Sunday, February 4, 2018

Ned Parkhouse: A Remembrance, Late Mourning

Each day, as I follow usual routines, familiar sights and people become... well, familiar.  In Sag Harbor, Main Street is revered as one would a historic artifact. Construction is heavily regulated and the structural outline of Main Street is mostly unaltered. The constancy of Sag Harbor Village is a balm. I am grateful for this, but have to remind myself, a village is not just buildings. A village is its people and its residents will not last forever. I found myself thinking about one of Sag Harbor's deceased citizens, Ned Parkhouse, this weekend.
Portrait of Edward D. Parkhouse, 1951
by Elmyr de Hory oil 46 x 30in
Edward (Ned) Demarest Parkhouse, Jr. passed away on January 15, 2009, he was 85 years old. I first met Ned  in his music shop of course. I was walking down Main Street, attracted by a video in the window of his shop of a ballet performance. I stepped inside. Classical music played and an extensive collection of classical and jazz music videos and CDs were displayed in cozy antique filled surroundings. It was late afternoon and the shop was rather dark. Ned admitted to forgetting to put on the lights. It didn't matter much either way to him by them. He was nearly blind.

The 2006 recording, Remembering New Orleans, a selection of piano improvisations composed by Ned has become a favorite of mine. Ned's playing is meditative, full of emotion. I have become more attached to it as time passes. On the CD case is a portrait of Ned painted in 1951 by Elmyr de Hory. It must have been painted while de Hory was in New Orleans restoring paintings at the City Hall there. In 1967 de Hory was discovered to be a master forger, producing over a thousand works of art purported to be by Modigliani, Matisse and others. I wonder what Ned thought of that. At any rate, it is a lovely portrait and I do detect a hint of the style of Modigliani. 
Piano Reveries by Ned Parkhouse
Remembering New Orleans 
recording via
"I was born in New Orleans in 1923. I left in 1951, but it never left me. It is the place I still call home. Manhattan thrilled me. I loved living there for thirty years, but I found myself dreaming of what I had left behind; its sad beauty which was the heart of New Orleans' famous 'joie de vivre." It was there I had my first professional experience in the world of classical music. 

I became a music critic for The New Orleans Item, an afternoon newspaper. The fact that I was unaquainted with much of what I would be reviewing challenged me as nothing had ever done. "Tristan and Isolde" for example. Wagner's masterpiece was to be the vehicle that would relaunch the career of Kirsten Flagstaff, whose reputation had been sufficiently sanitized after World Ware II. Her glorious voice would be heard again in America. And, the New Orleans Opera Association would be the venue. I hadn't a clue to any of this. Nevertheless I had much to say about it all. Anxiety notwithstanding, I got better and loved the job.

I met Virgil Thomson, a famous New York music critic, in a Bourbon Street bar. He seemed to offer me a job on his staff at the New York Herald Tribune. He was, alas, not forthcoming when I arrived in Manhattan. I managed to live there happily doing other things - such as almost twenty years at the Doubleday Publishing Company as chief copywriter. It was great being there.

I very much love living in Sag Harbor where, late in life, some of my early dreams have become real. Among them is the fact of this recording. My love of the piano began at the age of nine, before I ever had one. In those early days I would sit in front of the living room sofa and play it as though it were a real piano. Then, my passion was to play the three B's: Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms with a little Rachmaninoff and Chopin thrown in. Now I am too blind to read music and too forgetful to remember  it. So I now make up my own, and that is what you will hear." - Ned Parkhouse, 2006
Ned Parkhouse
in the doorway of his Main Street Music Shop
photo by Kathryn Szoka

Thank you Ned for your music. You are missed.
150 Main Street today

Sag Harbor Express: Obituary


  1. I'm not familiar with Ned Parkhouse but he sounds like a terrific man, talented and with a great deal of heart and soul in his music. Sometimes a person or place or the combination can just capture your own heart and imagination. It sounds like Ned was this person for you.

  2. Really enjoyed this, thank you Michael.


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