RPO

Accidental tourist

The last weekend of February, about a thousand Rochester singers performed in different venues over twenty-four hours.  On Saturday afternoon, gospel choirs rocked the Monroe County Public Safety Building with high-decibel joy in a concert sponsored by the city.  A few hours later and a few blocks away, the Eastman Chorale performed Dominick Argento’s tender love letter to Walden Pond, a song cycle based on text by Henry David Thoreau and scored for chorus, three cellos, and harp.  The next day, eighteen local choirs offered a prism-style concert to a standing-room only crowd in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.  Audience members heard a wide variety of works: Russian liturgical music, barbershop, 21st century, Broadway, African chant, you name it.  Singers were in and out of tune, sometimes stark and more often sentimental.  I was happy to be there, but really, it was too much. I was drowning in a sea of notes.   

I’ve been thinking about that weekend and what I remember most of the blur of voices and faces and it’s this-- the voice of a man coming out of a snow squall in a parking lot. He was singing “Winter Wonderland” full-throated, a la Frank Sinatra, carrying a child through a late winter storm.

You know what music is like when you don’t expect it? Once I was standing in the nave of St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York, holding my tape machine and waiting for an interview, when Elgar’s “Nimrod” sailed out of the church’s Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ (the largest instrument in the city), rushed over the pavers and curled my toes. The organist was only practicing. I was an accidental tourist. It was an absolute coupe de foudre.

A few weeks ago, on my way to a meeting at the Eastman School, a wave of sound pulled me backstage.  The RPO was rehearsing Debussy’s torrential La Mer.  I sat down, bewitched, like I’d never heard it before.

The question is, how does one create circumstances in which music is able to penetrate the deepest level of our subconscious?  How can we set ourselves up for personal enchantment?  Composer Aaron Copland is full of advice; he suggests directing ourselves “toward an emotionally purposeful end” to encourage the marriage of mind and heart he believes is uniquely possible with music. What's your experience?

William James would tell you to keep your distance. In "Principles of Psychology" he warns against excessive indulgence. “Never suffer one ’s self to have an emotion at a concert without expressing it in some active way, such as giving up your seat in the subway.” Perhaps he’s kidding.

My idea is this: listening to music is like star-gazing.  The light shines brightest when you avert your eyes.  Then it might surprise you. 

AS YOU WISH, the top classical music stories in Rochester in 2010

Let’s recall the top classical music news stories in 2010 in Rochester, New York, with a nod to the Rob Reiner film, The Princess Bride.

NOT UNEMPLOYED IN GREENLAND     RPO Music Director Christopher Seaman announced his retirement at end of the 2010-2011 season.  Norwegian conductor Arild Remmeriet will step up as RPO’s new music director in 2011. Glimmerglass Opera announced that Francesca Zambello will be new executive director in 2011.

MUCH NICER THAN THE FIRE SWAMP   Eastman School of Music opened a new wing with dramatic atrium, recital hall, rehearsal spaces, and eye-popping hanging glass sculpture.

INCONCEIVABLE!   Rochester entrepreneur Tim Enright launched Virtuoso Television, or VTV, an internet service for musicians to record and store music lessons online for reference in future practice sessions.

HELLO, MY NAME IS “GIBBS AND MAIN”     Rochester chamber ensemble Quartsemble changed moniker.

NEVER GO AGAINST A STRING PLAYER WHEN DEATH IS ON THE LINE    RPO principal violist Melissa Matson stepped on needle, performed Harold in Italy with injured foot. RPO principal cellist Stefan Reuss fell and injured ribs and wrist, missing first few weeks of concert season.

A GREAT GIFT FOR RHYME    Baritone Jonathan Beyer earned Rochester Oratorio Society’s annual Classical Idol top prize with compelling performance of aria from "Nixon on China." Composer Cary Ratcliff gets oratorio "Ode to Common Things" published. Composer Amanda Jacobs won national award for "Mass for the Living."

