Tuesday, December 6, 2016


I know I should be used to it by now, but sometimes it's really frustrating to me the way most of my fellow classical musicians hold such left-wing political beliefs. The societies that produced the great music that we all love were, for the most part, Christian, not secular; monarchical, not democratic; hierarchical, not egalitarian; and while sometimes multi-ethnic (e.g. the Austro-Hungarian Empire), not multicultural or multiracial in the modern sense. And I believe there are good reasons for all of that. Yes, some of the great artistic figures of history (like Beethoven) chafed at that structure--but there has to be some sort of traditional structure for artistic and unconventional people to rebel against! Strip all that away and you get the desolation of modernism from which I've felt profoundly alienated all my life. Today, ironically, I think it is those of us who question shibboleths like "Democracy," "Diversity," and "Equality" who are the real rebels. And I'm afraid anyone who's pleased by the recent Austrian presidential election results (and I think I've made it clear that I do not approve of Austria having a president at all) is seriously naive about the threat posed to European culture--including classical music--from mass immigration, especially Muslim immigration. Exceptions to the pattern of musicians being left-wing do exist, and I'm grateful for each of them.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Remembering Grand Duchess Augusta (1822-1916)

One hundred years ago today, on December 5, 1916, Grand Duchess Augusta of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1822-1916) (born Princess Augusta of Cambridge) died at the remarkable age of 94. One of my favourite royal personalities of the 19th century, she was known within the family for her strong opinions. Among the things she disapproved of were her cousin Queen Victoria's refusal to go inside St. Paul's Cathedral for her own Diamond Jubilee service in 1897 ("thanking God in the street?!") and the democratic origins of the new Norwegian monarchy in 1905 ("a Revolutionary Coronation!"; her niece the Princess of Wales wrote back, "it is strange, but these are very modern times.") (Sometimes when I disapprove of something I say to myself, "what would Grand Duchess Augusta say?")

During the preparations for the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, 64 years after the last such ceremony, Grand Duchess Augusta was frequently consulted as she was one of the few living people who could remember the coronations of not only Victoria but also her uncle William IV. Born just two years after the death of her grandfather King George III, she lived through the reigns of George IV, William IV, Victoria, Edward VII, and into the reign of George V. Close to her niece Queen Mary, she regretted being too old to travel to London for their coronation in 1911. In the last years of her life, the Great War divided her from her beloved England. But as she wrote to Queen Mary (via neutral Sweden) not long before her death, "it is a stout English heart that beats beneath these old bones." Sadly, she had outlived her son Grand Duke Adolf Friedrich V (1848-1914), though she was spared the mysterious suicide of her grandson Adolf Friedrich VI (1882-1918). Grand Duchess Augusta was the longest-lived member of the British royal family ever until Princess Alice of Athlone (1883-1981) broke her record; she remains its second-longest-lived member by birth.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Vajiralongkorn, King of Thailand

Yesterday, after a curious interregnum of a month and a half, Vajiralongkorn was finally proclaimed KING (Rama X) of Thailand.  Apparently the new King's reign will be retroactively dated to have begun on October 13, the day his father died. Long live the King!!!

I have updated all the relevant pages of my website, including this one, to reflect the fact that Vajiralongkorn is now King of Thailand. Unless there is an official statement to the contrary, I am regarding his 11-year-old son Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti as heir presumptive, though he is not Crown Prince.
King Vajiralongkorn and his son Prince Dipangkorn, 11

Thursday, November 3, 2016

1908 versus 2016

While I'm not interested in baseball per se, some of the commentary about the Chicago Cubs winning their first World Series since 1908 (how is it that a sport primarily played in the USA can have a "World Series"?) does interest me as it's an opportunity to reflect on all that has changed in the country and in the world since then, as some commentators indeed have.
While no one openly celebrates the many atrocities of unprecedented magnitude that have occurred during that historical interval, progressives (and not a few who call themselves "conservatives") otherwise seem to regard the profound differences between 1908 and 2016 as generally constituting an essentially uplifting narrative of improvement. As a monarchist, and more broadly a traditionalist, I cannot agree. While I acknowledge that it is not hard at a purely materialist level (which is not unimportant) to point out many ways in which life in 2016 is preferable to life in 1908, in every other sense--politically, culturally, socially, religiously, musically, architecturally, demographically--yes, I would prefer the Edwardian world of 1908 (not knowing what was to come 6-10 years later). So, without making any comment on the present U.S. presidential candidates, I cannot help but feel in the course of this campaign (mercifully soon to be over) that some liberals' shrill attacks on the very idea of nostalgia for an unspecified earlier time are implicit attacks on people like me too, even if monarchists are not numerous enough to be singled out. If that makes me "Deplorable," I guess I'm "Deplorable." 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

King Bhumibol Adulydej (1927-2016)

I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Bhumibol Adulydej (Rama IX), King of Thailand for an incredible 70 years (1946-2016) and extend my condolences to the Royal Family and People of Thailand. May he rest in peace.

This picture series includes a relatively rare photo of the late King playing the saxophone. Interestingly for Americans, HM was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and played with many jazz legends.

I have updated all the relevant pages of my website (including this one) to reflect the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, with mourning black for the main page. It is a little frustrating to not yet be able to list Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn as King; given the known anxieties about the future of the Monarchy, I think it is important that his accession be proclaimed as soon as possible.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Monarchy, Religion, and Priorities

I have Catholic monarchist friends who have no problem getting along with fellow Catholics who have no use for Monarchy whatsoever. Ultimately, their religion comes first. The same is probably true in Orthodoxy, though I'm less familiar with those internal debates. That would frankly be more difficult for me. (Thankfully I don't seem to encounter anti-monarchist Anglicans very often.) 

I suppose the fundamental difference between me and those who are firmly committed to the exclusive truth of their particular variety of Christianity is this: while I understand that a Christian must put Christ first (that is, while there are non-Christian monarchies I like, I wouldn't defend Saudi Arabia from justified Christian criticism simply because it calls itself a Kingdom), I'm not willing to put the divisions _within_ Christianity ahead of Monarchism. I would be Catholic if I lived in France in 1685, Protestant if I lived in England in 1570, and Orthodox if I lived in Tsarist Russia, but I would not become Muslim if I lived in Constantinople in 1453...I hope. So, I'm a Christian first, but a Monarchist second, and an Anglican/Protestant (if Anglicanism is Protestant, but that's a whole other discussion) third. To the extent that I identify as an American at all, that's fourth at best.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

William in Hawaii

I'm proud of my brother, violinist and cultural diplomat William Harvey, for this eloquent reflection on his visit to the once and future Kingdom of Hawaii.

Queen Liliuokalani (1838-1917)