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Music News: July 16, 2013

July 16, 2013

Piedmont Triumph in the Hall of Mirrors

July 16, 2013

Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir in action Photos by Don Fogg Robert Geary's Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir made a clean sweep in the International Youth Music Festival held in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, last weekend. Among competitiors from a dozen nations, Piedmont was the only choir to enter three categories of competition, and then win first prize in all three — Children’s Choir, Gospel and Spiritual, and Contemporary. Next, the choir won the Grand Prix Award as the overall winner of the competition.

The festival was held in the historic Hall of Mirrors in Primatial Palace where the Treaty of Pressburg (now Bratislava) between France and Austria was signed in 1805. PEBCC sang in the final concert with three other finalists: the Gene Louw Children’s Choir of South Africa, the Youth Choir of St. Vid, Slovenia, and Artis’ Jok of Belgium.

Andrés Beck-Ruíz sings solo in Kirke Mechem's "Daybreak in Alabama" "It was gratifying to see that the tremendous effort of our choir members singing a repertoire that was dominated by three Bay Area composers was so highly regarded by an international jury," Geary said, referring to the music of Mark Winges, Sue Bohlin, and Jonathan Goodwin.

Bohlin responded by saying that "it's an honor to hear one’s music performed with such accuracy, plus heart and soul, which are the added ingredients needed to win over the audience and judges."

"We share this award with all the choir supporters who believe in this amazing organization, the parents who understand the benefits for their children in this type of cultural exchange, and the brilliant conductors and singers in our choirs. This is really a team effort," Geary added.

Bratislava's Primatial Palace The ensemble's 42 girls and boys finished their annual summer tour in Slovakia after performances in Germany and Austria.

The competition, held over four days, was adjudicated by a panel of six international judges, who graded such criteria as tone quality, interpretation, vocal technique, rhythm elements, and presentation.

The Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir may host one of these choirs in 2015 when the Golden Gate International Choral Festival will be held in Oakland. The festival, developed by PEBCC in 1982, is the only such event hosted by a children’s choir in the U.S.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].

Won Family's Winning Musical Ways

July 16, 2013

Alisa WonIt's somewhat unusual to hear a prominent corporate securities attorney discuss her favorite pianist, Murray Perahia's "rubato reminiscent of Rubinstein's," but it makes perfect sense coming from Alisa Won. The incoming Board Chair of San Francisco Classical Voice has classical music in her blood. Not only is she a classical pianist, her father, Kyung-Soo Won, 84, is an acclaimed, globetrotting conductor.

Twice music director of the Seoul Philharmonic (in the 1970s and 1990s), he headed the Korean Broadcasting System Orchestra during the 1988 Olympics, conducted the London and Moscow Philharmonic, Berlin Radio and Vienna Tonkünstler orchestras, and many more — and he led the Stockton Symphony for 27 years.

Founded by Manlio Silva, an Italian immigrant pharmacist in 1926, the Stockton orchestra under Won, beginning in 1967, morphed from a 20-member community orchestra into a professional ensemble, gaining "metropolitan" status, as ranked by the American Symphony Orchestra League.

In his teens, Won was one of the best violinists in Korea. He endured the hardship of the Korean War and escaped a communist prison camp in 1950. Five years later, he came to the U.S. to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music to become a conductor and a U.S. citizen. He worked with and was praised by Pierre Monteux, Neville Marriner, David Zinman, and Eric Kunzel. Later on, Won frequently returned to Seoul as guest conductor of the KBS (Korean Broadcast System) Orchestra, served twice as music director of the Seoul Philharmonic, concurrently holding the same posts with the Stockton and Modesto orchestras.

Conductor Kyung-Soo Won

Alisa Won, 46, was born in New Orleans (where her father was assistant conductor of the Philharmonic), spent her childhood in Stockton, received degrees from UC Berkeley (history) and Georgetown (law doctorate), and well into her professional life got the nickname of "Obiwon" from fellow attorneys. A partner in large law firms most of her career, she is now a partner at Sideman & Bancroft LLP.

