Saturday 16 June 2012

Louis MacNeise Poet Extraordinaire

In 1957 when I was in the lower fifth at the Arts Educational Schools in Upper Berkley Street London I has the pleasure to make wonderful friends. They were all so different from the convent variety in that they were so generous and welcoming to an outsider. One of these was Corrina MacNeise.

She was a tomboy and had the most outrageous real red hair I have ever seen. It was also curly and that made me jealous. I had lank straight mousey coloured hair that looked awful. Corrina was a talented fine artist. We had a brilliant art teacher Mrs Scott. She gave the most enjoyable art classes and Corrina was one of her star pupils. Corrina could draw in a way I have never been able to master.

As we were at school in Baker Street in the heart of London a small group used to do the shops  or go to a film together. Three little 14 year olds wandering around the West End alone would never be allowed today but we could and did. This day Corrina invited  Margot Hayhoe, myself back to lunch in her home in Regents Park.

Corrina lived in a big White Terrace House in a very fashionable area and coming from a semi detached in Stanmore I was impressed. Oh I should have loved to live in a house like that although my aunts did have a very classy mews flat in Eaton Square which was  long walk from anywhere and I hated it.

We were welcomed in unannounced and Corrina's mother was so unworried that three little girls had come unexpectedly to lunch. My own mother would have had a fit. We were taken upstairs  to a large room overlooking the park  lined with books and it was there that I met Louis MacNeise the poet. I had no idea who he was at the time or how famous he was but he was rather surprised to see three little girls who he had not expected.

MacNeise was so kind to us and I thought handsome. I remember he had no shoes on. I was shocked! I was easily shocked in those days. At ballet school we were taught never to walk around barefooted as you might injure your toes and not be able to dance. MacNeise said 'hello' and quickly got rid of us by sending us downstairs to the kitchen in the basement where we were given real beef steak   for lunch by Corrina's mother. It was such fun and a real treat as meat was still scarse and expensive and I only had steak on rare occasions.

Later I soon learned how famous Corrina's father was when I began to work for Benjamin Britten. It was in this period that I begun to read MacNeises's poetry.

Britten was looking for a 'Flora' for his opera 'The Turn of the Screw' and in November 1958. I was summoned to an audition at Britten's flat in St John's Wood and there I found myself alone with two rather pompous upper middle class elderly bachelors who I think were trying to put a little 15 year old school middle class schoolgirl in her place. Pears was very good at doing this.

Britten and Pears had presence. They knew they were superior and no doubt expected me to be in awe. They started to talk above my head and discuss Schubert especially 'Die Schöne Mullerin' in German, a language I did not speak at all at that time. It seemed I was 'Die Schöne Müllerin' and they both thought this was very funny. I was not amused as I had no idea what they were talking about. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable.

The conversation passed to poetry. I said I enjoyed Thomas Hardy. This was a good choice as Hardy is one of Britten's favorite poets. Somehow the conversation turned to modern poets and Pears remarked I should read Auden and MacNeise. It was obvious that both these gentlemen felt sure that the little ballet dancer sitting before them would have no idea of whom they were speaking.

'Oh' I said innocently 'I have met Louis MacNeise. I go to school with his daughter, Corrina and I went to lunch with them in Regents Park. I love his poetry especially The Woods." MacNeise's poetry has an economy of words which is very similar to Hardy's which I find attractive. I hate verbose poets.

Britten's attitude to me changed in an instant. He sent Pears out of the room on an errand and continued to talk to me alone as an adult for about an hour. I think it was then that Britten began to think that I was 'special'.

I lost touch with Corrina when my mother removed me from the Arts but I learned years later Corrina's mother had sung and been on tour with Britten before the war. I wish I could have spoken to her about him.

Corrina is now a fine artist who lives in the USA. One day I shall buy one of her pictures but I shall never forget my meeting with the famous poet. I think it got me the job with Britten and changed the rest of my life. I have to thank Corrina for inviting me to lunch.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

The Real Janette Miller Wikipedia style

Kia ora Alice! 

This blog is written for you so that one day in the future you will know where you come from  and for my friends who think they know me but might get one or two surprises. This is a warts and all blog because that is the most  interesting type. Controversy makes for good reading. So with the introduction out of the way let us proceed.

Obviously I have to get the boring bits out of the way first - so here goes. This is the Wikipedia style information page. I don't have one of those as I can hardly write one for myself  and I am not famous so this will have to surfice. At least I know the information is correct and can be referenced officially but that is up to you.

Janette Mary Miller was born in 1943 in Windsor, Royal Berkshire England. Her parents were Major James Charles Hugh Miller and Anges Thorpe. Her birth was registered in the same Registry Office  in Windsor High Street that hosted the marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles.

