20 October 2018

A kind of reunion

It is now some years ago that I sang in the choir of the Cathedral Church of St Paul in Boston, when Mark Engelhardt was Music Director, together with Ethel Crawford, David Frieze, Roberta Gilbert, Brian Gilbertie, and many others.  It was for me a musically enriching period, so I do look back on that experience with both fondness and gratitude.  Mark was an especially important champion of my music in those days, and it is to Mark that I owe the occasions for writing Nuhro, Timbrel & Dance, the choir, brass & organ arrangement of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, and of course, the notorious, seldom-performed organ Toccata.  (I do not know of anyone performing it at all, apart from Albert Ahlstrom in Atlanta.)

Last night was the Evensong to honor Ethel, as she retires after 40 years of service as the cathedral administrator, and we did indeed surprise her with Mark’s return to Boston to direct an enormous choir.  I was gratified to be allowed to play my latest clarinet-&-organ piece with Louise Mundinger for the Prelude.  (This recording, however, is a rehearsal Louise & I ran, on Sunday the 14th, hence the increasing hubbub toward the end . . . I think there was some sort of book-signing that was about to be held at St Paul’s.)

19 October 2018

Banter about White Nights

Nine years ago today (19 Oct 2009), most peculiarly–perhaps–the topic of the ballet arose:

Cato’s Little Review of “Noise in the Library”

Allow me to share my thoughts on some of Karl’s works which were performed in Boston at the library a few weeks ago.

GMG members have read my comments in the past years about how chamber music is not my favorite thing, in general, although there are exceptions: Borodin’s and Ravel’s quartets, the Bartók Sixth, the frustrated symphony in the Bruckner Quintet, and Bernard Herrmann’s Echoes are the main ones.

Karl’s works join this august group with no problem!

Heedless Watermelon shows an abundance of imagination: one measure of a work’s worth for me is how much did it surprise me, e.g. could I guess the next note(s)?  Heedless Watermelon was a fun maze to hear, always intriguing and expressive.  Irreplaceable Doodles (solo clarinet) strikes me as being more meditative and serious than its title, and therefore on the CD led nicely into The Angel Who Bears a Flaming Sword (solo flute). Since a flute always has a certain slight melancholy in its timbre, I wonder if the instrument does not express the idea behind the work even better than a trumpet.  Studies in Impermanence must by definition show a meditative nature:  mysterious, ebullient, sad, and almost every other mood appears.  I find the work a Gregorian Chant summary of life.  Lost Waters is a perfect work for solo harp:  the music contains an Americana flavor and provides the image from and for its inspiration without clichés.  (Passaic was particularly dramatic in a subtle way.)

And the Tropes on Pasha’s [sic] Aria from White Nights – although under 3 minutes long – must enthuse every listener to want the completed ballet performed!

To paraphrase Rex Harrison’s Pope Julius to Charlton Heston’s Michelangelo: “When will you make an end of it, Karl?” [emoticon redacted]

To which A Virtual Neighbor (despairing of a completed ballet) replied:

Probably 3-5 years from now. [emoticon redacted]

To which I rejoined:

I’ll accept the short end of that range. That is, if I haven’t finished it in three years (by the end of 2012, say) I’ll officially consider the project jettisoned.

Well, I have never considered anything of the sort, not officially, not unofficially.  I suppose I was just trying to light a fire under mine self.

I guess it did not much work.

Anyway, I was talking to Peter Bloom about Il barbiere ladro just the other day (after we returned to Somerville from the King’s Chapel concert, in fact).  The piece’s fanciful intercutting of the Overtures to La gazza ladra and Il barbiere di Seviglia made a particularly powerful impression on Peter.  I told him that I knew, in principle, just what I wanted to do with that scene, from the very first outline I prepped for the ballet.  But I also knew that, since the entire musically literate world would be “in” on the joke, I had to be sure I did it right.  And, as I believe I have done it right, at last, the time that has passed has not been any delay, but simply a composer awaiting the music’s moment.

So–what am I saying, today, about the long-awaited completion of the Op.75?  The composer has music he must prepare for his church choir for a December concert, and a light-duty task for mezzo Megan Ihnen and saxophonist/composer Alan Theissen.  When those tasks are in the can . . . I believe that may be just the right time to resume work on the ballet; and since what remains to compose is now such a relatively compact requisite, it is very possible that the work will go speedily.

As ever, Gentle Reader:  Watch This Space.

