Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Gay marriage of a royal master hits the buffers

Orkney council blocks ceremony
Hell’s Angel lined up to take service


By David Lister
From The Times - January 06, 2007

It was never likely to match the glamour of Sir Elton John and David Furnish, but the gay wedding of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen’s Music, and his long-term partner was expected to be every bit as sensational.
In probably the most bizarre event planned for the remote Orkney island of Sanday, Sir Peter, 72, and Colin Parkinson, 52, a builder, were to arrive before guests on a miniature railway overlooked by a herd of cattle, before being “married” in a tearoom by a member of the Hell’s Angels.
To the accompaniment of music composed by Sir Peter called The Sanday Light Railway, they were to exchange vows in front of leading musicians, including the clarinetist Dimitri Ashkenazy, the Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell, and a smattering of friends from the pop world.
But yesterday Sir Peter said that he was taking legal advice after Orkney Islands Council refused to allow Sanday’s registrar to carry out the ceremony.
Accusing the council of “downright discrimination”, he said: “Everybody can get married where they live except me, it seems. Ever since the law on civil partnerships was brought in, we thought that finally there was an opportunity to get married and to have a little celebration. There are all sorts of people we were wanting to invite from the music world and it would have needed a lot of telephone calls. Well, if we can’t have it here in the place we live then we don’t want to do it at all in Orkney; we’ll probably go to London.”
Sir Peter, who was born in Salford but moved to Orkney 37 years ago, asked Sanday’s resident registrar, Charlie Ridley, last year if he would be prepared to officiate at a ceremony this spring.
Mr Ridley, a member of the Aire Valley chapter of the Hell’s Angels, based in Leeds, was told by the council that it had no objection to him conducting the ceremony, only to be informed before Christmas that it had suddenly changed its mind.
Instead, it said that the couple would have to travel to Kirkwall on the Orkney mainland because registrars on outlying islands did not have the power to carry out same-sex partnership ceremonies.
Mr Ridley, 48, who is the owner of the Sanday Light Railway, which bills itself as Britain’s most northerly passenger-carrying railway, said: “It is the law that everybody should be allowed to have a ceremony whether it is a same-sex partnership or one between a man and a woman.”
He said that he was leaving the island in protest. “We are leaving in disgust. It’s such a great shame because Sanday is such a beautiful place,” he said.
However, the council raised the prospect last night that a compromise solution may yet be reached. A spokesman said: “In common with all the other home-based registrars in the Orkney Island Council registration district, the Sanday registrar is not authorised to carry out civil partnership ceremonies. The council will be discussing this situation with all those concerned to find an acceptable solution within council procedure.”
Sir Peter, who refused to divulge details of figures from the pop world he would invite to the ceremony, had hoped to invite about 50 guests to attend inside the Brief Encounter tearoom. Along with the Sanday’s 521 inhabitants, they were then planning to continue their celebrations in the island’s two pubs.
He and Mr Parkinson, who is also from Lancashire, have lived openly together on Sanday for years. They had hoped to turn up at the ceremony pulled by a burgundy-coloured miniature steam train called Molly, one of four locomtives on the seven-and-a-quarter-inch light railway that circles Mr Ridley’s two-acre croft.
Sir Peter said: “We wanted to arrive by train at the tea room, it would be a lovely theatrical gesture.”
However, even if the council relents and allows the ceremony to go ahead in Sanday, he may not get his wish of arriving by train. Mr Ridley has begun to dismantle the railway, which took him seven years to build, after the council told him that he did not have the necessary licence.
He remained defiant last night. “After spending over £50,000 setting this up I have closed the railway and I’m leaving,” he said. “But not before I marry Peter and Colin here.”
Civil partners
16,000 gay weddings since Civil Partnership Act came into force in December 2005
4,000 ceremonies in the first six weeks of the new legislation
25% of all ceremonies have been in London.
75% have been between men
£1m celebrations for Sir Elton John and David Furnish, his Canadian boyfriend. Guests included Elizabeth Hurley and Rod Stewart
19 & 18 the ages of Sonya Gould and Vanessa Haydock, the first gay soldiers to marry


'Homophobic' Orkney under attack for ban on civil partnership

By Andrew Johnson
From The Independent - 08 January 2007

Gay rights campaigners have called for a tourist boycott of Orkney after one of the world's leading composers was banned from forming a civil partnership with his lover on the remote island of Sanday.
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, who is master of the Queen's Music, and Colin Parkinson, 52, planned to hold their ceremony next month on Sanday, where they have lived for the past nine years.
Sir Peter, 72, had even composed a piece of music for the event, which was to be attended by stars from the classical and pop music worlds.
But their plans were put on hold after officials at Orkney Islands Council unexpectedly said the registrar, a friend of the couple, was not authorised to preside over the civil partnership. Instead, they would have to travel to Kirkwall on Orkney mainland for the ceremony.
Matters became further confused yesterday when it was reported that Orkney officials had also cited fears of a media circus and "unsuitable music" on Sanday as reasons to move the ceremony.
A furious Sir Peter condemned the ban as "downright discrimination" and pointed the finger at "religious fundamentalists".
He said: "Everybody can get married where they live except me, it seems. Ever since the law on civil partnerships was brought in, we thought that finally there was an opportunity to get married and to have a little celebration.
"Fundamental religious people, who delve into the Bible to justify their hatreds, still hold great sway. That kind of malignant influence is wrong. Most of the people here are fine and open, those who disapprove are in a minority."
Gay rights campaigners have now waded into the bitter dispute. Peter Tatchell said the publicity was damaging the image of the Orkney islands as a whole and warned that a tourist boycott could be the next stage in the row.
"This smacks of homophobia," he said. "There would be strong grounds for legal action. They seem to be attempting to undo the democratic decision of Parliament. Orkney council runs the risk of alienating potential tourists. If this ban remains I suspect there will be calls for a tourist boycott from the gay community. Even many heterosexual people feel revolted by discrimination. It is very damaging to Orkney's image and is a major PR blunder."
Michael Cashman, the former EastEnders actor and founder of Stonewall, who is now a Labour MEP, has called on Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to intervene. "It seems to me it's good, old-fashioned homophobia," he said. "In the past, the Government has said that such attitudes are unacceptable and probably not in line with the law. The relevant minister should move quickly to instruct the local authority to carry out the civil partnership."
Calum Irving, the director of gay rights campaign group Stonewall Scotland, said he would be taking up the matter with Orkney council.
"Civil partnerships are law now," he said. "It's hard to avoid the conclusion that there is something homophobic about this. Orkney should operate in the spirit and letter of the law and find a registrar who is able to undertake this service on Sanday."
The row comes as the Government prepares to introduce legislation in April banning discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation for "goods and services" including health care and education.

Tan Dun's "The First Emperor"

