A PERSONAL TRIBUTE TO ROBERT HARVEY Saule Ryan Robert Mcfarlane Harvey. Born 25/06/1925 Ballarat, Australia. Died 21/10/2009 Ganges, France. Robert was a complex person with sides to him that weren’t always easy to comprehend. In his own words his childhood memories were mostly unhappy and as a boy he would sometimes dream that he was a prince, living in a lovely castle somewhere, with different parents. Instead he lived with an irascible, drunken baker for a father, who slept during the day and yelled at his sons if they made a noise in the house, and who got drunk every weekend. The house was unbearably hot in the summer, heated as it was by the baking ovens. His mother played the organ in the local church and led the local choir and would organize sing songs around the piano, which he enjoyed, but she didn’t have much authority over his father, with whom she was always quarreling. In his lifetime Robert came a long way from this claustrophobic, unhappy childhood. His niece Anita Corbally, in an email she wrote in January of this year asking for news of Robert, said that he was the one who “got away from this place” and that she was very proud of the work that he chose to do. For all his personal foibles, Robert was undoubtedly an artist. His many years of professional dancing, with all the technique and discipline that that entails, his incredible energy, his natural singing voice, his love of all the arts, and his impish sense of humour which tended towards the absurd especially in later years, were all qualities that combined to give him exceptional stage presence. What made Robert such a good performer was his ability to fully embody the roles that he played. From Agave in the “Bacchae” (1967) and Prospero in the Tempest (1977), both dramatic roles, to Le Conducteur in “Prévert et Moi” (1984) or the straight faced interpreter of Kurt Schwitters Dada piece “Ursonate” (1991), both more comic roles, Robert always gave himself 150% to the role. There was a big, naughty child in him that came to life on stage and made his performances so real, so touching. In “Ursonate”, the duo of clown/child and accomplished rhythm master created an amazingly coherent musical and comic piece out of a complex series of meaningless onomatopoeic sounds. Truly, an unforgettable virtuoso performance. The child in Robert was also visible off stage with his love of toys or the latest gadgets. He was the first person to have his own computer at Malérargues. He bought a digital camera when nobody knew what they were! He would read the instruction manuals from cover to cover and by trial and error would figure out how to use all the different programmes. He became an expert in using photoshop and we would all look forward every year to receiving his quirky Christmas card where he would choose a beautiful renaissance painting and replace the face of an angel or a monk or even once a naked young man with his own! Although destined to become a dancer from an early age ( his mother had been advised by the local doctor to send him to dance classes to correct his bandy legs!) he preferred technical studies to academic ones at school. He loved tinkering with home made radios and his beloved motorbikes in the early years or later on, at Malérargues, with his bicycle and his computer, buying the latest accessories and parts as soon as they appeared in his various magazines, or when he went up to Paris to go to the latest Apple fair. His meeting with Roy in London in 1955 changed his life. This is how he describes the immediate impact of Roy’s teaching on him in an essay entitled “Reflections 1965”: “Immediately I began to sing, I touched something in myself, of which I had been unaware. I know now that this tiny spark, touched by the sounds of my own voice, was the real me, buried under a pile of religious dogma, sentimentalism and fake gentility. When touched by a sound, it struggled for its very life, and the dogmas and sentiments struggled against it. This struggle I could not cope with and my early lessons were almost inevitably conducted through a flood of uncontrollable tears. This went on for years with the frequent reoccurrence of the tears whenever an important change was about to take place, and only now, ten years later, am I able to exercise some control over them, or even make use of them. My vocal range at first was limited to a small area at the top half of the piano, and it must have been very reedy. Low sounds were out and it was usually when I touched them that the tears were provoked.” Up until then Robert had been a relatively successful professional dancer, with enormous energy but no means to channel it. He was unsuccessful in maintaining relationships and would swing regularly between bouts of depression