Thursday, May 28, 2009

Weekend Concert Calendar, 5/28/09

It's a less busy weekend than I had anticipated - I think most choruses have already disbanded for the summer. That Handel & Haydn at the Hatchshell on Sunday looks like fun, I must say!


Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday link - sick

Blergh. I have come down with a cold - it started on Saturday, so it pretty effectively squashed the whole weekend for me. So, in honor of my current state, I'll link you to The Chorister's suggestions for what to do when you're sick. I've only heard of echinacea - anyone else have experience with olive leaf extract or bee propolis? (Hat tip to the Choralnet blog, btw, for pointing me at this entry.)

Or I could always take my own advice.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday cat post!

Well, you didn't get a Monday link or a Weekend Concert Calendar this week, but at least I'm doing the Friday cat post!

Oomi jumped into a closet and burrowed into a shelf of clothes. This is why you should only buy clothes the color of your cat.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday cat post!

It was pointed out to me that last Friday I completely and utterly neglected to do a cat post. And I didn't even remember my forgetfulness until it was pointed out to me. Sorry about that!

Today's picture can very aptly be named "Portrait of Basement Cat."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Weekend Concert Calendar, 5/14/09

I am going to play around with the format of the concert calendar, I think. The one I did a couple of weeks ago ended up being a bit easier to read, even if it had less information, so I'm going to see how a variation on that works. Feedback about how you would like me to format the weekend concert calendar is welcome!

This weekend is very big for me. Anthology is having three concerts (actually, four - we had one yesterday evening as well) and these will be our last concerts until the fall. Vicky, one of our sopranos, is due to have a baby in about a week and a half (and we are crossing our fingers that the munchkin doesn't come too soon!) They are going to be very fun - we decided to do a concert of all fun and funny songs. So there will be Monty Python, dirty Renaissance rounds, numerous songs about food, PDQ Bach, Sesame Street, Broadway (complete with bowler hats), and of course a bit of Disney. ("Poor Unfortunate Souls" from The Little Mermaid, to be precise.) Please come! There is even a world premiere composed by one of us on the text "Don't Bump the Glump" by Shel Silverstein.

Here are the details:
Friday, May 15, 8pm - Shirley Meetinghouse, 41 Brown St, Shirley, MA
Saturday, May 16, 8pm - Center for Arts at the Armory Cafe, 191 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA
Sunday, May 17, 4pm - Central Congregational Church, 85 Seaverns Ave, Jamaica Plain, MA

I hope to see many of you there!

Did I forget anything? Leave it in the comments!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday link

From my friend Margaret Ronald (who has a new novel out, btw! Although that has nothing to do with this amusing picture below. But I have a few extras - if you are the first person to comment and ask, it's possible I might send you one for free.)

I assume credit for this flowchart goes to Robert Bolyard, whose e-mail address is in the picture. (Click on the image to make it open bigger in a new window.) Warning for salty language, if you care about that sort of thing.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Weekend Concert Calendar...whoops!

I just realized that it is Friday and I did not post a concert calendar yesterday! Profound apologies - I am completely snowed under by various performances, auditions, rehearsals, and sundry other activities, and so I am afraid that this week you will have to do your own research.

Special apologies to all the groups who are giving wonderful performances this weekend and whom I am not advertising here.

And finally, come to Iolanthe! Tonight and tomorrow afternoon are the last two performances! And did I mention I'm conducting in a tiara?

Interview with Amelia LeClair, Transcript, Part 7

Here's the transcription of the seventh and last part of my interview with Amelia LeClair. You can find the previous parts here: one, two, three, four, five, six. Don't forget that Cappella Clausura, the group she directs, is performing this weekend! They will be at Grace Church in Salem this Sunday, May 10, at 7:30 pm. (They also performed this past weekend - hopefully some of you made it to those concerts!)

Interview with Amelia LeClair at the Cafe Algiers, Cambridge, MA, on 4/22/09, cont.

