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Music News: Sept. 17, 2013

September 17, 2013

Angel Heart in the Hearts of Oakland Kids

September 17, 2013

Flicka, with cue cards; Michael Morgan on the right Photos by Drew Altizer Angel Heart, coming to Cal Performances on Oct. 6, is a national story with lots of local iniative and involvement.

Among the "locals": Frederica von Stade, Matt Haimovitz, S.F. Conservatory alumni soprano Lisa Delan and baritone Bruce Rameker, Brian Staufenbiel as stage director; Gordon Getty and Jake Heggie, whose works have been arranged for Haimovitz' Uccello ensemble; Dana Rath of the Modern Mandolin Quartet; and the Flicka-protégé Children's Choir of St. Martin de Porres School of Oakland, conducted by Michael Morgan.

And where it is featured in the outside world: in an upcoming feature in The Wall Street Journal, the release of a music storybook CD on Sept. 24 (with Jeremy Irons as narrator); a performance in Carnegie Hall on Oct. 21; an iPad app created in collaboration with Mirada Studios; and tentative plans for a 2014-2015 tour, in conjunction with educational/community outreach residencies. Watch the brief trailer.

Angel Heart is a "live-music storybook," based on Cornelia Funke's story, about a girl who finds peace after heartbreak with the help of a petulant guardian angel. The collaborative project was born when composer Luna Pearl Woolf and Lisa Delan realized that they have shared "a dream of lullabies."

St. Martin de Porres School children at the Skywalker Sound recording session "Unbeknownst to the other," says Woolf, "we imagined creating the kind of recording we wanted to hear as we tucked our children in at night." Both artists independently conceived of recording this children’s album with Haimovitz, Woolf’s husband, and his Grammy-nominated ensemble, Uccello.

Woolf and Delan compiled a selection of songs reflecting their musical loves — some by composers ranging from Engelbert Humperdinck to Lennon and McCartney, others traditional folk songs and lullabies, all arranged for an all-cello ensemble by Woolf and composers Lewis Spratlan, Jake Heggie, Gordon Getty, and David Sanford, to be linked by music Woolf would compose herself.

The visual component of the show comes from Mirada Studio, founded by director Guillermo del Toro and cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, of Pan’s Labyrinth and Pacific Rim fame, Grammy Award-winning director and producer Matthew Cullen and Javier Jimenez. Mirada has just won a Cannes Silver Lion Award for MirrorWorld, a previous Funke collaboration.

While others sing, aspiring film star flirts with the camera The Oakland children chorus has participated in the project from the beginning, singing on the CD recorded in 2011 at Skywalker Sound. St. Martin de Porres is a small parochial school in Oakland. It is named for a 17th-century Dominican brother from Peru who was famous for establishing orphanages and children’s hospitals. He was canonized in 1962.

St. Martin’s has some 200 "students of color," fully 90 percent of them on financial assistance, and qualifying for a free or reduced-cost lunch. The music program was added later, with Flicka's help and continued involvement. Says Ann Magovern, president of the school:

We are incredibly grateful to Ms. Flicka who continues to open the doors of music and the arts for our children. Without her, none of this would be possible. Please view this YouTube promotional video, footage from a rehearsal two years ago, the same music that they will be performing on Oct. 6.

The rehearsal included the cast to be heard at Cal Performances, and the late Zheng Cao.

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

'Little Jewels' From SF Symphony

September 17, 2013

AxInstead of the usual 1-2-3 (overture, concerto, symphony), the San Francisco Symphony's Sept. 26-28 concerts will offer 7 (seven) pieces ... and a concerto. In a phrase not often heard at the symphony: "What's up with that?"

For the answer, we turned to the man who has something to do with programming, SFS Director of Artistic Planning John Mangum. As usual, he referred and deferred to Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas:

For a long time, MTT has wanted to program a concert including several short pieces, offering a variety of little jewels showcasing the orchestra's virtuosity. The selection on this program, which starts with Mahler's Blumine and ends with Delibes' Cortège of Bacchus [from Sylvia], reveals different facets of the orchestra — the beauty of its string sound in Grieg's Last Spring, the ability to conjure a wide spectrum of colors in Debussy's La plus que lente, and the brash swagger of the Delibes. I think the selection reflects his affection for these pieces, and also the amazing and wide-ranging talents of our orchestra.

Nestled among these pieces, Emanuel Ax performs Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto. Manny is recognized the world over as a peerless Beethoven interpreter. Technically, he's flawless, and he is such a musician — he brings his incredible knowledge and experience to bear in all of his performances, which for me are always something very special.

And his musical partnership with MTT is a long-standing and fruitful one — the orchestra's recording of another Beethoven concerto, the Fourth, from a few years ago, commemorates that well.

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

Jo Griffin: Young Composer Wins National Award

September 17, 2013

Jo Griffin performs at Crowden's eighth grade solo night Photo by Geoffrey BiddleCrowden School graduate and current John Adams Young Composers Program and San Domenico School Virtuoso Program participant Jo Griffin has just been named a winner of the National Young Composers Challenge.

She won in the ensembles category for her String Quartet in D Major, which she composed as part of her JAYC studies at Crowden last year.

Members of the Marin Symphony will perform her winning work at the NYCC Composium scheduled in Marin on Oct. 5-6.

The seven winners, between ages 13 and 18, come from all over the country. Jo is the third Bay Area musician to win this honor since the competition's inception, the others being Thomas Feng from Albany and another Crowden School alumnus, Stephen Spies, who won in the orchestra category twice, in 2010 and 2011.

Tooting the Air Force's Brass and Other Horns

September 17, 2013

Air Force quintet plus one Brass instruments will sing at one of the concluding classical concerts of Redwood City's varied, generous, and free Music on the Square program.

From June through September, among the participating organizations providing free concerts on the Court Square were: Redwood Symphony, Opera San José, West Bay Community Band, and others.

Now it's the turn of Travis Brass, on Saturday, and the Bay Shore Lyric Opera, on Sunday, to conclude the series of concerts.

The ensemble is part of the Air Force Band of the Golden West from Travis AFB, the only active duty Air Force band west of the Rockies, comprised of 47 musicians.

Besides peforming for civilian communities throughout the West, the band supports 13 Air Force bases, eight Air Force Reserve Wings, and six recruiting squadrons in over 250 annual performances for 1.5 million listeners.

Travis Brass is an ensemble comprised of a brass quintet plus a percussionist. The group showcases a variety of musical styles and features members as soloists or on multiple instruments, including trumpet, French horn, euphonium, trombone, and tuba. Technical Sergeant Christi McGowan, in charge of the Travis Brass and the percussionist, describes it as "a very eclectic group with a wide variety of repertoire."

On any given week, the Brass will play "marches, band or orchestra transcriptions, ragtime, jazz, funk, and contemporary works written for brass quintet," says McGowan. "We try to put a spin on all of these styles to make it enjoyable and relatable to audiences of all ages."

The diversity of Travis Brass is exemplified by such typical programming as Contrapunctus IX by J.S. Bach, followed by Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, and then Dead Man Blues by Jelly Roll Morton.

During September, Travis Brass has performed in San Francisco and San Jose, and will present a free concert in the Los Altos United Methodist Church on Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m.

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

From the Symphony's Sports Department

September 17, 2013

Tokyo Philharmonic team presents a bottle of sake to SFS captain Mark Inouye Photo by Oliver Theil Last week, Music News called SFS principal trumpet Mark Inouye many things, including a home run king, and up with that Inouye would not put:

I don't know where you are getting your softball statistics from! You may need to check your sources. In the game in Tokyo there was only one home run hit, and it was done by our Public Relations guy, Oliver Theil. A lot of guys had extra base hits — Russ DeLuna, Paul Welcomer, Tim Higgins, Jeff Anderson, and myself, but only one homer by Oliver.

During our game against NY, there were a few homers, by me and Jeff Anderson. Maybe that's what you are remembering? And during the Philadelphia game, a few guys hit homers there too — me, Jeff Anderson, and Dan Carlsen.

OK, just wanted to set the record straight. I'm no home run king, but I'm somewhat speedy so if I can get on base, then one of my colleagues can hit me in. And thanks again for writing about the Noble Trumpets!

Let's see who will shine on the softball field when Inouye's SFS team goes up against the Met team during the orchestra's New York visit. Ooops! That has not yet been announced by the Public Relations Guy. Sorry.

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

Farewell to My Music and My Word

September 17, 2013

An old quiz show that lived on... until now For three decades, San Francisco's KALW-FM has carried My Word and My Music, two wonderful BBC programs every Friday night — a habit-forming time slot.

Alas, as of the end of this month, the BBC is ending U.S. distribution of the two shows, but KALW has a special feature for the fans: interviews by the late Alan Farley — who oversaw the local broadcasts lovingly for many years — with some of the show's regulars: Dennis Norden, Ian Wallace, Anne-Scott James, and John Amis.

A comment on the site referring to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation staying with the programs gives a link which doesn't work, nor does a search on the ABC site produce results.

U.S. distributor WFMT has a note, which if still in effect, indicates that rebroadcasting shows is something very doable, although apparently it will all come to an end in a couple of weeks:

Some stations pair the two series; others broadcast separately. These programs cost $15.75 each, weekly. However, stations carrying both series may benefit from the one hour ($21) rate, i.e. a $10.50 discount if you broadcast both.

John Abbott writes from London:

I'm not sure people realize how old the shows are. My Music started in 1967 and ended in 1994. John Amis died just last month, Denis Norden is now in his 90s. The shows are rarely heard here anymore, even on the Radio 4 Extra channel which specializes in reruns.

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

Symphony Contracts: L.A., San Antonio, Minneapolis

September 17, 2013

Osmo Vänskä: leaving Minneapolis? A union contract has been reached by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, but the Minneapolis stalemate continues unabated, getting close the the point of no return as far as Music Director Osmo Vänskä's continued association with the orchestra is concerned. He has repeatedly said that without a contract settlement for the orchestra he would not remain in his position.

The good news from L.A. is ratification of a four-year contract between the Philharmonic and Musicians Local 47. Orchestra President Deborah Borda hailed the accord, joined by the union's Vince Trombetta:

We are extremely pleased that the bargaining teams for the Union and the Association have reached agreement on a new contract for the talented musicians of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and that our members enthusiastically ratified the contract. Both sides want the same thing: to employ musicians of the highest caliber and protect their wages, benefits, and safety conditions and have the best orchestra in the world. The union is encouraged that the parties were able to join together and overcome the obstacles present in today’s difficult bargaining and economic environment.

The contract provides for annual increases to the musicians’ minimum weekly scale wages, which, in the final year of the contract, will be $2,968, restructured healthcare plan offerings, and additional compensation elements, including a housing allowance and new contributions to retirement plans.

(San Francisco Symphony musicians, after an 18-day strike, agreed to a 26-month contract, with current minimum weekly compensation of $2,725, increasing to $2,850 by the end of the contract.)

In Minneapolis, the $52 million Orchestra Hall remodeling project is complete, but there is no orchestra to play in it, as the 18-month-long lockout and impasse continues. Instead, the musicians are giving concerts in another hall, but the future of the Minnesota Orchestra looks bleak.

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].