MIKHAIL KAZINIK: Russian Musician and Educator Debuts in Philadelphia

DREAMS DO COME TRUE! Philadelphia's audiences (English and Russian speaking) will have a unique opportunity to meet and to hear an unforgettable music-and-lecture performance by one of the most intelligent, passionate, brilliant, and caring people living on our planet today. Welcome to Philadelphia, Mikhail Semyonovich Kazinik!  

A short background story:

In October 2014, I was fortunate to attend Kazinik's two live concerts in Moscow, after having been listening to his deeply moving lectures and presentations for a few years online. After the performance on Arbat Street was over, I came up to the stage, waited in a long line, and when it was my turn, I asked him if he would ever be able to come Philadelphia... I knew that Philadelphia residents - just like residents of every place on the globe - needed his Word, his Music, they needed to discover the Kazinik Phenomenon, and they needed a chance to see him not just on a computer screen, but live, on stage, speaking directly into their hearts. Maestro sounded interested about another trip to the US (he visited on three occasions but never in our City), but he was deeply skeptical it would ever work for his busy schedule. Time went by. We kept in touch. In the Spring of 2016, I shared the idea with my colleague Mikhail Zorich (Multicultural Arts Exchange), quite by accident. Almost instantly, Zorich became infectious with Kazinik's contagious spark: the stars finally aligned and this tour became a reality.

 

Below is my English translation of the original preview of Maestro's three first concerts in our City of Brotherly Love, September 8-11, 2016. Read more and order tickets here.

 

EMBRACING YOU WITH MUSIC

 

In early September, Philadelphia will welcome Mikhail Kazinik – an art historian, musician, poet, writer, philosopher, film producer, a passionate educator and one of the most erudite men of our time. His many fans call him Prometheus.

 

When he briskly takes the stage and begins to speak or play – there is not one person in the room who would be left untouched by his hurricane of energy, or would feel less than fascinated by the unique gifts of this amazing man.

 

Are you convinced that you do not like classical music? After hearing Mikhail Kazinik, classical music is all you will want to listen to: to hear it, to feel it and to be carried away by the melodies of freshly revealed vibrations… Especially if he is accompanied by Vyacheslav Zubkov - a brilliant pianist. After this musician’s concerts the audiences often can’t help feeling that they had just met Franz Liszt himself. It is meaningless to try to describe or classify Kazinik’s programs. You need to be there. Anna Akhmatova was one of the first people to recognize the talent of a storyteller in Kazinik; the poet’s words were: "You should go to the people." It was Joseph Brodsky who took Kazinik by the hand and introduced to Akhmatova; it all happened after Brodsky had read one of the poems of 15-year-old Mikhail.

 

Kazinik always felt the internal urge to reveal to people the secrets of genius men. He recalls Riga (capital of Latvia) during the Soviet times when it was mandatory for all city tourists to attend an organ concert at the world-famous Dome Cathedral.

 

The first 3 minutes of a concert, people would be honest and diligent listeners: organ is roaring, strong and beautiful. But after about 5 minutes, the chair didn't seem comfortable enough, and in 10 more minutes, they would start thinking: «Too bad I didn't get a seat near the aisle, now I can't get out». And within an hour of this endless organ roar, they would get really tired. A feeling of heaviness would set on and the visitors would never discover anything about the music. I sat there and thought: «Lord, if I only could give a 5 minute talk before each work – they would have understood it all.»      

 

How do you explain classical music?

 

Kazinik's dream came true: he successfully went on to explain something seemingly unexplainable, helping people discover classical music. Mikhail Semyonovich describes his mission:

 

«Music is the highest non-verbal communication between man and cosmos. Its giant divine vibrations, transformed through the head and entire body of a genius, connect us with our progenitor – the cosmos. A conversation about music – is no less than a human tuning to that frequency, helping us enter the very state in which the music is sounding. A work of art is a vibrant source of energy, and a human being – its receiver. There should be a wave, a channel between them. Most often, these channels are destroyed: thanks to wrong education, wrong environment, country, system, history's endless tyrants manipulating the consciousness of the little man. I have these channels repaired.»

 

Classical music as a business thinking formula

 

Mikhail Semyonovich is famous for the fact that he can make even an elephant get interested in classical music. Thanks to this ability, he was invited as an expert to host the concerts for Nobel laureates: the organizers very much wanted to entice the viewers to watch a traditional annual symphonic concert broadcast ahead of the Nobel festivities. Kazinik figured out how to attract the viewers attention: he would interview the winners in front of a camera about their childhood, about what kind of music they listened to then, and their favorite composers.

 

Recently, in his native St. Petersburg, Kazinik held a three-day classical music immersion session for a team a well-known Russian company called RBI. Here is how the company President Eduard Tiktinsky describes the experience:

 

The three days with Mikhail Kazinik were equal to sensation of splashing into the ocean waters: bright, fresh, harmonious. Our main conclusions:

 

  1. It’s never too late to learn music. Even if someone diagnosed you once with "no music ear/ no voice," or you didn’t get accepted to a music school - it does not mean anything. Maestro showed us examples when people came to study music at the age of 50 and, after regular practice, within a month, they were performing their first recital for their next birthday party guests.

 

  1. Music education used to be an essential part of childhood’s education, with music regarded no less important than exact sciences, the Russian language, etc. Unfortunately, these days everything is different. However, this doesn’t mean that parents can’t open that magic door into the world of music for their kids. But to do so, of course, you need to know and love classical music yourself.

 

  1. The ability to hear the music is a skill that can be developed. As it turned out at our session, the skill of composing music can also be developed. At least my colleagues, under the direction of Maestro Kazinik, compiled an entire symphony :).

 

  1. Regular practice and experimentation are pre-requisites to making progress, in any area. You don’t notice how tiny improvements and then larger achievements gradually become a part of you. It works the same with creative "Nobel" way of thinking. Allow yourself to experiment, try something different than the usual, and the result will not take long. Once you open yourself to classical music, you won’t be able to live without it.

 

"It does not matter how old you are and what your preferences are, there's always an opportunity to open the hidden secret door to the true Beauty. The door that leads to the realization that the art, and especially music, is ‘a wonderful contract with the Creator,’ and your life will never be the same again. I embrace you with Music.” (Mikhail Kazinik)

 

 

Three debut performances in Philadelphia - bring your kids and friends! 

 

Thursday, September 8 at 8 PM

Synagogue Shaare Hashamayim, 9768 Verree Road, 19115.

 

Saturday, September 10 at 7 PM

International House Philadelphia, 3701 Chestnut Street, 19104.

 

Sunday, September 11 at 5 PM

Settlement Music School - Northeast Branch, 3745 Clarenden Avenue, 19114

 

Buy Tickets:

Online: https://www.russianhotline.com/tour/Kazinik

In-person in two Northeast Philadelphia locations:

- Petrovsky Market, 9808 Bustleton, Avenue, 19115

- Knizhnik Book Store, 8342 Bustleton Avenue, 19152

Tickets will also be available at the door.

 

For more information:

Contact Mikhail Zorich 855-594-8414, email: manager@maephila.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kazinikusa/

 

 

 

3 Reasons Why PR is Everything in Brand Management

Today's post on Ragan's PR Daily by Bryan Haviland (Frazier Heiby PR) answers a very important question that some organizations and business owners never ask.  

Frankly, this article has validated what I have been wanting to say - for so long - to some (if not all) of my beloved clients "in crime":  allow your PR consultant to be involved in your company's marketing and branding strategy. Give them freedom to generate or, at least, guide your company's content. Trust your PR guy/lady just a little more, and you will be surprised at the end results.

 

"Boards of directors, top-level executives and brand managers, take heed: If you don't yet have a PR counselor in a position of power within your organization, you're playing Russian roulette with your brand's reputation.

 

PR can no longer be relegated to traditional media relations. It has never been just that. Now more than ever before, organizations are realizing that successful consumer experience depends on deploying PR to create, manage and refresh their ever-present online brands. Here are three reasons why:  KEEP READING.

Interview with Donald Nally (The Crossing Choir)

I interviewed Donald Nally in 2010, when Lyric Fest collaborated with The Crossing Choir in the  Biography in Music series. This program marked the 100th Anniversary of Samuel Barber (1910-1981), one of the 20th century's most renowned and beloved composers. In the concert, Barber’s biography was featured alongside his songs, including several previously unpublished, opera excerpts, and choral works performed by The Crossing, with Nally conducting and Laura Ward at the piano.  

IH:  What is the story and the inspiration behind The Crossing? How was this group created?

 

DN:  We came together in 2005 as a group of friends who missed each other – we never intended to found a chorus and I certainly don’t take credit for that. Instead, we planned a concert and were surprised that so many people came and The Philadelphia Inquirer made a big deal out of it and said we were like ‘an answered prayer’ for choral music here. So, we thought, heck, let’s do a second concert. And here we are in 2010, commissioning projects through the summer of 2013: collaborations with great area musicians like Lyric Fest, Network for New Music, Tempesta di Mare, Piffaro. Our summer festival called The Month of Moderns has been in the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Top Ten Classical Events of the Year for the last two years, and….well, it’s still like a dream…

 

Q:  Please describe the group in your own words, and share your thoughts on your rehearsal process. What particular qualities, personal and professional, are you looking for in your singers?  

 

DN:  Again, your question implies that this is ‘my’ group, and I think it’s important to stress that we really see it as community. Sure, people have gone off to other lives that prevent them from staying with us and so we’ve added new ones, but we’re very careful to add people who fit the community – that is, they’re great musicians, they love working and singing challenging repertoire, they must sing as a means of expressing (as opposed to just liking it…), they’re great and warm and creative colleagues, and they’re nice.

 

That ‘working hard’ part is important, because there is no way you can sing the rep we sing without serious outside study. Even if you could read it, you wouldn’t get anything out of it if you didn’t put in the time because our music requires such intellectual activity that you have to work through the cognitive stuff in order to allow the emotional stuff to surface. Thus, when we come together, we’re mostly in a process of ‘assembly’ and ‘discovery’. The assembly aspect is taking these disparate parts and making sense of them; the discovery aspect is that in most of our music we are dealing with previously uncharted musical languages (at least for us). It’s always exciting, and exhausting…

 

IH:  Your life as a choral conductor has been super busy.  In addition to The Crossing, you are holding two other very responsible posts: Chorus Master of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and music director of Cincinnati’s Vocal Arts Ensemble, a professional choral ensemble that performs new music as well as classic choral works. In this context, what makes your experience with The Crossing unique? What do you think makes this group’s performances so well-accepted and admired by the audiences?

 

DN:  Of course, it’s clear to anyone that I’m most at home with The Crossing. I’m not sure my opera colleagues would appreciate that, but anyone can see that ‘the clothes fit best’ when I am working with these particular singers in this environment. I suppose that I react to the same thing the audience does – that we are simply trying to say something, something honest that may give us a brief glimpse into our inner lives. The singers we work with at The Crossing are all concerned with these issues, even though we rarely discuss that specifically (one of music’s gifts is that we can agree about these things, we can be naked, we can be truthful, and we do not need to discuss it since, once it has happened there is only the memory of it).

 

I consistently hear from the audience that we have a very unique sound; this is not something I consciously think about, even though I know that any great choir reflects the color that the conductor is carrying in his/her chest and born on the breath. But, I do know that the collective sum of the singers we choose produces a particular basic color which we are constantly modifying to meet the demands of each piece. The other thing I hear from the audience is how much they loved what they heard, despite not having any preconceived notions. I think it’s not despite, but in fact is somewhat because they have no preconceived notions. It’s like walking into an art gallery curated by an artist you have come to trust for quality, yet with no knowledge of what will be hanging on the walls today. The Crossing is the curator, the program is the gallery.

 

IH:  The Lyric Opera of Chicago has recently announced that you will be leaving your post of Chorus Master following the 2010-2011 season. Does this mean that you will be able to expand The Crossing’s season in the near future?

 

DN:  Yes, definitely. We’re already making a wonderful line-up of concerts in the 2011-2012 season that includes possible collaborations with American Composer’s Forum, Tempesta di Mare, Mimi Stillman of Dolce Suono, many commissions and the possibility of touring. We’re thinking expansively and hopefully most of those thoughts will become a reality. So, my move is largely to be nearer the group, to oversee things, and to aid in our long-term planning. You can’t get anywhere without some goals and dreams…

 

IH:  Please comment on The Crossing’s first collaboration with Lyric Fest and things you are most looking forward to in this joined project.

 

DN: Well, I wrote my doctoral dissertation about the music we will be performing and so it is very dear to my heart. Samuel Barber has always held a really important place for me because of his being from West Chester (I’m from Upper Bucks County), his connection to Gian Carlo Menotti - who I knew very well – and Spoleto - where I conducted many of our singers for years – his love for poetry and literature (which I share), and – and this is quite specific – his unique and entirely beautiful manner of using modal music to achieve a certain kind of warmth contrasted with a certain kind of emptiness. The entire point to my dissertation, which largely addresses the poetry in these works, is about Barber’s being somewhat haunted by the theme of loneliness. Thus, the end of his last choral work ends with Neruda’s words, “Foresaken, foresaken…” These are themes that speak very strongly to me – and, let’s face it, to most.

 

IH: Could you please comment on some of your choices for this particular program and on how you plan to approach placing emphasis on text with your singers?

