Sunday, April 18, 2021

Limited, in-person organ concert at Trinity Episcopal features stunning artistry of Stephen Buzard

On the evening of Friday, April 16, I walked into Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and experienced my first live-in-person concert since March of 2020. Only 50 or so people were able to obtain tickets; so the large nave (which can seat up to 600 people) looked empty. Still, there was an expectant vibe in the air and the listeners, who wore masks and sat at least six feet from each unless they were a family or group that was on very friendly terms. Concerts programs were not printed, but could be read from a QR code or from an email that had been sent by Trinity Episcopal. The idea behind that, of course, was to reduce any touching whatsoever.

Stephen Buzard, music director of St. James Cathedral in Chicago and one of the most eminent organists in the nation, gave a concert of Twentieth Century music with dance as a celebratory theme. This was Buzard’s first recital in thirteen months, but his wizardly technique on the magnificent Rosales organ was flawless.

I enjoyed the unusual sounds of Jehan Alain’s “Trois Danses.” Alain, a French composer who died in combat during WWII at age 29, was influenced by music of the orient as well the occident. The piece began with bright, rolling phrases that underwent a lot of nuanced changes. Later, slightly repetitive passages transitioned into a loud, swirling section that dissolved into a quiet plaintive cry and dove to the depths of a single low note that sounded like a death rattle before rising in a determined and defiant way.

Buzard played the “Air” and “Toccata” movements from Florence Price’s gentle “Suite for Organ.” Price, an African-American composer whose works have recently been rediscovered, created a contemplative setting that was pleasant and soothing. It acquired an uplifting feeling when a spiritual-like melody snuck in and gradually took over. This the culminated in a grand finale that was filled with joy.

Herbert Howell’s “Psalm-Prelude Set 2, No. 2” also had a meditative and introspective quality. It went from light to dark and back to light again before ending in a subdued and tender way.

The concert impressively kicked off with three selections from Calvin Hampton’s “Five Dances.” The first dance, entitled “The Primitives” captured everyone’s attention with its rollicking and rough-sounding opening. A tromping bass line produced a chaotic yet playful atmosphere that threatened to get out of hand but never did. This was followed by a refined and airy “At the Ballet” and an all-to-brief “Those Americans.”

The program concluded with the “Passacaglia” from Leo Sowerby’s “Symphony in G Major.” Buzard commanded this piece with panache, exploring a series of variations that was just plain fun to hear. The audience responded with a sustained ovation that brought him back to the lectern to announce an encore, a transcription that Buzard made of a memorable improvisation by organist Jeffrey Brillhart at St. Thomas Church in New York City in 2012. It was a fitting conclusion to a concert that will hopefully help us to draw a closing curtain on the pandemic.

Extra credit: I have had my two-doses of Pfizer vaccine. That doesn't ensure me again COVID-19, but it does - with the mask - help.

Today's Birthdays

Giacomo Carissimi (1605-1674)
Franz von Suppé (1819-1895)
Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977)
Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995)
Sylvia Fisher (1910-1996)
Penelope Thwaites (1944)
Catherine Maltfitano (1948)


Clarence Darrow (1857-1938)
Bob Kaufman (1925-1986)
Susan Faludi (1959)

Also a historical tidbit from (the former) Writer's Almanac:

On this day in 1906 an earthquake struck San Francisco. The earthquake began at 5:12 a.m. and lasted for a little over a minute. The world-famous tenor Enrico Caruso had performed at San Francisco's Grand Opera House the night before, and he woke up in his bed as the Palace Hotel was falling down around him. He stumbled out into the street, and because he was terrified that that shock might have ruined his voice, he began singing. Nearly 3,000 people died.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Today's Birthdays

Johann David Heinichen (1683-1729)
Jan Václav Tomášek (1774-1850)
Artur Schnabel (1882-1951)
Maggie Teyte (1888-1976)
Harald Saeverud (1897-1992)
Gregor Piatigorsky (1903-1976)
Pamela Bowden (1925-2003)
James Last (1929-2015)
Anja Silja (1940)
Siegfried Jerusalem (1940)
Cristina Ortiz (1950)


