Wednesday, June 20, 2012

OLYMPIC CEREMONY DATABASE: Every Summer and Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games may be the largest art form in the modern world and certainly one of the rarest.  I provided all the Summer Olympic ceremonies in a countdown to London 2012, and now I am providing all of the Winter Olympic ceremonies in a countdown to Sochi 2014!


or visit

These postings are dedicated to the artistic development of the opening ceremony including visual arts, music, and other aspects of one of the rarest and largest art forms on earth.  Of course, the first ceremonies were not as elaborate as the most recent ones, but you will be able to watch the development.  Here is what you have to look forward to:
  • Video of EVERY Official Opening Ceremony (the complete ceremony if possible)
  • The official ceremony reports - took me MANY hours to compile - with hundreds of pictures!
  • Photos of the official aspects of the games (medals, torch, poster, etc.)
  • Most importantly - info, records, and highlights of the artistic development of the opening ceremony

Keep in mind, that this may be the largest comprehensive online collection studying the Olympic opening ceremony art and how it has evolved since 1896 - it's completely free for everyone and will contain one of the world's largest online collections of Opening Ceremony video.  If you have any video to contribute, please contact me!

I hope that my years of collecting and researching video and other information will be helpful in the future study of this art form, as it is one of the most significant art forms in the modern world.

This collection of information and video are in many cases very rare and in some cases, the first digitized production available online.  Each film attempts to recreate the ceremony in its entirety with the exception of the Parade of Nations (for obvious time reasons).  Special posts and information on the ceremonies will also be available for the 1906 Intercalated Games, the Olympic Games cancelled because of the World Wars, and the 1956 Equestrian Games. Again, much of this information is rare and contain very rare photos and video - every Summer Olympic Opening Ceremony from 1972 to the present, with the exception of 1984, can be seen in their entirety and every Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony from 1988 to the present can be seen in their entirety!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Learning Curve

Greetings from the mountains of Pennsylvania.  Clouds are spilling over the mountain ridge in front of me, and the weather is perfect for late June!  I am in Harrisburg, the capital, leading in an opera - the world premiere of "Not a Tenor!"  That's right, if the title isn't fortuitous enough, the composer decided to add an exclamation at the end.  I honestly do not know the reason, but you can take this title many ways: "oh, perhaps there's not a tenor in this opera!" or "for goodness sake, there's a tenor!" or "nope, the tenor didn't do it!"  Who knows?...your guess is as good as mine for the meaning behind the title.  Among the cast, I have joked that I will write this title in Czech or some other language on my resume to give it some gravitas.  Preparing this opera was quite the "exercise" - a polite way to describe the complexity of simple tonal music that doesn't follow most composition rules.

The opera takes place in New York and in Paris - I play the world's greatest tenor (of course) who has three wives, only one of which knows of the others, and to keep my disguise I must change my personality and accent from a New York accent to French's quite complicated unfortunately, but it has a beautifully concise Mozartian finale in which all the complications of the plot are summed up in a happy ending of sixteen measures of unison descending G major scales!  I must mention that my role involves a scene with my shirt off, in pumps, and wig in Paris speaking in a New York accent...just think about that...(shivers)...

Beyond the 18 beautiful melodies within merely one of my arias, this experience has made me truly appreciate everything that has led to this moment...the mainstage lead in a regional opera.  Notwithstanding the late additions of two other leads, venue change to one that has a beautiful 5 second reverb (perfect for sostenuto pedal, secco recitative, and patter songs) and I still do not have the score with accompaniment (imagine the complications of that!) the chorus members are energetic, the people are lovely, and I am staying in a nice Bed and Breakfast stocked with food.

I must confess, that I broke my memorization record learning this opera (purely out of necessity and with the very late addition of my music score) I memorized it in one day!! And, it was NOT easy - the fragments of melodies make this a nightmarish mental twister, but I got it done.  Also, there are a lot of speaking lines in different accents, all which complicate things.  And on that subject, one of the local cast members pronounces "women" like (woh-min) and "woman" (wah-min) - which they insist is correct and that I have a dialect. Does anyone out there do that? I've never heard that pronunciation before.

 I also drove 1,030 miles in one day as well, to get out here to PA - it was a beautiful drive, and when I arrived, two prominent members of the production greeted me and we immediately spoke about our many mutual difficulties.  However, the funniest omen of the week was that in our first rehearsal, literally on the first downbeat of the opera, the conductor was stung in the finger by a hornet!!!  I'm not joking!

Beyond the professional difficulties, it has been a trip and experience to remember for many reasons.  Hopefully by next week, I will have some great memories to look back on with a smile.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer Choral Institute 2012

Of the many projects and jobs that I work on during the year, few come close to the amazement of the Summer Choral Institute at Kansas State University, where I am the Administrative Director.  This program was nominated for a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award this year, and it is likely one of the greatest leadership training programs in the country for High School singers.  High School Sophomore and Junior students from 12 states applied to participate.  We accepted only 40 students and required that they proficiently learn their music before they arrive.  We actually have a screening process on the opening day to make sure they have learned their music - if not, they are sent home!  Thankfully, this year was the first year that everyone passed the screening!

Their week culminates in a large choir concert, but in between they participate in lessons with some of the nation's most accomplished musicians, accompanist instruction, recitals in the most amazing venues, a high ropes challenge course, masterclasses, a night at the old football stadium under the lights, bowling, a trip to the art museum, visits from professional musicians and instrumentalists, a class on the history of rock and roll, a trip to a water park, talent show, dance party, and hours of leadership training in rehearsals.  We encourage the students to be bold, share their greatest fears and insecurities, and discover that all of these great young musicians are so similar.  

In many ways, I hate to describe SCI because I cannot - the students are absolutely incredible people.  Many times, their generosity towards the other campers cause the staff to bawl (happily) and the love shared between these people who have just met for the first time is incredible!!!  This year especially had some of the most amazing leaders;  I observe a lot of things during the week, but the general love and caring towards each other completely astounds me.  To think these young musicians will sacrifice their own selves to encourage another time and time again, completely impresses and encourages me to keep teaching and performing music.  

Here are some of their facebook comments from the week:

"I want to thank every single individual who attended this year for making this one of the best weeks of my life...But I, for one am excited to go back to a 'normal' life with a different perspective, attitude, changed morals, as well as a better understanding of music."

"It makes me realize how lucky I am to be able to appreciate the life changing effects of music. I Hope that I can share what I have learned with others, because I believe that we can change the world with music."

"I have to say this past week goes down as one of the BEST weeks in my life and I want to thank y'all for letting experience it with you:)"

"Guys, I have to say that this past week was the greatest week of my life...I'm pretty sure we all know that we became better people throughout the course of the week, so imagine what we could do in our schools over the course of a year! :D I just want to let you all know that I love you all and I WILL be keeping in touch:)"

"I think the most important part of this camp was how much it kept you out of your comfort zone and pushed you. Whether you're singing a different voice part, climbing of a 40 foot pole, or allowing your insecurities to be shared. It showed us no matter where we come from or how developed our choral programs are, we are all so similar... SCI took great musicians and made them great made us great people. For that I am forever grateful."

"...And not only were you guys some of the best musicians I've encountered, but you were also some of the best people I have ever met."

"Summer Choral Institute 2012 - it has changed my life. This has to be one of the most incredible things I've ever done and one of the most incredible weeks of my life. I learned so much about being a better musician and a better person. All of you that I met this past week have inspired me beyond anything I could have imagined."

"Never met such AMAZING, TALENTED people in my life. I've never been so impacted by so many people in my life either."


This week I will be off to Pennsylvania working on an opera.  Much more info to come...

Yesterday, I saw the Broadway production of Next to Normal at the Kauffman Center.  It was spectacular, and the story was the most exciting part.  If you get a chance to see it - SEE IT!!!

Next week, I will have some commentary on this year's Tony Awards!!

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OLYMPIC CEREMONY DATABASE: Every Summer and Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games may be the largest art form in the modern world and certainly one of the rarest.  I provided all ...