 

DN: I do not think that there is anything different in approaching text in any music – for almost everything we do in our art, it drives it – it’s the impetus for the musical material and the atmosphere the composer discovered in the text. Barber was particularly careful in the texts that he chose – he tended to find great poems that seem maybe a little unfinished after you know his version of them. This is not a criticism of poets like James Agee, Stephen Spender, James Stephens, or the marvelous Louise Bogan, but it’s certainly a statement about his ability to ingest a poet’s words and go beneath them into the emotional world they invoked in him. My choices started with those unaccompanied choral works I consider to Barber’s most successful, including the little-known but truly stunning Twelfth Night, including his most famous choral work, Reincarnations, touch on his Shakespeare setting in the opera Antony and Cleopatra (another underappreciated work in my opinion), and ensure that, amidst the joy in much of this music, that constant to which he returns (as the monk says in the final song of Hermit Songs: “Alone I came into this world, alone I shall go from it”) is there.

 

IH: What, if any, are the challenges of Barber’s vocal/choral works?

 

DN: I  do not think there is any complexity to Barber’s choral works for a modern choir; it is largely based on a Brahms-like tradition of vocal counterpoint and the musical language is therefore fairly familiar. This is not to say it is not challenging, because Barber wrote very virtuosically for nearly all his forces, including choirs. In fact, this will be a kind of ‘premiere’ for me, as I have programmed and rehearsed the final work of the three-movement Reincarnations and have always cancelled it (I will not do that this time) because I did not feel that I or the choir were up to it. It’s an emotionally difficult work, and the fabric is very fragile; it’s also in F Major, which, though it sounds ridiculous, is the most difficult key to sing in and maintain pitch. At any rate, Barber just assumes that the singers are going to be very musically sophisticated and since he was at all times a vocal composer - a singer himself - the individual lines are (like Brahms) beautifully written and require that this musicianship be balanced with solid vocal technique and richness of color.

 

IH: How many singers from The Crossing will be performing the Barber program and where are they coming from?

 

DN:  22 singers – that’s our usual roster, though we go up to 24 at times. I frankly don’t know where a lot of our singers originated but, because of the timing of Lyric Fest’s Barber concert, all the singers will be currently in the Philadelphia-Princeton corridor. We often have out-of-towners for our Month of Moderns, and last summer had three from Cincinnati, one from Chicago, one from Georgia, one from New York, and etc. It’s a great group and I can’t wait to start with them.

 

IH: What would be your greeting words to those who will visit the Barber gallery curated by The Crossing and Lyric Fest in October?

 

DN: We’re just thrilled to be asked and have the opportunity to work with Lyric Fest and their wonderful singers. For us, Barber is a bit of ancient music; we really do only contemporary music. So, it’s a welcome departure and a wonderful reason for that departure – the 100th birthday of an American genius who we all, as singers, know and love. Who has not heard Despite and Still and wondered if the tormented soul who set that to paper hadn’t written it about them?

 

By Inna Heasley, for Lyric Fest.

September, 2010. Philadelphia.

 

www.lyricfest.org

www.thecrossingchoir.com

# # #

10 Questions to Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, Mezzo-Soprano (ANONYMOUS 4)

Ahead of her solo performance with Bach@7 Cantata Series in April of 2015, Jacqueline was kind to answer my 10 questions. Here is the full interview, which is also published by Choral Arts Philadelphia here.  

“I have always been bowled over by the incredible loyalty of the Anonymous 4 fans in Philadelphia and I hope they will come out to hear me sing some beautiful Baroque music!”

(Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek)

 

Jacqueline has a reputation as a versatile and accomplished soloist, specializing in early and new music, singing with many distinguished ensembles and opera companies in Europe and in the US. She has collaborated with leading modern composers and premiered roles in several operas and oratorios. As a member of the world renowned vocal quartet Anonymous 4, Jacqueline has recorded twelve award-winning CD’s with the group. An accomplished voice teacher, Jacqueline is also a C.V. Starr Doctoral Fellow at The Juilliard School.

 

10 QUESTIONS:

 

  1. What is your family background? Any musicians in your family?

 

JHK:  My family loved music and my father was a keen amateur musician who played piano. But I was the first to take up music professionally.

 

  1. Why did you choose to become a classical singer?

 

JHK:  Actually I wanted to be an actress! When I was about 10 years old, I sang on a local Irish TV show, and the host encouraged my parents to send me for voice lessons and that is how I found my love for classical music.

 

  1. Who are your favorite composers of all times?  

 

JHK:  J.S. Bach, Benjamin Britten, Lennon and McCartney… The list goes on. I have somewhat eclectic tastes!

 

  1. Describe the happiest episode in your singing career. 

 

JHK:  Being asked to join Anonymous 4 and being accepted into the Doctoral program at Juilliard!

 

  1. What factors, in your opinion, contributed to the amazing success of Anonymous 4 over the years? 

 

JHK:  Anonymous 4 was the first female ensemble to sing music originally thought to have been written for men’s voices. The group has always worked hard to achieve a unity of timbre despite, or one might say because of, our very different individual voices. And I think people respond to that, and to the beautiful repertoire that we have been so fortunate to bring to light.

 

  1. What are your other interests and passions, besides music?  

 

JHK:  I don’t have a lot of time for other interests, my work as a singer and voice teacher is all consuming! I am very interested in Egyptology and love to read thrillers and watch horror movies and old British sitcoms - a great way to relax, I find!

 

 

  1. What inspires and motivates you in personal and professional life?

 

JHK:  I’m inspired by colleagues, family, friends and energized by working in such a challenging but rewarding profession!

 

 

  1. What was the best advice you were ever given?

 

JHK:  “Listen to what your voice wants” - this is from a singing teacher in London, when I was having vocal problems. It’s a wonderful piece of advice and something that I pass on to my own voice students.

 

 

  1. What would be your professional recommendation for young aspiring singers of today?

 

JHK:  Don’t give up!  Going professional is hard, and there are so many ups and downs. Just try to stay focused and have clear and realistic goals.

 

 

  1. As Anonymous 4 is closing the curtain this year, what will you be working on next?

 

JHK:  I will be continuing my work at Juilliard in the Doctoral program and will be expanding my work as a voice teacher and visiting artist. My work as a mezzo soloist will also continue in both early and new music, with some exciting new opera projects in development, including an as yet untitled opera/theatre piece about Nikola Tesla being created by composer Phil Kline, film-maker Jim Jarmusch and director Robert Wilson, and a monodrama being written especially for me by Phil Kline in which I will play none other than Joan Crawford!

 

More about Jacqueline on her website.

 

Interviewed on March 2015

Philly Game Developers Biking Across America

Three Philadelphia-based game makers and a dancer - decided to leave their comparatively comfortable lives behind and undertake multi-state bike tour. Each has an important personal reason to do it. Each is looking forward to a life-changing experience.  

They gave this journey a title: "Nerds Across America". Their motto for the trip: "No time limits. No regrets."

 

This film is documenting the morning of their departure from Philadelphia, October 2, 2014.

 

http://youtu.be/LDJILU0EXWc?list=UURVDiEvrcZTNecpmflw5SNg

UPDATES!!!

 

OCTOBER 2014:  The "Nerds" explore North Carolina. They managed to finish the Coin Crypt game on the road and it is set to be released on October 28th on Steam.

