Thursday, January 26, 2006

What Makes Him Great? - EDGE New York Interviews Rob Kapilow

Kapilow has just published a feature on lecturer, commentator, conductor and 10-year Celebrity Series fixture, Rob Kapilow. Among the quotes writer Michael Sherrin snared from amongst the high-speed rat-a-tat of Rob's connections and digressions was this about his basic impulse to do what he does the way he does it:

“The first thing was every time I would rehearse the orchestra,
I’d want to stop and do a lecture on the piece,” says Kapilow. “And every time I
would be teaching, I would wish I had the orchestra there to demonstrate. So
it’s always been a feeling that when I would conduct music, that I would always
wish I could turn around and make sure people were getting what it was.”

Read the full text of What Makes Him Great? an Interview with Rob Kapilow here. Rob Kapilow brings his latest installment of What Makes It Great? to Boston on Friday, January 27 when he and the Jupiter String Quartet take on Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik on the actual date of Herr Mozart's 250th birthday.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Frank Rich to Take Leave of Absence from NY Times Column

Former theater critic and Sunday New York Times columnist Frank Rich is taking a leave of absence to write a book about American life since 9/11. Rich recently spoke to Joe Strupp (from Editor & Publisher) for an article in The Book Standard:

"This isn't just a slippery slope. It's a toboggan into chaos, or at least war. As everyone knows now—except for the 22 percent, according to a recent Harris poll, who still believe that Saddam helped plan 9/11—it's the truthiness of all those imminent mushroom clouds that sold the invasion of Iraq. What's remarkable is how much fictionalization plays a role in almost every national debate. Even after a big humbug is exposed as blatantly as Professor Marvel in The Wizard of Oz—FEMA's heck of a job in New Orleans, for instance—we remain ready and eager to be duped by the next tall tale. It's as if the country is living in a permanent state of suspension of disbelief."

Full text of article from The Book Standard

And clearly, he's doing more than just writing a book. Rich, you'll remember, comes to John Hancock Hall in Boston on February 12 as part of our new speakers series.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Mark Morris' "L'Allegro" makes triumphant return to The Hub

Mmdg_allegro3Last night's opening night audience at The Wang Theatre lept to their feet with a cheer as the last notes of Handel's oratorio died away. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, Mark Morris's grand pageant built around Handel's oratorio returned in triumph to Boston for the first time since 1994. The Mark Morris Dance Group perform L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato tonight at 8pm and tomorrow at 3pm - Details and tickets.

The Boston Herald's Tedd Bale reviewed last night's performance.

Globe Talk time

Despite some ads to the contrary, today's Globe Talk between choreographer Mark Morris and Boston Globe classical music critic Richard Dyer runs from 2 to 3:30pm today at Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts. Tickets are available at the door.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Celebrities revisited, a few memories from Walter Pierce

Our esteemd former Executive Director, Walter Pierce, offered the following comments after reading my post, In Memorium 2005, which lists artists once presented by the Celebrity Series that passed away during 2005. I think Walter's comments deserve their own post outside the comments section:

"When I see the number of celebrated and near-celebrity artists who have passed away, it makes me ponder my age, but fills me with delightful memories of all those wonderful performances I was privileged to attend over the years. What's curious is the random thoughts associated with some of those experiences. Remember, that as the presenter, one is always wary of what can go wrong, whether it be weather, illness, flood -- or interplanetary implosion -- which was listed in a dance company's contract as a reason for cancelling a concert, one season."

"By the time, I was the presenter of Victoria de los Angeles, the voice, though still beautiful was hardly the silvery sound long associated with the soprano, but she captivated the audience nevertheless, and when she returned for encores with her guitar, the audience was spellbound."

"Lazar Berman was an interesting phenomenon, who blazed across the heavens drawing full houses whereever he played, but soon the critics became disenchanted with his playing and within two or three seasons, he no longer commanded the large audiences he played to in his initial debut."

"Dame Moura Lympany was a delighted lady who appeared in the Series much too late in her career -- she was over seventy, I believe, when she made her debut."

"I recall the night the Amadeus Quartet reconstituted itself as a trio when one of its members couldn't play."

"Isidore Cohen was such a stalwart member of both the Juilliard String Quartet and the Beaux Arts Trio. I wonder if any one in the recent history of chamber music performed for two such celebrated chamber music groups -- a trio and a string quartet. He was a great teacher and spent considerable time imparting his wisdom at Marlboro each summer."

"Was there any conductor as elegant on the podium as Giulini? He looked straight out of central casting for the role -- interesting considering he was the Los Angeles Philharmonic's principal conductor for several years."

"When I was in high school and beyond, I was a great fan of be-bop and thought the combination of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker was the living end. When I became a presenter, I wanted to present Dizzy Gillespie some day in Symphony Hall. I thought it was a brilliant idea to combine the Modern Jazz Quartet with Dizzy and his group. After all, I surmised, Dizzy played with Percy Heath and others in some of the bands before he went on his own. But lo and behold, Dizzy wanted to play with his group first, the MJQ to follow. I thought that they at least would jam at the end, but Dizzy had other plans. At intermission, he told me he was catching the late plane back to NYC where he had an evening gig. So, that's my sad Dizzy G story - thank you very much for the gig, and goodbye."

Thanks, Walter!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Globe reviews splendid concert by Deveau

From Boston Globe classical music critic Richard Dyer's review of pianist David Deveau's January 14 Celebrity Series performance:

"David Deveau has been an active citizen of our musical community for more than 30 years, busy as a pianist, teacher, chamber musician, and impresario. Saturday night Bank of America Celebrity Series/Boston Marquee honored his achievements by commissioning a new work from Peter Child and by presenting him in a program designed to display the range of his interests and accomplishments."

Read the complete review on

Valerie Gladstone on "L'Allegro" for The Boston Globe

"No matter how often she performs 'L'Allegro,' [dancer June] Omura never fails to feel exhilarated. ''I've become freer and more confident over the years,' she said. ''As the work builds towards the finale, I feel so much joy that I almost burst into tears.'"

"Building on the Work of the Masters" by Valerie Gladstone for The Boston Globe

The Mark Morris Dance Group brings L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato to The Wang Theatre January 20-22 - Details and Tickets

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Either/Orchestra gets 12-hour WHRB Orgy program January 17

One of the best radio stations in this or any town in the country is WHRB of Harvard University and one of the clearest examples of their superiority are the two Orgy Seasons each year. The orgies are multi-hour programs around a particular subject or artist with a goal of being as complete and comprehensive as possible. The orgies are sandwiched around and between the programming that remains when the student DJs go on break: Memorial Church services, the venerable Hillbilly at Harvard and Harvard Hockey. This has been going on for years now and has yielded innumerable fascinating must-hears for any music fan that could catch the shows (I still listen to tapes I made over 10 years ago during the 98-hour long John Coltrane Orgy). And if you aren't in the Boston area, you can listen online at

Well, the 2006 WHRB Winter Orgy season (WHRB Program Guide - pdf) is underway through January and this year's crop of programs is as varied as ever. This winter's Orgy subjects include: Robert Schumann; Joe Morello, Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber; Edward Elgar; Dmitri Shostakovich; Polvo; Wagon Christ Superstar; Hank Mobley; The Texas Orgy (all Texas performers); the Old Time Radio Orgy; Dietrich Buxtehude; Bruno Walter; the History of Hip-Hop; Orlande de Lassus; Jazz and Poetry, you get the idea.

One of this winter's orgies covers one of "our" performers, Either/Orchestra, the ten-piece band founded and run by Russ Gershon. E/O gets 12 hours of orgy-time starting at 11am on Tuesday, January 17. Here's the description from the WHRB program guide:

Come celebrate the Either/Orchestra’s 20th anniversary with the Jazz Spectrum. The Either/Orchestra is both a nationally recognized touring group and a local band with close ties to Cambridge. Started in 1985 by Russ Gershon, the band has produced ten albums in its many incarnations.The Either/Orchestra has helped rework the misconception of the big band as stodgy and traditionalist by introducing international influences and taking on jazz standards with interesting arrangements. In this Orgy, we will present the Either/Orchestra’s catalogue, interviews with its members, and work from the band’s alumni, including keyboardist John Medeski and saxophonist Charlie Kolhase.

