April 29, 2009

Michael Cavanaugh = the next Billy Joel???

After attending the Friday evening Michael Cavanaugh concert with my parents, I felt like I had just walked out of an actual Billy Joel and Elton John concert! After being the Marketing Intern for the RPO for the spring semester, I was thrilled to actually be able to find the time outside of school commitments to attend a concert. I picked this concert because I love Billy Joel and grew up listening to both him and Elton John. My dad would blast both of these legends’ hits while cleaning on Sundays (yes I’ll admit it, at first I was the typical teenager and pretended to hate the “lame music my dad listened to”). But, eventually I found myself singing the good ol’ classics from the two - Rocket Man and Uptown Girl. I saw Elton John in concert with my parents in Syracuse a few years back, but seeing Jeff Tyzik and Michael Cavanaugh blend rock and roll classics with the orchestra was a memory I will never forget.

Yes, I knew going in it would be a good concert and I had obviously heard how talented Michael Cavanaugh was. Well, my expectations were exceeded. Michael was fantastic. The on-stage chemistry between Jeff and Michael was apparent to every single person in the audience. The concert was full of energy, rock and roll, fun and much laughter. Michael talked about how he had a chance at a casino to play piano right next to Billy Joel and how he couldn’t believe a dream like that would come true, as it is a breathtaking experience for anyone to perform with their idol. Michael also changed up the lyrics to Piano Man, adding “And everyone’s here to see Jeff Tyzik” in place of the regular lyrics! The crowd burst out in laughter.

After the concert, I had a newfound respect for the RPO musicians, conductors, staff, and vocalists. I think Michael Cavanaugh, his band, Jeff, and the RPO connected with the audience and really told a story through the music. Honestly, what was brought to the audience was a surreal experience and one I will never forget. In my mom’s words, “This was the best evening I have had in years!”

April 28, 2009

Lights... Camera.... Photos...... by Walter Colley!

A few weeks ago, we received some exciting news from the RPO's new Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Nancy Goldsmith Zawacki. In the next few weeks/months, the orchestra will have the opportunity to be photgraphed by award-winning photographer Walter Colley. For those of you that don't know Walter, he is a terrific photographer, artist, and an all around good guy. :) He does all kinds of photography - commercial, portraits, portraits, still life, and even great PET portraits! He is not only well known in the Rochester community, but has award winning images featured in publications such as: Archive, Communication Arts, Graphis, Art Direction Magazine, Print Annual, and Sports Illustrated. (You can find out more details about Walter and see some of his work at: http://www.waltercolleyimages.com/ )

We had an unusal "dress" rehearsal a few weeks ago
(we ACTUALLY got dressed in our formal concert attire) and Walter was able to take some shots of the orchestra and Christopher Seaman in action. It was a strange feeling to be all dressed up for a morning rehearsal. I'm not sure how my colleagues felt, but for me, it felt almost like a performance despite it being the first rehearsal for that program....must be the power of the clothes or something. A few days later, we also had an informal photo shoot outside of Java's, and some time in the near future everybody will be able to enjoy updated formal photos of all the RPO musicians on the RPO website! This is a project that has been postponed for quite some time due to a lack of funding. BUT thanks to the hard work of Nancy Zawacki and Walter Colley's extremely generous donation of his time and expertise, it's going to happen!!! On behalf of my colleagues THANK YOU, THANK YOU to you both!
(Walter Colley and Nancy Goldsmith Zawacki)

April 22, 2009

RPO Staff Perform Concert for Volunteers

This past Monday, members of the RPO staff took to the stage at Hochstein to put on a talent show for the RPO volunteers. Members of the Development, Marketing, and Artistic Operations staff showed off their musical skills – including songs by Lerner & Loewe and Gershwin, instrumental works by Bach and Scarlatti, and probably one of the few performances by mountain dulcimer at Hochstein (yes – that’s me).

