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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Care to dance The Obelisk Waltz?

Quick: what word comes to mind when I say 'obelisk'? I'll bet it wasn't 'dance'. But in 1881 Cleopatra's Needle was moved from Egypt to the USA by Captain Gorringe, and hundreds of thousands of Americans fell in love with this huge stone pillar. 
The Obelisk Waltz
The stories of the struggles to move it from the desert sands, over the oceans, and into Central Park, enraptured many.
And some found themselves composing songs in honor of the obelisk.
The Obelisk Polka
As a recent book on obelisks describes it:
In an age when domestic music making was one of the most widespread of bourgeois pastimes, the obelisk served as an inspiration for countless bits of sheet music: Mrs. Lou Fitts composed an Obelisk Waltz. There was a Grand Obelisk March and an Obelisk Polka; Florence Hooper Baker dedicated her Obelisk March to Commander Gorringe.
(From: OBELISK – A History by Brian A. Curran, Anthony Grafton, Pamela O. Long and Benjamin Weiss – 2009)
Suddenly obelisks were used to market all kinds of things – hotels, needles and thread, you name it. 
And Captain Gorringe became famous for his steadfastness in overcoming objections to the move and for successfully loading this huge stone object into a ship, unloading it, and erecting it in Central Park.
Where she now stands, a solitary giant far from home, and an unknown stranger to many New Yorkers.
Cleopatra's Needle, Central Park, New York

Cleopatra's Needle in Egypt before its move to New York









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