Q: All right, time for the questionnaire!
A: OK!
Q: All right, here we go. Just answer immediately, you don’t have to think about it hard. What is your favorite word?
A: Oh my God. [laughs] Maybe that’s it.
Q: Don’t think about it!
A: My favorite word? Oh, wow, I have a lot of favorite words, I love words.
Q: Pick one. Or you can list a bunch, that’s acceptable.
A: Chicken.
Q: What’s your least favorite word?
A: Chicken. Because it’s funny.
Q: What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
A: Music.
Q: What turns you off creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
A: Bad music.
Q: [laughs] What sound or noise that is non-musical do you love?
A: Two hammers.
Q: Two hammers?
A: Take two household hammers and bang them together. They make a very cool sound.
Q: All right. What sound or noise that is non-musical do you dislike?
A: Oh, chalk on a blackboard.
Q: What’s your favorite curse word?
A: The f-word.
Q: OK! You’re allowed to say it, but I won’t force you. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? This is an interesting question for you, because you decided, and then you did it. A lot of people don’t necessarily make that informed a choice. But what would your second choice be?
A: If I had another life, and I could expend it in another way, I would be an oceanographer.
Q: And what profession would you absolutely never want to be?
A: Accounting.
Q: Name one of your favorite composers.
A: Brahms.
Q: Name one composer where you just don’t see what all the fuss is about.
A: Wagner.
Q: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
A: “What shall we sing?”

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Interview with Amelia LeClair, Transcript, Part 6

Here's the transcription of the sixth part of my interview with Amelia LeClair. You can find the previous parts here: one, two, three, four, five, and there is one more part to come. Don't forget that Cappella Clausura, the group she directs, is performing this weekend! They will be at Grace Church in Salem this Sunday, May 10, at 7:30 pm. (They also performed this past weekend - hopefully some of you made it to those concerts!)

Interview with Amelia LeClair at the Cafe Algiers, Cambridge, MA, on 4/22/09, cont.

Q: Who are some of your favorite conductors?
A: My favorite conductors?
Q: People that you really respect, people that you would look to emulate, people that you admire.
A: Hm. Well. Simon, of course. I have never sung for David Hoose, but I understand he’s pretty damn good, I’d like to see him, I’d like to sing for him, but I don’t think that I ever will. Let’s see. You know, I haven’t sung for a lot of people, so I don’t really know, because I don’t have a lot of experience. This is the anomaly of my life, I haven’t had the experience to be a conductor or even a singer –
Q: Except –
A: Except…right. I don’t know. I always think I should join a choir, but I don’t have time.
Q: Yes, it’s time-consuming.
A: Yes. Another night out.
Q: Are there big-name conductors that you may have seen conduct a symphony, or not even, but have read interviews with, or…?
A: Well, actually, when I grew up, yes. When I grew up I thought George Szell was god. I loved George Szell. I never went to see him conduct, because I didn’t have that kind of money, but I bought every recording he ever made. I also really liked – well, OK. I didn’t like Leonard Bernstein. I didn’t like Seiji Ozawa. I didn’t like Daniel Barenboim. I mean, all the orchestral conductors, the big guys, the big-wigs, I was very finicky about them. Because I grew up – well, I taught myself, really, by listening to a lot of orchestral music. And, you know, when you get to know a piece really, really well then you compare the way you’ve heard it to another rendition, and you kind of know, “OK, this is what I like, this is what I don’t like.” One of the things I always liked about George Szell was I loved all the Mozart symphonies. And one of the things that George Szell did which I thought was fabulous was that he always brought out the woodwinds.
Q: What?
A: He brought out the woodwinds. And you would never hear them in other renditions. You know, Eugene Ormandy, oh, lush strings, and that’s all you would hear was lush strings, well, where’s that clarinet? Where is that incredible clarinet? So I’m always listening for that – somebody who brings out that thing, that particular sound that I know is in there, and I’m listening but I’m not hearing it. I don’t know, that doesn’t answer your question very well.
Q: No, that does answer it! Very well. Before I get to the little ten-question ending questionnaire, what skills would you tell young conductors to go acquire?
A: People skills. [laughs]
Q: Good answer.
A: Yes. People skills. I think – you can go a long way to being successful with your choir if you can humor them into doing everything that you want them to do. And you need to humor them. I don’t think – what’s the word?
Q: Brow-beating?
A: Brow-beating, yes! [laughs] It doesn’t work. It just makes people feel bad. And being autocratic doesn’t work. It just makes people feel bad. And singers – I mean, I’m one of them. I’ve had my throat just kind of close up when somebody yells at me. It doesn’t work. I want my throat to be nice and open and relaxed, I don’t want it to feel like, “Ugh.” So, humor I think is really big. Looking at your singers as much as you can. Oh, I know. I sang for a guy, Norm MacKenzie. Wonderful guy. He’s the preparer for the Robert Shaw – has been for many years – for the Robert Shaw Chorale. I don’t know who he’s conducting now, but I sang for a week with him, sort of, you know, 24-7 we were together, this small group, 30 people and Norm MacKenzie. And when he conducted us, he looked at every one of us with this look in his eyes like, “You are the most important person in this piece.” And it made you feel like, “OK, I’ll give you anything.” When somebody looks at you like that, you just want to give them your entire life. You say, “OK, you got it! I’ll sing loud, I’ll sing high, I’ll sing low, I’ll sing whatever you want.” Because there’s just a look like, “Oh, aren’t you psyched about this, aren’t you excited, don’t you want to work for me?” That makes a lot of difference, I think. And I try to do that – I think that’s really important. Again, it’s people skills. It’s connecting with your singers on a level that you may not be comfortable doing outside of rehearsal, or you don’t have to do it outside of rehearsal. But inside rehearsal, you have to be the light. You have to be the eyes. You have to be everything.

