Monday, February 28, 2011

Lyric Opera of Kansas City Auditions

I had my audition for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City on Saturday.  I auditioned for the chorus, comprimario roles (non-starring roles), and for the tenor apprenticeship.  I have been looking forward to this audition for a long time for several reasons:  the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts will open later this year and will be the new home for the Lyric, next year's opera season will feature some great operas, this could be my first opportunity to sing with a professional company outside of a summer program, and I am excited to be auditioning for the tenor apprenticeship.

Anyway, the week leading up to the audition was very odd.  In the past, I have lost my voice twice during this time in February.  I don't know if it is because of allergies or perhaps it is just a fluke, but I was worried earlier in the week that my voice would not hold up until Saturday.  I took all the opportunities that I could to rest and drink water.  By Friday, I still was pretty tired and had a rough voice, but I prepared throughout the day on Friday as best as I could.  I got plenty of rest, sang just a little, and drank tons of water.  By Saturday, I felt very well.  After my morning pot of coffee (yes, that's right - a whole pot) and allergy medicine, I had several hours of opera rehearsal before my audition.

I was in opera rehearsal for several hours, singing sotto voce (meaning "under voice") - we call it marking as well, but it is just light singing compared to full voice operatic singing.  Then I headed downtown for my audition.  The audition was at the opera center which doesn't look very impressive on the outside, but is actually a large building designed for all the rehearsing and set building (I'm assuming) etc.  The room I sang in was very large, kind of like a basketball arena, or an indoor football practice facility.  It was VERY live (to put it another way, my voice echoed profoundly).  As the singers left the "arena", many were complaining about their tendency to oversing, and saying that it sounded like they were all in a giant shower.  I don't think that this changed the way I approached singing one bit, since I rely a lot on how my voice feels instead of how it sounds.

I was one of the last singers of the day, and one of only a few tenors.  After the singer before me finished (and she was SPECTACULAR) I took the long walk to the piano at "mid field".  They were still debating about the previous singer, so I just stood until they welcomed me.  I said, "Hello", and then waited awkwardly long for a response that never came, so I then said, "I would like to begin with Lenski's Aria", and we immediately began.

This is one of my favorite and most successful arias. I thought it went really well. Perhaps it was hard to tell in such a live space (many small details can be lost or muddled in an echo-y room...this is also why karaoke machines have lots of reverb - it can cover a myriad of singing sins, which you can blame for why your Aunts feel like their tipsy rendition of INSERT COUNTRY SONG TITLE HERE is the best thing since sliced bread), but many of the technical issues I have been working on went so well during this aria.  The notes past the passaggio rang true with ease (these are the highest notes that I sing).  I was very proud about the lower resonance as well, which is one of the great attributes of my voice (it is a more mature sound than many other light tenor voices).  This aria brought out many of the things that I do best and I thought it was one of the best times that I have performed it.

After that aria was over, they asked what other arias I brought with me.  All the arias that I bring to auditions are generally in different styles and languages.  The one I began with is in Russian.  So the other four I brought were Dies Bildnis (German), Il mio tesoro (Italian), En fermant les yeux (French), and Here I Stand (English). They chose to listen to Here I Stand from The Rake's Progress.  I am always surprised when they pick it, because it is kind of weird.  It premiered in 1951, so it isn't that old, but it just requires a good mind to stay on track and it lies in an interesting part of a tenor's range.  It also is full of speech-like patterns and sounds, a far cry from any classic romantic aria. Some people love it, and some hate it.  Actually, the company that gave me the gig in Chicago this summer also chose to hear this aria.  Take a listen and make your own conclusions (the aria begins at 5:25 - if you are already annoyed and want to fast forward)



How interesting, isn't it?  Actually, this staging really is distracting...the music is really ingenious and this opera is considered one of the most important pieces of Neoclassical music ever.  Neoclassicism developed in the early 20th century and was a new approach towards the old classical era structures of music.  In other words, they wanted new sounds, but they kept it simple and uniform.

I don't speak/yell as much as this performer did, but I will tell you that my performance was certainly not my best.  Fortunately, the large and reverberant room was probably somewhat kind to me - but I laid some big fat eggs.  In my personal critique, I was too choppy, I wasn't precise enough on my entrances, I rushed the aria - and for that I offer my most sincere apologies to my accompanist, I am SO sorry I put you through that - and the last note was poorly placed.  I manage the tone and vibrancy of my voice by feeling the resonance (or the vibrating air) crashing through all the sinuses and cavities in my face, mouth, and the rest of the skull.  I am very technical about this, but this resonance can be moved around to vibrate in any of these spaces.  So when I say that the last note was poorly placed, it means that I didn't use the right resonating space in my face and mouth so it sounded closer to Bette Midler than an opera singer.  On the bright side (pun intended), I had a good high A right before it.  But, I could have looked like I was passing a kidney stone - I'm not sure.

After the aria, the artistic directors called me to their table on the "side line" to talk.  They asked me a very interesting question.  Why do I have a Master's with two emphases?  I explained to them the situation and my studies at K-State and what I am doing now with my Doctorate, which is just in Voice Performance.  They thanked me for singing, and now I am just sitting back and waiting to hear from them.  Hopefully, it will be an opportunity to perform.  Afterward, I went right back to opera rehearsal without dinner and we practiced until 9:30 or 10.  It was a very long day for sure!

I also had a concert last week with the Conservatory Singers, which went well.  This Saturday, I have another one where I will be the tenor soloist for Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass.  It should be amazing!  There will be a 200 person choir, with orchestra, and it will be held at the Community of Christ Temple - one of the most amazing churches you'll ever see.


Also, last week I had a private coaching with the great American opera singer Diana Soviero.  It went great and she was so kind and encouraging as we worked with many of my release issues with my highest notes.  There are other technical things that we tried to do, that do not seem to fit right with my voice and technique, but it is always great to learn from the best and to hear their stories.  She talked about singing with many of the greatest tenors of the past generation like Alfredo Kraus and Franco Corelli.  I am so thankful for UMKC for providing us with these opportunities at the Conservatory.

State Senators in Kansas are getting close to voting on rescinding the Governor's executive order to end public arts funding, however it may be a close vote.  I have tried very diligently to not make political statements here.  I am just standing up for my profession and passion in life.  I do hope that this era of political antagonizing ends soon.  The "American Dream" for many artists and educators are on the line in many states now.  I hope there is an understandable way to resolve a fight we shouldn't even be fighting.

One more addition to my schedule - I will be singing the National Anthem (the correct way) at the US Department of Energy's 12th Annual Small Business Conference & Expo, which will be here in Kansas City this year.  And in case you are wondering (and "I honestly don't know" is my answer) but the agenda for the opening address includes "Startup America" - the White House's Small Business Initiative to Promote Entrepreneurship.  I am hoping for a very special guest speaker.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
  • Tenor Soloist - Lord Nelson Mass by Haydn - Operation Breakthrough Benefit Concert at the Community of Christ Temple in Independence (where Jan Kraybill is the Principal Musician - she's one of my favorite people in the whole world) - 3/5 7:30pm
  • Don Giovanni - Conservatory Opera - 3/17-20
  • Wichita Symphony Orchestra Naftzger Young Artist Auditions - 4/2-3
  • Conservatory Finale  - Poulenc Gloria (probably on my top 10 favorite pieces ever) featuring the Conservatory Choirs and Orchestra - 4/23
  • National Anthem - DOE Small Business Conference & Expo - Kansas City Convention Center - 5/10
  • Administrative Director of the 33rd Annual Summer Choral Institute - 6/5-11
  • Sugar Creek Opera Festival (Chicago) - role: tba, opera: Daughter of the Regiment, maybe Little Women as well - 7/20-8/7
  • Kansas City Symphony Chorus Auditions - tba

Monday, February 21, 2011

Top 10 Musical American Presidents (and other stuff)

Well, if I'm counting correctly, I'm in the middle of my twenty-first consecutive year in public school, and I am completely ashamed that I missed one the few sacred opportunities to sleep in on a school day.  After over 200 college credit hours, I still fail to read the syllabus to see that we do not have class on President's Day.  Oh, what could have been!

When life gives you lemons (or when ineptitude gives you lemons) make lemonade! And so in that spirit, last week we celebrated the historical anomalies of the canonized, and this week, I would like to celebrate our greatest Presidents, but this list will be configured not by their historical importance, but purely based on their musical taste and talents.

