Thursday, February 28, 2008

Big news from the Ailey company's Judith Jamison

Judith Jamison

Things will be changing at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater starting in 2011. Get the story from the Ailey company web site.

UPDATE: The New York Times article announcing Judith Jamison's retirement.

New slide show from the Cherryholmes band

This just in - literally. A slide show covering Cherryholmes' recent tour dates in Scotland.

Take a look.


Received this righteous blast this morning from a patron on our e-mail list.

"Your message states 'It might seem a little like United Kingdom month at the
Celebrity Series, what with the Camerata Ireland, The Royal Scots
Dragoon Guards , and The Chieftains all scheduled. Even the bluegrass
family band Cherryholmes is known to do a bit of Irish step dancing in
their show.'

Oh, Maureen, you are so right. I was a fool when I wrote that Ireland is part of the UK - forgive me Paddy Moloney!  - and I'm a red-faced fool now. Thank you for calling me out. I only hope the good folks at O'Connor's will still serve me my bangers and mash with a smile.

No matter what I said, Cherryholmes does do some mean Irish step dancing, which is extraordinary when you consider they are originally from California (which is not part of the UK, by the way).

Cherryholmes profile on NPR

Cherryholmes in action

If you aren't yet familiar with the bluegrass family band phenomenon known as Cherryholmes, then this eight minute audio clip from NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday from '06 is just the thing to get you up to speed (I've pointed you to the home page for the story, you need to click on the link near the top left once the page loads for the eight minute clip.) In addition to the story, you can listen to several audio clips of the group's performances on the page, too.

Cherryholmes will be at Sanders Theatre this Sunday at 3pm.

Camerata Ireland and Barry Douglas BBC clip

Just came across this nice little introduction to The Camerata Ireland and Barry Douglas. The clip takes the form of four short segments of a BBC produced profile.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Alfred Brendel in the Globe

I have been remiss. I neglected to mention the Boston Globe's two fine pieces on Alfred Brendel. Here are their links:

David Weininger's preview article, His final bow.

Jeremy Eichler's concert review, Pianist Brendel bids a serenely Brendellian farewell

Alfred Brendel's encores

It took a little while, but I finally did get confirmation of Alfred Brendel's encores from his recital on Friday evening (I knew I should have elbowed my way to the head of the line...). They were as follows:

1. J.S. Bach, "Andante" from Concerto nach Italienischem Gusto, "Italian Concerto"

2. Liszt, “Au Lac de Wallenstadt” from Années de pèlerinage, Première Année – Suisse

3. Schubert, Impromptu No. 3 in G-flat major from Four Impromptus, Op. 90 (D. 899)
3. Schubert, Impromptu in A flat Major, from Four Impromptus, Op. 142, No. 2 (D. 935)

Mr. Brendel came off stage following each piece, stood for a beat, wiping his brow with a handkerchief, turned on his heel and strode back out on stage. No muss, no fuss. It was impressive, and made the process seem athletic.

UPDATE: I made a mistake on Mr. Brendel's third encore. It was indeed a Schubert work. See above.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Video excerpt from The Chieftains and Friends

Here's a good video quality excerpt from a produced overview of The Chieftains. Not sure of the year, but speakers include fiddler Martin Fay, since retired from touring, and the late harpist for the band, Derek Bell.

The Chieftains will be in Symphony Hall on Friday, March 14. You can find a list of special guests and buy tickets here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Preservation Hall trumpeter John Brunious, 1940-2008

John Brunious

Trumpeter John Brunious, a fixture at the helm of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band for 20 years, has died at age 67. His funeral will take place this Friday, February 22. He will be honored with a jazz funeral second line procession this Saturday, February 23 at 1pm.

The Celebrity Series presented Mr. Brunious and the Pres Hall band countless times over his tenure, always in Symphony Hall. I remember a touching moment when the band played a post-Katrina benefit to open our 2006-2007 season. The band played a beautiful show, complete with wacky old cartoons on a giant screen and a thrilling guest appearance by Ellis Marsalis. The band came to the Cajun dinner that followed. John Brunious sat for the entire dinner with his trumpet on the floor beside his chair, "I don't let it out of my sight," he said. The silver-plated Conn trumpet had been a gift from the Tipitina's Foundation several months earlier. Brunious had lost six trumpets to Katrina's floodwaters and had himself been rescued from a second story window.

My favorite quote from Mr. Brunious came from Ben Jaffe as quoted in the group's press release on Brunious's passing: ‘There’s another Louis Armstrong somewhere out there in New Orleans.  I’m going to find them and teach them all I got.’