Early in life, she studied piano, and especially enjoyed playing Chopin, Mozart, and Bach. Growing up "with a diet of instrumental/orchestral music," she still manages — in addition to an impressive career and raising children — to attend performances, and serve as advisory trustee of the May Treat Morrison Chamber Music Foundation, in addition to her current SFCV position as board secretary, before she assumes the top position on the board.

The Morrison Foundation supports the May Treat Morrison Chamber Music Center at San Francisco State University. The organization's public face is the 55-year-old Morrison Artist Series, with some 350 admission-free concerts, attended by more than 100,000.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].

'Trials of a Chorus Master'

July 16, 2013

Hear the BBC Proms' version of Gen. MacArthur's farewell: "The choir, the choir, the choir ..." in the intermission of the brilliant First Night at the Proms that opened the concert series on Friday.

Because podcasts are up only for a week, there are three more days to hear the entire three-hour-long concert, crowned by Ralph Vaughan Williams' A Sea Symphony.

The discussion of choruses and chorus masters begins at 1:12 p.m.. Not to be missed.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].

Knitter of Latvian Mittens to Conquer Opera Stage

July 16, 2013

Merola mezzo Zanda Švede Photos by Linda BrinumsMerola 2013 participant Zanda Švede is a magnificent mezzo from Latvia. She has a calm, self-assured, friendly, no-nonsense mien, maintained even when she says something surprising. What would sound grandiloquent from others, appears palpably sincere coming from her.

The surprise was her casual mention that she started professional singing only four years ago, at age 24. She had a good career in travel marketing and management, allowing her to tour Europe, and to have a well-paid, interesting livelihood. But she switched — to an uncertain, not always rewarding profession. Why?

"I just felt it's not all I can do in my life. I was not fulfilling being in this world."

Instead of continuing in her job, she went back to school, this time the Jazeps Vitols Latvian Academy of Music, the country's only conservatory. She received a scholarship, and embarked on a singing career that eventually led her to auditions and training programs, such as the Tyrolean Opera program last year.

At the wedding of mezzo Švede and bass-baritone Block in May There, she met bass-baritone Richard Block. They got married a few weeks ago, and while "still on our honeymoon," they headed to San Francisco, he to the Opera Academy of California (led by another Latvian, Yefim Maizel, who had attended the same conservatory as Švede ... at a different time), and she to the Merola Program.

There, her bio lists major roles she has already performed: María (María de Buenos Aires), Endimione (La Calisto), Charlotte (Werther), and Cléopâtre (title role of Massenet's opera). Her interests: traveling, knitting traditional Latvian mittens and socks, and needlepoint.

Beyond knitting, her plans are for the French repteroire. "As I am in this field only for four years, I have so much to discover what I can actually do. What I know now is that I love French opera, but also Baroque, I like to sing Handel, ornaments — it's close to my heart.

"For low voices, it takes more time. They say my real career will start at 40, when I sing Verdi and so on; I am looking forward to that."

Švede in a Riga production of <em>Maria de Buenos Aires</em> Meanwhile, she is a triple-threat at the upcoming Schwabacher concerts, July 18 and 20 (the latter free at Yerba Buena), singing Isabella (L’italiana in Algeri); Beppe (L’amico Fritz); and Emilia (Otello). The concerts include the entire fourth act of Otello, with Issachah Savage in the title role, Aviva Fortunata as Desdemona, Alex DeSocio as Iago, and Matthew Newlin as Cassio.

In the Merola Program, she says, master classes by Warren Jones and Jane Eaglen especially were both enjoyable and important. "A lot of information, work with myself, opportunity to improve, and it's forming the personality. If you come as a student who is used to being taught, here you get so many opinions that you realize you have to figure out yourself who you are and who you want to be."

On the Schwabacher program, besides those mentioned above, there are exerpts from Mozart's Don Giovanni, with Fortunata, DeSocio, and Rhys Lloyd Talbot; Verdi's Don Carlo with DeSocio and Pene Pati; Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, with Pati, Talbot, Newlin, Savage, DeSocio, and Thomas Richards.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].

