The Dock Street Theater presented Liza Lim’s opera Tree of Codes Saturday night. When conductor John Kennedy took his place and the music started the scrim separating audience from stage became alive with the lighting of James F. Ingalls, which played a role in the piece as much as the costumes of Walter F. Dundervill, the video of Austin Switswer and the set of Scott Zielinski. Director One Keng Sen used the space effectively and imaginatively.
As the score opened, I was transported to early 20th-c. Vienna and the sounds of Alban Berg. Melodies jumped around disjointedly; chords appeared out of nowhere and just as quickly vanished. There was no discernible serialism but the sounds of Expressionism surprised me.
When soprano Marisol Montalvo began to sing I was startled by the flexibility of her voice and her agility to negotiate the extremes of range as well as the multitudinous sounds she produced with lips, tongue and throat. Eliot Madore appeared and his mellifluous voice easily skipped high to low, loud to soft, bright to dark. He also became an encyclopedia sof timbres and displayed astonishing virtuosity.
Their skill can not be overestimated. The parts are as difficult as anything Berg or Schönberg ever wrote; they resolved wild dissonances into unisons as if by magic, plucking pitches out of thin air. Equally impressive were the players drawn from the Spoleto Orchestra. Bassoon fluttered like a crazy moth; trombone morphed from saloon to the opening notes of “Rite of Spring.” The other players also made sounds I would’ve never dreamed possible; their hard work showed and the exacting parts sounded easy, which is no mean feat.
There are simply not enough accolades to heap upon these performers—vocal and instrumental. Many, many hours of preparation went into bringing composer Lim’s score to life. She is a brilliant orchestrator and also writes individual parts that are beyond challenging: to say they demand extreme technique is like calling Lake Michigan a pond. The ovation they deserved was half what they received.
I believe the audience was less than thunderous because it simply couldn’t grasp what had just happened. Lim’s stated goal was to lead the audience through an “extra day” of life in which all living and nonliving beings exist together—in parallel and intertwined. The plot—such as it was—centered around a young man searching for his deceased father.
From beginning until end a cacophony of sound, motion and light filled the theatre—both perplexing and difficult to follow. I wondered if that wasn’t the point: the “margin of secret time” between life and death is anything but straightforward and sensical.
In her written explanation of the work Lim says “if there is a story…”. Part of the problem is that there are either entirely too many stories or none at all. A son searches for his father; birds and humans exchange voices; so-called ventriloquism permeates Lim’s libretto and mindset. The end result is confusing, rambling and perhaps the cause of the lackluster applause.
Human minds need narrative that unfolds into a discernible plot. Without it the repetition of soundbites turns into unending noise. It’s theater to be sure; but could anyone in the audience reproduce a single musical phrase or explain to passersby what they just saw and heard?
Charleston Post & Courier, May 29, 2018
Saturday night at the Gailliard Center an event titled “You Are Mine Own” presented two late Romantic works with original staging by the renowned director Atom Egoyan, winner of many prestigious awards and prizes. The work also incorporated video elements produced by Cameron Davis and lighting designed by Jonathan Spencer.
Chairs for the orchestra were placed behind a scrim, onto which clasped hands were projected. A steam radiator and a chair sat in front. Soprano Natalia Pavlova began the performance by sitting and holding a flute. A talented string quartet—Autumn Chodorowski, Alexa Ciciretti, Andrew François and Sodam Lim—played an unknown piece while the orchestra players took their places—and none too quietly either.
Once seated and settled, the “Lyric Suite” for string quartet by Alban Berg began, while Ms. Pavlova and her baritone counterpart Alexander Dobson moved around the stage, in front of and behind the scrim. Berg’s music is not for everyone, but this piece, while dissonant, is nothing like his later works and was actually quite lovely and sensitively played.
After the final movement, conductor John Kennedy took the podium to perform the third movement again, in an arrangement for string orchestra. Strangely, the segue was interrupted by the orchestra tuning, which disassociated the quartet from the transcription. Nonsensical, it was just the first of many such distractions.
Once again the musicians rescued the evening. Alexander Zemlinsky’s imaginative and lush “Lyric Symphony” was played with passion—the sound rich and colorful. Mr. Dobson has a flexible voice, capable of penetrating highs and strong lows; he was mostly able to hold his own against the large orchestra. Unfortunately, on more than a few occasions, Maestro Kennedy failed to rein in the players—and to be fair Zemlinsky’s orchestration doesn’t help—and Dobson was drowned out.
True to form, Ms. Pavlova made the stage and the music her own. She sings with intense fervor and feeling, and she was able to soar above the thick chords and heavy percussion. Her voice is both brilliant and supple, and even extreme high notes weren’t forced or shrill. If there was a character in Zemlinsky’s music, with texts taken from “The Gardener” by Rabindranath Tagore in a German translation by Hans Effenberger, she would have easily brought it to life.
The students in the Spoleto Festival orchestra never fail to impress nor please, and Zemlinsky’s musical embodiment of High Romanticism was played with the excitement and nuance the exquisite music demands.
I can’t really speak to any visual elements after the third movement because I closed my eyes in order to enjoy the magnificent music. In the program description, Mr. Egoyan states that “what we present tonight is almost an opera.” Well, that is beyond a stretch. Berg’s quartet is hardly programmatic and Zemlinsky composed a song cycle. Abstract video, catchy lighting and a few random props do not an opera make.
Charleston Post & Courier, June 3, 2018
Last year’s Westminster Choir concert was nearly perfect so I expected the same Saturday at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul.
Tim Brent’s “Peace Song (Beatitudes)” was a wonderful opener. The singers were engaged and animated—as befitted the work. Tone clusters melted into central tonality—a difficult maneuver that requires excellent intonation and well-trained ears. Happily there are plenty of both in this ensemble.
“Kaisa-Isa Niyan” by Nilo Alcala was delightfully entertaining. Not many choirs can pull off the machine-gun rapidity of the text, which was crisp and discernible—if not understandable: it’s a Filipino children’s chant. It was controlled chaos that somehow came together into a virtuoso conclusion.
“Fäbodpsalm frän Darlarnas” by Anders Öhrwall had exactly the opposite effect: settled, contemplative and a little melancholy. The basses created sonic floors while sung rafters emerged from the sopranos, who more than once defied gravity with soaring high notes.
Frank Martin’s “Mass for Double Choir” is such a monumental and strenuous piece that few choirs can successfully perform it. Swiss-born Martin developed a personal harmonic idiom that owed nothing to any school. His choral works are highly praised for their sensitive treatment of texts—particularly religious—made piquant by chord structures and sequences suited exactly to the rise of fall of his melodic lines.
The charm and simplicity of Edward Bairstow’s “I Sat Down” was captured beautifully. Miller’s pacing was excellent and the singers created a choral tone very like that of a men and boys choir. It moved everyone.
True to form, these talented students made the Mass their own. The dynamic contrast went from hushed whispers to bellows that were never strident or ear-piercing. Striking dissonances dissolved into settled harmonies; running passages were as clear as a coloratura soprano; basses droned beneath Medieval-like melodies that contrasted with the Schönberg-like chords that sometimes peppered the piece. I started the applause myself; it grew into a well-deserved standing ovation.
The entire Mass was sung—except the Agnus Dei. The omission seemed inexplicable until conductor Joe Miller said that the final movement was left out so that the audience would purchase the CD coming in September that includes it. I was dumbstruck. Compromising the integrity of Martin’s magisterial work to sell recordings is unbecoming to an artist with the stature of Dr. Miller, who is among the most gifted choral conductors in this nation.
Charleston Post & Courier, June 2, 2018
Gaetano Donizetti wrote 19th-century operas and is best known for “L’elisir d'amore” and “Lucia di Lammermoor.” On Sunday evening “Pie de Tolomei” was given its American premiere and it was a wonderful surprise.
Pia is inspired by a scene in Dante’s “Purgatorio” where pilgrim Dante encounters the shade of Pia, who asks Dante to remember her to the world. She was married to Nello Della Pietra, a Ghibelline lord, whose cousin Ghino is in love with her. Pia arranges to have a note sent to her brother Rodrigo, a Guelph, arranging a secret meeting. Ghino intercepts the letter, which he takes as proof of her infidelity. Bice, Pia’s maid tells Ghino that Pia refuses to see him, which sparks vengeance in Ghino.
