Thursday, July 25, 2013

When a (Washington Redskins) opening practice become legitimate theater (hint: do it in Richmond)

I don’t know if a professional football practice is a “stage” event in the sense of this blog, but it is certainly a form of “legitimate” theater.
Today, July 25, 2013, the Washington Redskins opened their formal practice season, with the public allowed to see sessions for “free” at 10 AM and 3:30 PM, at Bon Secours park in Richmond VA.  (You follow the signs on Boulevard from Exit 78 o I-95.)    I got there about 2:50 PM, parked in a local landlord’s lot for $5 (cheap given the demand, but this is Richmond, after all).  I had to walk about a quarter mile, past the CSX railroad tracks (which can have long, slow freight trains).  
The practice seemed to be mostly like military drill and ceremonies, and then a few play from scrimmage, which evoked cheers from the 10,000 or so people around.   No wonder I-95 was packed.
RG-III was present but I don’t think he “played”.  Is RG-III really Clark Kent?  Or is Bryce Harper (who won the Nats game today with a ninth inning home about the time I was watching the practice) the real “S”.  
Oh, I know of a teen who can move from one place to another instantly, just like Clark.  I think there really are benevolent aliens among us.  I will accept nothing less.)   I also think Hollywood should stage a charity home-run hitting contest (maybe a Dodger stadium) for Tinseltown’s fittest actors.  They probably would do pretty well. 

I do have to throw a little cold water on the festivities, and remind us that Malcolm Gladwell wants to ed college football, and therefore the pros (Issue blog, July 21). 

Update:  Media has reported that RG-III has indeed played in scrimmage and completed some passes.

The media also reported on a viral video of a girl sobbing because she was refused an autograph. It's not mine!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

CNN interviews Steve Grand, "All American Boy"

Saturday morning, CNN interviewed gay songwriter Steve Grand, 23, who has developed suddenly popularity with his socially explicit “All American Boy” music video. (He is also know as Steve Chatham and Finn Diesel, and was born in Chicago and would now be 23.)

He first performs with his partner, and then there are a lot of background players.
Huffington has a recent story July 15 here

I tried to match it on my Casio, and it seemed to be in the odd key of F# Major (the same key as Mahler’s Tenth).

The style is more like “current pop” than “country” as we usually experience it.   I may have heard it on Sirius XM, The Blend.   I’d certainly like to, on the next trip. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Josh Groban's "I Believe" is the most lush, post-romantic triumph ever

Okay, Josh Groban’s passionate post-romantic song “I Believe, When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever” is on YouTube, and embeddable.  It’s from Groban’s own channel.

In fairness to the idea of paying for content, I’ll give a Target purchase link, too.
The song reaches toward Mahlerian dimensions in its passionate close, with Wagnerian chromatic excursions at the very end.  The key (on my Casio) is E-flat, unusual for vocal songs.  The mood reminds me of some of Arnold Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder (Feb. 22, 2012), which I still think could find its way into the score of a Star Trek movie.   

The melodic line also reminds me of "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Carousel", a favorite movie musical from Fox during my childhood.  
The video appears to be filmed in a large hall with many background player.  I think the hall is in London, but it also resembles the inside of the National Building Museum in Washington DC (where SLDN always holds its annual dinners). 
Groban’s Fathom Events calendar is here
This song by Groban tops them all for romantic passion, following on to “You Raise Me Up”, “The War at Home”, and “Brave”.  Curiously, his music doesn't lend itself to "art song" treatment with piano.  Groban's music often plays in Sirius-XM's "The Blend".  

Friday, July 12, 2013

20th Century Fox, other legacy studios invest in stage productions of their important films

The New York Times is reporting, in a story by Brooks Barnes and Patrick Healy on p. B4 (Business) Friday, that 20th Century Fox is working with Kevin McCollum to bring a number of its popular films to the stage. 

Warner Brothers, Sony, Disney and NBC Universal all have stage operations.

A stage production costs less for the studio to produce, even though ticket prices are much higher for consumers, usually.  And copyright and trademark law in the US and Europe seems to protect the studio’ business potential for other adaptations of their films.
The story is here

Fox could also draw on its inventory of Fox Searchlight film (maybe like “Little Miss Sunshine”).
Many plays or stage musicals have gone the other route, and become movies.  That’s going to happen with “Book of Mormon”.  It’s happened with “Rent”, and “Les Miserables”, and I think “Martin Guerre” (I saw it in Minneapolis at the Guthrie Theater—it’s Boublil and Michel-Schoenberg).
The article mentions “9 to 5” and “Damn Yankees”, and "The Lion King".  I’ve seen both films, but not the plays.

Sometimes there are plays about Hollywood personalities, like “Matt and Ben” (Mindy Kaling and Brena Walters) which I saw a few years back on an experimental stage in Adams Morgan in Washington.

