Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tuesday political links

A busy day, so this last week before the election, you will get a quick hit.

Don't forget that there is more than the presidential election at stake. In MA, we have three ballot questions: on taxes, reducing criminal penalties for marijuana, and dog-racing. To see a sample ballot, go here; for more MA election information, go here. Proponents of voting yes on Question 1 (that is, to enormously reduce income taxes) have a page here; opponents have a page here. I will be voting no on #1, as it will reduce the state budget by 40%, and I believe a large chunk of that will come out of education. Question 2 was sponsored by the Committee for Responsible Marijuana Policy and their site is here; the Massachusetts District Attorney's Association opposes the measure, and their statement is here. I will be voting yes on #2, as I support reducing the criminal penalties for marijuana - I believe we have a huge prison over-population problem, and putting people in jail for simple possession is not very helpful to anyone. The last question is on dog-racing; my feelings on this are not strong, partly because I'm not well-informed about it, but the argument that the dogs are not treated well is persuasive, so I will probably vote yes on #3 to ban dog-racing. NPR has a segment on it.

More links to information about any of these issues is welcome.

And for the love of all that is decent, if you live in California, get your behind out to the polls and vote NO on Proposition 8 - don't legalize discrimination against all your LGBT fellow citizens!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday link

Via ChoralBlog, an article at Opera News Online about Donald Palumbo, the Met's chorusmaster. This is particularly interesting to me as I embark on the task of chorusmaster myself!

In other opera news, the Boston Globe has an article about the Met's simulcasts of live operas in movie theaters. And if you want to buy tickets yourself, check out the Met's website.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Join the cast of Otello!

So, a couple of weeks ago I hinted that I was doing lots of exciting things, and would elaborate soon.

One of the most exciting of those things is that I am the chorusmaster for the Lowell House Opera production of Verdi's Otello. We had the first chorus rehearsal last Sunday, and it went really well. However, we are still looking for more singers - a lot more singers, like 10-20 more singers. We especially need men, but we are going to need more singers in all voice parts, so if you are looking to get some opera experience, this is for you! Rehearsals are Sunday nights from 7-10 pm through the first week in December. Staging is February, and the performances are the first two weeks of March. The quality of these performances is incredibly high - I was blown away by the leads in Turandot last year. So please think about joining, and tell all your friends about it, too. AND, if any of you are in a local chorus, please copy this entire blog entry and forward it to your chorus! Lowell House is a part of Harvard, but they are open to everyone, even those with no Harvard affiliation whatsoever, and we want the Boston choral scene to know that they are entirely welcome to participate!

Here's the details:

The Lowell House Opera, the oldest continuously performing opera company in New England, is holding ongoing open CHORUS AUDITIONS for all voice parts for its production of Giuseppe Verdi’s OTELLO in March 2009. The work will be performed in Italian with projected English supertitles, with full costumes and staging, and with full orchestra. The production will include approximately 70 cast members, 120 orchestra members, and 50 technical staff members. Though the Lowell House Opera is based at Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts) and provides valuable opera performance experience to Harvard students, it also includes many students and emerging professionals in the greater Boston area and features professional opera performers from the United States, Canada, and Europe. Channing Yu returns as Music Director and Sarah Eggleston returns as Producer; Cameron Arens makes his LHO debut as Stage Director. Performances take place in the beautiful Lowell House Dining Hall, which is converted to an opera house for the production run. Rehearsals will take place between October 2008 and February 2009. Performances are scheduled for March 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 13, and 14, 2009. This is an all-volunteer production. No pay/no fee. There is no age limit. For more information, please contact Sarah Eggleston, Producer, at lho@hcs.harvard.edu or 617-620-6077.

http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/lho

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Weekend Concert Calendar, 10/23/08

It's time for your weekend concert calendar!

First off, I am singing in two concerts this weekend with Cappella Clausura. We are singing on this Friday, Oct. 24, 7:30 pm at Gordon Chapel, Old South Church (right in Copley Square.) We are also singing on Saturday, Oct. 25, 8:00 pm at The Episcopal Parish of the Messiah in Newton.

The concert is called “Before and After the Veil” and it features some really neat programming. In 1593 Vittoria Aleotti, a teenager at the time, published a book of madrigals. A few years later, Raffaella Aleotti, a nun in the convent of San Vito, published a book of motets. For a while historians thought they were sisters, but it is now believed (although not proved) that they were the same person, and that Vittoria took a new name upon entering the convent (as often happened.) The first half of the program is a selection of the motets, and the second half is a selection of the madrigals – you can decide for yourself if you think they were written by the same composer! The madrigals especially are a blast to sing, and for most of this concert, I'm the only person on my voice part, which is one of my favorite ways to sing.

So please come – it should be a very exciting concert!

Other choral events this weekend:

Friday:

Cappella Clausura! 7:30 pm! Gordon Chapel, Old South Church!

Blue Heron will be performing music from the Peterhouse Partbooks at 8:00 pm at First Church in Cambridge, 11 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA.

This is not strictly choral, but I'm really sorry I'm going to miss it – maybe one of you can go and then tell me how fabulous it is. The Boston Opera Collaborative presents a Puccini double-bill of Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi. 7:30 pm at Christ the King Church, 99 Prospect St., Cambridge, MA. Also on Saturday.

Also not choral, but also too cool not to mention: Stephen Sondheim will be talking at Northeastern University at 8:00 pm (with a reception at 6:30 pm.) More info here.

Boston Baroque presents Handel's Xerxes. This will be at NEC's Jordan Hall, 30 Gainsborough St., Boston, at 8:00 pm. Also on Saturday.

Saturday:

Cappella Clausura! 8:00 pm! Episcopal Parish of the Messiah!

At 4:00 pm, the Boston Conservatory Chorale and Women's Chorus will present works by Irving Fine, Brahms, and Rachmaninoff. This will be at Seully Hall, 4th floor, 8 The Fenway, Boston. And it's free!

Boston Baroque presents Handel's Xerxes. This will be at NEC's Jordan Hall, 30 Gainsborough St., Boston, at 8:00 pm. Also on Friday.

The Boston Opera Collaborative presents a Puccini double-bill of Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi. 7:30 pm at Christ the King Church, 99 Prospect St., Cambridge, MA. Also on Friday.

Sunday:

The sixth annual Sing to Cure MS concert, to benefit the Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis, will take place at 3:00 pm, Pleasant Street Congregational Church, 75 Pleasant Street, Arlington, MA. Many singers from different groups will be singing a broad variety of repertoire.

The King's Chapel Choir presents “In Praise of Music.” They will sing Pinkham's “In Praise of Music”; Schubert's “An die Musik”; Britten's “Hymn to St. Cecilia”; Purcell's “Music for a While”; and Vaughan Williams' “Serenade to Music.” This looks like a fantastic program to me. King's Chapel, downtown Boston, at 5:00 pm.

At 7:00 pm, the Northeastern University Chamber Chorus will join with the Zamir Chorale and the Jerusalem Academy Chamber Choir to present a program that will include Daniel Pinkham's Wedding Cantata, Yehezkel Braun's Song of Songs, and other works by American and Israeli composers. The Academy Choir frequently performs with the Israel Philharmonic and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra; this is the first stop on their American tour. 7:00 pm, The Fenway Center at Northeastern University, St. Stephen and Gainsborough Streets, Boston. More information is here.

Belmont Open Sings hosts an open reading of Mozart's Requiem. This will be at 7:30 pm at Payson Park Church, 365 Belmont Street, Belmont, MA.

Whew! It's a busy weekend.

There are also some exciting things happening next week.

On Tuesday, Oct. 28 at 8:00 pm, the BU Concert Choir and BU Women's Chorale will present works by Rorem, Mozart, and Durufl├ę. CFA Concert Hall, 855 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston.

