Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sweet Home Alabama

One possible definition of globalization (or crossover? or collaboration?) could be a Finnish rock and roll band called the Leningrad Cowboys joining forces with the Soviet Red Army Choir to perform Sweet Home Alabama. Hypothetically, of course.

I have never seen a choir where everyone had head mics before.

Responsibility for sending me this link lies with my brother.

Cat Plays (with) Theremin

My readers, I apologize. I have been falling down on the job. Yes, it is true! I have strayed from the true purpose of the internet, which, as everyone knows, is:

Cute videos of cats!

In this case, a video of a cat playing a theremin. (For those who are not familiar with this instrument, it's an electronic instrument, notable for the fact that you don't touch it - you control the pitch and volume by moving your hands in the air near two antennae. If you would like to see one played correctly, check out Masami Takeuchi on YouTube playing Saint-Saens' The Swan on a theremin.)

And now...cute cat plays with a theremin! Via Mike Veloso.

How Does the Voice Work?

For anyone who's interested in what is actually happening when you sing, the Cambridge Center for Adult Education has an upcoming class called "How does the Voice Work?" To register, visit their website or call (617) 547-6789, ext. 1.

How Does the Voice Work?
Exactly what happens when we sing? Diana Cole and Carolyn Kingston are master teachers and singers who will lead us on an adventure down our throats. This spring we will review a fiber optic videotape of actual vocal folds vibrating, and present a second video identifying how sound is tuned and modulated in the vocal cavities (which determines vowels and voice quality). Based on what we see, we will discuss and experience our own voices. This presentation is a must for all singers, speakers, and curious human beings. Limited to 20.
Sec. 01: 1 Wednesday, 5:45-7:45 pm. May 7, 56 Brattle St.| $38

That's in one week - looks good! (I know that as of a few days ago, they still had space.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Weekend Concert Calendar...NOT

Sorry all. I'm going out of town tomorrow, and am a little swamped with preparations. Go to the Blue Heron concert, check out Die Fledermaus at Longy, and I'll see you all next week!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Weekend Concert Calendar, 4/17/08

First of all, I'm going to mention that I haven't quite gotten a good system down for putting together these weekly reports. Right now I go out and systematically search about 4 major sites that list concerts...but I frequently neglect to check my own inbox for announcements that are sent to me.

So, for example, I know that I neglected to mention the Psalm Enchanted Evening, co-sponsored by B'nai Or of Boston and Andover Newton Theological School on 4/5, or the performance on 4/10 of the Boston Gay Men's Chorus that the Scituate Friends of Music hosted. Have patience with me - I'll get this all sorted out eventually, and you will have an even more thorough weekend concert report than you do now! But it's been a busy month - I've been in a performance every weekend since Easter - so you might have to wait until summer for me to get my act together.

Speaking of performing, please do come and hear me sing with Cappella Clausura this weekend. We will be singing on Friday at 7:30 pm at Gordon Chapel in Old South in Copley Square, and on Saturday at 8 pm at Parish of the Messiah in Newton. We will be performing the Vespers of Cozzolani, and I am going to be singing LOW. As in, lots of low E's and D's, and that's in early music tuning (meaning lower than normal tuning.) The first time I sang the one little solo lick I have, the entire chorus burst out laughing. I pretended to be miffed until they assured me that it was the laughter of "Thank God that's not my line!" and "I can't believe she just did that!" Please don't let my freak-show low-singing-talents go to waste - join the audience, and say hello afterwards!

What else is up for this glorious spring weekend? First of all, congrats to the Braintree Choral Society, who are going on a tour to England. Have fun and travel safe, y'all!


The BSO will present a program including Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. Anne Sofie von Otter is the mezzo soloist! And Ben Heppner will be filling in for Johan Botha, who is ill. Also on the program is John Harbison’s Symphony No. 5, featuring mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey and baritone Nathan Gunn.

At noon on Friday, the Bach Children's Chorus of Rochester, NY will perform a concert at Old North in Boston. There will be works by Mendelssohn, and traditional American songs.


