Sunday, April 25, 2010

Earth Day on Mall has varied music, emphasizes security

I got to the Earth Day Celebration late today (April 25), in time to hear the Roots, and one country-western song and one hard rock band. I didn’t get them down, but the agenda as on About here.  The event was actually called "The Climate Rally".

Jesse Jackson spoke, as did many others, and this year, late on Sunday, the theme seemed to be national security, with freeing the country from dependence on foreign oil. There was a video of naval jets running on some sort of biofuel.

This year, security was much more evident, advising people to be alert. Sever e thunderstorms (which could cause the Mall to have to emptied for lightning strikes) that had ravaged the south seemed to be passing off west of the Blue Ridge.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Middle school orchestra teacher breaks a violin on April Fools day -- is that "classroom management"?

So, an orchestra teacher at a middle school lost his temper on April Fool’s day and smashed a violin to get the kids to stop talking.

Now, I had a bad experience in 2005 subbing in a middle school band class – two of the sixth grade classes didn’t have a student conductor to play “The Prehistoric Suite” – but the eight graders played an Offenback overture well, much better than the playing on this YouTube video.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

An Arlington Presbyterian Church offers an interesting post-Easter "concert" service

On Sunday, April 11, the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA offered a lot of interesting music from a guest choir, the Ardmore Youth Choir.

A 13 year-old violinist from Williamsburg Middle School in Arlington played solo violin in a J.S. Bach cantata movement “Prepare Thyself Zion”, arranged by Michael Burkhardt. The solo part resembled that of a slow movement from a Bach violin concerto, and the technique was crisp. I’ve always wondered how the form of the Bach concertos matches those Sonata forms that would develop during the Classical Period.

There was a South African song, “Gabi. Gabi”, which I think appears in the 1987 film “Cry Freedom!”.

There was an anonymous 10th Century anthem arranged by Audrey Snyder, “Ubi Carritas”, and an African American spiritual “Give Me Jesus”. Combined choirs song Psalm 100 by Eleanor Daley. And there was a final Response “An Irish Blessing” adapted by Bob Chilcott.

Young people at this church, as with many congregations, recently held a "30 hour fast" for which they actually raised money. Is that the best way to accomplish charity?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dumbarton Concerts premier "unfinished" Maican Quartet, play Haydn-like Beethoven, and offer quartet movements for audience vote

On Saturday April 10 the Miro Quartet performed the final concert for the 32nd season of Dumbarton concerts in Georgetown in Washington DC.  The Miro Quartet consists of Daniel Ching and Sandy Yamamoto, violin, John Largess, viola, and Joshua Gindele, violin.

The first half of the concert comprised the Beethoven String Quartet in C minor, Op 18 #4, and the Sting Quartet #4 of Tudor Domink Maican. The second half consisted of a program (“Quartet a la carte”) of five quartet movements selected from a ballot chosen by the audience. No, we didn’t vote on our cell phones with text messages like they do on American idol.

Let’s cover that second half first. The audience voted on a movement of Mendelssohn’s last G minor quartet, the slow movement from Debussy’s quartet (sounding a bit like Gershwin), a minuet from Mozart’s K499 quartet (as appearing in the movie “Victor Victoria”), the tarantella finale of Franz Schubert’s d minor “Death in the Maiden Quartet” and a Kern medley.

The Beethoven, while containing a declamatory motto that anticipates his Fifth Symphony, resembles very late Haydn, especially the lively finale, the most often quoted movement of the piece.

The Maican work actually was the premier of the second, third and fourth movements. Maican’s notes connect each movement to a different personal friend. The announcer at the beginning of the concert said that the Miro Quartet had said that the piece was more coherent without the first movement, and he drew comparison with the Mahler First where the Blumie movement was dropped (I think the symphony works better with the movement included) and Beethoven’s last quartet, where the Grosse Fugue was published as a separate opus and replaced with a livelier but less contrapuntal finale. (Ironically, another quartet at the Dumbarton had played the Beethoven a couple years ago with the Grosse Fugue as the finale.)

What was performed started with a lengthy and somewhat episodic (I guess variation form) and post-romantic Adagio, which evoked a mood that took my brain back to Schoenberg’s “Transfigured Night”. I felt that at an minute the quartet would switch to that masterpiece (which was played at Dumbarton last year). It was lush, Viennese, retrospective, sensual, and seemed to oscillate between two tonal centers (they sounded like C and D to my ear). I wondered if I had heard the music on WETA on my car radio, because it already sounded familiar. The music resembled the background score (from many classical works) of Martin Scorsese’s film “Shutter Island” (with a little bit of “Ghostwriter” thrown in). There followed a pizzicato scherzo that, while rather Bartokian (maybe a touch of Dohanyi) that formally seemed inspired by a similar movement in Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. The finale was a lively triumphant romp, following the same symphonic model. It ended on a dissonance (which I’ve noticed Maican liking to do; my ear wanted a conclusive fortissimo major chord). I can only project what the missing First Movement must be like: I would predict a lengthy and serious Moderato movement in extended Sonata form, with themes based on various intervals and clusters of sound, and an emotional release in the coda (more or less following the Tchaikovsky model). I could go to a piano an improvise something and probably get it close.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Entertainers recall Michael Jackson at Washington DC Cherry Blossom festival

Well, the cherry blossoms in Washington do look a little less robust this year after all the blizzards, and it seemed (on the peak day) that the prevalence for white blossoms over pink was greater than before. In 2004, on a Sunday afternoon, I got stuck in traffic for two hours; I’ve never done it in a car since.

The official site for the Cherry Blossom Festival is here.

The Entertainment Bandstand was active. As I arrived, Marilyn Duncan was finishing, and Kim Cameron’s FX Side band started, with Michael Jackson music. For example, “Beat It” with the line about not worrying about what hurtful talk comes from the political Right. I remember Jackson’s skit in the 1993 Super Bowl (Los Angeles) halftime, imitating the Marine Corps in the year that President Clinton had started the debate on lifting the ban on gays in the military.

The following YouTube video of the festival was posted by TomirisKz.