Monday, April 22, 2013

BBC Music Magazine keeps getting dumb and dumber

A short while ago I came across the blog "Slipped Disc" by longtime music commenter Norman Lebrecht. In a recent short blog he examines (while certainly also dismissing as ridiculous) BBC Music Magazine's breathless announcement of the "50 people who changed classical music...forever" (wow, the dot-dot-dot, is that supposed to make it more amazingly important- a "wait for it" moment for the classical crowd?). As Lebrecht states, this is more about selling magazines than anything- but it really is such insulting, silly drivel. And why isn't Justin Bieber there somewhere? After all, you know this sequence will play out in history:

Step #1: Bieber, for God only knows what reason, visits the Anne Frank House. Apparently overcome with emotion, he experiences  a moment of spiritual clarity wherein he divines that "Anne was a great girl" and that she would have been a "belieber" if she were alive today.



Step #2: A young person, inspired by Bieber, decides to research music of Anne Frank's day- wholeheartedly searching for someone to "beliebe" in from back in those charmingly gritty retro black-and-white days. At first totally ignorant of musical history before the year 2010, he/she eventually discovers Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time (composed and first performed in the Gorlitz prisoner camp)  and becomes inspired to pursue a career as a great composer- hopeful of uniting Messiaen's palindrome and additive rhythms, chromatic durations, bird-calls, etc with Jehovah-inspired auto-tuning and the brilliant rhyme schemes of Bieber and Busta Rhymes in seminal works such as Little Drummer Boy (see way down below for full lyrics and try not to get too dizzy from the white-hot brilliance). Did you know these "rhymes" were possible? Well maybe not for simple folks such as you and I, but in the world of beliebers they are:

Playing for the king, playing for the title
I'm surprised you didn't hear this in the bible
I'm so tight I might go psycho, Christmas time so here's a recital
I'm so bad like Michael, I know i'm still young but I go, I go
Stupid, stupid, love like Cupid, I'm the drummer boy so go (go)

And later: 

Now lemme get straight to it, yo.
At the table with the family, havin dinner,
Blackberry on our hip and then it gave a little flicker.
Then I took a look to see before it activates the ringer
came to realize my homie Bieber hit me on the Twitter
Then I hit him back despite I had some food up on my finger,
sippin' eggnog with a little sprinkle of vanilla,
even though it's kinda cold, pullin out a chinchilla,
Bieber hit me back and said, "Let's make it hot up in the winter."
I said "Cool." Ya know Imma deliver

Step #3: After a number of years of epic struggles with the forms and models, the young composer succeeds in creating the greatest new musical form of all-time, thus creating a new Bieber musical world order. 

Anyhoo, here is Lebrech'ts take on the BBC matter- and maybe you can peek here and there and try to figure out who all these folks are in the illustration- and yeah also, where is Arthur Fiedler or Leroy Anderson, dammit?!

Jesus Christ and Charlotte Church: the ‘saviours’ of classical music

Among the silly lists that music magazines publish in a desperate bid to claim readers’ attention and raise their blood-pressure, none in recent memory has been sillier than ’50 people who changed classical music… forever’ in the February issue of BBC Music magazine.
bbc music
About 45 [personally I don't think it's even close to 45- PC] of the changers and saviours are obvious names. The rest are provocations, Jesus gets included with the rather tame excuse of ‘imagine life without Handel’s Messiah’. And Charlotte Church is there because she inspired ‘the mother-and-father of all bickering over what constitutes ‘classical’ music.’
Oh, really? Much of Handel’s Messiah uses Old Testament texts, not much Jesus there. And few remember or care what Charlotte, the Jackie Evancho of her day, got up to when she was 12. No one, surely, takes these lists seriously.
The more so when BBC Music has omitted from its transformational 50 the two opera singers who invented the cult of celebrity, Maria Malibran and Jenny Lind. Not to mention the founders of the conducting profession, Hans von Bülow and Artur Nikisch. Or Gustav Mahler, who introduced irony and spatial awareness to the symphony. Or Charles Ives who proposed polystilism. Or George Gershwin, the first crossover composer.
It does, however, include Donald Grout.
How silly is that?
PC here again, and here you are, friends, the entire lyrics to the Bieber/Rhymes Little Drummer Boy- sure to put you in the Holiday spirit once the season rolls around.