I can't find evidence of this on their own website, but according to the New England Early Music Calendar, the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum Chamber Singers are going to perform Franco-Flemish Renaissance works at 3 pm at First Church Congregational in Cambridge. So if that sounds exciting, you might want to stroll over and check it out.

However, for the evening, it would seem you have NO OTHER OPTIONS other than to come see Cappella Clausura!


At 3:00 pm at Jordan Hall (New England Conservatory, Boston) the Dedham Choral Society will join with the Handel & Haydn children's chorus to present the New England premiere of Karl Jenkins' The Armed Man - A Mass for Peace, and the accompanying film. More info here.

Also at 3:00 pm, at First Church in Cambridge, the Cambridge Concentus presents a solo-voice performance of J.S. Bach's Cantata 43 with period instruments. Performers include: Ulrike Präger, soprano; Thea Lobo, mezzo-soprano; Jason Wang, tenor; Kyle Ferrill, baritone. Champagne served afterwards! (I only know Thea Lobo, but I LOVE her voice, and I highly recommend going to hear her!)

At 4:00 pm at the Harvard Memorial Church, the Harvard University Choir will be joined by the Orchestra of Emmanuel Music and a quartet of professional soloists to present the Harvard premiere of Robert D. Levin's recent completion of Mozart's Mass in C Minor. The concert will begin with a brief introduction by Robert Levin. To purchase online go to www.fas.harvard.edu/tickets. Ticket sales at the door are cash-only.

And the fun doesn't stop with the weekend! Two events not to miss next week:


At 8:00 pm at Jordan Hall, the New England Conservatory Choruses and Sinfonietta will present Poulenc's Gloria, Duruflé's Requiem, and Pärt's Magnificat.

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday:

The BSO presents Belioz' The Trojans, Part I. Soloists: Marcello Giordani, tenor (Aeneas); Yvonne Naef, m4ezzo-soprano (Cassandra); Dwayne Croft, baritone (Chorebus); Clayton Brainerd, bass-baritone (Pantheus); Kate Lindsey, mezzo-soprano (Ascanius); Jane Bunnell, mezzo-soprano (Hecuba); Ronald Naldi, tenor (Helenus); Eric Owens, bass (ghost of Hector). I'll be honest and admit I don't know who any of those people are, but perhaps some of you will be excited by some of the names!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Gig report: King's Chapel Choir

Last Sunday evening I sang in a concert with King's Chapel Choir. The program was:

Aaron Copland: In The Beginning
Samuel Barber: Agnus Dei (Adagio for Strings)
Daniel Pinkham: The Creation of the World
Leonard Bernstein: Chichester Psalms

Obviously I don't sing with the King's Chapel Choir regularly, since I'm at First Parish Cohasset on Sunday mornings, but I'm lucky enough that HC, the music director at King's Chapel, has asked me to join them for a couple of concerts in their concert series this year to expand their alto section.

This is kind of the perfect gig. There were only 3 rehearsals for this concert, including the dress rehearsal. (This is key - a fun gig that doesn't eat your life!) The repertoire is interesting and challenging. The choir is a friendly bunch of people as well as high-level musicians, and rehearsals strike that great balance between intensely focused and kind of hilarious because people are making puns and jokes under their breath. And a lot of the attitude is due to HC, who really keeps things efficiently moving in rehearsal with a sort of dry wit. He also has faith that people will go home and look at their music, so he never wastes too much time drilling anything. Of course, he is also lucky enough to have a choir that DOES go home and look at their music. Of course, that's probably because he invites people to join the choir who are responsible as well as talented...it's like the greenhouse effect, except awesome.

Even so, I have to confess that I was a little nervous after the dress rehearsal on Saturday, when I did not feel at all secure in a good many sections of the music, and I didn't seem to be the only one. But hey presto, the warm-up Sunday was far more solid, and the performance went great. And finally I have to say that the mezzo soloist on the Copland, Heather Holland, was AWESOME.

How did I land this great gig? Pretty simple - I e-mailed HC last fall, asked to sing for him, we scheduled a time to do so, I went in, sang for him, competently sight-read everything he put in front of me, he kindly put me on the sub list, and then I waited. That's the way it works, folks! In case you were wondering, which I certainly was 2 years ago.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Time's Top 25 Blogs

I'm a little late to this party, but if you haven't yet, go check out Time.com's First Annual Blog Index. "From millions of blogs about nothing, we've selected the 25 best about something."

