Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

What a difference a different concert hall makes. Or a different set of acoustics. Or a different conductor.

This afternoon David and I went to the Divine Word Chapel in Northbrook, Illinois to hear Music of the Baroque perform their Holiday Brass and Choral Concert. 

First of all, I had thought that this concert was to be Mendelssohn's Elijah. Wrong! That will happen in the spring.

Second, I thought that Jane Glover would be conducting.  Wrong! It turned out to be Paul Agnew.

Third, it was way the hell north of Chicago at the Divine Word Chapel which is in some sort of Catholic school.

Other than that...

The chapel is within the school and has strange acoustics, which I will deal with later. The program was an esoteric amalgamation of music ranging from Praetorius to Francis Poulenc, which in itself is a great idea.

My problem was with the sound the choir was making. I loved the way they sounded under Jane Glover in Bach's St. John Passion earlier this season. I hated the way they sounded, especially the sopranos, in today's concert. The sopranos were using a loud, forced, straight sound that was very ugly and un-characeristic for the music they were singing. Under Jane Glover they sounded like angels. Today they could have done brain surgery with the sharp, straight, piercing tone that came from the section.

The program itself ranged from Gabrieli to Poulenc and was programatically interesting. The acoustics of the chapel were a problem. When the choir sang from the chancel, the reverberation in the church did strange things to the sound. Instead of adding an additional lengthening of the sound at the end of a phrase, it simply blurred everything together. When part, or all, of the choir move into the balcony, the sound was much better without the haze that affected it when singing from the chancel.

Apparently, this is the type of sound the conductor likes. Bring back Jane Glover!

An Ideal Traviata!

Seldom in today's musical world do I hear an operatic performance where all of the major roles are sung by really fine singers. Last night at Chicago Lyric Opera was the exception.

Their production of  Verdi's La Traviata last night was filled with singing that warmed the heart of a voice teacher and musician. Beautiful, free, expressive singing was the high standard that was set and met by Marina Rebeka, the Violetta, Joseph Calleja, Alfredo, and Quinn Kelsey, Giorgio Germont.

Ms. Rebeka is a Latvian soprano who possesses a voice of great beauty that will do anything she asks of it. You want a brilliant high note? It's there. How about the same note pianissimo? It's also there. Her vocal range of dynamics and color in the voice reminded me of my all time favorite soprano Montserrat Caballe. She is simply wonderful.

Mr. Calleja comes from Malta and was Gramophone's  Artist of the Year in 2012. And with good reason. His beautiful tenor voice can scale the heights at every dynamic level with great ease. He is a fine actor and musician.  

Mr. Kelsey is a native of Hawaii. I have seldom heard the role of Georgio Germont sung with such ease and with such a limpid tone. His high G flat is to die for!

Chicago Lyric's stage apparently has room for only one set. As in the recent production of Parsifal, which I did not care for, there is a cyclorama at the rear of the stage which serves as a backdrop for the entire opera, being varied with lighting and shadow play. Here is a case where the scenery is immaterial. The singing alone carries the story and totally engages the listener.

The smaller roles were well sung by former members of the Ryan Opera Center, for the most part. The costumes and puppets were gorgeous and
imaginative and were designed by Cait O'Connor.

I was simply blown away by the singing which was never covered by the fine orchestra conducted by Massimo Zanetti. I am assuming that the size of the stage and orchestra pit is much smaller than that of the Met, resulting in fewer instruments. Or maybe the conductors at Chicago Lyric just don't attempt to drown out the singers, as is often the case at the Met. I am sure that singers feel free to sing with ease and at all possible dynamic levels in this house. Too often at the Met it is a battle between the orchestra and the singer where the orchestra wins. 100 to 1 is a tough competition.

All in all this was a glorious evening at the opera. Tonight David and I will hear Music of the Baroque perform Mendelssohn's Elijah.

So much wonderful music here in Chicago and only twenty minutes from home!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ceremony of Carols

Tonight David and I were thrilled to hear a superb performance of Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols at St John Cantius church in Chicago's former Polish Town. The building is a remarkable 1898 structure, elegant without and within.

