Holy Cross Cathedral & Organ Mark Restoration Milestones

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Leo Abbot

Twenty-six years ago, Leo Abbott, the organist of Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross, gave a benefit recital to raise money for badly needed repairs to the cathedral’s legendary 1875 Hook organ. The organ was big — some claim it to have been the largest American-made organ in the country when it was built — and the maintenance needs were big as well. With few other sources of funding in sight, Abbott made his benefit recital an annual tradition.

This fall, Abbott, now Organist Emeritus, will give the 26th annual benefit recital on Sunday, September 15, 2019 at 3 p.m.. This one, however, will be different in one important respect: not only is the organ in better shape, buts its acoustical environment has been restored to a state very near that for which the organ was voiced.

The pipe organ benefits enormously from the resonance of the room it occupies. Thus the recent restoration of the cathedral interior, which included removing carpeting in favor of a light-grey marble floor, is as meaningful to the sound of the organ as it is to the architecture.

Abbott’s unbroken string of 26 annual recitals is remarkable enough, but it’s not all he has done to overcome decades of deferred maintenance and bring back to instrument to good playing condition. He assembled a dedicated band of volunteers and carefully supervised them as they helped with various tasks. He sought and found other sources of funding. And he tirelessly drew attention to the organ’s unique character. [continued…]

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Dancin’ on the Quarter-Shell

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Florence Beatrice Price

Postponed to Thursday

The Boston Landmarks Orchestra will take inspiration from Terpsichore during its annual Dance Night next Wednesday on the Esplanade.  Programs featuring dance groups provide an opportunity to showcase the depth of talent that runs through Boston’s diverse cultural communities. In recent seasons, dance collaborations have represented traditions from West Africa, Armenia, Colombia, Cuba, Ireland, Korea, Puerto Rico, Syria, and Venezuela.

Johannes Brahms was still a teenager in Hamburg when he met the exiled Hungarian violinist Ede Reményi. Reményi had been active in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, and came to Hamburg in 1851 to evade capture by the Habsburg military authorities. He soon fled to the United States, returning to Hamburg in 1853. There, he invited Brahms to serve as his piano accompanist on a European tour. It was Brahms’s first extended trip outside of his native city. While touring in Weimar, Brahms played for the most famous of all Hungarian musicians, Franz Liszt. Liszt then returned the favor, reading Brahms’ Scherzo Op. 4 at sight. In Hanover, Brahms met Joseph Joachim, who arranged for Brahms to pay a visit to Robert and Clara Schumann, a visit that changed the course of his career and his life.

Making music with Reményi provided Brahms with his first exposure to Hungarian folk music, including the well-known dance style known as the csárdás. He became adept at playing many popular Hungarian pieces at the piano, frequently entertaining friends with them “à la Hongroise.” In 1869, he made some of his Hungarian Dances available for amateurs to play at home, arranging them for piano four-hands (two pianists, one piano). Two players sitting side by side can make a grander sound than one pianist, to be sure. But there is also a built-in social element wholly appropriate to the spirit of this music. Brahms described his arrangements as “perhaps the most practical [pieces] so impractical a man as I can supply.” The Hungarian Dances were an instant hit, becoming the most lucrative publications of his career. Brahms orchestrated only three of the twenty-one dances—Nos. 1, 3, 10—but many other arrangers soon jumped in, creating versions for all sorts of combinations. [continued…]

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Musically Warning of Climate Change

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Wednesday’s Boston Landmarks Orchestra’s Green Concert at the hatch Shell should really be called the Blue Concert, or more precisely, the Aquamarine Concert. Our partnership with the New England Aquarium, engaging Bostonians in dialogue about issues of vital importance to the community, is central to the missions of both organizations.

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the jester Trinculo hides from an approaching storm by crawling under a cloak next to Caliban, who gives off “a very ancient and fish-like smell.” To explain his choice, Trinculo proclaims, “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” Last summer, we performed music of the twentieth century in order to address the plight of the North Atlantic right whale and the effects of ocean pollution. This year our “strange bedfellows” are Music of the Late Romantic Age and Climate Change.

The New England Aquarium is a global leader in studying the effects of climate change on our oceans—indeed on all of life—as well as in furthering public awareness and public action surrounding these issues: [continued…]

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Navajo Flutist Worth Hearing

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This week, Native American Flute concerts with Jonah Littlesunday are to be heard for the first time in New England. Nationally acclaimed Jonah Littlesunday, a full-blooded Navajo from Gray Mountain, Arizona, will be offering his spiritual and healing flute music, along with Navajo (Diné) history and folklore.

