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!
During the pandemic, the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra has not only taken part in a U.S. Youth Orchestras eFestival (with ensembles from New Jersey, Hawaii, Chicago and San Antonio), they’ve also created this virtual performance of Elgar’s “Nimrod” from the Enigma Variations. Recently, Artistic Director Russell Steinberg arranged a panel with alumni from the orchestra – who’ve gone on to professional positions, college or graduate school, so that current members of the orchestra could get practical tips from them about how best to prepare for an audition. Although everyone’s advice (after the most important one: know the music backward and forward) differed, some of the other suggestions included limiting or interrupting long practice sessions to prevent injury, playing in the same clothes and shoes you’ll be auditioning in, recording yourself, and to help nerves, have a friend watch you play as though you were performing. Also, they said an error or memory slip would be overlooked, if you play as the “best version of yourself.”
A new documentary about Michael Tilson Thomas premieres tonight on PBS’s American Masters Series. It chronicles the life of the conductor and composer, from his childhood and early days in Los Angeles through his tenure as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony. The title of the documentary, “Where Now Is” comes from an anecdote he tells about how he was thunderstruck the first time he heard the soul singer James Brown’s song “Cold Sweat.” The precision of the band, being absolutely together was like nothing he had ever heard. In a conversation he had with Brown, they discussed what the singer called the “situation of music,” and MTT said that when he’s teaching students, he tells them that the challenge and the job of a conductor is to decide – and be able to show – “when now is.”
Pasadena Symphony is offering a new series of on-demand concerts called “Pasadena Presents” that brings back the soloists and repertoire of great concertos, but scaled down to piano or chamber accompaniment for safety. This weekend, Music Director David Lockington will introduce the performances of Angelo Xiang Yu playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto, followed by the Brahms Clarinet Quintet featuring Principal Clarinet Donald Foster with members of the orchestra. Upcoming programs include pianist Inon Barnatan playing Chopin with a chamber ensemble from the Symphony, as well as his own arrangement of Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. The season also has an American program, with Dvorak’s “American String Quartet” and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.
In a strategic alliance like none other, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music has announced that it’s acquiring the arts management company Opus 3 Artists. The roster of talent that they represent includes notable performers, conductors, as well as ensembles and dance companies. Each will remain independent, but having the partnership in place will enable greater interaction between students and artists, hoping to create what they are calling “a new operating model” for the arts world, and amplifying both of their missions. It will also allow for special projects like commissions and recordings, and give students the opportunity to take part in an apprenticeship program. The Conservatory has been taking large strides in recent years, expanding its relationships with other arts leaders in the Civic Center neighborhood, including the new 12-story building across the street from Davies Symphony Hall, the Ute and William K. Bowes, Jr. Center for Performing Arts.
The New West Symphony has begun its re-thought season with “A Tour of Japan,” the first of several ‘mini-festivals’ that celebrate other cultures that have helped to create the artistic culture of Southern California. Music Director Michael Christie calls the season “Global Sounds, Local Cultures,” and for the initial concert, guest violinist Anne-Akiko Meyers performed the Bach ‘double concerto’ with concertmaster Alyssa Park. It’s one of several selections of Western classical music that influenced the founder of the Suzuki method of violin instruction. But there will also be film music by Toru Takemitsu, a selection from a concerto for koto, as well as a Taiko drum performance. The performances are recorded at the Fred Kavli Theater in Thousand Oaks, as well as the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. Future concerts will include”tours” of India in November, South Korea in March, Mexico in May, and China in June. There are also programs for the Violins of Hope in January, and a celebration of Black History Month in February.
12-year-old violinist Amaryn Olmeda will be joining a dozen members of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra this Sunday for a performance they’re calling a “Mini-Mainstage Concert.” She rang in 2020 in their series of New Year’s Concerts, playing a Mozart violin concerto with them as their ‘debut artist.’ The concert, which will be live-streamed from the Freight and Salvage coffehouse in Berkeley Sunday afternoon, will have music of Mozart, Schubert, and Copland, plus a work by William Grant Still that Amaryn Olmeda will join them for. As you can see in the interview and musical sample below, she’s taking on more ambitious repertoire, as well as having taken an online composition course from the San Francisco Music Conservatory over the summer (while on her family farm with an array of chickens, goats, and an impressive garden).
When violinist Agnes Gottschewski has given her “Porch Concerts” while unable to play with her colleagues at the Pacific Symphony, she’s often playing pieces that have piano accompaniment. But they’re not pre-recorded audio. Rather, they’re being played by an app that uses Artificial Intelligence to listen to what she’s playing, and match the tempos and mood of her performance. The app is called “MyPianist” and it was programmed from the ground up by someone who would know about the nuances of performance: Finnish pianist Juho Pohjonen, who frequently plays at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York, as well as appearing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony. The repertoire that the software “knows” is growing – but in the meantime, there are plenty of pieces to be able to play on the porch.
In her ongoing series, "Porch Concerts," Symphony violinist Agnes Gottschewski performs Debussy's "Reverie" – her violin…
It’s scaled down a bit, but SF Music Day returns this weekend, hosted by InterMusic SF, and with performances from ten groups in a variety of musical traditions. In keeping with tradition, the pre-recorded sets were played at the War Memorial Veterans Building, in Herbst Theatre. From noon until about 6pm, various duos, trios, and quartets will play, representing a cross-section of music making in the Bay Area. In the line up are the Telegraph and Del Sol String Quartets; a piano trio with Tom Stone, Elizabeth Dorman, and Amos Yang; and two members of Quartet San Francisco, Jeremy Cohen and Andres Vera, will play Latin American-infused duets. There are also jazz ensembles like Mads Tolling & the Mads Men, and the Ricardo Peixoto Trio. In years past, the lobby of the building served as a meeting area where one could find out more about the performers. This year, that forum will be moving to the website. Here are some highlights from last year’s SF Music Day:
With the tagline “Leave Your World in the Rearview Mirror,” San Diego Opera opens a production of La Boheme this Saturday with a new approach: they’re going to be performing the opera in the parking lot of the Pechanga Arena, with audience members remaining in their cars, watching live video on large screens, and hearing the audio through their car radio. It will feature soprano Ana Maria Martinez as Mimi, and Joshua Guerrero as Rodolfo, sung in Italian with supertitles. It’s the first time they’ve tried a production this way, and hope that it will allow them to continue to present live opera in a manner that’s safe for the audience, singers, and musicians. Given the many ways companies have been presenting archive videos online for people to experience at home, using this retro model of staying in the comfort and safety of one’s car is a first step toward communal live performance.
