Monday, September 26, 2011

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

What a stupendous week it has been! I cannot believe how many people have contacted me through email and phone calls and facebook. Thank you for your comments and well wishes, especially everyone from my hometown of Great Bend, Kansas. I miss you all! It truly has been incredible.

I have to say that my favorite story of the week came from a singer in the Symphony Chorus. He's a tenor and had an amazing story about when he sang with Robert Shaw - the "Father Abraham" of choral conductors. He casually mentioned that he was a singer in Shaw's chorus, the Atlanta Symphony Chorus and won five Grammy awards with them. Then he said that the excitement for the opening of the Kauffman Center was about what he felt when he sang in the Opening Ceremonies of the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. He certainly did not know what that means to me. I literally have the opening ceremonies of the '96 games memorized...the television commentary; the rhythm, tempo, and timbre of Bob Costas describing the excitement of seeing Team USA ascending the ramp into the stadium with the quote "and the reaction" and the immediate fanfare of John Williams' "Summon the Heroes" as the camera shoots quickly toward President Clinton clapping, smiling with his jaw hanging open.

That event 15 years ago kicked my passion in music to a new level. The whole artistic portion of the ceremony was a giant opera about the history of the American South. Anyway, the Kauffman Center Opening truly was Olympic-esque. Here is a video of what was playing outside of the Kauffman Center of Opening Night.

Unfortunately, there isn't video yet from my scene that night, but I did find some great photos online from the final dress rehearsal earlier that day.

This last week was just a whirl-wind.  I have been incredibly busy and unfortunately I have also been suffering one of the worst allergy weeks of my life.  I finally "hit the wall" on Saturday and have been resting over the weekend.  It really puts drag on my practicing regimen with so much to memorize including an opera role.  I hope I will feel better so I can get back to 100%.

When I do, I will be preparing for an opera, Le nozze di Figaro by Mozart (the Marriage of Figaro), and for several other things as well.  As always, you can check my schedule at to see what I have coming up.  Right now, most of the events are all in Kansas City, not surprisingly, but audition season is fast approaching, which will probably take me all over the place.

In the past, I have just given updates on the auditions as they happen, but this year, I have been asked by some singers who are just getting into the field, to go into a little more detail on how I prepare for auditions and what it takes to get a live audition and (if I'm lucky) win a role.  So, starting next week, I will be showing what goes on "behind the scenes" and you will all travel and see with me, how successful this audition season goes.

Lastly, I just wanted to announce that my charity organization, the Kansas City Vocal Institute, is once again planning to have an online auction to raise money for scholarships.  Last year was very successful and we awarded scholarships with donations from people such as: Maya Angelou, David Cook, Melissa Etheridge, Angelina Jolie, Yo-Yo Ma, Stephen Sondheim, Eric Whitacre, John Williams, and many more.  Hopefully, those folks will want to continue their scholarships through KCVI this year, and we are asking even more celebrities to contribute.  I hope that each of the coming weeks, I will be able to announce some celebrities who will be renewing their scholarship funds and will participate in this year's celebrity charity auction.  Last year, we raised $3,141.08 which provided over 100 hours of free or greatly discounted music lessons for kids and families here in Kansas City, however those scholarships quickly ran out, as many in this Great Recession took advantage of the free lessons.  Many more are still waiting, so I hope that this year, we will have a great turnout and that we can provide more with free professional music education.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Kauffman Center Grand Opening Week: More to come!

A completely unbelievable night, last night! But yet, there's still more to come with the Grand Opening to the Symphony Hall! And, I'm invited to the ball afterward!

Yesterday, though, was magical. Here are my facebook posts from yesterday:

10:00 AM - "Today will be a good day! First sing some Bach Evangelist, then some West Side Story!"

1:00 PM - "At the opera the dressing room...ready to go! last dress rehearsal before the Grand Opening...CALLED TO STAGE!...I'm going on..."

2:00 PM - "Dress rehearsal went, got to meet the Canadian Brass!"

2:30 PM - "on stage with Domingo!!!"

3:00 PM - "Dress Rehearsal it's time for the big show!"

5:00 PM - "Security is tight...internet access is even tighter...can't wait for this thing to start"

6:00 PM - "House is open, in costume...30 minutes until the opening...what a night! Listening to the red carpet interviews on KCUR while I wait for my call..."

7:00 PM - "Curtain Up!"

9:00 PM - "IT WENT GREAT!!!! Met with Placido...UNBELIEVABLE!!!!"

10:00 PM - "‎"Tonight, won't be just any night" was the most amazing night ever! Sang and acted at my very best, got to meet with Domingo and Patti LuPone, and received the most unforgettable, gracious praise from the Kauffmans and Helzbergs...just amazing!!!"

I have a lot of video much more still to come!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Kauffman Center Grand Opening Week: Show Time!

Tonight is the night! I have a lot of video from today and I am so excited to share it with you all. You can follow me throughout the day at

I have met and seen many people today and I just got off the stage with Placido Domingo.

More posts and videos to come!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kauffman Center Grand Opening Week: Rehearsing

Howdy folks!  Here are some photos taken by another cast member that I found on facebook.  Enjoy!

I will have more either very late tonight or most likely tomorrow on my first experience in Helzberg Hall, the new Symphony Hall!


Monday, September 12, 2011

Kauffman Center Grand Opening Week: First Rehearsal in the New Opera House

I will be posting daily this week...some of the posts may be late, depending on when I can get to the internet after rehearsals.  Anyway, please go to to see my updated website, with new images, recordings, and schedule!  You can also read my blog on it as well.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

6 Classical Music Pieces to Commemorate 9/11 - #1 The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace by Karl Jenkins

I have had an amazing time presenting these six pieces, but today's is extra special.  This is one of my very most favorite pieces of music ever. It is one of only a  few pieces that I feel I must do or witness, before my time is up. The music is amazingly beautiful, and the story that it tells could not be more appropriate.  I hope you will also fall in love with this piece as I have!!  Please, I beg you, to listen to the whole piece, you will not regret it.  I have chosen many different groups from around the world performing the various movements..they are all spectacular.

The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace
by Karl Jenkins

How it was influenced by September 11:  This piece was finished in 2000 and originally composed to remember those effected by the Kosovo crisis.  Well, as fate would have it, the piece received its premier and the subsequent record was released to the world on the 10th of September 2001. What was to be a call to peace, remembering that the 20th century was the deadliest in human history, would become a haunting precursor to a day of terror.  It is one of the highest achievements of Ambient Music and certainly the most important piece and composer from Wales.  The name derives from L'homme arme (the armed man) mass settings from 15th century France.

What to listen for:  Besides the release of the music on September 10, 2001, it is filled with intriguing elements including an Islamic call to prayer, poems from one who witnessed the Hiroshima bombings, but the piece has a gracious healing power, overwhelming every musical sense.  It is a dream to listen to as a musician.  The first and last pieces are bookends of the simple "armed man" theme.  In between you move from the preparation for battle, to the battle itself, to the aftermath, leading to a conclusion filled with the most unbelievable healing sounds.  It contains the movements of the Catholic Mass with many famous English poems.

I sure hope you enjoy this as much as I do.  I hope this serves as a wonderful release of our collective emotions from the memories of that horrible day 10 years ago.

Part 1 - L'Homme Arme

L'homme, l'homme, l'homme armé,
L'homme armé
L'homme armé doibt on doubter, doibt on doubter.
On a fait partout crier,
Que chascun se viengne armer
D'un haubregon de fer.

The man, the man, the armed man,
The armed man
The armed man should be feared, should be feared.
Everywhere it has been proclaimed
That each man shall arm himself
With a coat of iron mail.