and periods of elation. As he grew closer to himself and began to realize his truepotential through the work with Roy, he began to feel the call of teaching. First, teaching movement anddance in schools and in professional dance productions, and then becoming the main movement teacherat the Abraxas Club when Roy moved there with his group in 1965. He was a very good and inspiring movement teacher, using an eclectic mix of classical and pop music in his classes. In the early ‘70’s he started to train some of the RHT members, including myself, in movement teaching with music analysis and simple choreography classes. He was also teaching voice like many of the other members, and in 1976 at the first public workshop in France at Malérargues he met Denise and Daniel Schröpfer, two young actors from Paris. A year later, when Robert decided he needed to take a break from the tough communal life we were living in Malérargues, the Schröpfers invited him to stay with them in Paris, and from that moment Robert’s solo career as a teacher and as a performer took off. Not only did he organize and run a very successful RHT Paris teaching programme, he also immersed himself for four or five years in French life and culture, attending regular classes in French at the Alliance Française, and creating two new performances, one a solo ‘Prévert et Moi’ based on Jacques Prévert’s poems, and the other a twohander ‘Tant que Vivray’ based on Rabelais’ writings, with Michèle Laforest. No surprise that in the mid ‘80’s he decided to become a French citizen. Robert was passionate about his teaching and totally committed to passing on what he had learned from Roy. He was strict but warm with his pupils and they respected his passion and his seriousness. Many like the Schröpfers and the Cailles became friends and remain so to this day. In the mid ‘80’s he moved back to Malérargues and began teaching more in Germany than in France, joining Marita Gunther at Amkanal in Hanover, where they formed their first pedagogic groups with their regular singing pupils. Some of these pupils continued to work regularly with Robert after Marita’s death in 2002 and several of them are now RHT voice teachers. It was in 1990, aged 65, that he created his chef d’oeuvre “Ursonate”. His serious efforts to learn German had been less successful than his learning of French, so it’s not surprising that he chose a non verbal piece to work on in Germany . At least he couldn’t be faulted for his bad accent! Robert was also an excellent director and starting at the end of the ‘80’s he was invited to direct in Germany, Norway and Malérargues where he directed several shows : first “l’A.B.C. de Notre Vie” by Jean Tardieu (1989), then “Le Bon Vingt” (1994 ) and “Fou, Fou, Fou” (1995) – both original collage shows created by Robert which were performed outside using the chateau and the grounds, and which were full of humour and poetry. In 1996, together with Ulrik Barfod, he created “Double Click”, a piece that made fun of computer language with an exuberant mix of slapstick and musical games. His last group creation “Variations”(2003 ) , was another irreverent collage piece, with Hamlet’s soliloquy ‘To be or not to be’ performed in many different ways and in different languages alongside various French absurd texts. As usual the show ended with a song and dance number composed and choreographed by Robert. The man was immensely creative but by then his energy was already depleted, and directing and performing were becoming much harder. Apart from one or two small appearances on stage in the following years, “Variations” was to be his last major performance. As a man he wasn’t always easy on himself or on others and he could be downright rude and mean in certain circumstances. For someone who had always been so independent, so active, and so creative, the crippling effects of arthritis, Parkinson’s and depression must have made the last few years of his life a very painful and humiliating experience. Yes, Robert was indeed a complex personality who could also however be very sweet and touching. So let’s forgive him his crankiness and remember rather his gifts as a performer and a director, and his generosity and humanity as a teacher and friend to so many people over the years. We will miss you Robert.
It is with sadness that we announce the deaths of Robert Harvey, Liza Mayer, Rossignol and Kozana Lucca: Robert on the 21st of October 2009, Liza on the 8th of December 2009, Rossignol on the 26th of December 2009 and Kozana on the 30th of March, 2010. They have been pillars within Roy Hart Theatre since its very beginning in London. Originally students of Roy Hart, they were guardians of a great inspiration and teaching and beloved friends to us all.