More clarinet than usual

The sound of the bells gave notice that the dismal procession was advancing.  It passed slowly through the principal streets of the city, bearing in advance the awful banner of the Holy Office.  The prisoners walked singly, attended by confessors, and guarded by familiars of the Inquisition.  They were clad in different garments, according to the nature of their punishments; those who were to suffer death wore the hideous Samarra, painted with flames and demons.
– Washington Irving, footnote, Rodd’s Civil Wars of Granada

As I beheld my clarinet case resting between my feet on the Red Line this morning, it suddenly occurred to me that I could not remember the last time I played my clarinet in Boston twice in the same week.  Possibly as far back as the Bullish Upticks concerts.  I’ve brought it in today to play my Voluntary on “Beautiful Savior” with Louise Mundinger for Evensong at St Paul’s on Tremont Street this afternoon.

Curiously, the subject of Evensong at St Paul’s (in a general way) arose in my HTUMC Choir rehearsal last night.

The upbeat arrangement of My Lord, What a Morning which I prepared in the spring, which it was utter madness to suppose that I could teach my choir, no matter how brave, in the space of a week (heaven knows what I was thinking, then) we have not yet come near to mastering.  Plus, we are missing some key singers this Sunday, so I have swapped in my expansion of the Gordon Jacob arrangement of Bro. James’s Air for this weekend’s anthem.  For the following week, I reckoned on refreshing the chant version of Psalm 91 which we first heard sung at Holy Trinity Monastery in Petersham.

I said refreshing, because I knew we had it in the filing cabinets; therefore, I brought it in to Danvers planning to sing it.  And, it is easy; therefore, I took it as read that we had sung it.  Yet, none of my choir recognized it last night, and the fact must be that yesterday’s rehearsal was the first exposure they have had to the piece.  This was an edition I prepared originally for my Evening Service in D, in the year when I served as Interim Choir Director at St Paul’s; and the legend Evensong appears in the top left of the score – which prompted a question from my agreeable and musically inquisitive choir.

I dreamt last night, not that White Nights was done, nor that I was working (as such) on the end of White Nights, but that the whole remainder of White Nights to be composed was sketched out in detail, and that all I need do is roll up my sleeves.  I also dreamt that my publisher, Mark and I were walking around town (talking about verbs, interestingly . . . or, it seemed interesting in the dream, anyway).  Also, he opened the door to a Lyft car and gave the driver a cassette tape to duplicate (bet you didn’t know that service was available from Lyft).

Monday, Sudie & I shall rehearse The Mystic Trumpeter for the first time.

Word just in that Carson Cooman will play one of the Op.28 pieces for Morning Prayer at Harvard this Monday. 

And I am scheming a kind of mini-cantata for HTUMC for the Christmas concert.

17 October 2018

A bit of an "in the guts of the machinery" post

“[Rod Serling's] subtext was about humanity, and not special effects. Rod strove to inform, enrich, nourish and revive the dead, which he did. He saw the invisible, built the intangible, and achieved the impossible.”~ Ted Post, director of several Twilight Zone episodes
Courtesy of Peter H. Bloom, we've been able to record concerts of the Ensemble on video, for some few years now. The audio quality is passable, and thus, I have continued to take a separate audio recording. It was a while before I figured out that I could "swap in" the superior audio on the video. Better late than never.

Take now the case of (e.g.) Mistaken for the Sacred yesterday: live trio plus fixed media.  In the space, during the concert, the balance between the live group and the fixed media was reportedly good. As the mics of my device picked up the music, however, the fixed media was very faint. Faint enough, in fact, that what I figured I should do was, prepare a mix of the live recording, plus the fixed media as resident at my laptop. So, that is what we've got here:

15 October 2018

Banner Day

Well, there we are, facing Tremont Street, out in the sight of God and everybody.

Smoke, hot tea & drizzle

Fame is like smoke,I couldn’t care less.– Anna Akhmatova
Still mostly recovery.  Sang part of the service yesterday morning, but could not sing the whole.  Excellent rehearsals, both in the afternoon with Louise Mundinger, and in the evening with "the band."  Gray, drizzly weather today;  will head out in a bit to rehearse Considering My Bliss Options with Peter.

14 October 2018

Somber postscript

And, to be sure, shortly after I posted this, I learnt that she had passed away a few hours earlier.  She was determined to do whatever she might, to resist the disease, and she kept a brave and cheerful demeanor throughout.  She had the joy of seeing her Red Sox through a magnificent regular season, and of seeing them vanquish the Yankees for the American League title;  so she passed out of this world with a gratified smile.  We shall miss her.

Innumerable angels sing you to a sweet rest, Adrienne.