Sunday, January 21, 2007

Two reviews

It has been a busy concert weekend! On Friday night, I went to see Värttinä with my parents. They are a Finnish vocal trio/folk group/rock group, and they were fabulous - I highly recommend their live show. They were expressive and energetic and really engaging - the singers moved and danced around the stage, and their faces were incredibly alive. All the musicians were really high caliber, and their sound is just so evocative. It defies my description - go watch a video on their website to get an idea.

Last night I went to BMOP's "Boston ConNECtion" concert. This featured pieces for orchestra or chamber orchestra with various soloists by six different local composers. Some pieces I found boring, but the overall compositional quality was very high, with Michael Gandolfi's Fantasia for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra being the highlight, in my opinion. And the musicians were all fabulous. I don't know that I've ever been to a BMOP concert before, and I was very impressed with their presentation - they projected an image that was professional and sharp, but also young and hip, and it was reflected in their audience, which was both younger than usual at classical concerts and also fairly big.

Next up will hopefully be Convivium next Saturday, because I have a friend singing. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

AMC Mountains and Music

[This post has been edited from the original post, because it turns out that we do have enough altos, but not enough on any other voice part.]

This is an attempt to recruit singers for a conducting gig I have coming up!

Three times a year, the Appalachian Mountain Club sponsors a "Mountains and Music" weekend. This coming February it's up in Pinkham Notch in NH. You pay a registration fee that covers your board, all meals except lunch, and activities (such as hiking or snow-shoeing.) People show up for the weekend, make some music, do some outdoor activities, sit by the fire and read...whatever they feel like. I myself plan on doing some downhill skiing. I'll be directing the chorus, and right now we need more singers on all voice parts (although we are actually all set for altos, and we are rather desperate for men.) And we all put on a little concert at the end of the weekend with the orchestra (we'll be doing Haydn's Missa in Tempore Belli) so we need to have a little balance!

Information is here. There is no audition, or anything, and a wide range of musical experience, so it's a very low-stress experience. If you sing, and want to sing with me, think about signing up!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sick, Round 2

Well, it was foolish to think I could get through my first year of teaching by only getting sick once, right? Of course, this time would hit over a holiday weekend.

I had to cancel several meetings with friends, my voice lesson, call in sick to school today, and worst of all, I'm missing the first rehearsal for Cappella Clausura's next concert. I am becoming a nightmare member for the poor conductor - the first concert, I got sick at the beginning of the rehearsal period too, had laryngitis during the whole process, and didn't sing until the dress rehearsal. Luckily this flu has not hit my throat as hard, but I still had to miss the first rehearsal today. I feel extremely guilty about this, especially since the concert is very complex and I really needed the read-through.

So, I thought, at least there's one productive thing I can do while lying in bed, I can listen to the tape of my last voice lesson and take notes. I record all my voice lessons and listen to them later so I remember what happened and can take notes on what I'm learning at a more leisurely pace. I popped the tape in five minutes ago, and discovered that somehow my last voice lesson was recorded at super-high speed, meaning the only thing I can make out is incoherent manic chipmunk voices. And my tape-player doesn't have a speed-of-playback control.

Apparently I am doomed to lie in bed and watch DVD's of Deep Space Nine. There are worse fates.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Octets rehearsal

This evening I sat in on the rehearsal for the Winchester Octets. The name is misleading - there are about 20 of them. They are the WHS a cappella group (unlike Lexington High School, which now has something like 9 a cappella groups, WHS has only one) and definitely the cool kids of the music department. They run their own rehearsals, but since they rehearse in the high school, a faculty member has to be present, and I was asked to be there tonight.

So I sat in the office and did work and listened to them rehearse "Circle of Life" from the Lion King in the next room, but at the end they asked me to listen to them sing through the song and make some comments, which I did. Afterwards, one of the members came up to me and thanked me for my input, said that it was really helpful to hear constructive criticism from someone who knew what they were doing and whose opinion he respected, and said that he hoped that I and perhaps the other choral teacher would consider giving some more helpful comments in the future.

Well. I spend all my days tearing my hair out trying to get these kids to listen to me. Let me tell you, nothing makes you feel as cool as having a high school kid tell you he respects your opinion.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Musical auditions

Today were the auditions for the high school musical, which is Cabaret. I am music director. The uber-director seems competent and experienced and smart and funny (thank goodness!) and nice, and I'm looking forward to working with him.

How strange to be on the other side of these auditions! I feel like I was just there, although I suppose none of my kids would believe that. And I remember how important this is, and how heart-broken some people will be. It's also unfortunate that the leads for Cabaret are all either high tenors or low altos. There are no parts for basses. Aside from parts of songs, there are no parts for sopranos. This sadly means that a great many qualified people don't even have the beginnings of a chance for a lead. I think every single male part has a high G, and more than one has a high A. I hate the thought of disappointing people, especially people who really don't deserve to be disappointed. But there are more good singers and dancers and actors than parts to go around. In some cases, there's hardly anything to choose between one person and another - you know they'd both do great. I'm dealing by forgetting, most of the time, how centrally important this is to some students.

The auditions also highlighted one thing I have a lot of trouble remembering about being a high school student - in fact, it's almost impossible. I don't remember the terror. I am so far from being nervous when I sing in a choir, or sing in front of people, or even sing in an audition. I get a little nervous for solo singing performances, but not much. I get more anxious for conducting, but again, nothing like the fears of a high-schooler trying out for the musical. And I can't even really remember it. I look at them, and have to tell myself how nervous they are, because otherwise I really wouldn't be able to see it, it's so distant. My empathy has to be conscious - I have to remind myself.

I suppose I should be grateful for the boons of experience! And I'm sure the kids will remind me often enough of how nervous they are before opening night.