Champion: An Opera in Jazz was composer and performer Terence Blanchard’s first opera, and it tells the true story of boxer Emile Griffith, who killed his opponent in the ring when they were competing for the welterweight title in 1962. Benny Paret had taunted him with homosexual slurs during the weigh-in, and was sent into a coma from which he never recovered. The boxing world would forgive Griffith for the death, but he knew that they would never accept his sexuality. Champion had a sold-out two week run in 2016, and SFJAZZ is streaming a performance from that run for its members beginning Wednesday. It was a co-production with Opera Parallèle, and in addition to the orchestra, included a jazz trio of bass, piano, and drums. The staging combines flashbacks to his childhood in St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands, as well as the boxing ring itself, with chorus members doubling as members of the press and photographers. OP Music Director Nicole Paiement will be hosting a ‘Ringside’ panel discussion about the work with musicians involved in it this Tuesday at 5pm.
The Los Angeles Opera had been releasing digital materials under the “At Home” name, but have decided to re-name it “On Now.” And their first production, in fact the first staged work through L.A. Opera since the stay-at-home era began, will be The Anonymous Lover, by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. It will be conducted by Music Director James Conlon, and be streamed online for free on November 14th. Bologne is known for being the first Black classical composer, but his works remain relatively unknown to a wide audience. James Conlon says The Anonymous Lover is “ripe for rediscovery,” and making it available for free online is a good means of introducing more people to his work. The plot is a comic romance about a secret admirer, and L.A. Opera says the staging will be socially distanced, and blend “both modern film and traditional opera staging.”
Someone has decided to use the texts of inconsequential emails to inspire new pieces of music. In the early days of the pandemic, when it looked like her adult choir at San Francisco’s Community Music Center wouldn’t be able to meet in person, Beth Wilmurt was trying to get about a hundred of them to join a Zoom sing-along session that would keep the group’s spirits up. In the process, she sent and received lots of short emails. She’s decided to turn them into little songs in a project she’s calling “Hello Chorus”. Wilmurt accompanies herself on the ukulele, and harmonize with herself. She’s releasing the songs over the month of October, sending an email with a link to the songs to those who subscribe (from her chorus, and beyond). She’s released about a dozen already. Here’s an example, called “Best Donna.”
Four graduate-level BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of color) musicians have begun the Los Angeles Orchestra Fellowship, where they’ll spend three years being mentored by musicians of LACO, as well as mentoring younger players of the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles. All while pursuing graduate studies at the USC Thornton School of Music on a full scholarship. There are two violists, and a cellist from Long Island, Atlanta, and Cincinnati, as well as horn player Malik Taylor, who’s from Los Angeles. He went from the music program at Bret Harte Middle School in South Central L.A. to being mentored by Bob Watt, former Assistant Principal Horn of the L.A. Philharmonic, the first African-American horn player to be hired by a major U.S. orchestra. The aim of the fellowship is to try to increase minority representation in American orchestras. A 2016 study showed that people of color made up less than five percent of the orchestral workforce.
In a great example of “win-win,” the online recital series called “Piano Break” by the Ross McKee Foundation gives pianists in the Bay Area the opportunity to present professional recitals (helping the many who have lost income because of the pandemic), and it also is allowing audiences to become more familiar with works by Black composers. While the recitals are programmed by the performers, they’ve been encouraged to choose diverse works, and have assembled quite a broad repertoire. Jeffrey Ladeur, whose concert at the end of July launched the series, included a sonata by Pulitzer Prize-winner George Walker. He followed it with a Chopin Scherzo that opens on the same pitch that ends the Walker, letting the one flow out of the other (at 20:15 in the video below). There have been 11 recitals so far, and the next one, by Paul Schrage will be available Friday at 5 at their YouTube channel. You can explore the archive here.
Jenny Wong has come a long way to be Associate Artistic Director of Los Angeles Master Chorale. She grew up in Hong Kong, and always wishing for a life that was as much fun as going to choir every day, and she’s certainly found it. She was a Voice Performance major at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, before earning two graduate degrees in Choral Conducting at USC. Wong was a co-conductor for the opera Sweet Land by The Industry, which got rave reviews before it had to be cancelled because of COVID. (They were able to capture a performance without an audience with cameras, and that can be purchased for download). She’s conducted the Master Chorale in programs around the world, and now, in a recent video, brings 90 of them together virtually in an arrangement by Moses Hogan of the hymn ‘Abide with Me.’
One of the many perks that go with being a prize winner at the Irving M. Klein International String Competition is having the chance to play on the concert stages of partner organizations, as well as house concerts in seasons following your win. Having exposure to a wider audience, and getting more comfortable in a variety of performance settings. With the pandemic, those plans have had to be recalibrated. A series called “Third Thursdays,” from the California Music Center, which holds the competition, is making those house concerts virtual. This week the music is from cellist Dakota Cotugno, who won 2nd prize overall in 2019, as well as the prize for best Bach performance. The ticketed performance streams live at 5pm Pacific, although he’ll be playing from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Here’s some of his prize-winning performance from 2019.
A $25 million gift from Tina and Jerry Moss will give the Plaza at The Music Center more programs, a new summer festival, and a new name: The Jerry Moss Plaza. The gift also specifically aims to develop partnerships with community groups, and reflect the diversity of Los Angeles by helping BIPOC artists. It’s the largest ever received by The Music Center, and will ensure that programs like Dance DTLA can continue to be free and low-cost into the future. Jerry Moss was the co-founder (with Herb Alpert) of A&M Records in 1962. In a press release, Rachel S. Moore, president and CEO of The Music Center said: “The Mosses’ donation makes it possible for The Music Center team to expand and deepen our work as a cultural anchor institution and to be a model for transformational change – to advance programming that is not only geographically, economically and culturally representative of L.A. County, but that also resonates in the hearts and minds of all Angelenos and meaningfully impacts their lives.”
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music has decided to livestream their entire season this year, with 68 free performances that can be watched from home, just this fall. Among the many student, faculty, and ensemble performances, there are eight that they’ve decided can bring an (e)Motion Boost to audiences, and so will have additional features for the viewers at home, like interview materials, and mini-documentaries. The first among these will be Thursday the 15th, when the Telegraph Quartet, which is on faculty (and includes three alumni) will be performing a late quartet by Beethoven, one by Erich Korngold, and one by contemporary British-based composer Eleanor Alberga. This season is the first with Edwin Outwater as music director of SFCM, and he’ll lead orchestral concerts in December and January. Also in December, there’s a program by voice and opera students of operas specifically written for radio in the 1930s.
Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, but sometimes frustration is too. When software engineer Mike Dickey’s son was unable to practice in person with his ensemble, the Ragazzi Boys Chorus, they were prevented from having workable rehearsals using Zoom or FaceTime because of the delay known as ‘latency.’ It’s not really a problem generally for conversations, but when you’re singing with anyone, or just trying to keep a steady rhythm going with another remote musician, the time it takes for your performance to get to them, and theirs to you, adds up and makes it impossible. There are some hardware solutions to address the problem (which we’ll be exploring soon) but Dickey came up with a software-based solution that reduces the latency to durations that are small enough (about 25-35 milliseconds) to allow for music to still feel together. It was developed in a partnership with Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, or CCRMA, and the JackTrip Foundation, and is called “Virtual Studio”. Two of the Ragazzi choruses have put it through its initial tests, and their other ensembles are using it for their rehearsals this fall. Here’s a recording of a rehearsal with more than 80 singers using the technology.
The third SOUND/STAGE presentation from the Hollywood Bowl continues the “Power to the People” festival that was interrupted by the pandemic. The mini-performance concert video “pays tribute to Black voices and excellence” with two orchestral works from the Los Angeles Philharmonic led by Gustavo Dudamel, and a song from vocalist Andra Day. It’s bookended by anthems of sorts: on the 200th anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner, composer Jessie Montgomery was commissioned to imagine a new anthem for today, and Andra Day’s song “Rise Up” has become an unofficial anthem to the Black Lives Matter movement. In between them is a new smaller arrangement of a movement from William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 1, “Afro-American”
If you search for Bach’s “Air on the G String” on YouTube, one of the most popular videos, with more than 4 million views is from the Bay Area’s early music group called Voices of Music. They’ve been producing high definition videos of performances on period instruments for years now, with hundreds of uploaded pieces on their channel. As a way to kick off their online season, co-directors Hanneke van Proosdij and David Tayler will offer a lecture (illustrated with recorded performances) called “From Manuscript to Filmed Performance.” Many of the works their ensemble plays haven’t ever had a modern printing, and require transcription from parts, checking for errors, and deciding on instrumentation that would be true to the historical practice. Meanwhile, at the other end of the technological spectrum, they’re recording performances in High Definition and even 4K Ultra High Definition. This is the first of a series of lectures and interviews from some of the stars of the early music world, and both individual tickets and season subscriptions are available.
Four orchestras from across California have banded together to commission a work called Alone Together from composer John Christopher Wineglass. The Pacific Symphony, Fresno Philharmonic, Monterey Symphony and San José Chamber Orchestra will eventually perform the piece, which takes as its inspiration the events and social issues that we’ve been living through during the past many months. The title refers to the solitude that quarantine and social distancing has made necessary, and the inability of the musicians to play in large ensembles together. The duration of the piece will be 8 minutes and 46 seconds, in honor of George Floyd, who died as police officers pinned him for that amount of time. Composer Wineglass and conductor Rei Hotoda released a statement announcing the commission, and included this message: “This work is allowing us to continue our work as performers – to never lose sight of just how important the arts are and have always been. By creating this work, we are providing a way to connect to one another which is so valuable and something most of us probably once took for granted. We may feel alone at this moment but we as four performing arts organizations are coming to move forward together as ONE.”
They’ll be on stage at Weill Hall at the Green Music Center, but Francesco Lecce-Chong and the Santa Rosa Symphony will be playing to cameras instead of a live audience. Yet he says that the technology, and multiple cameras will give virtual audiences an experience they could never have in the concert hall. Their SRS @ Home season launches this weekend, with the first pre-recorded performance live-streamed on Sunday at 3. It’ll be free when streamed live on their YouTube channel, and only available to watch again later (along with other special events including guest recitals) for season subscribers. The program includes Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, and an eclectic mix of short works that highlight various sections of the orchestra, with no more than 32 players on stage at once, complete with masked conductor. Lecce-Chong says the virtual nature of the performances have the upside of introducing the ensemble to many more than would ever be able to hear them live in concert, as well as creating a time capsule, documenting fully performances by the group in this difficult season. He explained the series in this video:
Pacific Opera Project has announced three works for their fall season, which are all reflective of the current times: COVID fan Tutte, a double bill of one-act operas by Gluck featuring one called La Corona, and a revisiting and updating to present day of their take on La Boheme, called The Hipsters. Because of performance restrictions in L.A., they’re moving the performances to Ventura county’s Camarillo, where they’ll stage them in Drive-In format. The audio will be broadcast on FM radio, and a live video feed of the performance will be projected above the stage with supertitles. The first, a reworking of Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte, is now set at a SoCal golf resort, with masquerading caddies and their quarantining girlfriends. There will be three performances, starting November 14th. The Gluck operas, which will be having their US staged premieres, will be November 20th and 21st, and The Hipsters will run the 10th, 12th, and 13th of December. Artistic Director Josh Shaw makes the announcement below (about a minute in):
One Found Sound’s answer to not being able to perform in as intimate settings as they used to? They’ve planned the season with a couple of live performances that will be held at The Midway outdoor restaurant and performance space in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood. Those concerts, which have audiences of only a handful of people, are videotaped so they can be presented via video watch parties later, combining the music with live chat and social media interaction. Their next live concert program has performances on the 21st and 22nd of October, with a watch party in mid-November. That program will have string quartets by Beethoven, and two African-American women composers, Jessie Montgomery, and Florence Price. This season they’ve chosen their repertoire to include more composers of color. At their most recent livestream viewing party, they included “Umoja” by Valerie Coleman of Imani Winds:
Young pianists and singers are on display in the Emerging Artists series at Pasadena’s Boston Court, with concerts that are recorded live, and are available for a week following the premiere. This is the fourth year of the series, which pairs the young performers with more established mentors. There are three vocalists and two pianists this year, and each program includes a world premiere. The concerts are free (although you’ll need to register.) Here’s a conversation with soprano Angel Riley, the first of this season’s performers; composer Nick Benavides; and Mark Saltzman, the Director of the Emerging Artist program.
Conrad Tao, best known as a piano soloist, but also a composer (and accomplished violinist, too) joins Berkeley Symphony’s Music Director Joseph Young for “One on One with Conrad Tao” this Thursday at 5pm. He was the soloist at their season opener back in October of 2019, playing the Ravel G Major piano concerto. The conversation is part of the series Joseph Young & Friends.
The latest venture from the composer of the operas Dead Man Walking and Moby-Dick: Jake Heggie has launched a podcast called “Sing Louder,” in which he talks informally with operatic stars about what led them to pursue that career, their experiences onstage, and backstage, and how they’re dealing with the fallout of the seasons cancelled by Covid-19. He describes it as “the high-wire act” of being an opera singer. Heggie has five singers lined up for the first season of the podcast: Sasha Cooke, J’Nai Bridges, Ana Maria Martinez, Ryan Speedo Green, and Brandon Jovanovich. Even in the best of times, the life of an opera singer is both challenging and uncertain. Having worked with so many singers professionally as his works have been staged, and as an accompanist, Jake Heggie has forged lasting friendships, and brings a unique vantage point to the conversations. The podcasts started being released at the beginning of this month. You can find the shows here, and wherever else you subscribe to podcasts.
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s upcoming season is called “Close Quarters,” and will be presented virtually with eight programs livestreamed between November and February. They had practice in the style of presentation with their SummerFest concerts, but for the new season, there will be additional visuals: artwork in various media that was inspired by the musical programming. The concerts will be released on their YouTube channel, FaceBook page, and their website, and be available for free on demand after the original airdate. The first concert, on November 6th, is called “Baroque Crossings,” and will be led by harpsichordist Patricia Mabee.
When Vijay Gupta co-hosted the broadcast of From the Top which we’ll be airing this Sunday night, he didn’t know that it would be his last big public event before we all went into lockdown. It was recorded in early March at the Wallis Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills – where Gupta had played a recital of his own just two weeks earlier. The violinist and founder of the musical outreach program Street Symphony has worked with the show for a few years, and loves how the young musicians defy expectations: “What I’ve found in conversations with these young people is what incredible people they are, and their wide-ranging interests in trying to be kids, and trying to have lives where they’re having fun and they’re playing along with balancing this sort of complicated calling, that really involves a kind of sacrifice. Of their time and their effort to draw out a very real kind of transcendent love in their musicmaking.” This particular show had a number of very personal resonances for Gupta, who just two weeks before (and a day after his recital) had gotten married to composer Reena Esmail. A movement from a piano trio she wrote is on the program, played by Gupta, co-host Peter Dugan, and 17-year-old cellist Mei Hotta from Torrance. And if that weren’t enough, another of the young players has another connection. “I got to introduce an amazing young pianist named Olivia Larco,” Gupta explains. “And Olivia Larco’s dad, Michael Larco, was not only a colleague of mine in the LA Phil, but was actually one of my first ever violin teachers, who met me when I was Olivia’s age.” You can tune in to From the Top this Sunday at 6pm.
The PBS Great Performances series “Now Hear This” has returned, a musical travelogue hosted by violinist and conductor Scott Yoo. This second series explores the music of Schubert this week, with visits to New York, Quebec and Philadelphia. And next Friday, an episode premieres with the music of Mozart on center stage, with footage shot in and around San Luis Obispo, where Scott Yoo is Music Director of Festival Mozaic. Musicians from the festival will join pianist Stewart Goodyear, who learns the technique of conducting from the keyboard as he plays and improvises the solo part of a Mozart piano concerto. You can get a preview of the whole series here:
Stanford Live begins its Fall season this weekend with a streaming documentary featuring the St. Lawrence String Quartet, which has long been in residence at Stanford, and is one of the regular ensembles to have appeared on the stage of the Bing Concert Hall. The film includes a complete performance of a Haydn Quartet, as well as interviews with the players, and behind the scenes materials following how they’ve been dealing with the pandemic, and an entirely different way of rehearsing and playing this year. The performance they gave was on the stage of the Bing, masked and distanced, and the film will be available for streaming by Stanford students as well as Stanford Live subscribers. It’s the launch of the season that had to be reimagined for the uncertainty and concerns about safety of our current times. The film is called Stanford Live Presents: St. Lawrence String Quartet – Return to Haydn.
Pianist Lara Downes is celebrating National Voter Registration Day today with a musical collaboration. A performance of the song “Take Care Of This House” by Leonard Bernstein from the 1976 musical 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She says despite it being still relevant today, the musical was a famous flop. “Like so many things that Bernstein did, it was just way ahead of its time. It’s this musical that’s really investigating and exploring the racial history of the White House, that problematic history, and it opens in the bicentennial year and nobody wants to hear about anything except fireworks.” Downes enlisted some of her friends and musical partners to contribute to the project, including Yo-Yo Ma, Anthony McGill, and Thomas Hampson. The message of the song, sung in the musical by Abigail Adams to a young black servant, is one of inclusion and pride: that the White House belongs to him too. “And it really is just this profound statement about the equality and the shared responsibility of civic duty, which I think is so important for us all to hear right now, because I think this is a time when people are feeling so overwhelmed. And the scope of things seems unmanageable. And then we think, well, I can’t do anything. I don’t have any power. And I think that this song is another reminder that, you know, our duty as citizens can be carried out in small ways.” You can check to make sure you’re registered to vote in California at this website and more information about registering nationwide here.
Berkeley Public Library will be beginning a new program on Friday the 25th, bringing together (virtually) guest storytellers and musicians for Reading is Instrumental. Included in the line-up as readers are Rita Moreno, Andy Samberg, Maxine Hong Kingston, and more, plus Berkeley Symphony Music Director Joseph Young and other members of the orchestra, accompanying. The events will be streamed live on the Berkeley Public Library’s Facebook page. They’ll read some classics (and yet-to-be classics) by Judy Cox, Carol Diggory Shields, Oge Mora, and more. They’ll start at 11am, starting next Friday.
It’s Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedie #1” for five… well, actually still for one, but rather than being played on the piano, Warren Hagerty, principal cellist with the Pacific Symphony takes on all the parts in this “quarantine clip” video they posted.
Hagerty took advantage of the down time of the pandemic to dive deeply into the Bach unaccompanied Cello Suites for what he called The Bach Project, learning and recording performances of all of the dance movements contained in the six suites. He had long wanted to have more of them “in his fingers”, as well as to keep in playing shape when there weren’t regular concerts to play. He joked that because the more difficult suites are toward the end, and he was recording them in numerical order, he had more time to learn the hardest ones – and a viewer can chart the passage of time by watching the progress of his beard’s growth. You can find the Bach Project videos here, but here’s the first one:
Left Coast Chamber Ensemble will be presenting its season opener next Monday night, with a mix of brand new, old, and “remixes” for small chamber ensemble. The concert, called Soft-Spoken (which is also the name of a world premiere trio by David Dominique featuring flutist Stacey Pelinka) will be livestreamed at 7:30 by LCCE. It’s free to watch, with donations encouraged, and RSVPs required, after which a link will be sent for the stream. There’s a recent flute and cello duet by Laurie San Martin called Zeppelin, trios by Belgian composer Albert Roussel and Beethoven, as well as two “remixes” by composer and violist Kurt Rohde. Serving as inspiration for those works were pieces by Joni Mitchell, and Hildegard von Bingen. The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble had a Season Kick-Off Party last month, which included this performance by violinist and Artistic Director Anna Presler and pianist Eric Zivian playing the first Violin Sonata by Johannes Brahms.
The Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Grant Gershon, is doing double duty in this video he and his wife, soprano Elissa Johnston recently released. In an arrangement of Morten Lauridsen’s tranquil “Sure On This Shining Night,” Gershon accompanies the both of them as they sing. Lauridsen, who has taught at USC’s Thornton School of Music for more than four decades, also served as composer in residence for the Master Chorale from 1994-2001.
Grant Gershon, Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director and Master Chorale soprano Elissa Johnston perform Morten Lauridsen's setting of "Sure On This Shining Night".To enjoy more performances like this one, sign up for our email list: https://bit.ly/35sXwna
Posted by Los Angeles Master Chorale on Thursday, September 10, 2020
At its annual festival in the summer, West Edge Opera in the Bay Area has staged works that span centuries and geography – In 2019, the three operas presented were a non-binary retelling of Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice, Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera, and 2016’s Breaking the Waves by Missy Mazzoli. They also have had a winter program called “Snapshot” that allows audiences to see short works that are either just finished, or might even still be in progress. They’ve described their mission as to “look at the art form through a new lens, re-imagining tradition to connect to a modern audience.” Given the pandemic, and no live performances, they’re soon going to be launching another program, also with a photography-inspired name: Aperture. It is going to be a member-supported commissioning contest for composers and librettists that will give subscribers the opportunity to have updates as the works are being created. The final chosen project will receive a $60,000 commission toward a live concert performance of the work, once it’s safe to stage it.
Katherine Pracht, who will star in West Edge Opera’s production of Kevin Puts’ opera Elizabeth Cree in 2021. (Photo by Cory Weaver)
World premieres and commissions from some up-coming young composers… this Sunday at 7pm, it’s the California Symphony Broadcast – as we start an eight-week series of concerts that the Walnut Creek-based orchestra has given in recent years. They’re the only regional orchestra in the country to have what they call a “Young American Composer in Residence” program, which allows composers to spend three years working with the ensemble, writing progressively bigger works as they get to know each other. This Sunday night’s Russian-themed concert from 2014 leads off with the world premiere of a work called Dreams of the Old Believers, by D.J.Sparr. It was inspired by a Smithsonian magazine article that told of a family of Russian hermits who left civilization during the times of the czars, and entertained themselves by telling stories about their dreams. The concert ends with another famous storyteller, Scheherazade. Donato Cabrera leads the performance, and they’re joined by pianist Ilya Yakushev for Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.
The Santa Rosa Symphony’s Music Director, Francesco Lecce-Chong has announced a season he says he wouldn’t have been able to imagine just a few months ago: “SRS @ Home.” There are three concerts that will be livestreamed in October, November and December, with about 30 musicians socially distanced on the stage of Weill Hall at the Green Music Center. They’ll be viewable for free online as they happen, and each program includes an early Beethoven symphony, as well as repertoire that will show off members of the sections of the orchestra. There are additional recitals that will be available live to subscribers, who will also be able to watch concerts after their initial stream. In his introduction to the season, Lecce-Chong says it was only through trust, good will, work, and “dreaming big” that this season was able to take shape so quickly.
This performance of Carl Vine’s “Threnody” played by Wayne Yang was recently posted by USC’s Thornton School of Music as one of the “Live from Somewhere” series of videos. It’s a piece that was originally written in response to the AIDS crisis and the search for treatment. Yang is currently a graduate student in their Arts Leadership program, and has been playing piano since he was a child. “Thankfully, the piano repertoire is huge, and despite my limitations, I am able to choose pieces that fit my ability,” he says. “In some cases, I do some tiny editing and omit a few notes to make the pieces possible while preserving their musical integrity. I rely on the horizontal distance to move my left arm around and my memory for the four fingers that I use with my right hand.” He began learning this particular work pre-COVID era, after hearing a classmate play it, and finds it particularly relevant and meaningful now. “Especially during this pandemic, playing the piano has been a valuable outlet for expression and musical communication… I am grateful for the support from my professor, piano studio mates and colleagues, and I do the same with supporting them. I believe the one thing we can take away from this pandemic, and the reason I dedicated my “Threnody” performance to the victims of COVID-19 and their families, is to genuinely help and support one another in navigating through the similar life challenges that we face.”
Tonight we enjoy a Live! From Somewhere performance by Wayne Yang, a graduate student in the Arts Leadership program, who recorded this beautiful piece from home. “Threnody” was originally composed by Carl Vine in 1994 in remembrance of those lost during the AIDS epidemic. Wayne revisits the piece as a reflection on our current pandemic. “This video of mine is a prayer dedication to the victims and their families worldwide as well as to healthcare workers at the frontlines."Enjoy. Live from wherever we are.
Posted by USC Thornton School of Music on Friday, August 28, 2020
With a message that young women can indeed change the world, the ensemble iSing Silicon Valley has just released its first album, called “Here I Stand.” The title track has a text by the Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who has been an activist for the cause of the education of girls in her home country of Pakistan and throughout the world. The album includes several world premieres and commissions, including one by Adam Schoenberg called “Never Shall I Forget,” inspired by Elie Wiesel’s memoir Night, and Daniel Elder’s “365,” which is about gun violence. There are also works by Debussy, Ola Gjeilo, Eriks Esenvalds, and more. There are 200 or so singers who make up the multiple choirs of iSing Silicon Valley. It’s a choir that was founded less than ten years ago, but it’s already performed and toured extensively, and collaborated with artists like Meredith Monk and the choral ensembles Voces8 and Cappella SF.
