Tag Archives: music

La Boheme

The Met PR calls it a “passionate, timeless and indelible story of love.”

And so it is.

La Boheme  was not the first opera I saw.  That title goes to Aida at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City while I was in 8th grade.

But Boheme is the first opera that made me cry.  And it still does.

boheme0607-02

I listened to the opera live from the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday afternoon. This fresh and lively performance was exquisite.

The ending got me, as it always does. Ever since 1977, I have been spoilt for C#-minor chords, as they always signal Mimi’s death.  (Just yesterday, I heard a C#-minor chord in the piano in some theatre piece I had on, and I felt the chill of death at that moment.)

My first Boheme was March1977 with Pavarotti in the role of Rodolfo, on the first-ever Live from the Met broadcast.  I wanted to watch the live telecast, and my parents relegated me to their bedroom, to watch the production on the little 13-inch black-and-white television.

Several hours later, I emerged crying in the way that only a closeted 16-year-old classical music lover can.  Mimi had died.  Rodolfo had cried out those incredible high g-sharps, and my world had changed forever.

And the opera still gets me . . . every time.

Stanford in G

I was so terribly pleased and privileged to sing the baritone solo this evening at Evensong in the C.V. Stanford G-major canticles.  This is one of the most glorious baritone solos ever written, in my humble opinion.

Here’s a recording of a British choir — Winchester Cathedral, under David Hill — singing this wonderful work!

Musico-schizo day

I have had a musico-schizo day, at least in my own estimation.

Morning = coachings of legit and Broadway rep with freshmen music theater majors.

Late morning = work one more time on a cabaret act with an MT senior.

Early afternoon = work Christmas music with a high school student.

Mid-afternoon = play pop, jazz, and Broadway music for three cabaret performances featuring senior MT students.

My senior student Jordan, along with Christina and Becca, at today's cabaret performance.

My senior student Jordan, along with Christina and Becca, at today’s cabaret performance.

Late afternoon = sing at The Church of Saint Michael and Saint George in  a service full of silence, incense, reflection, plainsong Propers, and a Palestrina four-part mass setting, the latter two items in Latin.

Now = pizza for dinner, followed by a couple of Clementines.  And now to put up the Christmas tree whilst listening to Bryn Terfel’s Christmas album, the orchestra conducted by my old friend Tecwyn Evans.

Three Teasdale Songs

Last Friday evening, I sang the premiere of my new settings of Sara Teasdale poetry for baritone and oboe.  My colleague Carla Colletti joined me in the performance.  The impetus for writing these?  An invitation to appear on a Webster University Faculty Composers Concert.  Ten different composers were represented, each of them artist/teachers in the Department of Music.

Here is the premiere performance:

Freshman night

As I do from time to time, I entertained students this evening at my home.  The occasion was what I now call ‘Freshman Night’ — my freshmen students in both class and studio join me for a home-cooked meal, then sing a song.  For most of these students, now two weeks into the new semester at Webster University, this is the first time they’ve heard each other sing.

(Samson joined in some of the singing tonight, deciding to be very barky.)

I also invite my current voice students.  So our total tonight was eleven students.  Another similar meal is set for Friday this next week.

Here are shots from the evening:

Solemn Profession

I sang this morning with Schola from The Church of Saint Michael and Saint George at a powerful Mass that celebrated the Solemn Profession of Life Vows by Br. Dunstan at the Abbey of Saint Mary and Saint Louis.

Br. Dunstan is a friend of our choirmaster, and a big fan of the music at our parish.

He chose the music for today: the Kyrie and Agnus Dei from William Byrd’s glorious ‘Mass for Four Voices,’ the hymns EVENTIDE and LAUDA ANIMA (two tear-inducing hymns for me), a Robert Parsons Ave Maria, and the Byrd Ave verum corpus, a perennial favorite.  Rob composed a couple of things as well.

This was glorious music!

The most powerful part of the service, of course, is the profession of vows, followed by the candidate’s prostration before the altar.  Br. Dunstan was covered with a funeral pall as we prayed for him.  The symbolism, of dying to this life and rising in newness, was almost more than I could bear.

I am so blessed to have been a part of this service today, and to in some small way join with Br. Dunstan in the closest thing he’ll have to a wedding.

The Abbey Church bells were pealing in joy after the service:

And here’s my ‘in a tie at 7.40 a.m.’ shot from this morning:

Howells Te Deum (St. George’s Windsor)

We’ve had a busy day at the Church of Saint Michael and Saint George in Clayton.

The schola (paid staff singers) sang two services this morning, and then Evensong at 5 p.m.

Herbert Howells

A highlight of the morning, at least for me, was the St. George’s Windsor morning canticles by Herbert Howells.

As any reader of this blog knows, Howells is my muse; his music is the core of my life’s work.

The Windsor service was published in 1952.  It’s filled with crunchy harmonies, sidelong melodies that start variously in the different parts and never quite converge, wonderful flatted thirds, chords spiced with jazz, and enough meter changes to kill the average cat.  Howells wisely leads the singers to the right note on which to commence the next phrase, but that’s predicated on counting like the devil.

As I said to Rob last evening, “the problem isn’t the melodies or harmonies.  The problem is that you never have an instant where you get to rest and not count.”  And the Te Deum text is long anyhow, so the choir is on the spot for what seems like an eternity, even though of seven minutes’ duration.

Philip Stopford

Along with Howells, we sang Philip Stopford‘s “The Queen’s Responses,” Philip Wilby’s If ye love me, a piece by Grayston Ives, and at Evensong the Kenneth LeightonSecond Service” and a puff piece by Bairstow that reeked of post-Victorian parlor harmonies, but was great fun.

The Leighton grew on me as we rehearsed it.  Like Howells, he leads the singer directly to the right pitch to sing, but we have count . . . a lot.

One of things about singing at this level, and this amount of literature, is that we singers have to be prepared, and then we have to fearlessly trust our preparation and our training.  We have to be always mindful of the key signature, and of what is going on in the other parts.  We have to demonstrate guts and nerve and calm.  And that is both draining and nerve-wracking!

Here’s a video of Wilby’s If ye love me: