Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"I Saw Three Sheeps", "Hoppy Chreesmahs/Wah ees Ovah" and other Operatic Christmas Favorites

Hanukkah is over, Christmas is on the horizon, and I am searching for a jobs.  The overbearing Goliath called life grows ever larger as it falls, appendages spread, toward a colossal belly flop over me, floating in a pool of latent and static dreams awaiting life's tidal wave onto the burning concrete deck of the job market.  Hmm, maybe I got caught up in that analogy...nevertheless, I have some great excitement ahead before I feel the full brunt of life.

Tonight, I am doing a run-through of the libretto for the premiere of a children's opera, "How the Camel Got Its Hump", from the story by Rudyard Kipling.  I will certainly have more information on this soon, but it will be the cutest show ever.

If you didn't hear already, I am going to the Grammy's in February as one of the ensembles that I sing with, The Kansas City Chorale, was nominated for multiple Grammy's!  And again, I ask you all who read this blog, to consider donating by clicking the link on the black bar above, to help me fund my trip to LA.  The Chorale had several concerts last week and we were followed by photographers and television cameras.  Actually, the attention is a little awkward, as you may imagine.  Most people when they realize that photographers are taking pictures of them, they make a conscious effort to look normal while continuing in awkward conversation - a little like being a supernumerary on stage.  However, I just can't be the normal, lazy human that I usually am.  So, with photographers always around us on the performance day, I couldn't text, check Facebook, hum through some music, talk to others, stare out a window, or sleep in a chapel pew without a photographer there.  With cameras around, it's hard not to become paranoid.

Also last week, I had the privilege to sing carols at a very fancy Christmas Party at the River Club in Downtown Kansas City.  Four operatic singers, including myself, stood outside as the limousines pulled up and the aristocracy flooded out amid what I assume are incredibly important Real Housewife arguments over grudges and insults about their personal chefs or tabloid articles.  We also sang as the guests were escorted to their seats for dinner.  There were about 50-70 guests and the decorations were all of the late 19th Century Gilded Age - making caroling in tuxedos a perfect match for the occasion.

Sunday, I put in a 12 hour marathon singing in 3 church services, 4 rehearsals, and 2 concerts in the evening at Village Presbyterian Church for their annual Christmas spectacular - Tidings of Joy!  Village Presbyterian Church is one of the world's largest Presbyterian congregations; thousands attended and the concert had 150 singers, orchestra, and LOTS of Christmas music.  It was highly emotional however due to the shootings in Connecticut.  A music teacher friend of mine lives only 5 miles from that elementary school in Connecticut and like most of you, my mind has been caught up in all the media.  I inadvertently caused a Facebook war due to my wish of America becoming more like Western Europe and banning assault weapons, which have no practical use other than to kill many things.  As an American, I am 100 times more likely to be murdered by a gun than someone in the UK, and 150 times more likely than someone in Japan (according to the most recent United Nations statistics).  On top of that, it is probably easier to purchase an assault weapon than to get proper mental health help as was detailed on NBC Nightly News.  With that said, I was crushed to hear of the death of so many little kids - I hope America can make a serious effort to become a more civilized society in the wake of this carnage.  At our services this weekend, the most touching moment wasn't the singing of Silent Night, which always causes lots of tears, but of the last verse of Away in a Manger.

Outside of my normal Christmas craziness, I want to leave you with some of my favorite operatic Christmas youtube hits/blunders.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Grammy Bound!!!

Last week, I performed my Doctoral Recital with works by Britten, Vaughan Williams, and Hoiby at the Conservatory.  Of all of the responses that I have received from the concert, the majority of them have either been "wow! congratulations" or have been in the "it was long enough" category.  For what it's worth, I didn't feel overwhelmed and generally enjoyed my experience but I cannot speak for the audience, except that of the three people I could see through the bright lights - one was sleeping, one was very ecstatic, and the other was my reflection against the recording studio window, so it was a difficult room to read!  Even so, I was so thankful for everyone who attended and for all of the support.  I think it was an interesting concert of varying styles of singing and artistry.  I cannot thank my accompanists enough, Natalia Rivera on piano (who is playing at the Kennedy Center this week!) and Kelley Tracz on oboe (who is a good friend and great musician as well!).

After the recital, my wife, parents, and I went to the beautiful Christmas-light-covered Plaza in Kansas City to have some cheesecake.  After eating, we drove back home where I neurotically updated my iPhone to see the Grammy nominations.  I blindly walked upstairs lost in my iPhone.  My wife walked in the front door and my parents were on the ground floor as I stood against the railing of our balcony overlooking the living room, and with calm but pressured excitement, I said "oh! my! god!"  I read the Grammy Nominations out loud.  One of the ensembles that I perform with, the Kansas City Chorale under the direction of the immaculate Charles Bruffy, has been nominated for the 2013 Grammy for Best Choral Performance, Best Engineered Album, and Producer of the Year - Classical.  I couldn't believe the news.  Little do I know about how the world of music operates, I honestly did not expect that the Chorale would be nominated, not because the quality of the music isn't sublime, because it is and singing with the Chorale has been one of the most musically rewarding experiences of my life, but there are many other fantastic ensembles all over the place.  Because of the great competition, there are long odds when it comes to the Grammy's, just ask Justice Beaver...I mean Justin Bieber.  Even though he is incredibly famous, he didn't receive any nominations.  And unlike Justice, we are going to the Grammy's!

The Grammy's will be February 10, 2013 in Los Angeles.  The majority of the awards, including the ones for our categories, will be awarded at the Los Angeles Convention Center with a ceremony beginning at 1pm.  The event will be broadcast live on the internet at cbs.com and grammy.com.  After the ceremony, the nationally televised event (CBS) will be held later that evening from the Staples Center where several of the more recognized categories are announced.  We will be attending both of these events.  I will certainly keep you all informed about what we are doing and who we will be wearing!

I will be recording this whole experience with as much interesting video as I can.  And, I cannot complete this blog post without thanking my wife, who deserves to attend such a prolific event. Of the truly prestigious events that I have had the privilege to be a part of, my wife rarely gets the opportunity to attend.  I sang at the Grand Opening gala of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, as many of you remember, but the cheapest tickets for the event were $1,000 and sold out nearly a year in advance.  She obviously was not able to be a part of that and she rarely gets to travel with me to Chicago or New York or wherever I go, but she will be able to go with me to Tinseltown.  I still cannot believe to any real extent that I will actually be at the Grammy's and that the Chorale is nominated for multiple Grammy's, however it will cost me a great amount of money to attend one of the biggest events in Hollywood.  Tickets are expensive, not to mention the hotel, flights, clothes, haircuts, car rental, food, and events all require significant money.  Plus, I have to pay bills and get through the holiday season with presents for my family.

With that said, around 1,500 people read my blog every day and even though I have a link to accept donations, I have never received a donation, not that I ever expected to profit from this.  I only ask that in this holiday season, if you have ever received any entertainment or learned anything from my postings, if you still owe me for a round of golf, or perhaps if you lost a million dollar bet to me because you said "literally" as part of your "fact", that you would consider helping my wife and I attend what may be a once-in-a-lifetime event for us.  The "support this blog" button is on the black bar above this post or you can CLICK HERE.

I would greatly appreciate your generosity if you have the means to help.  And I promise I will keep everyone updated with all of the events surrounding the Grammy's.  In addition, if you are interested in hearing our ensemble, the Kansas City Chorale has a concert tomorrow, Tuesday December 12, 2012, at Asbury United Methodist Church at 7:30.  We had a great crowd yesterday and the concert will just be astounding!  I would expect that I will be able to announce other events in the future as there is plenty of press surrounding the Chorale, a television crew followed us at a concert yesterday and I have been told of other upcoming press as well.

In addition to the Kansas City Chorale, the Kansas City Symphony and Joyce Di Donato were also nominated for a Grammy for their PBS production last summer at the Kauffman Center, and the UMKC resident ensemble Eighth Blackbird was nominated for two Grammy's.  Kansas City is dominating the classical music world, and I cannot be more thankful for being at the Conservatory, in the Chorale, and living in this wonderful town.

And just in case you didn't get the Justice Beaver thing, it was a parody from the NBC show The Office.  Here is the real Justin Bieber singing a little opera on the David Letterman Show:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bryan Pinkall's Doctoral Recital - Britten, Vaughan Williams, Hoiby

If you are free this Wednesday and if you are in Kansas City - well, you should come hear what should be a great recital.  I will be performing three song cycles: On this Island by Benjamin Britten, Ten Blake Songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Four Dickinson Songs by Lee Hoiby.  As for the poster, well it is much more effective in the hallway than in a jpeg image on the internet.  Unfortunately, the printers messed up printing my posters, so if you were at the Conservatory and thought "I cannot read that poster!", don't worry, it'll be fixed tomorrow.  I just wanted a plain bright sign that could jump out amid bulletin boards filled with lavish pictures of headshots, pastoral scenes, and church interiors.  Here is some info about what will be on the concert:

On this Island is a Benjamin Britten song cycle of Wystan Hugh Austen poetry about the magical isles of Britannia.  This was Britten's first published song cycle for piano and is an incredibly eclectic setting of poetry from one of his favorite poets.  Austen and Britten met in 1935 working together in a GPO Film Documentary and their encounter immediately inspired Austen to write poetry dedicated to Britten who composed them as part of this song cycle.  The most exciting part of this cycle is the variety of songs:
  1. "Let the Florid Music Praise" is a bright, neo-baroque anthem to the Empire
  2. "Now the Leaves are Falling Fast" is a hurried, rhythmic piece inspiring images of the blustery wilderness in Winter and musical inferences to Schubert's lieder
  3. "Seascape" is perhaps the most characteristically Britten of the set, displaying careful musical descriptions of the seas crashing against the white cliffs of Dover.
  4. "Nocturne" is a vignette depicting the debaucherous but unconscious world of sleepers
  5. "As it is Plenty" is a cabaret-like moment satirizing the middle-class businessman and his problems
Ten Blake Songs by Vaughan Williams is a very unique set of duets for voice and oboe with unaccompanied movements for solo voice.  The text is derived from several of William Blake's poems within Songs of Innocence and Experience.  It is a song cycle that allows for incredible detail in its simplicity as the oboe adds a musical persona, feeding the artistry of the voice and text.

Four Dickinson Songs by Lee Hoiby is a peculiar song cycle that delves deep into the mind of Emily Dickinson and her poetry.  This rarely performed and recorded song cycle shows the mastery of Hoiby's collaborative and dramatic piano accompaniment as it vividly reproduces the images that Dickinson describes.
  1. "A Letter" is simply set to that of a brief letter from Dickinson to a prospective teacher.  She curiously and lightheartedly talks about her family, including their misunderstanding of her artistic and inquisitive nature.
  2. "How the Waters Closed" is a stark and vivid description of a drowned boy  whose only remains are a floating hat and jacket.
  3. "Wild Nights" is a rapturous song of sexual passion
  4. "There Came a Wind" details in glorious description the terror and resolution of an enormous storm
Please come to Grant Hall at the UMKC Conservatory.  This is a different hall than what most are expecting.  The venue itself is on the second floor of the building Grant Hall at 53rd and Holmes.  Don't be late! 7:30 THIS WEDNESDAY - I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas Gifts for Opera Singers - Part 2

If you missed numbers 10-6 from last week, CLICK HERE

5. PIANO THINGS - As a musician, it is primarily assumed that I am best at what I study the most.  For most of my time in music, my studies have been centered around operatic singing, choirs, and conducting.  Still, it is rare to have three emphases, but what has always bothered me the most is that practically everyone outside of my little music sphere attributes great musicianship to "if you can play the piano or not."  Any family holiday, church choir rehearsal, or voice lesson that has required me to play the piano has typically gone well, but certainly not as well as a Yanni CD from 1994 - the pinnacle of piano virtuosity for the classical crossover-music zombie hoards.

So why get piano gifts for singers?  ANSWER: Learning by rote with a piano is the junk food of opera singers (excluding actual junk food of course).  We should be able to learn our notes with solfege and proper ear training tactics, but many opera singers forego using their brain and just do what they do best - sing loud and pretty to a condensed piano score for an incredibly talented pianist to sweat through, many times, over and over.

Piano Tie that actually plays! - CLICK TO PURCHASE
4. Soap Opera Music Boxes - For those who accidentally stumble onto this site thinking it is a fan site for soap operas, you must be incredibly frightened with all the music - unlike the deathly boring silence filling the dead space within soap operas.  But to make up for their lack of a soundtrack and poor acting skills comparable to that of actual opera singers, soap operas have had great theme tunes.  With the help of these music boxes, now you can fall asleep to the same classic themes of your favorite soap operas - what I suppose you do while you "watch" these shows anyway.
Soap Opera Music Boxes - CLICK TO PURCHASE

3. MOZART - This could also be a great Halloween scare for many opera singers, but what better way to celebrate the passion of opera at Christmas than to give its greatest and arguably most annoying composer, W.A. Mozart.  Not only should an opera singer have a Mozart action figure, but they should have Little Mozart's Tini Orchestra.  Why, this tiny orchestra comes with ear plugs to give to any bystander (and it's what many opera singers need after too many Mozart productions - there's something torturous about hours of predictable, poorly acted recitative)  Now imagine how annoying little Mozart would have been if he had Little Mozart's Tiny Orchestra to compose for: miniature slide whistle, harmonica, kazoo, recorder, pan pipes, maracas, and a tambourine!  Die Zauberkazoo? Concerto for Miniature Tambourine?  Or perhaps a sexy maraca accompaniment to Giovanni's canzonetta, "Deh, vieni, alla finestra?"

Mozart Action Figure - CLICK TO PURCHASE

Little Mozart's Tini Orchestra - CLICK TO PURCHASE

2. SUGGESTIONS TO START A NEW CAREER - There's nothing easy about suggesting to an opera singer that they should graze a different pasture, especially sopranos. Therefore, ease them into a new profession, a new instrument perhaps.  Try these out for size:

  1. Become a Music Box maker
  2. Play the Musical Ruler that you place at the edge of a table, bend it down like a spring diving board and release it to buzz a certain pitch as shown on the ruler 
  3. Perfect the ever-useful Nose Flute; and it's obviously fashionable



1. CREATIVE FRUSTRATION - Finally, every opera singer needs to feel important and pampered in order to sing well, show up on time, and learn their music correctly.  Obviously, this requires other musicians to overwhelmingly praise opera singers during the dress rehearsals, as the opera singers have been courageously learning their staging and fight scenes while the pit orchestra lives lavishly under union requirements encouraging unresolved dominant seventh chords if it cuts into their break time!  That's right all you down there in the pit, opera singers sweat and that makes us cranky and deserving of your homage payments.  However, for most opera singers, we are treated "professionally" so we need to release this frustration somehow.  Here are two ideas:

  1. Curled up balls of a composers' souls
  2. Art-song-pasted lampshades covering useless, non-word-producing instruments incapable of adequately conveying affection and love.

Upcycled Music Score Ornaments - CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE




Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Christmas Gifts for Opera Singers - Part 1


10. The Opera Cooks - The opera singer can be quite lazy when they're not working.  Of course the many nights and early mornings belting away, while secretly cussing an over-zealous opera director that is trying to make a believable fight scene between a 280 pound, 6'6" baritone lead and a 5'3" 130 pound leggiero tenor, can just been exhausting.  Understandably, when an opera singer wakes up after noon the next day, they are completely starving.  This gift is a must for any opera singer that you haven't seen in several months because they work when you work and work when you sleep - and I bet they have a fierce appetite.  This cookbook is filled with interviews and recipes from the greatest singers on the planet.

9. La Traviata Children's Book - Goodnight room. Goodnight moon. Goodnight woman who will die of tuberculosis soon.  Goodnight light and red shoes.  Goodnight mistresses.  Goodnight affairs.  Goodnight duel that, unfortunate to the audience, we never see because it occurs between acts two and three, NOT FAIR!  Goodnight lies. Goodnight Italian-speaking, sex-crazed, misogynistic French guys.  Goodnight brush. Goodnight mush. Goodnight opera people putting the incorrect emphasis on the word "Brindisi" (it's BREEN-dee-zee) and call me pretentious for pointing out your poor Italian, SHUSH!  -- Seriously, there is no better way to teach your children about lust, gambling, jealousy, cheating, death, and what a "pure" woman is than with a children's book of Verdi's opera La Traviata.

All the music you want $10 a month  

8. Lego Sydney Opera House - Lego states "It will look beautiful displayed on a shelf or counter".  Perhaps if you actually have a shelf or counter that this would look good on, you should consider purchasing a new shelf or counter.  Nonetheless, I really want a fat Pavarotti Lego man and Aussie, Dame Joan Sutherland Lego woman that has a face at least the half the size of her body, both in their La Fille attire to go along with this set.

7. Tenor/Baritone Scented Candle - What better way to bring the smell of the opera home with you than with these tenor and baritone scented candles.  Curiously, the Met Shop does not sell Mezzo or Soprano candles.  I assume these would sensuously smell of cheese, melting makeup, and leather - infused with slight sparkles of fear and vomit (tenor) and shameful dabs of cigarette smoke and Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Select Whisky (baritone).

6. Travel Luggage Scale - This is actually a useful gift for opera singers.  Many people may not understand the difficulties of traveling as an opera singer, but we have to carry lots of clothes (and lots of shoes if you're a Soprano or Mezzo), plus all the extra little things, hair equipment, makeup entourage, emergency medicine, unnecessary amounts of  extra music, computer, and large jackets that are needed down the icy chasm of New York's Broadway during audition week in December but are too cumbersome to wear on a Delta flight because they cook you like a toaster strudel.  This gadget will save some of us a small fortune!

Part 2 coming next week!


Sunday, November 18, 2012

2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony (entire ceremony)

1998 Nagano - Turin 2006

XIX Olympic Winter Games
Salt Lake City, Utah

1972 Sapporo Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony

1968 Grenoble - Innsbruck 1976

XII Olympic Winter Games
Sapporo, Japan

2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony (entire ceremony)

2006 Turin - Sochi 2014

XXI Olympic Winter Games
Vancouver, Canada

1998 Nagano Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony (entire ceremony)

Nagano, Japan

1988 Calgary Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony (entire ceremony)

Calgary, Canada

1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony (entire ceremony)

Lillehammer, Norway

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