Littlesunday performed at fellow Arizonan John McCain’s funeral in Washington DC. Working with performance jitters, the young Navajo flutist wound up improvising for that event.

Upcoming concerts will be given in Gloucester, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Peabody.

Give a listen to his Canyon Records album “Gratitude-Native American Flute Healing” HERE.

What may be surprising about “Gratitude” is its richness of content. Each of its eleven flutings possesses personalized poetry revealed in near-realistic musical depiction. For us “Bix to Buxtehude to Boulez” types, “Love’s Lullaby” might sound as if it were in a major key, even though it is in the world’s mode—pentatonic. Littlesunday’s full-throated flute delivers melodic friendliness and warmth accompanied by a steady drum beat that bonds Native American feet to the earth. Traditionally, boys would play the flute for mating purposes. [continued…]

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Beach Storms Esplanade

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Amy Marcy Cheney Beach

Concert to be held at Jordan Hall Wednesday at 7:00

 

Two decades ago, through this author’s efforts, Amy Beach’s name joined the Hatch Shell’s listing of 87 male composers. This Wednesday, August 7, at 7pm, the Mercury Orchestra will perform her monumental Gaelic Symphony, in E Minor, along with Charles Villiers Stanford’s Phaudrig Crohoore (An Irish Ballad), for a nominally Irish concert. (Canceled if rain.)

The Mercury performance shows that the grassroots momentum of re-recognizing Beach’s musical achievement continues. The Boston Globe’s fine recent preview details the BSO’s  surprising neglect of the composer since 1896, when they premiered the Gaelic; they last played a complete orchestral Beach work 102 years ago. The unveiling of her name in 2000 at the Hatch Shell preceded a Pops concert including Beach works under Keith Lockhart.

Because the Gaelic includes Irish tunes, it is sometimes assumed that Beach was Boston Irish, even though her New England family background was distinctly something other. (A local review from a couple years ago comically erred on this point.) Moreover, she married into Boston’s elite class, and for her to demonstrate musical sympathies with Irish immigrants could hardly have made sense within her circle; indeed, musicologist Sarah Gerk suggests that anti-Irish sentiment accounted for some of the (few) negative reviews that Beach’s Gaelic Symphony did receive. That the composer would step across class boundaries to express compassion for poor foreigners continues to resonate. [continued…]

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BUTI Calls O Fortuna

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Carl Orff

Founded in 1966, Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI) is one of the premiere training grounds for young musicians. Located just a mile from the Tanglewood campus, the students have access to the wealth of opportunities not only offered at BUTI but also as part of the relationship with the BSO. BUTI’s Young Artists Vocal Program (YAVP) exposes young singers to a varied six-week program. From private lessons to ensemble coaching to health and wellness, the vocalists thrive in conservatory-based intensive training.

On Saturday, August 3, 2019, BUTI will present the YAVP students in a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana at 1:30pm at Seiji Ozawa Hall. This free concert is open to the public, and features Orff’s arrangement of the work for vocalists, piano, and percussion. BUTI vocal faculty take on the solo parts, while the chorus comprise the students.

This masterwork allows multiple BUTI departments to collaborate and learn from each other as they prepare one of the most recognized classical music works. [continued…]

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Spirituals and Showboat on the Deep Charles River

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Paul Robeson in Showboat

Postponed until Thursday at 7:00

On Wednesday at 7:00 at the Hatch Shell Boston Landmarks Orchestra will offer a free concert of songs and spirituals by African American composers followed by a concert suite of excerpts and narration from Jerome Kern’s 1927 musical Show Boat. The musical introduced racial themes in forward-looking ways on the Broadway stage. Today it remains a beloved classic of American musical theater, while provoking both admiration and controversy.

“Deep River” is an essential American anthem. It is a sacred folk song born of slavery—as are all Negro spirituals—yet it speaks of hope, freedom, peace, and belonging. In the song’s lyric, the words “deep river” function as neither subject nor object, but as an all-pervading symbol of the transience of this world, and the promise of deliverance to the next.

