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MICHAEL FLANDERS is best known to me, and perhaps to you, as half of Flanders & Swann, the British duo who flourished 1956 – 1967 as musical satirists. (See “Have Some Madeira, M’Dear,” http://wp.me/p2ETap-bT for a taste of their work.)
Flanders also worked independently of pianist Donald Swann. In particular, he was the author of a charming collection of animal poems whimsically illustrated by Marcello Minale (1938 – 2000, North Africa-born, Italy-educated Londoner).
Let’s celebrate Flanders and Minale with a brief sampling of Creatures Great and Small….
As a biographical note, Flanders contracted polio at the age of 21 and relied on a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. He is remembered as an eloquent advocate of better access for those with disabilities.
Minale’s work in graphic arts and design is world-renowned. Among his design books are How to Design a Successful Petrol Station and Design à la Minale. He was co-founder of Minale Tattersfield design firm, with clients including London Transport, Harrods, Armani and Eurostar.
A Minale passion was competitive rowing. He earned an international medal in the 1956 European Championships. From 1995 to his death in 2000, Minale was chairman and president of the Tideway Scullers School. (Tragically, he died as a result of a stabbing by one of his Tideway Scullers students.)
If you wish musical company with Creatures Great and Small…, I recommend The Bestiary of Flanders and Swann, a collection of 18 songs ranging from an Armadillo’s roundelay (“Be my darling armadillo all the day.”) to a Warthog’s lament (“No one ever wants to court a warthog, though a warthog does her best.”).
Flanders and Swann were all too aware of mankind’s precarious position supposedly atop the evolutionary tree. One of their songs cautions about our per-capita supply of thermonuclear weapons, “20 Tons of TNT.”
To sum up on a brighter note, Flanders observed “The purpose of satire, it has been rightly said, is to strip away the veneer of comfortable illusion and cozy half-truth. And our job, as I see it, is to put it back again.”
Here’s to both Flanders & Swann and Flanders & Minale. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2014