 

NOVEMBER 2014:  Three out of four "Nerds" turn back to go back home to Philadelphia - business needs. Greg Lobanov is the last Nerd standing and continues his trip solo, down the South US Border.

 

DECEMBER 2014 - JANUARY 2015:  Lobanov continues his trip, pretty much on schedule (according to the map pictured above), with frequent stops at friends' old and new. He celebrates the New Year with his high school classmate and his family in Texas.

 

JANUARY 2015:  Greg reaches Arizona and visits and reconnects with his Russian uncle Victor and his family in Tuscon.  Last time they saw each other was when Greg was about 9.

 

FEBRUARY 2015:  Greg's bike is stolen, along with his computer where his new game CoinCrypt is stored. The game was scheduled to be presented at the annual Game Developers Conference  in San Francisco. This happens just before Greg was ready to cross the San Francisco bridge! What does he do?  He gets a ride from the cops (who came to report on the theft) to the local WalMart and buys a cheap bike, just capable to take him over the bridge. Greg then calls his friends in Philadelphia who are packing to come to SF, and arranges for them to bring his old PC where the game is backed up on iCloud.

 

MARCH 2015: Greg is a Keynote speaker at GDC, and gives a speedy 5-minute inspirational talk about the bike across America and how it transformed his vision, both personal and professional. Here is the video of this historical speech:

 

https://youtu.be/JomgTyButEk

 

APRIL 2015:  Greg is back in Philadelphia. A big party is organized at Cipher Prime's space to celebrate the Nerds. Guests line up to cut out a piece of Greg's long beard. Nobody in Philadelphia had seen Greg with a beard before this. All four nerds get interviewed on camera about their bike trip experience, their expectations vs. reality of the journey. This video is currently in production. Once posted - it will be featured on this site.

 

MORE LINKS:

Most recent interview with JoyStiq Cipher Prime Dumb & Fat Games Coin Crypt game (early access on STEAM):

 

Rachmaninov Vespers: Why I Cried

On September 7th, 2014 Choral Arts Philadelphia will perform one piece of music that holds an absolutely special place in my heart: Vespers (All Night Vigil, Op. 37) by Sergey Rachmaninov.  

Besides cherishing a direct native connection to the Russian music and unsurpassed love for Sergey Rachmaninov as a person and a composer, I treasure this piece because it represents a life-altering discovery I made in my mid-20s .

 

During the first 24 years of my life in the Soviet Russia, after having studied classical music and its history at a full-time music school for eight years, I had no idea about the existence of the Vespers or any other sacred music by any other composer whatsoever! This is how well this information was locked away from public eye in the Soviet Union. And since I never knew to ask the question, I never looked for answers.

 

Fast forward now to the early 9o's, my first few weeks in the United States where I was brought on a contract to interpret for a group of Russian dancers.  The day I got my first paycheck, I went to the Tower Records store (remember those?) to look for recordings of my favorite composers, including Rachmaninov and Bach.

 

As I searched the Bach and Rachmaninov sections, I came across some odd titles like St. Matthew Passion, B-Minor Mass, Vespers, The Bells. “What’s this?” – I said to myself in total bewilderment, because I knew every piece of music those guys ever composed. I had to buy the Vespers CD, out of curiosity (I now think it was actually a cassette tape – remember those?). I played it on my Walkman (remember those?)...  And I cried. I cried because I felt betrayed. Then I cried some more because life was SO MUCH MORE BEAUTIFUL than I had imagined. Because the humanity had the gift of the Vespers all along!!!

Lighting the candles during All night vigil.

 

Ironically, that same year, late 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Christmas was finally officially announced as a national holiday in Russia. It was openly celebrated for the first time in over 70 years, on January 6, 1992.

 

This landmark event was followed by the arrival of massive country-wide restoration process of the entire Orthodox culture: from the beautiful architecture and commencement of industrial church bells production - to religious education, faith-based literature and declassification of archival church documents. And it inevitably meant that the Orthodox music, and with it all other sacred music, that had been muted in Russia for over 70 years was finally given back to the people it was written for.

 

The Rachmaninov Vespers was performed in a public concert in Moscow on that first Christmas Eve of 1992.

 

Every time I get to sing this work - and this will be my third time - it is a transcendental life event, an experience of the highest spiritual, physical, emotional and mental order which simply can't be described in words.

 

Singing it here in the U.S. for the American audiences fills me with great honor and gratitude for their responsive energy, for their respect to this music and their thirst to hear more of it. And singing it with Choral Arts Philadelphia is going to be an amazing experience!

 

We performed it in 2012 at the Cathedral Basilica of SS Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Here is my favorite excerpt:

 

http://youtu.be/k92y_5PS6Zo

IF YOU GO: Gretna Music Festival

Sunday, September 7, 2014 at 7:30 PM

Pre-concert talk by the festival founder Carl Ellenberger at 6:45 PM

More information at www.choralarts.com

Celebrating Shakespeare's 450th Birthday with "The Fairy Queen"

Rutgers University--Camden's Music and Theater Programs are collaborating for the first time in many years to produce a fully staged English masque by Henry Purcell, "The Fairy Queen" based on Shakespeare's comedy "A Midsummer Night's Dream."  Part-play and part-opera, this major project features dancers, actors, singers, chorus, complete stage and costume design, as well as a full Baroque orchestra.  It is directed by two outstanding artists: world renown Distinguished Professor of Music Dr. Julianne Baird and award-winning Associate Professor of Theater Dr. Kenneth Elliott.  

This unique show runs April 24-27, 2014 and I am having a lot of fun promoting it.  You can read all about "The Fairy Queen" on the Department of Fine Arts' website here and visit their Facebook page here.  We just got word that WHYY's NewsWorks Entertainment Guide is featuring the production this week, yay!

 

Meanwhile, I have been making good progress learning how to work my new awesome digital video camera and no less awesome editing software for Mac, Final Cut Pro -- a big transition from my previous PC set up and HDD Cannon.  So I was glad to have an opportunity to capture all the media and create this promo trailer for the Rutgers production:

 

 

It's going to be a great show!

 

 

Interview with violinist Rebecca Harris

Ahead of her solo performance of Biber's Mystery Sonatas this month, I got a chance to chat with this amazing artist.  

A specialist in the field of historically informed performance, Rebecca Harris is in high demand as a versatile soloist, chamber musician and orchestral player, as well as a teaching artist. She can be regularly heard playing and recording with the Philadelphia baroque orchestra Tempesta di Mare, as well as many other prominent ensembles like Pennsylvania Ballet orchestra, the Philly Pops, Piffaro, Seraphic Fire, Publick Musick, New Trinity Baroque, and so many others.

 

If you have been to any of Choral Arts Philadelphia concerts in recent years, you also know Rebecca and her violin very well. She is a regular leader in the newly launched Bach@7 Cantata Series.

 

Q: Do you come from a musical family? What brought you to music, and to violin in particular?

RH: My family enjoys music but there are no other professional musicians besides myself. I learned to play the recorder in elementary school, and free violin classes at school became available when I was eight. Although it was just circumstance that brought me to the violin, I loved it immediately.

