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McDowell County: Resilience and Rebirth

Classically Speaking

Classical music in West Virginia and Beyond

Orchestral July 4th weekend in (& around) WV

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By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · June 29, 2011

Festive Fireworks
Jon Sullivan

The holiday weekend will be here in just a few days. Here’s a guide to where orchestras in and around West Virginia are performing for the Independence Day weekend. All concerts are outdoors and free unless otherwise marked. 


July 1:
       Wheeling Symphony: Weir High School, Weirton
       Pittsburgh Symphony: Lincoln Park Performing Arts
              Center, Pittsburgh, PA(tickets $32-48)

July 2:
      Wheeling Symphony: Clarksburg City Park, Nutter Fort**      
       Maryland Symphony Orchestra: Antietam National
              Battlefield, Maryland **
       Pittsburgh Symphony: South Park, Pittsburgh, PA

July 3:
       West Virginia Symphony: Haddad Riverfront Park,
       Wheeling Symphony: Canaan Valley State Park
       Pittsburgh Symphony: Hartwood Acres, Pittsburgh, PA       

July 4:
       Wheeling Symphony: Heritage Port Amphitheatre,
Ohio Valley Symphony: Gallipolis City Park, Gallipolis, OH**

** fireworks!

Photo by Jon Sullivan via PD Photo.

City of Lights, City of Music: Part III Concerts

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By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · June 29, 2011

I've just heard that the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is having a Paris Festival during its upcoming season (including a Parisian concert in Morgantown). Génial! Perhaps that's a good enough excuse to post some more musical vacation photos.

Our first concert in Paris was at Notre Dame Cathedral, where organist Jeremy Filsell played a recital of music by Vierne and Dupre on le grand orgue de Notre-Dame de Paris. Not a bad set of pipes there. (The concert was wonderful. The combination of the music, the instrument and the setting was overwhelming.)

Notre Dame Organ
Mona Seghatoleslami
The Great Organ of Notre Dame de Paris

Check out Notre Dame Cathedral's organ page -- they've done a bit better on the pictures there and have thrown in technical details and history.

I didn't take any pictures at the other cathedral concert we attended, but you can read about the beautiful Eglise-Saint-Eustache and see pictures here.

The concert featured Mozart's Requiem, along with his Symphony No. 26, organ improvisations, and a reading of one of Mozart's letters to his father made for a full musical evening. The Requiem (as advertised, with 300 singers and instrumentalists) sounded great, as did the organ. The symphony didn't fare as well with the church acoustics; other pieces resonated, while the symphony just seemed mushy.

Mozart Requiem Paris Poster

The one performance I had planned on attending before getting to Paris was the ballet Rain by Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker, set to Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians. The three or four trips it took to the box office to buy tickets provided an excuse to admire the Paris Opera's Palais Garnier opera house.

Paris Opera with Halevy
Mona Seghatoleslami
Outside the Palais Garnier -- I wonder what Halevy would have thought of Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians?

Everything was a mix of beautiful sound and motion. Our balcony seats enabled us to see the dancers on the stage and the musicians playing and singing in the pit. Both were so fascinating, it was sometimes difficult to decide where to look. Someone else who posted a short video of the performance on YouTube seems to have had the same issue:
Rain of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

Most of our concerts we found by checking out flyers and advertisements posted in the metro and on the streets. We found out about the Glenn Branca Ensemble's performance at the Villette Sonique Festival through one of these posters (also on that concert: the excellently entertaining band Half Japanese). Most of my pictures of Branca conducting his guitar ensemble came out fuzzy, but this one at least gives you a view of the musicians:

Glenn Branca at Villette Sonique
Mona Seghatoleslami
Glenn Branca Ensemble at Villette Sonique

If ... when ... I go back, I'm sure there will be even more great music in store (perhaps some chamber music, a piano recital or two, an opera, and some more jazz...). There seemed to be so many concert options in Paris every day.

And here's a hopefully not too morbid transition -- In addition to all the live music, Paris also has its musical dead. Next time, I'll post pictures of some musical figures whose resting places we visited.

Related posts:

* City of Lights, City of Music: Part I, Signs

* City of Lights, City of Music: Part II, Museums

Got concert milk?

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By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · June 28, 2011
Konzerthaus Dortmund: The Konzertmilch Case

Thank you to Tom Moore for posting this intriguing classical music-local food connection on the Music Library Association mailing list.

Researching Arvo Pärt -- Canterbury Impressions

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By Marguerite Bostonia
 · June 27, 2011

Dr. Marguerite Bostonia recently traveled to Canterbury, England to present her paper “Bells and beyond: How tintinnabuli reflect meaning and iconic structures” about Arvo Pärt’s music at the Baltic Music and Musicologies Conference. She shares some of her impressions and pictures from the conference here. You can also listen to her discuss researching Arvo Pärt’s music in a recent interview for Classically Speaking. 


A full day of Arvo Pärt presentations was one of the three days at the Baltic Musics and Musicologies Conference held on May 26-28, in Canterbury, UK. Conference host was Canterbury Christ Church University, a growing institution that arose out of the post-war rebuilding of the severely-bombed city. To put our Arvo Pärt day into broader perspective, the Baltic Conference was also held in collaboration with the Sounds New Contemporary Music Festival, founded by Nicholas Cleobury in 1997. Another collaborator was the Institute of Music Research, parented by the University of London, founded in 2005.

Sounds New
hosted a number of UK premiers of Pärt works, with most of the performances taking place in the nave or the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral. Some of the other Baltic composers receiving attention were Tormis, Ciurlionis, Senderovas, Baltic opera, Mägi, Roiha, and Tüur among many others.

The Arvo Pärt conference papers were mostly comprised of a group of scholars who have gathered at previous conferences in Boston and London. Here is a special picture from London, from September 2010, when I had a chance to discuss music with Arvo Pärt:

Arvo Part with Marguerite Bostonia
Marguerite Bostonia and Arvo Pärt

Arising out of these gatherings will be the publication of the Cambridge Companion to Arvo Pärt, due out later this year from Cambridge University Press. Most of us were present at Canterbury for this photo with the composer:

Arvo Part with Scholars
Front L to R: Tom Robinson, University of Alabama; Andrew Shenton, editor from Boston University; composer Arvo Pärt; Marguerite Bostonia, West Virginia Wesleyan College. Back: Laura Dolp, Montclair State University; Jeffers Engelhardt, Amherst College; and Leo Brauneiss, University of Vienna and the Hochschule für Musik in Leipzig.

There was a lot of joking going on, despite Pärt’s serious look. My sister had an armful of cameras, clicking away for everyone to have their own. At one point, Arvo Pärt pretended to try to escape, and quipped, “We are NOT professional models!”

While Mr. Pärt had many dress rehearsal duties and events to attend for Sounds New, we were blessed with his presence at our morning conference sessions. It is daunting to present analysis and speculation about musical meaning with the composer in the room! He does speak English, but his gestures and body language are most expressive, as well as a piercing connection with eye contact. He left his seat and approached me after my presentation, grasped both my hands and said, “Thank you very much.” There was no time to chat or ask for specifics.

The title of my paper was “Bells and Beyond: How Tintinnabuli Reflects Meaning and Iconic Structures.” My ideas were based on visual and programmatic connections to his music which stem from strong, architectural structures. Without proselytizing, I also incorporated a number of Orthodox icons to illustrate what I found in the music, and to reflect his genuine religious beliefs. I have no idea what combination of ideas elicited his thanks. This will remain a mystery, but I like to think that a simple, visual inspiration is an optimum to not only understand his compositional approach, but to appreciate his music as a general listener.

Arvo Pärt himself is very reluctant to provide detailed explanations to the mystery of his compositional journeys, and his love of simplicity has been paramount in his music. He has always expressed great joy in the ways others connect to his music. In the documentary of his life, 24 Preludes to a Fugue, he illustrates his relationship as a composer to the performers: He holds up a coat, then drops it. His music is like a coat with no hanger; it cannot hang on its own. The musicians make it possible for the music to exist.

Being a free agent at the festival/conference, Mr. Pärt was seen at many of the dress rehearsals for the numerous performances. At our charming Bed & Breakfast, my sister and I exchanged stories over breakfast about our travels, and the young, Latvian jazz specialists at our house sat in on some of the orchestral rehearsals where Pärt did his usual pacing and watching from all around the performance venue.