HER APPEAL IS UNDENIABLE    Soprano Renee Fleming released “Dark Hope,” a collection of pop covers of songs by groups such as Arcade Fire, Death Cab for Cutie and Leonard Cohen. Rochester chamber choir Madrigalia premiered new work by Libby Larsen; Larsen visits.

NO ONE WITHSTANDS THE MACHINE  Michael Daughtery piano concerto, “Deus Ex Machina” co-commissioned by the RPO, earned 2010 Grammy nomination.  The Eastman's Ying Quartet was also nominated for a Grammy.

ANYBODY WANT A PEANUT?   Several Western New York public schools named “Best Communities for Music Education” in the United States by the non-profit NAMM Foundation; Albion Central School District, Brighton, Leroy, Pittsford, Royalton-Hartland Central School District, Rush-Henrietta, Webster, West Irondequoit.

Congratulations and Happy New Year!

Why does this man have a collection of chickens?

RPO Music Director Christopher Seaman has returned to Rochester after summer travels to Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K. The big question is, what's with the chickens? Find out this Thursday morning on Classical 91.5 . . .

Remmereit Fever

When the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra announced Arild Remmereit would succeed Christopher Seaman as the RPO’s Music Director in 2011, nearly every media outlet in town sent a reporter or crew to cover the story.  I think that everyone, whether they listen to Jay-Z or Jewel or Janacek, recognizes the importance of the orchestra in any city.

I'll give you three notes

Years ago I was a contestant in a live, Jeopardy-like quiz show hosted by conductor Peter Bay and the RPO at the Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center.   Fresh out of college, I thought I knew a lot about music.  Boy, did I eat humble pie. 

 

The future of the arts is YOU!

Like WXXI, the RPO, Geva, MAG and so many arts organizations are looking to develop and nurture younger audiences to help take us into the future. 

Ode to Joy

Over the first weekend of October, nearly 8,000 people experienced Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" performed by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and Rochester Oratorio Society in the newly-renovated Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. One patron blogged about what she saw and heard, and she inspired me to share this clip with you.

Ear to the ground

First of all, Eastman Theatre is a MESS, according to Eastman student and WXXI intern Dylan Smith. He poked his head in the other day, and tipped us off to the fact that the School is posting pictures.  Thanks, Dylan!
 
Workers have less than two months to finish major renovations before the RPO opens the new digs October 8th, 9th, and 10th with a performance of Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony.” The Rochester Oratorio Society will sing the famous ending (“Ode to Joy.”) Members of the Society got an e-mail this week announcing the group has been asked to sing Verdi’s “Requiem” next May with the RPO. This is a significant change. The orchestra’s current schedule lists Verdi's “Aida” in concert May 20th and 22th. So now, as it stands, ROS will bookend the season of Philharmonic concerts. 

Skitty in the Garden of Eden

After a long hiatus, I'm back, writing about music and arts in Rochester, New York.

The big excitement in my life is the prospect of seeing Christopher Seaman conduct Haydn's Creation this weekend.

It's an oratorio telling the biblical story of the creation of the world, the animals, and Adam and Eve, who promptly fall in love and avoid the snakes.  Splendid!   Someone who heard the first performance in 1798 wrote in a letter to the editor of a Vienna newspaper,

"Already three days have passed since that happy evening, and it still sounds in my ears and heart, and my breast is constricted by many emotions even thinking of it."

Click here for a fun conversation with Christopher about Haydn's Creation.  http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wxxi/.jukebox?action=viewP...

Coinidentally, the big Rochester garden show opened last weekend with a Garden of Eden theme. I missed it, but eyewitnesses reported fewer blooms than usual and lots of snakes.

Christopher Seaman will conduct the Eastman-Rochester Chorus, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and soprano Barbara Shirvis, tenor Michael Colvin, and baritone Stephen Powell.    WXXI-FM will broadcast/stream the concert on Classical 91.5, 90.3 and wxxi.org on Wednesday, June 10th at 8:00 p.m.