Thursday, March 29, 2007

Loved songs from Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra


Pianist Dan Nimmer, bassist Carlos Henriquez and Wynton Marsalis during their encore number, viewed through the Symphony Hall backstage monitor

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis came to Symphony Hall last night for a program called The Songs We Love. Here are the set lists for the evening, featuring some very lovable songs:

First set
On the Sunny Side of the Street
April in Paris
I Left my Heart in San Francisco ("This may be impolitic since we're in Boston...")
Way Down Yonder in New Orleans
A Night in Tunisia
Tea for Two
Down by the Riverside

Second set
Autumn Leaves
All of Me
Blue Skies
Happy Birthday (for Laurie Temperley, wife of J@LCO baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley)
My Favorite Things
Rhapsody in Blue

Midnight Blues (alternate title: Wynton Tears It Up)

Backstage following a J@LC concert is always a bit chaotic, in a loose and friendly sort of way, and last night was no exception. The band packed amidst a throng of people, good naturedly carrying saxophones, drums, basses and all to the stage door, chatting all the while. Wynton held court in the usual way and I heard him say several times in a familiar, soft, high-pitched voice, "well, we're just tryin' to play, you know, we're just tryin' to play..."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Boys Choir of Harlem founder dies

Walter J. Turnbull

Walter J. Turnbull, founder and longtime leader of the Boys Choir of Harlem, died last Friday in New York. Turnbull, a native of Greenville, Mississippi, founded the choir in 1968. He was 62 years old.

The Boys Choir of Harlem made four appearances on the Celebrity Series between 1996 and 2000.

New York Daily News obituary

Los Angeles Times obituary

Boys Choir of Harlem web site

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Barbara Cook charms everyone

(Left to right) Jeff Thomson, host of the BDO Siedman reception, Barbara Cook and Celebrity Series President Martha H. Jones at Symphony Hall last Saturday night.

Barbara Cook sang her audience into a kind of frenzy of adoration last Saturday. She had 'em in the palm of her hand all evening. For song after song and all the patter in between it was we-love-you-just-keep-telling-stories-and-singing all night. Then she came to a reception afterward and charmed everyone one-on-one. One staff member remarked, "I want her to come and live with me!"

Friday, March 23, 2007

Barbara Cook on Lakisha Jones

Barbara Cook is in town. She got here today in advance of her performance tomorrow night at Symphony Hall. On her way to the venue to have a look around, Ms. Cook waxed rhapsodic about Lakisha Jones of American Idol fame:

"Just go to Youtube and watch Lakisha sing that song from Dreamgirls or God Bless the Child. That girl's got a voice!"

OK, we'll bite. Here's a video clip of Lakisha Jones singing God Bless the Child.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

"Tales from the 'Hood," Jon Garelick on Wynton Marsalis

Is that an aircraft hangar he's standing in or a REALLY big club?

Jon Garelick ruminates in today's Boston Phoenix on Wynton Marsalis, mostly covering his new CD, From the Plantation to the Penitentiary, but also the legacy of performers he has inspired, his politics, etc. He even manages to get in our Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton concert next Wednesday at Symphony Hall. All in all, a thorough outing from Jon. Here's a taste:

"From the beat of the first hand-slapped tambourine, you know who you’re listening to. For all the cries back in the bad old days about how conservative his music was, what was true then is true now: no one sounds like Wynton Marsalis, and he doesn’t sound like anyone else. Looking back at his "Live at Blues Alley" (Columbia, 1988), critic Ben Ratliff pointed out that the music was accessible rather than obscure — “Yet if a traveling musician from an earlier generation of jazz were plopped down in the middle of one of these burnout tunes and asked to hang in there, he’d be at sea."

Here's the rest of Tales from the 'hood.

Twilight Savings Time

Just got around to this delightful little "twilight savings time" post from fullermusic, a recital review complete with photos of Boston in a state of near near-Spring. Now where did I put that camera...?

"Warm with showers," The Phoenix on Cirque Eloize's "Rain"

Marcia Siegel reviewed Cirque Eloize for The Boston Phoenix. Here's a bit of her review:

"Early in the evening, a woman stands in a dogmatic downlight and asks, “What’s with this new circus anyway? It’s so cerebral . . . ” Another woman wanders in and tries to explain: “New circus explores the unconscious.” While they’re debating æsthetics, an object that looks like a size 14 sneaker falls out of the flies and thuds to the floor. Then another and another. “That’s beautiful!” the young woman remarks in an aside, as the argument continues."

Read all of Warm with showers.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Giant Post-it note table...genius!

The Genius Table

It's a table with a top made of giant post-it notes. They're calling it a "Genius Table," but other than that misnomer it was practically made for me. Just ask anyone who has seen my desk...I heard about it via this post on

Boston Globe reviews National Phil of Russia

Jeremy Eichler from The Boston Globe offered a more mixed assessment of the National Philharmonic of Russia than did Mr. Gantz, but since this isn't an email thread between the two of them, Mr. Eichler's review will take precedence here. Here's a smidge of Russian orchestra makes a booming debut (I sense a theme running through these...):

"The group's playing overall was pleasantly booming and extroverted, with
aggressive brass and extremely spirited if roughly groomed strings. The
Shostakovich bubbled and popped in all the right places, and the Tchaikovsky
brimmed, if not with pathos, then with visceral orchestral excitement, though it
was marred by some wayward passages in the winds and brass. Spivakov's resume
earns him more authority as a violinist than as a conductor, and this program
offered little evidence on which to revise that opinion, but it hit the major
bases and was very enthusiastically received."

Read all of Russian orchestra makes a booming debut.

Big Like the Motherland: The Phoenix on National Phil of Russia


National Philharmonic of Russia

Lot's of people braved the storm to hear the National Philharmonic of Russia with Vladimir Spivakov and Olga Kern last Friday at Symphony Hall - lots of reviewers, too. Jeffrey Gantz of The Boston Phoenix was out of the gate first with a review bearing the oddly enjoyable headline, Big Like the Motherland. I think it should be the title of the Orchestra's next CD, but that's me:

"The orchestra got off to a good start before even playing a
note, having seated itself with first and second violins deployed antiphonally
rather than grouped together on the conductor’s left; this is the arrangement
that Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky wrote for, and the one that many conductors
(BSO music director James Levine among them) are returning to.
Shostakovich’s Festival Overture was first performed (there’s some
question about when it was written) in November 1954, in celebration of the 37th
anniversary of the Revolution. It’s a kind of Russian Pops piece, the slow
introduction giving way to zippy fare that could accompany the Rockettes or the
June Taylor Dancers. Under an unostentatious Spivakov it never sounded the least
bit cynical or cheap; the introduction was heavy-footed and hymn-like (you could
hear the Orthodox chant influence), and the release of tension when Spivakov
changed speeds conjured great Russian conductors of the past century, Evgeny
Mravinsky and Igor Markevich. Who knew Shostakovich could be so much fun?"

Read all of Big Like the Motherland.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Prazák Quartet encore

Tonight's concert by the Prazák Quartet with Roger Tapping was unremarkable, unless, of course you enjoy excellent music played excellently...

The full quintet with Mr. Tapping played the encore, the second movement, Menuetto, from Mozart's String Quintet in G minor, K. 516.

National Philharmonic of Russia encores: Olga Kern

Last night's concert by the National Philharmonic of Russia yielded two encores in addition to the regular program. Both were played before intermission and both were solo piano works, played by the evening's piano soloist, Olga Kern: Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C#, Opus 3, no. 2 and Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee.


After the performance I witnessed something I have never seen following an orchestral concert. Maestro Vladimir Spivakov waited backstage to personally greet dozens of members of the orchestra as they came offstage with what were clearly words of thanks and congratulations. They were speaking Russian, of course, which I do not speak, but the substance of what conductor and orchestra were saying to each other was clear. There were a lot of hugs and kisses and a lot of genuine affection. It has been my experience that most conductors retire to their private rooms after a performance, maybe staying long enough for a word or two with the concertmaster, but Spivakov clearly has a close relationship with his musicians.

Friday, March 16, 2007

National Phil. of Russia, Cirque Éloize will perform tonight

Two planes full of Russian musicians and one truckload of their instruments have arrived in Boston. Tonight's performance by the National Philharmonic of Russia is ON.

And so is tonight's scheduled performance by Cirque Éloize at the Cutler Majestic Theatre.

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor big, scary weather graphics on the local news will deter us from our appointed, etc, etc. Come on out!

Boston Phoenix on Leipzig Gewandhaus

Riccardo Chailly, "rhythm and character"

Boston Phoenix classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz wasn't looking forward to the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra's February 28 program, but, he wrote, "I’ve enjoyed few orchestral concerts this season more."

It was Riccardo Chailly's first visit to Boston at the helm of the Leipzig orchestra, his last three visits were with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (courtesy of your friendly neighborhood Celebrity Series, of course). Put simply, Lloyd was impressed:

"Chailly has two qualities that are the sine qua non of great conductors: rhythm and character. He seems incapable of allowing a dull or empty phrase to emerge from the ensemble. He actually plays phrases rather than notes, and each phrase has a kind of rhythmic snap that keeps listeners on their toes. Strauss’s Don Juan virtually exploded, and then the great oboe solo, depicting the Don Juan’s ideal love (or his longing for it), spun out like a beautiful aria, vocal silk. Even the usually bloated Ein Heldenleben (“A Hero’s Life” — Strauss’s not exactly modest self-portrait) had an irresistible forward rush, partly the result of Leipzig’s lean string sound and partly created by Chailly’s decision to aerate the orchestral texture by placing (as does BSO music director James Levine) the first and second violins on opposite sides of the stage. The basses practically hanging over the edge of the stage gave a thrilling buzz to the bottom-feeding lower depths."  Read Lloyd Schwartz's complete review

Win a MINI (that's me!)

Hi, there, Mini_3

It's me, the MINI Cooper that the Celebrity Series is raffling. You know, the ragtop that's gorgeous in any color (but actual color may vary), remember me?

I don't want to be too obvious about it, but I want to make a plea for the right owner to win me. The kind of owner who will appreciate my unique combination of style and engineering, my zip, my cuteness - in short, my all around guy and gal appeal. I'm not just a great engine, chassis and electrical system, I'm a lifestyle, a message to the world. But I'm not only cute and carefree; I'm engineered by the BEST.

I want someone who will appreciate me, appreciate all I have to offer. You might think you have no control over this, but you DO. You don't think this message reached you by accident, do you? Buy a raffle ticket to win ME and make sure I don't fall into the wrong hands...

Visit my raffle page for more details.


MINI Cooper S Convertible

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The New 7 Wonders of the World

The Sagamore Bridge

I, for one, don't mind participating in giant digressions from the problems of the world, since after reading this morning's Globe article on the New 7 Wonders Project, where participants vote to update the "7 Wonders of the Ancient World" or make suggestions of their own, I visited the organization's web site and had a look around. Despite the feeling that all of this stems from some deep insecurities (that which truly unites us all), or that it celebrates Nationalism on a grand scale, or that it will be about as fair and unbiased as the Major League All-Star Ballot, I was curious to see what my options were so far.

I found The Statue of Liberty, The Taj Mahal (that's The Taj Mahal, not Taj Mahal), Stonehenge, Macchu Picchu...not bad - but The Sydney Opera House? I would sooner vote for The Sagamore Bridge! Wait, that's good! Hmmm...The Giant Garden of Wonders on Route 1 in Saugus, The Great Pyramid of Snow at The Burlington Mall, The Mysterious Labyrinth of Park Street Station. So many possibilities...

Same "Rain," different day

My earlier post , A "Rain" Review, is, doubtless, causing some of you to become confused (I know this because I, too, am one of "the often confused"). We do expect a Boston Globe review of Cirque Eloize's Rain - now running at the Cutler Majestic Theatre - in the next day or so. I will be posting that review and any others that pop up...