[to be continued!]

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Interview with Amelia LeClair, Transcript, Part 5

Here's the transcription of the fifth part of my interview with Amelia LeClair. You can find the first part here, the second part here, the third part is here, and the fourth part is here, and there is more to come. Don't forget that Cappella Clausura, the group she directs, is performing this weekend! They will be at Grace Church in Salem this Sunday, May 10, at 7:30 pm. (They also performed this past weekend - hopefully some of you made it to those concerts!)

Interview with Amelia LeClair at the Cafe Algiers, Cambridge, MA, on 4/22/09, cont.

Q: So talk to me about some of your ideas about conducting. What’s your philosophy of conducting? Imagine other conductors, and the ways you agree or disagree with them.
A: I guess the…huh.
Q: What do you think are the most important skills to have as a conductor? What do you feel it is that you’re doing?
A: I think the most important skill is to be able to communicate what it is that you are looking for. And I would say that communication comes both from your gesture and from your words. If you’re not a very good spokesperson for music, if you can’t say it, then you should be able to show it, and if you can’t show it, then you should be able to say it. And I think there are an awful lot of conductors who do one or the other. There are very few who do both. I don’t know if I can do both.
Q: Which one do you think you are?
A: I think I show better than I say. I think I do. Because I think that when I started conducting, I felt like --
Q: That’s interesting, because I would say you’re a good sayer, but…yes.
A: Really? Oh, well thank you.
Q: Yes. I mean, your gesture is also very easy to follow, but I would have said that you are very verbal.
A: Oh. Huh. Well, that’s good. I always feel that I’m tripping over myself. [laughs] But I think the reason I say that is because when I started conducting, I felt like I’d found my voice in my hands. It really felt like, this is so natural to me.
Q: Interesting.
A: Yes. Yes. Do you feel that way?
Q: [laughs] No.
A: No? Really?
Q: No. Oh, I’m very – I’m definitely a verbal – “This is what I want. Here we go.” You know.
A: But when you do that…
Q: No, it’s not – I have to work at it. I have to sit there and figure out in a bar, like, how am I going to do this fermata, you know, what this hand has to – and if the hands are going different directions, then I have to practice that.
A: I have to practice that too. Yes. I do too. But there’s something about – you know what taught me the most, and this is what I think everyone should do, this is something that I thought was really genius of Simon. This is the one teaching thing, teaching tool that he had that I thought was fabulous. Do recit. Do recit. Because if you can conduct recit., whether it’s accompanied or dry, if you can conduct that, you can conduct anything. Because there’s so many movements in one measure. Or maybe there isn’t a movement in one measure and you’ve got to stop yourself. And you can’t sing along with the singer, you just have to hold, because you’re just telling the instruments to hold, but then maybe you’ve got a violin who needs to move, you know, and then you’ve got other people holding, so you got to have the left-right agility. And then, you know, you’re going to have some movement for everybody. And then the singer’s going to move. And you’re going to stretch, and contract, and all that kind of stuff. And fermata. You know. It’s all – it teaches you so, so much. And when I first conducted a recit., it was actually one of our exams, I think, a year-end exame where we had to conduct a recit. And I worked and worked and worked and worked at it. And I felt like – at the same time as I knew that I was working really hard to get this right, I also felt like, “This is fabulous. This is great. This is where I belong, you know, doing this.” So it was a nice experience for me, really nice. And as a result of that, I felt like – and this is what I think you need to feel if you really want to bring voices out, or instruments, I guess it works – I don’t know. One of the things I loved about conducting was feeling like the voices were coming out of my hands. You know. All that sound is coming out of my hands. That’s very powerful. Because at the same time, you’re also communicating with your singers on a level that you never communicate with human beings. It’s a real spiritual thing, going on, you know. It’s fabulous. Very exciting.
Q: What in other conductors – you can name conductors who do things you like, or you can not name conductors, but talk about what it is that you don’t like.
A: There are a lot of conductors I’ve sung for whose beat you can’t find. That drives me crazy. [laughs] I mean, I don’t think I have that as an issue, nobody’s told me that’s my issue, I hope it’s not. But if I can’t find the beat, then I just –
Q: Mai-Lan totally would tell you. Hendrik? Come on. If you have issues, you know they’re going to tell you! [ed. note: Mai-Lan Broekman and Hendrik Broekman frequently play viola da gamba and continuo, respectively, with Cappella Clausura and other early music groups in the greater Boston area.]
A: I know, that’s true! [laughs] They have told me.
Q: So clearly that’s not one of your issues!
A: Yes, right. Yes. I think you have to be very clear with your beat, even if you just do a tactus. If you have no gesture whatsoever, if you just do a clear tactus, then – and you may have to strip back down to just a tactus if you’re all flowery. I’ve worked with a couple people who just did these circles. Circles and circles. What the hell does that mean? [laughs] What am I supposed to do with that? Then there are other conductors who never tell you what the meaning is of what you’re singing. You never get a translation, and they don’t talk about – you know, what’s the meaning of the text? And I think the meaning of the text is number one. Absolutely number one. Way before notes, way before rhythm, the thing that makes us different from orchestral conductors is that we have words. And we’ve got to express those words, and tell a story. It’s really important. And I confess, sometimes I get caught up with – depending on which group, when you have an amateur group and they just are not learning the notes, you get caught up in singing, you know – just working on getting the notes, working on getting the notes, and by the time you think about text, it’s almost too late. But that’s an amateur group, you know, and I guess you’ve got to [inaudible] with amateurs not knowing the notes until the concert. Ideally, ideally, I think it’s important to talk about text. I sang for ten years with a group whose conductor never once mentioned the text. And I wanted to raise my hand and say, “What is this word? What does this mean? We don’t have a translation. What am I saying? What am I singing about? Should I feel sad? Should I feel happy? I can’t follow your beat either.”
Q: He didn’t give you a translation?
A: No.
Q: How weird.
A: It is weird. He never talked about it. Never talked about it. And even with English, if you know what the words are, it’s helpful to have a conductor guide you and tell you what this means. Maybe do a little research about the poetry, or something. Something. Even if it’s just telling you the circumstance under which the composer set this particular poem. Something. For example, last night it occurred to me as we were trying to get a handle on this little Margaret of Austria piece that we’re going to be doing, which is this lament written by a royal person – it’s a very private piece of music – and as I was thinking about how to explain the atmosphere you want to put yourself in to sing this music, it occurred to me that – I don’t know if you’ve ever seen these little – in French castles – have you ever been to a French castle? An old French castle?
Q: Probably, but not in memory.
A: In a lot of them, or the ones I’ve been in, they have these little kind of votive areas. It’s a little part of the room that has a hat. It’s like a little round ceiling with a fringe on it or something, and something drawn in that ceiling. It’s like a tiny little chapel ceiling. A dome. And there might be a candle that you’re supposed to put under that. That’s where you do your praying, or that’s where you do whatever, something very private. And it occurred to me that this would be where she might have been praying, at this particular spot, you know, lamenting, weeping, whatever she’s doing, under this little dome. This little dome in her private royal room. So it makes it a very intimate piece. It makes it a very private piece. So that kind of thing, if you can conjur for your singers where they want to put themselves, where they want to be when they sing this piece of music, I think that you help them sing it better. Because then they bring their spirit to it. They’re not just [inaudible] notes, they bring their spirit to it. There was a conductor I sang with – I sang the Brahms Requiem and I will always remember this story, because I thought it was so perfect. She was conducting – which part of it? Oh, I can’t remember which part of it. But it was – it was a section that, as she pointed out, she was saying – and there were two hundred of us – she was saying, “OK. All of you need to think of this piece as basically a piece where you’re holding yourself. And you’re, you know, kind of doing this [hugs self] and you’re rocking yourself.”
Q: Probably the middle movement.
A: I think so. I’m sure it’s in the middle somewhere. But you’re rocking yourself, you’re sort of cradling yourself, you’re trying to soothe yourself because it’s so sad. And you are so sad. And that whole image, I think, changed the way all of us sang it. All of a sudden it was about us, it was about us who are left behind, which is what’s so wonderful about the Brahms Requiem. I hope I can conduct that once before I die. That would be nice.
Q: Simon Carrington would tell you that you just do it.
A: He would. [laughs] “You just do, don’t you?” OK. But that was a neat experience, and it taught me a lot about what you should be as a director. You’re directing. You’re not just teaching notes, you’re directing people in a way to sing a piece of music, in a way to make it come alive, in a way to make it meaningful. Not just for you, but for your audience. Otherwise your audience is going to “ZZZ.” Snores-ville.

[to be continued!]

Monday, May 04, 2009

Monday link

Today's Monday link DOES have a link to music, but you may have to look closely to find it!

My mother is an inline skater, and two weeks ago she entered her first race, the Texas Road Rash. She came in second, and next year she will try for first and not spend her time, as she said, "chatting up all the policemen stationed on the course!" You can read a little interview with her at the Hill Country Inline Club, where she is the Skater of the Month.

Anyone catch the musical link?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Interview with Amelia LeClair, Transcript, Part 4

Here's the transcription of the fourth part of my interview with Amelia LeClair. You can find the first part here, the second part here, and the third part is here, and there is more to come. Don't forget that Cappella Clausura, the group she directs, is performing next weekend! They will be at Grace Church in Salem next Sunday, May 10, at 7:30 pm. (They also performed this past weekend - hopefully some of you made it to those concerts!)

Interview with Amelia LeClair at the Cafe Algiers, Cambridge, MA, on 4/22/09, cont.

Q: So I was going to ask you, what’s the current program?
A: The current program is very, very operatic. We’re going to do a bunch of music by Italian women and by French women. And the Italian women are almost all 1600’s, 17th century. With the exception of – well, yes, they’re Renaissance and Baroque, early Baroque. So the style is Monteverdi-ish. One in particular, we’re doing some big pieces of Sulpitia Cesis, great big eight-part motets, really fabulous stuff. We’re doing Cozzolani, some amazing pieces by her, solos and duets. Then the second half of the program is going to be all French, by Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, three solos by her, all based on three very strong women in the Bible. Susannah, Esther, Queen Esther, and Judith, who cut off the head of Holofernes, and saved the Israelites. And then we’re doing a fabulous, fabulous very heart-breaking piece by a woman named Margaret of Austria, who was the regent of the Netherlands in the 1400’s, who wrote lots of poetry, but for musicologists, apparently only one piece of music. I’m convinced we just haven’t found the rest. The piece of music is called “Se je souspire,” and it’s a lament. She had just lost her husband that year, and then her brother died also, in battle, and it’s a lament for both of them, and it’s very, very sad, it just breaks your heart. It’s really beautiful, it’s very strange. It has a lot of very odd – do you know what musica ficta is?
A: Yes.
Q: Yes, very strange musica ficta. But it’s gorgeous. So that’s the second half of the program. French and Italian women. And we’re contrasting, which is why we had this fabulous workshop with Sally Sanford, contrasting the two styles. We’re also going to have two instrumental pieces, I hope I hope, one harpsichord piece by Jacquet de la Guerre, and one a sonata for violin and basso continuo by Isabella Leonarda, who you know. So that’s the program. And it’s May 1, Friday, May 1 at Gordon Chapel.
Q: I’ll dig out the information and post it.
A: You’ll dig it out. OK.
Q: At the top of every blog post.
A: Right, right. Plug, plug, plug, plug. Always plug.
Q: So what other musical stuff are you doing at the moment?
A: Well, I’m the director also of Coro Stella Maris up in Rockport, near Gloucester. We rehearse in Salem. And it’s an early music a cappella group.
A: SATB. I have some very nice singers in there. This particular semester we’re doing some really neat, very early music by – we’re doing something called a Missa Caput which was attributed to Guillaume Dufay, but has since been discovered to be an English mass by Anonymous, because nobody knows who wrote it. We’re doing some very modern pieces by Patricia Van Ness and by Abbie Betinis, and by Hilary Tann. And Arvo Pärt. That’s one of our favorite composers. And we’re doing some organum from the 13th century. So that’s going to be in late May and June. And then I also direct a church choir up in Marblehead. And that’s a lot of fun. That’s also SATB, mostly, usually. And we have about twelve singers…most of them show up all the time.
Q: And did you found Coro Stella Maris?
A: No, they hired me. I’ve been with them almost five years also. They hired me. So did St. Andrew’s. St. Andrew’s was my first real SATB experience, conducting grown-ups in a church choir atmosphere. Which was great. I took the job knowing that it paid absolute peanuts, but the best part about it was that there was an organist there. And I didn’t have to worry about my piano skills. Right? Yes. It’s hard to get a job as a choir director when you don’t play the organ, as you know. So it’s been good. They’re a wonderful bunch of people, I love them.