And also on Tuesday, at 7:30 pm, there will be a live broadcast of Bach's B Minor Mass from New York. One of my teachers (and one of the finest musicians I have ever had the chance to work with), Dr. Andrew Megill, will be conducting the choir of Trinity Church, Wall Street, and the Rebel Baroque Orchestra. If, like me, you will not be in New York that night, you can watch a live broadcast through the church's website...and if you are in your own house, you can sing along!


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tuesday political GUEST post!

My brother, who blogs over at Politics and Soccer, has agreed to do a guest post today for me! (Well, technically yesterday, but I had computer problems until an hour ago.) He recently graduated from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service's Security Studies Program, and he is far more well-informed than I about all aspects of politics. (I spent part of the second debate on instant messaging with him asking, "Was that statement true? What about that one?" and getting some very detailed and complex analysis in reply.)

He asked what he should write about, and I asked for him to give a rundown on the candidates' differences in healthcare plans and tax plans. So, without further ado, and with much delight, I give you my brother's guest post!

Obama and McCain on taxes & healthcare

Obama and McCain have very contrasting views on both taxes and healthcare, so these are two useful areas to compare them. Disclosure: I am a supporter of Obama. All the information comes from the candidates' websites – additional sources are linked.

Taxes

The Tax Policy Center has a nice chart showing side-by-side comparisons of the two candidates' tax proposals (they also have an in-depth paper contrasting both tax plans). Obama and McCain both frame their tax policy in terms of "fairness," although they obviously mean different things. To Obama, fairness means people with higher incomes pay more taxes so that people who are struggling to get by can pay less in taxes, with the idea that they'll then have more money that they spend and inject into the economy, which grows the economy from the bottom up. To McCain, fairness means lowering progressive income tax rates to something closer to a flat tax, in which everyone pays the same percentage of their income. With lower tax rates, taxpayers will have more incentive to work and make money, and with lower corporate tax rates, businesses will have more capital to expand, growing the economy that way. However, this also lowers the ability of the government to incentivize taxpayer behavior through tax credits (which is key to McCain's health care policy).

Overall McCain's fiscal programs are difficult to evaluate because he hasn't said much specific about them. He has a vague promise to balance the budget by overhauling entitlement programs like Social Security via privatization ("John McCain supports supplementing the current Social Security system with personal accounts") and also claims "the McCain administration would reserve all savings from victory in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations in the fight against Islamic extremists for reducing the deficit." Unfortunately, since McCain's plan to win the War on Terror is secret, we can't evaluate the likelihood of there being any "victory savings".

More specific tax policies McCain has promised include phasing out the Alternative Minimum Tax, which started out as a way to tax wealthy people who avoided paying income tax via loopholes, but due to inflation now applies to a larger portion of Americans, and to lower the top tax rate from 39.6% to 35% (currently for people making $350,000 or more). He would lower the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%, as he claims that this is necessary to keep America a competitive business environment. This is dubious – two thirds of corporations in the US paid zero taxes from 1998-2005 due to loopholes, and the World Economic Forum rated the US as the #1 place to do business from 2008-2009.

The end result of McCain's tax cuts will be either large deficits or large spending cuts. McCain has stated he prefers large spending cuts; however Congress may force him to accept deficits. Both are bad – deficits because it disproportionately increases the tax burden in the future, and spending cuts because infrastructure (think the bridge in Minneapolis) and other needs will go unmet.

Obama's plan is to keep the Bush tax cuts permanent for those making under $250,000 a year, while raising taxes on those making over that amount. He would also give various tax incentives - $4,000 tax credit for college, 10% credit for mortgages, $500 for employed people, expanding the tax credit for children, eliminating capital gains taxes for small businesses and poorer/middle income people, eliminating corporate tax loopholes, tax credits for renewable energy R&D, etc. It's more difficult to analyze Obama's tax plan as a whole because it has a lot of small detailed things that add up to less tax revenue, and he too has been vague about the specific ineffective government programs he'll cut.

The bottom line is that both McCain and Obama's tax plans promise tax cuts, and both candidates have also pledged to restrain government spending, although probably by not as much as the lost tax revenue. McCain's tax cuts favor rich people, and Obama's tax cuts favor low and middle income people. The Tax Policy Center estimates that , between 2009 and 2018 and measured against current policy, McCain's tax plan will result in $615,000,000,000 less tax revenue, while Obama's will result in $261,700,000,000 more tax revenue (although not a big enough increase to cover the deficit).

The giant elephant in the room that isn't mentioned is defense spending. McCain pledges to "cut wasteful defense spending" with no details, and promises free money from "victory" in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Obama says nothing about defense spending, which by some accounts is over a trillion dollars per year. How do you put forward a serious budget proposal without mentioning defense? It is because of the secret Washington rule that money spent on defense doesn't actually count as money.

Health Care

Both candidates agree with common sense proposals like getting health records online to minimize bureaucratic costs, improving chronic disease management, increasing consumer options on health insurance, drug importation, etc. Similar to his tax policy, Obama's health care policy has a general philosophy with a number of smaller changes, while McCain's policy rests on two big ideas.

McCain has two basic health care proposals. First, to give a $5,000 tax credit to every family, or $2,500 to each individual, for health insurance. Any penny over $5,000 will be paid out of pocket by the families or individuals. Since the average yearly premium for a family of four cost $12,100, and the average cost for an individual was $4,400, this would be a net loss for most Americans. McCain argues that the cost of premiums will go down due to his second major health care proposal, allowing Americans to buy health insurance from any company in the country regardless of their location. Theoretically a freer market would lead to lower prices, but practically it would likely lead to a situation in which all major health insurance companies relocate to the states with the fewest consumer protection regulations, just as has happened with credit card companies all moving to Delaware. This means that health insurance companies won't need to pick you up if you have pre-existing conditions, since they'll all be based in whatever state legislature was bribed into letting them create that loophole in state law. Health insurance would probably be a little cheaper but much worse, and with consumers paying much more and companies much less.

In contrast Obama's plan largely focuses on increasing the number of people with health insurance, although without making health insurance mandatory. Individuals and small employers would be able to buy into a federal program similar to Medicare (National Health Insurance Exchange), large employers would be penalized if they did not provide health insurance to their employees, and families would be required to cover children. While this would expand the insurance pool and thus lower costs somewhat, since the program is not mandatory, the risk would not be distributed as much as in a universal health insurance system, and thus health insurance premiums would not be lowered as much as they could. Probably the best part from a cost perspective is penalizing large employers that don't offer health insurance. Some companies like Walmart pocket profits by leaving many of their employees on Medicare, giving taxpayers the health insurance bills that most companies pay themselves – under Obama's plan, they would be penalized. And as Obama has repeatedly stated, if you like your current health insurance, nothing will change other than your rates going down as costs are transferred from the insurance policies to the government (he leaves out the last part). But since Obama's tax plan is much more progressive than current policy, in effect most Americans wouldn't be paying their transferred costs as taxes due to their tax cut, so it really would be a substantial reduction in cost.

In conclusion, I'd say that both candidates tax plans are fairly unrealistic for two reasons – they were (necessarily) written before the recent financial mess, and they both ignore defense spending. That said, McCain's plan is especially unrealistic due to its "victory dividend" and magical savings from unspecified Social Security reform. In contrast, both health care plans seem perfectly possible, but Obama's is clearly superior.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Weekend Concert Calendar, 10/16/08

I'm happy to announce that I'm singing three concerts with a fabulous group this weekend. Schola Cantorum, under the direction of Fred Jodry, is one of the best Renaissance choirs in Boston (if I do say so myself.) We will be performing Byrd's Mass for Five Voices (two on a part! so much fun!) as well as some sacred and secular works by Weelkes and Gibbons. We are performing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but if you live in the Boston area, you will want to aim for the concert TONIGHT! , which is at 8:00 pm at St. Johns, 35 Bowdoin Street, Boston, MA 02114. The other concert locations are both in RI, and are listed below under Saturday and Sunday.

