Sunday, April 23, 2023

Interesting Interview: Joshua Harvey

There's a good chance you've heard the name Josh Harvey lately.  He's popped up on podcasts, presented about music at conferences, joined a Sherlockian group overseas, and possibly let you know about a Sherlockian play happening in your area.  But many folks have opened up their inboxes to find a message from Josh saying he's made a gift for their scion.  Sketches of Scions is a project where Josh creates a theme song and video for Sherlockian societies that everyone loves.  (My favorite is The Parallel Case of St. Louis but I may be a bit biased.)

It goes without saying how nice Josh is, but I'm always taken aback by how smart this guy is!  I learn half a dozen new things every time I talk to him, and God bless him for not getting annoyed every time I ask, "what does that mean?"  So get ready to be entertained and enlightened with this week's Interesting Interview, Joshua Harvey:

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

Simply put: I think anyone that is interested or invested in any iteration of the master detective is a Sherlockian. It can be the canon, mass media versions, radio plays, pastiches—even music or dance or visual art. Engagement with the characters and legacy of Holmes and Watson is the only qualifier for me. Different levels of study and hobby follow beyond that, from amateur to consulting to professional, but the core seed is simply enjoying the characters and the stories derived from them.

How did you become a Sherlockian?

I began, like many people, by watching the Granada series starring Jeremy Brett. I watched them as a child on PBS Mystery in their original broadcast. I then began reading the canon and sort of fell in love with mysteries in general (Philip Marlowe, Perry Mason, Nero Wolfe). There’s obviously enough of that content to keep you going for pretty much forever. When the RDJ movies and BBC Sherlock came out, it got me reinterested and I bought and watched the Brett films all over again. This led me back to the stories and my first society, The SherlockHolmes Society of Scotland. A few years later I presented at 221BCon where I first encountered some of the national Sherlockians. Once Covid hit and the floodgates of scion meetings were accessible via Zoom I was able to make connections worldwide and learn from so many wonderful folks.

What is your profession and does that affect how you enjoy being a Sherlockian?

During most of my life I have been a professional musician (pianist, music director/conductor) who works in collegiate musical theatre, with side work in church music and all sorts of other gigs. Of course this really leads me to be interested in the musical aspects of Holmes, musical references in the canon, and the musics representing Holmes in other media.

What is your favorite canonical story?

Equally: "The Musgrave Ritual" and "The Second Stain." I know that’s cheating, but here we are.

Who is a specific Sherlockian that you think others would find interesting?

Dang, there are so many! I would like to give a shout out to Lynne Stephens, who was the first Sherlockian to spend impactful time with me at 221BCon my first year there. We were able to reconnect this year at Dayton’s Holmes, Doyle and Friends conference. I love her work on food and restaurants in the time of the canon—and she is going to know more about marketing and the TV industry than anyone, which I something know absolutely nothing about. She also shares my love of travel and is quite an Anglophile! I also wish that more people knew Barry Young, The Scotland Yard Jack-in-Office of the Sherlock Holmes Society of Scotland, owner of Young’s Interesting Books in Glasgow, an all-around great human and kind-hearted bloke! We communicate at least quarterly or so on some book or other that he is trying to acquire in the U.S., or I via eBay from the U.K. A great man and a lifelong friend.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

Obviously as a musician I love the musical aspects, whether they are parody songs written for meetings, soundtracks, or new works with music, bad rap songs written for YouTube, whatever—I want to hear everything. Of those I quite like when people make their own musical medleys of various famous soundtrack themes.

As the curator of Patrick Gower's Granada musical what interesting tidbits have you come across?

Of all the many things that are striking, my favorite is that the soundtrack album has bits that were never in the actual TV show. That is: he wrote new musical material for the album, mostly so that he could hide the main melody in places that hadn’t been available to him prior.

How did Sketches of Scions come about?