 

Q: You are an accomplished musician on both baroque and modern violin. What is the difference between these two instruments, and what different techniques do you have to use when playing them?

RH: The instrument has changed relatively little in its long history - other instruments, for example the flute and trumpet, have changed much more. The modifications that have been made since the seventeenth century version of the violin were for the purpose of enabling the violinist to more easily meet the technical demands of the music of the time. For example, as a more cantabile style of playing became desirable, the bow was elongated and made heavier at the tip, which makes it easier to achieve a singing line. I choose to perform music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries on an instrument built in the style of the time, since it's the 'tool' that the composers of the period used, and it can inform interpretation of the works. Likewise, I perform 19th and 20th century music on a modern instrument. Performing in a historically informed style goes beyond the choice of instrument, however - it's about developing an understanding of the style and musical language of the time.

 

Q: You also have an active teaching career. Please share a few words about it and what it means to you?

RH: I am on the Teaching Artist faculty of The Philadelphia Orchestra, and I visit children in Philadelphia public schools each week through the orchestra's School Partnership Program. I also perform for a fantastic organization called LiveConnections, that offers innovative programming to communities that may not easily have access to live performances. I see it as my responsibility as an artist to engage with people beyond the concert stage - music is a living art that needs people, so we need to keep passing it on.

 

Q: What advice do you have for young men and women who want to be successful in whatever they pursue in life?

RH: Stay true to yourself, and work with intelligence. Success to me is not about collecting accolades, but about using your gifts and skills to the benefit of those around you.

 

Q: You will be playing two violin sonatas from Biber’s Rosary Sonatas on April 9th. A few words about this work and about Heinrich Biber.

RH: Biber was one of the first great virtuoso violinists, working in late seventeenth century Austria. The Mystery (Rosary) Sonatas are a collection of sixteen works, each one connected to one of the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, plus one that represents the Guardian Angel. The sonatas each require a different re-tuning of the violin (a technique called scordatura), which creates unique and unusual possibilities for chords and timbres.

 

For Bach@7, I will be performing The Carrying of the Cross and The Crucifixion, two of the sonatas that represent the Sorrowful Mysteries. I chose these particular works because they reflect Lenten themes, as do the rest of the works on the April 9th program. Both sonatas use different scordatura, so you will notice that I use a different violin for each piece.

 

The Carrying of the Cross takes the form of a set of dance movements, surrounded on either side by a fantastical introduction and finale. To me, familiar dance forms played on an instrument that is mis-tuned suggests the paradox of the carrying of the cross - walking and carrying a burden are not unusual physical activities, but the context is unprecedented.

 

The Crucifixion is full of contrasts, which I see as reflecting the many aspects of the Crucifixion in scriptural terms - the public violence, the intimacy of Jesus and Mary as she sees him on the Cross, ultimately the joy of the promise of the resurrection. The finale of the sonata is dramatic - it could be seen as a depiction of the earthquake, the tearing of the veil and the resurrection of the saints as told in the Gospel according to St. Matthew.

 

Biber did not state imagery explicitly in these works - these are merely my way of interpreting the music that I perform. Whatever one’s faith or philosophy, the subject matter of the Mystery Sonatas invites contemplation of universal themes – of the strange and wonderful, of questions that cannot be answered, and of reality upturned. That is where their true beauty lies.

 

Read Rebecca's blog post on Biber's Mystery Sonatas.

 

 

Q: The audiences will get a chance to hear you play some of the Biber’s Mystery Sonatas again at the end of April, as a Tempesta di Mare artist recital series. Will it be the same program?

RH: I will perform the Crucifixion Sonata, alongside other works by Biber: selections from the Mystery Sonatas, two pieces from another set of sonatas and the Sonata Representativa, which uses animal sounds!

 

Q: How would you describe your experience with the Philadelphia Bach Collegium and Choral Arts Philadelphia? What do you think about the Bach@7 Cantata Series so far?

RH: The Bach@7 series has been a great success this year. One of my favorite things about Choral Arts is their warmth towards the audience - they host receptions after the concerts, and get to know people. I also love how clear and sparkling their German is when they sing, it is beautiful. The collegium is a joyful group to play with - there are so many fantastic players of early instruments in Philadelphia, it's a great community.

 

Q: What kind of people inspire you?

RH: People who have courage and integrity. Artists who take risks.

 

Q: What is your dream venue and a dream work to perform there?

RH: I would love to perform Bach at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig.

 

Q: When not performing, rehearsing, or teaching – what is your favorite pastime?

RH: Reading and painting - for me, a musician, quiet activities are very important!

 

The full interview is also published on the Choral Arts Philadelphia site.

 

 

New Bach Cantata Series Draws Wide Attention in Town

Matt Glandorf conducts Choral Arts and the Bach Collegium orchestra members during a pre-concert warm up. Photo: Inna Heasley. I would like to congratulate Choral Arts Philadelphia and The Bach Festival of Philadelphia for launching the brilliant Bach Cantata Series this 2013-2014 season!  In the first half of the run, the series has already generated a lot of interest among the Philadelphia audiences, musicians and the media.

 

Named "Bach at Seven" (or Bach@7 for short), the programs take place at the historical Saint Mark's Church near Rittenhouse Square (17th & Locust Streets) and feature a Bach cantata and other related music of any historic period. This could be a choral piece and/or an instrumental or organ work.

 

Each program (there are six offered this season in the series) lasts only one hour, including a live commentary by artistic director Matthew Glandorf. This is followed by a free informal post-concert reception  for all, a chance to  recharge with a light snack and fine wine,  have a good conversation and build some meaningful personal connections.  Combined with the "pay-as-you-wish" admission option and the timing of the programs (7 pm on a Wednesday night), these events have opened doors to some new audience demographics, including families with children, students, young professionals, and other folks who normally wouldn't attend a classical music concert.

 

In addition, this is a unique chance for the Philadelphia public to hear some shorter choral, vocal or instrumental gems of all styles and periods, that are rarely or almost never performed in live concerts just because they are so hard to program into a larger concert setting.  As a singer with the group myself, I feel grateful for this season as it has been an exciting personal journey of discovering and learning some beautiful and challenging works by Hugo Distler, Charles Stanford, Orlando Gibbons, Bob Chilcott and more... and of course, by J.S. Bach himself.

 

All the Bach@7 post-concert receptions are generously sponsored by the Moore Brothers Wine Company (based in Pennsauken, NJ), with Mr. Greg Moore himself happily serving some of his finest wine samples to the attendees.  Additionally, the February program is sponsored by Hold-A-Plate, recently founded by a University of Pennsylvania young designer John Zax.

 

THIS IS WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT BACH@7:

 

  • In this brief video (produced by PR Perfect), the audience members were asked to share their thoughts about the inaugural program in October 2013:

http://youtu.be/nCKdPXQZFeU

 

 

  • WHYY's NewsWorks reporter Peter Crimmins praises Bach@7 for attracting younger audiences in this feature piece.