It was also wonderful to hear about the depth of Baltic musics represented at the conference, including a new twist on the recent history of jazz from that region alone. Having a number of jazz practitioners in my theory class at WV Wesleyan, I was amazed to hear the same sort of banter, using the same lingo and jazz terms. Their love of jazz is as American as ours. I jokingly mentioned that the concept of the tritone substitution can be such a challenge for us classical musicians, and they just laughed and said, “Oh, that’s so easy!” Their English was excellent, and they explained, “It has to be,” since their own small countries are such a minority even in Europe. They were young, energetic, and impressive.

Mr. Pärt’s most public profiles were seen at the evening performances. His love of the Cello Octet Amsterdam (Cello8ctet Amsterdam) was seen in the Cathedral Crypt, where the lush sound and ethereal resonance of such an ensemble was heard at its best. Here we heard the England premiers of Pärt’s Da Pacem Domine, Missa Brevis, O-Antiphonen, and Summa. The Octet offers many original works by modern composers, and at the end of the concert, Mr. Pärt walked behind the semi-circle of players, kissing each one on the head in thanks.

The next night was the UK Premiere of Adam’s Lament, performed by the Choir of King’s College Cambridge and the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Stephen Cleobury in the nave. This evening’s performances were recorded for broadcast on “Hear and Now” by BBC Radio 3. Present were representatives of the Embassy of Estonia, as well as other Baltic representatives. Arvo Pärt has a manner of humility in the way he accepts applause and ovations extending over many minutes. He truly delights in the artistry of all the performers, and with the audience that forms connections to his music.

There were too many events to attend, such as poetry, Jazz Day, folk instrument days for accordion, kantele, recorders, and kokle. Interactive performances for young people, and dance were also scheduled. Films about the Baltic Way, such as The Singing Revolution were viewed. Few in the west are aware of the non-violent human chain and the strong singing traditions that empowered the Baltic nations to become free of Soviet domination beginning in 1989. Our new jazz friends told of how jazz musicians went underground during Soviet occupation, and that the old men kept it alive. They were also planning to travel again to the Jazz and National Identities Conference in Amsterdam, to be held in September.

Canterbury has a population of about 45,000 or less, so is comparable to my home town of Morgantown. However, the atmosphere is quite different. The entire rebuilding of the city after the Blitz was done and even redone to maintain the historical styles of the ancient metropolis that it has always been.

Academically, there are many institutions of learning: The King’s School, supposedly the oldest organized school in the western world, University of Kent, Canterbury College, Canterbury Christ Church University, and University College for the Creative Arts in Canterbury. There could be more. Rather than the dominance of one institution to which I am accustomed, there was a great deal of mutual collaboration during the week of the commercial and academic events of the Sounds New Festival.

In general, a multi-media approach to community culture, and an appreciation for the Humanities as a whole seem to permeate the European academic hierarchies. Historically, it was also extremely meaningful to visit Canterbury Cathedral, inside the medieval walled circle of the old city, and see the steps worn by pilgrims on their knees, and the place of Thomas Becket’s martyrdom.

On the Sounds New web page is a photo gallery of Arvo Pärt in the Cathedral rehearsals and performances. As the composer simply states: “Every minute, every second, I was happy...". Those of us who met with him again, and have the privilege of publishing our studies of his life’s work, would have to agree!

Related post: Researching Arvo Pärt

Space Opera -- qu'est-ce que c'est?

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By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · June 21, 2011

Saint Stephen's Dream

Recently, I’ve been hearing about a new theater production in CharlestonSaint Stephen’s Dream: A Space Opera. Space is pretty cool, and I do like opera, so I spent a little bit of time finding out more about this production.

Merriam-Webster kindly tells me that a space opera is “a futuristic melodramatic fantasy involving space travelers and extraterrestrial beings.” Wikipedia elaborates and makes a special note:

“The term has no relation to music and it is analogous to "soap opera" (see below).”

Not anymore!


While Saint Stephen’s Dream is “a futuristic melodramatic fantasy involving space travelers,” it also involves music. It’s a folk/rock/experimental musical drama, with an intriguing interactive online aspect.  Creator Doug Imbrogno explains the whole thing in a brief interview:

This audio player requires Adobe Flash
Interview with Doug Imbrogno about Saint Stephen's Dream

For more info, visit the Saint Stephen’s Dream website, and check out the videos below. WestVirginiaVille.com presents four performances of Saint Stephen's Dream this weekend as part of FestivALL.