LACO SummerFest has come to an end, with a concert of music by a young Gioachino Rossini for strings – specifically, his String Sonata No. 3 in C Major, and No. 6 in D Major. Written for two violinists, cello and double bass when Rossini was only 12 years old, they show the humor and elegance that the composer would later put into his operas. The final concert, recorded with the players masked and separated, was led by Principal Bass of LACO, David Grossman, with violinists Carrie Kennedy, Joel Pargman, and cellist Andrew Shulman. This performance, (with a solo bass jazzy rendition of Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose” for an encore) brings to a close the series, but they all remain viewable through LACO’s website and their YouTube channel.
Simone Dinnerstein had a familiar, but unexpected recording studio for her most recent album, called “A Character of Quiet.” She recorded it in her own home, with the producer of her studio albums, but also in the company of her husband, son, dog, and upstairs neighbors. They recorded in the evening to minimize traffic sounds from the street outside, which was also a break from tradition. At first, Dinnerstein says, she couldn’t bring herself to play the piano, and instead went for long walks with her family. “During that time when I was recording it, I had started reading poetry. And I became really entranced by Wordsworth’s poem ‘The Prelude’ which is this huge, autobiographical poem. And in this particular passage, he’s talking about getting away from society, basically. And it just really spoke to me. That line, ‘a character of quiet’ is in there. And I just thought, ‘That is this music.’” The repertoire is three etudes by Philip Glass, and a Schubert Sonata. “There’s a very strong commonality between Schubert and Glass. Their music has a sort of ascetic quality to it. It’s pared down, both of them use repetition in a really interesting way, they have a very subtle use of harmony. And their harmonic changes are often simply shifting one note within a harmony to create a new color. And they both have a sense of timelessness in them. The music seems to circle back on itself constantly.”
Getting a practical souvenir out of performances, here’s a piece of music written for 1-3 “sewists.” At the end of which, each winds up with a new face mask. It’s a piece by Adrianne Pope, commissioned by the contemporary music ensemble called Wild Up. Pope says that she’d always been handy with a sewing machine, finding it both a productive and therapeutic hobby. In the early days of the pandemic, she was making masks, keenly aware of the unusual silence in her otherwise normally loud neighborhood of Los Angeles. It made her pay attention to the sound of her machine, which was often the loudest sound she was hearing. “I realized something I really loved about it was how many sounds I could control, but then how much of it was also out of my control. And then I started thinking about how every machine is different and everyone performing this piece, the same written piece, would perform it completely differently.” The score for the piece is a set of instructions which include an actual pattern for the mask, with specific ways and tempos the sewists are to synchronize their mask-making. Pope says the recording below was made as an instruction video as well as a virtual performance, and the instructions can be found at the Wild Up website. She also says her Aperture Duo recently commissioned some pieces which could be performed over Zoom or Skype.
The experience of seeing a concert as part of a live audience near musicians is something many of us have been missing dearly these past several months. The San Francisco Symphony has been offering a solution that brings the audience to performer ratio down as far as it can go. In a series they’re calling 1:1 (One to One), there’s only one player, and one audience member, outside, and at a safe distance. It’s bringing the experience back for individuals. Symphony donors, subscribers, volunteers, partners and teachers have been making up the pool of invitees, but there’s also a lottery system online at their website, where members of the general public can apply. The performances (about six in a day) are taking place one day a week now, although the Symphony is planning on increasing the frequency, and also finding other locations around San Francisco that are safe and conducive to the intimate solo recitals. They describe the program as “providing the bliss of a live music experience in a safe, reimagined way.”
Less than a year earlier, Berkeley Symphony’s Music Director Joseph Young wasn’t expecting to be standing on the podium at Zellerbach Hall starting his first season in the fall of 2019. But in a story right out of Hollywood, he got a call in January asking if he could drop what he was doing (conducting an opera rehearsal at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore) and substitute at a concert in just a few days. The scheduled conductor was ill, and Young had only two days to prepare for a program that included a world premiere. With an enthusiastic reception from both players and the audience, by April, it was announced that he would be their next Music Director. On the program that launched his first season was Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and as part of the Downtown Berkeley Summer Online Arts Festival, he introduces the orchestra, their music education outreach program, and that Beethoven performance.
Taking inspiration from the film Inception, and its soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, along with the music of Georg Philipp Telemann, Barry Perkins, the Principal Trumpet of the Pacific Symphony offers “Inception Reflection.” It’s a short video that he wrote and produced, which also features the Principal Trumpet of the Pittsburgh Symphony, Micah Wilkinson. After a dramatic introductory scene reminiscent of Inception between Perkins and his alter-ego, the music begins and expands to include both players and their doppelgangers. Perkins has appeared on the scores of dozens of films including several in the Star Wars franchise.
It’s not every day you get to play your dream instrument – unless you happen to be Matthew Linaman, who was actually able to get his, despite a daunting price tag. He graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 2013, and now teaches there in the Pre-College program where he got his start. After graduating, he was working as a barista at a coffee bar when he got a call from his teacher, suggesting he try playing a particular cello that was for sale. It had a beautiful tone, and Linaman fell in love with it immediately, but it was going to cost $125,000. He tried to crowdfund it, raising about ten thousand dollars in a month, but there was still a long way to go. Ultimately, one of his regular customers offered to loan him what he needed, and he was able to continue making music with the instrument he’d wanted since he first played it. Here he is giving a TedX talk about the experience:
And here’s his 8-part arrangement of the song “Rain” by Ben Platt:
Here’s a sneak peak of the upcoming SOUND/STAGE concert series of performances at the Hollywood Bowl (and also The Ford) that were filmed this summer, and will be streaming starting in September. Six of the nine concerts feature the Los Angeles Philharmonic, led by Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, with the players taking full advantage of the spaciousness of the stage, and wearing masks. The concerts will be streamed for free (although donations are encouraged) and run from September 25th through November 9th. Soloists J’Nai Bridges and Jean-Yves Thibaudet will join the L.A. Phil, and there’s a concert that continues the Power to the People! festival that was interrupted by Covid-19. There are also non-classical performances by Andra Day, Chicano Batman, and Kamasi Washington, who, with an ensemble plays his original jazz score to the documentary based on Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming.
With headliners from their originally planned schedules, plus a few additions, Cal Performances announced this week that they would be presenting a 15-episode run of full-length concerts and theater works called “Cal Performances at Home” running from October to mid-January. Artists like Yo-Yo Ma, Leif-Ove Andsnes, Tessa Lark and others have all specifically recorded for this series, which will be ticketed for individuals, couples or households. There will be free additional artist talks, interviews and lectures that accompany the programming, as well as educational content for K-12 teachers and students. When the performances premiere, Cal Performances will host watch parties with live chats available. There’s also a special New Year’s Eve Musical Celebration. The series will end in mid-January with a recital by soprano Julia Bullock, with art songs, contemporary works, and selections from jazz and blues.
Making use of the acoustics of St. Joseph’s Church, composer Mason Bates has begun to release a series of videos called Mercury Soul: Cathedral – Meditative Classical Music & Electronica. He’s wearing his other, turntablist hat, as “DJ Masonic,” providing a score that links together other pieces of older music from other traditions. In the first episode, he’s joined by a solo pianist with Debussy, a string quartet, and a flute and percussion duo playing a traditional tune from India. Mercury Soul is an organization that has brought classical music into dance clubs, and electronica into classical venues. In the second film, a solo cellist playing Bach is joined by a dancer, there’s more solo Bach for violin, and a work for brass by Dale Trumbore. Bates has frequently incorporated either the sounds or sensibilities of his DJ alter-ego into his symphonic and chamber works, and here he’s curating and linking music from time and places as varied as Iceland and China, and composers like Gesualdo and Massenet.
Throughout the summer, the Colburn School has been hosting weekly lunchtime concerts they’re calling “A Serving of Beethoven,” and the most recent one with the Calidore Quartet finishes up their cycle of his string quartets with his middle period Op. 59 No. 3. Faculty hosts Scott St. John and Kristi Brown-Montesano have a chat with violinist Ryan Meehan before they play a performance that was recorded by the quartet from last October. The Calidore players have had a few socially distanced performances and live-streamed concerts recently, but have taken advantage of the down time to take on learning new repertoire and plan a recording project of all 16 of the Beethoven quartets. For their part, now that they’ve celebrated the upcoming 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth with this block of masterworks, Colburn is going to continue the lunchtime series with his sonatas for piano and violin.
The San Francisco International Piano Festival has begun, and runs through the 30th, with what they’re calling “A Season of Reflection.” There will be a combination of livestreamed concerts and “retrospective performances” from previous years. Like the inaugural festival, this one began with a “Schubertiad” – a celebration of the music of Schubert, both for piano and voice, with festival founder and Artistic Director Jeffrey LaDeur playing the sprawling G Major piano sonata, with lieder between the movements, joined by mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich. (There are going to be several concerts with other instruments besides the piano, despite the festival’s name.) “2020 will be a different kind of celebration,” LaDeur says. ”A more sober, reflective acknowledgment of this confusing and painful moment in our world, and of the essential and sustaining life force that music is for us at this time.” You can watch the concert here.
For the past 35 years, the California Music Center has held the annual Irving R. Klein International String Competition, celebrating young performers and offering both prizes and career and performance opportunities. This summer was the first time the competition took place without an in-person audience. In a just-launched series of compilation recitals called the [email protected] Hour, recent participants and winners play in footage from when they competed. Since one of the perks of a win was having the opportunity to appear on concert stages and at house concerts, the CMC is also going to be starting a ticketed series of streamed recitals in September, called ‘Third Thursdays’ that will give audiences a chance to have conversations with the artists virtually after the concerts. Here’s the first of the [email protected] Hour programs, called ‘Summer Idyll.’
A glimpse inside the creative process – when times are difficult. L.A.-based composer Julia Adolphe has been recording a video series she’s calling LooseLeaf NoteBook, which explores some of the issues that creative people (both professional and amateur) are facing now because of the pandemic. She says taking care of one’s mental and creative health can be a challenge, especially at a time when our instinct is making us choose between fight/flight or freeze. Adolphe discusses her own experience, including how she’s changed her routine because of the way she’s felt at various times of the day. Ordinarily, she says, she would take advantage of the stillness and solitude of the night to write music, but in the past few months she found she was experiencing more anxiety and unease then, so has begun waking up early to compose when she feels safer and more in control. While the episodes in the beginning were just a few minutes long, she’s recently had some longer conversations with guests in the musical world.
The San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Conservatory of Music have teamed to create the Emerging Black Composers Project, which will commission works from ten early-career Black American composers. Each composer selected will receive $15,000, as well as workshops and performances by either the Symphony or Conservatory orchestras. They’ll also have the opportunity to be mentored by conductors Michael Morgan, Edwin Outwater, and conductor-composer Esa-Pekka Salonen. The call for applications is open through the end of the calendar year, and the first commissioned piece is scheduled to have its world premiere during the 2021-22 season. David Stull, the President of SFCM, says they’re trying to “elevate Black voices and expand the American canon. When Black talent is nurtured, we strengthen our culture of excellence, and we look forward to deepening the impact of The Emerging Black Composers Project through this partnership with San Francisco Symphony.” And Mark Hanson, CEO of the Symphony says: “Our industry has a long history of excluding Black artists due to systemic racism, and that the work of Black composers often does not receive the exposure or prominence it deserves. We believe that The Emerging Black Composers Project is a small step towards reducing some of the barriers these talented artists unjustly face in our field, and we look forward to performing and promoting these new works in future SF Symphony seasons.”
Putting a modern Californian spin on some Mozart librettos… At “Salastina’s Happy Hour” Tuesday from 6 to 7, the guest will be Vid Guerrerio, who has set about to bring a trio of Mozart operas into greater relevance (while leaving the music untouched) by completely rehauling the text. Through its Off Grand initiative, LA Opera presented ¡Figaro! (90210) in its 2014/15 season. The New York Times called the adaptation “audacious and entertaining,” making the multicultural plot in English and Spanglish revolve around undocumented immigrants and the world of real estate in Beverly Hills. There was to be a premiere of Guerrerio’s OC fan tutte this summer, bringing the old story of Cosi fan tutte – with couples testing each other’s fidelity – into the era of ‘catfishing’ and Tinder, set in Orange County. He’s also working on a Don Giovanni libretto called Don Jovy, with the lothario title character now an aging rock star, living on the Sunset Strip. In conversation with KUSC’s Brian Lauritzen on the Zoom “Happy Hour,” he’ll discuss the thinking behind the adaptations, as well as the nerve required to take an eraser to Lorenzo Da Ponte’s libretti.