To Kozana Extract from Homage to Kozana, By Enrique Pardo full text and references on http://www.pantheatre.com/1-kozana.html Susana Lucca † March 30th, 2010 Our lady of colours has departed; she had birds in her many voices and nesting in her hair, and in the flowers of her bearing. Her stride, both light and majestic, knew how to caress the earth, how to lean on it, how to give it her weight, and even how to stomp down on her with abundance and seriousness. Kozana also knew how to stir up and enjoy the thrills and tickles of life, and how to sidestep the ponderous professors: she knew how to laugh. I will truly miss her laughter! She had many voices, many laughs. She left us in her way – with her, everything was: “her way” – leaving in her trail the archaic youth (or youthful archaism?) of her extremely strong personality, sometimes full of fearless courage, sometimes even violent: if necessary she knew when to shake things in life: a critical art I was lucky to benefit from sometimes. Surely now she will be idealized for the tenderness and baroque arabesques of her femininity – she deserves it! – as well as for the eco-artistic utopias of the architect she actually was! – she talked with the ex catedra assurance of a revolutionary pasionaria. Once, she wanted to transform the basement of Malérargues into a cultural centre! Pretty crazy! All this bundled together with the needed dose of pagan disorder which I loved sharing with her. We were both South Americans – I put us both in the imperfect past – I certainly am a very imperfect one, but so was Kozana, in her way, a bouquet of Argentina, Hispano-Italian, without forgetting the forester Alsatian and Amazonian dreams she shared with her partner and beloved friend, Jerome – they must be drinking mate together! If I regret anything it is not having shared more laughs and fights with Kozana. We had made plans to work together this summer in the Singing after Roy Hart Workshop-Symposium. Kozana was a unique teacher – incredibly refreshing and careful. I think she greatly admired Roy Hart and what she had inherited from him – as usual, “her way.” We will miss her very much. We were also in talks for next year’s 2011 Myth and Theatre Festival whose theme will be (if it happens): ECOLOGY. Kozana recently published (November 2009), with her sister Elena, a small book titled: From the magic of uncertainty – Ecology and Art *. It is precisely in these ecomythological territories that lies one of my main current research themes: the pastoral tradition, whose tutelary deity in the Mediterranean is Great Pan – god of Arcadia. It is this link that leads me to the heart of this tribute to Kozana. In the late seventies I began to study and work on the figure and mythology of Pan, which led me to create the solo Calling for Pan and to create Pantheatre. And it was with Kozana with whom I established the richest artistic dialogue. She was very interested in the work I was doing, and we had strong things in common. Kozana always took interest in my work, often collaborated with Pantheatre, and remained open, curious and appreciative, and participating in real critical dialogues. Kozana was the one who totally redesigned the staging for the performance on Pan, setting the show with the audience around it, and with the projectors on the floor, opening presences and imaginary spaces: three old one thousand-watt projectors right in the middle, casting huge shadows on the walls above the spectators, or burning my features as I approached the intense lights. “Poor Theatre”, no doubt, but even more so: theatre of invocation. Today I would say: “spiritist theatre”! – when it works. And this is how our ‘shamans’ came to meet, Kozana’s and mine, emerging especially when we quarrelled, putting on faces of intensity, faces of hatred, grotesque and fanatic faces, possessed art faces. They knew all along, of course, that it was all fiction and that that’s why they played so seriously. Great laughs! What good times! Many thanks to you, Kozana! I will miss you! Enrique Pardo, Paris, 7 April 2010. *Elena Lucca y Kozana Lucca – Published by Árboles Vida Argentina and Elapagon Ediciones. Re. her “unipersonal” (one-person show) directed by Lucho: It was called Pianto based on a tango by Astor Piazzola – Balad for a madman – a display between reality and madness, a path of imagination and expression. She presented it in several provinces in Argentina where it produced a major change in theatre, in theatre research and especially in voice work. Recently I met several persons who commented on this, as well as her regular groups in Cordoba, Tucuman and Misiones, where she worked with a community of some 120 persons. Elena Lucca – April 9, 2010
LIZA (Elizabeth Mayer – 18/11/1936 – 08/12/2009) was a founding member of the Roy Hart Theatre and president of Pantheatre. A wonderful artist, teacher and a most welcoming figure in Malérargues, as the many tributes describe her in the beautiful Memorial on the website of Pantheatre.
A PERSONAL TRIBUTE TO ROSSIGNOL.
Derek Isaac Rossignol ( born Rosenberg) 14/03/1923 Kimberley, South Africa. Died 26/12/2010 Malérargues, France.