 

  • "Wonderful idea - and cosmopolitan. How often, when visiting major European cities, do you discover early-evening classical concerts offering a good dose of music without monopolizing your evening?.. The idea's time has come. St. Mark's Church was close to full (Glandorf expressed surprise) and the reception was warm, possibly indulgent..."  (The Philadelphia Inquirer, by David Patrick Stearns)

 

  • "Glandorf describes the one hour Bach@7 concerts as an “Art Break.” The post-concert reception adds the perfect finishing touch, complete with some notably delectable wines, provided by a local wine merchant who offers his wares with the same enthusiasm that Bach lavishes on counterpoint. Bach would have fitted easily into this scene— mingling with his audience and his fellow musicians in the same way Glandorf and his musicians joined the party..."  (Broad Street Review, by Tom Purdom)

 

  • "This approach, according to artistic director, Matt Glandorf is designed to encourage as many people as possible to attend the series. This goal was inspired by the large number of citizens of Leipzig, regardless of wealth, who attended the cantata performances back in Bach's time. Is it working? If attendance of other concerts in the series matches the numbers I saw on December 18th, the answer is "yes!"... True to other Choral Arts concerts I've attended, the program was interesting and the performance quality was very high..."  (Examiner.com, by Sharon Torello)

 

RELATED LINKS:

Press Release: "Bach At Seven" Cantata Series - Original Innovative Programs Continue Into Spring 2014

Choral Arts Philadelphia videos on YouTube

Newsletter preview of Bach@7 - Spring 2014 (this link expires on March 11, 2014)

Interview with soprano Leslie Johnson

 

A New Partnership: Composer David Ludwig

It is my extreme pleasure to announce that PR Perfect got hired to represent David Ludwig, one of the most talented, versatile, and up-and-coming composers in the region!  

I met David during the audio recording session of his choral music album by Choral Arts Philadelphia last year.  When the recording came out, we plotted for a while how it could be promoted.  Then, in June of 2013, quite by a serendipity, I was asked by LocalArtsLive's Sharon Torello to do a series of videos with David for a composer profile Sharon was planning that summer.  So, we met in his historical office at The Curtis Institute for an hour and a half, and I got to torture David by making him answer my questions in front of a video camera about all things interesting, like his thoughts on modern classical music, music for movies, his family history and his upcoming bassoon concerto premiere with the Philadelphia Orchestra. And then David invited me to attend the concerto premiere at the Kimmel Center.  The beautiful and dreamy music from David's "Pictures from the Floating World" is still sounding in my head, and it is my high hope that the Orchestra will find the means to eventually record this piece they commissioned so it can be shared with the world.

http://youtu.be/wXvtELqYd5A

 

In each of my encounters with David, I have been touched by his friendly and unassuming demeanor, his open and accessible nature, and his sincerity.  And how he remains so humble, while great milestones and achievements add up to decorate his CV.  Some of these are things that even seasoned composers often only dream of.

 

It is for the moments like this that I love my work in public relations. It brings amazing new people into my life, and it takes me to amazing new places that I might never have otherwise visited. There is so much to learn from each and every one of these experiences. I never stop to be grateful for it.

 

I'm looking forward to bringing you some news about David's upcoming projects soon.  Stay tuned!

 

 

Promotional Video - A Britten Festival

Check out one of my latest videos I created to promote Choral Arts Philadelphia's collaborative program to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Benjamin Britten, the "people's composer" from England. I had a lot of fun following Matt Glandorf to one of his first rehearsals with Musicopia String Orchestra, the youth ensemble directed by Daniela Pierson, and to watch the real music making with these talented and responsive kids. I got to interview the Orchestra's first violin Samir Robinson, who is just 15 years old. And I also filmed a very touching personal story told by violinist Rebecca Harris who was born in the same area as Britten...And of course, videotaping my own chorus in action is always a treat and it doesn't happen often. The sound we make together, the blending of the voices (even in the rehearsal) never stops to amaze. I feel so fortunate to be a part of this magic, as both a singer and publicist.  

http://youtu.be/EJJGPiwac3E

 

The performance took place on November 17th (featuring cantata Saint Nicolas), and it was a fantastic celebration of life and music of one of the greatest composers of the 20th century! Amateur and professional musicians, both seasoned and young, came together in song as one - and the audience who filled Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul was singing along with us with such great enthusiasm! Read a rave review by Tom Purdom published in Broad Street Review.

 

 

 

Virtual Choir 4: Fly to Paradise!

So far, the year 2013 has been turning into a year of Eric Whitacre for me. Big Time.  

In March, I was fortunate to do an interview with Eric ahead of his appearance at Philadelphia's Kimmel Center with The Eric Whitacre Singers.  And in June, I took part in his epic project "Virtual Choir 4:  Fly to Paradise".

 

The  Virtual Choir idea grew out of a single fan video a few years back and since then has inspired four global choir video performances, each project bigger than the previous one, virtually connecting thousands of people who come together in one song.  This technology has only become available in the 21st century,  and it is simply amazing how it manifests the power of voices united in a beautiful music making.

 

VC-4 was truly a highly moving and fantastic experience for me as a human being, as a chorus singer, and as an arts marketing professional.

 

When I watched the final video - I realized that we all have just become members of The Biggest Chorus on Planet Earth!  WOW, I am out of words to express the feeling of this overwhelming joy.

 

 

The VC-4 stats are incredible:

8,409 Videos

5,905 Singers, ages 6-98

101 Countries

 

 

http://youtu.be/Y8oDnUga0JU

 

For future updates about the Virtual Choir, join the Eric Whitacre Community at http://ericwhitacre.com/community/signup.

Philadelphia Premiere of Rachmaninoff's rarely heard opera "Francesca da Rimini" June 24-27, 2013

Russian Opera Workshop was founded in Philadelphia in 2011 by Ghenady Meirson (faculty member at the Academy of Vocal Arts and Curtis Institute of Music) as an independent summer training program for aspiring and professional opera singers. Like no other opera training program in the world, the 30-day Workshop offers an intensive immersion into the Russian language and vocal training, followed by free public performances of the studied repertoire. Participating opera artists arrive from across the United States and from abroad.

 

"Now in its third summer season, Russian Opera Workshop has established itself as one of the world's most important and influential programs, right here in Philadelphia. Even Russians from Russia want to participate," says Meirson, the program founder, principal coach and pianist. Indeed, its alumni success is impressive: as of Spring of 2013, five opera companies nationwide hired Russian Opera Workshop artists in the roles they learned here.

 

The 2013 season will open on Monday, June 24th with a lively lecture about Francesca da Rimini given by a renowned American composer Daron Hagen, followed by the concert of the Russian Romance Songs, which will introduce all the Workshop participants to the audience, with Laura Ward at the piano.

 

On June 25-27, Russian Opera Workshop presents, in concert, a Philadelphia premiere of S. Rachmaninoff opera Francesca da Rimini, and P. Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, a rarely performed scene from the unfinished opera based on Shakespeare's drama.

 

Rachmaninoff’s Francesca da Rimini, an opera with the libretto written by Tchaikovsky’s brother Modest, premiered in Moscow in 1906. It is based on the story of Francesca da Rimini in the fifth canto of Dante’s epic poem The Inferno (the first part of The Divine Comedy). The performance of Francesca da Rimini includes a chorus comprised of singers from local choral groups: Philadelphia Singers, Choral Arts Philadelphia, Mendelssohn Club, and Vox Ama Deus.

 

All performances start at 7:30 PM at the Helen Corning Warden Theater, the Academy of Vocal Arts, 1920 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19103. Performances are in Russian with English supertitles. Admission is FREE, with open seating.

 

The public performances are preceded by a series of three vocal Master Classes led by premiere voice coaches and professors, June 7-21, 2013, which are also open to public at no charge and offer a unique chance to observe the training process

 

For more information and full schedule, please visit www.RussianOperaWorkshop.com.

 

The above art image is from a public domain at Wikimedia Commons.

 

The Bach Festival of Philadelphia April 28-May 5, 2013

Today's METRO PHILLY features a nice preview article about the Philadelphia Bach Festival 2013 by Shaun Brady who interviewed the Festival's artistic director Matthew Glandorf .  

View the full festival schedule and information.

 

And here are three videos produced by PR Perfect to preview three out of four Bach Festival events:

Matthew Glandorf: Bach and the Art of Improvisation

Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 4 PM:

 

http://youtu.be/R10Uu1e-0DA

 

Back Before Bach - with Piffaro, The Renaissance Band

Saturday, May 4 at 7 PM:

 

http://youtu.be/A_u8MPnZAW0

 

J. S. Bach: Great Mass in B-Minor

Sunday, May 5 at 3 PM:

 

http://youtu.be/lmt1GjT8BVY

 

Handel's MESSIAH: Successful Collaboration

  WHEN: March 17, 2013

 

WHERE: the University of Pennsylvania's stunning Irvine Auditorium, 3401 Spruce Street, Philadelphia PA.

 

WHAT: Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra Tempesta di Mare and Choral Arts Philadelphia joined forces to perform Handel’s beloved oratorio MESSIAH, with soloists Ah Young Hong, soprano, Jennifer Lane, alto, Aaron Sheehan, tenor, and William Sharp, bass. The sound and style of this first-time collaboration by two of Philadelphia’s finest ensembles—a chamber-sized chorus and an orchestra of valveless trumpets, timpani, baroque strings, harpsichord, organ and theorbo—came pretty close to what the composer led at its premiere in Dublin on April 13, 1742.

 

While the choir was prepared by its artistic director Matthew Glandorf, there was NO conductor on the podium during the performance as Maestro Glandorf was busy playing a portable organ in concert. And yet the choir and the orchestra sounded so together, moving like one, as if they have been doing this conductor-less thing for years!

 

PRESS REVIEWS:

- "Messiah experiment on St. Patrick's Day promising" - by David Patrick Stearns published in the Philadelphia Inquirer

 

- Review by Joyce Portnoy published on Local Arts Live.

 

PHOTOS:  PRE-CONCERT RUN THROUGH - Facebook photo album by Inna Heasley

 

SOUND SAMPLE: live recording of "Since By Man Came Death"

 

LIVE VIDEO: excerpt from the concert, "And He Shall Purify" (video by Milton Brugada)

http://youtu.be/kK7dwQtQqk4

 

Interview with Eric Whitacre

I am thrilled to share with you this audio/video which I was fortunate to record with Eric over the phone, while he was attending the ACDA National Conference in Dallas, TX.  Below I also offer you two links:  my introductory blog post about Eric and his Singers as well as the partial transcript of this interview, both currently posted on LocalArtsLive.com.  

Background: Sharon Torello, the founder of LocalArtsLive.com asked me to interview composer/conductor Eric Whitacre to preview his debut U.S. Tour with Eric Whitacre Singers. The tour included a single appearance of the ensemble in Philadelphia's Kimmel Center on March 20th which drew highly enthusiastic crowds of audiences of all ages, with many college and high school choir groups in attendance.

 

http://youtu.be/mpr7zKCCyZ4

 

THE ERIC WHITACRE PHENOMENON

Ever since 2007, when I heard Eric Whitacre’s music for the first time and subsequently was fortunate to sing some of it with Choral Arts Philadelphia, I was forever drawn to his unique style: the ideal balance - not a conflict - between the humanity and technology. The honest and heavenly, ancient-sounding spectrum of harmonies is happily married to the bold use of contemporary expressive means, which -- blended together -- work amazingly well to deliver the true meaning of the poetry straight into my heart. And these “delivery means" do not incorporate just singing. Eric often takes singers outside their “vocal box” and makes use of their abilities to whisper, speak, make noise, clap, snap, hit percussion, etc. (a great example is his Cloudburst where, in the second part of the piece, singers are imitating the sounds of thunder and a downpour)... Read the rest of the article here.

 

Read the partial transcript of my interview with Eric Whitacre.

 

Ducks Are Flying…for Van Cliburn (Летят Утки для Вана Клиберна) Part II of II

READ PART I OF THIS STORY  

UPDATE FROM FEB. 2015:

This amazing story continues on because "Ducks Are Flying" has taken on the life of its own in the United States. Hear all about it here. Thanks to Susan Lewis and WRTI FM for bringing it to light!

 

PART 2 CONTINUED:

I am sharing some new information, updates and insights kindly provided by Archie Bailey, the Executive Director of Schola Cantorum of Texas, one of the choirs singing at Van Cliburn's funeral service today in Forth Worth, TX:

 

"From the melody I found on the web, Tom [Stoker, a longtime friend of Van and his mother - ih] had a friend and greatly talented composer begin arraigning The Ducks are Flying as a backup in case we could not get an original. We ran his score today and with your help from your score and vocal mp3 we have a tremendously beautiful work. It will be sung as the casket leaves the church. It will be most moving and an appropriate expression of our loss. Thank you for your help. I will send you a copy of the arrangement by Kyle. You will cry when you hear it."

 

"About 1/5th of the total singers are Schola on such short notice. About 1/5th are from the Arlington Master Chorale, the rest are from the two church choirs.

 

Van was so loved that we even have a few little, stooped ladies on walkers and canes singing their hearts out for him.

 

He was a tender man, and loved all things of beauty in nature.

 

Van once said 'only the birds sing for free.'  Today we are honored to be his birds, singing from the heart for all the world to hear."

 

# # #

 

FUNERAL SERVICE INFORMATION:

 

The service will start at 3 PM today, March 3, 2013  at Broadway Baptist Church, Fort Worth, TX.

 

With the Fort Worth Symphony and 270 voices in the chorus. The chorus is made up of Schola Cantorum of Texas, the Arlington Master Chorale, Broadway Baptist Chancel Choir and Arborlawn United Methodist Chancel Choir.

Repertoire includes:

"Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" -- Wilberg "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" - Wilberg "Old Hundredth" - Vaughan Williams "Moscow Nights" (in Russian) "The Lord's Prayer" - Tschaikovsky (in Russian)

"Ducks are Flying" - Russian Folk Song (in Russian)

 

Live broadcast: Charter Cable channel 101, Turner Broadcasting (Time Warner) channel 371, on radio WBAP 820 AM, and will be rebroadcast on WFAA Channel 8 at 1:05 am Monday morning.

 

READ PART I

 

And here is the video recording of the funeral service:

 

http://www.fwsymphony.org/hld/misc/van_cliburn.asp

Ducks Are Flying...for Van Cliburn (Летят Утки для Вана Клиберна) - PART I of II

Special thanks to Rebecca Krzystyniak  and Archie Bailey for their amazing trust in me and love of music.   

An incredible thing happened over the past 48 hours. I was honored to be involved in helping find, translate and transcribe a choral score of a Russian folk song for the funeral service of Van Cliburn, one of the great American pianists (Vanya Klibern, as the Russians call him).

 

He was adored by the Russian people ever since he took the 1st prize in the Tchaikovsky piano competition in Moscow in 1958.  And I think that back then, his genuine love for Russian music did much more for the two nations than any political efforts could ever achieve.  His famous recording of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 was the first classical music piece I ever heard in my life.  When I was a little girl, my mom would play that precious record quite often.

 

Apparently, before his passing on February 27th, Cliburn had requested that the Russian folk song “Ducks are Flying” be performed at his funeral service.  The song is pretty much unknown in this country, and after he was gone, all they had was just the English title of it.

 

The organizing team had trouble finding the score.  The team included: Tom Stoker, a longtime friend of Van and his mother, who was in charge of the choral music for the service; Archie Bailey, Executive Director of Schola Cantorum of Texas, one of the four choirs to sing at Van's service;  Miguel H. Badoya, director of the Fort Worth Symphony that often worked with Van; and Dr. Al Travis, the organist and also a personal friend of Van. According to Archie Bailey, the organ used in the service was dedicated to Van's mother and is the largest in the Southwest.

 

In the effort to find the score, Archie contacted some friends in Moscow who even went to a local music store looking for it but failed.  The service organizers didn’t know what else to do -- where to even start looking for the sheet music and for the lyrics.  And they were running out of time.

 

Now, what are the odds that one of the choir members, Rebecca Krzystyniak found my PR business card which I had given her 4 years earlier? Rebecca and I met during an 8-day session at the Berkshire Choral Festival in Massachusetts, where we both participated in the performance of Rachmaninov Vespers, conducted by Dale Warland. Seriously, what are the chances!?

 

And so, after 4 years of silence, Rebecca called me out of the blue on Wednesday afternoon, with the terrible news of Van Cliburn’s death.  Still in shock, I hear her asking me if I could help find the song...

 

There was no question, I had to do it. For Cliburn! Fortunately, Russian music fans share a lot of materials on the web, and in a short time I found a gorgeous YouTube recording of the Ducks song performed by a native Russian choir from Voronezh, and even a PDF page of a two-voice version with a piano reduction.  This song is beautiful. It is about mourning a loved one who left home and will never return. It’s a perfect farewell song!  Here it is (this recording left a few verses out):

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5tUQimjTq0

 

A few minutes after I sent the files to Rebecca, she wrote back saying not to bother. Unfortunately, the team is too nervous; the fact that the funeral service will be broadcast live on national TV this Sunday made the pressure even greater on all of them. They saw no other alternativebut to take the song in question off the list...

 

So I thought to myself, if “Ducks” won't be sung at the service in Texas, then I will sing it at my home, in Pennsylvania. For Cliburn! It won’t really matter to him -- his soul will hear the beloved song no matter who sings it and where. At least this way his memory will be honored.  And that's all that matters in the end.

 

After spending a little more time searching the Russian web, I was lucky enough to find a beautiful SATB chorus arrangement posted on a public domain music site by some Russian enthusiasts. I sent it to Rebecca immediately.  She loved the song but gave me little hope that the director would reconsider.

 

It didn’t matter to me.  I would sing it on Sunday, for Cliburn. It felt very special that, by a lucky turn of the fate, I was told which song he wanted to hear and that I could grant his last wish!  I said a little prayer and asked Universe to help me let go of any regrets about the song being taken out of the list. Gratitude filled my heart.  And this is how I went to bed on Wednesday night.

 

The next day brought a lot of work, and my mind was too busy to think about anything else. Suddenly, at 3 pm my phone rang. It was a Texas number.  My heart sank. Archie Bailey himself was on the phone. He was so thankful and said that they loved the SATB arrangement I had sent, and that it would work but only if I can provide transcription and translation of the text. This had to be done by  “yesterday” of course.

 

The rest is history – I had a couple of intensebut totally rewarding hours, typing the English transliterations into the 6-page score, translating the song, and making an MP3 recording of myself reading the Russian text slowly to help the choir. Here is the transcribed score :

Ducks are flying. PDF. Fully Transcribed SATB Score

 

All is well so far, the dress rehearsal is on Saturday,  the service will start at 3 pm on Sunday, March 3, at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX.  I have no doubt that this will be a beautiful service celebrating the life of Van Cliburn. By the way, Moscow Nights is also on the list!

 

I will be forever grateful for this incredible life experience. While it is such sad news for all of us who loved Van, this amazing story made his passing so much more personal to me, and at the same time somewhat easier to bear because I was called to and could help make his last wish come true.  I hope it helps you in the same way too, as we say goodbye to the great beloved Pianist and Person.

 

Ducks Are Flying - Летят Утки

Russian Folk Song (English translation by Inna Heasley)

 

1.

Ducks are flying, ducks and two geese are flying.

Oh, the one I love, the one I love – won’t see him back. 2.

I fell in love, I fell in love, so young.

Oh, it must be my fate, must be my fate.

3.

My love left, my love went beyond Voronezh  [town in Russia – ih]

Oh, now nothing will bring him back. 4.

My sweet, when you, my sweet, abandon me,

Oh, don’t tell, don’t tell of what you know.

5.

Oh, how hard, how hard to say good bye –

Oh, eyes are open, eyes are open, tears pouring down.

6.

Wheat’s in blossom, wheat’s in blossom, bending down to the ground,

Oh, my heart is aching for my sweet, for my sweet.

 

READ PART II

 

 

Choral Arts Philadelphia offers authentic Rossini

One of the most popular composers of opera, Rossini spent the last forty years of his life in retirement in Paris.  Composing mostly for fun during this period, he nonetheless produced his two fine religious works, the Stabat Mater and the Petite Messe Solennelle.  Choral Arts will perform the Mass with its original instrumentation:  an historic pianoforte and an harmonium, creating a sound world that is foreign and fresh to our modern ears.  A brilliant cast of soloists, led by renowned Julianne Baird, specializes in period vocal performance and will add the icing to this brilliant confection for our delight.