St. John Cantius

The St. Cecilia Choir was conducted by Daniel Robinson who led them through this extraordinary work with elegance, imagination, and great musicianship. The singers performed with a lovely, unforced sound. The sopranos sing in tune; no flat singing here, such as I often hear from choir sopranos. And no screamy high notes!

I have conducted this work many times in its original form: three female voices. Tonight the revised version was used which is for SATB choir. But Dan managed to keep everything light and crisp in spite of the addition of tenor and bass voices.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Britten's birth. He is indeed the pre-eminent composer of the last century.

Dan worked under John Ferris at Harvard some time ago and I could hear John's influence in the presentation.

The very good harpist was Renee Wilson. The Magnificat Choir, a group of young singers, also sang beautifully and effortlessly. It was conducted by Br. Chad McCoy, S.J.C.

I would say that the music program in this church is in very good hands.

Before the service of Lessons and Carols began, a delightful ensemble performed an instrumental prelude. The musicians were Julianne Skones, oboe, Heather Thon, clarinet, and Hanna Sterba, bassoon. Their arrangements of mostly vocal pieces were delightful. Many were by Daniel Kelley.

Before the concert we had a delicious seafood dinner at Riva on Navy Pier with a great view of the Chicago skyline.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bach and Kyr

Tonight David and I were on the town again. This time to Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago, which is just down the street from our condo.

Tonight's bill of fare included the first three parts of Bach's Weinachtsoratorium and Robert Kyr's O Word of Light and Thunder, a world premiere of Cantata No.3 from his  Christmas Oratorio.

The Rockefeller Chapel Choir and Orchestra were conducted by James Kallembach. Soloists were Kaitlin Foley, soprano, Angela Young-Smucker, mezzo-soprano, Matthew Dean, tenor, and Andrew Schultze, bass.

After having heard Music of the Baroque just a week ago, this was a very different experience, as is to be expected. This is, after all, a college group. The chorus sang well, with enthusiasm, under Mr. Kallembach's direction. The orchestra was not always successful in hanging together and there were sometimes pitch problems.

The Christmas Oratorio is a joyous piece. Sometimes the orchestra felt a bit leaden. One wanted it to lift off the ground and fly.

Kaitlin Foley has a light soprano voice that could not always be heard in the Bach. In the Kyr, the part was higher and the balance better. Her upper voice is a bit sharp. A lower breath would help this.

Angela Young-Smucker has a truly lovely voice. Again she was sometimes covered by the orchestra, as she was in 'Bereite sich Zion', where the solo violin provided too much competition. Someone needs to sit in the hall and check balances!

Matthew Dean is an ideal Evangelist, with a light high effortless voice. His recitatives were excellent. He did not fare quite as well in the aria.

Andrew Schultze has a covered bass sound. He was able to negotiate the demands of range without much emotional connection.

The Kyr work is a tonal telling of the Christmas story, apparently in homage to the Bach oratorio. There are no surprises in it. It was interesting to hear it.

All in all this was an acceptable performance. To compare it to MOB would be unfair, but unavoidable.

I am hearing more music in Chicago in a week than I hear in Sandisfield all winter!


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Marathon runners

Last night David and I witnessed that musical marathon Parsifal at the Chicago Lyric Opera. Five hours of it.

Let me say at the outset that Parsifal  has never been my favorite opera. But in comparing Wagnerian singers I have heard in the past to last night's cast, only one singer was in that league: Kwangchul Youn, the Gurnemanz. He posesses a voice with the power and gravitas required to take command of this role. His vocal and dramatic power took over the stage. Many of the others fell short of the mark.

Paul Groves as Parsifal has a very good tenor voice but was holding back in Acts 1 and 2 to save up for Act 3. Understandable but under-powered. Daveda Karanas in Act 1 was present but not notable. In Act 2 the tessitura  was simply too high for her to sing without screaming. It was wearing on the listener.

Thomas Hampson as Amfortas seemed to feel the necessity to bellow in Act 1. After a long break for Act 2 and two intermissions, he came back to sing more comfortably in Act  3. Having worked years ago with Jerome Hines and heard him sing this role, this was a far cry from 'the good old days'. 

Tomas Tomasson as Klingsor sang very well and was impressive on stage. 

The male chorus was impressive, the women less so. The Flower Maidens had a couple of very thin sopranos voices who had solo parts. When singing with the men their sound was better.

Sir Andrew Davis conducted the orchestra with a good ear to balance; something that doesn't always happen at the Met these days.

The stage set was basically the same throughout: a large tilted circle that was changed by lighting effects and various round columns that rose from the ground or were lifted into the flies. In Act 2 a series of neon-looking tubes went heavenward while Klingsor rose and fell on a circular disc in the midst of the tubing. A large gold hand would emerge from the back of the stage from time to time. This, unfortunately, was a reminder of a commercial that is now showing on television where a large yellow hand knocks on someone's door to sell something.

With the exception of Mr. Youn, nothing happened to make me like the opera any more than previously.

Having heard the likes of Kirsten Flagstad, Laurence Melchoir, Birgit Nilsson, Jerome Hines and so on in Wagnerian roles, the evening's singing was far from the mark. I'll still opt for Meistersinger.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Chicago's Glorious Mobsters!

Tonight David and I were thrilled to hear a concert by Chicago's MOB: aka Music of the Baroque. This wonderful ensemble is conducted by the divine Jane Glover. Ms. Glover conducts with intense musicianship, grace, finesse, and just about anything else you could ask for. She shuns a baton, using her expressive hands to paint pictures of the music she is capturing from her ensemble in a way that a stick of wood could never do. She is a damn fine conductor!

The program opened with Schubert's Symphony #5 in B flat Major, D. 485. The orchestra followed her musical ideas to the letter, presenting a fine performance.

This was followed by Mozart's Piano Concerto #17 in G Major, K. 453. The very expressive pianist was Artur Pizarro, who played with a brilliant delicacy and impressive technique.


The program ended with a sensational performance of Beethoven's Symphony #2 in D Major, op. 36, which brought down the house. Ms. Glover and the orchestra received a standing ovation. Well deserved.

We have three more concerts by this amazing group coming up in future months. I look forward to hearing them again and again.

Chicago is certainly blessed to have a conductor of Ms. Glover's stature and musical abilities in their midst. I don't know when I have seen such sensitive conducting. In the old days we talked about Stokowski's hands. Now I recommend Ms. Glover's!

Final good thing- in 15 minutes we were home in our condo in Kenwood. Try that in New York!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Breaking the law

I think that it is probably illegal to publish two blogs in one day- but here goes anyway.

After this weekend's judging in Syracuse, it occurs to me that some strange training is going on in colleges and conservatories when it comes to the high voice of sopranos. We heard a number of very good singers at the 37th Annual Competition for Singers, sponsored by the Civic Morning Musicals, including some very promising sopranos. But an interesting syndrome is making itself apparent in regards the high range of the soprano voice.

Almost without exception, all of the sopranos I listened to, ranging from age 17-29, had a top that would shatter glass. Then, when they went into the middle or low part of the voice, there was no one home. 

It's called 'Focusing the voice!'

I would write on their critical sheet 'You must organize your voice.' I hope that they, and their teachers, know what that means.

If anyone has a good explanation about this, my email address is Explain it to me, please.

Whatever happened to messa di voce?

(The picture is of myself having breakfast at the rooftop restaurant of the Hotel Danieli on the Grand Canal in Venice this summer. Eat your hearts out!!)

Wonderful weekend!

'I've been to a marvelous party! I must say, the fun was intense!' - (Noel Coward.)

And I was at a marvelous weekend in Syracuse to do a judging for the Civic Morning Musicals' 37th Annual Competition for Singers.

On Friday I went first to Syracuse University to listen to my former student, Katie Weiser, sing for me. She is studying with Janet Brown, who has been a friend and student of mine for many years. She is sounding just fine!

Then I attended Janet's rehearsal with the college orchestra with whom she was singing a new work that evening. Janet's voice is as pure and beautiful as ever. Then on to the gracious home of Neva and Dick Pilgrim, who were hosting me (elegantly!) for the weekend. My fellow guest was Marni Nixon, 'The Ghost Voice of Hollywood', who was also a judge,

Over cocktails and a delicious dinner, we listened to Marni relate  tales of her work in Hollywood when she dubbed the voices of Deborah Kerr (The King and I), Natalie Wood (West Side Story), Audrey Hepburn (My Fair Lady), and many others. Describing the varying egos of these ladies of the Silver Screen was a hoot! Marni and I were born in the same year, a month apart! So we are both 39, right?

On Saturday Marni and I listened to  about 34 singers who were competing in the competition. We heard some lovely young voices and a couple of extraordinary ones. In the evening the Pilgrims treated us to a fine dinner at Flame, a new restaurant near the University. Then on to a concert by the Kronos Quartet. They are quite a production. Amplified, sound tracks playing along, a circus of lighting effects, very irritating music written for them. I think once is enough, as far as I'm concerned. I would have given a lot to hear a few bars of Mozart!

I send my deepest thanks to Neva and Dick as well as the other organizers of the competition. I send my best wishes for success to all of the wonderful young singers we listened to.

As my first book on singing says : Sing On! Sing On!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Chicago, here I come!

I will be spending most of the winter in Chicago. I hope to do some vocal teaching while I am in residence in the Kenwood section of the city.

Anyone interested in studying can reach me through  Click Illinois.

Here is a picture of me taken this summer in Venice, standing on Fondamenta Alberti, a walkway beside one of the many canals in that city that was named for my ancestors. Pietro Cesare Alberti was the first Italian-American, coming to Nieuw Amsterdam in 1635. Hence the name of my blog.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Back to Front

Tonight Alice and I saw a truly remarkable play at Barrington Stage in Pittsfield:Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris.The play won the Tony award for Best Play in 2012, the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards (London) for Best Play 2011, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 2011.
Bruce Norris

Needless to say it is something else.

The play, Act 1, takes place in 1959 in Chicago.The play was  inspired by Lorraine Hansbury's play A Raisin in the Sun, which I saw on Broadway with Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee. It was also made into a film. In this case instead of seeing the lives of the black family whose mother uses her money to buy the house she can afford, which is in an all-white neighborhood, we look in on the white family who are selling them the house.

Each of the remarkable actors plays two roles; one in the first act and a different role in Act 2, which takes place in 2009. They are Remi Sandri as Russ/Dan, Carol Halstead as Bev/Kathy, Lynnette R. Freeman as Francine/Lena, Kevin Crouch as Jim/Tom/Kenneth,Andy Lucien as Albert/Kevin,Greg Jackson as Karl/Steve, and Clea Alsip as Betsy/Lindsey. Their transformation is magical.

The excellent direction is by Giovanna Sardelli. She gets the cast to pull out all the stops!

Their transformation between the acts is simply astonishing. In Act 1 (1959) the white family are selling their house because their son, a returning Korean War veteran, has hung himself in his bedroom. The father is especially distraught. They sell to the black family before realizing what is going on. A member of the neighborhood committee offers the black family money not to move into the neighborhood, but the strong black mother is determined to do this. In this play, this man comes to the house and argues with the owners to stop the sale. The sale goes through. We never meet the black family.

Between the acts we witnessed something I have never seen happen on any stage. The stagehands literally take the set apart in front of our eyes, removing wall panels, the fireplace mantle,removing doors and light fixtures, revealing graffiti everywhere. A crack house.

Now a white family wants to buy the house in what has become a black neighborhood. Regentification at work. The black neighbors are incensed that the new owners want to tear down the existing house and build a larger, taller one in spite of that fact that the neighborhood has been designated a historic bungalow district. What goes around comes around!

The play is funny, touching, angry, sad, all of the above and more. No wonder it won all the prizes. We are glad to have seen it.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


PR imagesThis has been a weekend for the string section. Saturday David and I attended a private recital by Yevgeny Kutik and Lenore Davis at the home of Ms. Davis in West Stockbridge.

