Friend and composer

It is amazing how vibrant and present Quentin Crisp still is, and to so many. He was a one-of-a-kind gentleman, friend, raconteur, confidant, frequent dinner guest, and family-friend.

I was privileged to meet Quentin and some of his longtime friends in London, October 1978. I maintain friendships from these London days; namely with Roland Brown and Jean de Paul. Both are living in Los Angeles - still passionate in life and art. Mr. de Paul is a celebrated artist; Mr. Brown was noted opera soprano Rita Hunter's personal aid. And Roland was my first concert manager, through Stafford Law, in the UK.

Some will recall the times when Quentin would come 'round to Jean de Paul's flat on Lillie Road for supper. It would be a veritable feast for a dozen or more guests, prepared on Mr. de Paul's "vie de bohème" (as he put it) budget. One such memorable occasion marked Quentin's departure to America and my arrival; I planned to spend more time living and performing in London. It was at this dinner in 1980 where I met the famous Miss Lumley. She figured prominently in Quentin's early life, looking after him when he was estranged from family and friends. And what Miss Lumley couldn't answer as to a timeline, Mr. de Paul could fill in.

Quentin was oft-quoted for a famous remark regarding my field. At a reception after my Wigmore Hall recital debut, Quentin simply intoned: "Music is a Mistake." The simple truth, in fact, is that is not how he felt. But the quip made for good banter, rather a starting-point for an "engaged" (heated) conversation. He was a loyal admirer of Miss Hunter's singing, as well as being her friend. Matter of fact, Quentin later handed me his poems Now I Am Dead and The Wounded and asked, "wouldn't these be marvelous for Miss Hunter?" Indeed. I did set them to music and, happy to report that Quentin, Roland, Rita, and I got together in my Charles Street "digs" in 1988 to run through this music. It was a wonderful and happy occasion.

I later asked Quentin if I might include these poems in a much larger project, my composition Memento mori: An AIDS Requiem. He was terribly excited about the idea! On a cold December evening in 1995, I invited a small group of friends to Scott's and my Brooklyn music room to listen to a demo recording. After listening, the response was stark: silence. Nobody dared utter a word until Mr. Crisp might offer a comment. In a tearful manner, Quentin turned to me and said: "My, that was splendid." He really did love and appreciate music and admired my "dedicated tonality" approach. He mainly loved choral music. The printed and spoken word meant something special to him, as it does to me.

There are many more stories I could share; someday, perhaps. But Quentin would be thrilled that we are celebrating his life, recollection, and wit. Happy 100th, Quentin! May your legacy continue to flourish and grow.

Photograph copyright © by Scott Hutchison. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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