Part 2 - The Call to Prayer

Allahu Akbar
Ash-had al-la ilaha illa llah
Ash-hadu anna Muħammadan rasulullah
Hayya 'ala-salahh
Hayya 'ala 'l-falah
As-salatu khayru min an-nawm
Allāhu akbar
La ilaha illallah

God is Greatest
I bear witness that there is no God except the One God
I bear witness that Muhammad is God's Messenger
Come to salat (prayer, worship)
Come to success
Salat (prayer, worship) is better than sleep
God is Greatest
There is no god except the One God.

Part 3 - Kyrie

Kyrie eleison; Christe eleison; Kyrie eleison
Lord have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy.

Part 4 - Save Me From Bloody Men

Be merciful unto me, oh God
For man would swallow me up.
The fighting day oppresseth me.
Mine enemies would daily swallow me up.
For they be many that fought against me, oh thou most high.
Defend me from them that rise up against me.
Deliver me from the workers of iniquity.
And save me from bloody men.

Part 5 - Sanctus

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth; pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua
Hosanna in excelsis

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts; Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Part 6 - Hymn Before Action

The earth is full of anger,
The seas are dark with wrath,
The Nations in their harness
Go up against our path:
Ere yet we loose the legions—
Ere yet we draw the blade,
Jehovah of the Thunders,
Lord God of Battles, aid!

High lust and froward bearing,
Proud heart, rebellious brow—
Deaf ear and soul uncaring,
We seek Thy mercy now!
The sinner that forswore Thee,
The fool that passed Thee by,
Our times are known before Thee—
Lord, grant us strength to die!

Part 6 - Charge!

(John Dryden's A Song for St. Cecilia's Day)
The trumpet's loud clangor
Excites us to arms
With shrill notes of anger
And mortal alarms.
The double, double, double beat
Of the thundering drum
Cries, hark! the foes come:
Charge, charge! 'tis too late to retreat.

Part 8 - Angry Flames

(Poem by Togi Sankichi - Hiroshima survivor who died of radiation poisoning in 1953)
Pushing up through smoke from a world half-darkened by over-hanging cloud,
The shroud that mushroomed out and struck the dome of the sky – black, red, blue – dance in the air,
Merge – scatter glittering sparks – already tower over the whole city.
Quivering like seaweed, the mass of flames spurts forward, popping up in the dense smoke,
Crawling out, wreathed in fire, countless human beings on all fours in a heap of embers
That erupt and subside, hair rent, rigid in death, there smoulders a curse.

Part 9 - Torches

(6th Century Hindu Poem)
The animals scattered in all directions, screaming terrible screams.
Many were burning, others were burnt. All were shattered and scattered mindlessly,
their eyes bulging. Some hugged their sons, others their fathers and mothers,
Unable to let them go, and so they died.
Others leapt up in their thousands, faces disfigured, and were consumed by the fire.
Everywhere were bodies squirming on the ground: wings, eyes and paws all burning;
They breathed their last as living torches

Part 10 - Agnus Dei (the video makes no sense with the text)

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.

Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

Part 11 - Now the Guns Have Stopped

(poem by Guy Wilson, Master of the Royal Armouries)
Silent, so silent now, now the guns have stopped. I have survived all; I, who knew I would not.
But now you are not here. I shall go home alone and try to live life as before and hide my grief.
For you, my dearest friend, who should be with me now, not cold too soon in your grave, alone.

Part 12 - Benedictus

Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord

Part 13 - Better is Peace

(excerpts from Sir Thomas Malory, A. Lord Tennyson, Rev. 24:1)
Better is peace than always war. And better is peace than evermore war.
Ring out the thousand wars of old, Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free the larger heart, the kindlier hand.
Ring out the darkness of the land. Ring in the Christ that is to be.
God shall wipe away all tears, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying,
Neither shall there be any more pain. Praise the Lord!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

6 Classical Music Pieces to Commemorate 9/11 - #2 On the Transmigration of Souls by John Adams

We're down to the final two pieces that I wanted to feature.  Both of them are equally amazing, but completely different.  Today, I have a very special treat for you (musicians MUST listen to this) - not only is this piece inspired by 9/11, but it is one of the most important pieces of the 21st century.  It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 and the original recording won 3 Grammy Awards in 2005.

