Author/humorist David Sedaris will give the Baccalaureate address at Princeton (yes, that Princeton) in June. Contrary to the title of this post, I approve of the choice. Last year Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison talked pretty to the Class of 2005, but she couldn't have been as funny, right? Articulate, yes. Profound, sure. But I bet she was never a Christmas elf. Maybe we can get an early peek at his notes when he visits Symphony Hall in May...
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
I recently came across this treasure trove of Graham Company articles and info, The Graham Archives at The Dance Insider. Granted, it is only the snapshot of a single media outlet, and some of it is quite partisan, to be sure, but it is the biggest and most comprehensive cache of easily read information I have come across on the Martha Graham Dance Company's trials (literal and figurative) and successes since they last paid Boston a visit (1996, Celebrity Series, thank you very much). For serious scholars, The Martha Graham Company maintains its own archival resource site which conatins links to other sites with Graham information.
The Dance Insider Graham Archive contains plenty of details of the controversy and (literal) trial over the rights to the Graham name (many of the actual court rulings are on the Graham Company web site), plenty of reviews of the current Company, photo albums and, in particular, this essay from current artistic director, Janet Eilber. If anyone out there knows of other "consumer-ready "information on the Graham Company online (i.e., more or less linkable), let me know and I'll make sure it gets posted here.
...and don't forget that Bank of America Celebrity Series is bringing the Martha Graham Dance Company to The Shubert Theatre this weekend, December 2-4. Get the details and buy tickets.
Photo caption and credits: The Martha Graham Dance Company in Graham's "Appalachian Spring," with sets by Isamu Noguchi: Martha Graham (Bride), Erick Hawkins (Husbandman), May O'Donnell (Pioneering Woman) and Company. Library of Congress staff photograph. Reproduced from the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress. Courtesy Martha Graham Resources.
Placing their bet on the survival of Western civilization, the folks at Forbes Magazine are providing all of us (or at least those who are pretty sure what email address they will have in a decade or so) an opportunity to write ourselves an "email time capsule" to be opened from 1 to 20 years hence. Take a look and start composing yours.
Thanks to ballet and knitting expert Leigh Witchel for his post on this.
Friday, November 25, 2005
During his recent recital
I saw my celebrated colleague Fischkemper
levitate above the piano
I could hardly believe my eyes
but there he hovered
while the piano keys
all by themselves
went on playing the E flat trill from opus 111
even to the staunchest skeptic
that a mystical experience
accessible to all
was being enacted
-Alfred Brendel from his book of poetry, One Finger Too Many
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Back in the days before the Celebrity Series became a non-profit organization (that happened in 1989), it was run by Boston impresario Aaron Richmond and a small staff. In fact, Richmond created the Celebrity Series in 1938. Naturally, we at the Celebrity Series have long regarded Aaron Richmond (and his protégé Walter Pierce) as world-class impresarios, among the last of a unique group of arts entrepreneurs and among the best. None other than the great Russian-born impresario, Sol Hurok, thought so, too. In 1965, when Richmond died, Sol Hurok was asked by The Boston Globe to offer a remembrance of his Boston colleague:
“...He had the ideal spirit; ‘Boston should see this company, hear this musician,’ That came first, money later. That made cultural life blossom. He wanted . . . that this country should know what is going on in the world. He put all his time, energy, vitality, knowledge to do it..."
Russ Gershon, leader of the Either/Orchestra, checked in to let us know that the band's newest album, Live in Addis, which was recorded in Ethiopia, has reached #3 on the College Media Journal Jazz Chart and that you can download a cut, Yezamed Yebada, from the CD, for free at All About Jazz (for a limited time) - download here.
The Celebrity Series will present the Either/Orchestra's 20th Anniversary Concert at Berklee Performance Center on January 28 (that's 2006!).
Monday, November 21, 2005
The image above is a snippet of the animation that was screened behind Wu Man and percussionist Robert Schultz as part of Chen Yi's Ancient Dances. Schultz played a variety of percussion instruments including a set of three Vietnamese bowls played by rubbing a stick around the outside edge (think wet finger around the edge of a wine glass). Wu Man played like a virtuoso, delivering a performance that made us follow her musical direction rather than be merely swept up in the pipa's exotic sound.
