Sunday, July 31, 2016

Not the Verdi Requiem

This is the second year that David has sung in the chorus at the Berkshire Choral Festival in Sheffield. Last year it was Britten's War Requiem under Jane Glover; this year it was the Dvořák Requiem in B Flat Minor under Gary Thor Wedow. 

The soloists were Leslie Ann Bradley, soprano, Ann McMahon Quintero, mezzo-soprano, Scott Ramsay, tenor, and Christopher Magiera, baritone. All sang their parts well. I thought the men had better voices than the women, especially Mr. Ramsay, who has a very sweet tenor voice.

This was my first hearing of the work so I wasn't sure what to expect. I have taught songs by Dvořák but never a choral work. The choral writing was mostly chordal and the orchestration fairly standard. I guess I was really disappointed in the piece. I kept waiting for something more to happen than did. Finally at the 'Quam olim Abrahae' in Part II the work came alive and was quite exciting.

Next year David will participate in the Verdi Requiem, which will be a different story.

  Dvořák  was born on one of castle properties of my dear friend and former student, Will Lobkowicz. Although titles are no longer used in the Czech Republic, Will is the thirteenth Prince Lobkowicz. The seventh Prince was a patron of Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, and scores of these composers are all in the Lobkowicz Palace on the butte in Prague. I spent a wonderful ten days with Will and his lovely family a few years ago and enjoyed visiting three of the family's castles.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

I confess!

I may as well confess right off the bat, this blog is going to be a love letter to Amanda McBroom. Were it not for the fact that she has been married to the same man for many years and that I am a gay man, we could have had a long, meaningful relationship.

Last night David and I saw Divalicious at Barrington Stage. I insisted that David skip his first evening rehearsal at Berkshire Choral Festival to see this and I think he is very glad that he did.

I have heard Amanda sing a number of times. (Once, after a performance when I had a chance to speak to her, I told her that she was one of my two favorite singers. The other being Montserrat Caballe. She loved it!)  

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She writes many of her own songs in collaboration with Michele Brourman, who was the wonderful pianist last night, and is somehow able to wrench emotion from her own heart and plunge it into yours. One moment you are smiling and then find yourself in tears. This is a remarkable talent, a kind of genius. 

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Now, don 't get me wrong. Ann Hampton Callaway is a fine cabaret singer in her own right. She endeared herself to me by stating early on that she is the illegitimate daughter of Lionel Hampton and Cab Callaway. That is a line I had already used when I found she would be performing. Great minds! She, too, writes much of her own material and displayed her prowess with 'on the spot' composing by asking the audience to name their favorite things about Pittsfield and Berkshire County. The list included Jacobs Pillow, Tanglewood, bears, mosquitos, Stockbridge Bowl, and several other unlikely places to put together in a love song, but she did it with panache to the delight of the crowd.

But it was Amanda with songs like 'It's still Spring', 'Beautiful Mistake', and 'Arnell Hill', about a fireman who dies fighting the forest fires in California, that reach out and grab you.

Both women have voices with wide ranges, Amanda easily goes from top to bottom (at age 69), Ann has a spot in her medium high range that is very tight and unpretty. She should give me a ring.

But what a night! Barrington Stage should bring Amanda back EVERY year!

Saturday, July 23, 2016


Tonight David and I saw one of the most irritating plays I have ever experienced. It was at Barrington Stage 2.

I should probably stop writing right here because from here on it's going to be a rant!

The Hell with it! Ranting is good for the soul.

Tonight's mayhem was called Peerless,  written by Jiehae Park.The play is billed as a comedy. Ms. Park has a weird sense of humor.

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The first irritating thing that happened tonight was the pre-curtain music: minimalist crap. Four bars of inane sounds were repeated until I was ready to surrender (see Japanese Water Torture), then another equally meaningless four bars would do the same thing, ad infinitum.

Then two actresses, who were supposed to be twins, began shouting at each other, overstepping each others lines making it very difficult to have any idea what the were arguing about.

The plot, if it can be called that, is that the one twin is trying to get the other into a college where there is only one scholarship left which has been given to a young man who is 1/16th Native American. As the play proceeds, they try various ways to kill him to get him out of the way so the twin can get the scholarship. Learning that he is deathly allergic to nuts, they fool him into eating a cookie that has nuts in it, at which point he appears to drop dead. After much toing and froing, he comes back at the end of the play, not dead but very ill, and blows up the one sister who fed him the nutty cookie.

You can see why this is a comedy.

Much of the overlapping dialogue and ceaseless motion of the actors was really at the level of gimmickry.  To cover up then fact that there is not much plot to hang a play on, perhaps??

We sat in the second row. The staging was such, with much of the action taking place with actors sitting on or lying on the floor, that we could not see them over the heads of the first row patrons.

The actors were Sasha Diamond, Ethan Dubin, Ronald Alexander Peet, Laura Sohn, and Adina Verson. I wish them better luck in the next play they are cast in.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

American Son

This evening David and I saw a world premiere of American Son by Christopher Demos-Brown. This is an intensely tragic story of a mixed race family whose son is unaccounted for and may be in the hands of the police. It takes place in a police station in Miami.

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Tamara Tunie plays the role of the distraught mother, Kendra Ellis-Connor. Scott Conner, the father who is estranged from his wife, is played by Michael Hayden.
Luke Smith appears as Officer Paul Larkin, a new member of the police force, and André Ware is Lieutenant  John Stokes an experienced officer. All members of the cast gave forceful, convincing performances.

Image result for michael hayden actor photos   Michael Hayden

There are angry interchanges between Kendra and both police officers as well as between her and her ex-husband. Their relationship is cited as part of the problem with the son who has been arrested but about whom they can get little information.

Image result for andre ware   André Ware

Matters of race relations between police and black civilians, of the father's inability to understand the problems his son is facing, the mother's anguish at the change in her son who has been brought up in a mostly white school and environment, and of the red tape one encounters when dealing with the police, all come to a head at the very end when the Lieutenant brings the information that their  son has been shot and killed.

This is the final curtain.  

There is also much discussion by the Lieutenant of the fact then when an arrest is made the person being arrested should cooperate with the arresting officer. Don't run, don't sass the officer. We have seen how this behavior has resulted in unnecessary killings by police. This is not to say the police are in the right here, but they are the ones who have the law on their side and they have the guns. This is obviously an area where new and better laws must be enacted, to say nothing of stricter gun laws.

It is a lot of pain and suffering to absorb in the ninety minutes the play runs. It certainly had an impact on the audience who were left in shock at the sudden denouement.

Julie Boyd directed the play with her usual deft hand.