Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Excitement!

Life sure has its means of pushing you along.  I remember growing up, my dad asking me "what's wrong," and in the likely case of responding "I'm bored," he would say, "well, do something."  Now to be fair, my brother complained about being bored more often than I did, but I would just sit around depressed wondering why I didn't have something to look forward to.  One thing always leads to another, and we somehow ended up in time-out for fighting.  Boredom = Trouble.  Even today, when I get bored, I immediately find something to do.  This unfortunate compulsion has led to many months of performances, the stressful completion of my doctoral exams, and several seasons of Mad Men on Netflix.

The latter end of 2012 was definitely the most stressful and least boring of my life, and now after a long month off, I am back to furiously not being bored.  Last week, as you may recall, I performed in a children's opera, "How the Camel Got Its Hump".  It was a terrifically cute production, and most importantly the kids loved it!  Essentially, we told the Rudyard Kipling story in a 35 minute opera, where we opened a giant toy box and played "Make Believe."
I'm a sad Horse because the Camel won't help the other animals with their daily chores
Now that it is finished, my days are becoming increasingly involved in accomplishing other goals.  I have been furiously applying for jobs at colleges and universities all over the place.  I am preparing for a recital and several major Bach-related solo performances.  And yesterday, I was asked by the Kansas City Symphony to perform on six educational concerts, similar to what I did last year, starting in April!  I always love a chance to perform with the Symphony and in Helzberg Hall.  Amazingly, I will perform at Helzberg Hall 10 times in a span of only 4 weeks!

I also was invited back to perform and record with the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers in June.  It was an amazing experience last year, our next album will be released in the Summer, and I cannot wait to perform again with some of the area's best singers and with one of the world's great minds for choral music!

If that wasn't exciting enough, I and several other Kansas City Chorale members had a Skype session with our managing agent about the Grammy's next week (I can't believe it's already so close!).  It is an interesting and exciting experience as we received our red carpet schedules, press releases, a list of talking points for interviews, and the list goes on.  It will certainly be unforgettable and I will have LOTS of updates on my facebook page - www.facebook.com/pinkall - as well as on this blog.

BUT that isn't even the most exciting and certainly not the most unexpected news lately - the most unexpected news being that I stepped ankle deep, both feet, socks, and shoes, in wet cement.  The most exciting news is that I had an interview this morning with the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games via Skype from Moscow!  I applied in August for a leadership or Director position within the area of Ceremony Music and Protocol for the next Olympics in Sochi, Russia. They are the Winter Olympics of course - but it is a somewhat unknown location to people on this side of the pond.  Sochi is on the coast of the Black Sea and even in winter it is warm and green with palm trees and all.  Many of the outdoor events will take place on the slopes of the adjacent mountain ranges while the indoor events and ceremonies will be held in the beautiful coastal resort city.

The interviewer was efficient and asked questions from "Why do you want to be a part of the Olympic Games?" to "Describe a time where you went beyond what was asked to complete a task."  The group interviewing me was in Moscow, which meant that I was awake VERY early this morning to catch them during work hours.  I was very happy and excited to take part, so some of my answers were...well, I could have given infinitely long answers on some topics.  They wanted to know my organizational habits, accomplishments, skills, thought processes, and even what makes me angry.  They even paused to find some quite specific supplemental questions to ask including, "Have you ever performed in front of large masses of people?", "Are you afraid of large masses of people?", "Are you afraid of heights?", and "Have you been a part of a large scale production or media event?"  I have had many great experiences in the recent past and have a working knowledge of what they are needing.  Hopefully, they will want me on board.  I thought the interview went really well, I thought they were very interested in my responses, and I'm very excited and anxious to hear back from them.