In today's Boston Globe, Richard Dyer remarked on the uniquely young audience Wu Man attracted, the cat-like alertness of Robert Schultz, and the Led Zepplin inspired Zhongguo Pop, by composer Anthony Paul De Ritis of Northeastern University. Read Richard Dyer's review of Wu Man's performance.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Pipa virtuoso Wu Man visited Cathy Fuller's program on WGBH radio today and I got to go along. Cathy was nice enough to let me sit in studio with them while they talked and I watched from a foot away as Wu Man played the most amazing tremolo I have ever heard using all the fingers on her right hand. This wasn't the only remarkable thing she played, but it was the most riveting. Has anyone else heard one of these tremolos on a pipa up close? Are there any pipa players out there that can speak to how difficult it is? Wu Man told us it takes years to learn to do it properly. Can't wait to hear tonight's performance.
Wu Man's instrument is beautiful - rosewood back, carved ivory rose on the "fiddle head." Just stunning. Must make her nervous to carry it around everywhere...it would make me nervous.
We - the Celebrity Series, the City of Boston - are the last stop on Wu Man's tour. She's at Sanders Theatre at 8 o'clock. There are still some tickets left...I'm just saying.
Oh, and read Cathy Fuller's weblog, Fullermusic. Smart, knowledgeable prose and nice photos.
The photo is Cathy Fuller on the left and Wu Man on the right. Photo by me ;-)
Thursday, November 17, 2005
There are a lot of people in attendance at a concert like Arlo Guthrie's last night for the Celebrity Series; and there are a lot of people working. So it shouldn't be too surprising that there were a range of opinions about it. One person backstage was heard to say, shaking their head, "Oh man, this just isn't for me." Well, we were in Symphony Hall.
On the other hand, one patron emerging from the performance declared that she was "very moved" by it. And another that said she wasn't familiar with Guthrie's music and history, etc., but she was impressed.
Had a brief chat with Arlo's son, Abe Guthrie, perhaps the least stressed-out performer I have ever encountered.
And then there was this morning's live journal post from danmcgaw, in which he relates, "...the one that stands out was the last one, called "My Peace," which was some lyrics Woody Guthrie wrote late in his life that Arlo put music to. And it stands out because my dad was crying at the end of it."
Dan Gewertz reviewed the show for The Boston Herald. If you're local, there's a nice photo from the show in the print edition.
People in the Celebrity Series offices are humming a variety of selections from the show today. Now where's that tape recorder?
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
"Always at ease, his voice is still mellow, perhaps more so at 67 than at 27; his sense of humor is as droll as ever, and his timing never misses..."
"...A lively young group, The Mammals, opened for Guthrie. Led by Tao Rodriguez-Seeger (folk great Pete Seeger’s grandson) and Ruthie Ungar, this five-person string and percussion ensemble filled the hall with high-energy picking and fiddling, from the fast-paced opener to “John Henry” and “Fall On My Knees,” as well as the comic “Haircut Money...”
"...And though it’s easy to focus on Arlo the ’60s legend, don’t forget that he is a very talented musician. His eloquent guitar solo on “House of the Rising Sun” easily eclipses the versions of Bob Dylan or The Animals..." Read the complete review.
Arlo Guthrie performs tonight at Symphony Hall with Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, The Mammals, Gordon Titcomb, Abe Guthrie, et al. Tickets for the performance are still available by calling 617-266-1200 or by walking up to the Symphony Hall box office.
Photo by Jon C. Hancock (image reduced).
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Before he gets to Boston and the Celebrity Series, Arlo Guthrie is in Kansas. He recently spoke with Sophia Maines of Lawrence.com:
"'I didn’t want to become a trained seal routine where you pay your money because you know what he’s going to do,' Guthrie says, chuckling. 'I decided that we didn’t want to be that famous. We wanted to have fun, and we wanted to play what was immediate on our minds.'"
"Guthrie brings out the song [Alice's Restaurant] on anniversaries now. After this tour, he’ll take it off the set list and likely won’t play it again until 2016."
Here is the full text of the article.
In honor of the song's 40th anniversary, he'll be playing Alice's Restaurant tomorrow night at Symphony Hall at 8 o'clock. Tickets are still available...