Preservation Hall Jazz Band press release

New Orleans Times-Picayune obituary

Times-Picayune listing of funeral arrangements

San Francsico Chronicle obituary

Los Angeles Times obituary

Preservation Hall Jazz Band video footage of "Hindustan" featuring Brunious

John Brunious's wikipedia page

UPDATE: Photos of John Brunious' February 23 Jazz Funeral in New Orleans

Dragoon Guards: new name, no horses

The show that we have been calling "The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the Band of the Coldstream Guards" will now be called:

"Pipes, Drums and Dancers of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and The Regimental Band, Her Majesty's Coldstream Guards"

No, I'm not kidding. Hey, they have been accruing traditions and names for quite some time now. Relax, you can buy a ticket without having to say their entire name.

In case you missed it, the new name highlights the fact that the show will include highland dancers.

Also, there will be no horses in the show. Think about it, it's in Symphony Hall.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bolshoi ballerina Natalia Bessmertnova has died

Maya Plissetskaya (L) and Natalie Bessmertnova in 1969

Natalia Bessmertnova, one of the most celebrated Russian ballerinas of the Soviet era, has died at age 66. Bessmertnova danced with the Bolshoi from 1961 to 1995, making at least one Celebrity Series appearance during that time, in 1962.

Associated Press obituary obituary

Link to video of Bessmertnova dancing the Grand Adagio from Spartacus in 1982

Many more videos of Bessmertnova and others from The Bolshoi are available on the Bolshoi Ballet Youtube Channel.

Globe reviews Guarneri and Johannes Quartets

Globe Correspondent Matthew Guerrieri reviewed Friday evening's performance by the Guarneri and Johannes String Quartets for Monday's paper. It's another typically enjoyable read from Guerrieri:

"The excellent performances highlighted each group's tonal approach: If the Johannes's chromium-steel clarity was like a deep-focus photograph, the Guarneri opted for painted brush strokes, softer-edged, smoothing sonic contrasts with a warm varnish."

Read all of string quartets showcase power and polish.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Royal Scots Dragoon Guards troops headed for Afghanistan


Lest you think the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards that the Celebrity Series is bringing to Symphony Hall on March 9 are some kind of trumped up, pseudo-warriors who took a few piping lessons and are now posing as soldiers, note this article from The Midlothian Advertiser describing recent deployments to Afghanistan of Scottish troops. Among the troops being deployed are 120 soldiers from B Squadron of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. They are the real thing.

I know, it shuts me up, too.

You can read about the new CD by the unit's Pipes and Drums on the regimental web site. You can get tickets to the Pipes and Drums Boston performance here.

Note: The eagle facsimile on the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards cap badge (pictured above)
represents the eagle of the 45th Infantry(that's the French infantry)
captured by a the Scots Greys at The Battle of Waterloo. Yes, that Battle of Waterloo. Believe me now?

Globe previews concert featuring Celebrity Series co-commissions

Composer William Bolcom

William Bolcom's Octet: Double Quartet gets its Boston premiere tonight (a Celebrity Series co-commission, ahem) at Jordan Hall by the Guarneri and Johannes String Quartets. As if that wasn't enough, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Derek Bermel have quartets on the program, as well. The Globe's David Weininger had a chat with the venerable Mr. Bolcom for an article in today's Globe. Let's listen in:

"The Octet, which was premiered at the University of Illinois last week, has a
less freighted program. In some ways it's concerned with the tension between the
younger (Johannes) and older (Guarneri) groups for whom it was written. 'The
whole business is that over time they sort of come together into a group of
eight instead of one quartet and one quartet,' he says.

It's also Bolcom's homage to Mendelssohn's great Octet - also on tonight's
program - written when he was all of 16. 'It's one of the few pieces I know that
makes the hairs on the back of my head stand up. Even Mozart at 16 wasn't as
great as that. It's like angels wrote it.'"

Read all of He was eclectic before eclecticism was cool.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ailey Review Roundup, plus Vowell-Rakoff in The Crimson


Looks like all of the reviews of last week's Ailey engagement are in. With apologies to all of the reviewers since they usually rate more space than this, here is a simple list with links:

Karen Campbell in The Boston Globe: Ailey soars in 'Firebird'

Iris Fanger in The Patriot Ledger: 'Firebird' heats up Ailey performance

Marcia Siegel in The Boston Phoenix: Trailing Ailey, The Groove at The Wang

Alan Helms in Bay Windows: Is something ailing Ailey?