OUR GREATEST PRESIDENTS (based purely on musical talent)
10. Dwight Eisenhower - Although not necessarily musically talented, he had an ear for the divine.  He released an album during his last term in office that was filled with the music he loved including pieces by Bach, Strauss, Verdi, and Gershwin.
9. John Quincy Adams - He would have been higher on the list if he played anything other than the flute.  Guys just don't look good playing the flute - how embarrassing!
8. Bill Clinton - He also released two albums featuring the music he loves most - albeit less intellectual than Eisenhower - but he moves up the list because he plays the saxophone.
7. Chester Arthur - Even though he was president for only a few months after the assassination of President Garfield, Arthur should be considered one of the greatest presidents, because he played the most "American" of instruments - the banjo.
6. Woodrow Wilson - What can top the banjo?  Well, a more difficult instrument.  Wilson played the violin.
5. Harry Truman - Now we are getting to the true cream of the crop of presidents.  Truman was an accomplished pianist and frequently played Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin for visiting heads of state.
4. Richard Nixon - Now keep an open mind here, but Nixon was certainly one of the greatest presidents for two reasons: (1) He was an accomplished pianist and composer and (2) he played the accordion.  He would have been a perfect guest artist for The Lawrence Welk Show.
3. Thomas Jefferson - A true musician, Jefferson played the cello, violin, and clavichord, loved the up-and-coming Haydn, and declared that music "is the favorite passion of my soul".
2. Warren Harding - Harding was said to have played every instrument besides the trombone and clarinet.  Obviously, he or his historian is being very cocky, so I cannot give him the top spot, and realistically, there is no way that he could have played EVERY instrument and somehow miss the incredibly common trombone and clarinet (which are incredibly similar to many other instruments).  So, Harding is dropped to #2 for lying.
1. Franklin Roosevelt - Certainly the greatest president of all time, not for his courageous leadership through the Great Depression or World War II, but because he could play the organ.  I have awarded him the #1 spot based purely on intrigue.  As we all know, Roosevelt suffered from polio, which left him paralyzed from the waste down.  And we all know that to play the organ, you have to use your feet to play the pedal keyboard.  So, until I hear otherwise, I find this EXTRAORDINARY and he's certainly worthy of being our greatest president.

HONORABLE MENTION
Abraham Lincoln - He enjoyed opera and the new American music of Gottschalk, but his favorite tune was "Dixie".  I don't understand how this was not a conflict of interest, plus "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" is MUCH better than Dixie.  Can you imagine Lincoln singing "I wish I was in Dixie, Hooray! Hooray!"?
Barack Obama - He has opera on his ipod, but has much more rap.  And since I'm making this list, there's a substantial penalty for liking rap.

MONUMENTALLY MISSING THE LIST
John F. Kennedy - He was not a music lover, even though his wife was.  In an interview, Jackie answered for her husband saying that his favorite song was "Greensleeves".  Once again, I cannot take you seriously if your favorite song is Greensleeves, Pachelbel's Canon, rap, or anything requiring you to say that the best part is the "beat".
George H.W. Bush - Frankly, this comment is wrong in many ways:  "When I need a little advice about Saddam Hussein, I turn to Country Music." - George H.W. Bush from 1991

----

This week should be very exciting!  Tomorrow evening I will be singing in the Conservatory Singers choir concert at a beautiful church in town (more information at the end of the blog).  We will be preforming a Bach cantata among other liturgical pieces, including one of the most difficult pieces I've ever had to sing: Arvo Paart's De profundis.  I have sung his music before, but he is a modern Minimalist composer.  His music is very chant-like, slow, and meditative - but this piece is substantially difficult because of virtually 10 minutes of singing a high E to high B (this is the very top of my range - and to do it for so long is incredibly difficult).  It should be a great concert for any liturgical choral music lover.  And, by the way, can you imagine what Bach's church must have been like?  The music is so intellectual, his musicians were probably some of the best musicians of their day.  There is something very gratifying about singing Bach because it does require so much of my mind to determine what is going on and how I am part of the mix.  There are so many details, that just performing to the best of my ability, I feel very accomplished.  To me, and to most classical musicians I think, this is much more fulfilling than plugging in the electric guitar and belting away, because the music itself rewards perfection.

