"Living in the backwaters of the Arts," writes venerable maestro Lorin Maazel, "I have to rely on services that inform the public about things that matter, like Yahoo's 'Trending Now.' I thus can keep abreast of significant events such as Kim K. not wearing underwear."
To the surprise of the classical world, the 83-year-old conductor not only took notice of a recent self-portrait snapped by the formerly-quasi-Minnesotan celebrity with her beau Kanye West standing creepily beside her, Maazel shared his thoughts on the picture in a sarcastic post on his blog.
"How comforting to know that there are millions out there who tremble at the very thought of KK's skin, her every word, her boy friend. How foolish I feel never having heard of the lady until a few weeks ago."
Explaining that he's more interested in Richard Strauss, the former music director of the New York Philharmonic concludes, "I'd like it to be known that as admirable as underwear-less Kim's moving through the ether of the real world may sound, there are still a few of us who march to different tunes."
Good to know, Mr. Maazel. Please carry on.(0 Comments)
Marin Alsop. Photo by Grant Leighton.
The winners of the 2013 British Composer Awards have been announced: 14 talented composers. To be precise, that's 14 talented male composers.
To blogger Jessica Duchen, this suggests a question that's so urgent she puts it in all-caps (referring to the number of categories, 13, rather than the actual number of winners): "HOW IS IT POSSIBLE IN 2013 THAT 13 MEN GET PRIZES AND THERE IS NOT ONE WOMAN IN THE LINE-UP?"
It's no secret that achieving diversity — of all types — among participants and audiences has been as much a challenge for classical music as for any art form. Progress is being made, even at the highest levels: this year, American conductor Marin Alsop became the first woman ever to lead the BBC band at the Last Night of the Proms. As the British Composer Awards (and caveman comments like those by Vasily "a cute girl on a podium means that musicians think about other things" Petrenko) evince, however, we're still a long way from equity.
Duchen offers a suggestion: "It is time for an all-women prize for classical music. Women are achieving great things in this field — but they are not being adequately recognised for it. This time we need more than a list. We need action and we need it now."
What do you think? In the quest for gender parity at parchment and podium, would prizes specifically for women musicians and composers help?(2 Comments)
Highlights from Dec. 3 to 10
Tuesday, 7:15 am: Teacher Feature: Brad Ollman, St. Anthony Park Elementary School.
Tuesday, 5:30 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Museum docent Carol Rudie.
Tuesday, 7:15 pm: Teacher Feature: Brad Ollmann, St. Anthony Park Elementary School.
Wednesday, 8 pm: Advent Voices.
Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: Music of Salomone Rossi performed by Consortium Carissimi.
Thursday, 8 pm: Wonder Tidings: Holiday Music of Stephen Paulus with Dale Warland.
Friday, 8 pm: The Rose Ensemble: ¡Vamos a Belen!
Saturday, 11:30 am: Metropolitan Opera: Verdi's Rigoletto.
Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: A Swiss Mix.
Sunday, noon: From the Top.
Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: The Philadelphia Orchestra with conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin.
Sunday, 3 pm: St. Olaf Christmas Festival, live from Northfield.
Monday, noon: Learning to Listen: Schubert's Winterreise.
Monday, 8 pm: The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra: From October 2013, Christian Zacharias, with a program of Stravinsky, Mozart, Ives, and Schubert.
Tuesday, 7:15 am: School Spotlight: The Breck Chamber Players.
Tuesday, 5:30 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Bill Craft, president of Concordia College in Moorhead.
Tuesday, 8 pm: Welcome Christmas!
Tuesday, 9:15 pm: School Spotlight: The Breck Chamber Players.
The Conductor's Lab Choir will give Twin Cities-area high school choral directors the opportunity to work with Artistic Director and Founder Dr. Matthew Culloton, in a variety of ways aimed at making the educator -- and their choral program -- stronger overall. This program offers 3 conductors the opportunity to apply new pedagogies and choral techniques to their classrooms. That multiplies out to hundreds of public school students who willl share the outcomes with their schools, districts and families.
What's so crazy about this program is that there are currently no professional development programs of this nature in Minnesota for choral conductors. I got a chance to hear the opening concert of their season and it was simply incredible. Check out this YouTube video from that performance:
Highlights from Nov. 26 to Dec. 3
Tuesday, 7:15 am: School Spotlight: Stillwater Area High School Concert Orchestra.
Tuesday, 5:30 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Composer Chris Gennaula.
Tuesday, 7:15 pm: School Spotlight: Stillwater Area High School Concert Orchestra.
Tuesday, 8 pm: Candles Burning Brightly.
Wednesday, 8 pm: Giving Thanks.
Thursday, 10 am: Giving Thanks.
Thursday, noon: Thanksgiving with Cantus.
Saturday, 7 pm: Candles Burning Brightly.
Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Assessing Alkan.
Sunday, noon: From the Top.
Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
Sunday, 5 pm: Advent Voices.
Monday, 8 pm: The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra: Edo de Waart conducts Mozart and Beethoven.
Tuesday, 7:15 am: Teacher Feature: Brad Ollman of St. Anthony Park Elementary School.
Tuesday, 5:30 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Carol Rudie, docent at the Museum of Russian Art.
Tuesday, 7:15 pm: Teacher Feature: Brad Ollmann of St. Anthony Park Elementary School.
"I don't do plumbing," jokes Mark Eskola, referring to brass and woodwind instruments. "I just do strings. I have done wind instruments to bail somebody out every so often, but it's just something I don't want to do."