[to be continued!]

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Interview with Amelia LeClair, Transcript, Part 3

Here's the transcription of the third part of my interview with Amelia LeClair. You can find the first part here, and the second part here, and there is more to come. Don't forget that Cappella Clausura, the group she directs, is performing this weekend! (Also next weekend!)

Interview with Amelia LeClair at the Cafe Algiers, Cambridge, MA, on 4/22/09, cont.

A: And then I graduated 2003, and right away I started Cappella Clausura. And I called up my friend Laurie Monahan, who had been my voice teacher for some time, and we became fast friends because she’s such a fabulous woman, and I said, “What do you think?” And she said, “Well, let me put you in touch with some students from Longy, and see what you can put together.” And I put together eight singers. And then a ninth person came along, who was a fellow parent from my elementary school where my kids were going. And her name was Sharon Kelley. And I said, “I know about you! Don’t you sing with Camerata?” And she said, “Yes, I do.” And we started to chat, because both of our sons were in some kind of little rock and roll group, and I told her that I was putting together this group. She said, “I want to sing with you! Can I sing with you?” And I said, “Of course you can sing with me!” And she said, “I’ll have to audition.” Being Sharon, she wanted to do everything right. And I said, “OK. You can audition. But I’m sure you’ll be fine, you’ve been singing with Camerata.” So she joined the group too. So I had nine singers for my very first concert. And I sang –
Q: Eight squirts and Sharon.
A: Yeah, right. Right. And it was actually not bad. It could have been better, but…
Q: And right from the beginning you decided to do women’s compositions.
A: Yes. Laurie Monahan –
Q: Told you you needed a hook, or--?
A: No, she was the one, actually – I’ve always been interested in -- have there ever been any women composers. Because part of what I did – I need to backtrack for a moment – when I went to UMass Boston I graduated with a degree in composition and theory, because I can’t play an instrument. So I thought, “OK, well, I’ll just think music.” So composition and theory were my majors, with which you can do so much in the world. And so I was always interested in why I didn’t know anything about women composers. You know, Ruth Crawford Seeger, maybe. Amy Beach, who was kind of called “Mrs. H. H. H. H. Beach.” And you kind of wondered who are these women, and why are there only two? How come we only hear about two? Laurie Monahan said to me at one voice lesson, “Oh, I know about some women who composed in the sixteenth century and the seventeenth century.” “No shhht!” So she showed me. She said, “Oh, yes, look at this, this is a woman named Cozzolani.” And she turned me on to this whole repertoire. She and Candace Smith, who lives in Italy now, went to the Schola Basiliensis back in the 70’s. And they were bombing around Switzerland and Italy together, two American girls getting their Masters degrees at the Schola Basiliensis, which is in I think Basil, I’m not sure. And bombing around Italy and Switzerland and finding all this old music. So in the 70’s they started digging this stuff up. Well, Candace Smith stayed in Italy, she’s still there. And she started a group called Cappella Artemisia, after the artist Artemisia Gentileschi, who is one of the few female artists to be recognized.
Q: And then they started the Artemisia – isn’t that a publisher?
A: Artemisia Editions, yes. She started basically – I think when computers came along, she started putting really nice editions together. So I got in touch with Candy, because she’s a friend of Laurie’s, and I said, “Can you send me the music?” And she was the one who sent me the Cozzolani Vespers, and that was my first concert, was with Candy’s music, and Laurie’s singers, and me. [laughs] Yes. So.
Q: And do you want to just – I mean, I am aware of some of it, but do you want to trace the history of Cappella so far?
A: Yes. We started –
Q: Six years, now?
A: Yes, this is – actually, I think March of this year, 2009, 2004 – was our fifth anniversary. Yes. So, cool. I started it in March of 2003. No, 2004, I’m sorry. Is that right? Yes, because I graduated in 2003. So we have gone through a number of iterations. We started out with just eight people, I guess it went to nine people. And then I started out also thinking that I would go along the same lines as most choirs, which is to rehearse once a week and put on a concert at the end of the season. And do two concerts a year kind of a thing. And the more I auditioned singers, and the more I thought about how these – how the people that I wanted to work with worked themselves, and also the fact that I wanted to pay singers, I realized