Other properties that seem to cross boundaries are “Sister Act” (reviewed Dec. 1, 2011); “Corpus Christi” (Terrence Malick, seen in Minneapolis in 2002), John Logan’s “Never the Sinner” (about the Leopold-Loeb case, seen in Minneapolis), and Moises Kaufman’s “Gross Indencey: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde”;  “The Laramie Project” (Dec. 17, 2010 here), and “33 Variations” (Aug. 26, 2007 here). 

Hollywood has said (as in statements by Stephen Spielberg), that it might make many fewer “serious” blockbusters and might invest in stage-like events (maybe Fathom) that bring much higher ticket prices from affluent consumers. 

Sunday, July 07, 2013

The National Anthem on the Austin Organ at First Baptist, Washington DC

After the communion service at the First Baptist Church of Washington DC July 7. Organist Lawrence Schreiber played the National Anthem on the new Austin Organ. I recorded the last "sentence" of the first verse. 

I’ve always felt that the “Star Spangled Banner” can use more adventurous, chromatic harmonies.  For example, in the last line, the word “Free” should be underscored by a Dominant Seventh instead of the Tonic.

The Smithsonian Museum of American History, visited and discussed yesterday, has a special exhibit on the Flag as during the War or 1812 and the origin of the National Anthem.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

"Free At Last": temporary Smithsonian exhibit "Changing America" and group performance of famous song

The Smithsonian Museum of American History is hosting an exhibit from the National Museum of African American History (site) , to be completed in 2015.  The exhibit is called “Changing America, The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 and the March on Washington, 1963. 

Other than for the two posters outside the exhibit, there was no photography allowed in the exihibit, but there is a handout with many photographs, including a plantation at Beaufort, SC (1862), and a bus in Madison, WI headed for DC, and Cumberland Landing, VA1962.

There is also a large exhibit recreation of a lunch counter in Greensboro, NC, from 1960.  A spokeperson led a group singing of “Free At Last” (about 40 seconds) below.


The exhibit includes chards from the explosion in Birmingham, AL in 1963  The church image shown was in Black and White taken shortly after the event; Wikipedia has a modern picture of the 16th Street Baptist Church (attribution, movies blog, Feb. 6, 2013, review of “March to Justice”).  

Friday, July 05, 2013

A Capitol Fourth, a little more lighthearted this year

I was a little late getting to the Capitol West Lawn last night, having dinner at Ted’s Bulletin on SE 8th St, near the Marine Barracks, Bryce Harper’s favorite restaurant.  The humidity in town was stifling as I walked the three-fourths mile, roundabout, to the security entrance, which was not very crowded fortunately.

Fortunately, PBS recorded it all for me.

The program opened with the National Anthem, sung by Jackie Evancho.

Tim Bergeron was the host, but Barry Manliow  dominated, and opened with  “I Have Music: I write the songs” and  “I can’t smile without you”  and beckoned a singalong.

Steven Spielberg introduced the National Symphony  playing the trumpet meditation from the films core of the film “Lincoln”, by John Williams.  The music rather resembles Copland.  I think that selections from Han Zimmer’s score for “Inception” would have made a great item.

Megan Hilty (“Smash”) sang  “Someone to Watchover Me”;  Neil Diamond sang “Freedom Song” ( even reported this), and then “Sweet Caroline”.

American Idol winner Scotty McCeery sang next, “with “Girl I gotta see you tonight”.  Another American Idol winner, Candace Glover, followed.

The music as whole was lighter than in some previous years.  No Josh Groban this year (“The War at Home”, “Brave”, “You Raise Me Up”).  They almost seem too postromantic.

It seems as though you “usually” have to be a really well established performer to get picked for the Capitol Fourth.  Umbrella insurance companies call you “entertainers”.  I wonder if a classical composer-pianist is an “entertainer” for the mass public in that sense. 

Manilow came back to sing patriotic songs as the fireworks started.

Only then did the National Symphony play the closing passages of Tchaikovsky’s Overture Solenelle, 1812. (They never play the entire overture anymore; they used to.)  It seems to me that the finale of the Polish Symphony would be even more rousing.  Oh, but the Russian national anthem (in the movie "Reds") is the most rousing of all. 

The PBS Link is here
The fireworks show seemed smaller than previous years.  When photographed in the backdrop of the Washington Monument, some of the blasts make blobs on camera that look like fireballs for a mushroom cloud.  If you stand on the south side of the law, the trees tend to “eclipse” the fireworks. 

To conclude, Hilty sang some patriotic songs to the Air Force band.  

I walked back to Remingtons (1/2 mile, up hill, although the humidity was now dropping), to see the NYC display finish on NBC, and then to Eastern Market (the closest station with access to a lot of bars and restaurants after the celebration), to get a seat on the Orange Line.  Unfortunately, Metro anticipated that ruse, and many of the trains headed toward Smithsonian were “no passengers”.  

The ceremony of the year 2000, when I was to leave at 5 AM to go back home to Minneapolis the next day, still rings in my mind.  Those were different times.