Standing among giants - DailyKos, Lifehacker, BoingBoing - is a blog by Rachel Barenblat, someone I'm proud to call my friend. Her blog - called Velveteen Rabbi, with the tagline "When can I run and play with the real rabbis?" - is about Judaism and faith and poetry and other things, too. She's a poet as well as a rabbinic student, and her blog is beautifully written. I recommend checking it out...and isn't it exciting that Time.com does too?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Weekend Concert Calendar, 4/10/08

Spring! It is finally here! You can throw off the shackles of heavy overcoats and boots! And you will actually want to go out this weekend, instead of staying nestled on your warm couch while the cold winds howl. So, what should you do this weekend?

Well, first off, of course you should come see ME sing. I'm joining the King's Chapel Choir for a concert on Sunday at 5 pm at (where else?) King's Chapel.

The program is called "Made in America: Choral Masterpieces" and will consist of:
Leonard Bernstein: Chichester Psalms
Aaron Copland: In The Beginning
Samuel Barber: Agnus Dei (Adagio for Strings)
Daniel Pinkham: The Creation of the World

Details: King's Chapel is located at the corner of Tremont and School Streets, one block from the Park Street T. Suggested donation is $12/$8, there are no advance ticket sales, and the doors open at 4:30. Validated concert parking is available for $7 at the One Beacon Street Garage.

I'm actually practicing hard for this one, and also, the mezzo soloist on the Copland is fabulous, as is the entire choir generally, so please do come! These are all pieces that any choral musician should be familiar with.

Other options? As usual, you are spoiled for choice.

First off, this weekend is "Singing at Tufts!" weekend. On Friday at 8 pm, the Tufts Third Day Gospel Choir will perform; on Saturday at 7 pm, Tufts will present the inaugural "Boston Area Young Men's Choral Festival" (actually this is an all-day event, with the evening performance at 7); and on Sunday at 3 pm, the Tufts Chamber Singers present English and American choral music. More information on all these fine events is here.


On Friday, the Boston Secession presents "Justina Golden and The Amiable Consort." (I believe this means that the Secession themselves are not singing, although some of their members also sing with The Amiable Consort. Please correct me if you have further details.) They specialize in Hildegard von Bingen and solo and multi-part chant, so if that is your bag, baby, I suspect you won't want to miss this. 8pm on Friday, Gordon Chapel at Old South. More details are here.

Also, the Boston Camerata is having a concert at 8 pm at First Church in Cambridge, but I really can't figure out from their website whether or not it involves choral music. See what you think. (Scroll down to "Alla Turca.")


Usually I have an idea of what big events are coming up. But this one almost completely slipped by me. Emmanuel Music is performing Bach's B minor mass on Saturday at 8 pm! At Emmanuel Church in Boston, of course. This should be AWESOME - someone must go and report back to me! And frankly, their publicity department should be ashamed of themselves. No postings on the Boston Singer's Resource? No postings on the Greater Boston Choral Consortium website? And why am I not on your press release e-mail list? Shame! (That last one is sort of a joke - only Concora (see below) has been savvy enough to add me to their press release e-mail list.)

At 8 pm, the Chorale and Women's Chorus of the Boston Conservatory will perform works by Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Handel. The concert will be at the Mary Baker Eddy Library, Hall of Ideas, and it's FREE! Directions are here.

On Saturday at 4 pm, there will be a celebration of the music of Irving Fine at Slosberg Hall at Brandeis. This looks very, very neat. More details at this website.

If you are down south, or out near/on the Cape, head over to Plymouth - Church of the Pilgrimage, Town Square (Leyden & Main Streets). The Pilgrim Festival Chorus will present a Spring concert, featuring Ralph Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem and Five Mystical Songs. This one is at 7:30, so don't be late! More info here. They will repeat this concert at 3 pm on Sunday at the same location.


You already know where you should be on Sunday at 5 pm - at King's Chapel, of course, as mentioned above.