Also, this Saturday I will be auditioning for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.  Their next season is their first in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, and I would do just about anything to be a part of their season. I will be auditioning for the apprentice program, comprimario roles, and the chorus.  I am so excited!!

Also, I found out this week that the Lord Nelson Mass by Haydn that I will be singing the tenor solos in will be performed with choir AND orchestra.  So, if you like loud sounds and/or appreciate Thomas Jefferson's taste in music, you should plan on attending (more information at the end of the blog).

Opera rehearsals are still in full swing.  I'm learning the art of being a weak man (go ahead, laugh)...  Very honestly, it has been very difficult (again, I'll wait until you're done laughing).  But, even though being a man that sings the very highest parts, who is also a little too skinny and still looks like a boy, I have a difficult time not getting emotionally involved (ugh, I'm not saying I need to cry or anything like that).  Oh goodness, this is a very self-degrading and emasculating paragraph, but my role in the opera is to play a weak young man (Don Ottavio) who is going after a powerful woman (Donna Anna) who is being wooed by a murderer and rapist (Don Giovanni).  Giovanni kills Donna Anna's father at the beginning of the opera, and Donna Anna wants my character, Don Ottavio, to seek revenge and kill Giovanni.  I of course am scared and actually in disbelief that Giovanni actually killed her father.  Anyway, throughout the opera, I have to let Donna Anna be more controlling in the relationship, and as an actor, I have to keep myself from being mad.  I am REALLY good at being mad - thanks to my relationship with sports - so it is hard to suppress this.  Not to mention the difficulty of relaxing my wrists when I'm using my sword in my arias (believe it or not, it actually is very difficult). --What an embarrassing paragraph! Let's just stop right here.  Here is a link to a Washington Post article someone just sent to me describing the oddities and challenges of acting in opera. If you have the time, it is a great read especially for aspiring singers and performers.

Finally, to give you an update on the arts situation in Kansas, a House sub-committee voted to repeal the Governor's order to abolish the state's public arts organization the Kansas Arts Commission, but the full committee voted to retail it.  Hopefully the Senate will abolish the act for good, but there are still many people out there, even arts enthusiasts, who are misinformed and politically motivated.  Please visit the Kansas Art's Commission site to find out how you can help, and as always please visit and attend your local arts and music events.  This week I visited the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and spent two and a half hours just on the first floor!  I saw paintings by Picasso, Degas, Monet, Dali, and almost every famous painter you can think of.  They also had an Ancient Egypt exhibit with a mummy!  I will definitely be going back to see the second floor and their modern art galleries. But the coolest things are the giant shuttlecocks on the lawn.



UPCOMING SCHEDULE
  • Conservatory Singers Concert of Bach Cantata No. 4 "Christ lag in Todesbanden" - 2/22 7:30pm Village Presbyterian Church, Prairie Village, KS
  • Kansas City Lyric Opera Auditions - 2/26
  • Tenor Soloist - Lord Nelson Mass by Haydn - Operation Breakthrough Benefit Concert at the Community of Christ Temple in Independence (where Jan Kraybill is the Principal Musician - she's one of my favorite people in the whole world) - 3/5 7:30pm
  • Don Giovanni - Conservatory Opera - 3/17-20
  • Wichita Symphony Orchestra Naftzger Young Artist Auditions - 4/2-3
  • Conservatory Finale  - Poulenc Gloria (probably on my top 10 favorite pieces ever) featuring the Conservatory Choirs and Orchestra - 4/23
  • Administrative Director of the 33rd Annual Summer Choral Institute - 6/5-11
  • Sugar Creek Opera Festival (Chicago) - role: tba, opera: Daughter of the Regiment, maybe Little Women as well - 7/20-8/7
  • Kansas City Symphony Chorus Auditions - tba

Monday, February 14, 2011

Saints for our Time

Way to go Egypt!!  What an exciting thing to witness a peaceful revolution.  I felt so happy for them watching the celebration in the streets of Cairo.  I followed the events every day and was drawn to their sacrifice and intelligent, peaceful protests.  What a great range of emotions from the stubbornness of Mubarak holding on to power and the rapture of his abrupt exit.  I can only hope that this event will help change the world for the better.

To everyone else (and especially my wife) Happy St. Valentine's Day!!!  I love you all!

Thank you Catholic Church for instigating this lovely ritual.  I went scavenging to find some unglorified Catholic saints to see what other days could be commercialized.  First, there are the cocelebrators of St. Valentine - St. Drogo (Patron Saint of Unattractive People - for his sudden physical deformation that kept him in literally a "holy cell" for 40 years eating only the eucharist), St. Fiacre (Patron Saint of Venereal Diseases - for his miraculous curing of such diseases - oddly enough he is also the patron saint of taxi drivers), and to comfort the companionlessness afflicted, there are sixteen patron saints of Bachelorhood.

Of the days that I think should be generously adorned with classic American commercialization (in celebration and reverence of course) I would like to lobby for the following to become commonplace:

August 11 - St. Claire's Day - let's spend all day watching TV to honor the patron saint of the television
December 4 - St. Barbara's Day - the patron saint of fireworks!!! (she earned this honor after her executor was struck by lightning and died after she was beheaded - evidently fireworks reminded them of the "boom")
November 22 - St. Cecilia's Day - patron saint of singing (obviously we would have to combine this with St. Bernadine of Siena.  Just as Valentine's Day has its detractors bound in singleness, St. Celcilia's Day will obviously be a painful reminder for those who produce more noise than consonance - for them we will also celebrate St. Bernadine of Siena, patron saint of hoarseness, who also is the patron saint of gambling addictions, which would definitely make for a very "joyous" and "commercially friendly" holiday).

But back to the week at hand, Don Giovanni is going very well and we are in full staging mode.  What I love most about all of this is how professional everyone is taking this production.  It may seem like a lot, but at the Conservatory, we are expected to have the whole opera memorized before we even begin staging.  Amazingly, everyone has the opera memorized with incredible detail.  All of the singers can translate to English any part of what they are singing on the spot.  I find this the most impressive.  It is also the most useful, because there are so many small details to the character, facial reactions, and other small linguistic details like irony or sarcasm that we try to put across.  The normal opera-goer may not recognize these things, but that is part of the art of opera.  It is a combination of the finest art in poetry, language, music, staging, costuming, and singing.

I can only speak of what I do to prepare for these things, because everyone works differently, but I have a photographic memory of the music.  When I sing, I visually reproduce the page that I learn the music from, so when I make notes in my score, I make them in different colors, and I memorize them that way.  So, it is not too difficult to memorize the words in the end, because I just read them from my mind.  The hardest parts are the details of the language, but I also find this the most fun.  There are so many intricacies in English, and it is fun to figure these things out in Italian (jokes, innuendo, irony).

Another aspect of learning to perform is acting.  This is also really interesting because as singers we have to find ways to move specific muscles in our forehead, cheeks, arm and leg gestures, etc. to express very specific emotions.  We cannot immerse ourselves into an emotion because that will translate into vocal stress (e.g. we can't cry when something is sad because it will effect our voices negatively by causing tension).  So there are many techniques to learn "how to be sad", "how to be stabbed", "how to appear sheepish" (a near infinite number of possibilities).  These are the small details that we work on.

Unfortunately, opera gets a bad reputation for being too bombastic and undeserving of fine details, but this is definitely not the case.  The fact is that we are trying to deliver very minute details to an enormous space with thousands of people using the purest forms of art and the purest and most perfect style of singing.  We don't get the luxury of amplification or electronic manipulation of the voice like pop singers do.  We have to produce these sounds on our own, without the forgiveness of a karaoke machine.  Whatever you may think, this IS the Olympics of singing.

On a related note, the Grammy Awards were last night and graciously, St. Cecilia looked down upon me and graced the world with the immaculate entertainer Lady Gaga.  You may be shocked that I would show so much Valentine's love for the Madonna-like belty and screamy superstar, but she won Best Pop Vocal Album beating the rhaspy Justin Bieber, growly John Mayer, nasal Katy Perry, and the utterly angelic and ineffably dazzling Susan Boyle.  Oh yes, the world is now at ease.  Thankfully, they do present Grammy Awards for classical music, so my hat is off to following underappreciated yet vastly talented (yes, even compared to the stratospheric talent pantheon of Susan Boyle and Justin Bieber) classical music Grammy winners: Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Nashville Symphony, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, The Cleveland Orchestra, Paul Jacobs, The Parker Quartet, Hesperion XXI, Michael Daugherty, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and the lovely Cecilia Bartoli.

