Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Birthday Mr. Stokes Mitchell

Yes, today is both Halloween and Brian Stokes Mitchell's birthday. He's probably sick of Halloween-related birthday jokes, so I recommend a nice card.

Hilary Hahn announces Boston program for January 12

One of our favorite violinists, Hilary Hahn, has announced her Jordan Hall recital program for January 12 with pianist Valentina Lisitsa. You can find the program, along with other key items, like, say, ticket links, here.

Also, here is a link to what was, as of this writing, Ms. Hahn's most recent online journal entry (from the airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin). Complete this sentence: Milwaukee, home of the fighting...

Monday, October 30, 2006

What do you know about Swan Lake?

The Bolshoi Theatre, site of the original Swan Lake

Here are five facts I'll bet most of you didn't know about Swan Lake, culled from wikipedia's vaults. Maybe you can find a few more...

1. Though the Kirov's Swan Lake is the definitive version of the ballet -- and most ballet companies base their own productions on it -- it wasn't the first production. It was first presented as The Lake of the Swans in 1877 by Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet.

2. The production by the Kirov (then known as the Imperial Ballet) was originally set to debut in the fall of 1894 but was delayed several months due to the death of Czar Alexander III and the coronation of his son Nicholas II, the last czar of Russia.

3. Tchaikovsky lifted the music for the first movement of Act IV from his first opera, "The Voyevoda."

4. Opus 20, the music usually heard in the ballet and attributed to Tchaikovsky, is not the composer's original score, but rather a revised score with many deletions and changes arranged by Riccardo Drigo, the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatre's conductor at the time.

5. One of the more successful alternate versions of the dance is Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, which features a male dance corps as the swans.

Source: wikipedia

The Kirov Ballet and Orchestra in Swan Lake, Nov 9-12, The Wang Theatre

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Ottawa mad for the Kirov

Ann Marie McQueen, writing for the Ottawa Sun, was bowled over (though she wasn't surprised) by the Kirov's Swan Lake, at Ottawa's National Arts Center this weekend:

"The famed Kirov Ballet flitted into the National Arts Centre, all ethereal ballerinas and powerful, tautly muscled dancers, wowing a sold-out crowd at Southam Hall just the way everyone knew they would."

McQueen was especially taken with Alina Somova, who will dance the Odette/Odile role on Saturday, November 11 at The Wang Theatre:

"The undeniable focal point of the evening was prima ballerina Alina Somova, a lithe, impossibly slim dancer who thrilled most when she was clad in black to play Odile, the evil twin of Odette."

Read all of Kirov Wows Ottawa Audience.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Leonid Hambro, pianist, straight man, 1920-2006

Leonid Hambro (left) and Victor Borge

Pianist Leonid Hambro died on Monday at 83. Mr. Hambro had an illustrious career as a concert pianist, making over 100 recordings and performing with the likes of Fritz Kreisler, Jascha Heifetz, and Isaac Stern and was conducted by Arturo Toscanini, Dmitri Mitropoulos, Leonard Bernstein, and Eugene Ormandy, among others. He was known for an astounding musical memory and great skill at improvising. So it's arguably both ironic and charming, that he was best known for a roughly ten-year stint playing the straight man to pianist/comedian Victor Borge. He left Borge in 1970 to join the faculty of Cal Arts.

He never stopped doing serious concert work, but he also proved himself worthy of his time with Mr. Borge. Consider this excerpt from a New York Times review of a 1992 recital by Mr. Hambro:

"When a pair of latecomers took their seats after the second piece, he asked, "Where are you from?" When they said New York, Mr. Hambro said: "Isn't that funny? I'm from Los Angeles and I got here before you did."

And here's an anecdote about Victor Borge in Hambro's own words:

"'We came to a place where I played on three pianos, his piano, and my piano for the two-piano work, and then an offstage piano. And then one day we came to a place where my piano on the stage was very old, and the keys were very yellow, it was so old. So he had the microphone -- the audience could never hear me -- and I turned to him and I pointed to my keys, and I said, "My elephant smoked too much.'

He thought that was very funny, and he said, 'Can any of you in the balcony see Mr. Hambro's keys? Mr. Hambro just told me that his elephant smoked too much.' So he was willing to give credit."

Here's the rest of the conversation:
A Conversation with Leonid Hambro from Annals of Improbable Research

Mr. Hambro made three appearances on the Celebrity Series with Victor Borge that I can verify, but he likely made more (if we were lucky).

New York Times obituary

Washington Post obituary

Sheetmusicplus.com link to Mr. Hambro's composition Happy Birthday Dear Ludwig

Newsletter of NYC Atheists with item on Mr. Hambro entertaining the group at a dinner and his membership (pdf)

"Kirov Ballet: Cool Perfection" says Orange County Register

Uliana Lopatkina and Danila Korsuntsev
of The Kirov Ballet in Swan Lake

Laura Bleiberg, reviewing for the Orange County Register, was knocked out by the Kirov's Swan Lake, and principal Uliana Lopatkina in particular:

"Principal dancer Uliana Lopatkina inhabited the enchanted spirit of the swan queen Odette with a cool authority on Friday. She has crystallized not just the role, but every muscle twitch to its essence. Her arms rippled, her head flicked oh-so-delicately and she appeared, quite simply, to flow about the stage."

Read complete review

Here in Boston, Uliana Lopatkina dances the role of Odette in Swan Lake on Thursday, November 9. Detailed casting, tickets and more can be found here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Malcolm Gladwell speaks at Newyorker.com

This goes back a few months. Writer/thinker/guest of Charlie Rose Malcolm Gladwell talks about "the phenomenon of prodigies and late bloomers in art." It's audio in 3 parts from The New Yorker web site. Just a quick link I thought you (whoever you are) might enjoy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Kirov's Swan Lake reviewed in Los Angeles Times

Lewis Segal reviewed Friday evening's Orange County opening performance of Swan Lake by the Kirov Ballet and Orchestra for the Los Angeles Times:

"Thirty-two swans moving as one, a Swan Queen of thrilling classical purity, an overfamiliar Tchaikovsky score made fresh and glowing: The Kirov Ballet certainly knows how to keep an audience happy and it did just that Friday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

In the company's first performance this season of the complete 'Swan Lake,' corps values remained stratospheric, Pavel Bubelnikov led the Kirov Orchestra to glory and Uliana Lopatkina made Odette not only a stellar projection of the corps' pristine style but also a living embodiment of the music. The way she magically softened during the White Swan duet proved highly imaginative, tracing Odette's growing trust, hope and love without any obvious acting ploys."

Read the full review.

The Kirov Ballet and Orchestra brings Swan Lake to The Wang Theatre November 9-12.

Vegemite is right out

This just in from boingboing.net: Because of its folate content, the U.S. government has banned Vegemite. It seems folate can only be added to breads and cereals on our fair shores. That's right, the brown, yeasty goo that Aussies love can cross our borders no more. No word yet on Marmite and Promite.

I certainly feel safer.

Anyway, back to the arts...

Sweet Honey's Shirley Childress Saxton from Tulsaworld.com

Shirley Childress Saxton

From Tulsa, Oklahoma comes this story by James D. Watts, Jr. for Tulsaworld.com on Shirley Childress Saxton, the woman who serves as sign language interpreter for the a capella singing group Sweet Honey In The Rock. Ms. Saxton joined the ensemble in 1980 and is a permanent member of the group, a symbol of the ensemble's bedrock commitment to the deaf community:

"'For many deaf people, music simply is not a part of their lives,' Saxton said, speaking by phone from her home in the Washington D.C. area. 'It takes a lot of courage and open-mindedness on the part of deaf people even to set foot in a concert hall.'

'But it has been a part of the mission of Sweet Honey in the Rock from the beginning to make its performances accessible and inclusive to all people,' she said. 'And there aren't many performers out there that have been willing to make the interpretation of their work for the deaf an integral part of what they do.'" 
Full story

Sweet Honey In The Rock and Shirley Childress Saxton return to the Celebrity Series and Symphony Hall on May 6, 2007.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Exhibitionist remembers a birthday

The Boston Globe's Geoff Edgers, blogging at Exhibitionist, clued me in to the fact that the iPod turns 5 years old today. Remarkable. Some stories just seem designed to make you feel old.

The iPod's cultural effect at so young an age is an amazing story - but you know that. What you want are the links to various angles to the story from Forbes, Business Week, The L.A. Times and the like offered in Mr. Edgers' post...plus some comfortable ear buds. Read: iPod at 5.

Liszt_1 Oh, by the way, it's Franz Liszt's birthday, too.

I already knew it was, but thanks to The Well-Tempered Blog, I remembered to mention it.

Update: Oops, Franz Liszt's birthday was October 22, not October 23, which, if I had read the entire WTB post I would have known myself. Hope you didn't go to the wrong party.

NHK, Ashkenazy and Grimaud at Symphony Hall

The use of the Symphony Hall organ for the finale of Elgar's "Enigma Variations" had been much discussed pior to the arrival of the NHK Orchestra. For those that did not attend the performance, you should know the NHK did use the organ on Friday evening and it did sound wonderful, especially from my perch at the back of a packed second balcony.

I have to confess that I felt an affection for those concertgoers up there sharing the oxygen-depleted air with me. They are a hearty group: they not only pay (and we are grateful for their patronage), but they make the treck up several flights to their seats, and then lean forward throughout, elbows on knees, with rapt attention. They deserve orchestra seats, but I think they know better. I often feel like we are sharing a secret up there on the heights, one that I will share with you now: the sound of an orchestra from the second balcony at Symphony Hall is sublime. Some of you will forget this secret and that's all right, seating is limited...

"I love La Mer, it is a miracle."

Vladimir Ashkenazy conducted the NHK Symphony Orchestra (and for the last time, think "NBC Orchestra of Japan") on Friday, two stops away from the end of their US tour. The Maestro was an entertaining backstage presence, mimicking the tuning horns (cheeks puffed out like Harpo Marx, or maybe Danny Kaye) and pacing, it seemed more with excitement than nerves. Striding back after Debussy's La Mer, he exclaimed to no one in particular, "I love La Mer, it is a miracle." And then, arms raised, "Now, Elgar...big heart, warm heart." And he walked briskly back onstage.



I was backstage for most of Hélène Grimaud's performance of Brahms first piano concerto. Her performance was well received and she signed books and CDs until the last of a very large throng went home happy. It's irrelevant to what she does best, but she's both lovely and gracious. I shot few photos of her at the signing, as you can see, but I can't make her look the way J. Henry Fair can make her look. Not in that light.


I almost forgot, the encore Friday night was Gabriel Fauré's Pavane in F-sharp minor, Opus 50.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Keillor in Yakima

The Yakima Herald-Republic  reviewed Garrison Keillor's appearance on the 06-07 Town Hall Series in that fine (so I'm told) city:

"Dressed in a dark suit with a bright red tie and his trademark red sneakers
and socks, Keillor spun his hilarious tale of the pontoon boat -- an encounter
on the waters of Lake Wobegon involving his dear Aunt Evelyn's ashes in an
airborne green bowling ball and a group of visiting Lutheran ministers who
stumble into the trappings of a showy wedding that has been abruptly called off."

We (meaning you) get Mr. Keillor on February 11 at Symphony Hall.

Swan Lake on Ice


It ain't The Kirov's production by a long shot, but if you want to see Swan Lake danced on ice skates, you can catch The Imperial Ice Stars do Swan Lake on Ice at The Lowry in Manchester. I don't think they're coming to Boston anytime soon...so count your blessings or get your plane tickets, depending on your perspective.

For those making plane reservations, that's Manchester, England, not Manchester, New Hampshire.

NHK, Ashkenazy and Grimaud in Philly

Philadelphia's Kimmel Center

The Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns reviewed the NHK Symphony's Philadelphia performance on Tuesday evening at The Kimmel Center, which just happens to feature the same performers and program as tonight's Symphony Hall outing. Here's Stearns on Grimaud playing Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1:

"The meditative middle movement belongs to the pianist, and Grimaud claimed it in ways that reminded me why I never miss a chance to hear her. Though her music-making often feels restless, thanks to her kinetic left hand, this slow movement had a stillness that shimmered. Without resorting to hazy pedaling, Grimaud revealed the nobility behind Brahms' chord voicings, plus the way they progress through the piece in the fashion of a Bach chorale."

Here's full text of Japanese orchestra, plus a wild card.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Anna Russell, singer and comedian, 1911-2006

Anna Russell, soprano, comedienne, author, died at age 94 yesterday in Rosedale, New South Wales, Australia. Ms. Russell toured widely and recorded her better known segments, including her 30-minute version of Wagner’s “Ring” and “How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera.” She appeared first on  BBC radio as a folksinger and also appeared on television's The Ed Sullivan Show. Ms. Russell authored several books, including The Power of Being a Positive Stinker (1955) and the Anna Russell Songbook (1958).

Richard Dyer, reviewing for the Boston Globe, wrote of Ms. Russell's last appearance in Boston, (for the Celebrity Series), in 1985:

The lady knows her music; her parodies are dead-on (the French art song - "I don't want to make love this afternoon; I want to eat"). She knows every absurdity of platform demeanor, from the diseuse's affected delivery of mute "e" to the tuning difficulties and sweeping arms of the player of the Celtic harp. She knows the formulas of Gilbert & Sullivan as well as they did, and she is hilariously alert to the faulty prose logic of Wagner's epic poem. She has no use for the real pretentiousness that surrounds phony art, and respect for what is good and true. And she knows a lot of things about people - her simplest remarks can boomerang ("Things would be so different, if they were not what they are").

Anna Russell made four appearances for the Celebrity Series between 1978 and 1985.

Obituary from ABC Southeast NSW

The Anna Russell Shrine

Anna Russell's wikipedia entry

Anna Russell's Internet Movie Database page

Anna Russell's bio from Comedy College


from Monotonous Forest

from The Standing Room

from The Boston Globe

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Brahms: and-a-1, and-a-2...


Johannes Brahms

This Friday, October 20, affords a rare opportunity to hear both of Johannes Brahms' piano concertos on one day, and played by terrific pianists. At 1:30 p.m., the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Levine and pianist Peter Serkin, will give a performance of Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2. At 8:00 p.m., the Bank of America Celebrity Series steps in with the NHK Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy with pianist Hélène Grimaud for a performance of, among other works, Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1.

Two fine pianists make for a fine day of Brahms concertos at Symphony Hall mere hours apart. I'm just sayin'.

Thanks to Brian Bell at WGBH for the heads up...

Assad Brothers in Steel City

Sergio and Odair Assad's concert for the Guitar Society of Fine Art in Pittsburgh's Synod Hall received a capsule review in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette.The Assads will be here in 23 days.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hélène Grimaud: Wolves in New York and Brahms with the NHK

Pianist and wolf preservationist Hélène Grimaud

The NHK Symphony Orchestra with Vladimir Ashkenazy on the podium and Hélène Grimaud the piano soloist, opened its U.S. tour at L.A.'s Disney Hall on Saturday afternoon with the same program they will play at Symphony Hall this Friday. Chris Pasles reviewed for the Los Angeles Times:

"The program started with a blockbuster Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, with Hélène Grimaud as the soloist. Grimaud has recorded separately with conductors Pierre Boulez and the L.A. Philharmonic's own Esa-Pekka Salonen for Deutsche Grammophon. So she has strong champions.

Here, however, she took a lyrical, rather self-effacing approach. Even in her powerhouse double octaves and other virtuosic passages, she seemed disinclined to impose a personal point of view on a romantic concerto that is full of angst, introspection and energy."

Read the full text of Brahms and Debussy in bright, unblended strokes.

Ms. Grimaud, who founded the Wolf Conservation Center in New York State, writes about her lupine and pianistic relationships in a newly translated (from the French) book. Here's an excerpt from the book's web page:

Grimaudcover_4 Late one night in 1991, Grimaud encountered a wolf-dog hybrid in Florida and felt an immediate, instinctual connection to the animal—one that the wolf also seemed to share. Determined to do what she could to protect this threatened species, she committed her time and resources to becoming certified to found her own wolf preserve on the grounds of her home in New York State.

Read more about: Wild Harmonies, A Life of Music and Wolves by Hélène Grimaud.

Assad from that

Apparently Sergio and Odair Assad have only four videos posted to YouTube - a fact that surprised me (drop me a line if you find more). But those two videos are pretty remarkable. First is this four-hand guitar encore - does anyone know the piece they are playing? And the second, from 1997, features them playing the Andante and Allegro sections of Astor Piazzolla's "Tango Suite." There are also a couple of posts of the duo with Yo-Yo Ma: Menino and Zita.

And for audio, you can hear an Assad Brothers concert originally broadcast on NPR's Performance Today by the duo guitarist siblings here. There is also an amazing array of classical guitar music available as mp3 radio shows at this site, as well.

Then there is the Assad Brothers' unofficial web site.

Oh, yes, and we are presenting the Brothers Assad on November 11 at NEC's Jordan Hall.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Celebrity Series opens with Prez Hall

After intermission, there was a mini-concert in the Green Room at Symphony Hall: the pianist finished a tune...laughter...a chord...more laughter...some wine was poured...a request...laughter...polite frivolity. When intermission ended no one was shushed, someone closed the door to the Green Room so Ellis Marsalis could begin his set onstage, and the mini-concert continued.

There were musicians in the house last night when the Preservation Hall Jazz Band came to town. Musicians with New Orleans pedigrees of distinction. Musicians with surnames like Barbarin and Brunious and Marsalis. A person got the feeling they could not have been in each others company and not played music. When the Band played Just a Closer Walk With Thee - parade style, going slowly to the graveyard - it felt profound in a way a CD will never capture.

Quite a night. Not lightweight and certainly not somber. I took a few photos, but you shoulda been there.

Bingo! kept the revelry going in the lobby

Wacky cartoons and other video novelties filled the giant screen above the stage

The big finish

(left to right) Talbots CEO Arnold Zetcher, Celebrity Series Executive Director Marty Jones, pianist Ellis Marsalis, and Ellen Zetcher at the after-party.

"Preserving the Musical Spirit of New Orleans"

In case you missed it, Siddhartha Mitter wrote an advance article in The Boston Globe on the Preservation Hall Jazz Band's Symphony Hall concert - our season opener:

"Six of the seven musicians lost their homes to the floodwaters of Hurricane
Katrina. A year after the storm, only two of the seven have been able to move
back to New Orleans. Yet compared to many other New Orleans musicians, the
members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band are the fortunate ones."

Read all of Preserving the Musical Spirit of New Orleans.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Sweet Emma "The Bell Gal" Barrett's Preservation Hall Band

Here's a photo of a 1960s version of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band featuring (seated) Sweet Emma “The Bell Gal” Barrett.

The 2006 version plays this Sunday at Symphony Hall with special guest pianist Ellis Marsalis and a host of clowns, jugglers, musicians, and general Mardi Gras types: "The New Orleans Revue"

Dudley Does Britten and Pears

Tears of a Clownsilly has posted video (from YouTube, of course) of Dudley Moore parodying pianist/composer Benjamin Britten and tenor Peter Pears: Britten's "lost" version of "Little Miss Muffet." If I ever knew Dudley Moore was this talented, I had forgotten. Please observe a moment of silent tribute to what television once, briefly, was.

By the way, Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears played the Celebrity Series (Jordan Hall, as a matter of fact) on October 28, 1969. The program included Britten's Winter Words, Schumann's Dichterliebe, and 4 Britten arrangements of British folk songs. No Dudley Moore, no Little Miss Muffet, but I'm sure it was lovely nonetheless.

New Orleans Bingo Master

Read Christopher Blagg's Boston Herald profile of Clint Maedgen (pronounced may-gin), Preservation Hall's unusual (yeah, you could say that) point man for "The New Orleans Revue."

"'We add a guerrilla theater element to Preservation Hall,' said
Maedgen, mischievously adding, 'I do bring a little somethin’ somethin’ to the

Season Opener - This Sunday!

A wild time at Symphony Hall!
Get tickets

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Henry Lim's lego harpsichord

Lim gets it done

Here is just one more reason why I love The Well-Tempered Blog. I trust WTB to keep me up to date on all things keyboard, and I'm never disappointed. This time he's found a project designed to appeal to the kid, the geek and the music lover in all of us - all at once. An über-geek (and don't think for a minute that I mean that as an insult) by the name of Henry Lim used over 100,000 legos to build a full-size, working harpsichord (while you and I were, no doubt, watching the new fall TV lineup or calling for pizza). Except for the strings, the entire thing is made of legos. Here is a detailed description, with photos (and an mp3!).

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Rickie Monie, piano, Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Rickie Monie, piano, Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Born February 4, 1952, New Orleans, Louisiana
Played with: Dave Bartholomew, Frogman Henry, Dr. Michael White, Greg Stafford, Topsy Chapman

Raised in the Ninth Ward, Monie [pronounced: Moe-nay] was the son of amateur musicians and full-time lovers of jazz. Both parents played for church services; at home they kept the turntable spinning with records by Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Teddy Wilson -- all the greatest pianists of jazz and gospel music. The French Quarter was Rickie's playground: His family rode the bus into the Quarter, where they heard music pouring out of the doorways they passed on Bourbon St. During these excursions he heard and came to know Milton Batiste, Manny Sayles, Harold "Duke" Dejan, and many of the other old New Orleans jazz masters. Later, Rickie began making the trip himself on the Desire bus while also beginning to play weekend church services on piano. He majored in woodwind instruments at Dillard University. Piano remained his main focus as he picked up work in every style of music, from the upscale Windsor Court lounge to country & western clubs as well as with the legendary Olympia Brass Band. In 1982 Monie got his first call from Preservation Hall, to substitute for the legendary resident pianist Sweet Emma “The Bell Gal” Barrett after she suffered a stroke. To the delight of audiences around the world, he's stayed onboard ever since.

"We play gospel music here. We play old spirituals. We play military marches. There's no end to the variety of music that we play. But we play it all our way. And the more we play, the more the level of happiness rises. Just to watch our audiences go wow when we play, that gives me a good feeling and makes me want to put out more."

“We spent seven weeks in West Africa. We played inside theaters and churches, but we also went into the wilds, the tribal areas. And the response there was just as if those Africans had seen someone in New Orleans dancing. They were making the same movements! Another thing I've noticed is that little children brighten up when they hear us. They move. And a lot of times they'll move to the music. Now, what does a child know about rhythm? But they're right on it. All of this tells me that our music offers something that can be understood even across the waters and across the generations."

Monie weathered Hurricane Katrina, though all of his possessions, including a nine-foot concert grand piano and a vintage Hammond B-3 organ, were destroyed. As the storm subsided he left town with his wife for Baton Rouge, where her mother owned a rental home. There were already eleven people seeking refuge there, with no hot water or appliances; there was, however, a sturdy roof and a dry floor to sleep on. As of this writing, the crowd has thinned a bit. Monie and his wife are still in Baton Rouge, putting the pieces of their lives together as they build a new just outside New Orleans.

“Playing with this band has helped me get over the hump because we’re like brothers and the music we play is joyful and happy. There were lots of hugs when we got together for the first time after Katrina, but I have mixed feelings about the future. We’re probably the last generation of musicians who really know this music, because we learned it directly from the older guys. I’m concerned about who will take up the baton when it’s time for us to pass it along. We are like a precious stone now, and that feels good, but more than anything I want this music to go on. It should last forever.”

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tower falls

News of Tower Records' passing is not an easy thing to take if you, like me, spent portions -significant portions - (OK, enormous portions) of your youth browsing in book and record stores. I won't miss the sometimes surly clerks (though I feel for the 3,000 people that will lose their jobs) or the dust, but I will miss knowing there is a place to go where one can make unintended discoveries. For some of us, record stores were our own research facilities. Bookstores, it would seem, can still serve this need (more or less), so I still sleep. But I do not rest easy.

Rich around the (virtual) Globe

New York Times colmnist and author Frank Rich seems to be everywhere these days, from WBUR's Here and Now (audio) to Bloomberg.com to The Mindanao Daily Mirror in The Philippines, promoting his new book, The Greatest Story Ever Sold: Bush’s America from “Mission Accomplished” to “Heckuva Job, Brownie.

Mr. Rich, as I may have mentioned before, comes to John Hancock Hall on October 22.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Happy Columbus Day!

I can't say I have ever fully understood why Columbus needs an annual celebration, but I guess Ohio only has one capital. Har.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Kapilow's "Beethoven 101: a Crash Course" on WNYC

Fans of our own Rob Kapilow (we think of him as our own) can check out the Maestro of What Makes It Great? tonight when his Beethoven 101: a Crash Course airs on New York’s NPR station, WNYC-FM and www.wnyc.org.

Friday, October 6, 2006

Thriving on irritation and dread

Hey, turn that hat around, you're not a catcher!

We're not sure which Garrison Keillor we're going to get when he shows up this February at Symphony Hall. Will we get his patented Prairie Home Companion soliloquies about Lutherans, small town life, simple joys and deep feelings rendered in his gentle baritone? Will he be Guy Noir, his parodic gumshoe alter-ego? Or will he come as the Garrison Keillor we encounter most in his syndicated columns, The Curmudgeon?

Until we get the opportunity to find out, I recommend the sampler platter, tuning in to his radio show and reading his columns and other output. To that end here is a snippet of his most recent column with a link to the full text:

"Twice in my life I have lived in rural paradises like Montana and I learned that contentment only goes so far and what I thrive on is irritation and dread. You need the city for that.

1. A guy walks down the avenue with his baseball cap backwards on his head and you want to shake him until his contacts fall out. He is in his early 30s but thinks of himself as an 8-year-old. He is Narcissus in sneakers.

2. People who, instead of saying, "That is so cool," say, "How cool is that?" A way of expressing enthusiasm without sounding enthusiastic. How dumb is that?"

Read all of: If you thrive on vexation, these are the best of times in The Arizona Daily Star.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

John Brunious, trumpet, Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Sometimes the biographies in our concert programs are just plain boring. I can admit it. They're useful, but they're often boring. That's okay, we really aren't there to read, anyway. The bios we have received for the Preservation Hall Jazz Band's New Orleans Revue tour are different. Every band member's story is told in some depth, with quotes from the musicians detailing their connection to New Orleans and its music and how the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina affected them. I'm starting with bandleader and trumpeter John Brunious.

John Brunious, trumpet, Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Born: October 12, 1940 Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana
Played with: Clyde McPhatter, Tony Mitchell, Paul Barbarin

Bandleader John Brunious is a gifted ambassador for the music and spirit of New Orleans -- an elegant and witty raconteur as well as a player of exceptional expressiveness. From his earliest days in the city's Seventh Ward John breathed in the spirit and sound of jazz: His father, John Sr., a respected trumpeter, composer, and arranger, took him to hear the great parade bands and later invited Johnny St. Cyr, Paul Barbarin, and other friends over to trade stories about Louis Armstrong and other acquaintances from the halcyon days. John began taking lessons from his father at age ten but mostly taught himself to play by listening to records and emulating what he heard; inspired by Dizzy Gillespie and Maynard Ferguson, he developed a flair for flashy, high-note solos that earned him work at gigs and on record sessions in a variety of styles. Traditional jazz, the foundation for all the later styles, never lost its appeal. Eventually, while playing at a club called Crazy Shirley's in the French Quarter, he walked a half block down St. Peter Street to hear the band at Preservation Hall, which included trumpeter Ernie Cagnolatti and tenor saxman Andrew Morgan. They invited Brunious to sit in -- that was over 20 years ago, and he's been at the Hall ever since.

