Where did I ever get the idea that by mid-February there is supposed to be something of a warming trend? Instead we had the coldest weather of the season late last week, confirming in my own mind that, whereas it’s always nice to say goodbye to summer, it’s even better saying hello. (As if we really have anything to complain about here in the Holy City.)

There will be some interesting goings on at the Charleston Library Society over the next several weeks. The Society (164 King St.), founded in 1748 and one of the oldest of its kind in the country, will feature violinist Yuriy Bekker in a salon-type experience playing and comparing his own violin with a 1686 Stradivarius known as “ex Natchez,” on loan from its owners. Bekker will offer insight into what makes a Strad so special. Many believe that Stradivarius violins are the best and that their tonal quality has never been matched.

Not that I have anything to do with it, but if I were putting on the show I’d ask Maestro Bekker to: 1) Make a few introductory comments. 2) Ask audience members to close their eyes or turn away for a few moments. 3) Play the same piece of music on both instruments. 4) Ask for a show of hands identifying which of the two pieces featured the Strad, followed by a didactic anatomic description of the famous violin and further demonstration of the tonal qualities that make it unique — even to lay people.

In the adjoining room visiting guitarist Eric Clapton (who turns 70 — believe it or not — on March 30) will be comparing his famous Strat “Blackie” (as in Fender Stratocaster) to a Gibson Les Paul, both of which will be plugged into a stack of Marshall amps with the volume set on “10.” Just kidding.

The violin demonstration takes place March 6. On April 15 the Society will honor historian David McCullough with its Founders Award, and on May 6 author Bernard Cornwell, OBE, will officially debut here in the colonies his recently published nonfiction work, “Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles.”

There’s a lot going on at the Charleston Library Society. Call 723-9912 for specific times and ticket information.


Speaking of books and history, there’s a great one just out by Charleston’s venerable Dorothy (Dot) M. Anderson and her niece Margaret (Peg) M. R. Eastman: “St. Philip’s Church of Charleston — An Early History of the Oldest Parish in South Carolina.”

I know that Dot, who has long been immersed in the church’s history, has poured her heart into this project and spent years researching it. Her niece, Ms. Eastman, a freelance writer, has authored and co-authored a number of books on Charleston history.

The St. Philip’s book is academically detailed with rich historical interpretation and character analysis that’s not only interesting but, more important — fun to read. If a history book can be both interesting and fun (like David McCullough’s work, I might add) then it’s sure to be a hands down winner.

The book is available through the St. Philip’s office just south of the sanctuary at 142 Church St.


In the rather pathetic category of being too old, quite aware of same, and yet flailing away at certain pre-conditioned mindsets, it was with an entirely open mind that my wife and I tried to approach the latest in the Best of Broadway series being offered at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center.

“The Book of Mormon” was (and still is, I suppose) a smash on Broadway, winner of nine Tony Awards, one of which was for Best Musical, and also a Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album. The professional critic and reviewer intelligentsia almost uniformly raved and the well-spun ad campaign seemed to depict a rollicking and delightful musical theatrical experience.

And yet I had the bizarre and out-of-body experience of being surrounded by howling audience members and sitting there thinking that this is just the worst — not clever, not witty, not amusing, not anything except idiotic. (I do confess to liking parts of the musical score.) It’s just like “South Park,” I remember thinking, only to find out later that the creators were the same people who developed “South Park.”

So here’s the successful new formula to create a new musical “South Park”-style: Throw in a million F-bombs (they always work—at least someone will laugh), include vulgar use of satirical themes on such varied topics as the disparagement of one’s religion, genital mutilation, bestiality, and child molestation — and then top that off with a character whose main line is “I’ve got maggots in my scrotum,” which is shouted time and time again to uproarious laughter.

It’s that simple.

Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@comcast.net.