that I would have to go along the opera model, which is to have rehearsals close to the concert, and then no rehearsals. So that everybody could take other jobs. So that’s what I started doing, and I’ve been doing it for about four years. And we’ve gone through, like I said, a lot of iterations. A lot of people coming in and out the door. Some perhaps less qualified to sing early music than others. Because early music really requires a certain kind of instrument. It also requires a certain kind of technique which I’m still learning about. We just had a fabulous couple of workshops with a woman named Sally Sanford, who teaches, for example, the difference between Italian and French style singing. And it was fascinating, really fascinating. Wow. What a difference it makes. So the more I’ve worked with these big voices, which I love, I mean, I just love operatic voices, I love opera, I love early music, I want to put it all together. And one of the things, actually this is a little side-track, but one of the things that I think about when I think about this women’s music is that because it was written by women, it was meant for women’s voices, not boys. So you’re not supposed to sound like a boy when you sing it. You’re supposed to sound like a woman. And it was also written by Italians, who don’t go along the English model of straight-tone. They’re a little more passionate about the way they do things, and a little more perhaps chaotic, and I love that. So I was inviting women with big voices to sing this stuff. And I still am inviting women with, you know, trained voices, not your average choral voice, but trained voices, like yours, like everybody.
Q: I mean, I’m not…
A: It’s not huge, but it’s a good voice.
Q: I’m very firmly in the early music-y, baroque-y, you know…
A: Yes, your voice is actually perfect, because you don’t have to –
Q: It’s straight. [laughs]
A: Well, you don’t have to, you know, rearrange it or anything to make it work.
Q: [laughs] I have an image of you [mimes putting on gloves and tinkering as with an engine]
A: Throw this out, throw that out. Pack it together. Straighten it down, tie up the strings.
Q: Like a little cartoon where it’s a like a little blur, wshhht –
A: Here it is, it’s an early music voice now!
Q: Right, exactly.
A: But I think there’s also a really big misconception about early music voices that they need to be small, and they need to be sort of pipe-y. And I want to have, in this music, I want to have voices that are real, and full, and have a true fundament to them. And sing with a lot of gusto. But at the same time, sing in what is authentic style, which I am learning more and more about, as I said, and as I understand it, in the Baroque era, vibrato was an ornament. It wasn’t something that you had all the time. So operatic vibrato especially is something that you need to be very careful about. So you take a great big voice, and you ask that person who has never tried to sing Baroque music to sing Baroque music, and they’re going to sing it like they sing Rossini, you know, or Donizetti or Verdi. Or, god forbid, Wagner. And it’s not going to work, because the style is just so radically different. And also because you have to sing coloratura. And if you’ve never even sung coloratura, then you’re going to have big, big trouble. So we’ve been through iterations of a lot of different voices. Some of them I auditioned, and I just loved their voices, and I took them in, and they weren’t quite right. They should have been singing Brahms, which is fabulous music, but it’s not what I’m doing. So now I think we’ve arrived at a steadier roster of singers. There are eighteen people on our roster. Out of which I try to choose people who can manage to make X concert or Y concert. And because we sing music that is medieval as well as Baroque, as well as modern, there are certain voices that I will choose according to their style. For example, in February we just did an almost all chant and modern program, a fabulous program. We’re going to do it again for the Boston Early Music Festival on June 9, at 12:00 at Gordon Chapel.
Q: And are you doing the caravan piece?
A: Yes. Yes. I love that piece, it’s so great. This is a piece by a woman named Abbie Betinis, whose sister sings with Cappella Clausura. Laura Betinis. Fabulous voice. When she sings her sister’s stuff, she’s amazing. She’s just amazing. Really, it’s very cool. And so we did chant along with that. So for that program, I was able to sing, which was fun. And also take on a couple of true choral voices, you know, to sing – as they call themselves, spackle – to sing the fill. Because they can, you know, because voices that are less big and trained by NEC can sing chant very successfully. So I will have, you know, singers who can do this and singers who can do that, and choose according to the program.