Karen Blixen aka Isak Dinesen (1885-1962)
Thornton Wilder (1897-1975)
Brendan Kennelly (1936)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1906 - on tour in San Francisco with the Metropolitan Opera touring company, the great Italian tenor Enrico Caruso sings a performance of Bizet's "Carmen" the day before the Great San Francisco Earthquake.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Today's Birthdays

Federico Mompou (1893-1987)
Mischa Mischakov (1895-1981)
Henry Mancini (1924-1994)
Herbie Mann (1930-2003)
Dusty Springfield (1939-1999)
Stephen Pruslin (1940)
Leo Nucci (1942)
Richard Bradshaw (1944-2007)
Dennis Russell Davis (1944)
Peteris Vasks (1946)


John Millington Synge (1871-1909)
Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977)
Merce Cunningham (1919-2009)
Sir Kingsley Amis (1922-1995)
Carol Bly (1930-2007)

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Today's Birthdays

Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688-1758)
Karl Alwin (1891-1945)
Bessie Smith (1894-1937)
Sir Neville Marriner (1924-2016)
John Wilbraham (1944-1998)
Michael Kamen (1948-2003)
Lara St. John (1971)


Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Henry James (1843-1916)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1931, Copland's "A Dance Symphony," was premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski. This work incorporates material from Copland's 1923 ballet "Grohg," which had not been produced. The symphony was one the winners of the 1929 Victor Talking Machine Company Competition Prize. The judges of the competition decided that none of the submitted works deserved the full $25,000 prize, so they awarded $5000 each to four composers, including Copland, Ernest Bloch, and Louis Gruenberg, and gave $10,000 to Robert Russell Bennett (who had submitted two works).

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Today's Birthdays

Jean Fournet (1913-2008)
Paavo Berglund (1929-2012)
Morton Subotnick (1933)
Loretta Lynn (1935)
Claude Vivier (1948-1983)
John Wallace (1949)
Julian Lloyd Webber (1951)
Barbara Bonney (1956)
Mikhail Pletnev (1957)
Jason Lai (1974)


Christian Huygens (1629-1695)
Arnold Toynbee (1853-1882)
Anton Wildgans (1881-1932)
Tina Rosenberg (1960)

From the former Writer's Almanac:

It's the legal birthday of the modern printing press, which William Bullock patented on this day in 1863 in Baltimore. His invention was the first rotary printing press to self-feed the paper, print on both sides, and count its own progress — meaning that newspapers, which had until then relied on an operator manually feeding individual sheets of paper into a press, could suddenly increase their publication exponentially.

The Cincinnati Times was likely the very first to use a Bullock press, with the New York Sun installing one soon after. Bullock was installing a press for The Philadelphia Press when he kicked at a mechanism; his foot got caught, his leg was crushed, and he died a few days later during surgery to amputate. His press went on to revolutionize the newspaper business.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Today's Birthdays

Felicien David (1810-1876)
William Sterndale Bennett (1816-1875)
Milos Sadlo (1912-2003)
George Barati (1913-1996)
Frederic Rzewski (1938)
Margaret Price (1941-2011)
Della Jones (1946)
Al Green (1946)
Mary Ellen Childs (1959)


Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)
Eudora Welty (1909-2001)
Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

and from the Composers Datebook:

On this day in 1958, American pianist Van Cliburn wins the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, the first American to do so.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Profile of Damien Geter published in CVNA magazine

My article about the exciting opera singer, composer, and artistic advisor to the Resonance Ensemble and Portland Opera has just been posted in the Classical Voice of North America magazine. I hope that you enjoy reading it. Just click on this link.

Today's Birthdays

Pietro Nardini (1722-1793)
Joseph Lanner (1801-1843)
Johnny Dodds (1892-1940)
Lily Pons (1898-1976
Imogen Holst (1907-1984)
Thomas Hemsley (1927-2013)
Herbert Khaury (aka Tiny Tim) (1932-1996)
Henri Lazarof (1932-2013)
Montserrat Caballé (1933-2018)
Herbie Hancock (1940)
Ernst Kovacic (1943)
Stefan Minde (1936-2015)
Christophe Rousset (1961)


Beverly Cleary (1916-2021)
Alan Ayckbourn (1939)
Tom Clancy (1947-2013)
Gary Soto (1952)
Jon Krakauer (1954)