Welcome to Play On, California! A daily update on how musicians here in the Golden State are keeping the music playing while sheltering in place. While the concert halls are dark, tune in to KUSC weekdays at noon as we shine the spotlight on our great California musicians. We’re also updating this blog daily, highlighting in detail some of the incredible efforts taken on by our arts communities to share music on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, their own websites and more! If you have any favorites to add, let us know in the comments. Music Heals. The Arts Unite. Play on!
Napa Valley’s Music in the Vineyards chamber music festival is celebrating its 26th season with a dozen free virtual performances over the next three weeks. They’ll be introduced from the wineries where they would have taken place, by festival co-artistic directors Michael Adams and Daria Tedeschi Adams. The videos will stream for the first time at the scheduled start of the concerts, and remain viewable on their website and YouTube channel through the end of August. The programming will include self-filmed solo and duet works (there are several couples quarantining together) as well as concert videos of ensembles (the Pacifica, Escher, Thalea, and Maxwell String Quartets) recorded before the COVID era. Included with the concert materials are interview segments with musicians and the winemakers. The “performances” are scheduled for Wednesday and Friday at 7:30pm, and Saturday and Sunday at 5pm, from August 5th through the 23rd.
Despite having to postpone their full 50th anniversary season until next summer, the San Luis Obispo-based Festival Mozaic is carrying on its tradition of both performance and education, with this masked sextet by Brahms, and bite-sized lessons about the piece and its context. In a series of ‘Notable Encounter’ videos, violinist and Festival Mozaic music director Scott Yoo and the players demonstrate the difference having an ‘extra’ cello and viola makes, compared with the traditional quartet, saying it’s like going from a sedan to an SUV. He also tells of the hidden musical cryptogram in a recurring theme – based on the name of Brahms’ one-time fiancée, Agathe. They’ve also given a quintet by Antonin Dvorak a similar performance and explanation – which features an added double bass. The performances took place in the barns of vineyards just outside San Luis Obispo.
[email protected] is calling this their “Intermezzo” season – a break in the usual activity, that comes between musical performances. But they’re offering on their website through the 8th of August a series of live and archival performances, masterclasses and interviews. They recently spoke with Anthony McGill, who’s the Principal clarinet at the New York Philharmonic. He’s become more widely known this summer for the viral video he made which started the “Take Two Knees for Justice” campaign. In it, he plays the tune to “America the Beautiful”, with notes changed to bring it into a minor key. He ends the video by kneeling, with his clarinet behind his back. McGill has been a long-time returning performer at [email protected], actually playing at the pilot one-day festival they held in 2002, before they officially launched. In conversation with Patrick Castillo, their Director of Audience Engagement, McGill says he’s been inspired by what we can all do, and how powerful it can be when we use our art and musical voice to make change in the world. After their conversation, there’s a 2014 performance of the Rondo from Beethoven’s Quintet for Piano and Winds.
Looking back on the recently finished season from Music Academy of the West, (or as they were calling it this year, MARLI, for Music Academy Remote Learning Institute) one of the highlights was this virtual performance of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, as played by the Music Academy Brass Ensemble with faculty artist, trumpeter Paul Merkelo. The brass and percussion standard is played in a variety of locales, from a living room couch crowded with siblings, to a Palos Verdes vista overlooking the Pacific Ocean, to a balcony with the backdrop of the skyline of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The musical culture of a community is made up of all of the history and traditions that got us to where we are, so the San Francisco Symphony is releasing a new four-part video series and podcast called “Currents” which looks at some of those other musical streams. Conductor Michael Morgan hosts the first installment, which includes a look at the Chinese traditional lute-like instrument called the pipa, and features soloist Shenshen Zhang playing a chamber work by Bright Sheng with musicians from the San Francisco Symphony. “We live in a very diverse America,” Morgan says, “getting more diverse all the time, and our repertory has to get more diverse right along with it, so we remain a vital part of the musical life of our cities. A city’s orchestra sits in the middle of all of these streams, all of these currents of music, and should actually be a place where all of them feel at home.” Future episodes will look at the contributions of jazz, Mexican music, and Hip Hop to our rich musical culture.
For the second concert in Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s SummerFest series, clarinetist Joshua Ranz was both the soloist and co-ordinator, in a performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet. He also made the arrangement for clarinet and strings of the piece they’re pairing with it, Florence Price’s work Adoration, originally for organ. The concerts, which are pre-recorded at Zipper Concert Hall, are being released every other Saturday afternoon at 5, through the beginning of September.
Attention fans of Gilbert & Sullivan – Lamplighters Music Theatre is going digital, with a new venture called LMT Multimedia. Since they aren’t able to perform as they’ve done before live audiences for 68 years, they’re going to be using their YouTube channel, Facebook page, and new Patreon site to get both new and archival materials to the public. As they say, quoting (at least the start of) a well-turned phrase by W. S. Gilbert from The Gondoliers, “Life’s a pudding full of plums, but we make a darn good plum pudding.”
It was 10 years ago that LA Opera staged its first-ever Ring Cycle – the sprawling four-opera saga by Wagner that starts with Das Rheingold and winds its way to Götterdämmerung (The Twilight of the Gods). To celebrate that anniversary, they’re going to have an epic audio-streaming “RING-a-Thon” Saturday morning, beginning at 8:00, with Die Walküre starting at 11, Siegfried at 3, and Götterdämmerung at 7. You can listen through LA Opera’s Facebook channel or at their website. Music Director James Conlon conducted the 15-hour-long tale: “The 2010 production of Wagner’s full Der Ring des Nibelungen represented a major milestone in the still relatively short existence of LA Opera, as Los Angeles had never seen an indigenous production. Giving birth to this mammoth four-opera cycle is a major undertaking that challenges and defines an opera company. We set out to forge a heroic sword as Siegfried does, and carry it through a rite of passage and into a new era of maturity.” He offers further “Reflections on the Ring” on his podcast.
James Conlon | Photo by Dan Steinberg
One of Tchaikovsky’s best-loved ballets goes inside, with dancers’ bathtubs substituting for the titular Swan Lake… In a new video project commissioned by the BBC, 27 dancers from around the world (including San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Benjamin Freemantle) danced to choreography by Corey Baker for a “Culture in Quarantine” project. The three-minute “Swan Lake Bath Ballet” video features varying degrees of costumes, feathers, candles, and bathtub safety. The choreographer described the process of working with the dancers as being “like hanging a picture blindfolded, a mile away.”
27 ballet dancers from renowned dance companies across the globe perform our modern-day viral Swan Lake Bath Ballet from their own home (filled) baths. Filmed in lock down completely remotely. Commissioned for Culture in Quarantine by @bbc BBC Arts Arts Council England and The Space Arts with thanks to Royal Albert Hall. #SwanLakeBathBallet
Posted by Corey Baker Dance on Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Saxophone players have always loved Ravel’s Bolero, since it’s one of the major works in the orchestral repertoire that includes them. But Patrick Posey has managed to make an arrangement of the piece for only his instrument. Or rather, seven different saxophones, which he plays in the traditional way, as well as providing the snare drum ostinato by tapping the keys percussively. The Los Angeles-based Posey plays a total of 27 different parts in this arrangement, pulling from his collection of (as he describes it) “WAY too many saxophones.”
Each week, Oakland Symphony is releasing a featured performance of a piece of music they’ve played in concert, for something they’re calling rePAST (they make the recordings available at 6:00 on Fridays). The current offering is from a performance that they gave in March of last year by composer Louise Farrenc, who was famous in her time – among her fans were Hector Berlioz and Robert Schumann – but isn’t widely known today. In addition to her composing, she was also a professor at the Paris Conservatory for decades, and the only woman to hold that post in the 19th Century. Music Director and Conductor Michael Morgan programmed her on the same concert as violinist/composer Jessie Montgomery, saying “I am always happy when we have great women composers on our season.”
Photo Courtesy of Oakland Symphony
Composer and conductor Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 6 has been released, with more than 17,500 singers from 129 countries performing a new work he wrote for our times, called “Sing Gently.” He says when the full scope of the pandemic became clear back in March, he was in shock and disbelief. “Not only because of everything that was going on and the very real threat of the virus itself, but because my life is spent working with singers – and so to suddenly have us all be super spreaders… Our artform itself suddenly was something dangerous.” The work he wrote suggests that together (if only virtually) “If we treat each other with compassion and empathy, then it’s the best way forward.” In addition to releasing the video, yesterday Whitacre received the prestigious Richard D. Colburn Award from the Colburn School, which was one of the partners involved in supporting the project.
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival kicks off this weekend, with concerts at 4:00 on Saturday and Sunday (and the following two weekends) which will be livestreamed on their website. There’s at least one work by Beethoven on each of the programs, in an early celebration of his 250th birthday. (Artistic co-Director Eric Zivian has already been working his way through all 32 of the Beethoven sonatas on the fortepiano, and releasing those performance videos as well). The concerts had to be scaled back a bit because of the pandemic, but they’ll still be introduced by their lecturers, and the reduced forces “will carry the spirit of the annual festival until all of our participating artists can join us live in 2021.”
Another festival that would have been getting underway this weekend, and instead has ‘gone virtual’ is [email protected], which is calling its offering Intermezzo, which they describe this way: “Intermezzo, the Italian term for music appearing between larger parts of a performance, describes the virtual bridge we have curated for our listeners to cross and enjoy between now and Haydn Connections next summer. The events will be streamed at their website and Facebook page. While some of the performances will be recorded from previous years, on Sunday afternoon at 5pm, pianist Gilles Vonsattel will play a performance of Debussy’s Images, and then be answering audience questions.
Photo of Anthony McGill by Geoff Sheil
A fond farewell performance from the graduating senior class of the Ragazzi Boys Chorus Young Men’s Ensemble – they chose for their final (virtual) performance together the arrangement of “Shenandoah” by James Erb, which they’d first sung as freshmen four years ago. A few of the other Ragazzi ensembles, singers from age 5 to 18 also prepared videos, knowing they’d be missing their Spring concerts. (You can find them at their YouTube channel) The Grammy-Award winning chorus is based in Redwood City, and since 1987 has been training boy singers in both treble and changed-voice repertoire.
Puccini’s Madama Butterfly tells the story of a tragic love story of an American naval officer and a young Japanese girl – but in the world of the opera as it’s always been performed, they sing to each other in Italian. Several years ago, Josh Shaw, artistic director of Pacific Opera Project, asked himself what might happen dramatically if the lovers had the linguistic barrier that they would have faced if they were real people. He and Eiki Isomura (artistic director of Houston’s Opera in the Heights) set about translating the work so that the American characters would sing in English, and the Japanese characters would sing in Japanese. And wanting to avoid the long tradition of ‘yellowface’ that has accompanied this particular work, they set about casting the show with all of the Japanese roles and chorus sung by Japanese-American performers. It had its debut in 2019, and Wednesday evening at 5pm, Pacific Opera Project is hosting a ‘Live Watch Party’.
A trio of principal players from the Pacific Symphony who happen to be neighbors began playing backyard and driveway concerts as the ensemble they call Long Beach Block by Block. With Ben Smolen on flute, bassist Michael Franz, and violist Meredith Crawford, they began with repertoire originally for that combination, then began to rearrange other works, and also to create their own arrangements. As part of the Pacific Symphony’s “Quarantine Clip” series, they released this version of the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” with ample distance between them. Other ‘LB Block x Block’ performances feature additional players: violinist Christine Frank, Lelie Resnick on English horn, and bass clarinet Joshua Ranz. They got together in a Zoom chat and described how they came into being.
Opera San Jose is using technology to help keep the music playing – they’ve just inaugurated their Fred Heiman Digital Media Studio, which can serve as both a rehearsal and chamber performance space, and be streamed to remote audiences. The first such concert, a recital of Schumann’s Dichterliebe (“A Poet’s Love”) with Resident Artists baritone Eugene Brancoveanu, and conductor/pianist Christopher James Ray had its premiere over the weekend, and can still be streamed. Tickets range from 15 to 50 dollars per household. General Director Khori Dastoor says, “With this new space we will be able to safely perform smaller scale operas with theatrical lighting, sets, and appropriate musical accompaniment, utilizing state-of-the-art cameras and audio equipment to create works that can be enjoyed by at-home audiences. This thrilling new venture will enable us to continue our work as an incubator for emerging artists and producer of accessible, world-class operatic performances, while maintaining mitigation efforts to avoid the spread of COVID-19.”
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra is launching its first summer festival this weekend, with five 30-minute concerts released every other Saturday evening through September 5th. For LACO SummerFest performances, the musicians will be playing together, at a safe distance, without an audience, filmed at Zipper Hall in downtown Los Angeles. The stream will be available for free from their website. The inaugural concert will bring together concertmaster Margaret Batjer, principal cellist Andrew Shulman, and guest pianist Andrew von Oeyen, for music by Florence Price and Felix Mendelssohn. LACO Executive Director Ben Cadwallader says, “Our goal for the series is to put our LACO musicians back to work and provide a safe path forward for musical performances to return to L.A. This is built on the thought of being for our town and not for us.”