UPDATE: Never did find that Globe review, it was a good one,'s Marcia Siegel from The Boston Phoenix on Cirque.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Cirque Eloize "ringer" to visit Boston with the whole Cirque gang

Lexington native Jonas Woolverton doing his thing for Cirque Éloize

Tenley Woodman had a chat with Lexington High School graduate and Dresden Dolls...well, doll, I guess, Jonas Woolverton, of Cirque Éloize for yesterday's Boston Herald:

"Woolverton, 29, is a four-year veteran of the Montreal-based arts troupe. He splits his time contorting his form in “Rain” - which begins a six-day run at the Cutler Majestic Theatre on Tuesday - and performing with the Boston rock duo Dresden Dolls.

'It’s this ongoing collaboration,' Woolverton said of his work with the Dolls’ Amanda Palmer, who was a classmate at Lexington High School.

Hopefully with Rain I bring some of that rock ’n’ roll, fiery element to it. With the Dresden Dolls I think what we are trying to do is bring our experiences as actors and clowns (to the stage). To do a circus act in the middle of a rock club, people don’t expect that at all."

Read all of Lexington-raised Woolverton is Cirque's 'Rain' man

Cirque Éloize and Jonas Woolverton begin their run at the Cutler Majestic Theatre tomorrow evening and continue through Sunday.

John Cage in Iran

John Cage, composer and rather famous non-Persian

The whole story and more is available via links on Alex Ross' blog The Rest is Noise (where you can also read about how much money there is stashed around The Hub...), but this is not a joke, The Tehran Symphony played as part of Bukhara magazine's "Night of John Cage" at Tehran Conservatory last Thursday.

Makes me want to dig out that old John Cage Meets Sun Ra LP...

Dylan Hears A Who!

It starts as some rather impressive silly fun with Photoshop and other digital wonders. Then, when you realize there are 7 complete cuts plus links to additional album artwork, things begin to seem a bit obsessive (not that that's a problem). Oddly, it isn't Dylan - real or imagined - or Dr. Seuss for that matter, that make this tick for me, it's the Photoshop work. Check out Dylan Hears A Who!.

I've come across this in several places so I'm not sure where the credit for hipping me to it belongs, perhaps just the blogoshpere...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Gorey and cats

It's simply a wonderful photo.

Prazák Quartet concert to be recorded for WGBH radio

The Pražák Quartet

The Prazák Quartet concert taking place a week from tomorrow (March 17) with violist Roger Tapping will be recorded by WGBH radio, 89.7 FM, for future broadcast (bring your cough drops!). If you think you missed something or just want to hear your favorite parts again, you'll have another chance to hear it. Check here or here for date and time.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Counterstream radio

The American Music Center (known for lots of good reasons, including originally composed telephone hold music) is officially launching an internet radio station called Counterstream Radio on March 16 (though it seems to be up and running now). Here is how Counterstream Radio is describing itself:

"Counterstream Radio is your online home for exploring the music of America's composers. The only principle that defines the music we broadcast is that it's never about following the rules: This is music created without regard for anyone who says, "You can't do that!"

Drawing upon the American Music Center's substantial library of recorded music, Counterstream Radio's programming is remarkable for its depth and eclecticism. Mixing the work of composers such as Elliott Carter, John Cage, Bill Frisell, Kid 606, Abbey Lincoln, Milton Babbitt, Philip Glass, Morton Feldman, Laurie Anderson, and hundreds more, the station streams influential music of many pedigrees 24 hours a day. Keep listening and discover the sound of music without limits."

And from the station's press release, the short version of how Counterstream Radio came to be, reminding me why, despite The Yankees, I love New York:

"Counterstream Radio is supported in part by a major grant from the New York State Music Fund, an innovative program created by the Office of the New York State Attorney General to make contemporary music of all genres more available and accessible to diverse audiences and communities within New York State. The fund grew out of settlements with major recording companies investigated for violating state and federal laws prohibiting "pay for play" (also called "payola")."

Thanks to Classically Hip.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Curt's in...

Curt Schilling (I know, he pitches for the Boston Red Sox, nothing to do with the arts) has started a blog, called 38 Pitches. This announcement is in no way intended to condone what Mr. Schilling might say on his blog, what he might throw from the mound, the use of bloody socks, the throwing of gyro balls, etc.

Just trying to keep everyone informed...

A "Rain" review

More than just "it rains onstage," although that's a lot

This 2005 review of Cirque Eloize's Rain (March 13-18, Cutler Majestic Theatre) from Angela Jones for caught my eye today:

"I hate everything... generally. I'm a typical ex-modern-dancer-turned-downtown cynic who starts by looking for the predictable in every show. But Cirque Eloize's "Rain,"...blew me out of the water (quite literally). It somehow managed to pull me in and hold my attention from start to finish by being charming, utterly surprising, engaging, evocative, humorous, playful, poignant, and aesthetically pleasing to boot."

The review is a rave (natch), but what struck me about it as a relative circus neophyte is this bit and the buildup to it:

"If you read the circus trade journals, you will notice a lot of discussion about questions like: What is circus? What is the new circus? When is it theater, and when is it circus? Eloize not only captures the essence of really good circus with its amazing acts, but more importantly it manages to capture the heart of circus, the memories and pictures of joy which come from each of our own pasts."

First of all, "circus trade journals"? And in the plural? And second, who knew there was so much to know about the circus beyond, "how do they do that?"

Oh, and there's a bit of video available on this page, which coincidentally also has a link to buy tickets...

Friday, March 2, 2007

The Leipzig-Boston connection

The orchestra had made six previous Celebrity Series appearances in Symphony Hall under Kurt Masur. Still the Leipzig Gewandhaus musicians, staff, and conductor were clearly elated to be performing in the building Charles McKim so closely modeled on their orchestra's one-time home, the original Leipzig Gewandhaus. None of the musicians in the orchestra could have performed in the old Gewandhaus as it was destroyed by Allied bombs in 1944. One might suppose that this performance represented a kind of pilgrimage for the Orchestra. It certainly seemed that way.

Conductor Arthur Nikisch (seated at piano) in 1906

Curt Nickisch, who is a Business and Technology reporter with WBUR radio, came to the performance as a guest of the Celebrity Series. Mr. Nikisch had lived for a time with the family of a violist in the orchestra, and that violist's daughter had lived with his family as an exchange student, so he was interested in renewing an old acquaintance (and in hearing an excellent concert, of course).

Maestro Chailly was particularly interested in meeting Curt because his Great Great Uncle was the Hungarian conductor, Arthur Nikisch. Nikisch was the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra's Kappelmeister from 1895 until his death in 1922, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Music Director from 1889 to 1893. So Arthur Nikisch was a link between the Boston and Leipzig Orchestras, and very much on Chailly's mind. The Maestro gave Curt and various bystanders an impressive primer on his ancestor's accomplishments and told Curt that his Great Great Uncle's portrait hangs in his office.

Tobias Höhn, a German journalist and blogger, has been traveling with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra on their US tour. His web site, including blog and photo gallery can be found here. I am posting a few of his Symphony Hall photos below.

Curt Nikisch (left) and Riccardo Chailly

Piano tuner John von Rohr (left) and pianist Yundi Li

Pianist Yundi Li (left) and Maestro Riccardo Chailly on the Symphony Hall stage



Just to reiterate, Tobias Höhn has posted more photos of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra's Boston visit and the rest of their US tour within this site:

Globe reviews Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

Maestro Riccardo Chailly

David Weininger reviewed Wednesday's performance by the the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra with Kapellmeister Riccardo Chailly and piano soloist Yundi Li for the Boston Globe:

"Chailly is an intensely physical conductor; he leads with large yet precise gestures that never seem showy or flamboyant. The rocketing string figure that begins "Don Juan" set the stage for a performance that was vital and exciting but also rigorously controlled and paced. The clarity of detail Chailly maintained, even in the most heavily scored parts, was a wonder."

Read all of A Soaring Celebration of Strauss

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Leipzig Gewandhaus encore

Quite a few of you have wanted to know what the encore was at last night's concert by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. I won't keep you waiting any longer, it was Strauss' Salome's Dance.

30k and still open for business

...All Night

That which doesn't kill us makes us kvetch, self-important, tired, stronger. This blog just hit the 30,000 page view mark and is moments away from 500 posts since its birthing. The monkey on my back is putting on weight. This would be an excellent time to pause and reflect on something but there is just too much going on. I'll revisit this fascinating topic in, say, June, if you can wait that long...