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The banana and the baritone

Traditionally, one pelts the performer with tomatoes, yes? But unless you add balsamic vinegar and fresh mozzarella, that’s no kind of appetizer. Instead, you should try to make for them a fruit salad. And practice your aim.

Today’s weather forecast

Pop quiz! What is it raining?

A. Men
B. Cats and dogs
C. Meatballs (potentially)
D. Bass clefs

And the answer is…

 - Weather Formation Totally Looks Like Bass Clef
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Immanuel Kant play the viola

Q. How are violists just like philosophers? Continue reading

Concert Roundup, Partially Rewound

Because I’m only 33% kind.

  • Hey, remember that time I wasn’t paying attention and posted a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert a week early? Of course you do; it was last weekTchaikovsky and stuff. April 13 & 15 at the Meyerhoff; April 14 at Strathmore. [ See it! ]
  • The National Symphony Orchestra hauls out some big guns this week — not only does their concert guest star Sweet Honey in the Rock, but they’re also premiering a co-commission by Bill Banfield. There are a couple other works on the program, by Bernstein, Ellington, Tchaikovsky, and more, although I don’t know how liberally they’re seasoned with Honey (rim shot). April 13 & 14.  [ See it! ]
  • This week at Strathmore, you can catch a Brazilian dance, song, and martial arts group in a pseudo Carnaval, try to see Joshua Bell and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields but probably not because I think there are like two tickets left, mix it up with electric violinist Chelsey Green and the Green Project, investigate what CityDance is up to, take in a lecture on jazz percussion, soak in all the bluegrass your ears can handle with a tribute to Bill Monroe, and get your Spanish guitar on with Paco de Lucia. [ See the calendar! ]

Composer Cagematch! Round 3: Grieg vs. Brahms

I am shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

And by “shocked” I of course mean “not remotely surprised.” How about you? Are you beyond flabbergasted that, in this late-round fight, Tchaikovsky took down Copland? Although in fairness, I do want to point out that I never expected Copland to advance past his first-round competition against Dvorak, so a round of applause for a solid competitor, who still loses so that’s the last we’ll be thinking about him.

Now let’s finish up round three with a match that should be similarly fraught with suspense. But first I just wanted to point out that when criminals in this world appear and break the laws that they should fear and frighten all who see or hear the cry goes up both far and near for


(As a side note, he choreographed Saint-Saens a whole new danse; he’s also in a corner.)

And in this corner, he proved Mahler to be no titan! It’s


Battle… FIGHT!

P.S. When Polly’s in trouble I am not slow. It’s hip, hip, hip and away I go!

It’s Easter Monday, Charlie Brown!

I don’t know why this is, but every time I think about the music Snoopy and his bunny friends dance to in the Easter Beagle special, I am convinced it’s from the first movement of Beethoven’s seventh symphony. And then I actually listen to it and I know I’m wrong, I know it, but for some reason it sounds like it ought to be in there anyway. And so because it is Easter Monday but you probably have to work like me, and because I shoehorn Beethoven into places he isn’t, and because if you don’t smile at the sight of Snoopy dancing with bunnies you officially have no soul — EASTER BEAGLE!

I dunno; somehow I prefer real instruments…

I don’t understand why this is a recurring thing.

funny food photos - Master of the VegFlute
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Because they never learn to swim

Q. How do you save a violist from drowning? Continue reading

Concert Roundup: Some Will Be Pardoned and Some Punish-ed

Go forth and have more talk of these musical things.

  • Oh, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. You raise me to the highest highs only to plunge me into the lowest lows. I see a concert entitled “Romeo and Juliet” and immediately I think, PROKOFIEV! SQUEE! And what do I get? Berlioz? NOT EVEN. I get TCHAIKOVSKY. I love almost all Tchaikovsky — EXCEPT HIS R&J. Ugh. What are you trying to do, kill me and then bring me back to life with Mussourgsky‘s Night on Bald Mountain, my boy Khachaturian‘s violin concerto, and no less an adrenalin shot to the heart than Stravinsky‘s Firebird Suite? It’s an emotional roller coaster, I tell you! April 13 & 15 at the Meyerhoff; April 14 at Strathmore. [ See it! ]
    Edited to add: Whoops, jumped the gun. That’s NEXT week’s concert. Unfortunately I built the theme of this post around it, so I can’t take it out. You’re just super-prepared for next week. Hush.
  • The National Symphony Orchestra has no time for roller coasters. They prefer a steady, even keel with ONE composer only, thank you very much. That composer is Mendelssohn, and the piece is Elijah. April 5 – 7. [ See it! ]
  • This week at Strathmore, we have Kevin Costner. No, seriously, Kevin Costner is coming! Do you have ANY IDEA how I feel about Field of Dreams?! But he’s not playing baseball; he’s singing with his band, Modern West. So there’s that, and there’s Video Games Live which I talked about on Monday (you should come and say hi and check out the costume contest and play some Guitar Hero), and a wind ensemble called Flutopia of all things. [ See the calendar! ]

Where you sit and where you stand

Hey, remember high school orchestra chair auditions? That gladiatorial arena that pitted instrument against instrument in a clawing, biting scramble to score a seat two feet closer to the conductor, the same person you were auditioning for and who you’d known for up to four years, thus stripping away that cool and steadying wall of anonymity that might have otherwise supported you?

Right, so I was in one of those, my sophomore year (a trying year for me, orchestrally, but we can talk about that later), and I was visibly nervous, because that’s what happened to me during auditions: a neon light flashed above my head like a raincloud in a cartoon or a prism above a Sim, and the sign read NERVOUS. And O’Bryan, the conductor, told me to chill out. “Be like Elizabeth,” he said, referring to the first chair violist. “When she makes a mistake, she just says ‘Sorry!’ and keeps right on plugging, totally cool.”

Well, folks, Elizabeth happens to be one of my best friends, so I was able to ask her about this admirable attitude recently. “The only reason I was like that,” she told me, “was because I knew there was no possible way I could be demoted.”

It’s true. Elizabeth was a solid violist backed by a troupe of shaky violists. If she had been removed from her post the whole structure would’ve collapsed in the ensuing violaquake.

I just want to ask you guys about the orchestra (and by implication, band) culture, here. Concertmaster and assistant concertmaster and first chair are all prestigious titles to be sure, and it’s good that musicians have a seat to aspire to. But how much emphasis do you place on them? And beyond that, how much emphasis do you place on every chair after?

In all the school orchestras I ever participated in, your chair was permanent and a de facto indication of where you stood in your section. Anybody ahead of you was better than you, definitively, and if you had to move up you had to challenge your better with a face-off re-audition.

In professional orchestras, however, I understand that aside from the first two chairs, everybody rotates, the idea being that anyone who’s made it in is darn good and a place closer to the sun, as it were, should be afforded to everyone.

Of course, in many schools, music isn’t auditioned, so the logic is flawed. But do you think the rotational system could work in a school orchestra setting? What impact do you think it would have on the ambiance? Or is that cuttthroat culture all in my head?