POEMS WRITTEN FOR CLAUS OGERMAN:
"Presence", a poem written
for Claus Ogerman
by B.J. Major
When I wake and my mind is still full of sleep
I can hear your music inside my head.
Different tracks each day, but always something which was made with your talents.
Your music begins my day, and as I struggle to rise and stretch
I sit on the edge of my bed for a moment.
Next to my bed is a cork board which has photos of you on it. Photos of you conducting the orchestra.
Photos that inspire me to go on when I'm discouraged or down.
I look at those photos every day.
And I wonder how you are and what you are doing.
I then get myself ready for the day.
Your music accompanies me inside an iPod with headphones as I go out the door to go to work.
On the way, I do the errands of the day; post office, drug store, coffee shop, then bus terminal.
Your music goes along with me to each place.
Later on, I open up your website to add some new additions.
Today it was a 45 rpm listing, complete with sleeve scans that I had never seen before.
A theme from a Mexican film you arranged.
The volume of work you have done amazes me.
And the newest photo I have to add is you sitting in a control booth "in the driver's seat",
producing an album for a friend.
I feel so honored to be listing your work for others to see and appreciate.
And in working on your site, I become renewed and rededicated.
Now it's time for bed.
But before the lights go out, I do some work on my music collection
and make a new playlist of just your original compositions.
I synch the new information with the iPod so it will be with me the next day.
As I reach for the light and my head hits the pillow, I think about a time I hope for in the future when we will meet.
And it makes me smile as I fall off to sleep.
Ogerman Composition Verse
by B.J. Major
Note: Everything between quotation marks is the title of an original composition or body of work by Claus Ogerman.
Riding on the bus everyday, I see the "Cityscape" of downtown Philadelphia from high on the hill;
I think of "My Life" with all its ups and downs
and realize that it has been nothing like "A Sketch of Eden."
Then I think of your music and what lasting effect it has had on me;
how it has helped me get through so many difficult times.
This makes me want to do an "Uptown Dance" or maybe even a "Harlem Watusi" in celebration of your artistry!
Yours is not "A Face Without A Name".
Your many Bossa Nova arrangements have definitely given me a taste of "Un Poco Rio"
and transported me on "Nightwings" through a "Gate of Dreams".
When I listen to your "Elegy" I am certain that though "Night Will Fall",
your "Watusi Trumpets" will signal the beginning of another new day.
A day full of hope, full of promise, full of dreams and wishes that no one can take away with all their
cynicism and pessimistic advice.
"Some Times" hopes and dreams are all we have to keep us going.
"This Dream" will sustain me and I will tell anyone who tries to discourage me to "Get Lost".
I've had to do a lot of "Soul Searchin'" and have asked for no "Favors".
After giving the entire matter a great deal of thought,
I believe I should "Tell It As It Is".
"Once" I was too afraid to share my feelings or tell people what was inside.
Too worried about what people would think if I said that "I Loved You" and your music for 40 years now.
The time for those reservations has now passed and the time to be free in my heart is now.
When I hear "Lyrical Works" and "Two
Concertos", I am convinced that I made the right decision.
and Despair", a poem written for Claus Ogerman
by B.J. Major
Last night I had a dream, a dream
where you had sent me a package.
It was a flat package, but kind of thick - as if it contained documents or papers of some kind.
But I woke up before the package could be opened,
so I will never know what was inside.
This is the third dream I've had of which you were a part.
The first dream took place in a big house, almost like a mansion.
Thick rugs and tufted furniture filled the room
in which you were relaxing, smoking a cigar
and talking softly in German to two of your relatives.
I needed to talk to you about something, so I entered the room.
As I approached the couch where you were reclining,
you looked up
and were very surprised to see me standing there.
I bent down to whisper my request in your ear.
You agreed and were in the midst of getting up from the sofa--
but just then I woke up
and won't ever know how that turned out, either.
The second dream was more abstract, but you were there.
It was a city, a very busy city with a lot of hustle and bustle.
I'm guessing it must have been New York.
This took place in the 1960s, a much earlier time
when you had your own office there.
It was so busy that we barely had time to speak to each other,
but I remember that you were wearing the dark framed glasses,
white shirt and narrow tie which is pictured on your records.
In this dream, I was your personal assistant --
even though I was very young then.
What must have begun as a summer job for me,
as I was still in high school.
And you were always running off
to recording sessions down the street and across town.
No doubt Creed Taylor was keeping you busy!
Then with a "whoosh" you would return to your desk, which was filled with your handwritten scores.
I would hand telephone messages to you as you passed by and you would always say "thank you";
I almost felt guilty in disrupting your concentration for even a moment.
But there was so much I wanted to talk to you about,
though I kept it inside.
This is the point where I woke up from this dream.
