Monday, February 27, 2006

Poetry on Assignment

I wrote poetry intermittently at various times when I was younger - a lot younger - but only a few poems since I got out of school.

It turns out that what I might need is to be assigned a subject. I've written three poems recently, all response to assignments, more or less, from outside sources. One came from a Salon article. The other two....

My friend Elise makes fantastic and very individual jewelry - she has an incredible eye for combining different stones and beads, and has developed a wire-bending technique different from anything I've ever seen before. She is also a person of, well, whimsy: she names all of her pieces, from fairly simple earrings to extremely complex and beautiful necklaces. She also likes to issue literary challenges and give earrings and other jewelry in exchange for writing.

I saw her at the Potlatch science fiction convention over the weekend, and rose to the challenge. For a hair ornament, she asked for a work about pirates. I wrote a poem and took home an ornament (the poem is a little too personal to post). A bunch of these were available; a couple of other friends also have hair ornaments. A 7-year-old of my acquaintance got a hair ornament in exchange for a drawing.

For a pair of earrings called "The Truth Berry," Elise put on a contest: write a haiku about the earrings. No digital camera (yet), so I can't show you the earrings. They combine a purple, faceted glass bead with a heart-shaped green bead, so they look like a leaf and a berry.

I won the contest with this:

Taste it now. Is it
sweet or bitter? Will you live
or die? Tell the truth.

I told Elise, and was only half-joking, that maybe she should send me poetry assignments all the time.

New in the Times

A couple of features in the Sunday Times Arts & Leisure section are by apparent newcomers, unless I've missed their bylines:

Evan Eisenberg's Arms and the Mass, or: Why Does This Liturgy Sound So Familiar? is about masses based on the song L'Homme armé; the story has too many jokes and too little solid info - he's trying too hard and misses the point. There are audio clips labeled as if they're from the Dufay and Josquin L'Homme armé masses, but actually they're both the tune itself, not excerpts from polyphonic masses. Aaargh.

Meline Toumani, in Get Them in the Seats, and Their Hearts Will Follow, discusses an initiative at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln for getting youth in the door. What's different about this? Teenagers themselves are in charge.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Losing the Thread

Jon Carroll, a great columnist who really, really should be syndicated, writes about his granddaughter, horses, and classical music in today's S. F. Chronicle. (Read him every day! Really!)

Ticket Prices - too high, or what?

Maybe not - I covered a few bases in an article in SFCV, called The High Price of Music. A friend has called to my attention a couple of Bay Area organizations offering high-quality, low-priced concerts:
  • Noe Valley Chamber Music, $15 general admission, $12 senior, $12 student. Upcoming concerts include Nadya Tichman and a Season Finale ($25) featuring a performance by Donald Runnicles (piano, Music Director of SF Opera), Kay Stern (violin, concertmaster of the Opera orchestra), and Thalia Moore (cello, associate principal cello of the Opera orchestra)

  • San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, FREE

Special thanks to Drew McManus for a lot of help dealing with those pesky 990s while I wrapped up the SFCV article.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Fear

Daniel J. Wakin's Times article on Peter Gelb and the Met is being received with considerable approval, by Alex Ross and, somewhat to my surprise, ACD.

I like most it, and agree with Alex's comments about repertory. This is especially encouraging:
But he went on to say that the house had been "coasting" and that the old formula — counting on dedicated operagoers to fill the house for standard productions — no longer worked. He also took note of criticism that the Met has not attracted enough world-class conductors. Regarding singers, he said, it has "waited too long to jump on talent."
This concerns me, though:
Performances will be broadcast nationwide in high-definition movie theaters and made available through downloading, if agreements can be reached with the house's unions. CD's and DVD's could follow.

Opera is naturally scaled for live theater, in which the audience isn't right on top of the performers. If live opera is streamed to movie theaters, where the expectation is of intimacy and many close-ups, will singers scale their performances to the camera and microphone? That's not what I want to hear or see, and I would worry a lot about the long-term effects on the art.


The San Francisco Symphony is touring China. There's an an attractive Web site set up for the event; you can see photos and what they call "journal entries". (Hint: it's a blog.)

What's most catching my eye, though, is their read-it-and-weep repertory: Brahms, Schumann, Tchaikowsky, Mahler, Dvorak, Stravinsky, Haydn, Debussy-Schoenberg, and, oh, yes, representing the United States, Ives and Copland.