Come they told me, pa rapa pum pum
A new born king to see, pa rapa pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rapa pum pum
To lay before the king, pa rapa pum pum
rapa pum pum
rapa pum pum

Rum pa pa pum rapa pum pum pum
Yeah I'm on the drum, yeah i'm on the stand drum
Yeah i'm on the beat, coz' the beat goes dumb
and I only spit heat coz' i'm playing for the son
Playing for the king, playing for the title
I'm surprised you didn't hear this in the bible
I'm so tight I might go psycho, Christmas time so here's a recital
I'm so bad like Michael, I know i'm still young but I go, I go
Stupid, stupid, love like Cupid, I'm the drummer boy so go (go)

Little baby, pa rapa pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rapa pum pum
(gather round the mistletoe real quick)
I have no gifts to bring, pa rapa pum pum
(matter of face, lets gather round the fire place
its 'bout to get hot in here!)
Thats fit to give our king, pa rapa pum pum
(people what up? Yeah, yeah, yeah)
rapa pum pum
rapa pum pum

Busta Rhymes:
Now lemme get straight to it, yo.
At the table with the family, havin dinner,
Blackberry on our hip and then it gave a little flicker.
Then I took a look to see before it activates the ringer
came to realize my homie Bieber hit me on the Twitter
Then I hit him back despite I had some food up on my finger,
sippin' eggnog with a little sprinkle of vanilla,
even though it's kinda cold, pullin out a chinchilla,
Bieber hit me back and said, "Let's make it hot up in the winter."
I said "Cool." Ya know Imma deliver
let's collaborate and make the holiday a little bigger
Before we work I gotta get this off,
see the other family members and drop gifts off.
Then I'm headed to the studio cause ain't nothing stopping how
you know we bout to turn it up and really get it poppin now
People everywhere and all our Twitter followers,
"Merry Christmas, Kwanza, happy Hanukkah!"

Mary nodded, pa rapa pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rapa pum pum
I played my drum for him, pa rapa pum pum
I played my best for him, pa rapa pum pum
rapa pum pum
rapa pum pum

If you wanna give, it's the time of year
JB on the beat, yeah yeah, I'm on the snare
It's crazy how some people say, say they don't care
when there's people on the street with no food, it's not fair
It's about time for you to act merrily
it's about time for you to give to charity
Rarely do people even wanna help at all
'cause they warm by the fire, getting toys and their dolls
Not thinking there's a family out hungry and cold
wishin' wishin' that they had somebody they could hold.
So I think some of you need to act bold
give a can to a drive, let's change the globe.

I'm the drummer boy so go (repeat 5x)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A wonderful documentary on the life of Mstislav Rostropovich

The cello is my favorite instrument due to its amazing expressive qualities, its ability to imitate both the male AND female human voice due to its extended range, its gorgeous vibrato, plus effects such as pizzicato which give it even more variety of sound. I ask you, is there anything more profound than the Bach Cello Suites or more gorgeous than the Heitor Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras for soprano and cello ensemble? Here are two takes- the first is one of my favorite singers, Victoria de los Angeles, on the solo, and the second one is by newcomer Elina Garanca:

Beginning with Pablo Casals, we have been blessed over the last 75 years or so with an enormous number of great cellists- and certainly Yo-Yo Ma is virtually a household name in America. And while I like Ma, my all-time favorite has easily always been Mstislav Rostropovich whose playing is generally far more virile and gutsy than Ma's. In surfing the intertubes I came across a powerful 30 minute documentary honoring Rostropovich's life, including some fascinating footage discussing the difficulties of his life under Soviet rule including his harboring of Solzhenitsyn.

I hope you will watch this film and learn more about a truly great musician and man. I especially love to watch  him throw his whole body and soul into the music- there is no hesitation in his seizing of the day! Young musicians could certainly benefit by observing this man sing passionately through his instrument.

By the way, Rostropovich and his wife the soprano Galina Vishnevskaya (who passed away recently) formed the Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation, a non-political, non-partisan organization whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of children in need through selected, sustainable, and transformational public health programs (the program continues under the leadership of their daughter and others.

These programs are nationwide in scope and focus on the following areas:
• Modernizing the routine vaccination of children by introducing vaccines recommended by the  World Health Organization (WHO)
• Accelerating the elimination of vaccine-preventable diseases through large-scale vaccination initiatives targeting children, youth, women of child-bearing age, and at-risk health care workers.
• Screening and treating pregnant women to prevent perinatally transmitted diseases such as hepatitis B and HIV.
•  Screening and treating children to  eliminate intestinal parasites.

Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya

The strategy underlying Foundation programs is to create mechanisms of sustainability by strengthening the existing health care infrastructure and avoiding the establishment of parallel structures. The Foundation staff works with local health authorities to plan every aspect of the programs. Regular training and educational seminars for health care workers ensure that each program meets international standards. All programs are implemented by local health professionals. Foundation representatives monitor and assess progress and work with health authorities to solve problems as they arise.  Each program is designed to be self-sustaining within 3 to 5 years from inception.

Visit this wonderful foundation's website here

Monday, April 15, 2013

Wise words about music and life by a consummate musician, Joel Navarro

 Here's a great address by Joel Navarro to the Philippine choral community. I saw it shared by Mark Anthony Carpio and liked it enough to ask Joel if I could share it here on my blog. Always a great gentleman and consummate musician, Joel agreed to let me post it. Wise words here...


"It's never about us."

Joel Navarro
"Dear Philippine choir conductor friends, students, and former students,

As one of the more senior choral conductors in your midst, allow me these words for you to chew on. I do this because I have invested my life mentoring many of you even as I now live so very far away from you. You are all dear to my heart. I am deeply grateful that many of you have surpassed me. This is the best tribute you can give your professor.

I wish you could all invest and pursue long-term and lifelong learning opportunities to study deeply from other great choirs, conductors, and repertoires of those from the other side of the world, as they, too, must learn from you. It's not enough to win competitions, do adjudications, workshops, choir clinics, and gigs. They all serve a purpose, to be sure. But you need to replenish and refuel yourselves. Do regular and thoughtful score study of music your choir may not even perform. Get away from the hustle and bustle and retreat to your own mountain of solitude. Study with and learn from the masters. Be an apprentice to great conductors. Read books on choral music. Establish a roundtable of conductors that caucuses regularly and exchanges research on choral music. Reserve time to sharpen your saw--retool, re-imagine your life ministry/calling, reflect, re-assess, re-educate and re-dedicate yourselves to your life-callings.

Developing over-competence in one area (e.g. performance, etc.) often results in an under-competence in another area. Doing too much leads to that dreaded burn-out, we so often bring upon ourselves. It also leads to ossification. There is nothing more important than time for your own soul. Your soul needs to breathe. I have learned that doing so many things all the time often leads to accomplishing very little. Is this the example we want to leave behind to those who follow us? If we live often inside our own bubble, we become comfortably ensconced in our world and think the world revolves around us. Never rest on your laurels. This doesn't mean pursuing more laurels. Step back. Go out of your bubble. Take time off. Request, even insist, on a sabbatical every 7th year of your work. Learn. Then, learn some more. There is a big world out there and it keeps renewing every day. Genius grows everywhere all the time. Learn from its fresh and awe-some ideas. When you keep learning, your choir will thank you for it, your audiences will grow with you, and you ensure an enduring legacy of continuous growth and renewal to your successors.

Remember that we're all servants of the music, and the Great Spirit who guides the music of the spheres. It's never about us.

Yours always~

Joel Navarro, DMA
Calvin College
Grand Rapids, Michigan"

Used with permission from the author.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Final Thoughts on the 2013 ACDA National Conference in Dallas

Lately I have blogged about the ACDA National Conference in Dallas. Here are my final thoughts and some well-deserved kudos:

The weather in Dallas was perfect- warm and sunny every day. Congrats to the Man Up Above for this great bonus.

The venues were all close together in the Dallas Arts District. I absolutely loved what Dallas has created- many performing arts avenues and art museums all close together- brilliant! The two main concert venues had very different reviews from performers and listeners- people loved the Meyerson space and generally did not like the Winspeare space  - apparently many choirs just could not hear and tune in that space. This isn't ACDA's fault- it was just what it was.

The overall quality of singing was very high. I was rarely disappointed by the singing. You can of course read about my favorites in the earlier blog entries. The JFK events were an important element of the conference. Congrats to Karen Fulmer and Tin Sharp for creating these socially important events where choral singing intersected with history and the honoring of a fallen president.

ACDA continued to add new events and new ideas without diluting the overall quality of events. There were so many events available- I actually wished we could have somehow had a extra day or two to try to attend more offerings. One of my favorite new offerings was the series of "Into the Mind" informal sessions with the directors of choirs preforming at the conference. While a few folks presenting these sessions couldn't quite figure out what to present in a half-hour (yet their improv was actually great) I think this is a great idea and hope to see it repeated in 2016 when the conference will be held at Salt Lake City.

Another plus was the young director's reception (hmm, this was an idea I proposed a while back- glad to see it happen) and the generally embracing attitude ACDA has taken to energize the organization and bring in more young people. In general this has been going on since the 2011 conference in Chicago led by Mike Scheibe. I see more and more young faces on the scene- a very good thing.

Speaking of youthfulness- it was great fun to run into the ACDA youth contingent from Ithaca College, where I had just been in November for a commission premiere. Congrats to Ithaca's students on winning the ACDA student chapter reward!

There were plenty of exhibitors- I was glad to see that and they all seemed very positive and happy to be there. It looked like a lot of sales were happening. And it's great to see these people weathering the recession we have just emerged from.

Reading and interest sessions were abundant and on a high quality level. We have all been to lame reading sessions in the past- that wasn't a problem this time- great repertoire AND people could actually sighting through the offerings!

The headliner groups and the Britten War Requiem were great- wow!

All in all, you can see I am pretty effusive about the success of this conference. On a scale of 1-10 I would say it truly deserves a 10!And now I would like to give some folks just a fraction of the recognition they deserve by listing them here (those of us on the outside looking in can have no true idea of how much constant work goes into something like this). This list was prepared with the help of incoming ACDA president Karen Fulmer, who did a spectacular job in creating the conference. Major congrats to Karen and of course ACDA executive director Tim Sharp.

Karen Fulmer

Here is the list of awesome people and my apologies if I have left out some folks who should be mentoned here (I am sure there are dozens more who could be named):

Steering Committee:
Brian Galante
Stan McGill
Deanna Joseph
Tom Merrill
Amy Blosser
Terre Johnson

Twyla Brunson
Hilary Apfelstadt
Craig Jessop
Joshua Habermann
Steve Hodson
Kirk Marcy
Wendy McKee
Jo Ann Miller
Amanda Quist
Joey Martin
Mara Force
Robyn Lana
Julian Ackerley
Gretchen Harrison
Dan Bishop
Iris Levine
Ron Sayer
Sharon Gratto
Ethan Sperry
Robert Lawrence
Dianna Campbell
Patrice Madura Ward-Steinman
Ryan Holder
Alec Harris
John Rutter

ACDA Staff:
Katie Lewis
Ron Granger
Craig Gregory
Tim Sharp
Jose Tellez

COMING UP: Some other bloggers' views; mostly positive impressions of the conference

Monday, April 1, 2013




The American Association for Polyphony Elimination (AAPE) has ordered an international arrest warrant for MICHAEL WALDENBY, a Swedish composer whose work "Homini dies" is cited for breaking into an illegal musical form called a "fugue" during the ACDA 2013 National Conference in Dallas (accessory to this crime of polyphony is the University of Louisville Cardinal Singers directed by Kent Hatteberg). Waldenby has a long history of polyphonic contamination due to his studies as an organist in Sweden. He currently also leads the Stockholm domkyrkokor. Approach with caution: suspect should be considered L'Homme Armed and dangerous. He has been seen in possession of various deviant cantus firmi in unapproved modes as well as recognized as having contact with Renaissance contrapuntal demonic species.


AAPE's subcommittee The League of Unapologetic Meandering Pandiatonicists (LUMP) has also ordered the arrest of JOSEP VILA I CASANA for his use of intentional, rather than unintentional (pandiatonic) arrival at polytonality in his work "Salve, Regina" also during the outbreak of violations in Dallas, TX. Casaña is also considered dangerous as he is armed with various cabalistic Guidonian Hand sliderule instruments of torture as well as various secret manuscripts by the French heretic Darius Milhaud. Again, the accessory to the crime is the University of Louisville Cardinal Singers directed by Kent Hatteberg.


AAPE's affiliated organization Ninths Shallrule Forever (NSF) has also ordered an investigation into the  entire works of BRIAN GALANTE for his failure to end his composition "Exultate" with the required ninth added to the major chord. The accessory to this failure is the Pacific Lutheran University Choir of the West directed by Richard Nance, once again during the scandalous ACDA event in Dallas, TX USA. Once Galante is apprehended NSF believes they can "convince" him to add the required major ninth to this ending as well as all other works in his catalog  and hope that this young man will be rehabilitated.


AAPE's other affiliated organization  REALLY REALLY REALLY HOPEFUL yet AMORPHOUS MUSIC (RRR-HAM) has ordered an international arrest warrant for composer PAUL CAREY, who publicly stated during said Dallas, TX outbreak of mayhem that he could not possibly write any scores to such texts about music such as "I am the Music", or "We are the Music", or "You and I and that Sad-Looking Guy over there are the Music". Carey also disavowed any interest in setting texts such as "The Children are our Future so Hold Them Tight and Never Let Them Go even if they Finally Tell you it Hurts",  or even "Sing a Song for the Children, but don't take away their Nintendos if they don't Actually Listen to You", or "The Children are our Song,Yet  Hope for the Future is Actually Quite Dismal but we will Sort-of-mumble-sing about the Children Anyway". Carey is not considered dangerous, just delusional.

Paul Carey

Finally, AAPE continues its plea for cooperation in the discovery, arrest, and imprisonment of Public Enemy Number One, the heretic J.S. BACH who constantly goads AAPE with his gorilla guerilla attacks and who claims recently to have celebrated his 328th birthday. Obviously this is further proof of his unnatural sorcery. There are some rumors that he may have gone underground near this location in Germany.

The most recent brazen contrapuntal attack by Bach and his dastardly minions came in this recent internet post of something called a crab canon (obviously Bach's so-called art is naturally drawn to associate with lower forms of life such as mindless crustaceans):