However, there is some stiff competition for that time slot - The Oriana Consort will be performing at 5:30 pm at First Lutheran Church in Boston (Berkeley and Marlborough Streets.) This is the same concert program as last weekend, featuring motets by Palestrina, Andrea Gabrieli, Giovanni Gabrieli, and Claudio Monteverdi; J. S. Bach's cantata "Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich" (BWV 150); Randall Thompson's "Ye shall have a song"; Irving Fine's "Have you seen the white lily grow?" and more.

If you want to do some singing yourself, head on over to the Belmont Open Sings, and sing the Mozart Coronation Mass (which has perhaps my favorite Credo movement that I have yet run into.) 7:30 at the Payson Park Church, 365 Belmont Street, Belmont - and they even provide the scores! More information is here.

If you feel like tootling down to Connecticut (or if you are already there) the Concora women's chorus will be performing Rachmaninoff's Vespers. This will be at 7:30 at the Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, West Hartford, CT. More information is on their website; more information about the accompanying historical lecture and open rehearsal is here.

Also on Sunday: The Pilgrim Festival Chorus will repeat their Saturday program (see above).

The non-choral pick of the week is a concert performance of the musical Chess at the Boston Conservatory. It's on Friday at 8, Saturday at 2 and 8, and Sunday at 2. It's a great score, and I am willing to bet you'll hear some fabulous voices, so check it out!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

AMC Mountains and Music - Come with me!

Wouldn't you just love to go on vacation? Just for a weekend? The last weekend in April sounds good, doesn't it? Perhaps somewhere that has hiking, maybe a climbing wall? Oh, and some canoeing? And let's not forget the opportunity to make some music, both in a large chorus or orchestra and also in small pick-up chamber groups? You could bring that quartet you can never get anyone to try with you, and assemble a group to play it before lacing up your hiking boots.

Well, you're in luck! The Appalachian Mountain Club's Boston Chapter hosts a Mountains and Music weekend three times a year. The next weekend will be April 28-30, and yours truly will be the chorus director! (If you are a long-time reader, you may remember that I have done this before, and had a great time.) We need more people in the choir - we have no basses and few tenors right now, so we've actually decided go to with the Pergolesi Stabat Mater as the joint choral/orchestral piece. And if you are a stellar alto, you might get to do the alto solos (I already have a stellar soprano soloist - sorry, soprani!)

You can find more information and also a registration form here. The registration deadline is this Friday. Please sign up - it would be great to see some more friendly faces there!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Gig report: Anthology at the Harmony Sweepstakes

Last Saturday Anthology competed in the Boston Regional Harmony Sweepstakes. This was a bit of a stretch for us - after all, our core is currently classical, though we're playing around in a lot of directions, and this event is very firmly planted in a cappella/barbershop land. It was a good experience, though, and we did very well, especially considering we learned one of the songs in less than a week and we were operating outside our comfort zone. There were eight groups competing, and Syncopation won, which was totally and utterly correct - they were fantastic. But the people who really knocked our socks off were the barbershop group Men in Black, who won last year and hosted this year. Holy cow - the tuning! The stage presence and charm! The tight-harmony arrangements! Go check them out if they are in your area.

We performed Benedictus by Brahms, I Am Stretched On Your Grave arr. The Voice Squad, and I Am a Can of Tuna, by the Chenille Sisters. We felt that set represented our current range pretty well. That last one we first looked at the music for six days before Saturday - that is, a week ago today. And we memorized it. And I sang a walking bass line - new experience! - into a hand-held mic - new experience! well, except for karaoke - and it all went quite fine.

We got judging sheets, too. Some of the helpful criticisms covered vowel shaping, blending, use of vibrato, tuning, mic balance (though that's not exactly our fault) and visual presentation. I will share with you a few of the positive comments, including, of course, some of the ones that mentioned me.

"bold choice to start" - that was the Brahms
"beautiful sound"
"woman on (my right) - watch posture" - Yes, that would be me.
"Great bass line in Tuna" - Woohoo! That would be me, too, on my first bass line performance!
"Nice opening -- Allegra! fearless approach!" - That one is, of course, my favorite comment, coming from the judge that I already knew from somewhere else.
"Excellent diction - clear consonants - crisp"
"You present a poised and professional appearance!"