The plot is too convoluted to detail here, but the end result is that Nello imprisons Pia for her supposed infidelity and orders her death. Piero, a hermit priest and Pia’s confessor, tells Nello the truth that Pia has not strayed. Nello rushes to his prison to halt the execution but is too late. In a dramatic aria Pia forgives Nello and begs for peace between Nello and Rodrigo.
Amanda Woodbury, a soprano headed for true greatness, who sings the role of Pia with conviction and extraordinary technical virtuosity, was nothing short of stupendous. Her scales and arpeggios were crisp and swift; her ornaments were tasteful and appropriate. She has a tremendous range—from rich lows to dizzying highs.
All the singers were fantastic—and there are just too many to mention individually—but a few stand out. Vera Savage, Pia’s maid, has a rich, mellifluous mezzo that is facile and colorful—with splendid running passages and heartfelt presentation. Nello was sung by Valdis Jansons, a baritone with both a warm, round tone and passionate highs. He brought pathos and sincerity to a character who is more or less a cad.
Cassandra Zoe Velasco, playing Pia’s brother Rodrigo, was stunning. Her voice is not unlike the great Maria Callas, with the familiar timbre of a mezzo as well as amazing coloratura and dazzling high notes. Velasco's voice is perfect for the role of Rodrigo, but she is petite and, physically, not particularly plausible as a leader of opposition fighters.
The Spoleto orchestra was marvelous, as usual; and the chorus, comprised of Westminster students, was equally excellent.
Aurally the production was wholly successful; visually not so much. The setting was transported from 13th-c. Siena to 1930s Mussolini Italy with Fascist sets and costumes. The bitter feud between Ghibellines (supporters of the Holy Roman Emperor) and Guelphs (supporters of the Pope) was more personal—son against father, brother fighting uncle—than Facism, which was less individualized.
The anchor of the set looked too much like a game board; the salon of an affluent woman doesn’t make a realistic prison cell. Plus there were simply too many incongruities. The text says Ghino will plunge a dagger into his breast, but he produces a pistol. The common folk who were meant to oppose the uniformed Fascists wore suits and hats. Pia’s confessor—supposedly a hermit and priest—was dressed as a decorated military officer!
The whole Fascist business was ill-conceived. Better Pia in a floor-length brocade gown and tattered, filthy rags. Not only believable; I might’ve wept.
Charleston Post & Courier, May 29, 2018
Ein Deutsches Requiem (German Requiem) by Johannes Brahms has been performed so regularly that it’s easy to forget that it’s awfully hard. I’ve done this piece so I’m not unsympathetic to the difficulties — and there are many — that Brahms places on the human voice.
The sopranos and tenors are stretched to their limits by sustained high notes; the impracticalities of the German language don’t help either. Still, the men and women of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Westminster Choir did an outstanding job Tuesday night at the Gaillard Center. In fact, the chorus was the undisputed star: altos had a rich, easy tone and basses sang clear low notes with solid leaps. I hope Joe Miller, conductor of the concert and leader of the Westminster Choir, bows down to his tenors every day because they deserve it.
It’s repetitive to point out just how fantastic the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra is, but each performance is as good — if not better — than the one before it. The cellos and violas made a lovely, embracing sound in the first movement; the start of the funeral march was appropriately mournful.
Miller brought out the best in orchestra and chorus. It was refreshing to hear proper articulations, rolling triple meters, distinguishable diction and unforced choral tone. His conducting is fluid and effective and it confidently reflects the score.
It’s well known that music through Schubert does not incorporate continuous vibrato. Less well known is that continuous vibrato didn’t come into widespread use until the 1920s; thus Schumann, Liszt, Wagner — and, yes, Brahms — should be played and sung without vibrato if historically informed performance is the goal.
Period instruments of the time were different than their modern counterparts: oboes sounded darker; clarinetists were expected to use the indicated transposed instrument. Brahms was particularly fond of the peculiar timbre of stopped notes in natural horn. Valves weren’t invented to move quickly from key to key but to obviate crooks; players depressed the appropriate valve, held it, then used their hand and lips to change notes.
Orchestral placement also was different. Violins sat facing each other, double basses stood at the back of the orchestra and woodwinds and brass sat on elevated platforms. Choruses were placed in front of the orchestra, allowing them to be heard above heavy orchestrations.
Sadly, both Natalia Pavlova and Alexander Dobson weren’t in such good voice as a couple of nights ago when they sang wonderfully well. Pavlova had recurring intonation problems; plus, she sometimes phonates beneath the pitch then reaches up. The same brilliant, penetrating timbre that helped Dobson succeed in the performance of Zemlinsky’s “Lyric Symphony” on Saturday made him a poor choice for this work, which requires a warm, comforting sound. He also struggled with the upper register.
Truth is I’ll sit through the whole piece for the high A the sopranos sing at the end. Ladies, you made my evening: it soared. Maestro Miller did everyone — chorus, orchestra, himself and Brahms — proud.
Charleston Post & Courier, June 7, 2018
Before Monday evening I didn’t know marionette operas existed. Now that I’ve seen one I realize I’ve missed out on an awful lot of entertainment. And fun, too, because I laughed my fool head off.
“Il Matrimonio Segreto” (The Secret Marriage) is an operatic style called opera buffa, comedy that is absurd, with a plot that is totally unbelievable, and at least one character that is a total fool. Happily, there was all of that plus more.
The opera was written by Domenico Cimarosa, a contemporary of Mozart, born in Naples. Famous for his comic operas, he was invited to St. Petersburg by Catherine II herself.
The story revolves around a couple—Paolino and Carolina—who are secretly married. Carolina’s father, Geronimo, is a wealthy eccentric who is deaf but doesn’t realize it. He has another daughter, Elisetta; his elderly sister Fidalma also resides there and runs things. Paolino arranges for Count Robinson to marry Elisetta for a handsome dowry, but when Count Robinson sees Elisetta he is repulsed and falls instead for Carolina, who is already married.
Geronimo agrees to the switch, partly because his dowry is halved and his family will be ennobled. Paolino runs to Carolina’s homely aunt Fidalma for comfort, but she misinterprets his distress and cradles him in her arms when he swoons at her declaration of love. Carolina discovers her husband Paolino in her ugly aunt’s arms; he barely persuades her that things are not what they seem.
Count Robinson behaves like a boor. Carolina and Paolino scheme to run away that night and Geronimo has decided to send her to a convent. The whole ruse unravels and the Count takes Elisetta, Fidalma blesses the secret marriage, and everyone coaxes Geronimo to relent. All is swwell that ends well and the curtain falls.
The six singers giving voice to the puppets were just fabulous, not surprising since they are Westminster students. Margaret Bergmark (Carolina) has a lovely voice with easy high notes and facile runs. The same is true of Betsy Podsiadlo (Elisetta), who played the shunned sister with indignation; her scales ran high to low with no effort. Mckenzie Smith (Fidalma) navigated the turns and trills with facility; she turned haughty Fidalma into the most comedic of the three ladies.
Christopher Fludd (Paolino) has a sweet voice that gave gentle Paolino a warmth that befitted his character’s personality. Scott Kover (Count Robinson) knew just how to animate the Count’s hilarious reaction to the ever-frowning Elisetta; he had no trouble with the rapid ornaments and skips. But it was Matthew Marinelli (Geronimo) who stole the show. Somehow he turned his voice into the ridiculous clown necessary to sing along with the hapless father when his leg would bounce up and down.
Needless to say the orchestra—a pared down ensemble drawn from Cimarosa’s original score—was outstanding. These students can play anything; they were stylistically appropriate and never overwhelmed the singers, who were in the pit with them. Conductor Marco Seco held everything together and the transitions were smooth and steady.
But it was the puppeteers who were the real stars. The final curtain rose to reveal eleven wizards who animated those charming wooden dolls. Somehow they coordinated the gestures—every movement imaginable—with the singing and accompaniments. Marionettes floated as they walked; arms flailed about, exasperated; heads rolled and bodies collapsed. It’s nothing short of astonishing.
My companion laughed until she cried and so did I, between moments of disbelief—not at the preposterous plot—but at the miracle that was the marionettes. If there’s a ticket to be had grab it. And bring a tissue.
Charleston Post & Courier, June 1, 2018
Westminster Choir Delivers ‘Turning of a Day’ Performance
It ain’t for nothing that Westminster Choir College is reputed to have one of the finest choral programs in the United States. This fact was amply demonstrated in yesterday’s concert at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul.
Under the capable direction of Dr. Joe Miller, the choir presented a range of music that, as Dr. Miller noted, “revolves around the turning of a day.” The “Latin sandwich,” as he put it, was filled with one German and five English pieces—all of which were performed with great determination and vigor.
As a conductor Dr. Miller is both nuanced and controlled. Of course, it helps that he is working with the cream of the crop: young people with supple voices that can more or less do whatever is asked of them. And in the course of the 75-minute program, much was asked and much was delivered.
The first work, Lux surgut aurea, (“See the golden sun arise”) by the Catalan composer Bernat Vivancos, began with chant-like melodies that set the stage for the remainder of the piece, which was tonal and largely homophonic, with long, sustained harmonies that sounded effortless.
The single German work, Johannes Brahms’ Abendständchen, Op. 42 No. 1, (Evening Serenade) continued the theme of moving throughout the day. Dr. Miller understands 19th-century performance practice in that he performed this Romantic work without vibrato—anathema to many modern conductors. but frequently described in contemporaneous writings.
“Yes, it’s beautiful” from The Constellation of Apollo by Kile Smith, recounts the conversation between the three astronauts aboard Apollo 8 as it photographed the Earth from outer space for the first time on Christmas Eve 1968.
For Windham, L.M. by Daniel Read—an important early American classical composer—half of the choir came to the middle of the room. The style and timbre of singing abruptly shifted from the warm, well-blended sound of the earlier pieces to the exceedingly bright and somewhat nasal tone associated with Shakers and music from The Sacred Harp. My one criticism of this and the following work, Zion, C.M., arranged by the American composer John T. Hocutt, was that one of the tenors’ voice was rather too prominent—though to be fair he was standing directly in front of me.
The next work arranged by Tom Malone, Yonder Come Day, took us from the Neoclassicism of the cathedral to a summer evening camp meeting held in a tent. The African-American spiritual featured two outstanding alto soloists and the energy of the work successfully captured the raw emotion associated with such gatherings; however, the hand clapping was at times overly enthusiastic and had the unhappy effect of drowning out the text—an error easily corrected.
Paul Crabtree’s “Death and Resurrection” from The Valley of Delight is primarily a dialogue between the men and women of the choir; there was one section where Miller dropped his hands and the choir just kept going—all the while maintaining its perfect ensemble.
Laudibus in Sanctis (“Praise the Holiest” from Psalm 150) called upon the singers to explore not only the extremes of their dynamic palette but also of their tessituras. The basses produced clear, articulated low notes while the sopranos sang the high pitches with grace and a sense of ease that belies how difficult such notes really are.
Three encores followed and the concert was finished with a rousing rendition of Great Day—a fitting conclusion since, as far as choral singing is concerned, it really was a great day.
Charleston Post & Courier, May 30, 2017
Celebration Concert a stunning showcase of talent
The Celebration Concert Tuesday at the Gaillard Center was precisely that: a celebration of Spoleto and music of every genre and from every historical period and nationality. From the Italian Baroque: Vivaldi to German Classicism: Mozart to late Romantic opera: Puccini to 20th-century: Leonard Bernstein and other Americans.
German conductor Evan Rogister led the evening’s orchestral works and displayed a command of the ensemble that was both subtle and expansive. His gestures range from the smallest hand movements to the full blown dance-like that bring to visual life the aural imaginings of the music. Like Bernstein, and based on drawings of his conducting, Franz Liszt, Rogister used his entire body to bring forth persuasive interpretations of the music and its emotional content.
Bookended by selections from Bernstein’s Candide, the 90-minute program included the L’estro armanico, Op. 3 no. 11 by Antonio Vivaldi. The orchestra was pared down and, refreshingly, seated according to the Baroque plan—that is, second violins on the right. The work featured chamber artists more frequently seen at the Dock Street Theater and was a smashing success. Geoff Nuttall, who simultaneously played solo first violin and led the ensemble in this concerto grosso was outstanding; his partners in the concertino—Livia Sohn, violin; Pedja Muzijevic, harpsichord; and Christopher Constanzal, cello, formed an excellent foil to the ripeno (large ensemble). Constanza in particular displayed a deft facility in what was a demanding part.
The tone of the concert changed when a jazz ensemble, comprised of orchestra players, came onstage to perform I’m thru with love by Joseph “Fud’ Livingston (great uncle of Mayor John Tecklenberg);. Quiana Parker sang beautifully this ballad originally performed by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot. Her phrasing was eloquent and the timbre of her voice was just right for the melancholy lyrics. She was superbly accompanied by the ensemble.
Edward Thornton Jenkins’ Charlestonia followed, performed by the full orchestra. Jenkins was an African-American who studied at the Royal College of Music in London. This nod to his hometown was premiered in London in 1917 and sounds very American; it foreshadows the music of George Gershwin, in particular An American in Paris. It turned out to be the sleeper of the program—unknown but well-received.
Puccini’s “La tragenda" (The Spectre) from Le Villi was appropriately energetic and had the string players sawing away at their instruments. But it was “Vogliatemi bene” (Love Me Please) from Madama Butterfly that stole the show. This tragic duet was brilliantly sung by Natalia Pavlova, soprano and Jamez McCorkle, tenor. Far and away the best singers of the night, their high notes were full with a sense of ease that allowed the audience to simply bask in the breathtaking sound. Their acting was superb and the timbre of their voices when combined into parallel octaves created an effect that clearly moved the audience, which gave them a rousing ovation.
Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances” from West Side Story was the audience favorite, and rightly so. This demanding 20-minute work brought out the best of the orchestra, whether the remarkable percussion section or the brilliant brass. The performance was festive and alive and, well, it danced. It was replete with finger snapping, cello twirling and shouted words and was magnificent.
But the undisputed star of the evening was the Spoleto Orchestra itself. It handled the different styles of music with great aplomb—whether the pure tones of Vivaldi or the rich sound of Bernstein—the orchestra was simply stunning. We should count ourselves fortunate to have such a fantastic ensemble available to us—even if it is only for two weeks out of the year.
Charleston Post & Courier, June 1, 2017
Review: Mozart paired with Vaughan Williams results in uneven performance
Although at first glance a program of music by the 18th-century W.A. Mozart and the 20th-century Ralph Vaughan Williams might seem incongruous, the pairing worked well in a concert of choral and orchestral music Tuesday night at the Gaillard Center.
The first half of the program was the finer, with the Westminster Choir in its usual outstanding form. “Lord, Thou Hast Been Our Refuge” by Vaughan Williams was sung with great care. The work, a juxtaposition of Psalm 96 with the hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” was beautiful—even if the orchestra was a bit heavy at times and drowned out the choir.
“Serenade to Music” is one of Vaughan William’s finest pieces. It is a free-form fantasy that was a compositional breakthrough for him: freeing him from the usual constraints of instrumental forms. There are ten soloists who sing a few lines each; the Westminster students held their own with their older, professional counterparts and the work was perfectly lovely. Mozart, lacking a patron and a deadline for his lofty project to compose the “Great Mass in C minor,” K. 427, wrote it piecemeal between other ventures during the years 1728–83. Several large portions of the “Credo” and the entire “Agnus Dei” were never to reach completion. It was first performed in Salzburg in 1783. His future wife Constanze sang the “Et incarnatus est” at the premiere.
Regrettably, the “Great Mass in C-minor” left much to be desired. I was surprised—and disappointed—to hear the orchestra play with continuous vibrato, which is most definitely not part of the 18th-century style. And even though there are no pictures of how Mozart’s orchestras were seated, it’s a safe bet that they weren’t placed according to the modern configuration.
