Backstage with the SPCO

Things can get a little daffy on the last day of school . . . or on the last day of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s season.

For example, the fellow at the beginning of their video, trying to play a tuba, is actually a violinist.

See the SPCO’s backstage video here.

Classical Vuvuzela: It's about time!

With all the fuss about the annoying sound of the Vuvuzela at the World Cup in South Africa, it’s high time we heard it put to other uses.

A tip of the hat to the Opera Chic for listing this today, and to the trombone section at the Berlin Konzerthaus:

Meanwhile, some other wacky German Vuvuzelaphiles in Hamburg, test the acoustics of the spectacular new concert hall that’s under construction in Hamburg, and designed by Herzog and De Meuron, the architects that gave us the new Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis.

Tear your rhubarb, don't cut!

At least that’s a tip I just received on proper harvesting of Rhubarb from my colleague Mike Pengra.

One of the many “fun facts” I just might use this Saturday when I host the Rhubarb Festival in Duluth.

It’s a full day of music – including one of my most favorite, Peter Ostrouchko – a bake sale, silent auction, activities for kids and several contests.

If you’re in Duluth, stop by and please let me know if it’s best to tear or cut those rhubarb stalks!

Rhubarb Stalk & Leaf Contest

Peter Pears 100th

The great English tenor Peter Pears was born 100 years ago today.

His was a unique voice of great intimacy and subtlety, and his life was inextricably tied to his partner, composer Benjamin Britten.

Pears met Britten in 1936. They frequently gave recitals together, often featuring Britten’s gorgeous arrangements of English folk song:

Britten went on to compose many of his major works with Peter Pears in mind, including the title role in the opera Peter Grimes. But if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then one can imagine no greater tribute than this one, paid by Dudley Moore. Genius!

Klassical Kudos

Lots of kudos to go around for Minnesota classical musicians this week.

Jordan Sramek, artistic director of the Rose Ensemble in the Twin Cities, receives the Louis Botto Award at the Chorus America Conference in Atlanta. The award is named for the founder of Chanticleer. It honors an individual whose work “has demonstrated innovative action and entrepreneurial zeal in developing a professional or professional-core choral ensemble.” The Rose Ensemble also just got word it will represent the United States at the 9th World Symposium on Choral Music next summer in Argentina. They’re one of only 25 groups in the world to be selected.

The League of American Orchestras just annouced the winners of this year’s awards for adventurous programming. Among smaller orchestras, first prize goes to the South Dakota Symphony. Among the biggest orchestras, third prize goes to the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. First prize went to the mighty New York Philharmonic, so the SPCO is a David among Goliaths.

Nicholas McGegan spent ten years with the SPCO, and now he can add OBE to his resume too. Nic was been made an OBE (Officer of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth. The award is ‘for services to music overseas’. Catherine Zeta-Jones was also named an OBE, which puts Nic in good company. Tho if he wants to keep up with the Zeta-Joneses, he’ll need to marry Michael Douglas, and win a Tony award…

Bemidji Symphony Orchestra named an American Prize finalist

The Bemidji Symphony Orchestra and its conductor, Beverly Everett, have been named finalists in The American Prize spring 2010 competitions in orchestral performance and orchestral conducting.

Through a series of competitions, the Bemidji Symphony was singled out, the chief judge noting “…a grand performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – a sterling example of everything a community’s music-making should encompass.”

Way to go Bemidji!

Being Pavarotti

Christine Sweet recommends a wonderful new film Being Pavarotti

She writes: “I have a bad habit of turning on the TV late Sunday nights when I should be getting ready to turn in. Last year on one such occasion I stumbled upon a documentary film in progress on PBS and stayed up way too late to watch the rest of it.

Now I’m an easy mark for a true story about someone who pursues a life of music against difficult odds. But this film captivated me with a context outside my experience and imagination.

Elton, a South African teenager from a poor family is given a Luciano Pavarotti cassette by his cousin, falls in love with the voice, and is determined to “be” Pavarotti.”

The film is available for stream on-line