Randomly I was given permission by the heads of The Legion of Zoom to write something as start-up music for their first online conference. Later on the next fall I had a fair amount of time in my academic schedule to be creative and people had commented on the improbable possibility that the original piece had been the first theme song for a scion. That sort of spurred me to consider other groups in other cities with other canonical connections.

It's an ongoing project, so when I next have time and energy, there will be more forthcoming!

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

Option #1 will always be the BSI Press’ Referring to My Notes (ed. Katz/Wilson), which is chock full of excellent essays on many of the various musical references in the canon. Each article is just a delight in reading and learning. The blurb on the BSI Press website says something similar to what I thought when I began reading it—these essays are far more scholarly and advanced past the first seminal, but incomplete, monograph by Guy Warrack.

Where do you see Sherlockiana in 5 or 10 years from now?

Fortunately, I have seen the streams of the different communities grown closer together via the pandemic and Zoom meetings. I also feel like the traditional holder of canonical studies, the BSI, has opened up to so many younger and different Sherlockians who come from other forums, like 221BCon. There is room for them all and we need to keep making room for them all! I also hope that in the next decade we have new media adaptations of Holmes and Watson to keep younger generations gatewayed (but not gatekept) into the canon stories that we all know and love.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Interesting Interview: Cindy Brown

Cindy Brown is a Sherlockian known far and wide, mainly because of her many travels to conferences and outgoing personality.  I doubt if Cindy's ever met someone she hasn't become friends with!  She's always generous with her compliments and interested in whatever topic you care to talk about with her.  It's easy to see why she's one of the best-loved folks in this hobby of ours.

But Cindy isn't just outgoing and warm-hearted.  She's also a tireless worker in Sherlockiana.  Cindy is currently helping out with TWO conferences this summer, Lone Star Holmes and Holmes in the Heartland.  She has been involved with The Beacon Society for years, currently serving on their grants committee to help fund programs that introduce young people to Sherlock Holmes, and she is the dynamo behind The Crew of the Barque Lone Star's fantastic monthly presentations on Zoom.  And if that weren't enough, she's this week's Interesting Interview!

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

I think a Sherlockian is anyone who has a sincere interest and desire to have a better understanding of the character Arthur Conan Doyle was writing about over 100 years ago. But above that, the person has to have a true affection for Sherlock Holmes and the mystery he brings to the page and to our imagination.

How did you become a Sherlockian?

I’ve always been an avid reader and as a early teen in a small town, there wasn’t a whole lot of summer activities. I worked at the only swimming pool for miles and interacted with a college professor who brought her family to the pool. I was always interested in what she was reading. The conversations evolved from Agatha Christie to Arthur Conan Doyle, and I never looked back. Mysteries have always been my favorite genre, and I especially like the Victorian era stories. 

What is your profession (or previous if you are retired) and does that affect how you enjoy being a Sherlockian? 

I was a Certified Public Accountant and my career eventually allowed me to interweave both of my majors of accounting and sociology. I ended up being in enforcement for the Superfund program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which included helping to clean up polluted area and participate in the major disasters around the country. It was a very exciting career for an accountant to be able to go to the worst disasters in the recent decades and be an active member of a cleanup team. Being a member of such a team gave me the opportunity to interact with some wonderful people whom I didn’t even know were Sherlockians. I could say, they sort of dragged me into the hobby when they found out I was a fan. My profession simply was a bridge to meeting other people with similar interests, and I will always be grateful.

What is your favorite canonical story? 

Well, that’s easy. My favorite story is "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton." It’s got everything I want in a good mystery. A really evil snake of a man who has no sympathy for anything or anyone. His whole being is for selfish intent and the love of manipulating others through their human weaknesses. He finds those weaknesses and finds a way to blackmail them. I also love the fact that in this story, Holmes and Watson have a very narrow escape which makes it even more fun. But the best part of this story is the idea that the mystery woman actually gets revenge. I love revenge when it is “served cold” so to speak and so deserving. And she definitely surprised him. Her revenge was sweet because no one else really knew it was her, even Holmes and Watson. Of course, they did see the photograph in the window in London, and Holmes concluded that it was the mystery woman, but THAT was some sweet revenge.  

