Daily Update: Monday, July 24th, 2017

Charbel Makhlouf

Today is the Optional Memorial of Saint Charbel Makhlouf, Priest (died 1898).

Born as Youssef Antoun Makhlouf in 1828 in Beka-Kafra, Lebanon, today’s Saint was the son of a mule driver and raised by an uncle who opposed the boy’s youthful piety. The boy’s favorite book was a translation of Thomas a Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ. At age twenty-three he entered the Maronite Monastery of Our Lady of Lebanon (north of Byblos). After a two-year novitiate, in 1853, he was sent to the Saint Maron-Annaya Monastery where he pronounced the monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience; he took the name of Charbel (Sharbel) in memory of a 2nd century martyr. He professed his solemn vows in 1853, and was ordained in 1859, becoming a heiromonk, or a monk who was also a priest. He lived as a model monk, but dreamed of living like the ancient desert fathers; from 1875, for the next twenty-three years, he lived as a hermit, living on the bare minimums of everything. He gained a reputation for holiness, and was much sought for counsel and blessing. He had a great personal devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and was known to levitate during his prayers. Several post-mortem miracles were attributed to him, including periods in 1927 and 1950 when a bloody “sweat” flowed from his corpse. His tomb has become a place of pilgrimage for Lebanese and non-Lebanese, Christian and non-Christian alike. As a member of the Lebanese Maronite Order and as a Saint of the Maronite rite, Saint Charbel is an exemplar of the Maronite expression of Catholic holiness and values. As a Saint of the Universal Church, his example of virtue and intercessory power is available to Catholics of all backgrounds. Faithful to his Maronite spirituality, Saint Charbel became a Saint for the Universal Church.

Upon getting up to get ready for work today, I did my Book Devotional Reading, and Richard gathered up the trash and wheeled the trash bin to the curb. On our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading. After we clocked in at 3:00 am for the first day of the current two-week pay period, Richard and I were both fasting; he was on Mini Baccarat all day. I was on a Blackjack game for an hour, then helped change Blackjack cards, then I was on the Shoe Blackjack game in our High Stakes pit for the rest of the day. (That table, which is usually dead, faces the television; it was first on ESPN, then on the Lafayette CBS channel. Apparently The Price is Right is in reruns; it was the Christmas Holidays during the show.)

After work we went over to the Clinic at 11:00 am, and I had blood drawn for lab work ahead of my appointment with my Oncologist on August 3rd, and Richard had blood drawn for lab work ahead of his appointment with the Nurse Practitioner next Monday (July 31st). On our way home we got McDonald’s for lunch from the drive through window, and I read the August 2017 issue of Consumer Reports. Once home from work I read the morning paper; I then watched MST3K Episode 318 Star Force: Fugitive Alien II (Star Wolf) (Sutā Urufu), which was just as bad as the first Fugitive Alien movie. Richard went to bed, and I watched MST3K Episode 319 War of the Colossal Beast (the sequel to The Amazing Colossal Man; the sixty foot Manning (played by a different actor) is found insane and wandering around in Mexico, and his sister tries to save him) with the short film Mr. B Natural (a bizarre film about the “spirit of music”). I then watched Jeopardy! at 4:30 pm, and I will go to bed after I finish this Daily Update.

Tomorrow is the Feast of Saint James the Greater, Apostle (died 44), and the Optional Memorial of Saint Christopher, Martyr (died about 251). And tomorrow is also the birthday of Richard’s cousin Lele here in town (1947). I will set the alarm for half an hour early, and we will sign the Early Out list at the casino. Back home, we will pack our bags and go to Baton Rouge for Tuesday and Wednesday nights; we will see Butch, and also see Richard’s sister Bonnie, who will be coming in from Texas.

Our Parting Quote this Monday afternoon comes to us from Marni Nixon, American soprano. Born as Margaret Nixon McEathron in 1930 in Altadena, California, she began studying the violin at age four and throughout her childhood played bit parts — “the freckle-faced brat,” she called her typical role — in a string of Hollywood movies. At the age of eleven, already possessed of a fine singing voice, she won a vocal competition at the Los Angeles County Fair and found her true calling. She became a private pupil of Vera Schwarz, a distinguished Austrian soprano who had settled in the United States. At the age of seventeen, she appeared as a vocal soloist (under the name of Marni Nixon) with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Leopold Stokowski, singing in Orff’s Carmina Burana. She later studied opera at Tanglewood with Sarah Caldwell and Boris Goldovsky. During her teenage years, Nixon worked as a messenger at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Knowing of her musical ability — she had perfect pitch and was an impeccable sight reader — the studio began recruiting her to furnish the singing voices of young actresses. The work helped pay for her voice lessons.  Nixon’s career in film started in 1948 when she sang the voices of the angels heard by Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc (1948). The same year, she did her first dubbing work when she provided Margaret O’Brien’s singing voice in 1948’s Big City and then 1949’s The Secret Garden. She sang for Jeanne Crain in Cheaper by the Dozen (1950) and dubbed Marilyn Monroe’s high notes in “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). Also in 1953, she sang for Ida Lupino in Jennifer. Nixon appeared on Broadway in 1954 in The Girl in Pink Tights. In 1956 she worked closely with Deborah Kerr to supply the star’s singing voice for the film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I; Nixon was told not to reveal that she was the one doing the singing. Kerr thought this was very unfair and revealed the secret of the dubbing in an interview with the popular syndicated columnist Earl Wilson. Kerr was nominated for an Academy Award, the film’s soundtrack album sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and Nixon earned $420.00. The next year Nixon again worked with Kerr to dub her voice in An Affair to Remember. That year, she also sang for Sophia Loren in Boy on a Dolphin. In 1960 she dubbed Janet Leigh’s voice in Pepe and had an on-screen chorus role in Can-Can. In 1961’s West Side Story, the studio kept her work on the film (as the singing voice of Natalie Wood’s Maria) a secret from Wood, and Nixon also dubbed Rita Moreno’s singing in the film’s “Tonight” quintet. She asked the film’s producers for, but did not receive, any direct royalties from her work on the film, but Leonard Bernstein contractually gave her one quarter of one percent of his personal royalties from it. In 1962 she also sang Wood’s high notes in Gypsy. For My Fair Lady in 1964, she again worked with the female lead of the film, Audrey Hepburn, to perform the songs of Hepburn’s character Eliza. Because of her uncredited dubbing work in these films, Time magazine called her “The Ghostess with the Mostest”. She became something of a cult figure, appearing as a guest on To Tell the Truth and as an answer to clues featured by Jeopardy!, Trivial Pursuit and at least one New York Times crossword puzzle. Nixon made guest appearances with Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts, including in 1960, singing “Improvisation sur Mallarmé I” from Pli selon pli by Pierre Boulez, and on April 9th, 1961, in a program entitled “Folk Music in the Concert Hall”, singing three “Songs of the Auvergne” by Joseph Canteloube. Before My Fair Lady was released in theatres in 1964, Nixon played Eliza in a revival of the musical at New York City Center. Nixon’s first onscreen appearance was as Sister Sophia in the 1965 film The Sound of Music. In the DVD commentary to the film, director Robert Wise comments that audiences were finally able to see the woman whose voice they knew so well. In 1967 she was the singing voice of Princess Serena in a live action and animated version of Jack and the Beanstalk on NBC. Especially in the 1960s, but also earlier and later, Nixon made concert appearances, specializing in contemporary music as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic, and gave recitals at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall and Town Hall in New York City. Nixon taught at the California Institute of the Arts in Santa Clarita from 1969 to 1971 and joined the faculty of the Music Academy of the West, Santa Barbara, in 1980, where she taught for many years. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she hosted a children’s television show in Seattle on KOMO-TV channel 4 called Boomerang, winning four Emmy Awards as best actress, and made numerous other television appearances on variety shows and as a guest star in prime time series. Nixon’s opera repertory included Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, both Blonde and Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Violetta in La traviata, the title role in La Périchole, and Philine in Mignon. Her opera credits included performances at Los Angeles Opera, Seattle Opera, San Francisco Opera and the Tanglewood Festival among others. In addition to giving recitals, she appeared as an oratorio and concert soloist with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra among others. Nixon also toured with Liberace and Victor Borge and later in her own cabaret shows. in 1983 when Harvey Fierstein was asked who should play the lead in a film adaptation of the musical La Cage Aux Folles, he replied: “Me! Dubbed by Marni Nixon!”. On stage, in 1984, she originated the role of Edna Off-Broadway in Taking My Turn, composed by Gary William Friedman, receiving a nomination for a Drama Desk Award. As late as 1990, decades after she had made good on her vow to perform only as herself, she remained, in the words of The Los Angeles Times, “the best known of the ghost singers.” She also originated the role of Sadie McKibben in Opal (1992), and she had a 1997 film role as Aunt Alice in I Think I Do. Under her own name, beginning in the 1980s, Nixon recorded songs by Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Arnold Schönberg, Igor Stravinsky, Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, and Anton Webern.  She was nominated for two Grammy Awards for Best Classical Performance, Vocal Soloist, one for her Schönberg album and one for her Copland album. In the 1998 Disney film Mulan, Nixon was the singing voice of “Grandmother Fa”. She then returned to the stage, touring the United States as Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret in 1997–1998. She eventually sang on more than fifty soundtracks. In 1999 she originated the role of Mrs. Wilson in the premiere of Ballymore, an opera by Richard Wargo at Skylight Opera Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which was taped for PBS. In regional theatre and Off-Broadway, she played Nurse in Romeo and Juliet and appeared in productions of The King and I and The Sound of Music. She also continued to teach voice and judge vocal competitions. In 2000, after nearly a half century away, she returned to Broadway as Aunt Kate in James Joyce’s The Dead. In 2001 Nixon replaced Joan Roberts as Heidi Schiller in the Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies. She played Eunice Miller in 70, Girls, 70 in a 2002 production in Los Angeles. In 2003, she was again on Broadway as a replacement in role of Guido’s mother in the revival of Nine. Her autobiography, I Could Have Sung All Night, was published in 2006; the memoir was written with a ghost, Stephen Cole, whom Nixon credited prominently on the cover and the title page. She performed in the 2008 North American Tour of Cameron Mackintosh’s United Kingdom revival of My Fair Lady in the role of Mrs. Higgins. On October 27th, 2008, Nixon was presented with the Singer Symposium’s Distinguished Artist Award in New York City. She was also an honorary member of Sigma Alpha Iota International Women’s Music Fraternity. Nixon appeared as Frau Direktor Kirschner in the 2009 Encores! production of the musical Music in the Air at New York City Center.  In 2012 Nixon was the recipient of the George Peabody Award for “Outstanding Contributions to American Music” (died 2016): “You always had to sign a contract that nothing would be revealed. Twentieth Century Fox, when I did The King and I, threatened me. They said, if anybody ever knows that you did any part of the dubbing for Deborah Kerr, we’ll see to it that you don’t work in town again.”

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