In most countries, Latin is pronounced with an Italianate accent—except for the German speaking world, which pronounces Latin as if it were German; there’s no reason to think the same wasn’t true in Mozart’s day. But the chorus sang the Mass with the typical Italianate pronunciation. Some of these criticisms may strike the reader as overly fussy, but a festival like Spoleto, with an international stature, surely ought to present concerts with historically informed performances that strive to recreate a sound that is as close as possible to what the composer expected to hear.
The CSO Chorus, augmented by the Westminster Choir, made a valiant effort towards what is a difficult choral piece. While the sopranos had trouble reaching the high notes, which were almost uniformly under pitch, the tenor section was robust and made an excellent showing.
Happily, the soloists were without exception outstanding. The two sopranos: Sherezade Pantaki and Clara Rottsolk overcame the totally different timbres of their voices to blend quite well on the duet in the “Domine Deus.” Each had excellent breath control for the exceedingly long phrases and both were quite agile in the runs and ornaments. Jamez McCorkle sang well but not quite as good as the Celebration Concert last week. And bass André Courville displayed his excellent instrument, with clear, resonant low notes and fast, delineated passage work. Pity we didn’t hear more from him during the evening.
Charleston Post & Courier, June 6, 2017
A commanding bass drum thundered, conjuring the cadence of individual lives and the sound of heartbeats. Today the British people gathered to grieve for one whose heart that no longer beats.
Everything that emerged from the mouths of politicians and prelates seemed genuine and maybe was even honest; but it was predictable. The commissioned anthems were unremarkable, and the hymn playing bland. Two things, however, struck me: the number of female heads of state from commonwealth countries; and, when the congregation sang God Save the King, the face of His Majesty King Charles III was creased with grief, eyes reflecting the bottomless pit of loss that lurks inside some of us. I’m surprised by that for some reason.
For me, a trained church musician and organist, and lover of all things Anglican, by far the most moving parts were the two processions. First from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. In front of the gun carriage were perhaps 100 sailors. Excepting the six who marched directly before the coffin, three pairs of two, and all of the 100 or so who trekked behind, all of the young men—boys, really—were perhaps 5'3" or 5'4"; the other sailors, like the Princes William and Harry, towered easily above them.
Hitched one to another, they hauled the late Queen’s coffin like pack animals: hands clasped tightly; arms pressed together; faces forward; and jaws set with a grim determination that declares, “I do this for the good of my country.” After the first ceremonious and deliberate removal of the coffin from the carriage, all the sailors took off their caps and bowed their heads. They were ordered to do so, of course, but it didn’t appear that way. Theirs was genuine reverence. Regrettably, we don’t see enough of that these days.
The State Funeral of her late Majesty and, in particular, the solemn procession from Westminster Abbey: through Hyde Park, around the Victoria memorial in front of Buckingham Palace, and on to the Wellington Arch, to a waiting hearse—was an international display of respect with a capital R. We’ve not seen anything like it in this country since the State Funeral of President Kennedy in 1963: when, like the Britain of today, the United States stopped in its tracks and collectively processed its debilitating grief. As far as I can tell, that kind of respect—for a great leader or even for another citizen—has vanished from this country. Perhaps America should mount its own state funeral for that reason alone.
We’ve all heard funeral marches played on the piano or organ or by a band; however, the music only made sense to me after observing those thousands of people—of every age, gender, race, station and creed—walk together: lockstep, in straight rows and parallel columns, conducted by the solemn marches composed for just such occasions.
Since the age of four, I’ve been drawn to activities that people do together: hymn singing; line dancing; band; ballet; choir. Without even realizing it, that love of the Unison shaped my professional and personal life. And, only today, aged 62, watching the State Funeral of the late Queen, do I perhaps begin to understand why. The need to make sense of the nonsensical might be why I resonate with others who share the residual sadness of the driven man. Quite possibly it is why I am where I am today.
Prejudices are awfully hard to overcome.
The blight of “Otherism” that presently cleaves our national psyche is far from new. When I was a child in the 1960s, my family’s entire world was created by surrounding ourselves with folks who were like us: white, lower-middle class, religious and blue collar. Until third grade my interactions with people of color was limited exclusively to retail establishments or the public settings where I might encounter non-whites. The races lived apart, worshiped separately, attended segregated schools, and although I don’t recall “WHITE ONLY” public fountains, Jim Crow was alive and well in South Carolina.
There would have been no reason—nor opportunity, really—to meet a Jewish person; the so-called Great Melting Pot hadn’t made it that far south from major metropolitan areas; I was vaguely aware of a Chinese restaurant, but would have never eaten there. Like everything else, our food was as bland as our social lives.
I’ve lived in such diverse places as New York, Texas and Miami, so I am accustomed to seeing and interacting with people of multiple ethnicities, faiths, languages. Because I am gay I know firsthand that sting of discrimination. Many religions condemn homosexuality; there are only scattered workplace or housing protections for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people; and we owe to retired-Justice Anthony Kennedy the legal protections we do enjoy. Don’t get me wrong: as a young man I never imagined gay marriage would be legal in this country during my lifetime. So we’re way ahead already. The point is that even though I’ve lived and worked with people who aren’t like me, and imagine myself to be enlightened, I’m ashamed to say that the inoculation of racism I received as a child lives within me still.
I recently had lunch in a Chinese restaurant with a lunch buffet. Ahead to my right sat a dark-skinned woman dressed in traditional attire; with her was a small boy. She ate with her hand, not uncommon in many non-European cultures; what was unusual was that it was her left hand, which is used for personal hygiene and the reason the left hand is considered unclean in the some cultures. I was careful not to stare, but for some reason she repeatedly looked back at me, as if she knew I was secretly judging her.
In 1997, I won a raffle and received a free ticket to a weeklong meditation seminar with Deepak Chopra. At one point he asked the 500 people in the ballroom to write the name of a person whom we despised and the reasons why. I don’t remember my choice, but he asked for volunteers to share. After a few did, he spoke to us all words to the effect that the qualities we detested in that figure we have in ourselves.
So if I condemn that young woman for not being like me, it’s because secretly I know how much I’m unlike those around me. In effect, I judge myself for my own “otherness” and then transfer that onto someone else in a transparent attempt to help me feel better about everything. It doesn’t work, of course. Mercifully, I have another inner voice that pulls me back, reminding me that making assumptions based on outward appearances is unfair and dehumanizing. I don’t want that for myself nor for anyone else.
I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to completely eradicate the judgmental voice inside me; but I have the will to grow and to replace hate with empathy, which is most important, and enough for today.
Fifty years ago I was a nine-year-old boy living in Greenville, SC, as thrilled as everyone else in the world about the prospect of Commander Neil Armstrong putting his foot onto the moon; well, excepting my mother, who was truly alarmed that Armstrong would somehow disintegrate when he stepped off the ladder of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module.
It is right to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Armstrong’s understated announcement that “The Eagle has landed.” For, we Americans need something to remind us of the optimism that fueled space exploration in the 1960s—when political, religious and social issues were publicly debated with a civility that today seems positively antique.
My parents got me out of bed on July 20, 1969 to watch the momentous event; but it was a subsequent experience that was permanently imprinted onto my childhood psyche: the first day of third grade. To my shock, Mama and I encountered a gang of 20 or so picketers marching in an oval on the sidewalk. At least half of them attended the small mill-village Southern Baptist church where my family went; and while my mother’s innate Southern sensibility would have obliged her to at least silently nod to the protesters, not enough words were exchanged to explain why those good Christian people were there.
Puzzled, we walked to my new classroom, where an African-American woman stood at the front of the room. This was utterly unnatural. Because of my segregated world, I automatically assumed she was a maid, but she wasn’t dressed as one; rather, she wore a teacher’s muted clothes. Her first name was Dallas (I can’t recall her last) and she was brave beyond description, for there had never been a black person in the school—even the cafeteria workers were white.