As far as the Arts situation in Kansas is concerned.  There was a march on Topeka this past week to voice the concerns of Kansans who support the arts and public arts media.  Many people and politicians showed up to make their concerns known.  Unfortunately, Governor Brownback passed an executive order to abolish the commission, however it appears that there is strong support within the Senate to repeal the order.  Even though this is good news, we still need your help to voice your concern until the measure is finally repealed. Please click here to see what you can do to help the public arts in Kansas.  And as always, please attend concerts and enjoy your local arts scene.  It is there to be appreciated, and who knows, you might learn something as well.  I am learning all the time - it's my favorite part of life.

To leave you in a Valentine's mood, I'll leave you with an aria from one of my favorite operas, La Boheme, and from one of my favorite singers, Luciano Pavarotti, here is one of my all-time favorite arias, Che gelida manina.





UPCOMING SCHEDULE
  • Conservatory Singers Concert of Bach Cantata No. 4 "Christ lag in Todesbanden" and the World Premiere of An American Requiem by William Averitt - 2/22
  • Kansas City Lyric Opera Auditions - 2/26
  • Tenor Soloist - Lord Nelson Mass by Haydn - Operation Breakthrough Benefit Concert at the Community of Christ Temple in Independence (where Jan Kraybill is the Principal Musician - she's one of my favorite people in the whole world) - 3/5
  • Don Giovanni - Conservatory Opera - 3/17-20
  • Wichita Symphony Orchestra Naftzger Young Artist Auditions - 4/2-3
  • Conservatory Finale  - Poulenc Gloria (probably on my top 10 favorite pieces ever) featuring the Conservatory Choirs and Orchestra - 4/23
  • Administrative Director of the 33rd Annual Summer Choral Institute - 6/5-11
  • Sugar Creek Opera Festival (Chicago) - role: tba, opera: Daughter of the Regiment, maybe Little Women as well - 7/20-8/7
  • Kansas City Symphony Chorus Auditions - tba

Monday, February 7, 2011

Christina Aguilera, Microwaved Peeps, & KC NATS

"Spreading the gospel of tacky ignorance", as the Baltimore Sun describes, Christina Aguilera has officially vaulted herself into the stratospheric realm of social-faux-pas-dom crowned and seated next to fellow eloquent royalty: Rosanne Barr, Michael Bolton, Jesse McCartney, Carl Lewis, and the girl who slipped on the ice for her horrid rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner.





Technically her voice...well, I should not comment on her voice.  And, I wouldn't know where to begin.  But with that being said, she is first an entertainer, and not an "artist" so I will attack this from the entertainment angle.


YOU MESSED UP THE WORDS!


More than the obvious embarrassment of singing "What so proudly we watched at the twilight's last reaming" when she should have sang "O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming", was that it should completely embarrass a nation of patriots that we ask singers like this to perform our National Anthem at public events in this crazy and perverted style.  And like every year, I am left wondering why it cannot be sung militaristic and formal like every other nation prides itself in. 


Before I get off my high horse, I have to give some criticism to several newspapers, who have the audacity to put blame away from Christina Aguilera.  The Christian Science Monitor is obviously ignorant of music tactfulness.  They tried to tackle "Why she flubbed it" in an article that came out this morning.  They blamed it on that she "tried way too hard" and that "the lyrics are among the most difficult things any performer ever has to sing".  ARE YOU KIDDING!?  This is a piece of cake.  Perhaps the range is challenging, but it is English, and any singer has probably sang this hundreds or thousands of times.  Just blame it on her.  She forgot the words, and she sounded crazy.  That's what the Christian Science Monitor SHOULD have reported.


And then, there's the Washington Post.  Oh my...in an article this morning called "Christina Aguilera didn't botch the national anthem. Francis Scott Key did" they once again blamed it on the lyrics and went further, stating how embarrassing the lyrics are to begin with and that they were even worse than Liechtenstein's when they said,  "It is, frankly, worse than Liechtenstein's national anthem. And until 1963, Liechtenstein's anthem included lyrics about 'the German fatherland' and standing 'on guard for Germany.'"  And oddly enough, the article doesn't even mention the most obvious oddity of the national anthem in that the poem is actually two questions. "O! say does that star-spangeled banner yet wave, O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?" The article is massively disgraceful in my opinion and an intellectual black hole.


Thankfully, we can all look to Saturday Night Live to put us in our proper place.  They can make light of the most embarrassing aspects of our society.  I wonder how they would handle this?





(Climbing off my horse) Yesterday, I competed in the Kansas City NATS competition and didn't place.  Oh yes, back to humility.  Actually, I have learned very much the hard way to not expect to win these things, just to try my best.  In a way, I wish voice competitions were like sports and had legitimate avenues toward victory, but honestly it comes down to if the judges like the voice.  I felt I did well, and I had no big regrets, but I am glad that I had the opportunity and now it is on to the next thing.

Opera is in high gear, and I am enjoying finally getting to interact with the other singers.  The music is fun (which is something rare with Mozart - for me at least) and it has not been overbearing yet.  Unfortunately because of the huge snow storm that went through, I was not able to have my coaching with former Met Conductor George Darden, but I was able to meet with and watch a masterclass with (and this is directed to all the choir nerds out there) Simon Carrington who is a choir director formerly at Yale and famously from one of the world's most famous choirs, The King's Singers.  And starting last week, the teachers with the Kansas City Vocal Institute have been traveling to area high schools giving free voice lessons to children.  I have had so much fun creating the Institute and all that has come with it.  What incredible people and teachers, I am so proud.

I also have an addition to my performance schedule as I will be the tenor soloist for a production of Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass on Saturday, March 5 at 7 PM at the Community of Christ Peace Temple in Independence, MO in a community concert made up of the Conservatory choirs and several high school choirs.  It should be very fun because it of the size of it all.  I love these kinds of performances!

I also mentioned last week about John Adam's opera, Nixon in China.  Well, the Metropolitan Opera in New York is performing Nixon in China on Saturday and it is being broadcast live all over the world in movie theaters.  This is a very significant masterpiece in music history and I encourage all the music lovers out there to treat yourself to the best of modern music.

Nixon in China is considered one of the most important masterpieces of Minimalism.  Minimalism is a type of music that developed from the Art world like many other music genres did.  In minimalism, the music slowly transforms over a period of time.  Many times, the composer will take a small three or four (sometimes less) note motif and slowly put layers of sound on top, repeating and adding to the texture.  Over time, the piece slowly transforms, almost hypnotically.  Most importantly, it is not random, like many other 20th century pieces, so it will make sense to your ear, and isn't just noise or math.  To put it in food terms, it is like microwaving a marshmallow peep.  At first it's a small pink marshmallow and by the end it turns into some enormous non-defined shape of gooey melted marshmallow.  It is still the same marshmallow, it has just transformed into something completely different.  But as you can guess, Nixon in China is about President Nixon's visit to the country.  Intrigued?....Don't miss it if a theater is playing it near you.

Finally, this week's Incredible and Artistic Kansan is Charlie Parker, one of the most influential jazz musicians of all time.  If you live in Kansas, help keep public arts funding and contact your legislator today.  If you do not live in the Sunflower State, please take time and attend a concert or visit a museum and appreciate the artistic culture of where you live.  It is our human legacy for where we have been and where we are today.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE

  • Conservatory Singers Concert of Bach Cantata No. 4 "Christ lag in Todesbanden" and the World Premiere of An American Requiem by William Averitt - 2/22
  • Kansas City Lyric Opera Auditions - 2/26
  • Tenor Soloist - Lord Nelson Mass by Haydn - Operation Breakthrough Benefit Concert at the Community of Christ Temple in Independence (where Jan Kraybill is the Principal Musician - she's one of my favorite people in the whole world) - 3/5
  • Don Giovanni - Conservatory Opera - 3/17-20
  • Wichita Symphony Orchestra Naftzger Young Artist Auditions - 4/2-3
  • Conservatory Finale  - Poulenc Gloria (probably on my top 10 favorite pieces ever) featuring the Conservatory Choirs and Orchestra - 4/23
  • Administrative Director of the 33rd Annual Summer Choral Institute - 6/5-11
  • Sugar Creek Opera Festival (Chicago) - role: tba, opera: Daughter of the Regiment, maybe Little Women as well - 7/20-8/7
  • Kansas City Symphony Chorus Auditions - tba