Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NBC News announces Latino female conductor who introduces classical music to kids

NBC Nightly News presented the music director, Sonia Marie de Leon de Vega, director Santa Cecicla Orchestra in Los Angeles, which has the unique message of bringing classical music to youth, especially in the Latino communities in East Los Angeles. She is said to be the only Latino female conductor of a symphony orchestra in the US, maybe the world. 

Note the simple domain name of the orchestra, here

Sonia said that youth who learn music never need guns, drugs or gangs. 

The music played on the NBC clip sounds modern, perhaps something like Ginastera, but I could not identify it.

This may be a good place to mention one other civic-minded service, "Pay me, I'm yours", "street pianos" in both NYC and LA, link

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Major Washington DC church will have new organ installed by early 2013; another parable about free speech

I did attend a service at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC on Oct. 14. The service was held in the Fellowship Hall, because the Sanctuary is now in the first stage of renovation for the new organ from Austin Organs (link). Renovations are extensive, and include a new electrical wiring system and sound system. Some of the building does not have power now.

It is thought that the sanctuary will be open for a while in December, and then close again for a while the last steps of installing the organ in the chancel are completed.  Although the Church has not announced an official date, it appears that the chancel with the new organ should be open by the end of January, 2013. 

The service including a reading of the story of the Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-31).  “Why do you call me good?  Don’t pander me!”  A Reverend Sanks gave a famous sermon on this scripture in May 1972 (he managed to navigate from this scripture to a comparison of motherly and fatherly love as to "unconditional" quality).  But today, the underground chuckle was “Mitt Romney”.  Dr. Jeffrey Haggray’s sermon was about “not preaching political sermons” but still raising social consciousness. 

For piano music, we had the Sarabande from the French Suite (don't know the number, don't know all the suites!), played by Lawrence P. Schreiber. 

But the Sunday School lesson, in the Youth Lounge, on slides, was almost a stage performance itself.  The lesson plan dealt with the idea of the individual’s speaking out against the social interests of family, group, or crowd.  Rudyard Kipling had said that those who speak out and “own themselves” are truly alone.  The lesson included panel quotes from Robert F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Patrick Henry. 
Curiously, I recall a line in the inauguration speech of George W. Bush in 2001, “Those without responsibility for others are truly alone.”  I think he said that again (Spring) later at a commencement speech at Ohio State. I don't think "W." could really live up to these words. 
There is a belief that those with direct responsibility for others (usually family members, who aren’t necessarily just one’s own children) will resist the opportunity to speak their own minds, at least just to promote themselves as having some special access to “truth”.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Activist groups use music performance in a voter registration drive

Here’s my own 10-second movie.  It sounds like the title would be “Vote Absentee”.  Some minstrels at Ballston in Arlington (near the Metro stop) were running a voter registration drive with some singing.

Sometimes they sang something like “vote today because we could have an earthquake tomorrow”.  In Virginia, where we had a quake in August 2011, it’s not very likely that the devastation would affect an election.

But what would happen if there really was a major destructive earthquake in a major city on Election Day?

Monday, October 08, 2012

Arlington church introduces new pianist-organist; more contemporary music

On Sunday. October 7, 2012, I saw (for the first time, for me) a new pianist-organist and choir director, who will fill in sometimes, at the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Alrington VA, and he continued the tradition there of introducing contemporary composers’ music.

The artist is Mathhew Stensrud, and he opened the service with a collage of music by Norman Dello Joio on solo piano. Dello Joio tends to like variations and improvisation and to stay away from big-canvas classic forms.

The service featured two anthems. One was “Inscription of Hope” aka “Inscription on a cellar wall in Cologne, Germany”, based on a Russian folk tune, for chorus (usually girls’) and piano, by Z. Ramdall Stroope.  Here’s a performance by the Girl Choir of South Florida:

The inspiration of the piece is similar to that of “Sacred Geometry” by Andrew Norman (post on Oct. 2).

You can go to the website of the composer and find samples of much more “modern” vocal (sometimes a cappella) and instrumental (often religious) music (most has to be purchased).  Sample  the “Three Metaphysical Motets”  Stroope  (b. 1953) was educated at Colorado State and Arizona State universities and teaches in Oklahoma.  I think I recall his name from the 1980s when I lived in Dallas.  The website link is here.

The other anthem (the offertorium) was “Lord, Our Lord, Thy Glorious Name” (Psalm 8) by Henry Mollicone, with cello soloist Sarah Cuthridge Szymanowski (maybe a very distant relative of the famous Polish composer).

The postlude, for solo piano, was a setting of  “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” by Ralph Vaughn Williams.

The sermon (for World Communion Sunday) by Rev. Judith Fulp-Eickstaedt, “As a Little Child”, dealt with the “paradox” of the Book of Job.  Horror novelist Stephen King has said “God was p-o-ed” at Job.  Clive Barker was so impressed as to have God lose a battle with man at the end of his fantasy novel “Imajica”.  The idea that bad things happen to good people who think they have done everything right becomes the basis for the need for compassion.

The website for Stensrud appears to be this. His twitter page has an artwork background depicting the score of the Beethoven Sonata 8 (Pathetique). 

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Cirque du Soleil performs at HRC annual dinner in Washington DC

Cirque du Soleil performed a brief entr'acte at the Human Rights Campaign 2012 National Dinner (or annual dinner) at the Washington DC Convention Center.  The group had appeared earlier at National Harbor in 2008 (blog post Nov. 1, 2008).

This time the program consisted of building human skyscrapers (or human skyscraper construction cranes) to recorded music, with lots of tumbling in the air.  It tales unbelievable athletic skills for performers ("break dancers") to do this safely.  The only show that I have ever seen of about the same physical difficulty was "Atlantis" at the Luxor in Las Vegas in December 1997, in three acts, where performers went out on wires vertically above the audience. (Cost of that show then on a Sunday night was only $38.)

I'll pass along a 3-minute excerpt of Cique's act ("Mstere Theater Renovation Timelapse") at Treasure Island in Las Vegas.

The writeup of the rest of the HRC event will be posted Oct. 7 on the GLBT blog.

Also, Dustin Lance Black ("Milk"):

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Andrew Norman: brief survey of his music

Here’s another young composer with a website of music to explore, Andrew Norman, about age 33. Raised in California, he attended USC and Yale, and studied piano and viola first. 

Here is the basic link

He has also composed some pieces for the Minnesota Orchestra (where I worked in 2002 and 2003).
I sampled a few of his works from his website.  Many of the works are available to be played back in entirety.  Use a good sound system if possible; there is a lot of spatial separation of sounds. 

Apart” (2011, 9 minutes), commissioned by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, allows the instrumentalists to play their lines at their own speed, so that no two performances are the same, at least according to the composer. Yet, the piece sounds lush, harmonic; it even begins with a descending string figure that echoes the beginning of the Beethoven Ninth.

Sacred Geometry” (2003, 10 minutes), for the New York Youth Symphony, composed when Norman was at USC. His concept is drawn from the geometrically rigorous blueprint of the Chartres Cathedral, near Paris (I think I just missed it on my 1999 trip, driving a rented car to Bayeux to see the Tapestry and William the Conqueror Museums).  The composer says he achieves an unusual effect toward the end by following a set of mathematical rules involving the “circle of fifths”.

He offers a one minute excerpt from a piano composition in progress, “Make Believe”, which he says pays homage to Chopin, Liszt, and Ravel – but it is the Liszt element that stands out, perhaps especially the Liszt “Legends”, which I studied myself in high school back in the late 1950s. There is the same sort of stretching of tonality that one found in some of Liszt’s more experimental works. I really look forward to hearing the completed “rhapsody” (or perhaps sonata-like piece).

Sync Up” (2002, 3 min) is a “competition” between left and right hands on the solo piano.  It sounds to me like a cross between Ravel and Ginastera (with a little of Bernstein’s “Age of Anxiety” thrown in), with a lot of virtuosity.  This pieces ends abruptly with a crash – no chance to respond. 

Here, Pendulum New Music presents "Gran Turismo" (2007) in a 2009 performance in Boulder, CO.  "Apart" and "Together" are both viewable on YouTube. The "Turismo" music reminds me of the finale of the Shostakovich 11th Symphony (which I heard around 2005 at the Kennedy Center). 

Are short pieces like short films? 

Once or twice, I’ve heard heavily syncopated music on disco floors that sounds like it might have been adapted from music of “people I know”.  I’ve got to go back and check.  

Picture:  Some Ravel (Gaspard de la nuit) on an building wall near the Minnesota Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis.