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Classical Notes: April 25, 2006 Archive

Honda Choir Spoof

Posted at 11:02 AM on April 25, 2006 by John Birge
Filed under: The blog

You've probably already seen the fantastic UK Honda Civic commercial with the choir that was making the rounds a few months ago. If not, view here, and be amazed! (note also the Garrison Keillor voice-over)

Now comes a spoof of same, done for "118 118", which Wiki tells me is the UK phone equivalent of our "411."

Jolly good fun!

SPCO shows the way

Posted at 5:03 PM on April 25, 2006 by Don Lee (2 Comments)

Way out ahead of their colleagues in other American orchestras, the musicians of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra have made a savvy step into the 21st century. Yesterday the orchestra announced a new media rights agreement.

It paves the way for every recorded SPCO concert, dating back to 1971, to appear on the Web. Future concerts will be streamed live. Past and future concerts will be available for on-demand listening and downloading on the orchestra’s MPR Web page.

Streaming has become standard practice, but in a very small circle: Streaming tends to accompany radio broadcasts, and only a handful of American orchestras are still on the air regularly. On-demand Web availability of concerts is less common. The Minnesota Orchestra is one of few orchestras that have taken advantage of that opportunity, granted more than a year ago in the musicians union's national contract. Downloading may be a different story. Lately a few American orchestras have been getting into that game. This month, for example, the L.A. Philharmonic is beginning to sell selected concerts on iTunes.

What makes the SPCO agreement stand out is its scope. It covers all recorded concerts, past and future. It permits a full range of Web access. And it allows much more flexible broadcasting rights.

The previous agreement allowed four broadcasts of a concert—presented as an entire concert. Rights expired after three years. The new agreement allows unlimited broadcast use. That will mean you can hear SPCO concert performances many times a week, not just on Monday nights. You’ll be able to hear individual pieces throughout our broadcast schedule, just like selections from CDs.

It will also lend a different character to the weekly SPCO program. While it will still be possible to replicate the overture-concerto-symphony concert pattern, it won’t be mandatory. So you’ll hear programs that mix and match pieces from various concerts in creative new combinations.

SPCO musicians will get a pay increase for granting these new rights, but they and SPCO management deserve congratulations for taking a risk, for being out in front. Here’s hoping other orchestras, who must be watching closely, will follow their lead.

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Zechmeisters in music

Posted at 8:37 PM on April 25, 2006 by John Zech
Filed under: The blog

Confession time: My family name Zech could come from the mining industry, but it's maybe even more likely to have something to do with drinking. There are a number of German operas/operettas where they sing about zechen, which is German verb meaning "to drink." A Zeche is a bill you would get at a bar. A Zechpreller is someone who skips out without paying the bill and a Zechmeister is, as a German friend once reminded me, a "master carouser." Needless to say, a number of my friends have called me "The Zechmeister" without knowing how close they were to the truth--ahem.

In the music world there have been quite a few Zechmeisters. Bach liked his beer and wine, Brahms had a wine cellar, and there's a famous story by the prominent New York critic James Huneker about a pub crawl he took with Dvorak when the composer was teaching in New York City in the 1890s. Dvorak had whisky cocktails while Huneker drank beer. Nineteen drinks later the critic was ready to call it quits when Dvorak started looking for Slivovitch because it "warms you after so much beer."

Huneker said, "Such a man is as dangerous to a moderate drinker as a false beacon is to a ship-wrecked sailor. And he could drink as much spirits as I could the amber brew."

Graeme Garden has piece in the UK Telegraph about some of the great drinkers and trenchermen of music. Can you tell it in there music? Read more here.