Take this musical quiz with members of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra! Music director Benjamin Simon hosts this edition of “Name That Classical Tune” with some of the all-star performers from the ensemble, as they try to guess famous melodies hearing the fewest notes. The “one-man orchestra” Keisuke Nakagoshi ends up not having to play that many before the right answer bell is rung. It’s part of a series of video podcasts he’s released under the umbrella name of “The Simon Says Show,” which also includes interviews with musicians, and some educational features built around a thematic idea. Education and fun have always been woven into the free-admission mainstage concerts of the SFCO, and Simon, a violist himself, is always on the hunt for viola jokes he’s never heard before.
The city of San Francisco is the backdrop for a Hitchcock-inspired ballet called “Dance of Dreams” that San Francisco Ballet releases Thursday. Four choreographers were involved in the project (Justin Peck, Dwight Rhoden, Janie Taylor, and Christopher Wheeldon) – five if you count the director and filmmaker Benjamin Millepied, who is the Artistic Director of L.A. Dance Project. The short film is set to the “Scene d’Amour” music by Bernard Herrmann from the movie Vertigo, and takes its locations from key moments in the Hitchcock classic, including the Palace of Fine Arts and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The score was played by more than 60 members of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, recorded remotely at their homes. “Dance of Dreams,” Millepied explains, “is a moment of dancing, a moment of reconnecting dancers to the city and the thing they love most.”
A re-casting of Mozart in the rhythms of a Brazilian carnival… This “In a Minute” arrangement of Mozart’s ‘Rondo alla Turca’ movement from his piano sonata in A Major takes the idea of exoticism one step further. It was all the rage in Mozart’s day to bring some of the new sounds that they heard played by the Turkish military bands known as Janissaries and incorporate them into classical works. They had bass drums, cymbals and triangles – you can hear them in the overture to “The Abduction from the Seraglio”. In this “Samba alla Turca” arrangement by Philip R. Buttall, played by Joanne Pearce-Martin and Gavin Martin, the familiar melody is given a Brazilian flair. It’s introduced by MUSE/IQUE Artistic Director Rachael Worby, and accompanied in movement by dancer Desi Jévon.
Los Angeles Master Chorale’s newest album is a very personal one, with music that was inspired by the death of a dear friend. Composer Eric Whitacre leads the ensemble in The Sacred Veil. It’s a 12-movement work – the lyrics, by Charles Anthony Silvestri and Whitacre, tell the story of love, illness, and loss, surrounding the death of Silvestri’s wife Julie from ovarian cancer in 2005. The piece had its premiere in 2019 at Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the full recording is being released at the end of the month on Signum Classics. In this introductory video to the piece that was posted on their Facebook page, alto Sarah Lynch explains how many of the singers have dealt with cancer, or lost loved ones to the disease, which made the music all the more powerful. “But this is also how we as artists are so lucky,” Lynch says. “Rehearsing and performing this piece gave me a new outlet for my grief, and one that I didn’t know I needed. There’s something powerful about artists on a project drawing from their own personal experiences, and committing to the work, even when it’s hard. This epitomizes the power and the necessity of the arts.”
"I hope that it will comfort and heal all who need it— on stage and off." Hear from Master Chorale alto Sarah Lynch as…
Since all the cancellations began, Cal Performances has been regularly curating a video playlist called ‘Now More Than Ever’ – to highlight musicians and artists whose work can continue to inspire us from the safety of our homes. Recently they enlisted the help of a guest curator: cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who performed a recital with his sister, pianist Isata, at Zellerbach Hall in December, at the beginning of a tour of the US. As an added bonus, in an introductory video, they play Saint-Saens’ “The Swan” from Carnival of the Animals. His choices for the videos in the playlist include several Bach selections (a string trio arrangement of the Goldberg Variations, and Yehudi Menuhin playing the famous “Air” from the Orchestral Suite no. 3 with the Symphony Orchestra of Hollywood, and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich discussing – not playing – one of the unaccompanied cello suites). But there’s also a concert recording of Bob Marley playing “Redemption Song.” The Jamaican singer made an appearance on Sheku Kanneh-Mason’s 2018 album “Inspiration” in an arrangement of the song “No Woman, No Cry.”
The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music wraps up its 58th season (and first virtual one) this weekend in Santa Cruz. On Saturday morning, there’s a panel with orchestra members and a live Q+A, and in the afternoon, a recital with Sasha Cooke and composer/pianist Jake Heggie. A throughline in the selections this year is a celebration of strong and women who have shaped our history. Last weekend in the concert “Evolving II” they presented a performance from last year of the premiere of Kristin Kuster’s piece inspired by United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, called When There Are Nine (her response to the question “When will there be enough women on the Supreme Court?”). Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton was joined by the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra and the eight-member vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth. This weekend, there’s a panel about the fight for women’s suffrage and the continuing struggle for voting rights in the morning, and at 5:00, the orchestral world premiere of The Battle for the Ballot by Stacy Garrop, celebrating one hundred years since the passage of the 19th Amendment that allowed women to vote. Sixty members of the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra recorded their parts from their homes around the world for the occasion.
Pianist Lara Downes has had a busy summer, even if it hasn’t involved much travel. Just before people began staying home, she had released a studio album called Some of These Days, of arrangements of freedom songs and spirituals. In May, she had an NPR ‘Tiny Desk’ Concert which she recorded at her home. And perhaps inspired by that effort, she’s just released an album called The Bedtime Sessions, of lullabies and songs to inspire sleep. She calls it “a balm for our souls during a time of global disruption.” The works are by composers as different as Robert Schumann and Billy Joel, with tunes by jazz saxophonist Benny Golson, and a few written by composers especially for this project. She says, “many of us are experiencing intense anxiety, our night disrupted by insomnia and troubled dreams. These lullabies are for listeners of all ages, to help us relax and find peace in sleep.”
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. #SwanLakeBathBalletThanks to and starring 27 dancers from; American Ballet Theatre The Australian Ballet Birmingham Royal Ballet Boston Ballet @CapeTownCityBallet Het Nationale Ballet – Dutch National Ballet Hong Kong Ballet Houston Ballet Joburg Ballet The National Ballet of Canada Opéra national de Paris Rambert Royal Opera House Royal New Zealand Ballet San Francisco Ballet Scottish Ballet Staatsballett Berlin @donniejr.duncanYouth America Grand Prix Bloch Dance Europe FiLMiC Pro
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
Check back for daily updates! If there’s anything you’d like to add, let us know in the comments.