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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 


Classical Cage Match

 Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · June 23, 2009

Classical music: civilized, soothing, maybe a bit … stuffy and boring? 

Wait, no! Even if we dress up formally and sit quietly at concerts, classical music is full of passion and excitement, love, hate, reverence, humor, and all sorts of other feelings.

When Paul Helfrich wrote for us about why classical music matters in West Virginia, he discussed how classical music is important to us all as people:

“All music reflects, in some way, the human experience.  It’s one of the amazing ways that human beings express themselves, and record, interpret, question, and celebrate their human experience.”  

The musicians, as well as the music, confront less-than-refined sentiments.  There are rivalries and feuds lurking inside the even most mild-mannered looking orchestras and choruses.

Two very lovely-sounding instruments, the clarinet and the viola, can work together beautifully or struggle in bitter competition.  They’re seen as somewhat interchangeable by some composers, who have written pieces indicating they can be played by viola (or clarinet) or clarinet (or viola).  Brahms wrote two clarinet sonatas that he later reworked for viola – which was a better choice? As you might imagine, you get different answers from violist and clarinetists. 

Clarinet vs Viola

 

So violist Sandra Groce and clarinetist Bob Turizziani from the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra are going to have it out: viola versus clarinet, in what they’re calling a classical cage match

Pianist Vicki Cavendish will accompany them and help keep the peace, while I’ll be calling the match as the concert narrator.  Of course, I may have my biases

It’s a silly and fun concept for a concert, but the music is going to be seriously good, with works by Debussy, Brahms, Enesco, Bruch, and Beethoven. 

If you’re looking for the classical side of FestiVALL or just a good clean fight, check out our concert Wednesday night at 7pm at the Christ Church United Methodist Church in Charleston.

The WV Symphony Orchestra blog has a post about the concert: "Cage Match Tonight."

Update: I had so much fun at the concert last night! I hope that all who attended did too.  Sandra, Bob, and Vicki all played beautifully.  We didn't have a program for the concert; it was all announced from the stage.  Want to hear the pieces that were played again or find more viola and clarinet music?  Here are the titles, with links to some good recordings:

Round 1: The Showy Concertpiece
Viola: Enesco, Concertpiece 

Clarinet: Debussy, Rhapsodie (with orchestra or with piano)

Round 2: The Romantic Sonata
Brahms, Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 120, No. 2 

Brahms, Sonata for Viola and Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 120, No. 2

Round 3: Jokes
Instrument Jokes Web site 

Round 4: Collaboration
Bruch, Pieces for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano 

Round 5: The Grand Finale
Beethoven, Trio for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano 

Other viola and clarinet pieces mentioned:
Mozart, Kegelstatt-trio  

Schumann, Fairy Tale Stories

Timber Flute Festival in Elkins

(Interviews, News) Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · June 22, 2009
Timber Flute Festival 2009

The Timber Flute Festival is going on right now at the Randolph County Community Arts Center in Elkins, West Virginia.  This week-long festival dedicated to making and playing wooden flutes is now in its third year.  They play many styles of music, including classical, traditional Irish, and Native American.

This weekend, I discovered a story that Jean Snedegar produced for WV Public Radio in 2007 about the first Timber Flute Festival.  Give it a listen; the music is beautiful and Snedegar makes you feel as if you’re there. 

This audio player requires Adobe Flash
Timber Flute Festival Launches in Elkins, by Jean Snedegar


If now you actually want to be there, here’s more information about the events going this week, including concerts most afternoons and evenings.


One of the organizers of the Festival is Wendell Dobbs, flute professor at Marshall University.  He spoke about his experience with different types of flutes and flute music, including early American classical music, in an interview last year.


Interview: Angele Dubeau

(Interviews) Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · June 18, 2009

"A musician is a musician, and music is to share." -- Angèle Dubeau

We’ve recently discovered and become fans of Quebecois violinist Angèle Dubeau and her ensemble La Pietà.  You might have heard her latest album Philip Glass: Portrait on the radio over the past few weeks.

Dubeau has around thirty other recordings, of music by Vivaldi to a new album of music by Jean Francaix.  Her musical upbringing was pretty strictly classical, but she’s now also recorded music by David Bowie and and Dave Brubeck

Jim Lange and I both this love this album (my favorite track is “Closing,” while Jim’s is “Echorus”), and I was the lucky one who got to interview Dubeau. 

Here is my interview with the absolutely charming Angèle Dubeau:

This audio player requires Adobe Flash
Interview with Angèle Dubeau


You can find out more about Dubeau and La Pietà on her site and hear samples and purchase the album through Amazon.