LACO Concertmaster Margaret Batjer – Photo Courtesy of LACO
Music for Hard Times – specifically the hard times we’re living in now – is a brand-new work that combines music and images that are hoping to make people feel better. Commissioned and played by the guitar and percussion duo The Living Earth Show (Travis Andrews and Andy Meyerson), it has music by Danny Clay and images by filmmaker Jon Fischer. Just two days before the order that sent everyone in San Francisco to their homes, they began work on the project, asking “is it possible for us to use the tools of our discipline – classical art music – to make people feel better?” The result, percussionist Andy Meyerson says, “is designed to offer a sonic resource for comfort and calming, and is one of the most beautiful pieces we have been fortunate enough to perform.” It recently had its premiere on the web show Living Music with Nadia Sirota, co-presented with New Music Bay area, and the Center for New Music.
We are pleased to co-present the WORLD PREMIERE of Music for Hard Times, a film and album by composer Danny Clay, filmmaker Jon Fischer, and the guitar and percussion duo The Living Earth Show.The Living Earth Show's Andy Meyerson explains, "Two days before SF's official shelter in place order went into effect, we began working with composer Danny Clay on an album/virtual production designed to examine a fundamental research question: 'is it possible for us to use the tools of our discipline–classical art music–to make people feel better?' The end result, a composition and film called Music for Hard Times, is designed to offer a sonic resource for comfort and calming, and is one of the most beautiful pieces we have been fortunate enough to perform."Music for Hard Times is co-presented today by Living Music with Nadia Sirota, New Music Bay Area, and the Center for New Music. Future presentations of Music for Hard Times include San Francisco Performances, and UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.To purchase and stream Music for Hard Times, visit https://tles.bandcamp.com/
Posted by Living Music with Nadia Sirota on Thursday, June 25, 2020
YOLA National at Home offers a chance for musicians to play and learn from their own homes with musicians from the LA Phil, as well as hear keynote addresses from Music and Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel and Thomas Wilkins. Starting at the end of this week, and running through the end of July, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association will be presenting the program via Zoom and YouTube Live. There’s information about registering for the program at this link. It’s the newest incarnation and outgrowth of Gustavo Dudamel’s signature initiative, the LA Phil’s YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles), inspired by the El Sistema music education programs, aiming “to empower young people from populations that have been historically excluded from intensive music training and to build a community of musicians and educators committed to social justice locally, nationally, and internationally.” There will be talks given by some of the members of the YOLA community, panel discussions, training for teachers, “Pathway Explorations” that tell of how professionals were able to get where they’ve gotten, and material specifically tailored for young musicians and their training.
Musaics of the Bay has offered another premiere from its Stay-at-Home Symposium series, this time a solo cello piece by composer Milad Yousufi, called “Mystery,” inspired by a photograph by Dale Carter called “Ridges in Sand 1”. Cellist Gabriel Martins plays the work. Dale Carter’s photo was, in turn, inspired by the paintings of Mark Rothko, who frequently filled large canvases with deceptively simple juxtapositions of contrasting colors. That simplicity and sense of contrast comes across in the photograph. “There is a gentle sense of serenity and contemplation in his paintings that I attempted to capture in this series,” Carter told Musaics founder Audrey Vardanega. “Like Rothko, I took a meditative approach to this piece, with the soft color scheme… My main focus, though, was on capturing those fleeting, beautiful moments in nature when it reveals itself.”
California Symphony has begun what they’re calling “Fresh Look: The Symphony Exposed” – it’s a four-week online course about symphonic music that will be livestreamed on Tuesday nights (with the classes available on-demand for a week afterward). If you buy tickets ($25) you’ll be sent a link to view the course. It’s taught by Scott Foglesong, who’s Chair of Musicianship and Music Theory at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, who also is the program annotator for the California Symphony. The classes begin with “Orchestras 101 – You Could Google it, or…” which covers what conductors do, and the instruments that have joined the orchestra as it’s become what we know it today. The next class covers the Baroque and Viennese Classical eras, as composers were setting up expectations. The third class stretches from Beethoven, through the Romantics to such 20th Century politically-charged composers as Dmitri Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten. Finally, on July 28th, “Music of Our Time – A Kaleidoscope” which travels from Debussy and Early 20th Century through works written just a few years ago. That class will end with a discussion between Scott Foglesong and Donato Cabrera about “the past, present, and future of orchestral music.”
Donato Cabrera leading the California Symphony | Photo by Kristen Loken
A little late to the party in posting this, but here’s an impressive group video of symphonic percussionists from across the country playing John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” on marimbas, xylophones, glockenspiels, timpani and drums. They’re joined by the United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, and the recording was directed and produced by Matt Howard, Principal Percussion of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Section Percussionist Perry Dreiman and Principal Timpani Joseph Pereira are also playing, as are San Francisco Symphony’s Jake Nissly and Bryce Leafman. Greg Cohen, Andy Watkins, and Erin Dowrey of the San Diego Symphony are rounding out the California representation in the performance.
As part of its #LAOAtHome series, LA Opera presents a Living Room Recital of American songs, with mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and her husband, baritone Kelly Markgraf – including two world premieres. She was Hansel in the LA Opera’s production of Hansel and Gretel in 2018, and he created the role of Paul Jobs, the father of the Apple founder, in Mason Bates’ opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs at the Santa Fe Opera. They’re accompanied by Bryan Banowetz.
#LAOAtHOME concerts continue LIVE, featuring Sasha Cooke and Kelly Markgraf, as they bring your (and their) favorite songs from their living room to yours.LA Opera is both reliant on and grateful for your support to ensure the future of world-class opera to Los Angeles. Thanks for joining us!
Posted by LA Opera on Wednesday, July 1, 2020
On Sundays, for their livestreamed services, a quartet of singers have provided music, but members of the Choir of Men and Boys of San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral have made this virtual choir recording of “If ye love me” by English Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis, led by their director Benjamin Bachmann.
And here are members of another of their choirs, Grace Cathedral Camerata, singing “Verleih uns Frieden” by Felix Mendelssohn.
Giuseppe Sammartini probably presumed that performances of his Sonata for Two Oboes would be played by oboists in the same place at the same time… but circumstances make necessary, and technology makes possible duets like this one – with Karen Hernandez and Madison Centeno, alumnae of LA Phil’s YOLA program who are both studying music at California State University – Long Beach.
The Alexander String Quartet kicked off the San Francisco Performances ‘Sanctuary’ Series of concerts with a livestream from St. Stephen’s Church in Belvedere. It was an all-Brahms performance, of two Quartets and an arrangement (by violinist Zakarias Grafilo) of one of his Intermezzos. Violinist Frederick Lifsitz introduces the pieces, saying: “These quartets by Brahms are interesting because Brahms started with the string quartet form very early on, thinking it would be something he could surmount relatively easily, compared to the symphonies… But he kept on feeling the ‘tramp of giants’ as he said, behind him. Beethoven in particular looking over his shoulder in Vienna. And so it took him 18 quartets that he wrote and destroyed before he finally had two that he would share publicly.” They play the Quartets, Opus 51, number one in C minor and number 2 in A minor, and the Opus 118, no. 2 Intermezzo.
The New Hollywood String Quartet has been releasing videos of its “Summer of Brahms” series of concerts, from the Carnegie Stage of the South Pasadena Public Library’s community room last year. Here’s violinist Cho-Liang Lin and pianist Rohan De Silva playing Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 108. Although this season’s concerts have been canceled, there are plans afoot for a “Summer of Vienna” Chamber Music Festival for July of 2021, with repertoire of Beethoven and Schubert. You can find additional Brahms performances at the New Hollywood String Quartet website.
Berkeley Symphony and the Commonwealth Club of California join for a “Reflections Town Hall” tonight at 5pm, with panelists including the orchestra’s Music Director, Joseph Young, as well as Oakland Symphony’s Michael Morgan, and the Executive and Artistic Director of Cal Performances, Jeremy Geffen. The panel also includes Dr. Deborah L. Gould, Jeff Benson, Charles Chip McNeal (Director of Diversity, Equity and Community for San Francisco Opera), and S. Shariq Yosufzai (Board President of Berkeley Symphony). The goal of the forum is “to examine the role of arts organizations in addressing racial injustice.”
On Sunday, the San Francisco Symphony presented MTT25: An Online Tribute Event for Michael Tilson Thomas, on the day that would have been his final performance as Music Director. Instead of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, there was an hour-plus-long tribute to MTT, hosted by Audra McDonald and Susan Graham, featuring members of the Symphony and Chorus, along with guest artists like Yo-Yo Ma, Renée Fleming, Julia Bullock, Bonnie Raitt, and more. It marked the final day of the Symphony’s 25-day long tribute to their Music Director, one for each year he led them, and the broadcast of the performance will be free at their YouTube channel.
Los Angeles’ White Hall Arts Academy is one of 32 Creative Youth Development organizations to receive philanthropic money from The Lewis Prize for Music, going to “organizations across the U.S. that have adapted and responded to the pressing needs of the young people they serve amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The White Hall Arts Academy received funding of $25,000 for its youth music education programs.” Tanisha Hall founded the Academy in 2011, moving from a career in popular music to education. “We are thankful and excited to be able to continue to teach, grow, and connect more students around the underserved neighborhoods of South Los Angeles and the global arts community at large. The funds from the Lewis Prize are going to allow our efforts to expand exponentially and better support the very deserving students we serve.” The other L.A. based groups to receive money are A Place Called Home and the Pico Youth and Family Center. In Northern California, Oakland’s YR Media (formerly Youth Radio), Enriching Lives Through Music in San Rafael, and the RYSE Center in Richmond also were recipients of the Lewis Prize funds.
Photo courtesy of White Hall Arts Academy
In honor of composer Terry Riley’s 85th birthday this week, here’s Bay Area pianist Sarah Cahill playing “Be Kind to One Another (Rag)” in a performance from July of 2018 as part of Old First Concerts. It was written for her by Riley several years ago as part of a commissioning project she called “A Sweeter Music.” Riley said the title “is taken from something Alice Walker said immediately after 9/11 happened: ‘We must learn to be kind to one another now.’ My new composition is a statement for peace, and as such it does not aim for dramatic content, but strives instead to enforce a feeling of balanced equilibrium and compassion.”
Introduced by Artistic Director Rachael Worby, and accompanied by bassist Mike Valerio, Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman shows her jazzier side with a rendition of Irving Berlin’s classic song “Blue Skies.” It’s part of the Pasadena-based MUSE/IQUE’s In a Minute (…Or Two) series of short performance videos with some of their favorite musicians.
Long Beach Symphony is offering a Virtual Music Education Week – with information and introductory videos in a “Virtual Instrumental Petting Zoo.” There are also craft activities, which include showing how to make your own instruments – and instrument-inspired snacks as well! More information is being rolled out throughout the week, and you can follow along with the updates several times a day at their Facebook page.
This weekend, San Francisco Opera will be streaming its production of Massenet’s Manon. Starring soprano Ellie Dehn and tenor Michael Fabiano, the stream will be available starting Saturday at 10am, for the weekend only. It’s part of their Opera Is On program, continuing to bring performances to audiences while the Opera House is dark. The production, from November of 2017, was a co-production of San Francisco Opera, Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, and the Israeli Opera.
“San Francisco’s Musical Lunch Break,” Noontime Concerts presents an archive performance by the early music ensemble MUSA this week, with an unusual program of works written in the Western tradition, but “in and for Chinese courts, as well as Chinese music transcribed by European visitors of the 17th and 18th centuries.” The concert at Old St. Mary’s Cathedral is from March, 2018. There are works for voice, violin, cello and harpsichord, as well as the traditional Chinese instruments guzheng and guqin.
Cellist Ani Aznavoorian and pianist Warren Jones play Brahms’ passionate first Cello Sonata in this performance. It was recorded live in September of 2015 at Hahn Hall in Santa Barbara as part of a Music Academy of the West program that featured principal artists from Camerata Pacifica.
With a jaunty way to start the week, Michael Tilson Thomas introduces a sweet jazzy piece that he co-wrote with his father Ted, as played by members of the San Francisco Symphony from their homes and studios. It’s called “The Whistle Song”. He tells the story of the composition, which started with his father at the piano playing a “Jewish Tin Pan Alley” riff that would always cheer up the conductor as a young boy. He’d add improvisations to the melody on the piano, and the two would whistle it as they went out for walks. “Hoping this little song will become part of your lives, and you can whistle it as you go down the street.” (He even gave permission for us all to come up with our own words for the tune.)
The Martha Graham Dance Company and the contemporary music ensemble Wild Up have released a video of the first performance of Immediate Tragedy, a virtual ensemble piece inspired by a 1937 Martha Graham solo that was lost. 14 dancers take part, choreographed by Artistic Director Janet Eilber, to new music by Christopher Rountree. The premiere was presented and commissioned by The Soraya. Moving in different spaces, they come together as a unified whole.
Thanks for watching the premiere of Immediate Tragedy featuring Martha Graham Dance Company and Wild Up. Rewatch the 9 min performance in HD!
Posted by Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, June 19, 2020
The Los Angeles-based SongFest art song festival and training program has released a video of a conversation with four legendary African-American operatic singers and teachers called The Voice of the Spirit. Florence Quivar, George Shirley, Dr. Ollie Watts Davis, and Dr. Katherine Jolly trace the important role the Negro Spiritual has played in the American and international singing landscape.
In our final week, the incredible array of talent just keeps coming!! Join us for more in depth conversations from our…
In this 250th birthday year of Beethoven, Valley of the Moon Music Festival is featuring Music Director Eric Zivian working his way through all 32 of his piano sonatas on period instruments. In this video, he’s playing the favorite ‘Pathétique’, sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 3 on a fortepiano. The performance is introduced by Nick Mathew, who’s a professor of Music History at UC Berkeley, and one of the contributors to the Festival’s Blattner Lecture series. Eric Zivian will be playing another sonata each week through the year, and the Virtual Summer Festival will be running from July 18-August 2.
Los Angeles Opera has posted an audio stream (with captioned translations) of Rossini’s complete The Barber of Seville as part of their “From the Vault” series. It’s from the March 2015 production, with James Conlon conducting, starring Rodion Pogossov as Figaro, and Elizabeth DeShong as Rosina.
THE BARBER OF SEVILLE LAOatHome Audio Livestream: The Barber of Seville�Music by Gioachino Rossini�Libretto by Cesare Sterbini, after the play by BeaumarchaisRecorded March 2015Conductor: James ConlonFigaro: Rodion Pogossov�Rosina: Elizabeth DeShong�Count Almaviva: René Barbera�Doctor Bartolo: Alessandro Corbelli �Don Basilio: Kristinn Sigmundsson �Berta: Lucy Schaufer�Fiorello: Jonathan Michie�Sergeant: Frederick Ballentine**alumnus of LA Opera’s young artist programLA Opera OrchestraLA Opera Chorus�Chorus Preparation: Grant GershonProduction: Emilio Sagi�Director: Trevore Ross�Scenery Designer: Llorenç Corbella�Costume Designer: Renata Schussheim�Lighting Designer: Eduardo Bravo�Choreographer: Nuria CastejónArtists herein are represented by and appear courtesy of the American Guild of Musical Artists and the American Federation of Musicians, AFL-CIO.Audio Producers: Fred Vogler and Todd Reynolds�LAO Audio Engineer: Brad Cobb�Video Production: Kelly Travis �Post-Production Assistance: Ignazio Terrasi, Mark Lyons��Photography: Craig T. Mathew Additional photography by Robert Millard�Title translation by David Anglin, cued by Linda Zoolalian
Posted by LA Opera on Thursday, June 18, 2020
The Colburn School has hosted another Facebook Live lunchtime concert, “A Serving of Beethoven.” This time, the Calidore String Quartet plays Beethoven’s Op. 131, from his late period quartets. Kristi Brown-Montesano, chair of the music history faculty, and Scott St. John, director of chamber music, introduce the performance in a conversation with cellist Estelle Choi, from the quartet. “You really feel like you’re being pulled on this incredible journey of shifting landscapes,” she says. “How he goes from incredibly melancholic to almost comical in the presto movement, and then the way he wraps it up at the end with… it’s almost like Death knocking at the door.”
Lunch is served! Joining us at the table today is Calidore String Quartet member Estelle Choi. She’ll join Kristi Brown-Montesano and Scott St. John for a talk about all things Beethoven before we take a bite of today’s main course: String Quartet, Op. 131, performed by Calidore Quartet.
Posted by Colburn School on Thursday, June 18, 2020
The singers of Chanticleer are breaking out their concert finery, just to remind them how to tie bow ties while they’re getting things done in and around the house, in this video they call “Tails of Our Lives”…
In the first of several premieres of their Stay-at-Home Symposium, Musaics of the Bay presents “Improvisation on Blue” by composer/violinist Lauren Vandervelden, and painter Darril Ann Tighe. It’s inspired by Tighe’s painting “Transition to Blue.” That painting, in turn, was the result of a friend’s off-hand remark that blue was a favorite color, which led to Tighe challenging herself to make an all-blue work. “Blues represent not only peace and calm, but the ocean, the sky, the deep blues of the sky as it turns orange with the sunset. I was finished in a week. The painting was rich with blues. It felt like I could fall into it and swim.” Composer Vandervelden has synesthesia, which made her translations of color into sound all the more personal.
Los Angeles Music and Art School is announcing ArtsWeek, an at-home (and in a few weeks, in-person) arts camp for kids, continuing its 75 year tradition of education. “ArtsWeek explores all four disciplines of Music, Art, Dance and Drama for children ages 7 and up to age 20 in well-crafted crash courses delivered with virtual and in-person options.” Kids can learn from USC alum Austin Chanu, who’s currently getting his masters at the Eastman School of Music, starting the week of June 22 and July 6. “Students learn about melody, harmony, counterpoint, and orchestration through a crash course in theory, musical examples, writing for different instruments and experimenting together. Students receive feedback each day and gather ideas to strengthen their compositional technique. Professional musicians from the Eastman School of Music will perform each composed piece and students will receive their own recording to add to their composition portfolio.” There are a total of 28 week-long courses offered through LAMusArt, a nonprofit that provides low-cost or completely free instruction to students at all levels all throughout the year, regardless of age, ethnicity, income or ability.
The Pacific Symphony’s Dennis Kim and LA Opera Orchestra’s Roberto Cani are joined by other concertmasters from ensembles spanning from Hawaii to Utah, Dallas to Minnesota, and on to Washington DC in a video called “Concertmasters Coast-to-Coast.” They play from Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in this special virtual performance that brings together some of the top violinists in the country (accompanied by Pacific Symphony’s Laszlo Mezo on multiple cello parts).
As the ensemble is kept from playing together, Ben Simon, Music Director of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra has launched ‘The Simon Says Show.’ In the first episode, he looks at how birdsongs made their way into two classical works by Vivaldi and Beethoven.
This past Saturday, the Bay Area-based early music ensemble Voices of Music and the San Francisco Girls Chorus released on YouTube a high definition video from their joint performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. They presented the work during the last Berkeley Early Music Festival, in 2018, winning San Francisco Classical Voice “Best of the Bay” awards in three categories. The chorus is led by Valérie Sainte-Agathe, and Voices of Music’s co-directors are Hanneke van Proosdij and David Tayler. The video release is part of VOM’s online Summer Early Music Festival, as well as the SFGC’s 2020 Virtual Festival. Here’s a highlight, the duet “Fear no danger to ensue”, with soloists Emma Powell and Nia Spaulding:
In a Zoom conversation stretching from the West Coast to Europe, four African-American conductors discuss their experiences in the world of classical music. Thomas Wilkins, Music Director of the Omaha Symphony and Hollywood Bowl Orchestra; Michael Morgan, Music Director of the Oakland Symphony; Jonathon Heyward, a former Los Angeles Philharmonic Dudamel Conducting Fellow, and now Chief Conductor Designate of the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie; and hosted by Roderick Cox, who, in addition to a busy conducting schedule, launched a project in 2018 to aid young musicians of color with scholarship funds for instruments and lessons. It’s a fascinating talk that charts both the history and future of the art of classical music, and how it can serve to unite us.
A live conversation among four American conductors across generational lines- sharing their unique stories navigating the elusive profession of orchestral conducting, and perspectives on classical music as a unifying art form for the future. Roderick Cox, host Thomas Wilkins, Music Director of the Omaha Symphony and Hollywood Bowl OrchestraMichael Morgan, Music Director of the Oakland SymphonyJonathon Heyward, Chief Conductor Designate of the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie
Posted by Roderick Cox, conductor on Friday, June 5, 2020
The Davis Senior High School Baroque Ensemble, one of the very few orchestras at the high school level to specialize in music from the Baroque era, was part of the Virtual Young Performers Festival and Emerging Artists Showcase during the week in which they would have taken part in the Berkeley Festival & Exhibition. The BFX, presented biennially by Early Music America and the San Francisco Early Music Society, brings together many of the finest groups of early music ensembles from around the world. The Davis ensemble’s video includes highlights from a 2019 winter concert, and from their tour in 2017 of Vienna and Italy. They also play in a virtual performance of a Vivaldi concerto for two violins with Rachel Barton Pine and her daughter, Sylvia.
Berkeley Symphony and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra are part of New Music USA’s “Amplifying Voices Program” with the goal of better representation of new music by composers of color. Brian Raphael Nabors will be writing a work for Berkeley Symphony, and Shelley Washington’s piece will be premiered by LACO. In announcing the commissions, New Music USA said “Amplifying Voices aims to make major strides in transforming the classical canon. According to the Institute for Composer Diversity’s analysis of 120 American orchestras’ 2019-2020 plans, 94% of music programmed for that season’s mainstage orchestral concerts was written by white composers.” The new works will be premiered during the 2021-22 sesason, and each will be performed by a minimum of four orchestras. The other composers in the program, which is supported by the Sphinx Venture Fund, are Valerie Coleman, Juan Pablo Contreras, Tania León, and Tyshawn Sorey.
Live music won’t be wafting through Libbey Park as originally scheduled this week, but wherever you’re sheltering in place you’re invited to attend a virtual edition of the 74th Ojai Music Festival beginning Thursday, June 11 at 7pm on their website. The virtual offerings take place nightly through Sunday, then on-demand. Festival Artistic Director-designate Ara Guzelimian, an Ojai stalwart, hosts this series of performances and conversations, featuring such artists as this year’s Music Director Matthias Pintscher, members of the Calder Quartet, and composers Olga Neuwirth and Steve Reich. You can also take a virtual gallery tour and check out recipes from some of Ojai’s finest restaurants.
Virtual Ojai Festival participants Ara Guzelimian, Matthias Pintscher, Olga Neuwirth, and producer Fiona Digney | Photo courtesy of the Ojai Music Festival
The Ojai Music Festival at Libbey Park | Photo by Timothy Norris, courtesy of the Ojai Music Festival
The Ojai Festival has also released a memorable performance from the 2016 Festival: Josephine Baker: A Portrait, a song cycle by Tyshawn Sorey with a text by Claudia Rankine performed by soprano Julia Bullock and the International Contemporary Ensemble. A New York Times article recently described the still evolving theater piece as “a ritual of mourning, a reminder of Baker’s racial struggles and civil rights activism, and of the era of police brutality and Black Lives Matter in which we currently live.”
Photo of Soprano Julia Bullock and percussionist/composer Tyshawn Sorey performing “Josephine Baker: A Portrait” at the 2016 Ojai Music Festival | Photo courtesy of the Ojai Music Festival.
Los Angeles Opera presents “Lift Every Voice,” a conversation on racial disparity and inequality in opera, convened in response to the George Floyd nationwide protests. Company president Christopher Koelsch sets a frank tone for the discussion at the top, acknowledging this kind of convening is “long overdue”. The panel features some of the most prominent singers of our day—mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges moderates; the other participants are soprano Julia Bullock, soprano Karen Slack, tenor Lawrence Brownlee, tenor Russell Thomas, and bass Morris Robinson. Please note: the video begins with about three minutes of silence before getting underway.
Kronos Quartet has released a powerful music video for a portion of the work Peace Be Till, written by Oakland’s Zachary Watkins. The text is from Martin Luther King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” read by Dr. Clarence B. Jones, “former personal counsel, speechwriter, and advisor” to MLK, and current director of the University of San Francisco Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice. The images include archival footage of the marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.
For more than fifty years, Orange County choral music fans have reveled in the stirring performances of Pacific Chorale. While its spring performances have been canceled, you can sample the Chorale’s fresh, wide-ranging repertoire in a series of digital offerings, including this rendition of the Ave Maria from Giuseppe Verdi’s Four Sacred Pieces. The performance is led by the Chorale’s artistic director emeritus, John Alexander, who retired a few seasons ago after 44 seasons at the chorus’s helm.
The Pacific Chorale has just released its latest recording, All Things Common, which also features the forward-looking LA chamber ensemble Salastina. Pacific Chorale Artistic Director Robert Istad conducts music by the group’s composer-in -residence Tarik O’Regan, including several world premiere recordings. Here’s a preview:
The winner of this year’s Klein International String Competition is Gabrielle Després, a 19-year-old violinist from Canada, who has studied at the Juilliard School. As the winner, she’ll receive $13,000, and performance contracts with the Peninsula and Santa Cruz Symphonies, Gualala Arts Chamber Music Series, and Music in the Vineyards. The competition was all online this year, and you can watch Saturday’s (pre-recorded) performances below (Gabrielle Després plays at 1:11:15), and Sunday’s can be seen here.
Since its live performances were suspended in March, the Pacific Symphony has been showcasing its players in a series of Quarantine Clips, brief, highly engaging at-home concerts. Violinist Alice Miller-Wrate spices up this edition of the series with a cooking demo: as they whip up a cookie sheet of homemade granola, she and her daughter try to outpace violinist Augustin Hadelich’s rendition of Paganini’s Moto Perpetuo. Spoiler alert: Alice and Ella conclude the video on a triumphant note, but it’s arguable they added a dollop of cheating to their recipe. Hadelich, who played music of Paganini with Pacific Symphony earlier this season, sounds like he’s cheating, but no; his lightning-fast rendition is in real-time. You have to hear it to believe it. And even then…
No cooking hints included in this next Pacific Symphony Quarantine Clip, but it might be a recipe for a bit of calm and consolation. Pacific Symphony violinist Yu-Tong Sharp plays The Swan, from Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saint-Saëns.
The Pacific Symphony’s education department, meanwhile, has expanded its online educational resources, offering a wide variety of lesson plans, activities, and even violin lessons for all ages. The site also offers a guide to nationwide online music and arts resources for the entire family.
Composer Lisa Bielawa | Photo by Paul Kuroda
San Francisco-born composer and singer Lisa Bielawa is spending our current times creating a new work that draws upon testimonies of ordinary people. It’s called Broadcast from Home, and it’s a growing work in progress. She’s releasing a ‘chapter’ at a time once a week. The contributed texts have evolved over the weeks, dealing with such topics as fear, boredom, isolation, and increasingly, social justice. It’s an ongoing project, still soliciting input from the public. The first chapter, called “That Other You Still Exists” can be heard here:
Just prior to the sheltering-in-place guidelines, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra convened a roundtable featuring composers whose music has been championed by the orchestra in recent years: Juan Pablo Contreras, Sarah Gibson, José Enrique González Medina, and Derrick Spiva Jr. The Table Talk conversation probed issues of diversity, inclusiveness, and cultural appropriation. The composers also offered a wealth of practical advice for young composers.
The latest addition of LACO’s #MusicianDropFriday series features its newest player, violinist Jason Issokson playing a rarely heard work of Brahms with pianist Jiayi Shi. In a candid interview, Jason confesses he has surprisingly light orchestral experience. Of particular interest to aspiring instrumentalists: Jason divulges that his recent successful audition for LACO wasn’t his first; he failed to progress beyond the first round last time.
The duet called Chordless, with pianist Allegra Chapman and soprano Sara LeMesh have released a video, filmed, as luck would have it, shortly before the time of social distancing. It’s a piece by George Crumb called “The Night in Silence Under Many a Star.” The filmmaker was Joseph Dwyer, and the sound engineer was Matt Carr.
The Irving M. Klein International String Competition takes place this weekend, virtually – with some of the best young players competing for cash prizes as well as performance contracts. The eight semi-finalists (including cellist Davis You from Palo Alto) are submitting videos they’ve recorded at home, and will be judged by a distinguished panel beginning at 10am both Saturday and Sunday. You can follow along at the California Music Center’s YouTube channel. There are five violinists, two cellists, and one violist among this year’s semi-finalists, aged 18-21. Here’s last year’s winner, cellist James Baik from his competition finals performance.
For classical fans on the Central Coast, the 50 year-old Festival Mozaic’s 2020 season cancellation hit hard. But there is some consolation in a new series of Festival videos. The latest “Mozaic Moment” is a 2019 Festival performance of Joaquín Turina’s Piano Quintet. The pianist is John Novacek, who took a serious fall on the way to the concert but played right through the pain. The Quintet is a one-of-a-kind score, incorporating tunes from the composer’s native Spain, Brahms-like harmonies, even Gregorian chant. Our musical tour guide is Festival Director Scott Yoo, so charming and insightful a commentator that PBS recently scooped him up to be the host of its engaging Great Performances series Now Hear This.
Oh, one more Great Performances alert! June 5th is your last chance to catch the PBS free video of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Centennial Gala, recorded this past fall. Three LA Phil music directors graced the Disney Hal stage— Gustavo Dudamel, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Zubin Mehta. The program features music closely associated with each, plus the world premiere of Daníel Bjarnason’s “From Space I Saw Earth”, a tribute to the Apollo 11 mission. It required all three conductors onstage at the same time. A peek at this orchestral feat and the complete LA Phil 100 concert.
Left Coast Chamber Ensemble has released a full concert performance that they’re calling “Sheltering Music,” with works by Aram Khachaturian, Elliott Carter, Robert Schumann, Beethoven, Ruth Crawford Seeger and more, changing the programming of their final concert of the season to be able to play solos and duets from across four centuries. The concert was streamed live from the Doug Adams Gallery of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley (with the exception of Eric Zivian’s piano performance, which was recorded at his house) with introductions pre-recorded by the musicians, to avoid sharing a microphone.
Oakland Symphony (with members of the Chorus, Youth Orchestra, and MUSE educational program) has released an arrangement of the Bill Withers classic song ‘Lean on Me.’ Music Director Michael Morgan says they dedicate the performance “to the City of Oakland, our first responders, and to all in our community who are suffering. We know that music has the power to transcend, to move, to challenge, and to heal.” The arrangement, with a virtual performance by 130 members of the community, from ages 8-86, also pays tribute to the singer/songwriter who made it famous, who died at the end of March.
The USC Oriana Choir stands out from other USC Thornton School of Music ensembles in that it is open to non-music majors as well as faculty and staff. No audition necessary, nor even prior choral experience. The all-female group came together for their first virtual performance to express a sense of hope in these difficult times. This poignant song by contemporary Swiss composer Ivo Antognini is set to a text depicting a conversation between a refugee child and his father. The pianist is Thornton Master’s student Anthony Cardella.
A Thornton alum, flutist Gina Luciani, has been creating online content for years as both a performer and teacher, so she was ready for the switch this spring to virtual concerts. From her home studio, where she’s recorded music for The Simpsons and other soundtracks, Gina performs Passacaille by René-Emmanuel Baton, known as Rhené-Baton. The pianist is James Lent.
Pianist Lara Downes is featured in a new NPR Music Tiny Desk (Home) Concert, playing selections from her recent album Some of These Days. The music is arrangements of spirituals and freedom songs, works that tell of, as she puts it, “hope, and courage and survival.” From her home in Sacramento, she plays “Troubled Water,” by Margaret Bonds, Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s arrangement of “Deep River,” and the title track “Some of These Days” arranged by Florence Price. The last tune, she says, “envisions a better world, a world that’s going to come, some of these days.”
In past seasons, San Francisco’s Community Music Center has presented a fundraising ‘Performathon’ with an open house and two days worth of concerts to celebrate their Field Day. Gertrude Field was the founder of the CMC in 1921. All this week, they’re presenting a Virtual Field Day, sharing during the noon hour a livestream of curated performance videos from the CMC students. It’s on both their Facebook page as well as their website. There are also concerts by faculty in the Shenson Salons Free Concert Series, including performances by the Bernal Hill Players, violinist Michael Long, pianist Christopher Basso, and songwriter Larry Dunn. They take place through Thursday at 5:30pm on their Facebook page.
Even though we are excited to launch Virtual Field Day today, we feel the need to pause and reflect on the pain and turmoil in our world. Our hearts go out to the communities and families who are suffering right now because of the ongoing impacts of racism. We acknowledge the hurt and pain in our community, and we stand in solidarity with those who seek justice. It has always been CMC's mission to bring together a diverse and vibrant community through the unifying power of music. We are proud of our students, faculty, and friends for preparing these beautiful performances, and we hope the power of music uplifts you during this chaotic and painful time in the country.Donate to Virtual Field Day by giving at: https://give.classy.org/FieldDay2020. The full program for today’s show can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/Virtual-Field-Day-1 Today’s performers are: Christelle Durandy with the Pacific Mambo OrchestraMax GleasonBayanihan ChoirJonathan Smucker & Michael MohammedMailey GannonMomoko PetrucciYaretzi RodriguezScout KamrasAlexis MartinezPaul DabLogan HedgesLogan HedgesOmer OsmanManuela PennesElmira LagundiJose HernandezAndrew PotterZein AndersonSawyer BurdettBruce LoebJim AbramsSeñors Duo (Zein Anderson-Felix Elhauge Roniger)🌟 Learn more and support music for everyone at sfcmc.org/virtual-field-day#FieldDayOnline
Posted by Community Music Center on Monday, June 1, 2020
The curtain rises in Angel Joy Blue’s living room on the latest episode of LA Opera’s At Home Series. The soprano, a sensation as Bess in the Metropolitan Opera’s recent production of Porgy and Bess, trained in her native Southern California—she’s an alum of LA County High School of the Arts, University of Redlands, UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and LA Opera’s Young Artists program. Angel’s astonishing voice and her warm, down-to-earth personality shine through this viral video, “Kids Meet an Opera Singer.” Maybe you’ve seen it? It’s been viewed more than 10 million times. Watch Angel Joy Blue’s LA Opera At Home concert on the LAO at Home website. And catch last week’s Living Room Recital by another starry alum of LA Opera’s Young Artists program, soprano Amanda Woodbury on Facebook.
Photo of soprano Angel Joy Blue by Sonya Garza, courtesy of Los Angeles Opera
Concerts by the conductorless chamber ensemble One Found Sound have always had a comfortable, social vibe to them, with players and audience members in close proximity, as you can see from the video below. So while they’re unable to have that kind of community experience, they’re hosting “watch parties” on Facebook instead. During the parties, they’re commenting and interacting with audience members, and then the performance is archived for several days. The next concert that they’re presenting, today at 5:30pm is Frederic Rzewski’s Coming Together, which they describe this way: “This minimalist classic accompanies a dramatic text that highlights the experience of isolation, the passage of time, and the need for togetherness.”
Though live orchestra concerts are on a long pause, the LA Phil has mobilized its musicians to produce an engaging series of At Home performance videos. Longtime Associate Concertmaster Bing Wang brings us one of the most beloved pieces in the violin repertoire in this new offering in the series. She finds in the Méditation by Jules Massenet “a profound sense of hope which takes on new meaning in these times.” At the piano, Bing’s son Andrew Gong.
Angel City Chorale, the 180-voice multicultural LA choir that made a big splash on America’s Got Talent, has been hard at work during the shutdown creating a fun and uplifting video with sky-high production values: Sogno di Volare or “A Dream of Flight.” It’s music of Christopher Tin that he originally wrote for the video game Civilization VI, and it’s become one of the choir’s signature tunes. The performance is led by Angel City Chorale founding artistic director and conductor Sue Fink.
With stars like ballerina Misty Copeland and singer Josh Groban among its alums, the Music Center of LA County’s Spotlight Awards program is a major stepping stone for young Southern California musicians and dancers. Since the Music Center is shuttered, the 32nd annual Spotlight Grand Finale goes virtual for the first time. The silver lining: anyone, anywhere can enjoy the remarkable talent on display this Saturday, May 30 at 7pm on their website or YouTube channel, and both Copeland and Groban will make appearances. How remarkable is the talent on display, you ask? Well, brace yourself for this Spotlight Prize-winning performance of music by Franz Liszt featuring then 15 year-old pianist Tyler Kim. This year some 1,400 applicants from more than 250 high schools auditioned for the Spotlight program, which includes free workshops and seminars throughout the year.
Spotlight Awards ballet finalist Ashley Lew is a junior at Capistrano Connections Academy in San Juan Capistrano. Photo courtesy of the Music Center of LA County.
[Dr. Lynn Ngai Gerber's performance kicks off this presentation at approximately 5:50]This virtual celebration of our 2020–21 season features a violin performance by Stanford physician Dr. Lynn Ngai Gerber, MD, remarks by Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Stanford Live curatorial fellow Will Paisley ('20), a presentation by Executive Director Chris Lorway, a performance by musician and SFSU Associate Professor of American Indian Studies John-Carlos Perea, Q&A, artist shout-outs, and more.Check out our full calendar for performance details here: https://live.stanford.edu/202021seasonView our FAQ page for more details about our approach to the 2020–21 season: https://live.stanford.edu/faq2020
Posted by Stanford Live on Wednesday, May 27, 2020
It begins (at about 6 minutes in) with Dr. Lynn Ngai Gerber of Stanford Medicine playing solo Bach for violin on the stage of the Bing Concert Hall. Stanford Live presented via a stream on their Facebook page a different kind of season announcement for different times, as Executive Director Chris Lorway explains. “Launching a season at this particular moment may seem like a very unusual thing to do. But we don’t see this as a season of fact. We see this as a season of hope. We hope that we’ll be able to bring performances to you in some form. It may be virtual, it may be outdoors, or it may be that we find ways to bring people back into the hall safely.” He says they’ll be following the guidelines of the University, county and state in making those decisions, and that they’ll be keeping in close communication with patrons and subscribers as it becomes clearer what the reality of the season will be. But the “Season of Hope” has the themes of Reconciliation and Forgiveness. There’s an opening statement in their brochure recognizing that “Stanford sits on the territory of Huichin, the ancestral and unceded land of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe…” and the season includes performances by, and a spotlight on indigenous artists. There are also classical favorites, including the return of their series “Sundays with the St. Lawrence”. Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra are scheduled to play a concert including a premiere by Matthew Aucoin, and the Australian Chamber Orchestra will premiere a work by Samuel Adams. Branford Marsalis joins the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Joyce DiDonato brings her “Songplay” to Stanford, and Kronos Quartet accompanies the documentary “A Thousand Thoughts.” Chris Lorway says the season will be evolving as more becomes known, but even if performances with live audiences might take a while to return, they’re looking into the possibility of having artists’ residencies with streamed performances, as a way of both getting the art to audiences, and supporting the artists themselves
The Los Angeles Master Chorale is sharing the joy of choral music Sundays at Seven, offering full-length concert performances. On May 30th, tune in for Sonic Masterworks, a treat for the ears, ranging from baroque works to music of our time by Moses Hogan, Eric Whitacre, and Steven Stucky. A highlight: this 17th century sonic spectacular from the 17th century, Miserere by Gregorio Allegri.
For some 30 years, the Los Angeles Master Chorale has created a kind of high school super-choir comprised of 1,000 singers from throughout LA County who come together to raise their voices at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Since the kids can’t gather in person this year, the Chorale is presenting a virtual version of the festival. Tune in Wednesday, June 3rd at 1pm.
“San Francisco’s Musical Lunch Break,” Noontime Concerts, has posted this performance from its archives of Belgian violinist and piano duo Jolente De Maeyer and Nikolaas Kende playing music of Mendelssohn and Beethoven. The concert, from October of 2017, includes the Mendelssohn Violin Sonata op. 4 in F minor, (written when he was 14 years old), as well as the famed “Kreutzer” Sonata of Beethoven.
Long Beach Opera has launched a lively series of Artist Afternoons—performances, conversations, and interviews with its far-flung artists. Tomorrow’s 4pm livestream features soprano Suzan Hanson, who has performed more than 30 roles with the company. On Thursdays, the charismatic team of bass-baritone Cedric Berry and tenor Ashley Faatoalia hold forth on Cedric and Ash: In the House. Their engaging personalities and powerful voices meld beautifully. Both Cedric and Ash appeared in LBO’s The Central Park Five, which just a few weeks ago picked up the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Music. In the House features performances and backstage stories. The two also share their special shelter-at-home skills, including recipes and home improvement tutorials! Long Beach Opera’s Artist Afternoons are livestreamed at 4pm on their Facebook page and check out the performances later on their website. Though it is known for its adventurous productions of new works and its innovative interpretations of the classics, LBO is actually the oldest professional opera company in the LA and Orange County areas. Next season’s roster includes an opera that had to be cancelled this season, The Lighthouse, written in 1983 by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. It’s a kind of ghost story opera based on the real-life disappearance of three lighthouse keepers in turn-of-the-century Scotland. Here’s the whole 2021 season.
Photo by Keith Ian Polakoff from the Long Beach Opera production of Central Park Five, courtesy of Long Beach Opera.
Here’s Bay Area favorite Frederica von Stade starring in a full performance of a recent opera called Sky On Swings by American composer Lembit Beecher and librettist Hannah Moscovitch. (It’s part of Opera Philadelphia’s “Digital Festival O,” which they’re calling Opera on the Couch). The work had its world premiere in the Fall of 2018, and was recorded at their Festival 018. It’s about two characters with Alzheimer’s Disease, sung by mezzo-sopranos von Stade and Marietta Simpson. Opera News described it this way: “Martha, already institutionalized and increasingly losing her gift of language, welcomes Danny (an accomplished researcher we follow in the wrenching stages of admission to the home), eventually deciding she’s a ‘summer friend, on whom she had a crush when she was a teenager.’ Danny, while glad for the company, initially resists this misidentification but eventually yields to it as a needed source of affection and support.”
Mix it up with the Maestro of Los Angeles Opera! Just in time for the holiday weekend, it’s a chance to grab a cup of java and hear company Music Director James Conlon answer your questions about the art form. Watch “Coffee with Conlon” on the company’s Facebook page. The new series kicks off Friday May 22 at 5pm, and is available on-demand following the livestream.
Santa Barbara-based Camerata Pacifica has been hailed by the Los Angeles Times as “the best chamber music reason to get out of the house in these parts.” Well, we can’t get out of the house much these days, but you can still hear new performances by the ensemble — livestreams are presented every Sunday. These “Concerts at Home” can be heard at 11:30 AM on the ensemble’s Facebook page and at 10 AM and 6 PM on their YouTube channel. Presenting top chamber musicians from around the world, Camerata Pacifica normally performs each concert in four locations, from Santa Barbara to downtown Los Angeles. While the concerts halls are shuttered, check out its rich video archive, of past performances, including this stunner from earlier this season of a Wind Quintet by Carl Nielsen:
“Distance makes the heart grow/Even when I’m lonely…” In a new video, Chanticleer sings (appropriately enough) a song called “Distance” by soul singer/songwriter Emily King, (as arranged by Tim Keeler, their next Music Director).
The Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra has ended its season by releasing a full “Virtual Chamber Music Concert”, with fourteen ensembles of young musicians playing music by Vivaldi, Corelli, Haydn, Mozart, Delibes, Villa-Lobos, and more. To end the concert, they gave the virtual world premiere of Michael Murrin’s Fuel of the Soul, a brass and percussion piece for 26 players that was commissioned by the SRSYO to help celebrate its 60th anniversary this year.
PianoSpheres invites you to slip on your most elegant concert attire (sweatpants encouraged), grab a beverage of choice, and virtually attend a performance by Susan Svrček, a founding member of the series founded in 1994 by Leonard Stein. Susan’s spring recital was canceled but PianoSpheres has just released her performance of Frederick Lesemann’s jazzy |bar code| (dance music for two pianos), with pianist Nelson Ojeda Valdés. This is the world premiere performance from 2017. Lesemann is a Southern California native and Emeritus Professor of Composition at his alma mater, the USC Thornton School of Music, where he taught for decades.
Berkeley Symphony’s Music Director Joseph Young will be hosting “An Afternoon with Berkeley Symphony” this Sunday afternoon from 3:00 to 4:00. It’s presented by the Berkeley Relief Fund, which is fundraising for small businesses and non-profits hardest hit by the pandemic. It will include solo performances, interviews with Symphony players, and video footage from his first concert in the role of Music Director. Young was chosen for the job on the basis of a crowd-pleasing performance he led as a last-minute substitute for a scheduled guest-conductor. He’s also put together a Shelter-in-Place playlist of music that he’s been listening to while staying at home, currently in Baltimore.
Joseph Young | Photo by Jeff Roffman
Hard to believe the beloved Ojai Festival won’t be taking place as always early next month in beautiful Libbey Park, complete with picnicking on the lawn, the backdrop of a majestic oak grove, and aural cameos by Ojai’s contemporary music-loving bird population. But the Festival is keeping up with its audience through a rich archive of videos. In addition, every Thursday at noon, the Festival presents short videos for kids: free lessons in song, movement, and interactive musical play based on the nationally known Education Through Music curriculum. The latest Ojai Festival concert video, released this week, is a tour de force featuring Australian keyboard virtuoso Anthony Romaniuk. At his Ojai Festival debut in 2018, he presented on harpsichord and piano a wide-ranging (to put it mildly) recital, rapturously received. Now you can hear it in its entirety: some 450 years of music history, from 16th century English composer William Byrd to 20th century Hungarian, György Ligeti, with J.S.Bach, Bartok, and many more in between.
Cal Performances’ Executive and Artistic Director Jeremy Geffen has been curating an extensive list of online streamable content that they’re calling Now, More Than Ever. Reflective of the diverse programming that Cal Performances offers, this collection includes everything from a Bollywood duet to Isaac Stern playing Bach, and Gustavo Dudamel conducting at the Proms, to Michelle Dorrance tap-dancing at a festival in Stockholm. Geffen has been presenting the selections with detailed commentary on the Cal Performances website, explaining why he’s chosen to share them, often with personal stories about the works or performers. There’s also a YouTube playlist (without the commentary). In the most recent collection, he includes this performance by Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński of an arrangement of a work by Stanisław Moniuszko. Orliński is scheduled to come to Zellerbach Hall in April of 2021.
With their long-anticipated (and fastidiously rehearsed) spring concerts sadly canceled, students at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music have found alternative ways to come together in performance. From their homes around the world, the members of the contemporary chamber ensemble uclaFLUX came together to perform some fascinating repertoire. Hungarian composer György Kurtág arranged this music from a Bach cantata for himself and his wife to play together. It’s performed here by pianist Duong Phan in Huntington Beach and Brandon Zhou in Albany, New York.
American composer David Lang wrote this homage to 15th-century composer Guillaume Dufay in 1992. The scoring is for a whopping six pianos. One of those pianos was swapped out for a marimba; it was the only instrument UCLA student Chris Hightower had on hand at his LA home. Joining Chris, in addition to Duong and Brandon (featured in the Bach piece above) are Hana Kim from Suwon, South Korea; Yi Sophia Ji from her home in Heifei Anhui, China; and their teacher, renowned Los Angeles pianist Gloria Cheng.
Recently, members of the California Symphony raised the spirits of area healthcare workers in an effort called #MozartForMedics. Concertmaster Jennifer Cho and principal viola Marcel Gemperli played a socially-distanced program of duets at the John Muir Health Walnut Creek Medical Center. The staff was starting 12-hour shifts and being screened for COVID as the music played, starting in the morning at 6:45. California Symphony reports: “The hospital says they have received generous donations from Safeway, Sees Candy and others in our community, however this is the first donation they’re received that addresses emotional support and healing for their healthcare staff. Music is indeed an undeniable balm!”
Members of the California Symphony about to some #MozartForMedics | Theisen Imagery
The Los Angeles-based Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra prides itself on its inclusive approach to classical music. No tickets required for their concerts; the mantra is “pay whatever makes you happy” and they perform largely in community venues such as churches, hospitals, shelters, and schools. The conductorless ensemble also strives to expand the repertoire. In the past few years alone, they’ve presented more than two dozen commissions. A recent international call for scores (with no application fee) elicited close to 8,000 new works from composers around the world. In addition to works selected from that bounty, Kaleidoscope’s 7th season will include commissions from such composers as Ted Hearne, Julia Adolphe, Billy Childs, Christopher Cerrone, and Anna Clyne. It’s not clear when concerts will resume, of course, so in the meantime check out past performances on Kaleidoscope’s YouTube page, including:
From December, a rousing Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 by J.S. Bach.
And here’s Red, by Nina Shekhar. The fast-rising Los Angeles composer was just named USC Thornton School of Music’s outstanding master’s grad. Her works have been performed by the Jack Quartet, Eighth Blackbird, and this splendid Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra reed quintet.
During the shutdown, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale has been making available on YouTube complete performances from its long history through its #PBOReflects program. The current video, available through the end of June, is from a concert with guest cellist Steven Isserlis from March of 2012. It includes the Schumann Cello Concerto, a Mendelssohn work called The Fair Melusine, and the Serenade No. 2 by Brahms, all led by Nicholas McGegan. Join their mailing list at their website to have access to all of their offerings!
For more than fifty years, Orange County choral music fans have reveled in the wide-ranging repertoire and exciting performances of the Pacific Chorale. The Chorale was to have concluded its 53rd season this weekend with a gala performance at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. But the choir is still connecting with its concert-deprived audience, introducing a new interactive feature on its Facebook page. Ask the Maestro is your chance to pick the brain of Pacific Chorale Artistic Director Rob Istad. Everything you wanted to know about choral music but were afraid to ask! Pose your choral query in the comment section of the Chorale’s Facebook page. That’s also where you can pick up some valuable choral cocktail advice from Pacific Chorale CEO Andrew Brown: the recipe for Trader Andy’s Mai Tai.
You asked the Maestro, and he answered! Marcia supplied a great question for Pacific Chorale's Robert Istad: In what ways were your parents musical? Here's Rob's answer.Have a question? Post it in the comments or use the hashtag #askthemaestro!
Posted by Pacific Chorale on Tuesday, May 12, 2020
On the Chorale’s website, you can hear some of its latest recordings, including their newest one, which features some haunting, never-before-recorded works by contemporary composer Tarik O’Regan, plus music of Jake Heggie and William Bolcom.
The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) has been busy creating fun and musically inspiring digital content since the moment their spring series was canceled due to the pandemic. The cancellation was a tough blow for the orchestra; this is Spanish maestro Jaime Martín’s first season as music director. Martín has already garnered raves for his powerfully visceral music-making with LACO and his vivacious personality. Writing about the first concert of the season, Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed cited Martín’s infectious music-making: “He seems to be having a blast”, wrote Swed. “The musicians seem to be having a blast. The audience is invited to the party.”
If you didn’t get an opportunity to experience Jaime’s charm in person, now’s your (virtual) chance. This weekend he’ll be taking part in a chat with Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the fast-rising young cellist of royal wedding fame and LACO’s artist-in-residence. Sheku will also be heard in a performance with his pianist sister Isata Kanneh-Mason. The livestream will showcase the orchestra, too, performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, the “Eroica” led by Thomas Dausgaard. The livestreams take place on Saturday, May 16 at 8 PM, with an encore performance Sunday, May 17 at 7 PM on their website. Afterward, catch the performances on-demand.
Photo of Sheku Kanneh-Mason by Lars Borges courtesy of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
During the past weeks, Marin Symphony has released a series of videos on its YouTube channel with conductor Alasdair Neale and members of the orchestra (and some other special guests) in conversation. One of the recent videos has concertmaster Jeremy Constant playing Massenet’s “Meditation” from Thaïs, accompanied on piano by Peter Grünberg at a different location. Despite the free tempos, they were able to stay together beautifully in this socially-distanced performance!
The beloved denizens of The Magic Flute — Papageno, Tamino, the Queen of the Night and the rest of the gang — take a flying leap into the realm of 1990’s video games in Pacific Opera Project’s family-friendly production of Mozart’s beloved opera. This virtual voyage into the frenzied world of Super Mario Bros. and Zelda takes place Wednesday, May 13 at 5pm (and is available afterwards on-demand). The delightfully zany production is sung in English. Brush-up on Flute trivia, and check out suggested recipes, drinks, costume ideas, crafts, and games to play in preparation for the big show on their website. View the stream on POP’s Facebook page (where you can chat with the cast) or YouTube channel. For an example of Pacific Opera Project’s playful approach to opera: check out this 2019 production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado, anime-style!
On Thursday evening, the contemporary chamber group called Ensemble for These Times is going to present its program “Blooming Flowers: Music by Women Composers” via livestream. It’s part of the Center for New Music’s Encore Concert series, and originally took place live in January, to a sold-out crowd. The program features the world premiere of Weiwei Miao’s piano trio called “Blooming Flowers, Full Moon,” and works by nine other women composers, including Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Victoria Bond, Chen Yi, and Aleksandra Vrebalov. Several composers and musicians from the concert will be available to answer audience questions as a part of a live chat through the Center for New Music’s Facebook or YouTube channel, or on their website.
The health benefits of choral singing have been well-documented. Now, as you shelter at home, the Colburn School invites you to practice this joyous form of self-care by raising your voice as part of Eric Whitacre’s Sing Gently, his 6th Virtual Choir project. No worries: you don’t need to be the next Renée Fleming to take part in this high-tech choral extravaganza. Virtual Choir 6 is open to singers of all ages and experience levels.
Eric Whitacre | Photo by Marc Royce, courtesy of the Colburn School
To participate, visit virtualchoir6.com, where you will be able to download sheet music, record your performance, and submit the video online. There, you’ll also find vocal warm-ups and workshops in composition and singing technique. The deadline for uploading your video is May 22. It was a little over a decade ago that the beloved Los Angeles-based composer Eric Whitacre created his first ground-breaking Virtual Choir as an experiment in then newish forms of social media. More than 20,000 singers have participated in the intervening years. Here’s Virtual Choir 3.0 Eric Whitacre’s Water Night, sung by nearly 3,000 singers from 73 countries.
The Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir has released a video of their ensemble Ancora singing “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” together (virtually) in anticipation of their Virtual Jazz & Beyond Concert. The full performance will premiere on their YouTube channel on Saturday, May 16th at 7 Pacific. It will include members of both the Ancora (high school-aged female voices) and Ecco (high school-aged male and female) ensembles, in solos, duets, and small groups, singing jazz-inflected a cappella works.
This weekend, San Francisco Opera will begin streaming archival performances at their website, from 10 am Saturday through midnight Sunday. The first presentation will be Arrigo Boito’s Mefistofele, with Nicola Luisotti conducting. The production, directed by Robert Carsen was from 2013, and stars Russian bass-baritone Ildar Abdrazakov in as the devil, with San Francisco favorite Patricia Racette in the roles of Margherita and Elena. It’s part of SFO’s Opera is ON initiative, to raise our spirits while we’re unable to attend live performances. Upcoming shows will include Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi (The Capulets and the Montagues), Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick, and Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia, with Renee Fleming and Michael Fabiano.
One of the advantages of being part of a musical family is that chamber music performances can continue, even while staying at home. Here’s the Costanza-Fong Trio, with Debra Fong, principal second violinist of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra; Christopher Costanza, cellist from the St. Lawrence String Quartet; and their daughter, violist Isabella Costanza, playing a String Trio by Schubert.
California Symphony percussionist Allen Biggs brings Bach outside, as he plays a bit of Bach’s Partita No. 1, originally written for violin, on his marimba in his driveway. There’s a profile of Biggs on the California Symphony website, referring to him as a ‘Percussionist-in-Place’.
Ahoy young mateys! Tuesday May 12th at 3:30pm, Opera Santa Barbara is pulling up anchor on its children’s opera Odyssey, last season’s Homer-inspired production featuring the Santa Barbara Youth Opera. The livestream sets sail on the company’s Facebook and YouTube channels. And here’s more on the company’s unique summer camp for kids ages 8-18. For more grown-up opera fare, check out Opera Santa Barbara’s production of The Crucible by American composer Robert Ward, conducted by company Artistic Director Kostis Protopapas. The Pulitzer Prize-winning opera is based on Arthur Miller’s play and available on-demand here:
Opera SB presents a livestream of Robert Ward's THE CRUCIBLE on Tuesday, April 14, 2020 at 5PM (PT)The Crucible is one of the most gripping works of American opera. Based on Arthur Miller’s play centered on the Salem witch trials, Robert Ward’s eerily topical opera is sure to make your pulse race. Originally performed on April 26 & 28, 2019 at the Lobero Theatre.Conducted by Kostis ProtopapasDirected by Stephanie HaveyScenic Design by Steven C. KempLighting Design by Jared A. SayegKourtni Dale Noll – Production Stage ManagerStacie Logue – Costume ManagerHeather Sterling – Hair & Makeup DesignT. Theresa Scarano – Props MasterEmilia Covault – Assistant Stage ManagerKatherine Belyea – Assistant Stage ManagerTodd Jared – Technical DirectorJane Hatfield – Costume Assistant/SeamstressAnya Matanovic as Abigail WilliamsWayne Tigges as John ProctorAudrey Babcock as Elizabeth ProctorRobert Norman as Samuel ParrisCorey Bix as Judge DanforthColin Ramsey as John HaleNina Yoshida Nelson as TitubaTHE CRUCIBLE Music by Robert Ward; Libretto by Bernard Stambler, based on the play by Arthur Miller, German translation by Thomas MartinCopyright © 1962 by Bernard Stambler and Robert Ward. Libretto and text for THE CRUCIBLE herein included Copyright © 1961 by Arthur Miller, Bernard Stambler, and Robert Ward. Based upon the play THE CRUCIBLE by Arthur Miller, Copyright © 1952, 1953 by Arthur Miller. Earlier version Copyright under the title THOSE FAMILIAR SPIRITS. German translation copyright © 1963 by Highgate Press, a division of ECS Publishing. International copyright secured. All rights reserved. Used by permission of ECS Publishing Group.Video by David BazemoreAudio by Opus 1 Mobile Recording#ShelterInStyleWithOSB #OperaSantaBarbara #OSBTheCrucible #opera #livestream #operasb #ArthurMiller
Posted by Opera Santa Barbara on Tuesday, April 14, 2020
Education through Music-LA, which provides in-school music instruction for 42 campuses across LA County, has quickly mobilized its staff of music teachers to create a series of brief, kid-friendly videos. There are several dozen tutorials geared to specific age levels. But truth be told even videos targeting the kindergarten set are so informative, those of you (okay, me) with music degrees, admittedly attained some time ago, can learn something! For grades K-2: there’s an 8-minute primer on differentiating between rhythms and beats. Intended for 4th graders, this video demystifies the tricky concept of musical syncopation. Here’s the complete list of classes.
The USC Thornton School of Music has expanded its new digital series Live! From Somewhere to include alumni in addition to students. Internationally renowned classical guitarist Michael Kurdika received both his bachelor’s and his doctorate from Thornton. With this performance he shows off not only his dexterity as a player, but also his chops as a luthier; he’s playing a “historical-style” instrument he made himself. Kurdika is best known as an interpreter of modern music, working closely with such composers as Thomas Adès, Veronika Krausas, and Jeffrey Holmes. Here, he looks back to the late 15th century, bringing us a haunting tune by Josquin des Près.
Playing music is a source of solace for many, especially now. After seeing his friends and fellow musicians sharing music online, USC Thornton alum Michael Kudirka wanted to share a performance of his own. Unlike most, however, Kudirka plays on instruments he makes himself. The startup he founded, MicroTone Guitars, makes guitars with interchangeable fretboards for a variety of historical tunings and temperaments. Using his specially made guitar, Kudirka is able to produce a beautifully layered performance of a 16th century tune, Missa L'homme armé sexti toni, by Josquin des Prez.Enjoy. Live from wherever we are.
Posted by USC Thornton School of Music on Tuesday, April 14, 2020
Current USC Thornton students looked back to the late 16th century for this next installment of the Live! From Somewhere series. These are members of the school’s Baroque Sinfonia, now required to rehearse (and in some cases graduate!) remotely. They came together virtually for this rendition of an aptly titled John Dowland tune, “Now, Oh Now, I Needs Must Part”:
USC Thornton Early Music ensemble Baroque Sinfonia rehearses and performs together remotely, recreating a previous live performance on video. In this installment of Live! From Somewhere, the ensemble performs "Now, O Now I Needs Must Part" by John Dowland, a piece they last performed in a 2019 concert. Though their members can't be together physically, they continue to craft beautiful performances together.
Posted by USC Thornton School of Music on Tuesday, April 21, 2020
Audrey Vardanega, pianist and founder of Musaics of the Bay, the concert series and mentorship program, has announced what they’re calling the Stay-at-Home Symposium. It’s a commissioning project that brings together composers, performers, and the general public. Through May 22nd, they’re asking for submissions from the community of works of art – poems, drawings, photographs, stories – that will in turn inspire composers to write new pieces of music. As they describe it, “the Stay-at-Home Symposium is a much-needed way for the community to motivate the process by which new compositions are created and performed. We hope you will share the creative pieces that you turn to in these difficult times so that our performers and composers can use them as the inspiration for new music.” When finished, the works will be performed on YouTube, and eventually, (when it’s possible to do so safely) also in a live performance. If you’re not artistically inclined yourself, you’re still welcome to submit a work by someone else that has inspired you, to bring it to the attention of the composers (so long as it doesn’t violate copyright laws). The participating composers listed on the website include Milad Yousufi, Yifan Guo, Nick Main, Hannah Ishizaki, and Lauren Vandervelden. There’s a submission form for this first round on their website, with additional details.
No sooner did their upcoming spring concerts hit the dust—a fate shared by every orchestra in the world-then members of the Pacific Symphony began creating Quarantine Clips, brief concerts from the musicians’ homes with a new performance added daily. Pacific Symphony clarinetist Joshua Ranz accompanies himself in an arrangement for clarinet and basset clarinet of a work by Gustav Mahler. It’s two minutes of sheer magic from “The Youth’s Magic Horn.”
Some of the Quarantine Clips showcase members of the orchestra’s youth training programs. In this one, violinist Andrew Kao, who plays with the Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings, tosses off a showpiece by Nicolo Paganini. Based on his poised and confident intro to the piece, he would seem to have a future career in classical radio if the violin thing doesn’t work out.
Jeremy Cohen, violinist and founder of the ensemble Quartet San Francisco, recently sent a note saying:
There are a few things I’d like to accomplish while on Lockdown.
1. Familiarize myself with more of Shakespeare’s works
2. Improve my Tap Dancing skills
3. Improve my video chops
Here’s what I got done today, I hope you enjoy it!
The tune is called Huckleberry Duck, and was written in 1939 by Raymond Scott, the bandleader and composer of many novelty works that were often quoted by Carl Stalling in classic Looney Tunes cartoons. The QSF video combines footage of the quartet playing in concert back in January at Commonweal in Bolinas, with at-home performances by Cohen, Joseph Christianson, Chad Kaltinger, and Andres David Vera.
From the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s At Home series, violists Ben Ullery & Dana Lawson bring us the beautiful slow movement of the Viola Sonata No. 1 by Brahms, as well as Frank Bridge’s Lament for Two Violas. In the first piece, Dana handily switches out her viola for a piano.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music has launched ‘Season 2’ of Tiny Dorm Concerts, with live performances on their YouTube channel and the Tiny Dorm Concerts webpage on their site. Among the special guests included in upcoming concerts are Garrick Ohlsson (May 8) and Frederica von Stade (May 11). There’s a Roots, Jazz, and American Music program on May 9, as well as an Opera Scenes showcase on May 15.
Voices of Music has shared another of their performances in HD video, from a December 2017 concert, of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6. Kati Kyme and Elizabeth Blumenstock play the baroque viola (the so-called viola da braccio, because it’s held by the arm); Elisabeth Reed and William Skeen play the viola da gamba; Tanya Tomkins, baroque cello; with Farley Pearce on the violone (the double-bass equivalent within the viol family of instruments) and the group’s co-director Hanneke van Proosdij on harpsichord.
Among the many performances that have been put on hold, as we wait for the safe return of concert-going, was the West Coast premiere of a new work by Mason Bates called Philharmonia Fantastique. It’s a co-commission of the San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. It blends music by Bates with film and animation that takes the audience through (and in some cases into) the instruments of the orchestra, and their four “tribes” of strings, winds, brass, and percussion. Part Young Person’s Guide, and part Fantasia for the Pixar generation, the 25 minute work has an animated character called “The Sprite” who reacts to the music as it’s played on stage by the orchestra. Here’s a preview, with a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at its creation, with Oscar-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom from Skywalker Sound as director, and Pixar’s Jim Capobianco as writer.
The young musicians who rehearse so diligently as part of their rigorous training at American Youth Symphony faced a big disappointment this month: the cancellation of their ambitious spring concert. They’d been scheduled to play the U.S. premiere of a piece by American composer Richard Danielpour and the technically challenging Alpine Symphony of Richard Strauss. But you can still hear the amazingly rich orchestral sound they produce under Music Director Carlos Izcaray; videos on their YouTube channel include the all too rarely performed Third and final Symphony by Rachmaninoff:
Since Mehli Mehta took over the American Youth Symphony in 1964, the orchestra has served as a training ground for hundreds of professional musicians. Nearly 15 current players with the LA Phil are alums, and there are also former AYS musicians now playing with the San Francisco Symphony, the Berkeley Symphony, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, LA Opera Orchestra, and the Pacific Symphony. To raise the funds necessary to continue to offer tuition-free training and free concerts, AYS is presenting its first Virtual Gala Thursday, May 7th at 4pm. The festivities include the world premiere of Music Director Carlos Izcaray’s new work entitled Geometric Unity.
Photo of American Youth Symphony Music Director Carlos Izcaray | Photo courtesy of the American Youth Symphony.
The Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (ICYOLA) is another top Southern California training program currently suspended. ICYOLA provides inner-city youth with high-quality music education and performance opportunities (including Kids Discovery Days). It recruits its orchestra members without auditions, so it’s open to all. Their upcoming Disney Hall concert is canceled, but now you can enjoy performances from previous seasons. Here Charles Dickerson (founder and executive director of ICYOLA) conducting the stirring theme from The Big Country, music by Jerome Moross.
This month, the HEAR NOW Music Festival was supposed to be presenting its 10th anniversary season of informal concerts celebrating the music of Southern California composers in top-level performances. Since its founding in 2011 by artistic director and composer Hugh Levick and cellist Timothy Loo, HEAR NOW has introduced some 150 new and recent works by more than 100 local composers. Now the Festival is sprouting online. Concerts from recent seasons are posted on HEAR NOW’s website, with several new chamber performances to be added beginning April 30th. Here’s a preview: Road Music by John Adams, performed by two standouts on the LA contemporary music scene, violinist Alyssa Park and pianist Vicki Ray.
Jeremy Geffen, the Executive and Artistic Director of Cal Performances has announced their upcoming season (with an assist from our own Rik Malone). It’s the first season that Geffen has programmed, and beyond the stellar roster of artists and ensembles on the schedule, there are two season themes that bring issues to audiences, working with the academic resources of UC Berkeley.
“Illuminations” focuses on music and the mind, partnering with the Berkeley Brain Initiative, members of UC Berkeley faculty in Molecular and Cell Biology and Psychology, as well as Berkeley Public Health and Weill Neurohub at UCSF. Geffen describes it as exploring the “transformative power of music and its therapeutic potential…we are poised to explore these conversations in a way that no other campus is.” Among the performances in the series are the Tetzlaff Quartet playing Beethoven’s Late String Quartets, and Mark Morris Dance Group, which has a long-running program offering dance classes for people with Parkinson’s’ Disease. The other theme is “Fact or Fiction” which looks at “how both artists and scholars balance story-telling and poetic license with questions of historical accuracy.” Works in that program include Julia Wolfe’s Steel Hammer with the Bang on a Can All-Stars, and The English Concert’s Tamerlano by Handel. They’re starting a multi-season partnership with the English Concert, presenting concert performances of Handel operas and oratorios.
The downtown Los Angeles-based Colburn School is renowned for its wide-ranging music and dance classes for all ages, from beginners to young professionals. It accomplishes this feat through a unique structure: there are basically four divisions: the Community School (offering classes and ensemble participation for every level of ability); the Music Academy and Dance Academy, providing pre-college training; and the Colburn Conservatory, a prestigious undergraduate and graduate training program. Alums include members of major orchestras throughout the world, including the LA Phil, and renowned ensembles including the Calidore String Quartet, featured in this newly released video of music by Beethoven. The Calidore String Quartet was founded in 2010 at the Colburn School. Within two years, the ensemble picked up grand prizes in virtually all the major US chamber music competitions. More Beethoven from the Calidore Quartet is on the way; they’ll be part of Colburn’s Virtual Beethoven Festival, a week-long celebration of the composer’s 250th birthday.
Salastina’s debut concert at the Colburn School’s Zipper Hall | Photo courtesy of Salastina
If the notion of a classical happy hour sounds refreshing, step into the virtual watering hole just opened by Salastina, one of Southern California’s friendliest and most creative chamber ensembles. In addition to free live performances and conversations with top LA musicians, there are bar games! For the April 28 event, you’re invited to compete “for fame and glory” in an interactive classical version of the board game Clue. The musicians will play a little-known piece of music—even they aren’t told what it is! Your job is to figure out who wrote it. No need to feel shy; you’ll be working in a Zoom team, headed by a member of Salastina. Salastina happy hours are presented Tuesdays at 6pm. Learn more and RSVP on their website. Salastina was founded by prominent LA violinists Kevin Kumar and Maia Jasper White. Hear them in a luminous performance of the slow movement from Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, with clarinetist Håkan Rosengren on the ensemble’s YouTube channel, where you’ll also find videos of music by Dmitri Shostakovich, Reena Esmail, Antonio Vivaldi, and Christopher Tin.
San Francisco Contemporary Music Players has announced its upcoming 50th season. It will include the world premiere of a commissioned work by Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw, for an instrumental quartet of players from SFCMP and vocalist Pamela Z, on the subject of Bay Area poetry. That opening concert in October is also scheduled to include the John Adams piece called Son of Chamber Symphony. In December, they’ll be collecting sounds for a “community driven time capsule” to celebrate their milestone anniversary. Later in the season, there’s another commissioned piece from composer/percussionist Tyshawn Sorey, inspired by the life of the late composer Olly Wilson, who taught at UC Berkeley for decades, and frequently collaborated with the Contemporary Players.
Left Coast Chamber Ensemble presented their March 2020 concert without an audience, but released this video of violist Phyllis Kamrin and pianist Allegra Chapman playing music of Robert Schumann. It’s his Märchenbilder, or Fairytale Pictures, Op. 113.
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra has made available a full performance recorded live in concert of Handel’s oratorio, Saul. Nicholas McGegan led the orchestra and chorale a year ago at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley. The story follows the fortunes of Saul, first King of Israel, and as the program notes put it: “There are few Biblical characters more sharply drawn than Saul, the unsuspecting first king of the united monarchy of Israel and Judah, a loving pater familias at times and a fratricidal maniac at others. The Book of First Samuel becomes a page-turner from the moment Saul is introduced as “the handsomest man in Israel, standing head and shoulders above the rest” to his ignominious death in battle, a failed suicide finished off by an enemy soldier. The story of the rise and fall of Saul is fraught with drama: violence, madness, mayhem, and sorcery as well as jealousy, love, and the most undeniable description of bisexual devotion to be found in the Hebrew Bible.”
One of the most popular classical events of the year on the Central Coast, Festival Mozaic has announced the cancellation of its 50th anniversary season. The good news: dates are already in place for 2021: July 17-31. Meanwhile, you can enjoy a wealth of recorded live performances on video. The festival began life in the early 1970s as the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, and the classical repertoire is still central to its mission. The treasure trove of videos includes Schubert’s String Quintet in C, featuring Festival Music Director Scott Yoo on first violin. Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous (though still fabulous), there’s the Sonata for Double Bass and iTunes User Agreement (that is not a typo). It was composed by the artists who perform it here, and with impressive conviction–bass player Susan Cahill and actor Jon Wilkerson.
Festival Mozaic Music Director Scott Yoo, by the way, has some interesting day jobs. He’s Chief Conductor of the Mexico City Philharmonic, a renowned solo violinist, and he serves as host and executive producer of the delightful PBS program Now Hear This, apparently the first series about classical music on prime-time American television in 50 years. You can now watch the first episode.
Classical Revolution, a group of like-minded musicians that began with impromptu concerts at the Revolution Cafe in the Mission, is hosting its fifth ‘Livestream Music Festival’ this Saturday through its Facebook page. It’s scheduled to start at noon Pacific, running through 8pm. There are performers from the offshoot chapters of Classical Revolution in cities around the country and world, with many local performances from San Francisco and Oakland including trumpet player Aaron Priskorn; cellists ‘Cello Joe’, Joshua McClain, Rushad Eggleston and Bridget Pasker; violinist Jeremy Cohen; violist Christina Jarvis Simpson; pianists Kevin Navalrro and Ken Iisaka. More details of the anticipated schedule are available at the website and Facebook page as we get closer to the event.
Donato Cabrera, music director of the California Symphony has announced their 2020-21 season virtually, with a livestream on Facebook.
He walked through the programming of the five concerts, and spoke about the season with guest soloists, as well as their recently announced Young American Composer in Residence. The first concert, at the end of September is called “Emperor,” looking at how Beethoven became Beethoven. It opens with an overture by one of the rare successful women composers of the classical era, Marianna Martines, who was friends with Haydn, who would later teach Beethoven. There’s also a Haydn symphony, and the Emperor Concerto, with soloist Adam Golka. In November, cellist Joshua Roman will return to the Lesher Center, to play the concerto that (former composer-in-residence) Mason Bates wrote for him, on a program called “Firebirds of a Feather.” It also includes bird-inspired works by Respighi, Stravinsky, and Péter Eötvös. January’s “Hidden Treasures” program features works by Schumann and Vaughan Williams, plus a violin concerto by 20thCentury African-American composer Florence Price. The soloist will be DeAnn Letourneau, who is the concertmaster for Donato Cabrera’s other orchestra, the Las Vegas Philharmonic. In March, the strings have the concert off for “Symphonic Serenade,” with works for winds and brass by Mozart, Dvorak, and Stravinsky. And they’ll finish the season with “Triumph of the Spirit,” with the world premiere of the first work written for them by Viet Cuong, their newly announced Young American Composer in Residence. It’s paired with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, and the Violin Concerto of Jennifer Higdon, with California Symphony concertmaster Jennifer Cho as the soloist.
Over the next several weeks, San Francisco Symphony is releasing its Keeping Score series of programs for free on its YouTube channel. They’re nine deep dives into the history and stories behind masterworks of great composers, hosted by Michael Tilson Thomas, followed by full performances by the Symphony. They begin with Copland, Ives, and Shostakovich, and continue with Mahler, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Stravinsky. The series gives context for the works, and how the lives of the composers led them to write the Eroica, Rite of Spring, or Symphonie Fantastique.
In honor of Earth Day, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA) present a virtual world premiere: Frank Ticheli’s Earth Song, in a new version for male chorus. Members of GMCLA individually recorded their parts for this digital compilation, led by GMCLA Music Director Ernest H. Harrison; the inaugural performance was originally scheduled for earlier this month. The arrangement was created expressly for GMCLA by Ticheli, a prolific American composer known especially for his band works. He’s been a faculty member at the USC Thornton School of Music since 1991. Ticheli provided his own text, which proclaims that even during dark times… “music and singing have been my refuge. And music and singing shall be my light…”
The Alexander String Quartet has taken on the challenge of practicing and playing remotely with a moving performance of Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Christ. They created it for San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral’s celebration of Easter Week, with engineer and producer Matt Carr blending the four discrete performances into one whole, without the use of a click track. Baruch College in New York is releasing a longer version of the concert, with the movements interwoven with readings by the members of the quartet. Alan Jones, Dean Emeritus of Grace Cathedral selected them, from sources both religious and secular, “spanning many centuries – all meditations on the subject of human suffering, redemption and renewal.” That performance, released Wednesday at 4:30 Pacific, will be accessible for free through May 6th. The ASQ recently announced that founding violist, Paul Yarbrough, will be retiring mid-May, and succeeded by David Samuel.
Principal Percussionist Jacob Nissly of the San Francisco Symphony has made an adorable #MusicConnects video. He manages to convince his son that, despite a request for “No more Bach,” a little sample of a solo cello prelude played on his marimba is actually just the thing to raise spirits. (That, plus a finger-tickling trill to finish!)
There’s a treasure trove of Michael Tilson Thomas leading one of his other ensembles, the New World Symphony, in performances, and discussions with performers about the music at NWS Archive+. The repertoire so far includes Schumann’s Symphony No. 3, “Rhenish”; Stravinsky’s The Firebird; selections from Romeo and Juliet by Hector Berlioz; and music by John Cage, from a 2013 festival that celebrated his centennial. In each case, the musical performances are preceded by a discussion led by MTT with performers, NWS alumni, and fellows. The first of the conversations took place just after it became clear that their season wasn’t going to continue, and that this would become a way of getting the music heard by as many people as possible. Eugene Izotov, Principal Oboe of the San Francisco Symphony, takes part in the discussion about The Firebird. He was a fellow with New World in 1994.
There’s a treasure trove of Michael Tilson Thomas leading one of his other ensembles, the New World Symphony, in performances, and discussions with performers about the music at NWS Archive+. The repertoire so far includes Schumann’s Symphony No. 3, “Rhenish”; Stravinsky’s The Firebird; selections from Romeo and Juliet by Hector Berlioz; and music by John Cage, from a 2013 festival that celebrated his centennial. In each case, the musical performances are preceded by a discussion led by MTT with performers, NWS alumni, and fellows. The first of the conversations took place just after it became clear that their season wasn’t going to continue, and that this would become a way of getting the music heard by as many people as possible. Eugene Izotov, Principal Oboe of the San Francisco Symphony, takes part in the discussion about The Firebird. He was a fellow with New World in 1994.
Delirium Musicum, a recently formed chamber orchestra has recorded a remarkably engaging short video featuring musicians of the conductorless, Los Angeles-based ensemble. For the intricately produced video compilation—less than a minute in length—the socially distanced (across three continents!) musicians played in their living rooms, hotel rooms, and in parks, some of them in traditional costumes. The performance is of an old Italian tune traditionally sung by women to protest working conditions. (It’s also the main theme from Netflix show Money Heist/La Casa de Papel.) Ensemble director, violinist Etienne Gara, says the musical offering is intended to “invoke the power of music to bring us together across borders, and to spread a limitless message of resilience and hope”. Catch the performance here:
As live musical performances have taken a dramatic pause, the Valley of the Moon Music Festival is beginning a series of what they’re calling “Fermata Fridays.” Named for the bit of musical notation that means things are to be held longer than usual. Artistic Director Tanya Tomkins is in discussion (remotely) with performers, lecturers, and others who have been part of the festival. The conversations will be available through their YouTube channel. The first artist is fortepianist Christian De Luca, seen here in a 2019 appearance when they played Mendelssohn’s cello sonata.
Santa Barbara Symphony presents the next program in a new online series called Sundays with the Symphony, May 3 at 3:30pm. The 30-minute program, available only in this livestream, will feature music by prominent Santa Barbara composer Robin Frost. Sundays with the Symphony is curated and hosted by the Music Director of the Santa Barbara Sympohony, Nir Kabaretti. Tune in here.
Santa Barbara Symphony Conductor Nir Kabaretti | Photo courtesy of the Santa Barbara Symphony
Backhaus Dance (BD), one of Southern California’s premier modern dance companies, now invites you to steal away for a few minutes from those interminable Zoom meetings and get into the act! This Orange County-based troupe, which wowed a huge audience when they danced to classical music at KUSC’s inaugural Kids Discovery Day at the Bowers Museum in June, has started offering free online workshops in technique, dance improv and wellness, and they’ll be dropping new content weekly. Whether you’re working remotely, taking care of kids who are normally in school, or just need a break, let’s dance!
Backhaus Dance captivates the crowd at the 2019 KUSC Kids Discovery Day at the Bowers Museum | Photo by David G. Marks
The LA Phil has canceled the remainder of its concerts for the 2019/2020 season at Walt Disney Concert Hall. But while we impatiently await the reopening of Disney Hall, you and your kids are invited to delve deeper into the music with a series of eight colorful, fun and printable activity books. Take a tour through Aaron Copland’s America, Ravel’s Bolero, or learn about the instruments of the orchestra. The books are printable.
Kronos Quartet has begun a series of videos called “Ask Kronos Anything” and the first installment ranges from what works of art and music the players are revisiting now, to wild guesses (and an actual answer) to the question of how far apart they are while staying in their respective homes. Violinist David Harrington explains that he doesn’t seek (or find) calm and serenity from music, even in untroubled times; rather, it gives him energy, it “activates” him. He’s using this time to explore books and music that he’s never gotten around to before. Violist Hank Dutt says he escapes reality with mysteries on TV, and is using his practice time as a form of meditation. “To really get into a scale, perfecting that, or intonation, or working on shifting… that whole process for me is a sense of losing myself in the moment, and that helps me gain a better perspective.”
The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus has launched SFGMC TV, as a way to showcase some of their performances and create a greater online community. They began with a virtual choir video they created, dedicated to emergency medical workers and first responders, called “Truly Brave.”
Angel City Chorale, a 180-voice multi-cultural choir based in Los Angeles, skyrocketed to fame in 2018 on America’s Got Talent, where they reached the semi-final round, stunning the judges with their thunderous (literally!) performance of Toto’s Africa, viewed over 15 million times. The choir, under founding artistic director and conductor Sue Fink, was forced to cancel its June concerts, but the singers are currently rehearsing from their homes an ambitious digital rendition of one of its signature tunes, Christopher Tin’s Sogno di Volare, composed for the video game Civilization VI. Here’s a glimpse of their recording session at Abbey Road Studios of the soaring work, which translates to “A Dream of Flight”.
San Francisco Performances has launched a series on its website called Front Row. This is the 40th anniversary season of San Francisco Performances, and when Mayor London Breed ordered people to stay home, SFP President Melanie Smith grabbed a handful of their archive recordings. “That night when I brought them home I marveled at the treasury of music I was holding, and that we had recorded for so many years, just as archives of those performances, with no intent to share or distribute at the time. Although these are audio-only recordings, I am sure that many of our patrons who attended these concerts will remember the night clearly once they hear the program again.” Performances in this Thursday-release series, which they keep archived on their website, include Trio Mediaeval, guitarists Sérgio and Odair Assad, and pianist Marc-André Hamelin.
Pacific Symphony continues its series of Quarantine Clips, musical performances streamed from the living rooms and studios of the orchestra players. With this offering, first violinist Robert Schumitzky and his wife, cellist Erin Breene share a lovely arrangement for piano trio of Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion. The socially distanced pianist is Ines Irawati.
Pacific Symphony is also sharing archival performances, including this performance from December 2019 (when musicians could still share a stage!) of the finale from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.
If sheltering at home has put you in a contemplative mood, the LA-based Calder Quartet has you covered. They’ve just released their recent performance of one of the towering late works of Beethoven on both their YouTube channel and their Facebook page. Thomas May has written that the String Quartet Opus 131 “is an unprecedentedly original and ambitious work: arguably the zenith of Beethoven’s late quartets, which in themselves hold a privileged position at the core of the repertoire—for many, its holy grail.” Franz Schubert heard a private performance of Opus 131 the year after Beethoven’s death; it had never been played publicly. “After this,” said Schubert, “what is left for us to write?’”
Soprano Julia Bullock was one of the San Francisco Symphony’s artists-in-residence this season, and is also a member of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s team of Collaborative Partners, as they map out coming seasons and directions for the orchestra. She and her husband, conductor Christian Reif (who led the SFS Youth Orchestra from 2016-19), made this video of the beautiful song “One by One” by Connie Converse.
The Irving M. Klein International String Competition has announced its eight semi-finalists, and that instead of taking place at the San Francisco Conservatory, this year they’ll be “going virtual.” The California Music Center, which runs the competition, says this year’s 35th anniversary season on the first weekend of June will be on their YouTube channel. The semi-finalists this year include two cellists, a violist, and five violinists; they range in age from 18 to 21, from across the US, Canada, South Korea, and China. Cellist Davis You is from Palo Alto. The judges include USC’s Thornton School of Music faculty violist Karen Dreyfus and violinist Glenn Dicterow, and SFCM’s Ian Swensen. They’ll be conferring remotely and judging performance videos rather than in the concert hall, but audiences will be able to watch the eight semi-finalists as well. Winners are awarded prizes, as well as concert engagements. Past winners have included violinists Jennifer Koh and Tessa Lark, and cellist Zlatomir Fung. Here’s 2019 Competition winner, James Baik, playing in the finals last year:
The dancers of ODC have shared a video using the choreography of Grassland, a 2009 piece by KT Nelson, “inspired by nature and natural elements” that was to be part of Dance Downtown at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts at the end of March. The dancers have taken it to their own homes and backyards (and even the deck of a boat), in a video that passes the movement, and “love, from one dancer to another.” The music is a commissioned score by Marcelo Zarvos.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic has launched a series of informal “At Home” mini-recitals by its musicians. Here, principal bass Christopher Hanulik and his wife harpist Maria Casale perform Adagio by Christian Gouinguené:
American Bach Soloists is offering ABS at HOME, a curated set of audio recordings they’ve released (with occasional guest appearances by other ensembles like VOCES8) on their Facebook and Twitter pages, which they’re updating daily, “until we can share concerts together again.” The emphasis, expectedly, is on Bach and Handel, Corelli and Gluck, in vocal, orchestral, and chamber combinations.
Piano Spheres, the innovative recital series founded in 1994 by eminent pianist and teacher Leonard Stein, is poised to launch a Throwback Thursday series of video highlights from the last 26 years of concerts on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. Executive Director Heidi Lesemann is taking your musical requests! Here’s a memorable recent PianoSpheres concert highlight: Gloria Cheng, a founding member of the series, joining composer, conductor and pianist Thomas Adès in Ligeti’s Sonatine:
Stanford Live has assembled videos of performances, plus lectures and interviews in what they’re calling their 2020 Digital Season. It features some of the artists who have already come, and those who had been scheduled to come to the Bing Concert Hall and their other venues. There are some NPR Tiny Desk Concerts, including the Bay Area’s Vân Ánh Võ (Vanessa Vo), and a full concert performance of Max Richter’s Reimagining Vivaldi with Daniel Hope. Richter re-composed the Four Seasons, for electronics and a chamber orchestra, and they played it in concert at Le Poisson Rouge in New York. There are also performances from the Bang on a Can All Stars, long sets from Oysterhead, and Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi. They also have a link to the Cantor Arts Center’s Museums from Home offerings, with more lectures, interviews, and background materials in support of their exhibitions.
The Community Music Center’s website has a primer on Taking Lessons Online, which they suggest as a way of both continuing musical study while staying at home, as well as continuing to bring together members of their community. There are group classes that have pre-recorded materials that allow singers and players to practice, as well as one-on-one classes through Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, and Google Meet.
It’s not just for kids, either. For members of the Older Adult Choir, there are rehearsal videos to allow them to warm up, and run through songs with piano accompaniment. There’s information about enrolling in the CMC at their website.
Camerata Pacifica typically presents its subscription concerts in four locations: Los Angeles, Ventura, Pasadena, and Santa Barbara. Now they’re coming to perform even closer to you: your living room. Charismatic Artistic Director Adrian Spence is building a new weekly video series of chamber performances. Dvorak’s rarely performed Serenade for Winds will be the featured work this week. The videos can be seen at three different times on Sunday: 10 a.m. YouTube Live, 11.30 a.m. Facebook Live, 6 p.m. YouTube Live
Here’s a preview, a recent Camerata Pacifica performance of an early string trio by Beethoven:
The Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group was scheduled to present the West Coast premiere of LA-based composer Ted Hearne’s operatic work Place last week as part of its Power to the People! Festival at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Instead, Hearne is building a video performance of Place with the entire cast that was scheduled to perform it. They’ve dispatched their video tracks from their far-flung homes all over the U.S. Hearne, who is also a singer, bandleader, and faculty member of the USC Thornton School of Music, is known for the wide breadth of his musical influences. He has worked with artists as diverse as the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, hip-hop/soul icon Erykah Badu, and the New York City Ballet. He says about Place: “The piece speaks uniquely to people’s disparate experiences during a time of sudden economic crisis. Meditations on displacement and long-standing cyclical patterns of gentrification and housing insecurity hit home in a new way.” Hearne’s inviting our listeners to get a sneak preview of Place here:
Chorus America has named the Young Women’s Choral Projects of San Francisco as the recipient of the 2020 Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence. Led by founder and Artistic Director Susan McMane, YWCP offers six levels for young singers from the ages of 4-18 to learn and grow. In making the announcement, Chorus America’s President and CEO, Catherine Dehoney said: “Through their outstanding work, these award-winners are lifting the choral field to new heights of artistry and service. Chorus America is delighted to recognize these accomplishments, and hope they provide inspiration and encouragement during this time of crisis and in brighter days to come.” The award, which comes in YWCP’s eighth year, recognizes “artistic excellence, a strong organizational structure, financial stability… and a commitment to outreach, education, and/or culturally diverse activities.” The most advanced choir in the organization has performed with the San Francisco Symphony and Kronos Quartet, and Frederica von Stade, among many others. Here they are in concert this past December:
The Saint Lawrence String Quartet, which is in residence at Stanford, wants to help their would-be audiences get through all the current uncertainty with some of the great works for the genre. Along with Stanford Professor of Music, Stephen Hinton, they’re offering a free online music course (actually a couple, but this one has just begun) that you can take at your own pace, called Defining the String Quartet: Haydn. If you’ve ever been curious about the history of string quartets, or would just like to find out more, and hear musical examples played by the SLSQ, now is the time. And Haydn is a great place to start. In his works, he wrote the book on what to expect when two violins, a viola, and cello play together. And if you’re more interested in just hearing his music on its own, the quartet has made their recent recording of Haydn’s complete Opus 20 available to stream for free on their Bandcamp page.
Vox Femina, the Culver City-based women’s choir founded in January 1997, this week inaugurates #Throwback Thursday, a series of video performances bringing the joy of choral music into homes rather than concert halls. They’re posting recent performances, including this rare gem: Venetian baroque composer Baldassare Galuppi’s Dixit Dominus.
The early music ensemble Voices of Music has just posted on YouTube an hour-long 4K high definition concert video of their program Leonardo da Vinci: A Musical Odyssey. Although in addition to his other gifts, he was known to be a musician and composer, none of the music he wrote has been found. Instead, this program includes works that he might have heard in the cities in which he lived, in both Italy and France. The journey is narrated by poet Lawrence Rosenwald, and includes music from the Medici and Sforza courts, as well as chansons from France, where he lived at the end of his life. The Voices of Music program was recorded in 2018, in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death in 1519.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a 2.5 million dollar plan to help artists and cultural organizations that have been left with canceled concerts and performances because of the COVID-19. Grants and low-interest loans will be directed toward some of the hardest hit individuals and organizations. Mayor Breed said: “Our artists and cultural institutions are at the heart of who we are as a City and a community. This community is also getting hit hard right now as people are suffering from job loss, business closures, and economic disruption during the COVID-19 outbreak. We need to do everything we can to stabilize our arts community now. I hope our public investment will encourage private donors to join us in supporting our vulnerable artists during this challenging time.”
Pasadena-based MUSE/IQUE, under Artistic Director and Conductor Rachel Worby, has raised the digital curtain on a series called MUSE/IQUE In A Minute! (…Or Two). Performances by musicians who appear regularly on MUSE/IQUE’s programs are featured in videos distributed Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 5:30pm on MUSE/IQUE’s YouTube channel and on Instagram.
California Symphony had to postpone the world premiere of the final work by its Young American Composer in Residence, Katherine Balch, but while the orchestra is unable to play, Music Director Donato Cabrera is blogging about his favorite recordings and performances under the umbrella title “The Music Plays On.” He includes links to the music, frequently with video, on YouTube, and pieces he’s covered so far include Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, Allegri’s Miserere, and Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
Francesco Lecce-Chong, music director of the Santa Rosa Symphony has set up several “watch parties” from his Facebook page, with video introductions to the works, and comments and commentary along the way in real-time.
Berkeley Symphony’s Principal Second Violinist, Dan Flanagan, has recorded some solo Bach as part of his ‘Corona Quarantine Concerts’ (in the company of some artworks by impressionist artist Camille Pissarro, and his descendants).
Check back for daily updates! If there’s anything you’d like to add, let us know in the comments.