This was a man who lived an incredibly full and rich life that began beside the diamond mines of Kimberley , S. Africa, and ended in a château in the beautiful Cevennes, S. of France. In the course of his life he touched many people’s hearts in so many different ways. He was a special man and artist, who, though he took the name of that most poetic of birds, the nightingale, in 1973, was definitely not flighty. He was one of the most constant, dignified, open people you could ever hope to meet. He could be infuriating at times and his peculiar sense of humour with its acid, grating edge that upset more than a few sensitive souls was not always welcome. But teasing aside, he was a man of great integrity with no axes to grind. He was warm , outgoing , and open to everyone and everything. How many times were we greeted by a smiling Rossignol leaning out of his bedroom window to see who had just arrived at the château, or hear him calling out ‘hello’ or ‘who’s that?’ from his open sitting room door as we walked up the main staircase in the château. The students who met him socially over a coffee or at a lunch out the back were always impressed by his theatrical charm and his easy way of connecting. And as a teacher right to the end he gave out an incredible energy and vitality that belied his advancing years. With age he did become less confrontational and more systematic. What student over the past 20 years has not played with Boris, Antonio, Delila and Violetta, his version of violin, viola, cello and double bass? But he still demanded a lot of the pupil with a mixture of warmth, cajoling and technical precision. He was known all over the world, and I love the story told me by a French pupil of his, who whilst travelling in Italy, got talking with a Dutch nun he had met in the gardens of a monastery. When he told her that he was going back to the South of France to continue working on his voice, she replied with a smug look on her face ‘to work with Rossignol, I bet’. He was understandably taken aback by this miraculous intuition!
Rossignol was a man of many parts and many passions. At school he was an excellent athlete who when only 16 set a South African junior record for long jump of over 20 feet ( 6 metres +) and used to ‘soar over the hurdles with astounding grace ‘ according to one of his classmates with whom he used to roller skate to school quite frequently. In his late teens he took up the piano again after a break of many years and taught himself to play the most complicated of piano pieces by Lizt, Schumann , Beethoven and co. His younger cousin Lin Freeman remembers many happy hours spent with Rossi when she was a teenager, with him playing the piano and she dancing. By then Rossi himself had discovered dancing and would secretly climb out of his bedroom window every evening, whilst supposedly revising for his engineering exams at university, to go and rehearse with the ballet company he had joined. He rapidly became one of the company’s leading male dancers with the stage name of Serge Dimitrov and a fantastic leap. Only after he had passed his exams at the third or fourth attempt was his cousin allowed to take one of the uncles, who had been paying for his education following the early death of both his parents, to see a dance performance. When the uncle proclaimed early on in the evening ‘ but that dancer looks extraordinarily like Derek !’ his cousin replied ’ It is Derek!’ You can imagine the shock!
Thus dancing became his passion and brought him to London where he dreamed of becoming a top Ballet dancer. However the competition was much tougher than he had expected and he never made it to the top but he did dance with many different companies, notably the Ballet Rambert, run by a tyrannical Mme. Rambert who often used to exclaim disparagingly ‘ look at those kipper feet’ ( a reference to his very flat feet, which in later years became so sensitive he could only wear a certain type of sandal. In that respect he was a true Pisces.) He also danced with the Sadlers Wells company and eventually went into musicals where he met Barry Irwin and Robert Harvey. It was because he was required to sing (he himself later said he had no voice at all) that he and Robert decided to take lessons with a certain Roy Hart. They both had their first lesson on the same day in 1955, one after the other. And for both of them it was an encounter that was to change the direction and the meaning of their lives.
Rossignol was a ‘bon vivant’ who loved good food and good wine, which he ordered directly by the case from his favourite wine dealers. He was an excellent cook and generous host. Right up until the last months when he could no longer get around his kitchen he would make delicious soups from vegetables bought in the Lasalle Monday market. Garlic, ginger and cardamom were the staple spices with nutmeg the extra ingredient for his pumpkin soup.
He loved living at Malérargues with its trees, its flowers, its hills, and for many years he was a keen gardener planting irises, daffodils, forsythia, lilacs and many other bushes and trees. This autumn for the first time the persimmons tree that he had planted on the front terrace some years ago bore many golden fruit much to his immense satisfaction. His favourite tree was of course the purple flowering jacaranda and the last time he went back to South Africa to visit his brother in Johannesburg he burst into tears when he saw whole avenues of them in bloom. His big regret was that it is almost impossible to get them to grow here.
Another enormous passion of Rossignol’s in the second half of his life were stones and sculptures. Many years ago in London he had had a dream in which he had found some magic stones that if spoken to could turn into human beings. Then one day in the ‘80’s the dream became reality. And from then on when he wasn’t teaching, performing or just socializing, he would be busy putting bodies and faces onto stones, shells and sometimes pieces of wood. Hours would be spent on visits to beaches around Montpellier collecting stones that spoke to him with faces already apparent or waiting to be revealed. He would then carry them back to the car in several very full and heavy plastic bags , usually with help from friends. Once home they would be added to the pile of stones on his bedroom floor and at the earliest possible opportunity he would start working on his next creation, filing , scraping, drilling, plastering and painting. Gradually his apartment became filled with a rich world of characters, both human and animal ( and also a lot of dust!) and every birthday that came up was an occasion for him to choose one to give as a present. I think we must have all received at least one sculpture over the years!
But most of all Rossi was a wonderful performer with a very expressive vocabulary of dance and mime movements and gestures, allied to a beautiful deep, soulful bass baritone voice. Who amongst us can forget his last public performance at Malérargues in June 2007 when he sang “Old Man River” with such feeling and depth. The words ‘tired of living and scared of dying’ struck home in such a poignant and palpable way . Here was this 84 year old man , already suffering unbeknownst to him self from fibrositis of the lungs, singing his heart out in a very generous and dignified way about the approaching end to his life. Totally giving, totally unsentimental. A huge lesson in life. Rossignol probably performed in more RHT performances than any other RHT member to date. He was good to work with. But with all his talents and gifts he always remained utterly humble. There was never a sense of arrogance or ego about him. If anything rather the opposite. He tended to downplay himself and his gifts both as a teacher and as a performer. Without doubt his favourite role as a performer was the role of the hunchback in “Pagliacci”, where he was able to fully use his gifts for mime and comedy and where his voice could be heard in all its richness and its rawness. Whenever we showed our 5 week students extracts of the “Pagliacci” video he would always become tearful watching himself and the others perform.
Rossignol was a dear friend to me for over thirty years and I miss him a lot. When I think of him now I see the easy smile, and the sparkle in his eyes that so many others mentioned in their letters of condolence. I see his elegant and expressive arm and hand gestures and above all I hear his lovely deep bass voice and his laugh. Right up to the end his voice stayed clear and resonant ,both on the phone and when ever you knocked on his door. The ‘come in’ would sound firm and even angry sometimes, especially if you happened to be the fourth person in a row to knock on the door that morning. Yes, he was a tough old bird, ‘un rossignol solide’ who fought to the bitter end to maintain his dignity in the face of overwhelming odds. Only once did he say to me that he felt like giving up.
He has left us quite a legacy for which I for one am grateful. Today we moved the piano he was given by the RHT for his 60th birthday out of his apartment and into Studio 3. May his commitment and his humanity live on in our work.
I wandered the streets of Paris this cold, clear winter day remembering and remembering those wonderful bright eyes of Rossignol – and how often he would call down to me from his window when I walked past the front of the château. That same window that he threw open before singing:
“Si puo, si puo signore et signori…….” some thirty years ago. I once asked him which was his favourite performance and unequivocally he answered:
“Pagliacci”. I would agree with him because undoubtedly in this performance he found all the complexity, humanity, humour and tragedy of a dark soul. One of Sweden’s most famous actors once told me that he had never encountered such humility in an actor as with Rossignol, in this performance. A deep respectful complement from one artist to another. There was a humility in Rossignol sometimes almost a diffidence, a touching, vulnerable nervousness that constantly seemed to question his abilities, but, he was never diffident in his teaching and never sentimental. I can remember one lesson when I was thinking: “If he asks me to give any more I think I am going to die!”
It is hard now to re-imagine the limit of exhaustion he asked for – and yet, now I understand that he would never ask you for more than he would demand of himself. This was my teacher – a man who had climbed out of the window in secret in order that he could follow his passion – “to dance”!
We toured together with “Pagliacci” for five years – years of joyful artistic pleasure.
His next role – Queequeg in “Moby Dick” – was for me one of his most poignant. The dignified humanity with which he gathered the fragile Pip into his arms was a moment pure love – a moment that only an actor with a great soul could understand.
Both Rossignol and I were born white Africans and though he came from South Africa and I came from Kenya we had a lot in common – not the least the same extraordinary teacher, Cecil Williams, a white South African who was forced into exile for his engagement with the Anti-Apartheid movement and a collaborator of Nelson Mandela. I never spoke about my engagement in the anti-apartheid movement with Rossignol but I would often think of it in relation to Queequeg, who in a quiet way is a militant of human rights….. it is one of those questions that I wish that I had asked him.
In the last years, the last days what strikes me most is the quality and presence of Rossignol’s voice. I will sadly miss hearing him say, in his slightly ironical, old fashioned way:
“Well, my dear…….”
My heart is heavy dear Rossignol but your voice will always fly to me from those windows – and I pray too your soul flies joyfully…….