Friday, January 30, 2009

Budge on the budget

Just in from the American Music Center:
Dear AMC members and friends,
This is a time of great challenge and great opportunity in our country. Your advocacy is needed to ensure that Congress includes the arts as a priority in an economic stimulus plan. Please consider writing to your senators, who are beginning to debate the American Reinvestment and Recovery Bill of 2009. The House version of this bill includes a supplement of $50,000,000 for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to distribute in direct grants to arts organizations to help preserve livelihoods. The Senate’s markup, however, does not include this supplement. Our representatives need to hear from us.
The week before the inauguration, leaders of national service organizations in the performing, folk and visual arts were invited to Washington to talk with the arts transition team The team was interested in your needs as expressed to us, as well as our suggestions for the NEA and ways to ensure the arts are included in this administration’s economic recovery program. On the one hand, such open, proactive reaching out by an administration is completely new in my experience, and I’ve worked in this industry for thirty-five years; it is incredibly heartening. On the other, change in government is very hard. The current administration and the congresspersons who included the arts in the House bill need our assistance right now. At this moment, we have an opportunity to help the individual artists in this country and the music of our time.
AMC is joining the organizations involved with the Performing Arts Alliance (PAA) to advocate for our sector. Without recovery assistance, our field will be poorer. Without the music of living composers and all the other performing arts, our country will be poorer.
To take action and advocate for increased funding of the NEA, please visit the Performing Arts Alliance, read the recommendations of the Cultural Advocacy Group for arts recovery, PAA’s arts policy recommendations to the new administration, and above all, email your elected officials your thoughts. I hope you’ll do it today. - Joanne Hubbard Cossa

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Five Things about SOLI Chamber Ensemble

I heard the Vox Humana concert of SOLI Chamber Ensemble Tuesday night in San Antonio at Trinity University's Ruth Taylor Recital Hall.
1. The ensemble and guest performer Allison Garza gave a pre-concert talk with lots of depth, humor and musical examples. Carolyn True led the discussion with grace and blue collar charm never talking over anyone's head but made brilliant points.
2. Augusta Read Thomas' Toft Serenade was the newest work on the program (2006) and started the concert, featuring Ertan Torgul and True. Its in two sections, and is a good opener. Playful and thorny at times, it allows both parts to take on lines and shine.
3. Next, SOLI continued their Elliott Carter 100th Birthday tribute with Esprit Rude/Espirt Doux for flute and clarinet. Garza was joined by Stephanie Key in a very charming and well crafted duo written for Boulez' 75th birthday. Again, equal parts in both lyric and melodic lines were performed extremely well.
4. Michael Torke's Telephone Book was the fluff for the evening - the three movements (yellow, blue and white pages) allowed all the performers (SOLI + Garza) to collaborate. It is toe tapping and easy on the ears (except a slight ensemble flub in the finale which noone really noticed) - a perfect light work to end the first half. During intermission, whale songs on a video played while they set up for the 2nd half - I hope they can do that again Thursday - and look into more multimedia addons to both performances and their website!
5. The entire second half was George Crumb's 1971 masterpiece Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale), the oldest piece on the program, yet still spoke as if it were brand new! It's the third time I've had the chance to hear it live, although I love recordings, it is an ideal piece to experience live. And believe me, the third time is a charm with Garza, True and David Mollenauer. Blue lighting adorned the dark stage, they were all in black with black masks, and the players embraced the score and all the extended techniques that Crumb requires. They did it with panache, no fear and completely held the audience in their hands. I go to too many concerts where there are standing ovations, but I didn't hesitate on bit to be on my feet for this landmark concert. If you go to one concert this season, go hear SOLI's Vox Humana!

The program is presented again at Blue Star Thursday night 7:30pm with another pre-talk with the ensemble at 7pm. Hear an interview with members of the group AND also George Crumb at the TPR website here and another interview with Allison Garza Thursday afternoon at 2pm on Classical Spotlight.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Five Things about the Houston Symphony

I heard the Houston Symphony again tonight in Jones Hall. (Read about the premiere performance Thursday night, here at Sequenza21.)

1. Augusta Read Thomas spoke before the concert (see a video clip here) - showing some of the hand written score. There were lots of questions from the audience and good background about the work and Thomas' approach to composition.

2. Absolute Ocean's first movement is poetic and pointilistic. I heard strains of Copland in the music tonight, a flavor I didn't notice Thursday. There was a complete gaff in the supertitles - which I ignored even when they returned in the second movement - choosing to focus completely on the performance and music. Soprano Twyla Robinson' diction is such that you don't need the supertitles - and her voice is pure, passionate and pleasing.

3. The second movement, complete genius, was quicker and flowed with all of its humor, charm and brilliance. Ensemble was tight with the soloists and orchestra.