Who is a specific Sherlockian that you think others would find interesting?  

I think David Harnois is always a delight to talk to and an interesting Sherlockian. He has been the co-lead the Sherlockian society the Younger Stamfords in Iowa for many years and is a new member of the Baker Street Irregulars. His stage presence is amazing and I think he brings a lot to the Sherlockian world. He also runs the I am Lost Without My Boswell project,  which is an all-volunteer project to create free audio dramatizations of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?  

I love the old radio plays and am fascinated especially by the plays written and produced by Edith Meiser. She was brilliant and brought a lot of depth to Sherlock Holmes through the radio. What an interesting time to be introduced to this amazing character, and his Boswell.  It’s easy to imagine families sitting by the radio on Sunday evening waiting for the next episode of the great detective. The theater of the mind did it all for the listener and brought the characters to life. Our imaginations probably worked harder then but made the stories more rewarding and enjoyable.

As head of the Beacon Society's Grants Committee, I'm sure you've seen some great ideas to introduce Sherlock Holmes to young readers.  What are some projects that stick out in your mind? 

I like some of the simpler ones, that are helping kids learn to read. This is accomplished by not only giving the children new books, which many have never had, but also spending time with them in programs such as “Read with Me”, and summer reading programs. We have recently had a grant given to a deaf and blind school, to introduce children with special needs to Sherlock Holmes. Other grants have included escape rooms, theater presentations of Sherlock Holmes with a professional actor participating, and even school classes dedicated to using scientific skills and deductive reasoning. The ideas are limitless, and teachers and librarians are expanding the universe in many ways to share Sherlock Holmes with their young students. We are currently trying to expand into children’s theaters and placing Sherlock Holmes books in youth detention centers.  Grants have also been given to projects involving Accelerated Learning students, with opportunities to read and analyze Sherlockian pastiches while they continue their Sherlockian Training of how to be observant, and active participants in their learning as critical thinkers. 

You are to be credited with all of the great speakers at each Crew of the Barque Lone Star meeting.  What do you look for in a good speaker?  

Wow, that’s a pretty fun part of my job for the Crew. I try to go to a lot of society events around the country and have been blessed with meeting many interesting and entertaining people. It doesn’t take me long to figure out if someone seems like a good candidate for our meeting. It would be nice if the feature presentation was directly related to this month’s story, but often that’s not the case.  Our presentations just have to be something either Sherlockian or Victorian. And hopefully that will pique the presenter to talk about a special interest that he or she may have in the Sherlockian world. It’s always fun to see what the presenters come up with. Sherlockians never cease to amaze me!

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians? 

I think every Sherlockian should own a copy of the Jack Tracy book, The Encyclopedia Sherlockiana. It’s one of the best reference books I have come across and is well organized. It just makes for fun reading. And Jack Tracy was an interesting character, which goes beyond the realms of just being a Sherlockian. 

Where do you see Sherlockiana in 5 or 10 years from now? 

I hear so much about that topic these days, and of course there’s no right or wrong answer.  A lot of people say we have to be more into the virtual world, and that may be. And I’ve heard a lot of talk about making our societies more reflective of a younger generation, but I don’t really see that happening either. Mainly because this is a sincere hobby/obsession. It takes time, which is something most young people, say in their 30’s and 40’s don’t have. They are busy building their careers and their families, and reading is only done if they can squeeze it into a little recreational moment. This hobby can take a lot of time and money. So I don’t really see it getting to be a younger person’s path. While we of course, do have some younger members they are more the exception. 

In saying this, I hope I’m not throwing a negative light on recruiting young people, because we need their energy and their ability to show us the way of the future. Each person, no matter what their age brings something to the table and that’s what makes it such a great feast. I think we will be finding new ways to share our hobby with others, whether it’s virtual or some other social media, but I think we will continue to meet and share, and collect, and exchange our ideas.