Thursday, March 17, 2011

i was a swashbuckler

Isn't it amazing how a tune can evoke a specific event in time? Woody Allen includes the best music in his films. Last weekend, I watched Scoop, and a piece of movie music carried me straight back to my childhood. My uncles, actually more like brothers in age, and I used to sword fight to Aram Khachaturian's Sabre Dance. We would play the piece from an LP record on a turntable, volume cranked to the max.

When the music ended, we moved the needle back and played it over until we were completely clashed out. Don't worry, we didn't use actual swords. Curtain rods were the next best thing, thrilling crash of metal on metal, imaginary sparks flying, catching the room on fire. I miss my Joan of Arc days, swashbuckling with the best of them. I should take fencing lessons.

By the way, the Khachaturian is deliciously quirky music. I think I will have it played at my funeral.

our Ben-Hur production still, 1959

We were an incredibly theatrical household. The saber dances are tucked safely away in my mind's eye, but I wish I had a tangible photo. I do have a shot of one of our Ben-Hur-esque dramatic productions. This wasn't just for fun; we were dead serious players. Speaking of serious, I was rather a precocious child. Here I am below, busy with some very serious writing, maybe an epic screenplay or some poetry. Nothing has changed.

This is a Sepia Saturday post.


  1. Uh-oh. I feel a poem coming on...

  2. How pleased I am, to see that you're right-handed.

  3. Oh yeah!!

    We had an LP of Khachaturian's ballet suites. I can't hear that music without thinking about James Michener's book "The Source," because I read the book while listening to the LP repeatedly. The combination had a huge impact on me.

    Thanks for this, Tess.

  4. Cro, I am right-handed for the most part. There are a few things I do with my left, like turn magazine pages, dust, wash dishes, to name a few.

  5. Fabulous photos, Tess! one day, when you're a famous poet, (infamous?) these photos will be gracing the middle pages of your bio. As for Khachaturian at your funeral, I laughed out loud. 'Course, I've already told my favorite operatic friend that he's slated to belt out "Bess, You is My Woman" when I die.

  6. I laughed so much! I KNEW you came from an atristic family! Love the Sabre Dance - and actually, a lot of Khachaturian's work.

    The "Ben Hur" photo is wonderful!
    A captured moment in time!

    Waiting for the poem!!!!


    ♥ Robin ♥

  7. Now I know where the love of swords comes from : ) Great music.
    The Ben Hur photo is priceless. Each of you is so artistic and creative in your own way.

  8. Sue, I'm blushing at the thought. Thanks for having so much confidence in me, dear friend.

  9. Cat, yes! Now you know why we all have real swords displayed. It's down deep in our sow-els. (souls) ~!

  10. that rather interesting character in the middle of the group photo had me chuckling for an age!

  11. John, hee-hee, I hope my dear uncle, Dr. Hanna, will forgive me for posting this ridiculous photo. He is quite the handsome man these days.

  12. aaahh, yes, those swashbuckler days were the best. We were crazy fun kids raised on love. You WERE our little baby sister, no doubt! We loved you so much and still do.
    You do look very serious there with Dr. Hanna writing at the table.. hee hee. Please do share that poem you're now creating. Thanks for sharing these great photos! xoxo

  13. as you say... nothings changed.. look at my profile photo for heaven's sake.. hee hee

  14. That was wonderful. The photo, delightfully delicious. I can just imagine the productions. What a wonderful childhood, no wonder you are so full of passion and art, no wonder!

  15. Great to have you back in Sepia Saturday Tess. Glorious photographs and only you could seamlessly blend images, words and music.

  16. I had not heard the sabre dance for years - loved it.

  17. Wonderful! You are never too old to get out the curtain rods and have a good old sword fight.

    I may give it a go.

    I love, love, your header.

  18. Beautiful photos, Tess.
    Thanks for sharing with us :)

  19. My family members know where to go for my 'memorial music' list! Everything from Sousa to Debussy.

    Sabre Dance! Perfect tempo for those swordfights!

  20. music has an amazing way of transporting us back in time... what a lovely post;)

  21. I just had a dream with Woody Allen in it. We were making movies.

    Wonderful photos and story Willow. We had a player piano. The William Tell overture was played often and loudly, although one had to sit and pump the piano, so no swash buckling.

  22. I can't help but feeling that you're still buckling that swash, Tess!

  23. Sabre dance for a girl with bare feet! Or am I thinking of a sword dance?

  24. Oh my. I just had "Scoop" delivered this morning in my mailbox from It was recommended last week. As a child, we too performed full-blown musicals at the cottage. The cupboards were enclosed in curtains rather than doors and those curtains made the best costumes ever. We once did an entire performance of Oklahoma! Borrowed a cowboy hat from a member of Parliament met on the street and invited home for lunch. Imagine the faces of our mother's when we arrived home with a cowboy - to feed no less. It was a wonderful adventure! You stirred up so much here. BTW, you were an adorable swashbuckler!!!