4. After a brief cadenza, the finale movement is touching and appropriately dramatic. Word painting without being banal certainly highlights the poetry with sublime music.

5. Mahler's Fourth Symphony is an ideal pairing for Absolute Ocean, and in particular, Twyla Robinson - she's busy for the first 20 minutes of Thomas' piece, then has a break until the finale of Mahler...also the dreamy score of Thomas leads beautifully to the heavenly view of Mahler. A completely satisfying program.

There is another performance of Absolute Ocean and Mahler's Fourth Symphony tomorrow afternoon at 2:30pm.

Absolute Math

From the preconcert talk, Augusta Read Thomas gives a great reason why 1+1 should not equal 2.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A great 08

Information about ClassicallyHip dot com:
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83 Personalites interviewed by John from January to December 2008:
Joseph Polisi
Anastasia Khitruk
Alex Shapiro
Gail Archer
Ed Rieke
Drew Stephen
Brent Watkins
Doc Severinsen
Owen Duggan
Kimball Gallagher
Nathaniel Stookey
Lee Trio
Andrea Bocelli
Ken Metz
Timothy Kramer
Diane Persellin
Yizhak Schotten
David Finkel
Charles Yang
Eric Owens
Chris Brubeck
JoAnn Falletta
Jennifer Higdon
Leonard Slatkin
Kurt Anderson (son of Leroy)
Eugene Drucker
Glen Roven
Ittai Shapiro
Rachel Barton Pine
Joshua Bell
James Galway
Peter Schickele
Stephanie Sant’ Ambrogio
David Heuser
Richard Danielpour
Philippe Entremont
Christopher Seaman
Ken David Masur
Christoph Campestrini
Alondra de la Parra
Scott Yoo
Jean-Marie Zeitouni
Orli Shaham
Ken Freudigman
Stephanie Key
Carolyn True
Ertan Torgul
Ruth Moreland
Irma Taute
Marguerite McCormick
Anya Grokhovski
Steven Stucky
Emmanuel Borok
Angela Maleek
Christopher O’Riley
Gene Scheer
Paul Phoenix, Kings Singers
David Hurley, Kingers Singers
Anne-Sophie Mutter
Michael Gordon
Sergio Assad
Carlos Alazraqui (officer James Garcia, Rocko, Lazlo)
Amanda Stewart
Augusta Read Thomas
Cynthia Lawrence
Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR)
Nicole Narboni
Gabriela Montero
Jay Dunahoo
David Mairs
Peter Bay
Jessica Mathaes
Miguel del Aguila
Prazak Quartet
Rachel Ferris
Stephen Payne
Simone Pedroni
Stephanie Teply Westney
Sam Almaguer
Thomas Steigerwald
Mark Ackerman
Warren Jones
Leila Josefowicz

New Year's Advice

1. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate anti-depressant.

2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.

3. Buy a DVR and tape your late night shows and get more sleep.

4. When you wake up in the morning complete the following statement, 'My purpose is to __________ today.'

5. Live with the 3 E's -- Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.

6. Play more games and read more books than you did in 2008.

7. Make time to practice meditation and prayer. They provide us with daily fuel for our busy lives.

8. Spend time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of 6.

9. Dream more while you are awake.

10. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured IN plants.

11. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, wild Alaskan salmon, broccoli, almonds, & walnuts.

12. Try to make at least three people smile each day.

13. Clear clutter from your house, your car, your desk, and let new and flowing energy into your life.

14. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip, OR issues of the past, negative thoughts, or things you cannot control. Instead, invest your energy in the positive present moment.

15. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class, but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.

16. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.

17. Smile and laugh more. It will keep the NEGATIVE BLUES away.

18. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

20. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

21. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

22. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.

23. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

24. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

25. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: 'In five years, will this matter?'

26. Forgive everyone for everything.

27. What other people think of you is none of your business.

28. REMEMBER, GOD heals everything.

29. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

30. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

31. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful, or joyful .

32. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

33. The best is yet to come.

34. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.

35. Do the right thing!

36. Call your family often. (Or e-mail them to death!)

37. Each night before you go to bed, complete the following statements: I am thankful for __________. Today I accomplished _________.

38. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.

39. Enjoy the ride. Remember this is not Disney World and you certainly don't want a fast pass. You only have one ride through life, so make the most of it and enjoy the ride.

40. Share this with those you care about. I just did. May your troubles be less, May your blessings be more, May nothing but happiness come through your door!

Begin with a laugh

I thought I'd ring in the new year with a post that will make you laugh! Here is my unedited (raw if you will!) interview with Carlos Alazraqui (Officer James Garcia on Reno911) while he was in San Antonio.

Parts of this interview will air next week on Classical Spotlight, as UTSA prepares for its 4th International Conference on the Physiology and Acoustics of Singing.