This was not your typical opera star recital. Deborah Voigt made a unique, memorable statement at her Celebrity Series debut on Sunday. The program of Amy Beach, Richard Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Charles Ives, Ben Moore, William Bolcom and Stephen Sondheim showcased eight selections from her new CD, "All My Heart, Deborah Voigt Sings American Songs," but the many of the other selections were of the same ilk. But her delivery was the story. The first clue came while reading the program - several selections read: "TEXT IS NOT PRINTED AT THE ARTIST'S REQUEST..."
The Boston Globe's Richard Dyer saw Ms. Voigt's recital as reflective of her personality, giving us an idea of what we can expect in the future:
"Deborah Voigt is a down-to-earth-diva, part girl next door, part party animal, part everyone's favorite raunchy aunt -- a dash of Wagnerian goddess Birgit Nilsson, a pinch of Anna Nicole Smith, a few shakes of Bette Midler. It's fun to be in her company even when she isn't singing. After singing William Bolcom's naughty morning-after song, ''Toothbrush Time," she said, ''My mother would be so proud." And when someone's cellphone went off she went scrambling for the phone in the voluminous folds of a glamour gown designed to show off her new slimline waist." Complete review.
EDGEBoston.com disagreed, commenting that the recital made "a poor showcase for her extraordinary gifts."
And then: Ms. Voigt's recent weight loss is well known, so naturally I was curious when I came across Deborah Voigt's Divine Deserts...
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Milo Miles writes about two recent John Coltrane recordings in an article for WBUR.org. One of the two - One Down, One Up, Coltrane Live at The Half Note - had a previous life as a bootleg record. I know because I own a copy. I should resent this new recording with its nice packaging, liner notes and no doubt thoughtful essay from Coltrane's son, Ravi, encouraging me to buy the same music again (never mind that my first purchase was legally challenged). But I feel encouraged that this recording is seeing the light of day in something like its proper form, and is produced by the family of the artist. Hard not to like that.
Perhaps the best known example of this sort of turnabout is the case of Sue Mingus (widow of Charles Mingus), who founded Revenge Records to turn her deceased husband's former bootleg recordings, issued willy-nilly by anybody, to her advantage by taking them above ground and selling them herself. On the label's web site, an essay by Ms. Mingus begins, "The first time I was caught stealing records was in Paris in the autumn of l99l..." (You can find the rest of her essay here).
Full disclosure (and credit) the Celebrity Series has presented Sue Mingus' other labor of love (well, one of them), the Mingus Big Band in 1996 and 2000 (and we may even have bought a record or two).
Wednesday, November 9, 2005
"Two men of Harvard and New England Conservatory from different generations played their first recital together Sunday afternoon in Jordan Hall: violinist Stefan Jackiw, only 20 and still an undergraduate, and pianist Max Levinson, now 33 and out in the world." Read the complete text of Richard Dyer's review of violinist Stefan Jackiw and pianist Max Levinson's November 6 recital in The Boston Globe.
Did any readers attend the recital and feel like sharing your impressions? By all means, post your thoughts!
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
"Zenaida Yanowsky is a different kind of Manon. For a start, she's taller - Kenneth MacMillan's 1974 ballet was made for a small dancer - but her originality reflects the character. Every step, every decision, looks new-minted...the whole [Royal Ballet] company is dancing marvellously - every whore, beggar and client brought boldly to life. A superb revival." The complete review by Zoë Anderson.
The Royal Ballet will bring Kenneth MacMillan's Manon to Boston June 15-17 at The Wang Theatre.
Monday, November 7, 2005
Though they were announced from the stage last night, in the interest of being all things to some people, here are the encores selections from violinist Stefan Jackiw and pianist Max Levinson's recital last night at Jordan Hall:
Chopin, Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, No.1 (trans. Nathan Milstein)
Fritz Kreisler, La Gitana ("The Gypsy")
Also this past weekend: Sweet Honey In The Rock (website, blog) made its Celebrity Series debut Saturday night at Symphony Hall. The near (very near) sell-out audience was completely attuned to these a-capella vocal masters from the first note sung. Clapping and chants began before the singing did, creating the feeling that the performance was a continuation of a concert/rite/scene already in progress, like walking into a really great party. I will post a set list if it can be had.