Yevgeny is, of course, my favorite violinist ever, being the first winner of the Ferris Burtis Competition some years ago, as well as being one of the five young artists the Foundation is helping in their education and careers.

Each time I hear him play I am amazed at how he constantly grows in virtuosity, depth of emotion, and intense musicianship. Yesterday was no exception. Ms. Davis is a fine pianist and their ensemble was excellent.

Some of the program included Russian compositions that will be featured on his new CD which he will begin recording soon in Rockland, Massachusetts, set for release in the fall. I look forward to that day! The Ferris Burtis Foundation is aiding him financially in the production of this CD.

A very appreciative audience gave the two artists a rousing Bravi  at the end of the concert. He is already lined up to perform a very busy concert schedule this season throughout the USA and in Australia.

For more information see: and   

On Sunday afternoon we attended a concert by the violin students  of Elizabeth Faidley, an extraordinary teacher whose studio is in Northern New Jersey.

The very talented performers were Cameron Baumann, 14, Adriana Bay, 14, Emily Chen, 17, Alexi Dufour-Nevitski, 12, Margot Kanagy, 16, Andrew Kirjner, 15, Coco Mi, 12, Maia Schmidt, 14, Tristan Siegel, 17, and Meena Sinha 18. This is an amazing group of young violinists who all perform with wonderful intonation, depth of emotion, and excellent technique. They are fortunate to be studying with a teacher of Ms. Faidley's ability.
Michael Wittenburg
Michael Wittenburg was the excellent pianist who accompanied these young virtuosi in an exhausting program, which included four movements from various violin concerti.

The concert was held in Trinity Episcopal Church in Lenox, Massachusetts. It climaxed several weeks of 'Violin Camp' that Ms. Faidley holds every summer for her students.

I state without reservation that if you are looking for a fine violin teacher in the New York area, look no further.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What's in a name?

Tonight Linda, Sue, David and I saw a most remarkable play about a group of trans-gender persons who support each other, love each other and fight with each other. Southern Comfort by Dan Collins (Book and Lyrics) and Julianne Wick Davis (Music), conceived by Robert DuSold and Thomas Caruso is playing at Barrington Stage's St. Germain Theatre. Robert DuSold conceived and developed the transfer of Kate Davis's documentary Southern Comfort  to the musical stage.

This musical drama knocked me out, to put it mildly. This is probably because I have been involved with the work of GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) in obtaining the recent Supreme Court decision to declare DOMA unconstitutional and bring same sex marriage into full legality. GLAD also works with trans-gender persons, trying to get fair treatment in an un-fair world. This story is remarkable, dramatic, and totally absorbing.  You cannot leave the theatre unmoved.

The story involves a group of persons, each of whom is in some stage of changing gender.

Annette O'TooleThe incredible Annette O'Toole portrays 'Robert', a woman who has gone through part of the transition to being a man and who is dying of ovarian cancer.  Her involvement in this role is mind-boggling.

Jeff McCarthy plays 'Lola', a man trying to decide if he wants to go through with the transformation. He is 'Robert's' girlfriend. He is good in the part, but having seen him portray Sweeney Todd in a previous Barrington Stage production made it a little more difficult for me to accept him in this role.

Todd Cerveris plays 'Sam' who was born Barbara and is part way to becoming a man.

Lizzie Hagstedt is a Storeyteller and plays the bass fiddle.

Natalie Joy Johnson is 'Carly', a man who has gone through the entire process of becoming a woman, including the sexual surgery.

Jeffrey Kuhn is 'Jackson', a woman who has decided to have the complete surgery but in the end decides against it.

David M. Lutken is a Storyteller and guitar player, as well as playing several small roles.

Robin Skye portrays 'Melanie', a woman who is in love with 'Jackson', even though he is not yet fully male.

Joel Waggoner is a Storyteller and violinist.

Elizabeth Ward Land is a Storyteller and plays percussion.

Every member of the cast acts and sings with an intensity that is almost frightening. The problems of the trans-gender community is brought forth in violent detail. This is a night in the theatre I will not soon forget.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Wonderful Town!!

Tonight Alice, Sue, David and I saw a fabulous performance of Leonard Bernstein's On the Town at Barrington Stage. Betty Comden and Adolph Green wrote the witty and sophisticated libretto. It was based on the earlier ballet Fancy Free.

 From start to finish it was obvious that this was going to be a block-buster. The cast, which included Clyde Alves, Deanna Doyle, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Elizabeth Stanley, Alysha Umphress, and the remarkable Tony Yazbeck, were all top notch, especially Mr. Yazbeck, who has an amazing set of pipes! But they all sang and danced the choreography of Joshua Bergasse (based on the original of Jerome Robbins) with elan.

The story of three sailors who have a twenty-four hour pass in New York City, their adventures and mis-adventures, is still fun after all these years. This energetic young cast brought us right back to the 1940's with its wild music and hep-cat attitude. The direction by John Rando and the musical direction by Darren. R. Cohen was superb.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Linda Lavin

Tonight David and I heard another one of the last of the 'Red Hot Mamas', Linda Lavin, in her one woman show at Barrington Stage. A slightly younger version of Barbara Cook, Elaine Stritch, and Tyne Daly, she gave us an energetic concert of songs that she had sung on Broadway as well as standards.

Her voice has held up pretty well through her seventy-five years and she still looks darned good.

Her combo consisted of the incomparable Billy Stritch, as music director and pianist, John Hart on guitar, Tom Hubbard on bass, and Linda's husband, Steve Bakunas on drums. They make a great team. Late in the show she introduced Aaron Weinstein, a jazz violinist, whose playing was, unfortunately, not amplified well and of whom, therefore, I can give no report of his abilities.

She opened with a song that has been a favorite of mine from The Mad Show. It is a spoof on 'The girl from Ipanema. Only this is the boy from 'Tacarembo La Tumbe Del Fuego Santa Malipas Zacatecas La Junta Del Sol Y Cruz' who moves to 'Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerych-
wyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch' in Wales. She delivers it in a slightly flat, unexpressive voice; a take-off on Astrid Gilberto. It is a show stopper.

Ms. Lavin wanders about the stage, often turning her back on the audience to sing to each of her combo in turn. Effective but a little odd, since she is, after all, the star. Her vocal delivery is fairly monochromatic; none of the nuance of Amanda McBroom. But she brings each number off with energy.

It was an enjoyable evening. Tomorrow night we will return to Barrington Stage for their production of On the Town by Leonard Bernstein. Two in a row, then off to Italy on Wednesday.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bravi a tutti!

Sunday, June 9th was the third annual Ferris Burtis Music Foundation Benefit Concert at the Sandisfield Arts Center. A large, enthusiastic crowd greeted the young performers who presented a sensational program.

The program opened with 'cellist Julian Muller, then Gabriella Makuc, pianist, Katie Weiser, soprano and Jerry Noble, pianist, and, following an intermission, Yevgeny Kutik, violinist and Timothy Bozarth pianist.

The level of performance was over the top! All of these young artists have grown musically and technically since last year's concert. Members of the audience were visibly moved by the level of talent on display.

The Foundation is helping four young people in their college education as well as helping Yevgeny Kutik in his international career.

Tax exempt gifts to the Foundation are always welcome. Checks payable to Ferris Burtis Foundation are tax exempt and always welcome to help the work of the Foundation. Send your gift to Ferris Burtis Foundation, Berkshire Taconic Foundation, 800 N. Main St., Sheffield, MA 01257. Thank you! Herb

Here they are:
Julian Muller, 'cellist who will spend the summer at the Yellow Barn in Putney, Vermont this summer and who will return to the Cleveland Institute of Music for his third year in the fall.
Gabriella Makuc, pianist who will enter her second year at Lawrence College in Wisconsin.

Katie Weiser, soprano, who will enter the Graduate School of Music at Syracuse University this fall where she will study with Janet Brown, who is a long time student of Herbert Burtis.