"Ever since my father took me to hear those parade bands and funeral bands, I'd wanted to play this kind of music. It's a music that can express just about everything you experience in life. Now, whether we're going to different parts of the world or playing at Preservation Hall, people from just about every country in the world can share that experience. Let me put it this way: I consider New Orleans jazz to be a treasure, and it's wonderful to be able to share that treasure."

Hurricane Katrina was a devastating experience for the band’s beloved trumpeter. He not only lost his home and all of his possessions, he also had to literally fight for his life after being caught in the raging waters – three times – that ravaged his neighborhood. In the wake of the disaster Brunious received several new trumpets from friends and well-wishers, but his main horn remains the same one he played before Katrina. Once the floodwaters had receded, Preservation Hall Director Ben Jaffe retrieved the battered instrument from the wreckage, and trombonist Frank Demond sent it to a friend in California who was able to return it in perfect repair.

“We’ve gotten extra-special vibes from our audiences since Katrina. People all around the world have been so nice to us. And we run into people like that every night, man. It’s made me feel closer than I ever have to them, just as the friendship we feel within the band has only gotten deeper. I love New Orleans, and I hope one day that my wife and I can go back home at last.”

Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The New Orleans Revue, October 15, 5pm, Symphony Hall

Exhibitionist tip

Why muck about? I'll cut to the chase on this, just the way Geoff Edgers did on his Boston Globe blog, Exhibitionist: There's a new music series out in Holyoke.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Clowns? We got 'em!

Lbbyclwn_1 When it comes to clowns, some people think circuses. Clownphobes think Halloween. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band thinks Mardi Gras - and they oughta know.

When Pres Hall comes to Symphony Hall October 15, in addition to the great New Orleans jazz, the special musical guest Ellis Marsalis, the multi-media extravaganza, the high-speed bingo with antique bingo cards, the magic tricks, the skits, there will be Mardi Gras clowns in the lobby! Hey, it's their 45th anniversary, they're not fooling around.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Sisyphus, with the shakes

Maybe you've heard of this fellow, Winter. Just Winter. Winter is on a quest, of sorts, to visit every Starbucks location in North America. Sure, he's heard the wide ranging number of stores rumored to open daily (3?, 5? 40?), but he's undeterred. He has posted a photo of every location he has visited on his web site, http://www.starbuckseverywhere.net/, and he has visited an incredible number of them.

Monday, October 2, 2006

Can it be? Anne-Sophie Mutter to retire at 45 (or thereabouts)?

The last thing I want to do with this blog is be part of the rumor mill, but if this is true, it is certainly newsworthy. According to Musicalamerica.com, superstar violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, in an interview with the French-German television channel Arte, announced the date of her retirement.

"'Yes, yes, I said it. It is my plan to stop when I reach my 45th birthday,' the German-born violin virtuoso declared Sunday evening in an interview with the French-German television channel Arte. Only 43 on June 29, that would mean that her performing career ends in a little more than 20 months. 'Nevertheless, it is not the precise date which counts,' she added, giving herself some leeway, 'but rather a certain period of time at the end of which I will leave the scene before, behind my back, people dream of my retirement.'"

It would seem she is giving herself a little wiggle room on the actual date, but it does make one wonder if our November 14 recital could be her last in Boston (?!)...Unfortunately, Musicalamerica.com is available to subscribers only, and I have been unable to find a corroborating story on the web. Stay tuned...