We can’t identify individual authors of “Deep River,” but we do know it was created by and for African Americans. Many of the past century’s greatest African-American singers have featured it prominently on their programs, including Roland Hayes, Paul Robeson, and William Warfield. Marian Anderson sang it on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 at Eleanor Roosevelt’s invitation, after the Daughters of the American Revolution denied her permission to perform in Constitution Hall because of her race. [continued…]

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Eyes Shine for BPYO

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How does one sum up the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra’s eight-city, nine-concert tour of Brazil last month? Calling it “wonderful” and “extraordinary” might seem hyperbolic, and yet, the trip — which stopped in the metropolises of Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, Campinas, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, and Curitiba — was both.

We drew the repertoire from the BPYO’s last season and anchored it with Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2 on all nine concerts (featuring the exceptional Anna Fedorova as soloist; more on her in a moment). Surrounding the Rachmaninoff (depending on the evening) came one of three curtain raisers — Wagner’s Act 1 Prelude to Die Meistersinger, Weber’s Euryanthe Overture, or Clarice Assad’s Bonecos de Olindo — and a symphony: either Shostakovich’s Tenth or Dvorak’s Ninth.

That’s meaty fare, to be sure. Any mix of those pieces demands deep reservoirs of concentration and stamina from an orchestra – not to mention a huge range of technical and expressive nuance.

But those are just the sorts of challenges on which the BPYO and I thrive. Our interpretations of these pieces developed from the first concert in Salvador to the last one in Curitiba. Certainly the orchestra started from a position of strength (which, if you caught any of their Boston performances last season, won’t come as a surprise). But to hear these readings deepen — in terms of flexibility, subtlety, and power — over the course of nine nights was, frankly, very gratifying to me, and I hope, the listeners. [continued…]

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From Walnut Hill to NEC They Come

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The redoubtable Cathy Chan

The well-respected Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts Summer Festival has relocated to the New England Conservatory. Beginning on August 7th, NEC’s attractive new Burnes Hall will ring out with distinguished performers of varied cultures and generations in 15 recitals. Hardly strangers to NEC, since 1990, FCPA has presented 131 memorable concerts in Jordan Hall with notable pianists, cellists, and violinists, in standard repertoire as well as some traditional Eastern instruments and rep. Click HERE for this impressive historical list.

Until this summer the annual music festival took place at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts. Its alumni include Lang Lang, Yeol Eum Son, Kate Liu, Eric Liu, and Channing Yu, to name a few. For the past 30 years, students have come from all over the world to enjoy three weeks of exhilarating music making with the festival’s distinguished faculty members. The residents enjoyed many masterclasses, daily evening performances and concerto competitions. It provided a perfect platform for students of Asian heritage to study abroad, and allowed them to jump right into the heart of the Boston musical scene. Over the years, many stayed after the festival to study at Walnut Hill, and students from different years bonded into a big family all over the world.

Sadly, earlier this year, Walnut Hills administrators informed FCPA that venue rental fees, would double and triple (presumably 3x the original amount) in the next. The Foundation kept its mission of creating an accessible musical platform for all students by making the tuition affordable, and offering some scholarships, even if it meant leaving a negative balance.

So, this sudden and substantial increase in rental fees made a dent spiritually and financially, directly causing the discontinuation of the annual festival. The news struck and saddened the music community of Greater Boston. [continued…]

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Universe To Center on Hatch Shell Wednesday

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The first conductor

Nature planning to visit the Esplanade with rain, the Landmarks Orchestra concert will seek shelter in Jordan Hall tonight.

Boston Landmarks Orchestra begins its 19th season ( and 13th on the Hatch Shell) by commemorating the 50th anniversary of Apollo landing on the surface of the moon. In partnership with the Museum of Science, under the guidance of Wayne Bouchard, the Museum’s Interim President and CEO, and Danielle Khoury LeBlanc, Director of the Museum of Science’s Charles Hayden Planetarium, Wednesday’s program explores many aspects of the Apollo mission, space travel, and the wonders of the universe through the following works: John Adams’s Short Ride in a Fast Machine, Leroy Anderson’s Summer Skies, Richard Strauss’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, Joaquín Rodrigo’s In Search of the Beyond, John Williams’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Philip Glass’s Icarus at the Edge of Time (excerpt).