The principal was a solemn woman named Miss Heard; she wore thick stockings with seams in the back and the heavy-heeled shoes associated with spinsters. She must be commended for using the power of her position and the strength of her convictions to protect Dallas. I’m ashamed to say that I once took a cowardly classmate’s dare to pull on Dallas’ hair to discover if it was a wig. When Miss Heard got hold of me, she dropped a heavy hammer. I sat in her office and sobbed; somewhere in my heart of hearts I knew that what I had done was disgraceful and non-Christlike; but in 1969 such affronts were not just permissible: they were applauded.
My maternal grandfather, Taylor Batson, was a bonafide racist and a world-class bigot; after retiring from the butcher shop, he became a loanshark to poor Negro men who lived in what was euphemistically known as “Nickel Town.” When he learned that my teacher was black, he roared at my mother to “Go down to that school and get that boy out of that Nigger’s classroom.” To her credit, she refused.
After a few months I was transferred out of Dallas’ class into one comprised of third, fourth and fifth graders. I questioned whether I had been moved because of my contemptuous behavior, but the school district had selected me and about seven other third graders based on test scores—or so they said. In the end, I was the worse for it: I inherited a bitter old shrew who taught multiplication tables by slapping our palms—hard!—with a ruler when we messed up.
Most of the people in my church never finished high school; they toiled for decades in the textile mill; their lot in life was hard. Little wonder they felt that the system was stacked against them—for it was: from their pathetic wages they rented their shabby houses from Poe Mill; purchased their groceries from the Poe Mill store; worshiped in one of three churches built by, and named for, Poe Mill; and their children attended Poe Elementary School.
The populists of today are not so dissimilar I think: they feel left behind and derided; perhaps they didn’t have the opportunities I did; many struggle financially; and they see the only life they’ve ever known under attack—a belief encouraged by a man who whips them into a frenzied mob, glowingly basks in their adulation, then shamelessly discards them like a moist peach pit. He is the bombastic preacher who rolls up his Bible and loudly thwacks it on the pulpit, while gleefully reassuring them that bloodthirstiness is just fine, thank you very much.
I’m not unsympathetic to them or their plight: after all, I spent nights with church friends whose rental houses sat crooked on their foundations. Still, I am heartbroken to see that hardship has hardened their hearts against everyone who is different. I am a white male who grew up in that culture. Somewhere along the way, though, I began to think for myself; I moved to New York City (my Uncle Joe dismissed me as a “Damn Yankee”) and earned a doctorate; I smoked pot and questioned things. Worst of all, I came out as gay. Raised as an “Us,” I became a “Them.”
My teacher Dallas was the kind of person in whom hardship yields compassion. A genuine patriot, she faced down a class of white children who were indoctrinated with prejudice and backward-thinking. These false virtues were taught to us by the intolerant people carrying placards and yelling phrases that, five decades later, are still shouted in political rallies.
To remind ourselves that “All men are created equal” remains a faraway promise, maybe we should insert into our mind’s eye the figure of a lone African-American woman standing alongside Neil Armstrong and the propped-up American flag on the lunar surface. Both Dallas and Neil risked their lives in the Summer of 1969; they both stepped with quiet courage into a hostile world; of course, only Commander Armstrong got a ticker tape parade.
Near the end of her life, Grandpa Batson’s wife Lucille posed a question that seems oddly prophetic as we contemplate the future of American democracy during these troubled times. One gray winter afternoon Grandma Batson apprehensively whispered to me, my parents, cousins, aunts and uncles: “Children, what will become of us?”
I am an 59 year old, out of shape gay man.
In my youth I was a real beauty, but those days are long past. There are no gay bars in the city where I live, and even if there were I doubt I’d go: I don’t like the deafening music, drunken men and the fact that there seems to be a chasm between gay youth and us old-timers.
Instead, I troll Grindr, Scruff and Adam4Adam like everyone else. I say hello to lots of guys of all ages, sizes and interests. At least half the time I don’t get a reply. Unlike some, I don’t let it go. My friend Bob says that no one on these apps is obliged to reply; “Do I answer every phone call I receive?” he asks. Well, no. But if there’s a voicemail I listen.
On Grindr the recipient of my message can see my profile with my stats, position, etc. and picture. I’m not an anonymous robocaller nor am I an annoying Grindr bot. My typical response to being ignored is, “It takes five seconds to reply and be polite. I don’t understand why young guys won’t.” Yes, it’s typically younger guys who can’t be bothered, but hardly exclusively.
I am told that the etiquette of these apps is a generational thing; guys younger than I apparently believe it’s perfectly fine not to respond. Sometimes I’ve asked how’d they react if an unattractive guy came up to them in a bar and said hello or complimented them. More than a few times the reply is “I’d walk away.” Damn.
Today, I said hello to a 22 year old and when he didn’t reply I sent my standard rejoinder. It’s not a personal attack: I don’t even write the word “you.” An observation: “It takes five seconds to reply and be polite.” followed by a question: “I don’t understand why young guys won’t.” This guy replied something along the lines of: “Your generation is responsible for accelerating global warming and climate change. What do you say to that?”
Well, I pointed out that we are responsible for his generation being able to come out in high school; we’ve made significant gains in job security; thanks to us they can hold hands on the street; and, of course, now gay men of all ages can be married in every state in the country.
All of the plaintiffs in landmark Supreme Court cases, all of which were authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, were my age or older. “Where were you,” I asked, “when they were filing these lawsuits? Did you stand up in St. Patrick’s Cathedral and turn your back to Cardinal John O’Connor (aka Cardinal O’Condom) during one of his homophobic rants? Were you ever chased by a feral gang of teenagers intent on clubbing you to death with baseball bats?” Unsurprisingly, he blocked me.
I believe that we owe each other at least bare civility: it is the glue that holds society together. What does it say about us as a community when we’re so disdainful of anyone we don’t find sexually attractive that we simply treat them as nonpersons? Kindly remember that there’s a real person at the other end of Grindr who has feelings; and who, like me, might have been treated as a nonperson for much of his life. I’m sure it’s easier to ignore being ignored if you’re 22 and accustomed to getting lots of attention. Of course, the disjointedness of two cellphones helps.
When I was 25 years old I went to Uncle Charlie’s in Greenwich Village pretty frequently. Good looking, I was hit on constantly. At first I was arrogant and disdainful, until an older man gently told me, “Don’t assume every man wants to get into your pants.” Because I was a bit narcissistic, that had never occurred to me. Of course everyone desired me! How could they not?!?
Thereafter whenever a guy—young or old, attractive or homely—spoke to me I replied. “Hello” prompted “Hello”; if he complimented me I always said “Thank you.” If I wasn’t interested, I’d make smalltalk for a minute or so then politely excuse myself. That cost me nothing. Just as taking the five seconds needed to type “No thanks. Good luck.” costs nothing.
This will sound crass, and probably is. But the bare truth is that if not for men 50 years old and older, societal attitudes about homosexuals would still be much the same was it was in the 1980s: intolerant, judgmental, fearful, and willing to use a fist, or worse, on anyone who insisted on being visible. It’s more than a little likely that without us Grandpas—who took the beatings, endured the taunts, were disowned, and denied equal treatment under the law—all of us might still be having sex on our knees in filthy gas station bathroom stalls.
No man of my generation expects gratitude; a little respect, though, would be greatly appreciated.
Great Performances Comes to Gusman Concert Hall
First week of thematically grouped concerts showcases acclaimed Classical artists.
African-American ensemble featured and legendary pianist Ivan Davis honored on retirement.
Coral Gables, FL – (August 1, 2008) Festival Miami, celebrating 25 years as one of the premier cultural events in South Florida, launches its 2008 season with the first of four weekly concert groupings. Leading off this novel format is “Great Performances,” which focuses on Classical music at its finest.
“Adrienne Arsht Presents the FSOM: Passion and Pathos,” at the Arsht Center, sets the tone for the entire month. Composer John Corigliano will be present to hear renowned violinist Jennifer Koh, acclaimed by The Strad as “a risk-taking, high-octane player,” perform his “Red Violin” Concerto with the Frost Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maestro Yongyan Hu, Music Director of the Shanghai Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra.