All in all, I thought it was a great learning experience, and also just plain fun, for all of us.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Weekend Concert Calendar, 4/3/08

Oof, I'm getting started pretty late tonight on this! Let's see if I achieve the dual purpose of letting you know what choral concerts are out there this weekend so that you can go enjoy some music and also getting some sleep.

First of all, Anthology is in the Boston Regional Harmony Sweepstakes this Saturday! 7:30 pm at the Cohen Auditorium at Tufts! Please go - it would be great to have some supporters, since this is a big deal, and I'm kind of nervous. (I have to do choreography. I'm not sure this is a good idea.) And if we win, we get to go compete in the nationals in San Francisco! And since part of our score is determined by how well we entertain the audience, you should show up and be massively, publicly and loudly entertained by us!

In other news, there are some other concerts that don't revolve around me. Like anything without me in it matters. But here they are anyways:


Pick of the weekend (whatever day you can get there) is the Schola Cantorum under the direction of Fred Jodry. Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 4 pm. Heck, I'll just copy from their website:
J. S. Bach: Cantata 76 - Die Himmel Erzahlen
Motet: Komm, Jesu, Komm
Harpsichord Concerto in D Minor
With Musica Maris Baroque Orchestra
Michael Bahmann, Director

Fri Apr 4 at 8 PM: Saint John's, 35 Bowdoin Street, Boston. MA 02114
Sat Apr 5 at 8 PM: First Unitarian Church, 1 Benevolent Street, Providence, RI 02906
Sun Apr 6 at 4 PM: Congregational Church, 1 The Commons, Little Compton, RI 02837

Handel and Haydn is doing Haydn's Harmoniemesse and some other stuff by Haydn that is not choral on Friday at 8 pm and Sunday at 3 pm at Symphony Hall. A great group doing the core of their repertoire!

The Mastersingers by the Sea are performing Haydn's Creation Friday and Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 3 in Marion and Falmouth, MA - more info at their website.


At 3 pm the Master Singers will perform their FREE 11th annual Children's Concert along with Clarke Middle School chorus of Lexington. Performance is at Clarke Middle School - more information is here.

The Boston Gay Men's Chorus is performing at 8:30 at Symphony Hall. This sounds like a pretty cool program - "A kaleidoscopic evening of music that celebrates the great American traditions of civil liberty and freedom of expression. The program includes songs by George Michael, music inspired by Tales of the City and the premire of Liebermann’s A Whitman Oratorio." Obviously you will be at the Harmony Sweepstakes...but aren't you sad to miss this? I am.

Also, The Harvard Holden Chamber Ensembles (Michael Barrett, dir) present Music of the Spheres: An Exploration of Mathematics in Music. Vocal works by Machaut, Ockeghem & later composers. Memorial Church, Harvard Yard. Cambridge, 8pm, FREE. Does that look cool or what? Too bad that you will ALSO miss this concert due to being at the Tufts Harmony Sweepstakes. Life is just harsh sometimes.

And hey, Berkshire people, I have one for you! The Crescendo Choir will perform polychoral works by Willaert, Andrea & Giovanni Gabrieli, Claudio Monteverdi & Heinrich Schütz at the First Congregational Church, 251 Main St, Great Barrington. This one starts at 7:30 pm. And yet, since this concert is ALSO at the same time as the Tufts Harmony Sweepstakes, how ironic that there will be a glorious concert in your neck of the woods at the very same time when you will have gotten in your car and traveled 3 hours east to see the Harmony Sweepstakes and cheer on Anthology! Right? Right. But fear not, they will repeat this concert on Sunday at 4 pm at Trinity Church, 484 Lime Rock Rd, Lakeville CT, so you can go see that one.

Also on Saturday at 7:30 pm in MIT's Kresge Auditorium, the MIT Chinese Choral Society together with Chorus Boston and GBCCA present Faure's Requiem. More info here.


If you are in Bedford, there's a Schubert marathon going on.