'Crouching Tiger' Composer Ready for Met

By Martin Steinberg
From SFGate.com - Tuesday, December 19, 2006

He collected folk songs in villages in his native China, then planted rice during the Cultural Revolution. Later, he played music on the streets of New York to buy food.
Now, composer Tan Dun is making his Metropolitan Opera debut.
"The First Emperor," starring Placido Domingo in the title role of a production with a reported cost of up to $3 million, has its world premiere Thursday night — on stage and in cyberspace.
No stranger to success, Tan won an Oscar in 2001 for the music for the martial arts fantasy "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." His other compositions include "The Map," a cello concerto written for Yo-Yo Ma; and the score for the 2002 movie "Hero," with violin solos by Itzhak Perlman.
Still, "The First Emperor" — the story of betrayal involving a conqueror, his daughter and a court composer two millennia ago — should be a great leap forward for the 49-year-old Tan, who will conduct all nine performances through Jan. 25.
After a long day of conducting the dress rehearsal Monday for the three-hour opera, Tan spoke with The Associated Press.
AP: Did you ever think while growing up in Hunan province that you would be here?
Tan: No. It's a huge distance. I just cannot imagine. Thirty years ago, you know, I was planting the rice. ... It's a dream. To me, this distance is not just 30 years. It just seems like a few hundred years. ... It's not just distance. ... I came from a completely different tradition and now I end up with another tradition. From this tradition I take it back, to let the two traditions meet — to embrace.
AP: So you feel like Marco Polo?
Tan: Upside-down Marco Polo.
AP: How did you get involved in music?
Tan: I was growing up in my grandma's village. My grandma was a vegetable farmer. So basically all the farmers and people always are gathering together in the evening for ritual opera, for chanting for funeral(s) or wedding(s). My childhood life I remember every night is musical activities — lessons that go to stories, through chantings. ...
AP: How did you get to New York?
Tan: I always wanted to get into the Hunan Opera but I was not allowed because at that time it was the Cultural Revolution. Mao Zedong (said of high school and college graduates): "They're all poisoned and you have to (be) re-educated by farmers, workers, to teach you how to plant the rice, how to feed pigs, how to clean the bathroom. Then your spirit is clean. Otherwise you would be just poisoned by all this academic knowledge." So before I was re-educated, of course I wasn't allowed to be a musician. ... That's why I planted rice. ... I also cooked for 200 people. Meanwhile, my real re-education was I got a chance to collect all this dialect and folk songs. I start to organize the local farmers to play the old ghost operas, which were ritualistic music. ... I teach them how to write, how to read. And they teach me all this old music.
AP: You then applied for the Beijing conservatory?
Tan: They thought I could be a wonderful pianist, a wonderful violinist, or a wonderful composer. I said I am a wonderful composer but I can't play piano but I can play fiddle. ... They said can you fiddle some Mozart or some Beethoven? I said I even don't know who is Mozart, who is Beethoven. ... Then he said, what could you do for us? I said I can do improvising. I can sing 500 folk songs. I can show you all my research on oldest music, my collections for all those disappearing old stuff. ...
I ... stayed about eight years in the conservatory to learn all the tradition of Western music because ... all our teachers were graduates of the Moscow Conservatory. ... After that, the country opened and I started to be influence(d) by Western avant-garde — John Cage, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Elliott Carter, ... (Toru) Takemitsu. I start to be very hungry for new music. ... So I applied for Columbia University.
AP: While at Columbia, you used to fiddle on the streets of New York to get money?
Tan: Yeah. ... My scholarship just covered tuition. I didn't have any money for my living expenses, even the rent, the food.
AP: What about the politics of "The First Emperor" story? On the one hand Qin Shi Huang was a brutal autocrat who conquered warring fiefdoms. On the other, he had great economic, social and artistic accomplishments. The libretto depicts him searching for a musical anthem to unite the hearts of the people. Are you trying to say something politically?
Tan: No. I'm interested in putting an artist and a politician together — to have a contrast of their mind. ... Qin Shi Huang (was) pretty much like Mao Zedong. ... He was great. He unified China. He made the language, made the measuring system, made the currency. ... But on the other hand, imagine how many other kingdoms' tribes he wiped out, how many other languages he destroyed, and the culture and books burned by him. ...
AP: During the decade the opera has been in the works, you have done much research on the music of Qin's time. With your percussive music, were you trying to re-create what he may have heard?
Tan: It's kind of a dream processing.
AP: What about your dream with Placido Domingo? You have said you had long dreamed of writing an opera for him. And this is his first world premiere at the Met in his 38 years with the company.
Tan: When I was a student at Columbia I ... (saw) every single opera of his and always said: ... "If in my lifetime someday I could work with him, write for him, then it's nice. It's the word from God, it's wonderful." Of course I always say ... it's too high to dream it.
AP: So here it is?
Tan: It's wonderful feeling when you see the dream become real. Especially to (a) composer, every piece is a dream. You always start from zero. You imagine what kind of sound, timing, space. You imagine the sounds of opera. But this dream is more specific. I had a lot of dreams. I had (a) dream once when I was little, if I could work with Yo-Yo Ma! And it became true. And once I thought, if I could have a chance to write something for Itzhak Perlman, and I did! So now it's Domingo. I felt on the one hand I learned so much from them. ... On the other hand I felt like a makeup artist, like a tailor, to make them more beautiful in my way. It seems like they enjoy it. They feel they are more beautiful in a certain way, in my way.