  25. What a cast! I love that you put on a production of Ben-Hur! How ambitious and creative of you all!

    Love that photo of you as a little girl! Focussed, serious, beautiful.

  26. I am out of luck when it come to toilet business. I am only right handed. She had her right shoulder broken, and could not use her right hand in the toilet. I fashioned a stick with a sponge and she used it to make sure she was, as she said, good and clean. Then, Patty had carpal tunnel surgery done and was used to using her left hand. I have practiced it but find my body will not bend right so I can use my left hand. I guess I have a permanent kink in it or something.

    I thought your bare feet were cute. Were the nails painted? I would think they were, but maybe not.

  27. i'm one of those freak lefties... sorry. :)

  28. That music just makes me want to dance for sure. Your Ben-Hur photo is a treasure. What a crew!

  29. Khachaturian has always been one of my favourite composers. I first discovered him when I was about thirteen when I borrowed a copy of his Second Symphony from the record library. I now have all his major works. I highly recommend his Piano and Violin Concertos. Also a huge Woody Allen fan. Seen everything, own most of it.

  30. Tess -- we sometimes wonder how a person developed a certain way. a prof of mine said just look at the pieces of their early life -- not necessarily the "big" events but the meaningful events -- like a small girl writing a screenplay. Your post defines you more than you realize. -- barbara

  31. For a mid-Western family, you were VERY exotic Tess!
    Millie x

  32. I loved the memories and photos you shared with us today. I remember the Saber Dance from my own childhood when it was used as background music on television by acrobats and magicians. I hope you have a great evening. Blessings...Mary

  33. Tess of the Joan of Arc days,
    in her bobbed cut, short dress,
    and wild eyes; a lethal sword's
    woman, wielding her curtain
    rod like the warrior poet she
    became months later, when
    Woody Allen only made funny
    movies, got tired of the pretense
    and broke out of the mold,
    who still gives a movie a year
    ready or not, and the stage
    fighting, yes, some of us never
    grew up, just learned to play
    with more lethal swords,
    as in college, in the Scottish
    play, playing Macduff, my
    6'3' Macbeth came down so hard
    with his ten pound broadsword
    that as I parried flat over my head,
    sparks flew twenty feet, the metal
    blade fatigued and snapped off
    jagged at the hilt, and his blade
    split open one of my knuckles;
    as the blood gushed down my arm
    and onto my bare chest, the head
    of the blade stuck in the floor
    between the knees of a lady
    in the front row; knowing
    I had to slay the tyrrant, I ad-libbed
    in Elizabethan, and called for another
    sword; as clunk, clank, bang, ten prop
    swords hit the stage from fellow actors.
    I would pick one up and with every parry
    my opponent would bend up my blade
    like a pretzel. With the fourth sword
    I managed the kill thrust, and the
    audience roared with approval.

  34. Glenn that is an unbelievable swashbuckling experience. I would love to see the whole thing on video. Was it recorded?

  35. I have sat here for about five minutes. Only now getting over the fact that you did a family production of Ben-Hur. What faces!

  36. Great reminisence. I love your choice of the Saber Dance for funeral music! That's the best!

  37. I had always dreamed of being a conductor and this was one of my pieces I used to practice with. Maybe if I did that now I might loose a few lbs. LOL

  38. What fun! Fantastic childhood memories you have!

  39. You probably would enjoy fencing lessons.

  40. ... this looks like my children endlessly pretending and putting on family plays. Once my oldest son drew (with permanent marker) all over his sister's body with what he thought were "Indian tattoos) - she was butt naked and was supposed to be Pocahontas (yes, I do have photos but not for the internet!) They even portrayed St. Patrick ushering all the snakes out of Ireland (Chelsea was the snake with forked tongue... I will have to dig those photos up for next year!)

    What great memories you have!

  41. This is a wonderfully entertaining post. The Ben Hur photo is mesmerizing and the Sabre Song makes me laugh for the five seconds I can bear to listen to it. It's so perfect for energetic kids.

  42. I hear this music and I'm back watching Ed Sullivan with the plate spinners running back and forth behind their table.

    Where do plate spinners get work today? They have the music. They have a table. They have the plates. What is their venue?

  43. Sabre Dance is just about the perfect music for children! You all look so very serious in your Ben-Hur costumes. It was, no doubt, a great performance! What a fun post.

  44. Reminded me of Ed Sullivan too - the tap dancing xylophone players. Didn't take much to entertain us back in the day. That particular piece made me think of traffic and crowds in New York City. Made me hot and tired. Thanks for wonderful photos esp the Ben Hur!

  45. Oh this was great! I especially like your expression while doing whatever you were up to...drawing or poem creating...the photos are very excellent to your post. Thanks!

  46. What an interesting childhood you must have had, and a wonderful family. So interesting to see that you have been writing for years were such a cute wee dot!

  47. I love the photos and great story too.


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)