Because her father was in North Africa fighting Rommel in the Second World War Janette Miller lived with her maternal grandparents  Henry & Mary Anne Thorpe at Thamesway, Bath Road Taplow for four years until his return late in 1946. Henry Thorpe was the Chief Accountant at Wembley Stadium 1923 to 1950.

The family then moved to a semi detached in Stanmore where they lived unitl 1965 when they moved to Pinner.

Janette Miller attended four schools, St Thomases in Stanmore, Rosary Priory, in Bushey Heath, Arts Educational Schools, London and Aida Foster, Golders Green.

She then attended The Guildhall School of Music and Drama where she won The Production Prize judged by the BBC. This is one of the three major prizes.

Her professional life began at the age of 13 as the voice of  Patsy, Huntley & Palmers biscuits TV ads for Helas & Batchelor.

Her stage debut was on 27 March 1957  in the Royal Gala Performance of Petrushka with Margot Fonteyn at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. She and Patricia Roots were the first children Ninette de Valvois allowed in the company.

In 1958 Benjamin Britten chose her for the role of Mrs. Sem in the first performance of Noyes Fludde  in Aldeburgh, Southwark Cathedral and Lowestoft. She sung Cosima's Birthday Lied in the final night Wagner Concert at Aldeburgh accompanied by Benjamin Britten at the piano.

In 1959 Britten chose her to play Flora in the famous Associated Rediffusion televison production of his opera The Turn of the Screw directed by Peter Morley. She repeated this role at the Aldeburgh Festival and at Rosehill

Then started a long series of Musical Theatre in London and on tour around England's major cities for ten years,

Her London West End debut was in The House of Cards at the Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Road produced by The Players Theatre. Vida Hope directing.
National Tours of Stop the World I want to Get Off, Lilie, Lilac Time, Kathie The Student Prince, Major Pantomimes as Principal Girl, at Windsor, Nottingham and Croyden. International tour Noel Tovey Polly in The Boyfriend and as
Cabaret  Artist on the  liner Aurelia  around the Mediterranean.
London Peter Meyers intimate  8 handed revue In the Picture at The Mayfair Theatre, Susan in The Desert Song, Palace Theatre London.
BBC Drama A Piece of Resistance,  Hammer Films Phantom of the Opera. Ken Russell Women in Love. Interpol Calling Pinewood.

Janette Miller married Dr. Miles Richard Castelhow Heffernan at Uxbridge Registry Office on 5 April 1972. After living in Shepherds Bush for  three years they emigrated to Auckland, New Zealand where Miles was a General Practitioner. In 1976 they had a daughter Chlöe. Dr. Heffernan was brutally assaulted in his surgery in 1980.  After this he assisted his wife to run the Auckland Opera and Ballet Workshop, that became The Auckland City Opera and Ballet Company at the Concert Chamber of Auckland's Town Hall. Janette Miller ran this company without any official grants for 14 years. It never lost money.

Miller directed most of the major operatic repertoire in an original and avant garde style which was not appreciated by the local audience who found the multi media approach unsettling. Now this style is commonplace today but then it was considered challenging. Her first production was Schonberg's  Erwartung followed by Bartok's Bluebirds Castle. Miller had a major success with her innovative children's narrated ballets. The Tales of Beatrix Potter filling the 2400 seater Town Hall twice daily. These holiday programmes were so popular that Miller won The NZTV Marketing Award and was voted Auckland Woman of the Year 1981 (ref NZ Herald) for her sole effort to stop the Concert Chamber of The Auckland Town Hall being turned into a bar.

These Ballets were turned into the TV Series Dance Tales Story Ballets which received international success. The series finished as a finalist in the LA Monitor Awards for technical excellence and were shown on the BBC.

In 1990 her opera career came to an abrupt end with her original, highly successful production of Die Fledermaus in Wellington. Not only was this an artistic success but a financial success that pulled the Wellington City  Opera Company not only out of debit but into credit.

In Auckland this production too, as the now National Opera Company of New Zealand admitted, was a 'triumph'. Miller's production was the first NZ production to be played in the new Aotea Centre and played to capacity houses. It made such a profit that the then Metropolitan Opera Company was given the national grant. Miller was also the first woman NZ opera director to be given a National major opera production.

Janette Miller was not allowed to enjoy her success  of her work as she was dismissed with no reasons given very publicly after fully rehearsing the production a few days before the opening night. Her name was taken off the credits and a male director Bobby Alderton took the total honors. It took five years of litigation before the Opera Company settled for the cruel conspiracy and paid up but Miller's reputation was fatally damaged.