Yevgeny Kutik, violinist who will receive financial help from the Foundation to continue his international career which this season has included symphony appearances in such far-flung places as Juneau, Alaska, and Montenegro.
These are the young artists of the Ferris Burtis Music Foundation. Next fall the Foundation will add Frederick Herrman, organist, to the list of students being aided. He will attend Baldwin Wallace College in Cleveland, Ohio.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

A musical weekend

I have been visiting my friend David in Northern Indiana and we have had an interesting musical weekend.

On Saturday evening we attended a wonderful church supper and concert at his Chicago church, St. Paul and the Redeemer. The music was provided by the Magnolia Singers, a Gullah choir from
Charleston, NC.  They represent a tradition of singing that came to this country with their slave ancestors. Gullah is a patois of English and African Creole. The five singers perform with great energy and involve the congregation in their music. They all have strong gospel voices.There is a little too much on the beat clapping for my taste, but then, I have always enjoyed syncopation. They sang again in the church service Sunday morning. The lead singer's voice reminded me of Sarah Vaughn, with it's deep contralto and wide range. The congregation got into the act with a vengence and clapped and sang along. For me this is too much like responsive readings where the reader makes a statement and the congregation answers with the same phrase over and over. However they were very effective in their performance.

Philip J. BaumanThen Sunday afternoon we attended a concert by the Northwest Indiana Symphony Youth Orchestra, Phillip Bauman, conductor. Mr. Bauman ably led the orchestra through a program that began with Slavonic Dance No. 1 in C Major, Op. 46, by Antonin Dvorak. This was followed by the Allegro movement of Symphonie Espanole in D minor, Op.21 of Edouard Lalo. Patrick Bieske was the young violin soloist.

The second half of the program began with Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, Op.30, No 1,  by Samuel Coleridge Taylor, a late 19th early 20th century composer from England.  As my friend, Dorothy Fee would have said, 'He was sunk on the text.' Iambic quatrameter grates on my nerves after a while. Taylor also had a limited melodic imagination. Already stuck with the Dump-di-dump-di-dump-di-dump rhythm of the poem, he seemed at a loss to conceive anything besides descending musical lines on the one hand, and repeating a phrase at a higher and higher pitch level.

Needless to say this will never replace Messiah, (which was the opinion of one critic in the early 20th century) or any other major choral and orchestra work.

The program ended with Music from Gladiator by Hans Zimmer, arr, by Wasson, which I hope never to hear again either.

At my age I am very aware of the sounds that are attacking my ear and brain. There are some I can live without.

Jane GloverOn Monday evening David and I hit the musical jackpot; the group. Music in the Baroque at the Harris Theatre. This fine choral and orchestral ensemble present a beautiful reading of Bach's St. John Passion. The exemplary conductor was Jane Glover, who has had a long career in Britain and this country. Her musical interpretation of the work went straight to the heart. It was honest, sincere, idiomatic, and exciting. I am so happy to get to know her work.

The soloists were Paul Agnew, Evangelist and tenor solos, Nathan Berg, Jesus and bass arias, Yulia van Doren, soprano arias, Kristina Szabo, alto arias, Todd von Felker, Pilate, Susan Nelson, maid, Klaus Georg, servant, and Ryan O'Mealey, Peter.

Mr. Agnew did a heroic job of the two tenor roles. His Evangelist was just fine. However, singing this role plus the tenor arias is too much for any one person. These are the two hardest tenor arias in the literature. It would be wiser to have a different tenor for the arias to have them come off well.

Nathan Berg, as Jesus, was a little under-powered at the beginning of the work but got into the swing of things as it progressed. Yulia Van Doren, was just not the voice for the soprano arias. In the first one her runs came and went vocally, and in the second she was
unable to float the high notes. If I remember correctly, Ms. Van Doren took one voice lesson with me a few years ago.

Kristine Szabo did a fine job with the alto solo and also grew in confidence as the work progresses. Todd von Felker was fine as Pilate and the three singers who took the smaller roles did their work very well.Photo by Bo Huang

Ms. Glover has a marvelous conducting technique that seems to embrace the chorus and orchestra inviting them, and the audience, to come share this wonderful work with her. She is top-notch.