The Oriana Consort will perform at the Swedenborg Chapel in Cambridge at 5:30 pm. Their concert is titled "“Baroque Legacies: Innovations in choral music of the Baroque era—and their echoes in choral music of the 20th century.” Which to me translates as, "This is a whole bunch of really cool music that we tried to come up with some concept for so that more people would come to hear it." No offense to them - it's a time-honored tradition, I do it myself all the time - and any concert that programs Irving Fine makes me immediately want to attend. Also, I know one of their altos, and she has the most gorgeous voice ever, so if she is representative of the group, this will be a beautiful-sounding concert.

Cantata Singers! Woohoo! One of those groups that I have never heard sing due to scheduling problems, and yet still have huge respect for - ah, the power of a good reputation. They continue their year-long exploration of Weill at 3 pm at the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center, 333 Nahanton Street, Newton Center. It's actually a cabaret concert, not a choral concert, but it looks like fun.

The Northeastern University Choral Society presents a concert of American Masterpieces at 7:30 pm at the Fenway Center in Boston (directions on their website.) "The featured works are Randall Thompson’s evocative Frostiana, two romantic works: Daniel Pinkham’s Wedding Cantataand Eric Whitacre’s Five Hebrew Love Songs, Irving Fine’s humorous Three Choruses from Alice in Wonderland, and Norman Dello Joio’s exuberant Song of the Open Road." Good stuff, that!

Also this weekend, the Harvard-Radcliffe G&S Players are doing Patience! This weekend and next weekend - go check it out! Verily, they invariably put on a good show.

And on Monday, the BU Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Chorus are performing Verdi's Requiem under the baton of Ann Howard-Jones at Symphony Hall at 8 pm.

Whew! If I stayed up late to type this up, it is the LEAST you can do, thou herd of ingrates, to get out there and listen to some music this weekend! Get thee forth and use thine ears! Also, can someone proofread this for me? I'm going to hit the sack!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Gig report: Clausura in CT

So yesterday Cappella Clausura went down to Sacred Heart University in CT. We did a masterclass there (with their Catholic Music class, I believe) and then performed in the evening. I got home at 1 am.

The masterclass went well - many of the students were relatively well engaged (some were texting or surfing the web on their laptops, but so it goes.) We did get some questions, although I was hoping the theorbo would have gotten more shock value. I mean, come on, it's a theorbo, and I know most of them had never seen one before! And yet nobody said "What the hell is THAT?!?" the way I was hoping they would. The funniest moment probably came when Amy (the director) had us demonstrate a drone, which we use in some of the chant we do - half the group just sings a single note on a single vowel while staggering our breaths so the sound never stops. It is probably the most brutally hard thing I have to sing in with that group - definitely the most difficult aspect of this particular program. It's hard to explain properly if you haven't experienced it, but sitting on one note can rapidly make your throat and entire body get very, very tense, and having it be on one vowel, so nothing is physically changing, makes it that much harder. (Mike, it's basically the equivalent of playing Reich's Piano Phase.)

Anyways, we stood in a circle, and all droned together, and then Amy invited students to come up and stand in the middle of the circle to hear a surround-sound version of droning. So a few did, and duly expressed the opinion that it was cool, and then with the third kid Amy moved into the circle and sang a half-step down against us. The guy in the middle, who looked like an affable jock, immediately freaked out, and said, "Stop, stop! That's too weird!" and backed out of the circle. It's not often you get such a violent reaction to dissonance. :)

Then after some down time during which we all felt aimless, we went to a little reception in the university art gallery, with some very good food. (Little coconut-crusted lobster rolls on a stick, yum! Also, half a glass of wine before a concert has no deleterious effects - note to self!) Then we sang the concert, which went well - it's a program we've sung a number of times before, so it was quite comfortable and familiar. We had a pretty good crowd - it was in the university auditorium. And afterwards they fed us a very nice dinner. Nothing warms my heart towards an institution like good food - the way to a singer's heart is through their belly!

The drive home was quite exciting - massive rainstorm, big thunder, heavy wind. Luckily I wasn't driving, and mostly dozed through the whole thing. And that was my day yesterday.