It's not as if Eskola isn't busy enough with strings. A longtime orchestra director at Duluth East High School, Eskola (whose brother Joe works in research at MPR in St. Paul) retired from that position in June 2013; during a school year, Eskola typically fixed more than 50 instruments, ranging from simple re-stringing to crack repair to major overhauls. And even though he's now retired from teaching, Eskola plans to continue repairing instruments.
Although it's easy to conclude a music teacher may have learned instrument repair by necessity, Eskola got started at it when he was about 14 years old. By the time he was a student at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., Eskola had lofted the bed in his dorm room so he could have space for a workbench underneath, where he repaired instruments for fellow students and for the Gustavus music department.
Much of his instrument-repair training was learned by doing, but Eskola did spend four summers at workshops in Madison, Wis., and he's read numerous books on the subject. "That was before the Internet," Eskola laughs.
Mark Eskola's workshop (submitted photo)
In Eskola's home in Duluth, Minn., his workshop is outfitted with two workbenches, two computers, plus clamps, chisels and 20-odd drawers with tools and supplies. There are violins and violas on shelves, a string bass stuffed in a corner near the ceiling (which is conveniently high) and about six guitars awaiting maintenance.
Fixing stringed instruments is a science and an art. For example, re-graduating a cello, Eskola explains, involves removing the top of the instrument and cutting it to certain thicknesses. And a common malady for cellos is something called "wolf tone," which Eskola describes as when "the note wants to come out but it can't quite go" a repair that requires strategically gluing a weight to the instrument.
Among Eskola's upcoming projects are a couple of violas and two string basses he's going to restore, for which he actually cut down some maple and oak trees specifically for use in the restorations. Whatever the project, there's trial and error and craft involved, but the desired outcome is always an instrument capable of making beautiful music.
Another view of Mark Eskola's workshop (submitted photo)
Eskola typically fixes instruments for other people, but occasionally he'll get an instrument that someone can't throw away but doesn't want to keep. The cello Eskola himself uses was given to him by the Cloquet School District in lieu of payment for repairs; granted, Eskola had to fix the cello before he could play it, but it's the one he uses to this day. He recently repaired a rare 10-string guitar that arrived "smashed," which he resold through Rosewood Music in downtown Duluth. And another smashed instrument a Gibson J-45 guitar that someone sold to Eskola for five dollars became Eskola's personal guitar. "That's a sweet old guitar," he says, "but it's kind of already worn out again now."
Other instruments have found their way to others' hands somewhat unexpectedly. This past year, while on an outreach trip to Africa, Eskola saw an Applause guitar he repaired get donated to a young girl in Mozambique. Later, Eskola himself gave a bass guitar to a young man in Zambia. "They had nothing, so it was really fun to see him playing that," Eskola says.
And he's been able to stay in touch with the blossoming bassist. "We're Facebook friends," Eskola says. "It's crazy with the technology. He literally lives in a mud hut, but he's got a smartphone."
Mark Eskola (L) with his wife, Sharon, on a recent visit to Kenya to see their friend, David Shivachi.
On a semi-related note: If you have a disused instrument that is no longer being played, consider donating it to Play It Forward, Classical MPR's statewide musical instrument drive. Read more about Play It Forward here.(5 Comments)
Benjamin Britten (London Records)
You may recall how, on Giuseppe Verdi's birthday, George Barany and Noam Elkies put together a fun (and challenging!) crossword puzzle centered on the great Italian composer.
Now Barany and Elkies have done it again, this time for the man whose centenary we mark today: Benjamin Britten.
Barany and Elkies have called their puzzle "Coin of the Musical Realm", and you can find it by following this link. Feel free to let me know how you did on the puzzle by leaving a comment below.
Good luck and have fun!
In an e-mail to the Classical MPR team, host John Birge shared a story about his personal experience with what's become Internet-famous as "the Da Vinci keyboard." With his permission, I'm sharing it here.
"Since David Letterman spoofed the CBS news coverage of 'the Da Vinci keyboard,' this classical music story has now officially gone mainstream. When the story broke last week, it touched a dim memory, but I couldn't figure it out exactly what, until Norman Lebrecht posted this article.
"Aha! That's when it came back to me: I actually saw one of these instruments back in the summer of 1984 on vacation in Brussels, at the fantastic musical instrument collection there. I dug around my old photos and found a postcard image from the museum store (above), and a personal snapshot--which shows the instrument in a less handsome state.
"It wasn't in any way playable, so the video making the rounds this week is wonderful to hear as well as see!"(0 Comments)
Before we begin, you must watch this video of the Florida State University AcaBelles...
Let me start by giving a shout out to my alma mater (FSU) and the AcaBelles for being recognized by the Huffington Post. Also, let me profess my love for modern a cappella groups like Take 6 and the Pentatonix. The creativity found in some of today's a cappella arrangements can be mind-blowing. These groups work tirelessly to perfect their performances and often come pretty close (Don't start with the autotune argument...that's for another day). Unfortunately, the haters keep hating. I have had many conversations with friends and colleagues that got pretty heated because of their sincere disdain for modern a cappella music/groups. Am I in the minority? What's the issue? Help me understand why so many purists can't appreciate this style/genre. Chime in and let me know your thoughts! I am looking forward to a healthy, friendly debate on this topic.
Other a cappella videos
Take 6 LIVE
Posted at 3:11 PM on November 19, 2013
by Rex Levang
If you're looking forward to Friday night's appearance by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, you'll be interested in this review of their New York concert in the Times.
The program in New York isn't identical to the one that will be given here, but in both cities the Choir will perform music of Arvo Part, whose distinctive musical style the Times writer evokes with words like "simplicity," "piety," and "luminosity."
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Friday, Nov. 22, 7:30 pm broadcast
Cathedral of St. Paul