Cicadas: 'Chorus of the Billions'

July 16, 2013

cicadasOf the One World Symphony's premiere of music director Sung Jin Hong's Rite of the Cicada, the composer writes:

Symphony of a Thousand may have been written by Gustav Mahler, but Brood II cicadas have been serenading the Northeast this summer as a living "Chorus of Billions." When my wife Adrienne Metzinger and I first heard their soaring song during a hike along the rolling Catskills last month, we thought the sound had to be extraterrestrial.

We were treated to an intoxicating aural experience. We returned to the same location a couple of times during June to enjoy and record the resonating abdominal drumming from the males and wings flickering from the females. Inspired and rejuvenated by the sea of spellbinding sonorities, my symphonic poem for full symphony and vocal soloist has been born: Rite of the Cicada.

Artists have been influenced by nature for centuries: Josquin des Prez’s El Grillo (1505), Jimi Hendrix’s Hornet’s Nest, Bob Dylan’s Day of the Locusts, 14th-century pottery from the Joseon Dynasty, and E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, among others. It's time to celebrate nature and our leaping and flying serenaders that evoke camp, hikes, summer days, and nights eternal.

How am I going to compose Rite of the Cicada? Am I going to include the recorded sounds and video footage of cicadas with a live symphony orchestra and vocalist? Should I imitate chirping and flicking sounds of cicada soloists and the organic lush crescendos of an entire chorus of cicada? Should I compose a score resembling a science fiction horror film with special sound effects full of marches, shrills, trills, chirps, squawks, and flicks? Should I collaborate with a modern DJ with mix-tapes?

Should Rite of the Cicada be related to humanity? The Brood II cicadas mark more than just 17-year intervals in our region, but they inspire self-discovery from their precious lifecycle. Concluding almost two decades of purgatorial meditation, these cicadas have risen from the earth, molted out of their thin shells, and emerged for a couple of weeks of flying, lovemaking, and procreation. They are the original social networkers.


Three sections within the broader narrative:

I. Meditation: slow and brooding poly-tonal, chromatic qualities that dominated my recent world premiere monodrama Edge (2013, based on Sylvia Plath’s final poem)

II. Arohati (“Arise” in Sanskrit): cicadas emerge from underground with more focused and stable harmony

III. Liebestod (Love-death): intimate and tender portrayal of a cicada embracing life with tonal harmony

The musical tribute to cicadas will have its premiere at the orchestra's next concert, on July 25, in Manhattan's Church of the Holy Apostles, along with Mahler's Symphony No. 3.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].

SFJAZZ: Star-Studded Season

July 16, 2013

Concha Buika's music encompasses culture of Equatorial Guinea and Mallorca

SFJAZZ Executive Artistic Director Randall Kline today announced the 2013-2014 season, the organization's second in its Hayes Valley home.

The season is headlined by such prominent artists as three MacArthur "Genius" Fellows — pianist Jason Moran, violinist Regina Carter, and saxophonist Miguel Zenón — along with Grammy-winning guitarist and Rasmuson Fellow Bill Frisell, and five-time Grammy-nominated percussionist and US Artists Fontanals Fellow John Santos.

Programming, Kline says, is "a rubric of what the building is designed and constructed to be — a home and a context for artistic conversations between audiences and artists.

Each week, over four nights from Thursday to Sunday, a foundation is built with a thread running through each night that connects artists, musical styles, and geography with residencies, collaborations, themes, premieres, and projects." In addition, there are will be one-night-only performances, special events, and early afternoon concerts for the entire family.

The SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director program continues, giving individual directors the opportunity to program, curate, perform, and participate in outreach and educational activities.

Sarod master Amjad Ali Khan, with sons Ayaan and Amaan Some of the season's highlights:

* Terence Blanchard with Lionel Loueke and Ravi Coltrane — Sept. 5-8
* Amjad Ali Khan — Sept. 19
* Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, featuring Omara Portuondo and Eliades Ochoa — Sept. 22 (in Davies Hall)
* SFJAZZ Collective 10th anniversary concert — Oct. 10-13
* Esperanza Spalding, Geri Allen and Terri Lynn Carrington — Oct. 24 (two shows_)
* Maceo Parker — Oct. 31-Nov. 3
* Jason Moran, with various artists — Nov. 21-24
* Eddie Palmieri, with various artists — Nov. 29-Dec. 1
* Concha Buika — Dec. 12-15

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].