Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ernest Block, Also An Early Agate Hunter!

Ernest Bloch hunting his beloved agates in waders, a beret and a woolen cape on Agate BeachA couple of weeks ago an entire week here in Newport, Oregon was a celebration of Ernest Block, the composer who also was a photographer, an agate and a mushroom hunter. He lived here in Agate Beach from 1941 until his death from cancer in 1959.

According to his grandson Ernie, "He would go down to the beach hunting for agates, then he would polish the agates that he found on the beach, one at a time. Bloch apparently believed in a theory that keeping the hands busy allowed musical ideas to germinate and mature."

It must have worked. He wrote about one-quarter of his works at Agate Beach, including by some accounts some of his best pieces, such as the Jewish-themed Suite Hébraïque in 1950 and the second Concerto Grosso in 1952.

Bloch relished the beach. He used to read Walt Whitman there. Which is why, on the Ernest Bloch Memorial at the Newport Performing Arts Center are lines from Whitman saying, "Give me solitude, give me Nature ... "