Then, we recognized the winners of the 2009 Volunteer of the Year Awards. Fourteen people were honored for their wonderful contributions of time and talent to help the Orchestra realize its goals. Click here to view the full list of the Volunteer Award winners.

April 16, 2009

Knowing Brahms, Inside and Out

This weekend’s Philharmonic concert includes one of my favorite pieces in the whole repertoire, Johannes Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto. In fact, if I were ever banished to a desert island, this piece might make my short list of music to take along. I know, it may seem like a funny choice for a violinist to make, but this music is phenomenal.

Really, there are only two kinds of music, the kind that describes the outside world and the sort that is about what is inside us. Brahms falls squarely in the interior group, and he is dead honest. His music rarely sounds plainly “happy” or “sad.” And, really, how often are we just one or the other? Brahms offers complex emotions, or even just memories of them, that are familiar to everyone but cumbersome to describe with words.

Take for example, this piano concerto. The first movement always brings me back to the first place I performed this piece, in the foothills of the Rockies at Boulder, Colorado. I am sure that is my individual image, but I hear the majesty and freedom of waterfalls, jagged rocks, and green humidity, all hard to describe. The second movement is a dance that begins deep in the earth, almost in a cave, but is echoed in lighter layers above, birds, clouds… Well, maybe that’s it.

Brahms not only offers these complex emotions but is admirably economical about his work. His orchestration was conservative for that time, with no exotic percussion or expanded woodwinds in the mix. Brahms also unifies his music by recycling short bits of melody throughout his monumental pieces. The last movement really takes a playful idea through its paces.

Truly a centerpiece of this concerto is the very beautiful third movement. A single cello, as tenor soloist, sings at length (perhaps!) about his profound love for a woman. The stuff of this music is borrowed like Adam’s Rib from the first movement. Brahms was such a master at thematic transformation that we don’t really notice the recycling at all. His craft, emotion and just the tune itself are really what bring this piece to my “island list.”

We might expect this Brahms to have been a “sensitive guy,” maybe with a doe-eyed look and a soft handshake. The truth is that Brahms was awkward, brusque and often even rude in conversation. In his later years, he rather took on a gnomish look: long, grey beard, big belly, hands clasped in back. Some might have said he was the typical man “from Mars,” unable to communicate well socially, but his music tells the whole story of what a sensitive individual he was. The rewards of getting to know him are great, and there is no better place to start than with his second piano concerto.

April 1, 2009

Timpanist Chip Ross Switches to Piccolo

As of April 1, RPO Principal Timpanist Charles “Chip” Ross will be joining the flute section on piccolo. When asked why he was making this change, he said, “I always wanted to play an instrument that involved less cartage.” He also mentioned that his mother would be glad to hear of this, after years of helping him cart around his timpani, percussion instruments, and cello.

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Congratulations to Ellen Wayne for her musician suggestion. Read below for all of the submitted entries.

Rebecca Gilbert with a kazoo
– Bruce

I would pair the bassist Eric Polenik with percussion, especially the cymbals!
– Ida T. Miller

The drums are great – they pound out the notes for Charles Ross but give him the tuba and just watch him pray.
– Marlene Markham

I would choose Julianna Athayde to play the Bassoon and her fiancé Erik Behr to play the French Horn!
– Linda Mulcahy

I would like to see Jeff Tyzik paired with the Bassoon.
– Cheryll Wickard

The RPO musician I’d pick to play a different instrument is Kenneth Grant, and the instrument I’d pick is percussion. A few years ago my children and I really enjoyed his antics at an orKIDStra concert where he dressed up like someone from outer space and played a green clarinet. I think it would be so much fun to see what he can do with a cowbell, sticks, timpani, etc.
– Mary Ziarniak

I would give Charles Ross the piccolo. Watching him manage the timpani with such gusto is amazing. It would be interesting to see him redirect that energy to one of the smallest instruments in the orchestra. He can work those timpani sticks like nobody’s business, but can he manage the small delicate keys of the piccolo.
– Ellen Wayne