And last but not least, there was this preview of Sarah Vowell and David Rakoff's Sanders Theatre performance in The Harvard Crimson.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bagpipes and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards tonight on Nightline

The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards

Bagpipes are hot. That's not a quote from Paris Hilton, it's the subject of tonight's Nightline. From The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards to The Dropkick Murphys, bagpipes are undergoing a surge in popularity. Here's a sample of the story from the Nightline web site:

"'It's a different instrument, compared to anything else,' said Cpl. David Dodds, a member of the British army's Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. 'You know, it's really chilling, a chilling sound it produces.'

'There's a certain magic that the bagpipes have,' agreed Brig. Melville Jameson.

This ancient instrument, which the Scots have played for centuries, is enjoying a renaissance. The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards have just signed a $2 million recording contract, and released an album that's topped the British classical charts for six weeks."

That's where we come in. You can catch The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards at Symphony Hall on March 8 along with the Band of the Coldstream Guards. These are not typical touring artists, The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards are the only Celebrity Series performers that have done four tours of duty - and taken casualties - in Iraq.  

Sunday, February 10, 2008

That's the Grammy-winning new music ensemble eighth blackbird to you...

Well I'll be. Eighth blackbird won a Grammy. Read about it here.

There were plenty of other classical music winners (and nominees) with Celebrity Series histories, but eighth blackbird kind of jumped out at me.

Friday, February 8, 2008

AIley on the WGBH building, February 8

Here are several Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater promotional photos on WGBH's giant mural overlooking the Massachusetts turnpike:






Guarneri and Johannes Quartets change program

The Guarneri String Quartet and the Johannes String Quartet have made a program change to their  February 15 Jordan Hall concert. The program, listed below, now includes titles for two of the three Boston premieres on the program:

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Homunculus (written for Johannes String Quartet) *

Derek Bermel, Passing Through (written for the Guarneri String Quartet)*

William Bolcom, Octet: Double Quartet*

Mendelssohn, Octet in E-flat Major, Opus 20

*Boston Premiere

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ailey is here!

Tickets and information, including programs, can be found here. Student rush ticket info can be found here.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Alex Ross on The Colbert Report

Thanks to The Standing Room (I could just leave it at that: Thank You, Standing Room!) I can now share with you Stephen Colbert's January 29 interview with The Rest Is Noise author and blogger, Alex Ross on The Colbert Report:

Take a Concertgebouw: Eichler on The Royal

Mariss Jansons in action

Jeremy Eichler was rather impressed with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Maestro Mariss Jansons' concert on Friday evening:

"The subtlety of the group's multi-dimensional sound was first glimpsed
in the Debussy. Despite some overall diffuseness of textures, daubs of
color rose up from the strings. The woodwind blend was wonderfully
distinctive, and the subtle horn sound wafted in from the back of the
stage like an ocean breeze."

Read all of A Virtuoso Instrument from Amsterdam.

I hate to break it to those of you who weren't in attendance, but the
only way one could not have been impressed by this concert is if the works on the
program were not to your taste (and even then...). The Concertgebouw is a phenomenal
orchestra that produced a multitude of truly fine musical moments.

Still, I couldn't help but be touched by a non-musical moment: Watching the a head-on shot of Jansons at the podium on a back stage monitor (why don't we always have that camera shot that back stage?) someone noticed a gentleman in the fourth row just over the Maestro's shoulder wearing a Teddy Bruschi jersey.

I hope they return soon...

Friday, February 1, 2008

Bob Blumenthal's "Jazz"

Boston-based jazz critic Bob Blumenthal's book has been mentioned in this blog before. John Garelick of The Boston Phoenix gave us an overview in yesterday's edition. Here's a smidge:

"To illustrate the historical slipperiness
of the meaning of jazz, Blumenthal recalls what bassist Christian
McBride said when asked whether Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon,” from the
1973 Head Hunters album, was jazz: 'It wasn’t then, but it is
now.' 'I thought that hit the nail on the head. At the time, it was a
real controversy — had Herbie Hancock sold out? But now, no one would
even question that ‘Chameleon’ is jazz.' Or he considers two recordings
from 1964. 'If you asked most jazz fans that year, ‘What is jazz?’,
they would have said John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. But if you asked a person on the street, they’d say Louis Armstrong’s ‘Hello Dolly.’ And they’d both be right!'"

Read all of The Long View.

Camerata Ireland changes March 7 program

Camerata Ireland and conductor Barry Douglas will be making their Boston debut on Friday, March 7 at Jordan Hall. They have made some changes to their program since it was announced. You can find the new program and other information here.