid in its panorama of the key personalities, places and events in the life of one of the most famous non-Americans in recent American history.

With its strong emphasis on Churchill’s American mother and American wife, plus his close links with figures like the Roosevelts, Harry Hopkins and ambassadors Kennedy and Wynant, it was a popular choice. Several members of the audience voted for it enthusiastically in an informal interactive chat with Howard after his performance as Edward Lear in His Shoes Were Far Too Tight. I guess I need to check in as a member of the loyal opposition when I say I liked Last Lion and Eagle but I liked Shoes and In a Dream Within a Dream better.

Why? I think because I had less advance knowledge of either Lewis Carroll or Edward Lear than I did of Winston Churchill. The two humorists were names on the covers of books I knew well but whose authors’ lives were full of quirky nooks and crannies I had never poked into. The two plays probed and explored previously undiscovered territory and I like it when theater does that. Lion and Eagle offers an affectionate tribute to a world-famous man, not so much to assess as to extol him. That’s fine. It’s what Shakespeare does for Henry V. But having lived through a lot of the 20th century and read a fair bit of its history, I found myself last Saturday taking a pleasantly nostalgic but over-familiar stroll along a well-traveled stretch of American history.


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FROM ST IGNATIUS PARISH a live violin recital by Patrick Galvin. MONTEREY JAZZ VIRTUAL FESTIVAL this weekend features Herbie Hancock, Diana Krall, Dianne Reeves, the Kenny Barron Trio. MONTEREY COUNTY THEATRE ALLIANCE sponsors an online reading of William Randolph Hearst: A Staged Reading in Zoom by Carol Marquart. SANTA CRUZ BAROQUE FESTIVAL continues online with the Virtu Ensemble featuring soprano Angelique Zuluaga. FOR DETAILS AND LINKS, CLICK HERE


MONTEREY SYMPHONY musicians Eugenie Wie and Adelle-Akiko Kearns played duets on Friday afternoon. Charmers by Scott Joplin, Mozart, Carlos Gardel and Jacob Gade framed the program’s biggest (20 minutes) item, Eight Duets by the early 20th century Russian composer Reinhold Glière. This online event will remain via Vimeo on the Monterey Symphony Website. Click HERE


WHEN THERE ARE NINE by Kristin Kuster and Megan Levad was premiered during the 2019 season, with Jamie Barton, Roomful of Teeth and the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra. To watch and hear it, click HERE


SCOTT YOO’S outstanding programs for Great Performances have just begun a new series, this one on composers of the Classical Era, from Haydn to Beethoven. THE ‘HAYDN’ EPISODE aired on PBS last week. To see it, click HERE


CHAMBER MUSIC MONTEREY BAY’S 2020-21 season is set to start its online streaming on October 10 with the Miró Quartet playing Kevin Puts’ HOME and Beethoven’s Quartet in E-flat, Op 127. Click HERE


SINCE APRIL 18 this year, the Carmel Music Society has published short pieces and movements every Saturday by many of the artists it has hosted over the years. You can access them all on the CMS website HERE


FEATURING Fazil Say’s Never Give Up cello concerto. (Click on the CC button for English subtitles.)



ALEX ROSS, writing in The New Yorker, says “The field must acknowledge a history of systemic racism while also giving new weight to Black composers, musicians, and listeners.” Click HERE


FOR OVER A THOUSAND YEARS, Tibetan Buddhist psychology has taught techniques for overcoming negative, afflictive emotions, such as anger, greed, jealousy, sloth and ignorance. In the film The Last Dalai Lama? his Holiness, Tenzin Gyatso, explains that Tibetan Buddhism is both a religion and a “science of the mind”; he also shares his crystallized understanding of the nature of mind, and its part in the creation and alleviation of all of our suffering. Believing that this precious wisdom belongs to the world, twenty years ago the Dalai Lama challenged a select group of world-renowned Neuroscientists and Mind/Brain researchers to look into the workings of the mind, and to prove scientifically that Tibetan Buddhist technologies for overcoming afflictive emotions are skills that can be learned by anyone. As he now turns 82, he faces questions about aging and death, and whether he will reincarnate as the Dalai Lama, or if he will be the last of the lineage that has existed since the 14th century.

Mickey Lemle’s film was released in 2016 and became available then on DVD. For some reason, the soundtrack CD has only just been issued. In it, Tibetan folk music master Tenzin Choegyal supplies the vocals (singing and chanting), folk instruments (lingbu, dranyen) and percussion. Of the 13 mostly short movements, Tenzin’s much-loved Heart Strings also includes a chorus of some 150 Tibetan children from their school in Dharamsala, India. Tenzin’s music is mixed with that of Philip Glass in various ways, while the sections strictly by Glass are instantly recognized for the composer’s repetitious patterns of scales, arpeggios and syncopated polyrhythms. (He and Michael Riesman play piano.) The movement titled Snow Lion is heard next to last as arranged for the new-music-specializing Scorchio String Quartet with Tenzin singing the haunting song and plucking the dranyen. The final track, lasting 15 minutes, is an organ improvisation that, lacking the benefit of actually seeing the film, is a little hard to contextualize. Glass wrote it in 1979 to ‘kill time’ waiting for Dalai Lama to show up for his first visit to New York. SM


PHILIP PEARCE attended Howard Burnham’s Zoom performance of The Last Lion and the Eagle: Winston Churchill at Hyde Park. Click HERE


KELLI O’HARA has the right stuff for Opry and Opera


Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca CR Brooks, associate editor