Official Trailer for "Saint Stephen's Dream"


The IONS rehearse 'No Further Thought of Fame' from Saint Stephen's Dream


* Turns out that some people call operas about space science fiction operas. There aren’t many of them, but one very cool example was written by one of my favorite professors – Paradises Lost by Stephen Andrew Taylor. It's a setting of novella by Ursula K. Le Guin. I'm definitely planning to see if I can swing an interview with the composer. 

Silly love songs -- Don Pasquale at the movies

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By Larry Stickler
 · June 21, 2011

Rome is the setting.  An elderly bachelor, Don Pasquale, wants to marry in order to produce an heir.  If he is successful, his nephew Ernesto, who is infatuated with the young widow Norina, would be disinherited.  Humorous and amorous adventures ensue.

Conducted by James Levine, the comic opera (opera buffa) Don Pasquale will be the Metropolitan Opera encore performance in the Cinemark Theatre at the Huntington Mall this Wednesday at 6:30pm.  This performance was originally transmitted live on November 13, 2010.

Met Opera Don Pasquale
Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera
Madcap romantic comedy at the opera -- Mariusz Kwiecień and Anna Netrebko in Don Pasquale

Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) composed this, his sixty-fourth opera, in about two weeks time in 1842 and it was premiered at Theatre Italian in Paris on January 3, 1843.  A singer himself, Donizetti knew how to bring out the beauty of the human voice.

For those who have never seen an opera, Don Pasquale would be a good start.  The plot is easy to follow, the circumstances are comic and the music is enjoyable.  The opera will be sung in Italian with English subtitles.  An added treat is that the singers are interviewed as they exit the stage during intermissions.

Larry Stickler
Professor of Music
Marshall University

The Metropolitan Opera encore series can been seen at the movies in Barboursville (Huntington Mall), Morgantown, and Bridgeport on Wednesdays throughout the summer. Find the full summer opera schedule here.

City of Lights, City of Music: Part II, Museums

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By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · June 14, 2011

I've been home for over a week, and life is getting back to normal.

Most of the Parisian chocolates have disappeared, and all that remains of my adventures are memories and photos (and a fascination with things like French podcasts about Erik Satie festivals.)

As I look over the photos, I'm regretting not taking notes as to what some of these things were, especially these instruments from the Musée de la Musique at La Cité de la Musique.

Cite de la Musique Oboe
Ann Pollok

Can anyone help -- is this terrifying cousin of the English horn perhaps a serpent?

Cite de la Musique Trombone
Ann Pollok

I would pay good money to see those two instruments fight it out.


Cite de la Musique Viola
Mona Seghatoleslami
That's one way to get a bigger sound out of a viola...
The music museum also features musicians demonstrating instruments. We were treated to a glass harmonica demonstration and performance by Thomas Bloch, an excellent musician who was very warm and generous with his time. He played some Mozart and Chick Corea tunes.

Bloch Glass Harmonica
Ann Pollok
Thomas Bloch playing the glass harmonica

The Cité de la Musique was not the only museum in which musical sights were to be found. Salvador Dali had a rather stylish piano at the Espace Dali in Montmartre.

Dali Piano
Mona Seghatoleslami
Piano at the Espace Dali

And who is this guy winking at us at the Louvre?

Louvre Flute Player
Mona Seghatoleslami

Here's the musical god Pan at the Louvre. A wonderful sheet music store (actually three stores all on the same block) in Paris evokes this mythical master of music: La flûte de Pan.

Louvre Pan
Mona Seghatoleslami
Pan at the Louvre

The violinist in the window in Matisse's painting seems to have a nice place to practice, at the Centre Pompidou.

Pompidou violinist
Mona Seghtoleslami
Le violoniste à la fenêtre, Henri Matisse

Music in Paris was more than signs and museums! I also got to some great concerts. I have just a few pictures from the concerts, which I'll post soon.

Karl “Hoss” Cartwright Rides into the Sunset

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By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · June 10, 2011

Karl Hoss Cartwright Casette

While the cassette is called Karl “Hoss” Cartwright’s Greatest Hits, I’ve discovered that these 10 episodes were his only hits. So this is the end; I hope you've enjoyed the shows. We now present the final two episodes of Adventures in Good Country Music, with adventures in minimalism and post-serialism (cereal-ism)?
This audio player requires Adobe Flash
Philip and the Blueglass Boys


This audio player requires Adobe Flash
John "Denver" Cage

Adventures in Good Country Music with Karl "Hoss" Cartwright

Written by Larry Groce
Karl “Hoss” Cartwright: John Kessler
Piano and music arrangements: Eric Kitchen
Vocals (Plastico Flamingo, et. al): Larry Groce
Violin (Peggy Nini): Deni Bonet.

(c) Larry Groce and (p) West Virginia Public Radio 1987.

Special thanks to Andy Ridenour for sharing the cassette and to Paul Flaherty for digitizing it.

Previously on “Adventures in Good Country Music”

* Okie from Vienna
* They're Gonna Put Me in the Oratorio
* Bourbon and Water Music
* Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Valkyries
* The Round Mound of Profound Sound
* Waltzin’ Prison Blues
* Take this Jig and Shove It
* I’m so lonesome I could pleure


City of Lights, City of Music: Part I, Signs

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By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · June 9, 2011

"What was your favorite thing about Paris?"

I've stumbled quite a few times when trying to answer this question over the week since I returned from my trip. I loved the food, museums, parks, buildings, history, cafes...but perhaps most of all, the music.

I found classical music everywhere in Paris -- concerts every day throughout the city, history and art in the museums, and even out in the streets. Here are some of the music-related pictures from my new favorite city.

Satie Apartment
Randy Pollok
Satie's Home in Montmartre

 "Erik Satie, composer of music, lived in this house from 1890 to 1898"

Place Chopin
Mona Seghatoleslami
Place Chopin
If you ever find yourself near this sign, you're just a few blocks from some of the best treats ever, at Aux Merveilleux de Fred.

Place Leonard Bernstein
Mona Seghatoleslami
Place Leonard Bernstein

Bernstein's sign could use some love! This place is right near the new home of La Cinemathèque Française.

Place Stravinsky
Mona Seghatoleslami
Place Igor Stravinsky

Stravinsky has a nice little area near Centre Pompidou, home of IRCAM.

Place Diaghilev
Mona Seghatoleslami
Place Diaghilev

Famed impresario and founder of the Ballets Russes Sergei Diaghilev has a home at the Paris Opera's Palais Garnier (the fuzziness of the photo might relate to amount of stress caused by the three visits it took to get tickets! In the end, we did manage to find affordable tickets for Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker's beautiful ballet Rain, set to music by Steve Reich.)

That's enough daydreaming for today. I'll post some pictures from concerts and museums soon.

Encore! (Opera at the Movies)

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By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · June 7, 2011

Dessay in Fille du Regiment
Ken Howard/The Metropolitan Opera
Natalie Dessay as Marie in La Fille du Régiment

The Metropolitan Opera is bringing back a few favorite operas from previous seasons and showing them in movie theaters Wednesday evenings June 15 through July 27 this summer.

In West Virginia, you can catch these screenings at Huntington Mall (Barboursville), Bridgeport, and Morgantown.  

June 15: Madama Butterfly (Puccini)

June 22: Don Pasquale (Donizetti)

June 29: Simon Boccanegra (Verdi)

July 13: La Fille du Régiment [Daughter of the Regiment] (Donizetti)

July 20: Tosca (Puccini)

July 27: Don Carlo (Verdi)


Stay tuned to West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Facebook page for ticket giveaways! You can also read more about the operas on the Met's site: 2011 Summer HD Encores.

WV Classical Calendar - June 2011

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By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · June 1, 2011

June 2011

It’s a bit quiet between the end of the regular season and all the July 4th concerts.

Let us know if something’s missing from the calendar.

June 5: Symphony Sunday (Charleston)

June 14: Tuesdays with Fran: Domenico Scarlatti (Carnegie Hall, Lewisburg)

June 15: Met Opera HD Summer Encores: Puccini’s Madama Butterfly

June 17: Caswell Sisters and Contrarians (FestivALL)

June 22: Met Opera HD Summer Encores: Donizetti’s Don Pasquale

June 29: Met Opera HD Summer Encores: Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra

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