December 17, 2009

Holiday Music Picks for 2009

It’s time again for an informal review of holiday music from my personal CD collection. Although I already have lots of holiday music, I went a little crazy this year adding to my collection.

After catching part of a TV special on WXXI, I had to get Sting’s new CD If On a Winter’s Night. The lead singer of The Police has gone a very different direction with this one – it’s a mellow CD, sometimes sounding Renaissance, other times folk or world music. In addition to a few traditional holiday songs, there’s music by Purcell, Schubert, Bach, and a couple of originals. He has great musicians with him too, on strings, guitar, brass, percussion, Northumbrian pipes, harp, and melodeon. Above it all soars Sting’s trademark voice.

I’ve recently discovered the Canadian band Barenaked Ladies, and so when I saw they had a holiday CD, I decided to check it out. The CD opens with a very morose sounding “Jingle Bells,” which suddenly goes up-tempo. It’s sort of manic-depressive – and very funny and unpredictable, which I’ve come to expect from this band. In addition to the traditional Christmas songs, they have a number of originals – including “Elf’s Lament” with Michael Bublé and a beautiful Hanukkah song.

Speaking of Michael Bublé, my husband gave me Bublé’s holiday EP, which showcases this jazz crooner in a terrific version of Mel Tormé’s “The Christmas Song,” as well as “Let It Snow,” “White Christmas,” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” It may be a short CD – but a number of these songs are definitely going into the holiday mix on my iPod.

After hearing the RPO’s Motown concert back in October, I decided to get a Motown holiday CD – and The Best of Motown Christmas: The Christmas Collection features great music by The Supremes, Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, The Four Tops, and Marvin Gaye. Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas” is a beautiful wish for peace on earth, and The Temptations do a really grooving version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

For something a little different, I found Sunday Music 5: Holiday. These collections are put out by Barnes & Noble and feature a wide range of music by various artists. This holiday mix includes Norah Jones, Ingrid Michaelson, Sufjan Stevens (I love his CD Illinois), Ray Charles, and Lou Rawls. There were also several artists I didn’t know, but was pleased to discover – The Bird and the Bee, and Imogen Heap.

And of course every year I play the RPO’s A Holiday Celebration. Jeff Tyzik’s “Chanukah Suite” is one of my favorites, and “The Twelve Gifts of Christmas” makes me chuckle. “Three Songs from Home Alone” are surprisingly touching, considering how funny that movie is. Several songs on the CD will be played at the RPO Holiday Pops concert this weekend – Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” (a classic!), “Silent Night,” “Ave Maria,” and “Gospel Hallelujah.” Click here for more info.

From everyone here at the RPO, we wish you a very joyous and happy holiday season and look forward to seeing you at the concerts this weekend and in 2010!

December 11, 2009

Our first glance at the designers’ Showhouse presentation boards!

This week, I snuck into the office conference room to get a peek at the gorgeous and creative design boards being presented to the design committee for this Spring’s RPO Symphony Showhouse. Through their presentation boards, the 30 area designers for this major fundraising project show the color palette, fabric samples, cabinetry, wall and window coverings, and furniture concepts which will be used to design and furnish two separate Showhouse homes on one site, a unique Showhouse experience. Pictured here are Anita Hansen and Karen Hill of Hansen + Hill Interiors, explaining their board to the committee. The houses are located next door to one another at the Cottages at Malvern Hill in Pittsford, currently being built by Ketmar Development.

It’s hard to believe, but only five months from now – opening on May 22 running through June 13, 2010 – the fully-designed houses will be completely finished and open for the public to see!

Having been through two RPO Symphony Showhouses (they happen biennially), I’m particularly excited about this year’s integration of music and design. Each of the two cottage-style houses will be themed as either the “Philharmonics” or the “Pops” house. And the designers each have chosen a particular piece of music performed by the RPO as inspiration for their room or space. I can’t wait to see how that translates!

Showhouse tickets won’t be available until early Spring, but you can stay up-to-date through our website at

December 3, 2009

New Work by Jeff Tyzik Debuts Next Week

Jeff Tyzik's new work RIFFS will debut at next week's concert by the Eastman Wind Ensemble (EWE), with Eastman School of Music Professor of Percussion Michael Burritt as soloist. Friday, December 11 at 8:00 pm in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.

"I’ve always been captivated by the skillful development of simple musical ideas by composers I admire, from Beethoven to Bernstein." says Jeff. "On the jazz side of my life, I have also been excited by the energy created from the repetition and development of small phrases which jazz musicians call riffs.

"When Mark Scatterday asked me to compose a piece for Michael Burritt and the EWE, I thought it might be fun to combine jazz and classical compositional techniques in creating a vehicle for Michael’s incredible talents. Michael was very interested in a piece that would highlight his drum set abilities and it fit perfectly with my musical intentions in creating RIFFS. Three sections including fast swing, a heavy medium swing, and an Afro-Cuban finale turn the EWE into a huge jazz ensemble with Michael leading the way."

This free concert is a preview of an upcoming EWE concert at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago, the world's largest instrumental music conference. For more information about the other works on the program, click here.