[to be continued!]

Friday, May 01, 2009

Friday cat post!

Tyger! Tyger! Little Kitty! burning bright
In the forests hallways of the night house...

You know what? Never mind.

And in the category of cats I have no relation to but are nevertheless immensely amusing, check out Sleeve Cat and Paragon of Disdain Cat on Youtube!

Weekend Concert Calendar, 4/30/09

I am afraid you will be getting a somewhat abbreviated format for the concert calendar this weekend. I am rather overwhelmingly busy, one reason being that...

I am conducting Gilbert & Sullivan's Iolanthe this weekend and next weekend! It will be at MIT, and you should all come see it! Performances will take place on the following dates and times:

Friday, May 1, 8pm; Saturday, May 2, 8pm; Sunday, May 3, 2pm matinee
Thursday, May 7, 8pm; Friday, May 8, 8pm; Saturday, May 9, 2pm matinee

All performances will take place in La Sala de Puerto Rico, on the 2nd floor of the MIT Student Center. For more info, or to reserve tickets online, go here.

The set and costume and lighting design all together is beautiful, and the whole show has come together really well. Last night at the second dress rehearsal I actually relaxed enough to start having a ton of fun conducting, and my orchestra is hot stuff, so I encourage you all to come see it! Also, I get a tiara. The fairy chorus all has tiaras, and the tiara-maker made one for me too, so I get to conduct in a tiara. How cool is that?

Also, don't forget that Cappella Clausura, directed by Amelia LeClair, whom I just interviewed, is also performing this week. They will be singing a program called "La Donna, La Dame," featuring music by Cesis, Assandra, Cozzolani, Margaret of Austria and Jacquet de la Guerre. They will be at Gordon Chapel in Old South Church this Friday, May 1 at 7:30 pm; at the Episcopal Parish of the Messiah on Saturday, May 2 at 8:00 pm; and also at Grace Church in Salem next Sunday, May 10, at 7:30 pm.


7:30 pm: Cappella Clausura
8:00 pm: Iolanthe at MIT
8:00 pm: Boston Cecilia
8:00 pm: Concert Singers of Greater Lynn
8:00 pm: The Holden Choruses of Harvard


4:00 pm: Concord Women's Chorus
7:00 pm: Andover Choral Society
7:00 pm: A Cappella Singers
7:30 pm: Cantemus
8:00 pm: Cappella Clausura
8:00 pm: Iolanthe at MIT
8:00 pm: Cambridge Chamber Singers (I just have to note that this concert features the winner of their annual composition competition, and that winner is Stephen Feigenbaum, who wrote a piece for Anthology's "Songs of Protest and Social Unrest"!)
8:00 pm: Westford Chorus
8:00 pm: Convivium Musicum


2:00 pm: Iolanthe at MIT
2:00 pm: MIT Concert Choir
2:30 pm: Concert Singers of Greater Lynn
4:00 pm: Fine Arts Chorale
4:00 pm: Cantemus
7:00 pm: Cantilena
7:00 pm: Cambridge Chamber Singers (I just have to note that this concert features the winner of their annual composition competition, and that winner is Stephen Feigenbaum, who wrote a piece for Anthology's "Songs of Protest and Social Unrest"!)
7:00 pm: Convivium Musicum

Did I forget anything? Do you want to give more information about one of the concerts already listed? Please leave more info in the comments!