Thanks For Reading!

Dear Pleasure Trollers.  Thanks for dropping by.  As you will see, I haven’t updated this blog in a long time, but there is still content to be enjoyed here so I hope you don’t start reading at this point.  To find more from me, please go to my new blog at

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In Evgeny Kissin’s Dressing Room

Although I’ve never actually been in Evgeny Kissin‘s dressing room (when he’s there), I’ve always been curious about the phenom at the piano, the man under the wild hair, and the guy I always had the impression was intense and cold off-stage.

Thanks to the amazing folks at, the world’s unique virtual concert hall, I am now totally enamoured and take back my prejudice.  Evgeny is hilarious!  I’d love to have dinner with him and ask him some more questions…  Yeah!

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Send In The Clowns

Clown Couture, Coco Rocha

When I was young, I remember my grandmother had a delicate music box with a clown ballerina in the middle, dancing to Stephen Sondheim’s “Send In The Clowns”.  (It was the only clown of my childhood that didn’t haunt me with reoccurring nightmares — unlike It and Polkaroo.  *shudder*)

At the time, I didn’t know the context of the song, but I knew that it was a sad story…and I am always enchanted when I hear it.

“Send In The Clowns” is a ballad from the 1973 musical A Little Night Music.  Sondheim wrote the song specifically for actress Glynis Johns, who created the lead role of Desirée on Broadway.  Glynis was chosen because she had the glamour and charm for the dark, comedic role, even though she didn’t have the strongest voice.  This is what led to those magical, short-breathed phrases.  According to Sondheim, “Glynis had a lovely, crystal voice, but sustaining notes was not her thing.  I wanted to write short phrases, so I wrote a song full of questions.”

What questions you ask?  Well if you don’t know the story of the play, Judi Dench, who performed the role Desirée in London, describes it as “a dark play about people who, at the beginning, are with wrong partners and in the end it is hopefully going to become right.  She (Desirée) mistimes her life in a way and realizes when she re-meets the man she had an affair with and had a child by (and once proposed and she declined), that she loves him and he is the man she wants.”  So, although he is now in a new marriage with a much younger woman, Desirée proposes marriage to ‘rescue’ him from his situation, but this time, he rejects her.  And then she sings.  She sings a song of a woman who finally realizes that she has misspent her youth in a shallow life of theatre and men.  Full of regret, too upset and too angry to say much else.

The “clowns” in the title don’t refer to the circus clowns so many of us are terrified of (and don’t find the least bit funny), instead, they symbolize fools.  Sondheim explained in a 1990 interview:

“I wanted to use theatrical imagery in the song, because she’s an actress, but it’s not supposed to be a ‘circus’.  It’s a theatre reference meaning ‘if the show isn’t going well, let’s send in the clowns’; in other words, ‘let’s do the jokes’.  I always want to know, when I’m writing a song, what the end is going to be, so ‘Send In The Clowns’ didn’t settle in until I got the notion, ‘Don’t bother, they’re here’ which means that ‘We are the fools’.”

And that’s what Desirée is saying, “aren’t we foolish” or “aren’t we fools?”  So sad.  So poignant.

Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air.
Send in the clowns.

Isn’t it bliss?
Don’t you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can’t move.
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.

Just when I’d stopped opening doors,
Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours,
Making my entrance again with my usual flair,
Sure of my lines,
No one is there.

Don’t you love farce?
My fault, I fear.
I thought that you’d want what I want.
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don’t bother, they’re here.

Isn’t it rich?
Isn’t it queer,
Losing my timing this late
In my career?
And where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns.
Well, maybe next year.

From the stage to pop hit and even jazz standard, “Send In The Clowns” has been performed and recorded by so many of the best, Angela Lansbury, Glenn Close, Bernadette Peters, Judy Collins, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Sarah Vaughan, Kenny Rogers, and Lou Rawls…

Who’s your favourite Desirée?

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Ringtone Trivia

Kirill Gerstein

I had the pleasure of meeting Gilmore Award-winning pianist Kirill Gerstein today.  As we reminded him to turn off his cell phone before his live-to-air radio performance interview, we talked ringtones…naturally. And I learned something new.

We all know the Nokia ringtone — heard worldwide an estimated 1.8 billion times per day, about 20,000 times per second — has been claimed to be “the world’s most heard tune”.  But the “sound trademark” of the Finnish telecommunications corporation is not a modern midi file as one may expect, it actually has Spanish origins!

The tune is a phrase from a piece for solo guitar called, Gran Vals and it was written in 1902 by influential Spanish composer and virtuoso classical guitarist Francisco Tárrega. Known as the “Sarasate of the guitar”, he was key to reviving the guitar as a recital and concert instrument.  Imagine if he could have collected the royalties on this one!

Add that to your Trivial Pursuit back pocket!

Really looking forward to Kirill Gerstein’s concert tomorrow night as he kicks off the Toronto Summer Music Festival at Koerner Hall.  Find all the details you need here and see you there.  Classical music lives on during the summer!  Thank goodness for TSMF.

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Wandering Heart


If you’ve been wondering where the heck I am, my eyes have wandered over to Tumblr (where my short attention span finds it easier to post short tidbits of randomness).  My heart is still in Pleasure Troll, but I’m going to reserve this space for my Classical Music adventures.  (So please still check in on me!)

For everything else like my daily whims of food, art, fashion, and other nonsense, I hope you visit me at!

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Down the Gullet: Apple Galette

The pleasure of apple desserts.

I like apples like Bubba Gump likes shrimp.  Apple pie, apple crumble, apple crisp, apple cake, apple danish, apple cobbler, baked apples, apple pancakes, apple napoleon…you get the point.

The pleasure of anything apple a la mode.

So when I saw this tutorial video, my tastebuds began to cry with joy.  Drool.  Although I usually reserve my apple binges for the best time of year, apple harvest, I think I’m going to have to try this.  Stat.  It looks easy enough right?

The video and recipe are courtesy of Elephantine (she has good taste, she makes stuff, and is getting married this summer, so I think I’ll be stopping by her Typepad on a regular basis):

The Apple Galette (serves 2 to 4)

For the dough
* 1 cup flour (I used a 50/50 mix of white and wheat)
* 1/2 teaspoon sugar
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
* chilled water, as needed (I used about 6 tbsp)

For the filling
* 2 medium apples peeled, cored and sliced
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
* 1/4 cup sugar (more or less depending on how tart your apples are)
* turbinado sugar for topping (optional)

For the dough
Sift flour in a large bowl. Mix in sugar and salt. Cut in butter, working quickly, to prevent it from completely melting. Continue until the biggest pieces of butter are roughly the size of large peas. Add chilled water a tablespoon at a time until the dough just holds together. Gather dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes.

When the dough is ready, roll out on a floured surface or on plastic wrap to a 14″ circle about 1/8″ thick. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Preheat oven to 400°F.

For the filling
Place apple slices in a bowl with melted butter and sugar. Toss to coat. Overlap the apples in a circle 2″ from the edge of the dough. Continue spiraling inward until you’ve reached the center. Fold over the edges of the dough, and sprinkle dough edge with turbinado sugar if desired (I do this for added texture more than for sweetness).

Bake on middle rack of oven for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Rotate the galette every 15 minutes for an evenly baked crust. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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Diagnosis, Mahleria

The only cure is time.

You either love him or hate him, but on the centenary of the composer’s death, Mahler maniacs are running wild!  Here are a few of my favourite Mahler memorial offerings.

Alma Mahler remembering the night of her husband’s death:  Mahler lay with dazed eyes; one finger was conducting on the quilt.  There was a smile on his lips and twice he said “Mozart!”  His eyes were very big.

Alma & Gustav

Creepo Crispin Glover marches to Mahler while squeaking a stupid mouse.

Back in 2007, a mystery tagger gave Mahler some pretty bold street cred in Toronto (@torontoist).  Where is his/her can of spray paint on this day of significance?

Queen Street Bridge in Toronto

In a battle of twits, I came up with The Godmahler for #conductormovies and then my colleague Stephanie Parrot activated her photoshop skills.

Puppet master of the symphony.

Michael Tilson Thomas of the San Francisco Symphony takes a moment in Prague to raise a glass (of cola) to Gustav.

Tim Smith of the Baltimore Sun’s Clef Notes chose to mark this day with “Urlicht” (“Primal Light”) movement from the “Resurrection Symphony”.  He says “these five minutes easily reveal the soul of Mahler and the extraordinary, magnetic pull of his music” and I totally agree.

Ain't it the truth!?

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