On the Transmigration of Souls
by John Adams

How it was influenced by September 11:  It commemorates those who lost their lives on the 11 September 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. It also mourns on behalf of those of us left behind. It is about the nature of death. According to Adams, "Transmigration means 'the movement from one place to another' or 'the transition from one state of being to another.' But in this case I mean it to imply the movement of the soul from one state to another. And I don't just mean the transition from living to dead, but also the change that takes place within the souls of those that stay behind, of those who suffer pain and loss and then themselves come away from that experience transformed."  This work is a musical space for reflection; a meditation on an unanswerable question.

What to listen for: The stories.  The piece combines city sounds and live performances by a children's chorus, an adult chorus, and a large orchestra - with choral texts, a litany of victims, taken from newspaper memorials and the desperate missing-person fliers pervading lower Manhattan in the months following the attacks. As the piece continues to the second part, it hauntingly reveals the stories of those mundane moments in the lives of those lost in the attacks, and sets the stories of the children and families in their grief.

To me, personally, this is one of the greatest expressions of life.  What a remarkable way to describe the unknown...and it certainly is one of the greatest achievements of Minimalism.  It is one of the most intriguing and exciting pieces of our generation!

Friday, September 9, 2011

6 Classical Music Pieces to Commemorate 9/11 - #3 An American Requiem by Richard Danielpour

Today, I have a piece that is not as well known compared to any of the other six pieces that I have selected for this week.  So, in that case, you should be really excited, because it is a great piece of music that deserves its due.  If you are in a hurry...(but why would you be?) should skip to part 4!

An American Requiem
by Richard Danielpour

How it was influenced by September 11:  The composer writes in his notes that, "When I began writing An American Requiem, I, of course, had no idea what would eventually occur on September 11, 2001. My initial interest in writing the piece that became An American Requiem began in 1998 when I started to establish dialogues with American veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the war in Vietnam. An American Requiem began as both a tribute to the American soldier and an examination of the insanity we call war.

On the early morning of September 11, 2001, I had just opened a package containing the orchestral engraving of An American Requiem to edit for the upcoming premiere. I knew, because of the length of the work (60’) and the large forces required for performing it, that editing would be a long process. The first thing I noticed however was that there was no dedication on the first page. I had evidently not been able to come up with the appropriate words or way to inscribe such a dedication. Around 9:10 am, I called my publisher G. Schirmer to speak with my editor about the issue of the missing inscription, and eventually found myself on the phone with Deborah Horne, who works in the Promotion Department at Schirmer. She explained to me, that just two minutes earlier, she had witnessed from her office window in downtown Manhattan the second of two jets that had exploded into the World Trade Center. In the ensuing days as I edited and finalized the score of my work, I had in the most disquieting and disturbing way found my dedication.

What to listen for: The text.  Once again, the composer says, "...the work is sung by a large chorus as well as three solo voices; and, it two languages. The Latin texts from the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass are usually given to the chorus (while sometimes sung by the soloists), while the American poems that were set are always given to the soloists either individually or in ensemble. The Latin Requiem texts...represent a spiritual dimension (involving man’s relationship to a Supreme Being in the face of death). I also found the invoked images of the Apocalypse and the spiritual hell and fear of annihilation to be an appropriate reflection of the hell on earth that is experienced in war. In some sense An American Requiem is not only about our relationship to war, but also our relationship to death as a part of life.

Part 1. Introit: Requiem - Vigil 1 - Kyrie

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus Deus, in Sion,
et tibi reddetur votum in Ierusalem.
Exaudi orationem meam;
ad te omnis caro veniet.
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
A hymn becomes you, O God, in Zion,
and to you shall a vow be repaid in Jerusalem.
Hear my prayer;
to you shall all flesh come.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.

(Whitman's "Sea-winds blown...")
Sea-winds blown from east and west,
Blown from the Eastern sea and blown from the Western sea, till
there on the prairies meeting,
These and with these and the breath of my chant,
I'll perfume the grave of him I love.

(Emerson's "Was there no star")
Was there no star that could be sent,
No watcher in the firmament,
No angel from the countless host
That loiters round the crystal coast,
Could stoop to heal that only child,
Nature's sweet marvel undefiled,
And keep the blossom of the earth,
The eager fate which carried thee
Took the largest part of me:

Kyrie eleison;
Christe eleison;
Kyrie eleison

Lord have mercy;
Christ have mercy;
Lord have mercy.


Part 2. Dies Irae

Dies iræ! dies illa
Solvet sæclum in favilla:
Teste David cum Sibylla!

The day of wrath, that day
Will dissolve the world in ashes
As foretold by David and the sibyl!

Quantus tremor est futurus,
Quando iudex est venturus,
Cuncta stricte discussurus!

How much tremor there will be,
when the judge will come,
investigating everything strictly!

(Whitman's A Dirge for Two Veterans)
I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-key’d bugles;
All the channels of the city streets they’re flooding,
As with voices and with tears.

I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring;
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.

The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish’d Sabbath,
On the pavement here—and there beyond, it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.

Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive;
And the day-light o’er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music;
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

Part 3. Vigil II - Lacrimosa - Pie Jesu

(Whitman's "Vigil strange I kept..")
VIGIL strange I kept on the field one night:
When you, my son and my comrade, dropt at my side that day,
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet, there in the fragrant silent night; 10
But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh—Long, long I gazed;

Then on the earth partially reclining, sat by your side, leaning my chin in my hands;
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you, dearest comrade—Not a tear, not a word;
Vigil of silence, love and death—vigil for you my son and my soldier.

Lacrimosa dies illa,
Qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:

Tearful will be that day,
on which from the ashes arises
the guilty man who is to be judged.
Spare him therefore, God.

Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem. Amen.

Merciful Lord Jesus,
grant them rest. Amen.

Part 4-5 Sanctus - Benedictus

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth;
pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.

Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis. (reprise)

Holy, Holy, Holy,
Lord God of Hosts;
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest. (reprise)

Part 6-7 Lay This Body Down - Agnus Dei

Lay this Body Down (anonymous spiritual)

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem,
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem,
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem sempiternam.

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, grant them rest,
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, grant them rest,
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, grant them eternal rest.

Part 8. Libera Me - Not in Our Time

Libera me, Domine, de morte æterna, in die illa tremenda:
Quando cœli movendi sunt et terra.
Dum veneris iudicare sæculum per ignem.
Tremens factus sum ego, et timeo, dum discussio venerit, atque ventura ira.
Quando cœli movendi sunt et terra.

Dies illa, dies iræ, calamitatis et miseriæ, dies magna et amara valde.
Dum veneris iudicare sæculum per ignem.
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis. 

Deliver me, O Lord, from death eternal on that fearful day,
when the heavens and the earth shall be moved,
when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
I am made to tremble, and I fear, till the judgment be upon us, and the coming wrath,
when the heavens and the earth shall be moved.

That day, day of wrath, calamity, and misery, day of great and exceeding bitterness,
when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them. 

Hilda Doolittle's "No in our time"
Not in our time, O Lord, 
the plowshare for the sword, 
not in our time, the knife, 
sated with life-blood and life, 
to trim the barren vine.

Part 9. Lux Aeterna

Lux æterna luceat eis, Domine,
cum sanctis tuis in æternum,
quia pius es.

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine;
et lux perpetua luceat eis ;
cum Sanctis tuis in æternum,
quia pius es. 

May everlasting light shine upon them, O Lord,
with your Saints forever,
for you are kind.

Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
and may everlasting light shine upon them.
with your Saints forever,
for you are merciful. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

6 Classical Pieces to Commemorate 9/11 - #4 WTC 9/11 by Steve Reich

Today, I have something that will either be exciting or horrifying to your ears.

WTC 9/11
By Steve Reich

How it was influenced by September 11:  The piece itself is a short (15 minute long) "speech melody" in three movements - 9/11, 2010, and WTC.  The Pulitzer Prize winning composer, Steve Reich, who is one of the world's most influential living composers, took sounds from that day and audio recordings from interviews, NORAD air-traffic controllers, and firefighters using the pitch of their voices to create a musical world that describes the images that they are speaking about.  The Kronos Quartet, one of the world's greatest string quartets, accompanies the spoken parts to pitch.

What to listen for: The string quartet.  Reich is a tough composer for those who have never heard his music before.  He breaks parts down into small segments and pieces them back together.  When people speak in this piece, the strings play what they are speaking on pitch, then elaborate on it.  So, if someone is talking about people falling from a building, the strings will use the pitches of the speaker's voice describing it, and create a falling theme following their description, etc.  By the end of the piece you will know exactly what I am talking about, so it may take a couple listens to fully understand the piece.

With that said, this has already received tremendous acclaim, and will certainly be a heavy contender for the Pulitzer Prize next year.


Tomorrow, I'll have something easier for your ears.  We're getting down to the top 3!  They are all incredible!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

6 Classical Music Pieces to Commemorate 9/11 - #5 One Sweet Morning by John Corigliano

Yesterday, we had a song that everyone knows and sings. Today, as with every day this week, the next piece is from a totally different genre.

One Sweet Morning
Lyrics from E.Y. Harburg poem "One Sweet Morning"
Music by John Corigliano

Out of the fallen leaves the autumn world over, 
Out of the shattered rose that will smile no more, 
Out of the embers of blossoms and shades of clover 
Spring will bloom – one sweet morning. 

Out of the fallen lads the summer world over, 
Out of their flags plowed under a distant shore, 
Out of the dreams in their bones buried under the clover 
Peace will come – one sweet morning. 

"One sweet morning  
The rose will rise 
To wake the heart 
And make it wise!"

This is the cry of life the winter world over,  
“Sing me no sad amen, but a bright encore!” 
For out of the flags and the bones 
            buried under the clover, 
                        Spring will bloom 
                                    Peace will come 
                                                One sweet morning –  
                                                            One sweet morning.

How was it influenced by September 11: This song, which will have it's premiere in a Mezzo/Orchestra arrangement later this month with the New York Philharmonic, was composed originally in 2006 for choir in remembrance of the attacks on September 11.  Here is a brief video describing the meaning of the piece.

What to listen for:  Yourself.  Of course follow the lyrics, which are abstractly appropriate to commemorate such an event, but here's what the composer himself said about the piece: "If I wrote a work that had meditative sections, but also dramatic and extroverted sections, then I would fall into a terrible trap. So many in the audience of this piece will have images of the frightful day itself — jetliners crashing into the World Trade Center, people jumping to their deaths from the top of the buildings, and the final collapse of the towers themselves — burned into their retinas. How can one hear music of any dramatic surges without imagining these events accompanying the music — or vice versa? Inevitably, the piece would become a tone poem of that unimaginable day — something I never intended and did not want. Yet how could I instruct the audience to ignore their own memories?"

Come back tomorrow to hear something truly interesting - you may not like it, but it sure will make you think differently about music: Steve Reich's WTC 9/11.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

6 Classical Music Pieces to Commemorate 9/11 - #6 The Star-Spangled Banner

The Star-Spangled Banner
The National Anthem of the United States of America
Lyrics from Francis Scott Key's poem "Defence of Fort McHenry"
Music from John Stafford Smith's "To Anacreon in Heaven"

O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Why it was influenced by September 11:  The national anthem provides a great sense of national pride in Americans.  Of course, we associate it with the Olympics and many other sporting events.  After the attacks, musically, the national anthem went through a brief transition away from popularizing the tune.  In 1968, Jose Feliciano became the first to sing the national anthem in a pop style during the World Series.  Since then, many of the great pop, jazz, blues, country, and other genre specific singers applied the national anthem to their style.  This caused controversy initially, however it has since became a part of an artist's prerogative.  After the attacks, the country responded by preferring the strength of the classical, militaristic form of the national anthem and to more classic pop songs, like God Bless America, than to any more modern pieces like God Bless the USA.  By programming the national anthem in such a way, it allowed the public to vent and live their pain, anger, and fortitude through the power of the universally recognized, stately version of song.  Just like a little folk tune, everyone could participate and unify in the same melody - something difficult to do in popularizations.  This was our song.

What to listen for: The bass line (each of these examples have slightly different versions). I know we all know this song pretty well.  Essentially, when we hear the national anthem, people concentrate on the melody and the words (especially stuff about rockets and bombs - and the home of the brave - or the home of the Chiefs if you're from Kansas City).  This time, notice the bass line along with the melody.  See how it colors the melody differently; how it provides gravity into the unison parts on "twilight's last gleeming" etc. and how it provides great tension until the very end.  This is the beauty of chorale tunes.

Here is an example played at the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace in London after the attacks.  Try to forget that they don't repeat the first phrase...give them a break! They're British!

Here is a stunning example of one of the world's greatest orchestras, The Cleveland Orchestra, in they're tribute concert in September of 2001.  Notice how vigorous the audience is belting (as well as the conductor).

This even spilled into church services.  Here is an example of the National Anthem played at a memorial service at St. Paul's in London.

Finally, one of the greatest moments, and one that I have never forgotten.  The 2002 Winter Olympics were in Salt Lake City, Utah only a few months after the attacks.  The Opening Ceremony was a gigantic tribute to our country in a grand spectacle that since that time we have yet to replicate.  However at the moment of the National Anthem, the whole ceremony stopped and this is how it played out...

We learned a lot about America because of the events of 9/11.  In music, our collective hearts were warmed to an idea that the simple form of our National Anthem provided a great expression of our sorrow, fear, and pride.  This simplest form, without any added artistic desires from pop stars or others, became a healing power for us all.  There was nothing more comforting than our song during such a terrifying and traumatic time.

Monday, September 5, 2011

6 Classical Music Pieces to Commemorate 9/11

The Kauffman Center Grand Opening is nearly here!  I am so excited to sing in the opening event, and for those who haven't been following recently, I will have an incredibly exciting opportunity to be a soloist (Tony) in the West Side Story scene "Tonight" at the Grand Opening of the new opera house here in Kansas City on September 16 (Placido Domingo, among many other musicians, will also perform on the concert).  Tickets (ranging from $1,000 to $70,000) are sold out unfortunately, but I am hoping that it will be recorded and perhaps broadcast at some point.  The Kauffman Center is one of the largest and most expensive performing art centers ever built in the world.  We have been rehearsing with the chorus and dancers.  There are around 50 people in our scene alone!

I tried on my costume, as most of the dancers and chorus members are dressed very sexy.  I was somewhat nervous, mainly because I am self-conscious about my bright white belly being shown in public.  I was told that my costume would be all white along with Maria's (the gangs being in either black or red).  They handed me my costume: white jeans, a v-neck cotton shirt, and white leather Members Only jacket.  I put on the jeans...and they're skin tight.  I put on the shirt...and it is so loose and thin that you can see through it, plus every curve of my 1 pack.  Well, the jacket is pretty cool - although you can't see my awesome biceps anymore!  Standing in front of the mirror, my costume looked...well, good.  I opened the door and the costume designer dressed in skinny white jeans as well, only with a bright tropical floral print button-up shirt, spiked and blonde-died hair, and thick tiger's eye rimmed glasses that had lenses so small they were about the size of his eye.  It was like I put on my costume and I suddenly was transported into Back to the Future: Part 2.  The costume designer LOVED how my costume looked.  Thankfully, after years of racewalking, my legs don't look too bad in skin tight jeans.  Now, hopefully I get some high top converse shoes to go with it!

Later this week I will have my first rehearsal with the symphony and I will be going to the opera house for the first time as well!  I will certainly keep you all updated with special notes as well as other information about the event.  Also, some have been asking me about the producers of the event.  They've produced Super Bowl halftime shows and the Eiffel Tower Centennial. If you cannot make it to either Grand Opening event, be sure to get a free ticket to attend the open house on the 18th.  There will be concerts and performers all day long.


Now on to a serious topic.  With September 11 nearing, I have been remembering what it was like ten years ago.  I was at the state fair in a high school band competition, marching in a parade, when the towers were hit.  We got to the state fair and I stood at the KAKE channel 10 booth and watched TV for the rest of the day.  I will never forget that day and the moments I lived, or the confusion, listening to the apocalyptic descriptions on the radio on the bus.  Everyone loudly trying to figure out what had happened, some not caring about the news...that was until we all knew and saw what had happened.

So many musicians poured their lives into compositions and concerts in the following days and years.  I wanted to put together my top six classical music pieces inspired by the attacks; they are all varied in styles, so if you don't care for one on one day, chances are you'll like the one on the next day.  Also, it seems to me, that this is a very peaceful way to learn and reflect on this event - it has changed who we are and was certainly a pivotal moment in all our lives.  In the following days, if you come back to my blog, you will be able to watch performances of them.  I wanted to give them their due, so I will only feature one per day.


6.  The Star-Spangled Banner
5.  One Sweet Morning by Corigliano
4.  WTC 9/11 by Steve Reich
3.  An American Requiem by Danielpour
2.  On the Transmigration of Souls by Adams
1.  The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace by Jenkins

But as today is the seventh day out, I would like to post the Today Show coverage of the morning of September 11, 2001.  I always find it shocking to witness the calamity and panic, but I cannot seem to pull myself away from it either.

Brief Timeline:
8:46 AM - Flight 11 crashes into 1 WTC
9:02 AM - Flight 175 crashes into 2 WTC
9:37 AM - Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon
9:59 AM - 2 WTC collapses
10:03 AM - Flight 93 crashes in Pennsylvania
10:28 AM - 1 WTC colapses

(the coverage begins about 30 seconds in - you can keep track of the timeline with their clock at the bottom of the screen - I have only embedded video of the major events, but put links to the coverage of the rest of the day)

Today Show Coverage Part 1

Today Show Coverage Part 2

Today Show Coverage Part 3
Today Show Coverage Part 4

Today Show Coverage Part 5

Today Show Coverage Part 6
Today Show Coverage Part 7

Today Show Coverage Part 8

Today Show Coverage Part 9
Today Show Coverage Part 10

Today Show Coverage Part 11

Today Show Coverage Part 12

Please let me know what you were up to on 9/11 and how you found out about the attacks.  I would love to hear your stories.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Figaro & Carmen

I have a couple of major events to announce.  I will be the tenor lead in two upcoming operas.

November17-20, 2011 (I will only sing two of these days)
White Recital Hall
UMKC Conservatory
Basilio in Le nozze di Figaro (the marriage of Figaro)

Here is a video of the famous tenor aria from it - In quegli anni (sounds like: een KWEH lyee AHN nee) - please, whatever you do, don't pronounce the "g"!

March 15-18, 2012 (again, I will only sing two of these days)
White Recital Hall
UMKC Conservatory
Don Jose in La tragedie de Carmen (the tragedy of Carmen)

And here is the beautiful tenor aria from Carmen - La fleur que tu m'avais jetee (if you're an American without French speaking experience, just call this one "the flower song")

I will have a special post on watch out!

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