I understand that the idea is to showcase an outstanding orchestra and its conductor, but still: Nothing by living composers. Nothing adventurous at all. And, alas, it's typical of the SFS's programming of the last couple of years.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Breaking Up, Part 3

Michael Renardy reports in comments to a previous posting that the Audubon Quartet has reached a settlement of sorts. An anonymous donor came up with $200,000, which former Audubon first violinist David Ehrlich is willing to accept in settlement. Clyde Shaw and Doris Lederer will be keeping their cello and viola, respectively; Akemi Takayama, second violinist, is still in neogtiations with Ehrlich.

See Google News for more stories.

Update, 2/8/06: Daniel Wakin has an update in the Times. Read it before February 15, 2006 when it goes into the paid archive.

Upcoming Concerts (with two, two, two choruses!)

Soli Deo Gloria, with which I've been singing since September, is performing the first weekend of March. Our guest conductor this time around is Chad Runyon - I expect some Bay Area readers know him as a baritone soloist, voice teacher, and past member of Chanticleer. He's programmed a concert of Palestrina (Missa Brevis), Victoria (Missa quarti toni), Morales, and Guerrero. The concert is coming together very nicely. You can see us in three places:
  • Friday, March 3, 2006, 7:30 p.m.: First Lutheran, Palo Alto

  • Saturday, March 4, 2006, 5:00 p.m.: St. Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco

  • Sunday, March 5, 2006, 3:30 p.m., Zion Lutheran, Piedmont
If I were picking a venue other than by convenience, I'd take St. Gregory's. It's a lovely church to look at, to sing in, and to hear music in.

Haydn Singers Make Their Debut!

I'm extremely excited to be singing in The Haydn Singers, Paul Flight's new chorus. Paul is a wizard of a conductor and it's a great group. We are singing some charming Haydn part-songs, his Salve Regina, a Gasparini motet, a motet by Michael Haydn, and (despite the name), Mozart's Misericordias Domini (K222) and Missa Brevis in F (K192). The music is all fantastic, both fun and challenging to sing. We'll be performing the second weekend in March (yes, I have too many rehearsals and performances between Feb. 27 and March 11! ):
  • Friday, March 10, 8 p.m., First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto (1140 Cowper Street)

  • Saturday, March 11, 8 p.m., Church of St. Mary Magdalen in Berkeley (2005 Berryman Street (at Milvia))

Come hear us sing!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Long may he blog!

Happy 50th birthday to Terry Teachout! I have a few of those things in common to you - first Presidential election in which I voted, seeing Star Wars when it was new (I met an important person in my life while standing in line to see The Empire Strikes Back the day it opened in Boston!), and what I learned to type on. Well, it was a typewriter, anyway.

(But my inner copy editor is wondering how "The fourth decade of my life, after all, wasn’t exactly an unbroken string of disasters", apparently referring to Terry's 40s, got past his inner copy editor. Alas, our 40s are the fifth decade of our lives.)


Well, I never did get comments written on Berkeley Opera's Falstaff, and now it's over. I hope that no one missed the production on account of my indolence; it was very good in all respects. The orchestra played the best I've heard from Berkeley Opera; the singing was good and sometimes excellent (I loved Ann Moss's Nanetta in particular), the direction lively (though there could could have been a little less slapstick), the sets bare bones but effective.

Meanwhile, speaking prospectively, I saw Nanny McPhee yesterday, and suggest you do the same, especially if you like Emma Thompson and/or wicked children doing wicked things. The production design is especially neat - probably based on the Nurse Matilda books, which I haven't read, but would like to. You'll never see a Victorian home with that color scheme, I feel sure. Excellent performances from all involved, with an extremely hilarious Angela Lansbury (and if you're wondering where you last saw the boy who plays Simon, he was Liam Neeson's son in Love, Actually).

Saturday evening I saw Luma at the 16th Street Victorian Theater. It is very entertaining, though I'm not sure I'd describe it as "spectacular," which is how the Luma Web site describes the show. If you've seen Cirque du Soleil you have seen more spectacular theater; if you've seen The Flying Karamazov Brothers, you've seen much more spectaular juggling. I like the concept: a dark stage with lots of tricks done entirely through lighting effects. The execution is variable, and while you can't actually see how the tricks are done, they're not hard to figure out, so there's not so much mystery. The show's a bit long for the material, and the volume level of the soundtrack needs to be turned down (it's a very good score, however). Luma is fine if you're looking for something light, fun, and entertaining, but don't expect depth or revelations.