Also, here's a video of them playing the overture to Glass's Beauty and the Beast.


Thank you to Max of 
Crossover Media  for arranging this interview
 

Lazy Summer, Debussy

(Commentary) Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · June 16, 2009

Well, we haven’t been too lazy – we’ve been busy making you some radio (including a recent story about a choir from Africa touring West Virginia). 

I was, however, feeling pretty lazy today while listening to Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun on the radio


Here’s some of what Debussy had to say about his piece:

“There is a succession of scenes through which pass the desires and dreams of the faun in the heat of the afternoon. Then, tired of pursuing the timorous flight of nymphs and naiads, he succumbs to intoxicating sleep, in which he can finally realize his dreams of possession in universal Nature.” 


The music is perfectly lazy and indulgent.  We often talk about music in terms of colors and other visual elements, but this piece evokes other senses for me -- the feel of humid air and gentle breezes; the perfumed scents of ripe fruits and flowers.


It’s not quite summer proper yet, but June 21st is just around the corner. Do you have any favorite summer music?  It could originally be about summer or just something that just evokes the season for you.  I'd love to hear your selections and your reasons for associating the music with summer.

You can still comment here – it’s a just a bit complicated right now.  First log in (you’ve got a free account, right?), and then make sure you’ve clicked on this post.  Then you can leave a comment at the end of the post.

If you have trouble, email me: feedback@wvpubcast.org.  If you ask nicely, I’ll post it for you.

Previously:  Wintry Mix and Dark Days, Light Music.


Classical Connection -- Mountain Stage

(Commentary) Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · June 11, 2009
Groce, Larry
Brian Blauser
Larry Groce at a live recording of Mountain Stage



How often have you heard classical music on Mountain Stage

I’ve only been here for a few years, but I haven’t noticed it happening too often (ever?)

So check out the current Mountain Stage Song of the Week . 

 

It starts with Bach and then it goes into Cat Stevens.  All of the songs on singer/songwriter Susan Werner’s latest album Classics employ this blending of classical music with songs from the 1960s and 1970s. 

The songs I’ve listened to are beautiful; I love her voice and the music blends together gracefully.

You can hear Susan Werner perform a set on this week’s Mountain Stage, Sunday at 3pm on West Virginia Public Radio or check if your local station plays Mountain Stage .

Werner,  Susan
Gregory Sava
Susan Werner
Werner’s style is definitely her own, but pop music borrowing from classical being nothing new.  Those other connections could be another post, some day...

To keep up with what’s going on with Mountain Stage,  you don't have to go far -- they’re blogging too!


Huntington Symphony on the Move

(Interviews, News) Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · June 8, 2009
Huntington Symphony summer 1

It’s that time again -- when the temperatures get hotter, the music gets lighter, and concerts move outdoors – summer pops

The Huntington Symphony will be playing three outdoor concerts this summer, each one with a theme of traveling and transportation.  The first one “Ramblin’ on the River” takes place Saturday June 13th at 8pm at Harris Riverfront Park in Huntington.

I took this upcoming concert as an opportunity to get to talk with the Huntington Symphony’s conductor, Maestro Kimo Furumoto

Kimo Furumoto
Maestro Kimo Furumoto


He’s conducted the Huntington Symphony for 10 years, and he’s equally at home with high classics and symponic pops.  Furumoto’s musical career has taken him from his home state of Hawaii to conducting throughout the US and Europe, as well as teaching in Ohio and California.  He currently teaches at California State University at Fullerton.



We talked about what brought him to Huntington, the music the HSO will be playing this summer, and ways that the audience are getting more involved in influencing the concert programs.

This audio player requires Adobe Flash
Kimo Furumoto and the Huntington Symphony

I'm always curious what leads people to take up the baton and step onto the podium, so we talked about his musical background and what led him to conducting.
This audio player requires Adobe Flash
Kimo Furumoto on becoming a conductor

I also got Maestro Furumoto to let us know about some future projects and plans for the Huntington Symphony Orchestra
 
This audio player requires Adobe Flash
Huntington Symphony future plans


Here's a few related posts you might find interesting:

* Maestro Furumoto mentioned working with Cincinnati Pops conductor Erich Kunzel.  Here’s Jim Lange’s interview with the dynamic Maestro Kunzel. 

* We also talked about composer Scott Michal’s music being voted onto another concert program.  Here’s my interview with Scott Michal from when the Huntington Symphony played his Violin Concerto. 

