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Classical Notes: March 21, 2006 Archive

Happy Bach Day

Posted at 2:11 PM on March 21, 2006 by Don Lee

Even before my daughter Hannah was born on this date 19 years ago, I began celebrating March 21 because of Bach. They are quiet celebrations of his birthday; it’s pleasure enough to have the Goldberg Variations flow in and out of my consciousness as I tend to the daily routine.

Words about him seem almost pointless, but these from the great cellist Pablo Casals keep coming to mind: “such is Bach, the greatest and purest moment in music of all time.”

Tonight when I turn out the light, I expect my mind’s lullaby will be “Sheep May Safely Graze” from Cantata No. 208. The music is so reassuring it makes me want to believe the text: “Sheep may ever graze securely/Where a worthy shepherd wakes./Where the rulers well are ruling,/May one rest and peace discover/And what nations blissful makes. ”

MN at the MET

Posted at 3:16 PM on March 21, 2006 by John Birge
Filed under: The blog

Okay, think American Idol, with singers who can really sing, and genuinely great music for a change!

Last month, Minnesota Opera Resident Artists Alison Bates, Seth Keeton and John Michael Moore swept the Regional round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Last Sunday, Seth Keeton and John Michael Moore were among nine singers who won the National Semifinals round! Seth and John sing at the National Finals this Sunday on stage with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and five Grand National Winners will be chosen. Each will receive $15,000, and a good chance at coming back to the Met someday in a role.

We're following this story on Classical Minnesota Public Radio, and I'll talk with Seth and John later this week to check in and see how they're preparing for the Big Event.

This contest is very prestigious; past winners include Ben Heppner, Renée Fleming, Susan Graham and Heidi Grant Murphy (and that was just in one year!). Minnesota Opera has had a superb track record there. Past Resident Artists who have competed at the national level are Esther Heidemann (national winner), Andy Gangestad (national finalist), Seth Keeton (national semifinalist) and James Valenti (grand national winner).

rrrrrrrrrRING!

Posted at 6:18 PM on March 21, 2006 by John Birge
Filed under: The blog

BBC Radio 3 broadcast an unscheduled premiere last week. During a live interview with Steve Reich, listeners unexpectedly heard one of his new pieces, which turned out to be the ringtone on his cel phone. It took several moments for the embarassed composer to fetch the phone from his coat pocket.

Last week the Wall Street Journal reported on how the ring tone phenomenon is branching out. Joining the hip-hop stars are some less likely names -- like Sibelius. Orchestras and classical-music publishers want a piece of the $600 million dollar ringtone business.

Boosey & Hawkes, a major classical music publisher, offers more than 300 songs from its catalog as $3 ringtone downloads on its Web site, www.booseytones.com, and the London Symphony sells ringtone versions of its recordings at www.lsoringtones.co.uk In addition to Steve Reich, downloads include:

-Bach's Sheep May Safely Graze; good if you’re a shepherd with a cel phone
-Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, for those on-the-go Russian Pagans
-And the top ten downloads include classics for SciFi enthusiasts (Star Wars), and for fans of the cult TV hit, Thunderbirds

Not to be outdone, churches are getting into the act. Saint Petri church in Hamburg has a website, www.petriklingel.de to sell hymn tune ringtones. You can choose from

Wachet auf, the ever-popular Oh dass ich tausend Zungen hätte, or the old standby Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. Proceeds go toward a quarter million dollar fund to restore the church’s pipe organ.