In 1990 Miller retired from Opera Production and turned to coaching Rhythmic gymnastics where she became a judge. Miller also edited the magazine The NZ Sports Woman. Miller was the Ballet Coach for The NZ Rhythmic Gymnastic Team for the 1990 Commonwealth Games where Angela Walker won a Gold Medal for Rope.

In 2002 Miles Heffernan died. Soon after  Miller contracted  the parasite Giardi but was mistakenly treated for depression with Benzodiazepine Lorazepam and eventually a tricylic Doxipin.  These combined with the antibiotic Vancomycin which was eventually administered as she had contracted Clostridium Difficile from antibiotic overuse gave her Chronic Benzodiazepan Withdrawal Syndrome and a compromised nervous system. In 2002 the slow withdrawal method was not practiced in NZ and Miller had to suffer a cold turkey horrific withdrawal alone. She was treat as a hardened drug addict without any cause and left to suffer.

This gave her the opportunity to study IT and enter the wold of computers at which she has become proficient. She started making simple TV documentaries on DVD and had a major success with 'Bookbinding with Peter Goodwin' Series which is still a constant  seller on .

In 2008 Miller who does not play an instrument discovered she could hand write her accompaniments in the Midi Application Garageband. Thus started her Lieder CD's in English  of The Songs of the Auvergne and The Beautiful Miller's Maid by Schubert. Miller has her own Channels on YouTube  one for the Arts and anonymous channel for science and religion. Miller is non believer and left wing. She was the youngest British Equity Rep and had some telling run ins with  London  and NZ Managements and discrimination against women.

Miller lives in Auckland and after ten years has almost recovered her health. Her other interests are philately, ice skating, gardening, croquet and fine art.

Phew! Rather long That's the boring bit over but at least you have some idea of the chronology. Now  as Lady Bracknell once remarked to minor matters!

Sunday 1 January 2012

Introducing the Real Janette Miller

There is no doubt about it I have lived a very Strange life. I have known the high's and the very lows.  I am nearing the end now and I am no longer useful but I have a grand daughter who lives far away on another island who will never know me other than as a Fairy Grandmother whom she will visit occasionally.

I never really knew anything about both sets of my grandparents and in truth I knew little about my mother and father either. My family was very good at secrets. It is only in the last ten years with the advent of Genes Reunited, Ancestry and the access to family documents that I have found out their antecedents. My grandparents and parents never talked about their families and I wondered why. I was not surprised at what I found, in fact I was delighted but I feel sure none of them wanted me to know where they came from. They kept it a secret.

I am just going to try to add a page a day. I am going to skip around and I shall try to be as truthful as I can without hurting anyone, so if you have met me in life and were not particularly nice to me I shall use a pseudonym  for you until you die.  People who were not nice can rest assured I shall be discreet.

Once I read an autobiography by Joan Collins. I was acquainted with her personal life as I was around  'Stop the World I want to Get Off'  at the Queens during the time that she was left by Anthony Newley for one of the Baker Twins with whom I went to school.  Marti Webb was in the cast and Marti was my best friend although it was not she that filled me in. Collins was extremely truthful as the tale was not flattering to anyone involved but I guessed if she was truthful about that episode she was possibly truthful about the rest of her story.

I am going to do the same. If you know that I am telling the truth in the bits that concern you, you can be fairly sure the rest is the truth too. I shall never deliberately mislead if I can avoid it but one or two events I shall have to take a rain check until a later date.

I shall try to write 200 pages this year which is just the right size to have my blog printed for Alice. Like all children my daughter is not interested in the immediate family past so unless I write it down Alice is never going to know. I shall not be dealing with my daughter's grown up life either. We parted formal company when she was 17. Since then my daughter has lived her own life and made me very proud. If I mention her achievements, without any help from me I might add, she will be cross.

Some events I wrote down long ago. I have always kept a diary on and off so I have the memories of the day fresh in  my mind..Like all performing artists I have had  triumphs and disasters. The disasters have hurt but have been balanced out by enjoyable highs, the sort of highs that I take for granted but are by no means the norm in ordinary life.

I have met and loved some truly amazing men. I have had to amass a vast amount of skills just to continue in the work force. I have never had the luxury of being allowed to stay in one discipline for long but again it make's life interesting.

Each page will be self contained and as I said I shall leap around. I may even include pages from my Janette Miller blog. NO need to do the job twice.

So as starter here is a YouTube of some of the work I did in New Zealand. Sadly only one production when I worked in London has survived but it was one to die for. I am going to avail myself of Fair Use copyright  and as I met and knew many famous characters of my day that some of this copy will be useful for archiving. Where possible I shall give references and evidence where I can as on one or two occasions the truth is hard to believe but nevertheless it happened.

It is quite daunting to look back on one's life but as my mother said if you just take any task in tiny bits eventually you get there. So here goes Alice! Now where to start.