The program also includes Corigliano’s lush setting of L’Invitation au voyage on poems of Charles Baudelaire, with Joshua Habermann, newly appointed Director of Choral Activities at the FSOM, directing the Frost Chorale Finishing off this exciting evening is the Florida premiere of Corigliano’s Circus Maximus by the Frost Wind Ensemble, conducted by Gary Green with musicians positioned throughout the concert hall.
Ritz Chamber Players, the nation’s first African-American ensemble, lauded by the Baltimore Sun as “an irresistible and remarkable ensemble,” performs the music of Antonín Dvorák.
Much of Dvorák’s work, including the Piano Quartet No. 2, is flavored by the African-American musical heritage. Cellist Tahirah Whittington and pianist Terrence Wilson also perform the Cello Sonata of George Walker—the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize.
FSOM faculty artists honor the distinguished career of legendary FSOM Pianist-in-Residence Ivan Davis. Dean Shelly Berg, whose fingers fly “over the keyboard while his body nearly levitates off the bench,” (Los Angeles Times) hosts and performs.
In addition, the Bergonzi String Quartet, described by Fanfare as “exceptional performers”—join, along with the Miami Saxophone Quartet, which “is very much into rich tonal colors and intricate harmonic schemes.” (allaboutjazz.com) A reception honoring Ivan Davis in the lobby follows the concert.
FSOM faculty composers discuss their creative methods and thoughts about music’s future. Afterwards, the Frost Symphony Orchestra will present representative works of FSOM faculty, including Dennis Kam, Lance McLoskey—“a great talent and a deep thinker with a great ear” (American Composers Orchestra), and Fred DeSena, known for high-energy South American rhythms and darkly colored melodies. Open your mind (and ears) to the stimulating world of modern music.
Winner of the 2000 American National Chopin Piano Competition, pianist Ning An gives “penetrating and illuminating” performances. (New York Concert Review) Known for his interpretations of Frédéric Chopin’s later works, he captures the composer’s melancholy as manifested in haunting melodies, brilliant technical passages and evocative harmonies. The concert commemorates the anniversary of Chopin’s death in Paris.
Friends of Chamber Music present an evening of the music of Johannes Brahms and Antonín Dvorák. Violinist Cho Liang Lin, violist Roberto Diaz, cellist William De Rosa and pianist Joseph Kalichstein perform two major works: Dvorák Piano Quartet No.2 in E-flat, Op. 87 and Brahms: Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34. One of the most lauded chamber ensembles in America concludes the week of Great Performances.
Festival Miami Continues with Week Two: Jazz and Beyond
Organizers train the spotlight on Jazz, the best-known “American Music,” as Festival Miami moves into its second week. Major guest artists and local legends offer audiences a wide array of styles, combos and genres.
Coral Gables, FL – (August XX, 2008) JazzWeek’s Vocalist of the Year and Grammy award-nominated jazz artist Tierney Sutton kicks off the second week of Festival Miami 2008: Jazz and Beyond—a panorama of American music from every part of the nation. Her passion for jazz, profound admiration for its musicians and deep respect for its audiences makes Tierney Sutton one of the most admired interpreters of standards and ballads today. Together with FSOM’s award winning Jazz Vocal I Ensemble, directed by pianist, composer, arranger and FSOM professor Larry Lapin, the evening promises an exciting launch for “Jazz and Beyond.”
The Evening Standard writes that, “At his best, Joshua Redman seems a class apart for technique, invention and artistry.” Winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, his trio continually expands the outer reaches of jazz improvisation. Their recordings have consistently won awards and have featured legendary artists such as Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden, Christian McBride, and Brad Mehldau. Son of famed saxophone virtuoso Dewey Redman, rhe New York Times writes that he “is one of the brightest young stars in mainstream jazz.” Jazz and Beyond continues with an evening of piercing rhythmic melodies, soaring improvisations and electrifying arrangements.
The Frost Concert Jazz Band, winner of Downbeat magazine’s 2007 Best College Big Band award, and conducted by Dante Luciano, will be joined by Eric Marienthal—one of the world’s major jazz stars and member of the GRP All-Star Big Band. His new CD, Just Around the Corner, went to #1 on the R&R Smooth Jazz Chart and his performances, which “inject a kind of soul,” (New York Times) have won him accolades across the nation and around the globe.
Latin Grammy nominated, Little Havana-based DJ Le Spam & the Spam Allstars blend improvisational electronic elements and turntables with latin, funk, hip hop and dub to create an electronic descarga—a sound that is influenced by the multicultural atmosphere of Miami and the lives of individual band members. They have performed and recorded with legendary saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis and in 2004 created the introductory music used at every Miami Heat game.
Rolling Stones writes that, “an authentic Miami sound is being forged by DJ Le Spam and the All Stars” while the Village Voice describes their music as a “hot anthology of retro Cuban, early NYC salsa, Southern funk and soul, mixed with live horns, looped drums, video, and living art.” Miami’s own DJ Le Spam & the Spam Allstars concludes the second week of Festival Miami: Jazz and Beyond.
Creative American Music Showcased in Week Three of Festival Miami
UM students participate in an American Idol-style format with celebrity “judges.”
Musical theater stars pay tribute to American songwriters Alan and Marilyn Bergman.
And local children are feted in a Halloween blast.
Coral Gables, FL – (August XX, 2008) Creative American Music knits together the many facets of contemporary music into a week that singles out the new and revolutionary. The week’s first concert, a smorgasbord of contemporary music, which has steadily grown in popularity will demonstrate up close what’s new in the music world. Fresh faces come with fresh ears; fresh ears tune in the world differently, which creates music that reflects an up-to-date take on the state and future of classical music.
One of the most popular formats of reality TV is the talent showcase, where experienced performers critique up and coming entrants. The FSOM premieres its own showcase with legendary songwriter Bruce Hornsby and his friends, who will offer constructive advice to students in a fun and friendly concert. Unlike TV, at the Frost School all the students are winners!
Rolling Stones wrote that “Bruce Hornsby has become a synonym for class.” Join him, Steve Miller, Patti Austin, Monica Mancini, Six-time Grammy nominated saxophonist Dave Koz, Ricky Scaggs, Tom Scott, Will Lee, Jon Secada and others for a performance in the BankUnited Center. Our guest artists will be backed up by the Frost School’s Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra—making it the absolute concert of the year in Miami!
If you’ve been to the movies, watched television, or attended the theater in the last 50 years, you’ve heard a song by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Their films include Yentl and A Star is Born; The Way We Were; and The Thomas Crown Affair. Television series include Maude, Ironsides, In The Heat Of The Night, and Barbra Streisand: The Concert.
Godparents of American pop” (New York Times) they told the Los Angeles Times, “When we hear a melody, we feel that the words are on the tips of the notes, and we have to find them.” Hear the songs of these legends in a retrospective dedicated to two of the most respected names in the Great American Songbook.
The Detroit News wrote, “If the Pied Piper had been twins, odds are he would have been Gemini!” Twin brothers Sandor and Laszlo Slmovits (known to their peewee fans as “San” and “Laz”) are a musical celebration for both children and adults. Their recordings have won awards from the American Library Association, Early Childhood News, Parents’ Choice Magazine and the Children’s Music Web.
Children are encouraged to wear Halloween costumes. Everyone is invited to participate in the ABC Party afterwards: A for apple juice, B for balloons, and C for cookies. The party, hosted by Peter the Mime, includes a musical instrument petting zoo! Know of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon with your family?
Jazz historian Buzz McCoy and Dean of the Frost School, renowned pianist Shelly Berg combine for a lecture and performance tracing the history of jazz piano. Among the great performers represented are Fats Waller, Art Tatan, Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans. The All Music Guide with Shelly Berg, one of the finest jazz pianists in the nation, playing modern, mainstream jazz in the early 21st century.
2008 Grammy Award winner Honeyboy Edwards is among the last Delta Bluesmen who traveled the American South as hobos in the 1930s and shaped early folk and blues music into what later became Rock ‘n’ Roll. Hopping freight trains with Big Joe Williams, Honeyboy spread his unique brand of traditional Mississippi Delta blues. You’ll never get closer to pure Blues than with Honeyboy Edwards.
