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WV Symphony - Tchaikovsky V

Classically Speaking

Classical music in West Virginia and Beyond

Idol and Glee: Not so original?

(Commentary) Permanent link
By Bob Powell
 · June 29, 2009
Glee cast
Fox's Glee: Music (and drama) in the schools.

Curiosity led me to watch Fox Television’s preview of the fall series Glee that aired in May.  It’s about a high school performance choir made up of misfits -- their description, not mine -- who are also talented students. The plot line at one point described it as a Glee Club, thereby justifying the series name, but before you know it they’re all about the performance. Before long it’s all about the performance and less about the choir.

Glee aired immediately after American Idol. As television program strategies go, it was like airing new episodes after a Super Bowl. It was the place to be seen.

I admit I’ve only watched bits of American Idol. It has never intrigued me; I never like to watch people fail miserably or succeed miserably either. However, the Gong Show did pique my interest when I was one of those misfit high school kids who sang and danced in local productions of "The Music Man" and "Hello Dolly."

I recently came across a program in a box of my mother’s keepsakes that allowed me to feel a little smugger against these musical knife-fights.

My mom and dad met at Ohio Wesleyan University around 1951. He was a biology major with the goal of med school; she was planning for a nursing career. He had transferred from George Washington University in D.C.; she was the daughter of a country doctor from Holmes County, Ohio.

Dad graduated in 1953. Before he did, his fraternity participated in a songfest.

Yes, my dad was in a glee club, and they were in a competitive musical contest! Dad was a Delt (Delta Tau Delta—founded at Bethany College). He played baseball for OWU until he blew out his ankle. Socially, he was no misfit.

That got me to thinking.  I knew there were glee clubs, but contests? Of course there were; just listen to Wagner.

Wagner -- the new Idol judge?

Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg is nothing more than Bavarian Idol repeats performed for over 140-odd years. A guild of singers holds a contest, and the winner gets the girl. Full of intrigue and humor, it is Wagner’s only comedy among his mature operas. After all, what could be funnier than a singing knight winning the girl with a song written by a shoe maker? It has Fox written all over it. There is probably a Simon Cowell character in it somewhere.

Wagner with a hat
Simon Cowell does not approve.

Even the contest that conveniently allowed the Von Trapp Family singers use as a cover for their escape—if you believe Hollywood, lives on as the Salzburger Festspiele in Salzburg, Austria every year since 1920. 

Why are we so fascinated by “reality TV,” when high schools, colleges, orchestras, and choruses can provide us with the same pageantry and talent of a songfest in our own communities? Support your local songfest this year.

Summer Music

(Commentary) Permanent link
By Jim Lange
 · June 25, 2009

“Summer time and the livin’ is easy.”

Do the seasons affect what we listen to? I think so.

Summer is that lazy reprieve between the jolt of spring and the introspective chill of winter. For some, people find winter the hardest to deal with psychologically. Summer is more difficult for me. There’s a wildness about summer; an almost “anything goes” attitude. I gravitate towards calming music during this sunny clime. Here’s my list:

Julian Bream vol. 25

Julian Bream Edition Vol 25 - Music Of Spain
No guitarist before, nor any after him have quite the interpretive heart of Julian Bream; especially when it comes to the towering music of Spain. One can imagine living in a seaside villa, swaying in a hammock, and enjoying a lazy summer afternoon.

In a Landscape
John Cage: In a Landscape (Stephen Drury, piano)
Listeners may think I have gone on out a thin limb to even suggest Cage, but that’s because you haven’t heard this record. This reveals a side of Cage we thought not existed: melodic, dreamy and ultimately beautiful. Even the prepared piano of Music for Marcel Duchamp captures the imagination. Brilliant.

Dubeau Portrait

Philip Glass- Portrait. Angèle Dubeau, La Pietà 
This is not your frenetic Glass with its constant spinning wheels of arpeggios, but rather a more, dare we say it, romantic style. Dubeau and friends pull some rarely heard emotion out of the music; making this a sure summer favorite. Here's our recent interview with Dubeau.


Music for Airports Bang on a Can

Eno: Music for Airports / Bang On a Can
While we can’t really call this classical, there is no getting around how ultimately beautiful and relaxing this music is. Eno’s 1979 pioneering studio composition is performed in real time by Bang On a Can and the results are heavenly.


George Crumb: Complete Edition, Volume 11
Come on, summer can’t be all swimming, BBQ or just lazing about, can it? Summer evenings are perfect for a little personal introspection. This is not music for your evening soiree-that is sure to end the evening quickly. I suggest a walk out under a star-filled sky with your iPod to truly appreciate the otherworldly imagination of WV’s native son.

Bach Brandenburg Concertos

J.S. Bach - Academy of Ancient Music – Harpsichord Concerto in D Minor, Violin Concerto in A Minor, et al
Whatever the season and wherever I go, I am never far from my beloved Bach. He is the axis mundi; the center of all things musical. Andrew Manze, Richard Egarr or Christopher Hogwood and this fabulous ensemble are top notch.

PreviouslyWintry Mix and Lazy Summer, Debussy 

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