Saturday, November 5, 2005
At their Jordan Hall concert this Sunday, November 12, the Juilliard String Quartet will perform the Boston Premiere of Argentinian composer Ezequiel Vinao's String Quartet No. 2 (The Loss and the Silenece). Below is a description of String Quartet No. 2 from the press release on the work's World Premiere at the Juilliard School on October 20:
"Ezequiel Viñao’s second string quartet is a synthesis of the composer’s work to date. It incorporates the four main threads that run, to a greater or lesser degree, through all of his music: the structural use of rhythmic cycles; the unfolding of long melismae (spun mainly from Mozarabic chant); the concert of re-interpretation, and an interest in Medieval thought and traditions.
The work opens with a sonata-type form. The Loss and the Silence - Tolkien’s phrase - was originally the title of the second movement. In Tolkien’s story, an immortal ageless maiden chooses mortality in order to be with the mortal man she loves. After many years of dwelling together in bliss, the man, at last, feels that his life draws to an end. She is overborne by grief and a keen sense of the mortality that she has taken upon her. The story’s substance relates to the early Christian symbols of "Mortality" and "Fall." "Mortality," understood as "the gift of the One to Men," and "Fall," as the result of a rebellion against this gift, leading to a desire for power and the corrupted use of man’s inner talents with the "object of bull-dozing the real world, of coercing other wills."
The third movement is a deconstructed dance form. The fourth movement begins with a reference to the sound world of the previous movement as an introduction to a perpetual motion process built around a rhythmic cycle. In a brief fifth movement, an epilogue to the piece, echoes of the second movement are heard."
Thursday, November 3, 2005
Gulp. The Evening Standard [London] took my breath away with news of a study suggesting that:
"Habitual and enthusiastic singers may be more predisposed to put on weight because exertions in the lungs act as a trigger for their appetite."
Read the Andante.com version of the article here (if you dare): Why the Fat Lady Sings - There May Be a Medical Reason Opera Singers Tend to Be Heavy
I hope the full disclosure aspect of this announcement is obvious. Despite my presence on the panel, it promises to be a fascinating discussion. If it makes sense for you, consider attending. The whole thing is being put together by the good folks at The Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston.
Demystifying Blogging: What is it and What Does it Mean for Smart Arts Marketers?
Date: Wednesday, November 9th
Time: 2:30 - 5:00 PM
Location: Barr Foundation Dining Room at The Pilot House, Lewis Wharf, Boston, MA (Directions)
John Cass of Backbone Media is giving the presentation and will be moderating the panel.
Wednesday, November 2, 2005
Tuesday, November 1, 2005
"...The Sonata, op.111 consists of two movements. The first betrays a violent effort to produce something in the shape of a novelty. In it are visible some of those dissonances the harshness of which may have escaped the observation of the composer. The second movement is an Arietta, and extends to the extraordinary length of thirteen pages. The greater portion of it is written in 9/16, but a part is in 6/16, and about a page in 12/32. All this is really laborious trifling, ought to be by every means discouraged by the sensible part of the musical profession...We have devoted a full hour to this enigma and cannot solve it."
— The Harmonicon, London, August 1823, quoted in Lexicon of Musical Invective, Critical Assaults on Composers Since Beethoven's Time, by Nicolas Slonimsky
Despite the grotesqueries expressed above, pianist Richard Goode will play Beethoven's Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Opus 111 at NEC's Jordan Hall on December 4. The rest of his all-Beethoven program is as follows:
Theodore Bale reviewed the Limón Dance Company's Saturday performance at the Tsai Center for The Boston Sunday Herald:
Company Brings Day of the Dead to Life
Karen Campbell reviewed the Limón Company for The Boston Globe:
Troupe Elegantly Reflects on Darkness and Joy
Bob Young reviewed Wynton Marsalis' Sunday evening performance at Sanders Theatre for The Boston Herald:
Tradition Provides Starting Point for Marsalis and Band
Bill Beuttler reviewed Wynton Marsalis at Sanders Theatre for The Boston Globe:
Marsalis, Quintet Shine
Greg Pare reviewed Wynton Marsalis for EDGEBoston.com:
"Wynton Marsalis" by Wynton Marsalis
Marcia Siegel reviewed the Limón Dance Company for the Boston Phoenix:
Dynasties, Limón Dance Company at the Tsai...