Hope followed by hopelessness followed by hope again,
from one extreme to another.
It doesn't take much nowadays
to make my feelings soar like a bird or drop like a stone.
Does my despair lead to my dreams?
I don't know and I wish I could answer that.
Sometimes I feel as though "it" will never happen.
Will I ever get to talk to you, look directly into your eyes,
or touch those expressive hands which have conducted so much beautiful music?
Patience, I tell myself, patience.
But life is very short, time waits for no one and marches on.
In the meantime, I hope to see you again in my
[Above left: B.J. in New York, 1963, on the Circle Line boat ride around Manhattan;
above right: Claus Ogerman in New York, 1963]
"It All Began in New York", a poem
written for Claus Ogerman
by B.J. Major
In '63 there was a child who heard a song on a hotel room radio in New York City.
That song, especially that arrangement, began her love affair with records, with drumming,
and with following one particular musician who was to become more and more important
to her as the years went on.
Little did she know then in that earlier year that he was right there, working and recording
in that same city as she was visiting on vacation.
Sometimes his name appeared in very small print on the front or back of album covers,
sometimes it was in larger print.
But the child always looked for that name and soon began to prefer those records over all the others.
His albums followed her to college where she would seek solace and comfort
in a listening room overlooking a large valley, high on a hill.
She tried to figure out what made his arrangements so special, so meaningful to her.
They touched her in a way that no others had.
She would listen to them over and over, always eagerly anticipating her favorite tracks and passages.
She never tired of hearing his music.
Now it is many years later and it has been a long time since childhood.
But the preferences are still there, those have not changed.
And she has even more to appreciate than before because his original compositions have become
just as important to her as his arrangements for other artists.
By 2000 she had gathered enough material together to build a website for the musician.
She wanted to honor him in this way and have the entire world know about his artistry.
But it was only to be the start; the site continues to grow as she finds out more about his career and everything
that he has done with his music talent.
However, the arranger has left the country to go back and live in his homeland far, far away;
and now she fears that she will never have the opportunity to meet him.
It pains her to know this.
If they only could have met that summer in '63.
Even at the age of ten she would have found a way to make him understand.
So the woman from Philadelphia set out to try and contact him and at least let him know about the website.
What a task this was going to be.
No replies, no responses from anyone she asked; no one would tell her how she could contact the musician.
It was beginning to look hopeless. Then one day a reply came from the country where bossa nova was born.
She was ecstatic and mailed a long letter to the composer's homeland immediately.
And now she is the happiest that she has ever been in her life.
Because he at least knows her name and what she's done.
But one other thing, one last concern is now on her mind.
She's not sure if he is getting the additional message that she is trying to convey - trying so desperately to tell him.
Saying it softly through these writings but passionately enough to be heard.
Is he hearing it?
Addendum to "It All Began in New
[Above: 1963 - B.J. & Dad in front of the S.S. United States, New York Harbor.
Claus Ogerman immigrated to the U.S. on this same steamship in 1959.]
[Above: another shot of our ship in New York Harbor, this time from the water
side as seen from the Circle Line Boat Ride around Manhattan island, 1963.]
* * * * * *
Things I remember doing as a 10 year old while
in New York City and the surrounding area in 1963:
1. I remember visiting Freedomland (amusement park, no longer there)
2. I remember going to the observation deck of the Empire State Building
3. I remember touring NBC Studios and watching the "Today" show through glass windows on the sidewalk
4. I remember eating dinner at Mamma Leone's
5. I remember looking at the mammoth mechanical billboards in Times Square, including one for a cigarette which actually blew smoke rings
6. I remember shopping at Macy's
7. I remember taking the Circle Line Boat Ride around Manhattan Island
8. I remember going down to New York harbor to see the giant steamships
9. I remember eating dinner at Jack Dempsey's restaurant and having him actually there in person
10. I remember being in the audience for a tv show program called "Who Do You Trust?" starring then-game show host Johnny Carson
11. I remember hearing "Klaus Ogerman"'s arrangement of "More" for Kai Winding for the very first time
on the white clock radio
inside our room at the Hotel Manhattan (also no
Things I wished I had done as a 10 year old while in New York City in 1963:
1. I wish I had met Claus Ogerman then.
* * * * * *
[Above: Times Square, NYC just as it looked in 1963/64.]
Though it cannot directly be seen, there was a Howard Johnson's coffee shop on the right side of the street in the above photograph (sadly, it is gone now);
this is where Claus Ogerman met with Bill Evans to discuss the "Bill Evans Trio With Symphony Orchestra" album.
In Claus' own words from the annotations he
wrote for his boxed set:
"I recall presenting the idea for this album to Bill Evans in a very noisy Howard Johnson coffee shop
near the Loewe-MGM building at 1501 Broadway, where the Verve office was located."
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