Either/Orchestra performs January 28 at 8pm at the Berklee Performance Center in celebration of their 20th anniversary. Ethiopian guests join E/O for a concert of Ethio-jazz. The concert is presented by your friends at Bank of America Celebrity Series.

(E/O Photo: Eric Antoniou)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Soprano Birgit Nilsson Dies

I just received the sad news that Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson passed away at 87. Celebrity Series patrons may remember her recital performances in 1962, '63 and '75 (I would be delighted to post any remembrances, especially by anyone that attended one of these performances). Though, she is, of course, known more for her performances in Wagnerian operas than for her recitals.

Of her February 24, 1975 Celebrity Series recital with pianist John Wustman, the Boston Globe's Richard Dyer was moved to write, "Even now, with 30 years of career behind her, she is by a very considerable margin the best singer of her sort; her only competition is herself," and told of Ms. Nilsson's strewing roses into the audience during one of her encores.

Karl Ritter's obituary for the Associated Press

Bernard Holland's remembrance for The New York Times (sign-up required)

Heartfelt tributes to Birgit Nilsson abound on the web, but I will only add two more here:
Richard Dyer of The Boston Globe on Brigit Nilsson, "Human Qualities Infused this Soprano's Superhuman Voice" (from January 13)

Elaine Meinel Supkis posted this personal tribute on her blog, Culture of Life Breaking News

See also my post on Celebrity Series artists who passed away during the past year: In Memoriam 2005.

Matt Haimovitz, 21st century cellist

He is without a doubt the first artist to make the leap to the Celebrity Series from headlining at Central Square rock 'n' roll grotto T.T. The Bear's Place (and for an entire national tour of similar venues) as he did in 2004 (playing Bach, mind you). Cellist Matt Haimovitz will be back in Boston (OK, Cambridge) touring behind his newest release, Goulash, a recording of all things Bela Bartok and Transylvania, that includes a reworking of Led Zepplin's Kashmir for an all-cello ensemble ("I realized there was a Turkish mode in this piece . . . and this fits perfectly on my Turkish-Hungarian-Romanian triumvirate for Goulash!"). Joining Haimovitz on Goulash are guitarist John McLaughlin, pianist Jean Marchand, DJ Olive, the all-cello ensemble UCCELLO, violinist Andy Simionescu, and the ensemble early music ensemble, Constantinople.

Haimovitz and UCCELLO will bring a program of Tod Machover, Gyorgy Ligeti, Zoltan Kodaly, David Sanford, Adrian Pop, Osvaldo Golijov, and Luna Pearl Woolf to Cambridge's Sanders Theatre, Friday, February 3 at 8 p.m.

Haimovitz talked with Steve Inskeep and played Jimi Hendrix's famous Woodstock recording of The Jimiatwoodstock_1 Star-Spangled Banner (arranged by Haimovitz for solo cello) on National Public Radio's All Things Considered (December 27, 2003). Haimovitz talks about how he enjoyed seeing unusual combinations of music fans in his audiences during his groundbreaking tour of rock clubs and other typically non-classical nightspots (think punk rockers and Bach-heads elbowing up to the same bar).
Haimovitz was also heard more recently on NPR's Weekend Edition on December 5th where he talked about the Goulash project.

Physical_graffiti_1Try this comparison for fun: compare a sample of Led Zepplin's original Kashmir here (scroll down to access samples) with Matt Haimovitz and UCCELLO's version here.

Update: Read this more recent post on Matt Haimovitz's Boston itinerary: Cellist About Town

Friday, January 6, 2006

Thursday, January 5, 2006

In Memoriam 2005

If, in Lincoln's phrase it is "altogether fitting and proper" that we honor the deceased, then why does it feel vaguely opportunistic to be doing so?

The question had no sooner occurred to me than I had the answer, from a little voice on my shoulder: "Because this blog, despite aiming to be an information source that unites arts lovers in Boston and beyond, a gathering place where something more personal than mere promotion occurs, is still about the Celebrity Series, the institution, an institution with an advertising budget that does care about box office receipts among other things. We can't help it, we do have commercial concerns, such as branding."

From my other shoulder came: "But each of these people came to town, met Aaron Richmond, Walter Pierce, Marty Jones, or any number of Celebrity Series staff in airports, restaurants, radio stations, backstage, in the office; sometimes at odd hours and often under circumstances that can't help but form a bond, or at least a memory. They came here, some of them quite often, and we met them, knew them. In the midst of all this they would go onstage and do incredible things. We all had/have our favorites, but they were all still part of our family (and yes, I know how corny that sounds, but this is voice on my shoulder, you'll recall)."

So in the spirit of the second voice on my shoulder, here is my list, undoubtedly incomplete, of those who have been on Celebrity Series stage(s) at some point and passed away during 2005. I am including the dates they performed for the Celebrity Series (in parentheses) because I know many of you will want to recall the performances (and, let's face it, some of you will be glad to have the memory aid). Though some of these individuals could have a number of titles and descriptions, I have included the one that best describes their appearance with us.

Victoria de los Angeles, soprano, at 81
(Celebrity Series performances: 1951, 1952, 1977, 1979)

Lazar Berman, pianist, at 74
(Celebrity Series performances: October & March 1977)

Dame Moura Lympany, pianist, at 88
(Celebrity Series performance: 1994)

Norbert Brainin, 1st violinist, Amadeus Quartet, at 82
(Celebrity Series performances: 1961, 1974, 1978, 1987)

Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor, Los Angeles Philharmonic, at 91
(Celebrity Series performances: 1979, 1982, 1983)

Isidore Cohen, violinist, Juilliard String Quartet and The Beaux Arts Trio, at 82
(Celebrity Series performances too numerous to mention, send me an email if you want the full list)

Thomas Kakuska, violist, Alban Berg String Quartet, at 64
(Celebrity Series performances: 1985, 1994)

John Stubblefield, tenor saxophonist, Mingus Big Band, at 60
(Celebrity Series performances: 1996, 2000)

William Vacchiano, principal trumpet (1942-73), New York Philharmonic, at 93
(Celebrity Series performances: numerous dates)

Percy Heath, bassist, Modern Jazz Quartet, at 81
(Celebrity Series performance: 1974)

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Dance Across the City Day is #1!!!!


The folks at clearly know a good thing when they see it. They have listed Dance Across the City Day as #1 on the list of The Top Ten Things To Do in New England This Weekend. Well if that's the best they can do for us...

Among the newly inked Dance Across the City Day activities that I may not have told you about yet are those of Boston Dance Alliance taking place in The Wang Theatre's Metropolitan Room off the lower lobby. This Saturday's Dance Alliance activities are geared toward the professional or aspiring professional and in the past has covered topics such as video production and press release writing. Things get rolling with a chance to meet newly appointed Boston Dance Alliance Executive Director Ruth Birnberg and wind up with a panel on audience development with a technology twist. Both events are free just like the rest of DATCD.

Full disclosure/shameless self-promotion: I am on the Boston Dance Alliance panel listed below, as you can plainly read (and if you show up you will plainly hear). Here is a sneak peek at the DATCD program listing:

"9-9:55 am
Meet Boston Dance Alliance's New and First Executive
Ruth Birnberg

Start your "Dance Across the City Day" sharing a cup of coffee with Executive
Director Ruth Birnberg
. BDA offers
many services that are useful to the dance enthusiast; the parent looking for
classes for his/her child, the dance student, professional dancer, and artistic

10-11 am
Audience Development
Seeking new ways to fill your
theatre? Panel of three experts will help
Moderated by John Michael Kennedy,
Public Relations Expert

Do you keep sending direct mail pieces to the same lists and sending Email
blasts but still cannot fill those seats? Come and listen to three panelists,
with wide expertise, talk about new ways to reach audiences, including the use
of blogs, advertising in unexpected spots, ticketing services that make it easy
for the ticket buyer and more. The panel includes John Beck from ArtsBoston,
Rita Fucillo from Jerome Press and Playbill, and Jack Wright from Celebrity
. All three are looking forward to answering your questions about specific

Funny, I don't feel like an expert. Though sometimes I do feel wide.

A schedule of the other Dance Across the City Day classes and showcases can be found here.

And by the way, I welcome any and all comments, compliments, redirections, digressions, etc. regarding, well anything, but especially DATCD. Let me know what you're thinking and if it isn't profane I'll probably post it.