Huntington Symphony summer 2
Sunset at a Huntington Symphony Orchestra concert last year

Musical Pirates

(News) Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · June 4, 2009

In Charleston this weekend, musicians are coming together to create a fun musical event: Symphony Sunday.

Community music groups will be performing throughout the day on Sunday (I’ll be playing in the Charleston Neophonic Orchestra sometime mid-afternoon). The West Virginia Symphony then takes the stage at 8pm. The concerts all take place on the lawn at University of Charleston. 

I love the theme this year: pirates!  (Have ye a problem with pirates?)

Symphony Sunday 2009 logo

I hear that the Kanawha Community Band’s program includes the “Jolly Robbers Overture” by Franz von Suppé, while the WV Symphony will have some music from Pirates of the Caribbean

In addition to the concerts, there will be pirate-ology demonstrations, a boat parade on the river, and fireworks. And don’t get caught by the name; there are also some Symphony Sunday events on Friday and Saturday (including the “Beat Beethoven” 5k Run/Walk).

Looking at all the rain outside, I’m hoping the stage doesn’t turn into a pirate ship and float down the river. But we survived and had lots of fun last year, despite a storm that took place midday (it was beautiful out before and after the rain!)

Hope to see you there; here’s more info about what’s going on:

Schedule and details on WV Symphony’s site 

The Gazz has several articles about the music and events 

* There’s also an article in last weekend’s Sunday Gazette-Mail  


A little traveling music

(Commentary, Just for Fun) Permanent link
By Bob Powell
 · June 3, 2009
Bob's 1996 BMW R850R motorcycle

Since I began riding a motorcycle in 2005, I’ve wondered what music I should listen to as carve my way through the “twisties” of West Virginia. Anyone who has seen my bike could attest that you can’t associate my 1996 BMW R850R with popular tunes like “Born to be Wild” or “Bad to the Bone.” That’s just not me.

Near as I can figure, maybe some Carmina Burana by Carl Orff or Wagner’s “Flying Dutchman” would work. Better that than “Ride of the Valkyries,” for two reasons: I don’t ride a Honda and it reminds me of the smell of napalm in the morning.

TT practice
First practice for this year's TT.

So as I was researching what other motorcycle riders listen to, I found that on June 11, the London Metropolitan Orchestra will be performing a concert on the Isle of Man to celebrate the Isle of Man Time Trials Extreme Grand Prix, a revolutionary experiment in motorcycle racing.

The Isle of Man has hosted the premiere annual motorcycle time trial event since 1907, known simply as the TT. Riders - amateur and professionals - push their two-wheeled machines at break-neck speeds around this tiny speck of land in the north Irish Sea.

Called the eGrandPrix, this year's time trials will feature zero-carbon, clean emission motorcycles.

The LMO is a 70 piece orchestra that combines traditional symphonic repertoire with modern scores from television and cinema. The concert, entitled A Promise to a Generation, will also feature a world premier symphony written by film composer Ilan Eshkari specially commissioned for the TTXGP.   The concert, to be performed in the newly renovated Villa Marina Royal Hall, will also feature a variety of pieces from film and television scores and music by Stravinsky, Debussy, Copland, and Michael Kamen.


Learn more about the concert and to what music the Isle of Man will be listening to celebrate this amazing new technology by visiting the concert Web site.


Your Performance Today

 Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · June 1, 2009
MyPT

Not content to get my fill of classical music on the radio, in concerts, and through the Cliburn competition webcast, I’ve been checking out My Performance Today

It’s been a few weeks since Performance Today started accepting submissions from undiscovered and amateur musicians to My Performance Today. They have a good variety of videos posted, but I noticed something very important lacking.

As I searched for entries from West Virginians, the only “WV” I’ve found is where pieces by Bach are labeled with their BWV number


Is there someone out there who will represent West Virginia? 


Undiscovered artists, amateurs, students – here’s your chance to be heard, promoted online, and maybe even get featured nationally on the radio on Performance Today. 

And hey, if you’re not a musician, but you know one … tell them about this opportunity. Maybe your church has a choir, or your friend plays in a community band, or your mom’s a good piano player. Even if your closest connection to a musician is your neighbor’s cousin’s sister’s kid who studies trumpet at college, spread the word and we’ll show off some of the talented musicians we have in our state.   

Then if you or someone you know enters -- let me know!  I’ll try to remember to keep checking, but it’s always good to hear from you.  

Leave a comment or send an email with "Classically Speaking" in the subject to feedback@wvpubcast.org.  

Find out more on the My Performance Today site.


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