Sunday 31 October 2021

Eva Cassidy – Voice of an Angel

This week sees the 25th anniversary of the death of American folk/soul/blues singer and guitarist Eva Cassidy. With her powerful soprano voice, she was best known for the song Over the Rainbow and the album Songbird.

Born in February 1963 in Washington D.C. she grew up in Maryland and at an early age displayed a great interest and talent in singing and playing the guitar. At age 11 she started performing with a band at weddings, parties and pubs, but due to her shyness she suffered greatly from stage fright. Over the following years her career spiralled, having much success and winning many awards along the way.

In 1993 she had a malignant mole removed from her back and three years later, around July 1996, after noticing an ache in her hips which persisted, she underwent x-rays where it was found that she was suffering from a fracture. 

However further tests found that the cancer had spread to her bones and to her lungs, and was terminal with it being estimated that she only had 3-5 months to live. Sadly chemotherapy was ineffective and she passed away on November 2nd, 1996 at the age of 33.

Two years after she passed away, her music was brought to the attention on British audiences by Mike Harding and the late Terry Wogan on BBC Radio 2. Soon after the compilation album Songbird went to the top of the UK album charts, almost 3 years after its initial release. This chart success in the UK led to increased recognition throughout the rest of the world and her posthumously released recordings have sold over 10 million copies.

Sunday 17 October 2021

Upside Down!

60 years ago on 18th October 1961, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, USA famously hung Henri Matisse’s artwork Le Bateau upside-down.

No one noticed for 47 days and it was eventually hung the right way up on 3rd December when an eagle-eyed visitor noticed the mistake.

Le Bateau, by Henri Matisse

On that morning the museum opened a new exhibition “The Last Works of Matisse” unaware that the work had been hung upside down. In the 47 days that elapsed until it was discovered, 116,000 people had visited the exhibition including Matisse’s own son Philippe, an art dealer.

To be honest, the mistake is quite understandable considering it was a simple paper cut-out work of a sailboat and its reflection.

New York stockbroker Genevieve Habert visited the exhibition three times, each time becoming more convinced of the error. She contacted the New York Times newspaper explaining her belief that Matisse would never put the main motif on the bottom and the lesser on top.

She pointed this out to a museum employee whose response was that they cannot be responsible for the printers who published the catalogue which showed the work the right way up.

The exhibition closed on 4th December meaning Le Bateau was only ever on display the right way round during the removal.

Monday 11 October 2021

Defender of the Faith

500 years ago today on 11th October 1521, Pope Leo X granted the title “Defender of the Faith” to King Henry VIII of England and Ireland.

Pope Leo X

It recognised the King’s defence of the sacrament of marriage, the supremacy of the Pope, and his opposition to the Protestant Reformation and the ideas of Martin Luther.

It was conferred in recognition of Henry’s book ‘Defense of the Seven Sacraments’ The title was also used by his wife (at the time), Catherine of Aragon. 

Henry VIII

After Henry decided to break with Rome 9 years later and declare himself the head of the Church of England, the title was revoked by Pope Paul III and Henry was excommunicated (Pope Leo X died of pneumonia aged 45 in December 1521.

However in 1543 the English Parliament conferred the title on Henry VIII and his successors.

The title has been inherited by all English and British monarchs since then.