Charles Wilcox, the Planetarium’s AV Producer, Jason Fletcher, Associate Producer, Wade Sylvester, Special Effects Producer, and the staff of the Planetarium have created original video work, synchronized to the orchestra’s live performance. They have adapted material from the Planetarium’s full-dome science shows: Undiscovered Worlds; Moons: Worlds of Mystery; Dream to Discovery: Inside NASA; and Destination Mars: The New Frontier. They have also used material from the Planetarium’s extensive collection of entertainment programs featuring live musicians, entertainers, and albums by Beyoncé, David Bowie, Prince, and others. [continued…]

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Albright Leads Off Tanglewood’s “Big Ideas”

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Several years ago, Boston Symphony Artistic Administrator Anthony Fogg suggested a way of expanding the use of the Tanglewood facilities beyond the active period from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and also to provide a greater range of intellectual stimulation to Tanglewood visitors. The suggestion grew into the Linde Center, which consists of indoor spaces (to be cooled in the summer and heated in the winter) as well as a food service. The buildings that form the line of halls strung attractively along a covered walkway a short distance from Ozawa Hall were designed by William Rawn, the architect whose plans for Ozawa Hall proved so exceptional a quarter century ago. The formal opening took place a week ago, and the Linde Center is being used extensively during this summer, with a growing list of activities expected in later months.

In addition to the many types of performances, the Tanglewood Learning Institute (TLI) will present open rehearsals, master classes, interviews with leading artists, a series of lecture talks by distinguished participants who are not themselves musicians, but who may include some element of music’s relationship to their life and work. The first of this summer’s high profile lectures featured former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, speaking in Ozawa Hall on Saturday afternoon for about 40 minutes, followed by 15 or 20 minutes of questions posed by Ranny Cooper, who was Senator Ted Kennedy’s chief of staff. [continued…]

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WHRB Opened Ears on July 4th

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As was the case with many of its distinctive offerings, WHRB’s first nine-hour July 4th American classical music program came at the initiative of David Elliott, the voice of WHRB for 58 years. The station was broadcasting 24/7 by the year 2000, and he felt that it should recognize the Fourth with selections going beyond the usual warhorses (e.g., Appalachian Spring, Rhapsody in Blue). David attended scrupulously to every detail as he would do in his famed post-Met vocal broadcasts. He took time selecting each piece, comparing performances, and ensuring that each work flowed well into the next in order to give listeners a relaxing, enjoyable, and ear-opening nine-hour musical journey through American history.

I had developed an interest in American classical music early on when I first became aware of Aaron Copland while watching him conduct the New York Philharmonic in his own music on a Young People’s Concert telecast over CBS in December, 1969. WHRB was a wonderful place for me to explore this interest in greater depth and one of the highlights of my Harvard years was when David arranged for us to interview Copland during a visit he made to campus in November, 1977. [continued…]

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Something Old, Something New To Fill Hatch Shell

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The late Robert Honeysucker singing “At the River” in 2012.

Every Wednesday night, beginning July 10th, and continuing for seven weeks, the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, made up of many of the area’s finest professional musicians, will offer free concerts at the Hatch Memorial Shell on Boston’s Esplanade. All concerts begin at 7 pm; the Season Tune-Up Party on July 10th begins at 6 pm.

In case of rain, most concerts are rescheduled for Thursday (though not all). If it rains on Thursday as well, concerts take place at an alternate venue (in most cases). Check the Boston Landmarks Orchestra website for rain plans, as they vary from week to week.

We use great music to bring together people from diverse backgrounds, and to address issues of vital importance to our community. Community involvement is the starting point in our planning process, not an added element. We offer concerts in a spirit of informality and fun. Children dance in front of the stage. A Maestro Zone is available where people of all ages can look at a conductor’s score, wave a baton, and receive a conducting lesson. Best of all—to certain people—we encourage you to bring your dog to any of our concerts. [continued…]

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Before Haydn There Was….

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Dan Stepner (file photo)

This summer’s Aston Magna Festival begins with “The Birth of the String Quartet,” an exploration of the roots of that iconic ensemble, so central to Western music of the last three and a half centuries. Born of ensemble music for winds and gambas that flourished in the early 17th century, the string quartet as we know it had a long gestation period. Multi-movement string quartets like those of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven are a mid-18th-century phenomenon, but they were preceded by a rich literature of single-movement works going back more than a century.  We feature two of those on our program, one each by Dario Castello and Henry Purcell.  Two other works by early 18th-century composers — Caldara and Telemann — are two- and three-movement works respectively. (Telemann’s sole essay for string quartet is a fiddler’s joy!). Next on the program is a three-movement quartet by Franz Xavier Richter, a Czech who composed one of the first sets of six quartets (a standard practice, it seems, that Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven all later indulged in). Richter’s quartets are fresh, vivacious and egalitarian: all four players have regular solo turns.

The second half of our program features early quartets of Haydn and Mozart as well as a late, mature work of Haydn (“The Rider”). Mozart’s K. 156 (he was 16) is alternately elegant and profound. The two quartets by Haydn (Op. 0 [!] and Op. 74) dramatize his remarkable growth over a long, fruitful career. Haydn is often credited with having “invented” the string quartet, and these two works certainly demonstrate how Haydn developed the form so audaciously that it is no wonder that Mozart and Beethoven emulated him and built on his models. But a rich and varied store of pre-Haydn quartets deserve hearing, many republished only recently. [continued…]

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Photoplay To Honor Notre Dame

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Not Peter Krasinski

Organist Peter Krasinki, having been deeply moved by the destruction at the Paris landmark, will be providing a musical underlining for “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” one of the most iconic films of the silent era, to encourage offerings for the restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral.  The 1923 movie depicts the tortured hunchback Quasimodo in the person of the man of 1,000 faces, Lon Chaney. Misunderstood by nearly everyone but Esmeralda, he saved the holy edifice, crying “Sanctuary.” Directed by Wallace Worsley, and produced by Carl Laemmle, Universal’s “Super Jewel” of 1923, the company’s most successful silent film, grossed $3.5 million.

Peter Krasinski, a leading improvisational accompanist of silent film, will provide a “composition in real time” utilizing the spectacular 1921 Skinner pipe organ (opus 308) at Old South Church in Boston on Wednesday, July 3, 7:30 PM. [continued…]

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RCMF: Variety, Tradition and Pizzazz

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Pianist Stephen Prutsman
to open Festival

Beginning with a festive June 14th opener celebrating the Roaring ’20s in jazz, chamber music, and even an accompanied photoplay, the 38th-Rockport Chamber Music Festival, “Source and Inspiration,” will peel back the layers of the creative process, exploring the many sources that inspired composers and performers, it also promises to serve as a deep well of inspiration for all who attend the festival events. The gorgeous seaside venue will once again be the go-to site for top chamber music from veteran and upcoming performers. Artistic Director Barry Shiffman has inked a season with variety, tradition and pizzazz, as he tells us below.

Source and Inspiration: Is this a marketing label, or will the thematic glue be apparent to audiences who attend one or two events, or does it only emerge over several of the 30 events between June 14th and August 31st?

BS: The theme applies throughout the festival, from our opening night connecting jazz influence with the great French composers, to the splendor of mountains inspiring the film Mountain, dance inspiring “Take this Waltz” program, or A Far Cry performing Lembit Beecher. I don’t think that contemplation of the theme is necessary to enjoying a concert or a number of concerts, but is an interesting guiding light for the curation of the festival. I have been fascinated with the many ways a composer finds and reacts to that source of inspiration. I hope the audience enjoys seeing and hearing these links.

Are there individuals making festival debuts that you would like to highlight? [continued…]

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BSFO Musics Silent Joan of Arc

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Renée Falconetti

Ninety years after Carl Theodor Dreyer’s transcendent tale of power, belief, and martyrdom first came to the screen, it remains remarkably relevant and surprisingly current.

The Berklee Silent Film Orchestra (BSFO) will debut its new score for the definitive version of The Passion of Joan of Arc to accompany the newly available, revelatory 20 frames-per-second version on Thursday, June 6th at the Coolidge Corner Theater. Subsequent performances are inked for Sunday, June 9, 7:00 pm, at The Cabot, Beverly, MA; and on Thursday, June 20, 7:30 pm, at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, as part of the MVFC’s annual FILMUSIC Festival.  .

Berklee’s Scoring Silent Films director Prof. Sheldon Mirowitz tells us more.

The Passion of Joan of Arc is simply a remarkable and astonishingly powerful film, particularly groundbreaking for its extended use of close-up and for the stunning, incredibly intimate performance by Marie Falconetti as Joan. This makes it essential viewing for film aficionados. However, the film that they are familiar with is almost never seen as intended. [continued…]

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Longtime Voice of WHRB Honored

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David Elliott, the voice of Harvard’s radio station WHRB (95.3 FM) for 58 years, is going to be featured in the station’s Spring Orgy Saturday from 1 p.m. until 8 p.m. Precisely during the first four or five hours of this period, David used to oversee the broadcast of live programs from the Metropolitan Opera. After each opera, David treated the listening audience to historic recordings of opera highlights, along with insights on performance. For a while, he ran a contest in which the winner would be the fourth, or sixth, caller—a number he chose at random each week. We also heard his mellifluous, cultured voice on many advertisement and public service announcements.

Besides his many hours as DJ every week, Elliott served as president of the WHRB board of trustees. Aaron Fogelson, a senior at Harvard, is putting on the orgy to honor David, who stepped back from his many roles at WHRB) due to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, familiarly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in October 2018, noted in tributes by both Harvard Magazine  and The Harvard Gazette.

“There is much to be said about David’s 58-year career as an announcer, a mentor for students, and a pillar of Boston’s classical music community,” said Fogelson. “As one listener said, ‘David Elliott was the most important thing to happen to radio since its advent.’ While this may be a bit of hyperbole, it is easy to say he has been the most important thing to happen to Harvard Radio and possibly even, Boston radio generally. David is a great man with an enormous and loyal following that believes he deserves a bevy of public sentiments detailing his legacy.” [continued…]

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CLT Will Reveal Carmen’s Motivations

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Commonwealth Lyric Theater’s artistic and stage director Alexander Prokhorov has taken inspiration from Peter Brook’s La Tragédie de Carmen, which in 1983, condensed the opera to its most dramatic, action-filled moments. Prokhorov’s version, while preserving all great hits, like the lively and quintessentially Bizet quintet and the fun-filled children’s chorus (performed by the Lucky Ten Young Talent Studio), comes in at about two hours. [continued…]

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Lorelei Sirens in Full and Far Cry

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Two groups that do things just a little differently team up for a collaboration that’s going to be, well, just a little bit different. Lorelei Ensemble’s artistic director Beth Willer, and Sarah Darling, A Far Cry’s program curator for Friday’s Jordan Hall show, get to relate the scoop.

What drew your two groups to collaborate with each other, and what do you hope comes out of this musical meeting? 

Beth: I have long admired the work of A Far Cry, its collaborative energy, and ability to bring both standard and forward-thinking repertoire to life. Lorelei and A Far Cry seem like a natural pairing. We are both committed to co-creative work, and contemporary programming which can shed new light on existing repertoire, and both groups love to incorporate new works that push the boundaries of classical music. Of course, we look forward to learning from each other in the rehearsal process and premiering an entire program of repertoire that exceeds either group’s independent possibilities.

Sarah: I’ve been obsessed with Lorelei’s sound and energy for years. I remember everything about my first experiences hearing the group — which, incidentally, I can also say about A Far Cry! My ears perk up whenever I hear a group listening deeply and interacting with the degree of passion that classical music needs and frankly, deserves. Individuals didn’t vanish in Lorelei’s group sound; instead, you heard the full expression of what they could do when they were at their best. So I’ve been dreaming about putting these two groups on a single stage to see what happens for a long time.

What was the process of putting this program together? [continued…]

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Chorus Reaches Half-Century Mark

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Josh Jacobson, conductor

How do we celebrate such a milestone? According to a recent article in Chorus America’s journal, The Voice, “anniversary observances become most meaningful when they reinforce a chorus’s reason for being, when they inspire self-examination, and when they help to lay a foundation for the future.” For Zamir Chorale of Boston’s 50th Anniversary Concert, we will offer choral music from Jewish traditions, not just by Jewish choirs, but by all choirs across America—high school, college, conservatory, community, professional choruses, even church choirs. Most conductors know very little about our repertoire beyond a dreidel song or two. They are unaware of the significant repertoire that Zamir promotes: secular and sacred; Baroque, classical, romantic, modern, contemporary; classic compositions as well as arrangements of folksongs, popular songs, theater songs; music in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, German, English; a cappella and accompanied.

On Tuesday, June 4, at 7:30 pm, at Sanders, the ensemble will showcase some of its best repertoire and premiere commissioned works from Jeremiah Klarman, Ken Lampl, Jonathan Leshnoff, Charles Osborne, Nick Page, and Benjie Ellen Schiller. [continued…]

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Castle of Our Skins Wins George Henschel Award

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How many BMInt readers know anything of the history of one of our sponsors, the Harvard Musical Association? The private charitable organization founded by Harvard College graduates in 1837 maintains a longstanding tradition of commissioning new works, supporting local nonprofit musical organizations, and giving prizes and awards to young performers.

The Association announced one such award last week, a grant of $5,000 to Castle of Our Skins for a concert honoring the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffragist movement and celebrating the power of women’s voices. According to COOS president Ashleigh Gordon, “Fiber art and spoken word poetry showcases will be woven into the concert experience. Black women poets, quilters, musicians, and composers will all be elevated and celebrated.” Click HERE for the details.

The worthies of the Association encourage organizations dedicated not only to the performance and composition of serious music, especially chamber music, but also to the development of steady, attentive audiences appreciative of this kind of musical experience to apply for the annual Harvard Musical Association’s George Henschel Community Awards HERE.

More on all of HMA’s awards and grants can be found HERE.

[continued…]

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Harvard Sets Sails Friday for A Sea Symphony

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Ralph Vaughan Williams ca 1900

Behold! the sea itself!
And on its limitless, heaving breast, thy ships:
See! where their white sails, bellying in the wind, speckle the green and blue!

Ralph Vaughan Williams, an aspiring English composer, first became aware of the poetry of Walt Whitman in 1892. Whitman, whose bicentennial is being celebrated across America in 2019, became a touchstone for Williams, who carried a pocket volume of Leaves of Grass through the trenches of World War I. Whitman beautiful verses became a touchstone for Vaughan Williams, who helped usher in a new era of British choral music after a century of compositions dominated by German influence. Each man was a powerful disruptor, a breath of fresh air for their respective forms of poetry and choral composition. In short, few pairs of artists are better suited to one another. Vaughan Williams created two choral works from Leaves of Grass, both premiered at the Leeds Festival in 1910: “Toward the Unknown Region and A Sea Symphony.”

Humanist and metaphysical, the sections of Whitman that make up A Sea Symphony describe travel across the ocean as a metaphor for the soul’s journey into the infinite. To capture the majesty of the poetry and “the sea itself,” Vaughan Williams created a massive work, ringing with the mighty sounds of a symphonic chorus and orchestra. Few truly choral symphonies had been attempted before. The seventy-minute, four-movement piece begins with a fast-paced, booming introduction that immediately situates the audience in the power of the waves. It continues at a variety of tempos and dynamics, incorporating semi-choruses and two soloists — a baritone and a soprano — as it plunges into themes of life, death, and shared humanity. [continued…]

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Andrea Kalyn Installed as NEC’s 17th President

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The scene could have transpired predictably—an academic procession with the requisite stoles and speeches from worthies—but Friday’s ceremony, inaugurating the first female president of New England Conservatory, unfolded unconventionally. Wisdom, and optimism as well as self-deprecatory humor won the day for Music.

We heard no stodgy (if wonderful) Academic Festival Overture or Pomp and Circumstance. Instead the interleaved great performances of NEC faculty, students, and alumns gave evidence of the success of this most essential institution. Processional trombone fanfares (undergraduate quartet) from the balcony gave way after Board Chairman Kennett Burnes’s welcome, to three most excellent movements from Handel’s Water Music as interpreted by the subtle but brilliant NEC Faculty Brass Quintet, whose members all play in the BSO.

Then, Mark Volpe greeted us with a very funny and self-deprecatory account of how flunking Music History was a prerequisite for his office as BSO CEO. He told us about an exam in which he was asked to identify examples of 20 Phrygi’n modes. He got none.

NEC stepped up production values for this event, giving us theatrical lighting and even teleprompters. But Denyce Graves (NEC 1988) didn’t need an applied spotlight; she radiated her own. Her two songs with faculty pianist Cameron Stowe wowed us with jaw dropping and heart-rending theatricality and engagement. Her account of Michael Tilson Thomas’s Grace bestowed that quality on us like manna. [continued…]

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Noted by the Conductor

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Boston Philharmonic’s encampment at Symphony Hall on April 26th at 8:00 will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the ensemble with an unusual pairing: Ives’s Third with Mahler’s Fifth.

Lying on a table, when Mahler visited a New York publisher early in 1911, was an unpublished score of a symphony by a composer he had never heard of — Charles Ives. After a quick perusal he slipped it into his briefcase with the intention of studying it on his way back to Europe and performing it the following season. However, Mahler did not return to his post as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. What Mahler must have recognized in that brief encounter with the younger American composer’s Third Symphony was a kindred spirit. He saw a composer who used the humble elements of popular culture — hymn tunes, folk songs — in the hallowed context of the European symphonic form, thereby giving renewed energy to both. An innocent Yankee sensibility resonated with his own penchant for using old Austrian folk songs and dances. [continued…]

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