With so much excitement and so many things to look forward to, I shouldn't get into any trouble anytime soon!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inaugural Review, Camels, and the Grammy's

As much of the world spent today, the day of the 57th Presidential Inauguration, at work or if they are lucky, at home watching TV, I spent it trotting around like a horse in rehearsals for the premiere performance of "How the Camel Got His Hump", an opera for children based on the Rudyard Kipling story.  It is incredibly cute and I hope to get some funny pictures of us all: Camel, Ox, Dog, Genie, and a Man.  Of course the Man doesn't have much of a crazy costume, but everyone else is dressed up as their characters as if we are all kids pretending to be these animals.  We grab our props from a toy box and hopefully, our audience of kids will feel like we are pretending right along with them!

Likely the most impressive feat of our performance is that most of us have learned and memorized the opera within just a few days!  It's a little embarrassing to admit our collective (and personal) procrastination, but if you step back, that's pretty good work for a small group of singers and honestly, if there are any teenage singers out there who read this and can't memorize their 3.5 minute long piece after 2 months of practice - it's not that languages are difficult, it's probably because you are great at procrastination and haven't practiced memorizing lately.  I procrastinate more than I should (as do most teachers and singers), but it takes an efficient person to make a busy performing schedule work.  You better learn how to memorize quickly!

Anyway, stepping off my high horse and on to another much higher horse, four years ago we saw some incredibly influential musical moments in the Inauguration of the first African-American President of the United States.  First, Aretha Franklin sang "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" in a rather mediocre attempt, though important example of the influence of jazz on western music, further giving it to the British as this "American" tune is actually the tune to the National Anthem of the United Kingdom, " God Save the Queen."



Without the help of an awesome hat, Kelly Clarkson took the honor of singing this great American song and did so with great freedom.  The arrangement was somewhat bland, but Clarkson managed to sing the song without screaming too much...something that I often complain about when it comes to her recordings.  So, congratulations Kelly, and I was most thankful that she kept her embellishments simple.  It seems backward, but the simpler one sings in the non-dramatic sections, the more dramatic the high belting becomes.  Many people don't realize that there is a formula to get that "wow" factor...don't just sing, think and sing.



My biggest complaint was that of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" performed by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.  Perhaps President Obama enjoyed the piece, and while the singers displayed better vocal acuity and intelligence than the Mormon variety of tabernacle choirs, and even if I selectively forget their vomiting of "Hallelu-JUH" as most high school choir teachers would correct on the first day, the arrangement was corny and predictable - not unlike a routine from a Disney on Ice Spectacular from the late 1980s.  So, good job Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir but I give no props to the arranger of the piece.

And now to the best moments of the last two Inaugurals.  From 2009, John Williams' "Air and Simple Gifts" was performed by Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Gabriela Montero, and Anthony McGill.  Actually it was a fake performance since it was too cold to perform live - it was too risky for the stringed instruments.  Nevertheless, it was the first classical quartet ever to be performed at an Inauguration and it payed homage to the creator the "American" quartal harmonies and Shaker tune associated with Aaron Copland, one of the greatest Nationalist composers of Americana.



Believe it or not, I have not been drinking and I intend to give my biggest praise to someone singing the National Anthem NOT in the classical style, but in our crazy virtuosic pop/jazz style.  Beyonce provided a stellar performance at today's Inauguration.  Her version of the National Anthem exhibited great vocal technique and variety, showing great freedom at times, and most importantly demonstrating her vocal prowess.  Her voice is healthier than Whitney Houston's was and showed the virtuosity and musical intelligence of Ella Fitzgerald.  I can only hope that her delicate style would take the place of the belty screams of most female popular singers of today's recording artists.  I can assure you of this however, Beyonce's career will last longer than most because of her technique  I have a feeling that when I go to the Grammy's in a couple weeks that I will witness several singers who should take the time to learn a thing or two from her.



Lastly, my wife and I are gearing up for the Grammy's.  The Kansas City Chorale is up for two Grammy's, we have our tickets, and my wife bought her dress last weekend.  Her Ralph Lauren dress and my soon to be discovered suit will be seen here with my Grammy coverage beginning in two weeks as well as on any red carpet TV coverage if we are mistaken for someone famous.  We will be at a cocktail event on the eve of the Grammy's and we will attend all the award ceremonies on the day of the Grammy's.  The majority of the awards (including the classical categories) will be handed out during the first ceremony which you can watch online (I will provide you with a link later on) and the rest will be part of the larger ceremony at the Staples Center which you can watch live on CBS.  Afterward, we will attend Wolfgang Puck's after-party where many of the biggest celebrities in Hollywood and music will attend.  I am very excited, but my wife is VERY excited.

In the meantime, take a look at the Grammy Classical Music Nominees and view my updated performance schedule on the black bar above - I'll have more details to discuss in the future, including a job interview with the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games next week!  Things couldn't get any more exciting...or adventurous...or stress inducing!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

1932 Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony - Lake Placid


Lake Placid, New York
1932
Governor of New York, Franklin Roosevelt opens the 1932 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid
Olympic Ceremony Records
italics indicate records at the time
  • First Winter Games in North America
  • First Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony to Use Loudspeakers
  • Fewest Events (tied 1928 St. Moritz) - 14

Opening Ceremony
Olympic Stadium (7,475)
February 4, 1932

Video


Opening Ceremony Highlights
The Opening Ceremony of the third Winter Olympics were held on a bright and sunny morning.  Notably, this was the first Winter Olympic ceremony to use loudspeakers and the Governor of New York, Franklin Roosevelt opened the games.  Roosevelt would later win the 1932 Presidential Election.  This brief ceremony lasted less than 30 minutes in length.
  • Officials Enter Stadium
  • National Anthem of the United States performed by military band
  • Parade of Nations
  • Games opened by FDR
  • Olympic Flag raised
  • Althete's Oath
Photos
Gold Medal of the1932 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid

Olympic Poster of the 1932 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid
1932 Olympic Stadium in Lake Placid

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Top 10 of P.D.Q. Bach

Happy New Year to the opera world!  I apologize for my absence as I have been waist deep in applications for college positions.  The paperwork is ridiculous in some cases, but I am a fierce and dedicated worker - hopefully I will have some exciting details to announce in the future!

In other news, exciting football games have engulfed my life recently, along with uniquely horrible national anthem performances.  All the while, I am about to overdose on J.S. Bach.  I originally intended to perform a lecture recital on a Bach cantata, but I have since decided to throw in some Vaughan Williams into a semester consumed with preparing Bach's B Minor Mass, where I will be the tenor soloist at a performance at the Kauffman Center in Kansas City on my birthday - April 28, and a couple weeks prior to that I will act as the Evangelist in Bach's St. John Passion.

But with that said, and since it is still my vacation for a couple more weeks, I would like to write about another famous Bach other than J.S. and C.P.E. Bach or any of the J.C.'s - but rather, the great P.D.Q. Bach.



P.D.Q. Bach is known as one of the most prolific plagiarists in music history. Here's a look at the genius of P.D.Q. Bach with these top ten compositions.  I have to say, moments of this will be funny to music nerds and not very funny if you don't know much about classical music - but for the music freaks and geeks out there, here you go:

10. Tocatta et Fuga Obnoxia


9. "The Farmer on the Dole" from Four Folksong Upsettings


8. Sonata for 4 Hand Viola


7. Bach Portrait



6. 1712 Overture



 5. "Eine Kleine Nichtmusik" (with theme subtitles!)


 4. The Seasonings an Oratorio


3. The Abduction of Figaro - click here for the full opera




2. "Erotica" Variations, for banned instruments and piano
  • Theme: Windbreaker
  • Variation I: Balloons
  • Variation II: Slide Whistle
  • Variation III: Slide Windbreaker
  • Variation IV: Lasso D'Amore 
  • Variation V: Foghorn, Bell, Kazoo, Gargle


 1. New Horizons in Music Appreciation (although not a composition of P.D.Q. Bach, this was his attempt to make classical music exciting)