This group is an absolute blast to sing with - everyone is so good, and there's no greater joy than just slotting yourself into exactly the right place in a small ensemble, feeling the support of a solid musical structure around you, and just soaring with the music. Don't miss it! Byrd only wrote three masses, they are all masterpieces, and they are not performed nearly enough.

Friday:

Schola Cantorum! St. John's in downtown Boston! 8 pm!

Saturday:

Schola Cantorum! Saint Joseph Church, 86 Hope Street, Providence, RI! 8 pm!

At 9 am at the Indian Hill Music School, there will be the first of two workshops this weekend with Kate Munger, founder of the Threshold Choir movement, on circle singing. Saturday's workshop is an introductory one, and will run from 9 am to 4 pm. More info is here. There will also be a workshop on Sunday from noon to 5 pm with singers who are already familiar with the Threshold choir movement.

The Boston Early Music Festival presents the Collegium Vocale Ghent from Belgium, one of the top vocal ensembles in the world. They will be performing at 8 pm at First Church Congregational in Harvard Square, 11 Garden St., Cambridge. They will be performing music by Haydn, with guest director Kristian Bezuidenhout on the fortepiano.

At 7:00 pm at St. James's Episcopal Church, Porter Square, Cambridge, there will be a benefit concert for the Helping Hand Food Pantry, which will feature, among other performers, the St. James's Mens' Choir. More info here.

At 7:30 pm, the Boston University Choruses will present a concert of various works, including Mozart and Durufle, at the CFA Concert Hall, 855 Commonwealth Avenue. More information is here.

Sunday:

Schola Cantorum! Saint Michael’s Church, High Street, Bristol, RI 02493! 3 pm!

At 1:30 pm the Boston Camerata will be at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, presenting works by Dufay, Monteverdi, Josquin, and others.

It's a bit far afield, but at 7:30 pm at the First Church of Christ in New Britain, CT, Concora will present a concert called American Voices.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday political links

I have the flu, so I will just throw a few links your way and then go crawl back into bed.

The presidential campaign is starting to see some ugly racism coming to the surface. At GOP rallies, there are reports of people calling Obama a terrorist, and yelling that someone should kill him. You can read about it on: The Washington Post; Feministing and the Huffington Post. You can also google it and read about it on the news source of your choice.

And what is McCain doing about it? Well, a few times he spoke out about it at his rallies, which seems real big...until you realize that he's training his volunteers to explicitly accuse Obama of terrorism. Palin, too, is creating enormous problems by saying that the crowds to whom she speaks "see America as a force for good in this world" while Mr. Obama "sees America ... as so imperfect that he is palling around with terrorists who would target their own country". It's pretty obvious that we should see Obama as not "one of us," "someone who hangs out with terrorists", someone who is probably Muslim...they're not even trying to run against his positions, but are simply trying to paint him as someone who is evil and other and scary. And this is problematic not only because they are trying to stir up racial anger against Obama, but because they are reinforcing the terrible idea that there's something wrong with being non-white and/or Muslim. I'm not the only person who's scared that this could lead to some serious violence, and that the McCain/Palin campaign will bear some responsibility if it does.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Weekend Concert Calendar, 10/9/08

There are so many exciting things going on in my life right now, and as soon as all my schedules settle down, I will start talking about them. But the downside of all the busy-ness is that it sure is hard to find time to blog! Also, my e-mail inbox is out of control.

For now, here, briefly, is your weekend concert calendar. Honestly, I can't find anything for Friday or Saturday, and not too much for Sunday, either. Apparently everyone is still practicing.

Sunday:

The
Naperville Men's Glee Club is in town, and will perform works by Biebl, Faure, Grieg, and Thomson. They will be at the Arlington St. Church at 351 Boylston St. in Boston (right on the Public Garden) at 3:30 pm.

Also on Sunday from 3:30 pm to 9:00 pm, there is a Gigantic Gospel Extravaganza! It will be at the The New Fellowship Baptist Church in Grove Hall, MA (which is in South Boston.)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Tuesday political links

It's Tuesday political links time! Quite appropriate, as I just finished watching the debate. Or rather, just finished ignoring the debate while I instant-messaged with my brother.

Today's topic is voter fraud and voter intimidation.

In past elections:

My brother says I'm not allowed to write an article on this topic without mentioning the Florida hanging chad debacle. My brother also recommends the Bobby Kennedy piece in the Rolling Stone about the 2004 election, which details the many disturbing ways in which the GOP might have thrown the election for Bush.

In the 2002 Senate election in NH, the GOP jammed the phones in the Democratic get-out-the-vote office; several people eventually received jail sentences. There were also allegations that the White House may have been directly involved. Wikipedia outlines the whole thing.

In this election:

In Macomb County, Michigan, the GOP planned to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting. Quote from the article: "State election rules allow parties to assign “election challengers” to polls to monitor the election. In addition to observing the poll workers, these volunteers can challenge the eligibility of any voter provided they “have a good reason to believe” that the person is not eligible to vote. One allowable reason is that the person is not a “true resident of the city or township.”"

This would disproportionally affect African-Americans who are overwhelmingly Democratic voters. State-wide, the GOP plans on training people on how to "challenge" voters at the polls. But not to fear, the Obama campaign is on the case - they filed a lawsuit in federal court to prevent this from happening.

Student voters are also being targeting for scare tactics, and are particularly vulnerable because they often study in one state while they consider home to be another state. And guess what? Student voters tend to be overwhelmingly Democratic.

The issue of felon voting rights should be mentioned. In most states, there are various and confusing restrictions on the voting rights of those in prison. Some states deny felons voting rights even after they have served their complete sentences. In 11 states, you can lose your right to vote for life. These laws disproportionally affect African-Americans, and most of these laws were put into practice during Reconstruction with the express intent of preventing black people from voting. The ACLU has more information. Let's also not forget Florida 2000, when about 50,000 alleged felons were purged from the Florida voting rolls, nearly half of whom were African-American voters and the majority of whom were not felons and should have been eligible to vote under Florida law.

So what can you do? Well, first of all, don't forget to register to vote. For some states, the deadline has passed, but in MA the deadline is October 15, so make SURE you are registered to vote. Even if sarcastic celebrities tell you not to.

In conclusion...One (Hu)'Man, One Vote! This is from one of my favorite albums ever, Johnny Clegg's Cruel, Crazy Beautiful World. The musical is political!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Monday link

I am too tired to find you any decent recent links, so go amuse yourself with A Young Person's Guide to the Chorus. I have a pretty strong suspicion concerning which voice part the author is, but I won't say anything until you've read it - feel free to comment with your own conclusions.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Weekend Concert Calendar, 10/2/08

I have an hour before choir practice, so your Boston choral concert calendar this week will be very efficient!

Friday:
  • Handel and Haydn Society, Harry Christophers, Guest Conductor; All-Handel concert; 8:00 pm; Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston.
Saturday:
  • Chant Camp Workshop with Susan Hellauer (Anonymous 4), leader; 9:30 am - 5 pm; St. Paul Catholic Church, 29 Mt Auburn St, Cambridge. More info here.
  • Emmanuel Music and Emmanuel Church Host Open House; free rehearsal for Bach Cantata BWV 21, Ich hatte viel Bek├╝mmernis; 10 am - 1:30 pm; Emmanuel Church, 15 Newbury St., Boston. More info here.
Sunday:
  • Chant Camp Workshop with Susan Hellauer (Anonymous 4), leader; 1:15-5pm; St. Paul Catholic Church, 29 Mt Auburn St, Cambridge. More info here. (Note: there are two of these camps happening this weekend, one Saturday and one Sunday - it is not one two-part workshop.)
  • Handel and Haydn Society, Harry Christophers, Guest Conductor; All-Handel concert; 3:00 pm; Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston.