Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Too Much Excitement!

I have some great news to share with the world!   First, I just found out yesterday, that I have been awarded the Ellen Battell Stoeckel Fellowship from Yale University!  With recommendations from some amazing people and through a rigorous application process, I was selected to be one of the singers performing at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, which is held at Yale University in August.  The Festival is North America's oldest music festival and attracts many of the world's leading composers and musicians.  Essentially, I will be performing - and rehearsing - the whole time.  This fellowship is a prestigious honor to me, since it recognizes academic achievement in a real way - one that collaboratively makes music with the world's leading musicians.  Plus, I've never been able to be of interest to an Ivy league school, so now I can gratuitously flaunt my new-found Connecticut accent - obviously in boat shoes and fluffy cravat!  I am very excited and I hope that this will help me in many ways.  http://music.yale.edu/norfolk/

Second, I was asked early last week by the Kansas City Symphony to sing as a soloist on their upcoming Education Series concerts.  These concerts have been sold-out since sometime in November.  I will be singing at Helzberg Hall in a unique situation.  If you are old enough to remember, Leonard Bernstein offered Young People's Concerts on national television from the Symphony Hall at Lincoln Center.  He had the New York Philharmonic play famous music for children who would come and learn about what a whole-tone scale was, or what instruments played a duck or hunter in Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf.  Bernstein would begin each piece by (passionately) describing what was going to happen, and then the Symphony would play the piece.  Kansas City is doing the same thing, and it is a great way to teach music, inspiring many children to dream big, and dream to play in a symphony and in one of the most magnificent halls in the world.

Not only that, it is almost completely free.  The children and teachers get books, a semester-long curriculum, instruments, a concert ticket, busing to the hall, for only $5 per child.  Also, the orchestral scores are all free and the kids participate in the concert in various ways.  It's an amazing program produced and provided by both the Kansas City Symphony and Carnegie Hall - the children have spent all semester learning many pieces including pop music, Brazilian dances, classical music like Beethoven's Fifth, The Blue Danube, The Toreador Song, even an Arvo Pärt piece.

Helzberg Hall - Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
Home of the Kansas City Symphony
With all that said, I was honored and excited to be asked.  I had a meeting this afternoon to find out exactly what I will be doing, and IT IS INTERESTING - some of it is kind of funny too...but, I will keep you on pins and needles in the meantime.  Soon, I will be providing more information, details, and perhaps video, but since it is at the Kauffman Center, you never know who might have a dressing room nearby - one time it was Placido Domingo, another time Itzahk Perlman, then Yo-Yo Ma, and Juan Diego Florez, but as luck would have it, this time it'll be with royalty - a certain Queen of Soul.  Well, I'll leave you hangin' but I'm excited to give you some video and pictures of everything going on in the coming weeks!

A Famous Hat
Third, the 34th Summer Choral Institute (sponsored by the Master Teacher Institute for the Arts) ended its application process and we completely shattered all of our applicant records.  I am the Administrative Director of the Institute and it is one of the most amazing weeks of my year. More students applied this year than ever before - students representing 12 states and many, many schools.  I am so excited to bring together some of the nation's most talented high school singers and some of the most amazing conductors and musicians that I've had the high privilege to know for a week of awesome, life-changing music.

Fourth, the Kansas City Vocal Institute is holding it's online auction through Monday.  Items include an autograph of a Star Wars score by John Williams, and lots of other autographed items by Melissa Etheridge, Chanticleer, Norah Jones, Betty White, the Kronos Quartet, Donald Trump, Joyce DiDonato, Juan Diego Florez, Zubin Mehta, Martina McBride, and Yo-Yo Ma.

Finally, I have an intense upcoming schedule.  Tomorrow, I will attend the Barber of Seville at the Kauffman Center with the KC Lyric Opera, then perform in the other hall at the Kauffman Center on my birthday (Saturday) with the Conservatory Orchestra and Singers - performing the famous Rite of Spring and Chen Yi's new Chinese Myths Cantata, which features me in the fourth balcony singing whole-tone scales in complete darkness, in Mandarin (Chinese) no less, with eleven other singers!  And, on Sunday I will be in Salina, KS singing in a church service and an afternoon concert to commemorate the new sanctuary at University United Methodist Church.  The following week, I will be the tenor soloist for Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass at Washburn University in Topeka, sing at a UMKC graduation in Kansas City, and sing the Canadian National Anthem at a Sporting KC game.  (not to mention that the KC Symphony stuff begins in earnest after that!)

So, it's a busy and exciting time!!!  I will try to bring you videos and pictures of all the excitement.

Muriel Kauffman Theater - Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
Home of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City
Livestrong Sporting Park
Home of Sporting KC

Friday, April 20, 2012

KCVI Celebrity Charity Auction

The KCVI Charity Auction is underway!

CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT WE HAVE UP FOR AUCTION!

Our most exciting auctions include an autographed Star Wars score signed by John Williams, two autographed posters from La Scala signed by Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Florez among others, and an autographed Zubin Mehta baton.

Other items up for bid include several Melissa Etheridge Autographed CDs - other autographed CDs include Chanticleer, Stephen Flaherty, and Gregory Porter.

Autographed Photos include: Betty White, Kronos Quartet, Donald TrumpNorah Jones, and Stanley Clarke.

And there's Autographed Music from Morten Laurdisen.

100% of the proceeds will go toward the artists' respective scholarships through the Kansas City Vocal Institute.  We provide lessons for over 800 people in the Kansas City Metro Area including many free lessons and scholarships for 230 underprivileged children and families.

For more information, please visit: www.kcvocalinstitute.com


Sunday, April 15, 2012

All Hail Anthony Bourdain!

Weekly, I join the blogosphere with a somewhat small-minded, blunt, and hopefully insightful perspective on my life through music.  Of course, I have moments of success and failure and I have shared that, unabashedly, with the world.  But over time, I have wondered why I have a fascination to do so (or why I torture myself through so much rejection).  I love to travel and I love to eat and I love music - it's an uncontrollable passion.  My passion takes me all over the place and I have had many incredible experiences.   Unfortunately, this habit has given me much criticism (especially among Susan Boyle fans) but I hope that my passion in "cultivated music" has sparked some passion in others.

Over the past couple of years, I have slowly and ego-maniacally wanted myself to become a smaller-than-life music version of Anthony Bourdain.  Tony, if you don't already know, has a show "No Reservations" on the Travel Channel.  He is a very blunt, funny, and well renown chef.  His fame rose years ago with a book "Kitchen Confidential" where he exposed the nastiness of the culinary world.  Of course he made enemies, but he is very well respected and IMMENSELY entertaining.  Every Monday, his show features a different location in the world, showing its beauty, history, and brusquely describes his like/hatred for its food and culture.

This Monday, Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" will be showcasing my home of Kansas City!  He filmed last December, and by all accounts, he is on a BBQ rampage through the city with the Black Keys among others.  He also goes to the Chiefs/Packers game and tailgates with his hilariously drunk Russian pal Zamir.  I was so excited to hear about this - whether he has great or horrible things to say about KC, he is bound to have a good time since Zamir came along.  Plus, Kansas City is undergoing a renaissance; whatever you think you know about it, this is the Golden Age for our town - of course the jazz era was great, but the city is alive and new and exciting.

I have the greatest respect for Tony, and I hope to one day get his opinion on opera - and not just any opera, but an excruciatingly long Wagner opera.  I bet it's not as bad as he thinks; as long as they have a wet bar during intermission, he's sure to love the loud music - he's a 70s hard rock fan, so Wagner isn't too far away if you consider that the Helden tenors will essentially be yelling for 4 hours straight.

I hope you take the time to watch my best-friend-I've-never-met, Anthony Bourdain, visit KC this Monday night on the Travel Channel.

Anthony Bourdain with the Black Keys in KC
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This week, I had two amazing experiences.  First, I was a soloist in a production of The Little Match Girl Passion.  It really was one of the most amazing experiences because it was held in the cold and modern surroundings of the Modern Art galleries of the Nelson Atkins Museum.


The piece was brilliantly stark and beautiful.  A modern piece, that was post-minimalist with little dynamic contrast, caused several people to bawl at the conclusion.  The piece mourns the loss of a girl who tries to keep herself warm by striking matches until she freezes to death.  It is really amazing to me; a piece no one in the audience had any prior connection to, a piece that was so different than anything they've heard before, caused so much grief that people cried by its conclusion.


I must correct the reviewer however.  The tenors, were not singing in falsetto, but in sotto voce - an airy/thin version of the real voice.  It was certainly one of the most technically difficult pieces I have ever undertaken.  I hope to have a recording sometime to share with you all, but until then, here's another recording on youtube.

Then on Friday, I sang two Bach cantatas for the monthly "Bach's Lunch" concert at the Conservatory where a packed house of musicians can bring their lunch and eat while they listen to a live performance of a Bach cantata.  I had a particularly difficult aria and I nailed it!  I really don't allow myself to be proud of what I do too often (publicly that is) - but this was one of the times that I truly was proud, whether anyone else knew that or not.  It also was immensely difficult because it is very high and virtuosic; much of the tenor line in the preceding chorale was so high that it could be an alto part, so I was way up there.  If anything, these Bach performances are giving me the spark to jump into the professional Bach world.

Next year, I will be singing the tenor soloist for the Bach B Minor Mass at the Kauffman Center on April 28, 2013 (my birthday) with the Village Choir, Te Deum Chamber Choir, and Kansas City Baroque Consortium, and I will be singing the Evangelist for Bach's St. John Passion.  Both are huge opportunities for me and I am so excited to be a part of it.  Bach is a new world for me and it completely fills my musical soul.  


Mozart, on the other hand, is my enemy at the moment.  I feel trapped singing in the classical style in that it inhibits my emotions and musicality - the baroque is completely free of that for me, and I feel free to be myself with Bach.  Mozart, it's not you, it's me...we need some time away from each other - I need to try new things, and not be tied down right now with perfection.

Also new this week, I was asked to be the tenor soloist for Washburn University's production of Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass.  It will be held at 7:30 on Friday May, 4 at White Recital Hall in Topeka, KS.  I was very honored to be asked - it was out of the blue - and it should be a wonderful experience.

And, I was asked to make a recording with the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers at the end of May.  I am very excited and honored to sing with them.  Simon Carrington is one of the world's most respected and renown conductors.

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The World Premiere Opera Review for this week is:

Waiting for Miss Monroe
by Robin De Raaff

OK, so Robin De Raaff isn't the most beautiful person in the world.


But that doesn't mean he can't make a beautiful composition about a beautiful person, right?  As you may have guessed, Waiting for Miss Monroe is about the lost memoirs of Marilyn Monroe.  It is being premiered in the Netherlands, but it is one of the most shocking opera librettos I've read of in a long time.  Essentially it is Marilyn Monroe's own words set to describe her secret inner turmoil leading to her suicide.

STOP READING IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO IMAGINE EXPLICIT SEXUAL IMAGES

As if the warning didn't already put them into your mind, these are quotes from the libretto - Marilyn saying all of the following:
"I stood naked in front of my full length mirrors for a long time yesterday. I was all made up with my hair done. What did I see? My breasts are beginning to sag a bit. ... My waist isn't bad. My ass is what it should be, the best there is. Legs, knees and ankles still shapely. And my feet are not too big. OK, Marilyn, you have it all there. It is decision time."
OK, not too bad yet...
"Mae says her enemas and orgasms will keep her young until she is 100. I hope she makes it."
WOAH!  Essentially, it appears as if it will be a conspiracy theory invoking show in that Marilyn tells her therapist that she dumped all her pills down the toilet in the days before her death, leaving the possibility open for a possible murder.  But within her therapy sessions, she discusses all kinds of issues including her sexual affairs with, believe it or not, Joan Crawford - also included are JFK, and as to RFK she says:
"Well when he starts having sex with the body all men want, his Catholic morality has to find a way to justify cheating on his wife."
Since the libretto (plot and text) of an opera is arguably the most important part, and with a story as complex and, for lack of a better word, as juicy as this, I have to give this opera a good rating.

One Pav

I can't imagine how awkward it would be to perform one of these arias at an audition, but as long as you look the part (and not like the composer) you'd certainly get someone's attention.

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Pay attention to this blog as we begin our Annual KCVI Celebrity Auction on Ebay this week!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Other Mary, The Grim Reaper, and SuBo fans

Hopefully you all enjoy the new layout of my blog!  It is simple and should be quick and easy to use.  Last week I started my annual Opera World Premiere Reviews.  And boy did I get some nasty responses!  First of all, I am jealous of Susan Boyle.  She is one lucky person.  But leave it to Susan Boyle fans to write me some horrible and hilarious hate mail!  If you are one of the multitude that criticized me, thank you for providing legitimacy to my egocentricity.  I wonder why people understand if Mozart would annoy me, but not Susan Boyle or...(sigh)...Josh Groban.

Oh well, hopefully I can continue my controversy with this next World Premiere!

"The Gospel According to the Other Mary"
John Adams

I cannot fully express my excitement for this piece.  John Adams is one of the most influential and most important composers in music history.  He is most famous for Nixon in China, but has had several incredible works like Dr. Atomic (opera about the making of the atomic bomb) and Transmigration of Souls (Pulitzer Prize-winning composition).  As Adams describes, this piece is a reaction to his piece on the nativity of Jesus, which is called El nino.  It is designed like a Passion oratorio - something Bach was very famous for.  A Passion restates the events of Christ's death.

This initial production will be performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and everybody's favorite conductor, Gustavo Dudamel (who is only slightly older than I am!).  It is actually an Oratorio, but Peter Sellers will stage the production beginning next year in a style reminiscent of the traditional Mexican funeral rites.  Staged oratorio - opera...eh, what's the difference?

Besides the bible stories of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Lazarus, the libretto is completely based on the poetry of prominent female writers including Dorothy Day, June Jordan, Louise Erdich, and Rosario Castellanos.  The narrators are three countertenors!  (which already implies that only the biggest houses in the world may be able to afford to stage this)  Of course there are other soloists, including Mary Magdalene, orchestra, and a large chorus.  The piece is only 90 minutes long!

Now, if you don't know much about Minimalism, this piece may be a shock to you.  But unlike other minimalist or post-minimalist composers like Glass or Reich, Adams generally composes with great excitement and with HUGE bombastic complexity.  It is kind of like the excitement of John Williams (Star Wars, Indiana Jones) if he were only able to work with 5 chords and a car alarm going off.

Fortunately for us, the Mary Magdalene in this premiere is making a couple of video blogs - they aren't followed by many, so we're going to give her a little boost!  Take a listen to a couple of them, you get to hear two 5 second clips of the music...



As for the rating - this one definitely gets my highest rating of 2 Pav hankies!  I am so excited to hear it!


Last week, I sang the National Anthem at the US Olympic Volleyball Championships.  It was quite incredible.  They had 48 courts, end to end, with bleachers and all - several thousand competitors!  I was honored to sing!

Also, I went to a Sporting KC soccer game FOR FUN!  I don't normally do things just for fun, so I had a great time tailgating with my wife and her cousins.

Shameless promotion for Bud Light
(I will promote other brands if I get free stuff, by the way!)

I cannot help but mention the incredible music I was a part of at the Easter services at Village Presbyterian Church.  Giant choir, brass orchestra, organ reed stops, Celtic Alleluia, Lift High the Cross, Hallelujah Chorus, several thousand people in the congregation, etc., etc. I feel so lucky to be a musician there; the largest church in the entire denomination!  If you love music and live in Kansas City, you MUST experience Village Presbyterian Church sometime!

Next week, we premiere The Little Match Girl Passion at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art - one of the world's greatest art museums.  It is post minimalist and the saddest thing that you have ever heard - but beautiful.  I have a solo in it;  believe it or not, my part is to sputter the word "come" as fast as I can for about 5 minutes.  It is intended to be the voice of a freezing little girl dying on the street corner.  Like I said, it is horrifically sad, but absolutely beautiful.

Finally, here is the last of John Mueter's Three Volga German Songs - Der Zecher.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Three Susan Boyles!

I apologize for the late posting of my new blog entry, while I have been busy procrastinating...(pause)...I needed time to finish my paper on the Schmalkaldic War's effect on Lutheran music in the Holy Roman Empire.  That's right, I bet you can't wait to hear my presentation.  It's actually very interesting:  war, an assassination of a Cardinal, anti-popes, King Henry VIII, and all sorts of other juicy stuff.  All you Catholics out there must thank the French for hating Germany or else the Catholic Church could have easily followed Luther's teachings.

Anyway, this is the first week of April, which means this is the first of my World Premiere Rankings for 2012!  Last year, I began this controversial effort to pre-review several World Premiere operas, ranking them from bad (2 Susan Boyles) to good (2 Pavarottis).  I promise that in the past year, I have learned from my mistakes and will not be so quick to judge and will give everyone a fair shot.  So get ready for some mediocre and unenthusiastic prejudices!

And to begin, I could not help myself but pre-review I Dreamed a Dream: The Susan Boyle Musical.  I know it is not an opera, but it has the possibility to earn my worst score (4 Susan Boyles).  I know the worst possible score is 2 Susan Boyles, but there is a person playing Susan Boyle and the actual Susan Boyle in this premiere.

However, I have to give this a decent rating.  First, I imagine that the reason a musician made this into a musical, other than to make a profit, was that they knew thousands of better singers than Susan Boyle and knew that even the writer herself could play the leading role and sing better than the real Susan Boyle!  Also, it is like a real-life Bialystock and Bloom production in the film "The Producers", only I thought "Springtime for Hitler" was very creative and hilarious (I laughed to the point of pain the first time I saw it) - I doubt I would leave this musical in glorious laughter-induced hiccups, but there's a chance!



Since I cannot quit laughing, I will give it only one Susan Boyle!

One Susan Boyle
But that means this received the lowest possible score of 3 Susan Boyles because two Susan Boyles are in the show itself - this is not likely ever to be achieved again!!  So here are two more:

Flirty Susan Boyle

Mad Susan Boyle



I cannot help but comment on the atrocious National Anthem at the NCAA National Championship Game...I hope that the NAIA National Championship Game National Anthem was slightly better (I sang that a couple weeks ago!)




And on that topic, I will be singing the National Anthem on Friday at the US Olympic Volleyball Club Championships here in Kansas City!

Finally, I have the second of the Three Volga German songs that I debuted in February ready for you to enjoy!  Thank you John Mueter for your wonderful songs!