March 18, 2009

RPO Musicians Honor Local Music Educators

Some of us are fortunate enough to have had a teacher who moves us in one way or another - a teacher who makes an impact so profound that our lives are forever changed. For instance, my high school chorus director introduced me to live Broadway musicals with field trips to see shows in Boston and gave me a greater understanding of music.

To recognize gifted, dedicated music educators, the RPO musicians have since 1988 honored local teachers with the annual RPO Musicians’ Awards for Outstanding Music Educators. This year’s winners are:
  • Dr. Lon Beery, Choral (Spry Middle School, Webster)
  • Robert Leader, Instrumental Music – Band (Livonia High School, Livonia)
  • Laurence Tallman, Classroom Specialist (Rush-Henrietta High School, Henrietta)
These three teachers will be recognized publicly at the Philharmonic Series concert on Thursday, April 16 at 8:00 pm at the Eastman Theatre. Click here to read more about the Musicians’ Awards and read bios on the winners.

March 17, 2009

Paradise Found at the RPO

Dottie: Okay, Milton's "Paradise Lost" and the Bible. Huh?
Flo: Both were inspirations for Haydn's "Creation, " the awesome piece this weekend, with the Eastman-Rochester Chorus outnumbering the RPO 3 to 1!
Dottie: And that doesn't even include the three solo singers, who might be familiar to the RPO audiences from past appearances.
Flo: Barbara Shirvis, Stephen Powell, and Michael Colvin. Did you know that Barbara and Stephen are married?
Dottie: To each other?
Flo: Have some more coffee, Dottie... Of course!
Dottie: So, what can folks expect from this concert?
Flo: The orchestra is a bit smaller than we usually see, but there are 150 voices of the chorus.
Dottie: Is this really about the whole Biblical creation story?
Flo: Yup. The Book of Genesis, with some of Milton's "Paradise Lost" thrown in. Narration by...three archangels, also known as Barbara, Stephen, and Michael.
Dottie: Haydn was German, so will I understand what they're singing?
Flo: You're in luck. It's in English! And if you really want to impress me, you can follow along with the text in the program.
Dottie: Do I have to bring a flashlight?
Flo: I understand that the house lights will be up just enough to be able to see. And this is the very first time it's being performed by the RPO in its entirety.
Dottie: Historic! I'll bring my reading glasses....
Flo: Okay, see you at the theatre!

March 9, 2009

What are your signs of spring?

With the weather starting to warm up a little and the snow melting, my thoughts turn to spring. We have Haydn’s Creation next week, a work that depicts in music the joy of whole new world springing to life. So it seems an appropriate time to think about signs of spring. For me, it’s the sighting of the first robin (which happened last Friday), and the crocus and tulip shoots starting to peek through the dirt. I already have snowdrops in my backyard, so spring can’t be too far off.

I asked the RPO musicians to send in their own signs of spring …

  • NO SNOW. Seriously, about this time of year I’m all about the global warming - bring it on! I grew up in Long Beach, California, and spring for me is euphoric, like escaping from prison, very much like the end of Shawshank Redemption. How do I get through these months? I have no idea, but every year it seems to happen …
    - Wes Nance, trumpet
  • When my reeds start working!
    - Robert DiLutis, clarinet
  • I feel completely drawn to the colorful clothes in my closet all of sudden. I know that I can't take another day of winter once this happens!
    - Gaelen McCormick, bass
  • For me, the signs of spring are twofold: 1) the return of the Canadian geese from their winter vacations, and 2) filing the extension for NY and Federal taxes!
    - Peter Kurau, French horn
  • I think spring is usually heralded by the UPS men breaking out the shorts!
    - Anna Steltenpohl, oboe/English horn
  • Having it be light in the morning when I take my son to school …
    - Kenny Grant, clarinet
  • I too have some crocuses that are by the back of my house in a sunny protected location. They are starting to peek their little heads up so I know that "spring" is not too far off. But as I walk by each day I whisper to them, "I'm not so sure it's safe to come up as it is only the first part of March." So far they seem to be listening.
    - John McNeill, percussion
  • My signs of spring are the lush smells of hyacinth and the beautiful colors of tulips that are so abundant in the flower city. I am also fond of the game of golf even though I am not a very good stick! I do enjoy seeing those pins at the many courses in Rochester! When the pins are in spring is here. … I also love to garden and seeing tiny new shoots in my perennial gardens also is a joy for me.
    - Jennifer Burch, French horn
  • One of my favorite signs of spring is to be awakened early in the morning by the honking sounds of a flock of geese flying over our house. I listen for a few moments, then turn over and go back to sleep, smiling.
    - Libba Seka, viola
  • The capriciousness of March is my favorite sign of Spring. It always causes me to reminisce about the birth of our first child, Erin, in March of 1981. It was a balmy 72 degrees the day she was born, but only 10 degrees when Bill and I brought her home from the hospital. I imagine it must have been quite a shock for her! So, I am never surprised by the changeable March weather. On the milder days I grab some lawn clean-up tools and verbally coax the tiny hints of flowers in my yard – only to have to take up the snow shovel again a couple of days later. I often say that the only thing that is predictable about March is its unpredictability – just like life with a newborn!
    - Nancy Hunt, violin

March 5, 2009

Could Mahler See Into His Future?

Dottie: So, here we are, looking at a fabulous concert tonight and Saturday, with one huge piece, and a guest conductor with the "chops" to pull it off.
Flo: The composer Gustav Mahler is known for his phenomenal use of sound and color, as well as his love for BIG symphonic works with a huge emotional punch. And guest conductor Gunther Herbig has this big German symphonic music in his blood, so the orchestra sounds fantastic.
Dottie: OK, so tell me about Gunther Herbig.
Flo: Well, one thing I love about bringing in guest conductors is the different kinds of results that they get from the orchestra. Maestro Herbig is a quiet kind of guy, but knows exactly what he wants from the orchestra, and knows how to get it. His live recording of this piece is incredible!
Dottie: It must be a huge challenge to put together this immense a work with only four rehearsals.
Flo: One of the musicians told me that Herbig is taking the piece apart, segment by segment, and putting it together again with his individual stamp. It's a great strategy for working through the symphony.
Dottie: I hear the musicians are really excited about how the rehearsals are going, and they are pumped for the concerts!
Flo: To start with, there are more than 100 musicians onstage! That's at least 20 more than our standard Philharmonics concert. Two timpani players, four percussionists (!), 20 brass players, celeste, strings, winds, and one HUGE sledgehammer with a custom-built wooden resonating crate, used to depict the "hammer blows of fate."
Dottie: So, I take it that the hammer blows relate to the business about Mahler seeing into his future???
Flo: It turns out that each of the hammer blows ended up representing the blows of fate on poor Mahler himself, ultimately leading to his own downfall and death.
Dottie: Ah, so this is why it's called the "tragic" symphony...
Flo: But, don't get too depressed, because you'll completely lose yourself in the beauty of the third movement. It's one of the most raw, emotional musical experiences I've ever had.
Dottie: With everything going on in the world now, it sounds like this would be a great escape.
Flo: You got that right. Gotta run now, thanks for the cup of "Sinful Delight" at Java's.
Dottie: OK, see you at the Theatre!