Music of the Americas Concludes Festival Miami 2008
South American and Puerto Rican artists share the spotlight in final week of performances. Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera celebrated in final two concerts; composer’s daughter to speak and expound on father’s music
Coral Gables, FL – (August XX, 2008) Festival Miami 2008 concludes with week-long tribute to the cultural diversity of South Florida in Music of the Americas. Composers and performers from across North, South and Central America unite to fête the music of the Western hemisphere.
Nelson Faria, who “wrote the book(s) on popular Brazilian styles” (Allaboutjazz), joins the Frost Studio Jazz Band and its director Doug Bickell for a musical tour of the vastly different regions of Brazil—including Ceará, Bahia, Pernambuco, Minas Geraes and Rio de Janeiro. The program is a blend of musical styles such as Baião, Frevo, partido alto, Sambe and Bossa Nova.
Grammy award-winning pianist and composer Pablo Ziegler infuses his performances and arrangements with tango. Ensemble for New Tango, formed in 1990 with bandoneon player Héctor del Curto and guitarist Claudio Ragazzi imprints a unique stamp on music, using the piano as a perrcussion instrument, evoking mood with jazz harmonies, and drawing on rhythms of early 20th-century Classical music.
Billboard writes that “The Sun of Latin Music”—Puerto Rican pianist/bandleader Eddie Palmieri—“is one of the foremost Latin jazz pianists of the last half of the 20th century.” Winner of nine Grammy Awards, Palmieri draws on a century of traditional jazz styles, incorporates Afro-Caribbean rhythms into his works, then fuses it all together into a personal idiom that is simply irresistible. The New York Times writes that when “when Mr. Palmieri is at the piano things take off.”
Isaac and Laura Altman have made great contributions to Salsa for decades. As President of the World Salsa Federation, Isaac shares his passion for dance in Dancescape, revealing his dreams, his speculations and his most sizzling Salsa sensations. Experience the rhythms of Salsa, Cha cha cha, Paso Doble, Tango, Samba, Foxtrot, Waltz and much more. Festival Miami is pleased to bring the finest of South American dance styles to Miami.
The Frost School of Music and esteemed guest soloists celebrate the brilliance of the Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera. Highlights of the evening include the Piano Concerto No. 1, performed by the renowned Ginastera interpreter Luis Ascot, with the Frost Symphony Orchestra directed by Thomas Sleeper. The inspired Argentine soprano Virginia Correa Dupuy will perform the composer’s early songs with Dean Shelton Berg at the piano. Performances of Ginastera’s chamber and orchestral music by the Bergonzi String Quartet along with the Frost Symphony Orchestra complete the gala event. Special host Georgina Ginastera, daughter of the great master, will talk about the family’s musical legacy.
Plumb the depths of Ginastera’s music in the second of two concerts commemorating the 25th anniversary of his death. FSOM faculty Glenn Basham, Ross Harbaugh and Paul Posnak perform the Pampeanas No. 1 and 2, followed by the introspective Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah, performed by the Frost Chorale and conducted by Joshua Habermann. The climax of the evening is the Cantata para América mágica, composed for the extraordinary combination of solo soprano and 53 percussion instruments. Soprano Virginia Correa Dupuy, a renowned interpreter of Ginastera’s music, is joined by the Frost Percussion Ensemble, conducted by Thomas Sleeper. Georgina Ginastera, daughter of the composer, whose mother fashioned the texts of the Cantata, will introduce the work and provide rare insight into its performance history.
We’ve had a wonderfully successful year at the Frost School of Music. We’ve seen the inauguration of the Henry Mancini Institute, a laboratory for our students to learn and hone the entrepreneurial spirit that will propel them to the zenith of their fields, along with the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra, which performed throughout the school year to great acclaim.
We also launched the Bruce Hornsby Creative American Music Program, designed to develop the creative skills of talented young artist/songwriters by immersing them in the diverse traditions that form the foundation of modern American song writing. Furthermore, I’m delighted to report that the Experimental Music Curriculum is well on its way to becoming a permanent part of the Frost School of Music. In this ground breaking curriculum students will experience their music education in a very new way—a complete integration of musicianship skills with performance and hands-on learning.
Festival Miami 2008 was a tremendous success, featuring such artists as John Corigliano, Tierney Sutton, Steve Miller, Patti Austin, Monica Mancini, and Pablo Ziegler. Attendance was at an all time high and I could not have been more pleased by the performance of our students and faculty, along with our many guest performers. At the Frost School of Music we’re proud to be one of the major cultural institutions in South Florida and are committed to increasing our presence here.
Still, as you well know, times are tough. The economy is weak and many people are having difficulty making ends meet. Unfortunately, many of our students are in the same predicament; they need our help more than ever. Your gift to the Frost School of Music Donor Society enables us to constantly improve our offerings to our students, who are, after all, our most important asset. With your help we can ensure that no worthy student will be denied an education here because of financial difficulties.
Believe me when I say that now more than ever we—I—need your help. Every gift is appreciated, and right now we want your support more than ever. Please take the action today that will guarantee that we at the Frost School of Music will continue to serve our students to the best of our ability.
Shelton “Shelly” Berg
Dean and Patricia L. Frost Professor of Music
A singular measure of a school of music is its responsiveness to the ever changing environment into which it graduates the next generation of performers, composers, educators, business executives, therapists and technological wizards. Here at the Frost School of Music we take this challenge seriously—with high expectations of our students and ourselves. Helping students to succeed in the marketplace is our primary goal; indeed, it is our chief responsibility.
To that end the FSOM has launched two new institutes of learning—the first of their kind in this country. Named after one of the most important popular composers of the 20th century, the Henry Mancini Institute is a laboratory for our students to learn and hone the entrepreneurial spirit that will propel them to the zenith of their fields. Students lay the foundation of their careers through networking, working with renowned conductors and participating in master classes with legendary performers. Their opportunities are limited only by their imagination and ingenuity.
FSOM alumnus Bruce Hornsby has endowed the Creative American Music Program. In addition to performing classics from the Great American Songbook, the curriculum is designed to develop the creative skills of talented young artist/ songwriters by immersing them in the diverse traditions that form the foundation of modern American songwriting. This rigorous approach will require students to become intimate, both in understanding and practice, with the vast and varied legacy that is American music.
We recognize that not every FSOM alumnus can make major donations and in our view the amount given is almost beside the point. Our aim is to include alumni in the many changes that make the FSOM such an exciting place to study and perform musics of every type. We’re not so interested in how much money you give; rather, your participation is the prize we hope to win. We believe that by engaging you in our work and fostering in you the kind of “buzz” that exists today on campus, you’ll spread the word about your alma mater.
As a FSOM graduate, you are our number one recruitment agent. We’re depending on you to send us the best and brightest students so that the momentum we’ve achieved will continue; that the changes we’ve instituted will prosper; that the future success of your school will never be in doubt. Take part in the action! Make a gift today—of any amount—and remain active as we strive to literally alter the way that music is taught in American higher education.
We value each and every gift, but not as much as we value you.
Shelton “Shelly” Berg
Dean and Patricia L. Frost Professor of Music
Success breeds success. It’s an old maxim that is nowhere more evident than at the Frost School of Music—in part your Frost School of Music. This year’s spring and fall terms were marked by outstanding performances by students, faculty and guest artists. Festival Miami 2009 was hugely popular, with many standing room only concerts; our signal educational institutions—the Creative American Music Program and the Henry Mancini Institute—more than fulfilled their directive to prepare students for a professional life beyond the mainstream Classical tradition.
I don’t have to tell you that 2009 was a time of overwhelming economic challenges in the nation. We recognize that many of you were personally affected by the downturn. Here at the Frost School of Music, the collapse of the financial markets impacted our own ability to provide comprehensive support to our students—in the form of scholarships—and to our prestigious faculty—in the form of research grants.
Consequently, I write you with a keen understanding of how nationwide events have squeezed us all monetarily; it is with real humility that I ask for your support. The same cutbacks implemented here at the Frost School of Music were put into place in many of our students’ households, burdening entire families as they try to provide the best education possible to their children.
Like those parents, we too are committed to offering a first-class environment in which our family of students can prepare themselves for a career in music education, composition, solo and ensemble performance, music business and technology or jazz studies. Providing a world-class conservatory, as you know, is an expensive endeavor; to maintain our status as a leading music school requires that caring individuals like you donate to the best of your ability.
Every gift is precious to us: we make no distinction between personal contributions and corporate or foundation bequests. Indeed, individuals like you comprise the bulk of our support base and we more than ever count on you to help us further our primary mission: to prepare the finest music professionals this country will come across. I send you my continued thanks for your continued support and good wishes.
Shelton “Shelly” Berg
Dean and Patricia L. Frost Professor of Music
As you know, the University of Miami Frost Band of the Hour is the largest and most spirited student organization on the UM campus and draws its membership from the entire student body. Band members represent most academic majors and hail from every state in the nation. And, the band performs for more than one million Hurricane fans annually.
In order to ensure its continued success, the Band of the Hour Annual Fund asks for your support. The Annual Fund provides assistance to deserving students while making certain that unforeseen expenses for instruments and facility needs are covered. Your contribution will enable the Band of the Hour to continue its outreach, which includes band clinics (known as exhibitions) to high schools throughout Florida.
Featured most prominently at Hurricane football games, the Band of the Hour also performs at other university functions such as Homecoming, Parents Weekend, alumni events and selected functions at President Shalala’s home. Moreover, the band has performed at the Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, Orange, Peach, Liberty, Bluebonnet, Gator and Cotton Bowls.
The Band of the Hour is one of UM’s most important PR assets and has been part of the university community since classes first met in 1926. The Band of the Hour needs your support now more than ever. Take a minute now to make your tax-deductible donation and help us further the good work of the Band of the Hour.
Thank you, and best wishes.
Phillip L. Clements
Director of the Band of the Hour
If I were a more formal Dean this correspondence would begin:
The Frost School of Music gratefully acknowledges your recent gift to its Annual Fund.
However, since I’m a jazz performer and more of a laid-back kind of guy, I’m more comfortable with something along the lines of “I’d like to propose a toast to Jane and John Doe in honor of their financial support.”
Now, in a perfect world, I’d invite you for coffee. I’d shake your hand vigorously and there’d be no mistaking the sincerity of my gratitude. In this almost-perfect world, though, I have a music school to run. So, the only practical method of conveying my thanks—and the thanks of the school—is to send you this letter.
We really appreciate your support. Without the help of generous folks like you we couldn’t begin to achieve our goals: educating the next generation of performers, composers, teachers, and engineers; assembling the finest faculty money can buy; offering South Florida a buffet of terrific concerts; and, making sure that music will remain an important part of our everyday lives.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Draw yourself a mental snapshot of a student with a huge smile on her face. Add a soundtrack of your choosing and experience the particular type of joy that comes from sharing your resources with others, the satisfaction of making a difference in the life of one aspiring musician. Now there’s a picture that is worth a thousand words: Thanks!
Shelton “Shelly” Berg
Dean and Patricia L. Frost Professor of Music
At the Frost School of Music we believe that visionary leadership and careful planning enables us to augment our considerable legacy and invent novel solutions to the challenges that face any large school of music. Just as permanent structures such as bridges and skyscrapers require years of planning and a substantial foundation, at the FSOM we value donors such as yourself. You are the foundation upon which we will build our School and shape the next generation of professional musicians.
Accordingly, we gratefully acknowledge your recent gift to the Capital Campaign. As you know, every gift of $100 or more will be permanently commemorated in our next critical expansion: The Center for Experimental Music.
This much-needed building will house practice rooms, rehearsal spaces, administrative offices and innovative instructional areas. I hesitate to describe them as “classrooms,” since our goal is to reinvent the entire basis for educating future music professionals.
To that end, we have inaugurated the Experimental Music Curriculum, a groundbreaking method in which each student is assigned to a chamber ensemble. These small groups will be laboratories for performance, composition, ear training, analysis, and entrepreneurship. Moreover, each student will have electronic keyboards and computer laptops to enhance and accelerate their learning process.
As you know, these kinds of programs require significant (and ongoing) funding; we count ourselves blessed to count you among our friends and supporters. We hope you’ll continue to remember us in your charitable giving and we invite you to stop by the school anytime. Here you’ll find a beehive of educational and performance activities as well as a collection of students incredibly enthusiastic about their futures. You will be inspired merely by seeing them in action.
A thousand thanks and our sincere best wishes!
Shelton “Shelly” Berg
Dean and Patricia L. Frost Professor of Music
Each time a conductor mounted the platform or a singer took her place beside the piano during the 2010 Festival Miami, it was fulfilling its commission to bring to South Florida the finest performing artists from around the world. Having completed its XXth season, we at the Frost School of Music are proud that we could again enrich the lives of South Floridians.
Our corporate and foundation sponsors, who were part of the orchestra of supporters who made Festival Miami possible, were just as important as the instrumentalists who populated the musical orchestras. Without the ongoing and significant donations of civic minded institutions, the FSOM would have been unable to present this lively and beloved series for another season.
On behalf of Dean Shelton Berg, all the faculty and staff and performers who made the 2010 Festival Miami one of the best in its history, accept our heartfelt thanks for your gift of $XX,XXX. We know the economy has been challenging; we’ve feel it too. Because of that we are doubly grateful for your gift.
We invite you to join us for a concert during the 2011 Festival Miami. As a token of our appreciation for helping to underwrite Festival Miami, we’d like you to have two tickets to a concert of your choice. One of our staff will be contact you as Festival Miami 2011 approaches to help you make your selection. We hope you’ll understand if your first choice is sold out, and we promise you’ll be glad you experienced firsthand the fruits of your corporation’s or foundation’s support.
Assistant Dean for Development
Frost School of Music
Every season of the year is a good time to support the Frost School of Music, and your recent gift of $XXX to the Annual Fund gives me the opportunity for me to send you my thanks as well as my cordial greetings. Keeping in touch with my family of Frost School of Music supporters is one of my most important, and certainly my favorite, activity. This way, I can take the pulse of our community of supporters and friends and make certain we are addressing your unique needs and requests.
As you know, we use these donations to the Annual Fund by generous individuals such as yourself to provide scholarships, to expand programmatic activities, to purchase and to maintain our many musical instruments and scores—a way to make sure the workings of the Frost School of Music don’t ever miss a beat.
Sometimes I get a little behind in my correspondence and I hope you’ll forgive any tardiness. We strive to respond to all gifts in a timely manner and when we miss that mark we’ll do whatever necessary to make it right. What you do for the Frost School of Music is terrifically important and I want you to know that! Without your help, we’d never have been able to make the Frost School of Music one of the finest university-based music schools in the United States.
Pick up the phone and call me at any time. I always have time for a member of the Frost School of Music family. Meanwhile, please accept my warmest thanks for your continued generosity and support.
Assistant Dean for Development
Frost School of Music
Here in South Florida winter brings with it mild temperatures, lots of warm sunshine and the opportunity to finish out the old year with a generous contribution to a favorite charity. One of the many upshots of supporting the Frost School of Music Annual Fund is the feeling of accomplishment: of laying a brick, as it were, in the foundation of the school’s future. And your recent gift of $XXX helps us to turn our “architectural” plans into a musical and educational “building.”
January is a particularly happy month for me because I write so many thank you notes to kind donors like yourself. Some development professionals think of these letters as a chore, but not me! I look forward to the chance to correspond directly with my fellow FSOM supporters; it is my time to touch base. I often receive touching responses to my notes, and I’m always glad to hear from you. So drop me a line anytime and remain an active part of our FSOM family.
With your gift, we can invest our annual fund in our students and their education, which is, after all, the entire raisôn d’etre of the Frost School of Music. I hope you feel warm from the sun and warm inside for what you’re done to help us meet the needs of our students.
Best wishes, and happy new year!!!
Assistant Dean for Development
Frost School of Music