Watch Maestro Bill Eddins's swimsuit competition video

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Yesterday I posted news of an opera conductor swimsuit competition being held by the blog Opera Candy. It seemed unlikely that any serious conductor would accept the blog’s invitation to submit a swimsuit video, but the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’s Bill Eddins has in fact tendered a submission. “This,” Eddins writes on his Sticks and Drones blog, “is too good to resist.”

I won’t spoil the surprise at the end of this video, but I will say this maestro has some great gams.

Photo via Sticks and Drones

Dale Clevenger: A great story about a great teacher

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In a recent blog post, Indiana music teacher Jeff Nelsen shared this humorous story about horn great Dale Clevenger.

“The story goes that Dale was teaching a young horn player in a public master class. He asked the student to play the beginning of the solo piece he’d diligently prepared. The hornist played well, smiled, and looked to Dale for commentary.

“He looked at the student and asked, ‘Have you every heard me play before?’ The boy excitedly smiled and giggled out a, ‘Yeah, I listen to you a lot.’ Dale replied, ‘Ok play it again, and this time play it like you’re ME playing this piece.’

“The kid went at it again, and leaned into every musical mark, and swooned and slurred his way through what may have been an out-of-body experience. He’d never played it better his whole life. The audience reacted in kind, cheering full out.

“Dale waited and said, ‘Yeah, just what I thought. I’m a much better horn player than you are.'”


There's still time to enter this opera conductor swimsuit competition

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Opera Candy — the blog dedicated to “anything sweet, yummy, or sticky about opera” — is holding what it considers (probably accurately) the “first ever swim suit competition for opera conductors.” Conductors are invited to submit videos of themselves in action (presumably conducting) while clad in swimwear; the deadline for submission is September 1. The prize? “We do not provide money, but we will get you attention.”

A new venue for the embrace (so to speak) of nudity at the performance hall, Opera Candy also maintains Pinterest boards for “Naked at the Opera” and “Salome Side Boob” (which features some hot Herods as well). Not a conductor, but want to flaunt your bod on the Internet? Fear not: Opera Candy is also conducting swimsuit competitions for opera singers, orchestra members, and artistic directors.

It seems unlikely that our own Maestro Vänskä will suit up for this competition, but we do know he looks good in bike shorts.

Update 8/15: Bill Eddins, music director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, has submitted a video for consideration in the competition. Watch it here.

Photo: a still from Noseland, courtesy

Kobe Bryant is big on Beethoven

L.A. Lakers star Kobe Bryant, seen here in a game against the Atlanta Hawks (photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Basketball star Kobe Bryant has revealed his line of new shoes for Nike. They’re called “Kobe 9 Elite Low ‘Beethoven'”. Nike says the inspiration for the shoes apparently came from the composer’s Symphony No. 9 in particular.

Bryant himself has tweeted about his fondness for Beethoven’s music, particularly his Moonlight Sonata:

On a related note, Bryant has evidently appeared in a TV commercial for Lenovo, in which he plays Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, but as of this morning, the video has been removed from YouTube.

This commercial, made for shoe seller Foot Locker, features Bryant appearing to build a piano:

Oh … the ‘Kobe 9 Elite Low “Beethoven” shoes are due to be available in the U.S. starting Saturday, Aug. 16, with an estimated price tag of $200.

Watch a Minnesota Orchestra violinist receive brain surgery – while playing


In a remarkable video from 2010, Rochester’s Mayo Clinic shows Minnesota Orchestra violinist Roger Frisch having electrodes implanted into his brain — while he plays.

The experimental procedure was performed to address a tremor that Frisch has recently developed in his hands. While the tremor is relatively slight, it was affecting Frisch’s ability to perform the extremely subtle hand movements required of a concert violinist.

The solution devised by surgeon Kendall Lee was to implant electrodes intended to stimulate Frisch’s brain in a manner that can reduce such tremors. The trick was for Lee and his team to find the exact location in Frisch’s brain to embed the electrodes for maximum effectiveness. To zero in on the right spot, they actually had Frisch play his violin while being operated on.

Frisch now has a device that he can activate with the flick of a switch to turn the electrodes on — and his tremors off.

Click on Classical: Weddings' greatest hits, Mohammed Fairouz, and Lorde's hocketry


Every Monday morning at 9:15, I join John Birge on Classical MPR to talk about stories being featured on our website. Here are the stories we’ll be discussing today.

What’s it like to play in a string quartet that makes the regular rounds of local weddings? The Lake Minnetonka String Quartet talked with our writer Ashley Mergens and told her all about the ups and downs of making strings sing while couples tie the knot. They also told Ashley about the piece of music that’s surprisingly become a popular choice for this summer’s wedding processions.

With Israel-Palestine hostilities concerning people around the world, Mindy Ratner talked with Mohammed Fairouz — a composer of Palestinian descent whose music is performed on a new album called Poems and Prayers. Fairouz told Mindy about how he combined Arabic and Hebrew texts, and why that was artistically — and personally — important to him.

Fans of the young New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde recently enjoyed the discovery of music by her high school band — a band that said it was into brapping and hockets. Huh? Well, brapping is simply riding motorbikes off-road, but hockets are a musical technique, dating to medieval times, that have been enjoying a recent renaissance via some surprising sources​.

Orchestra Rehearsal with Conductor Ferenc Fricsay

August 9 is the 100th birthday of the conductor Ferenc Fricsay (1914-63). Along with many recordings, he left behind a fascinating documentary for German TV, showing how conductor and orchestra work together in rehearsal.

For about 40 minutes, we see Fricsay rehearsing — a long time, but you can dip into it at any point. The music is familiar — Smetana’s “Moldau” (or “Vltava”), but Fricsay is totally engaged, despite his poor health: always bringing out some interesting detail, or encouraging or correcting the players, or indulging in some poetic metaphor (“The panther is ready to leap!”).

At the end of the documentary, at about 44:00, you’ll see the finished performance.

Video: Strauss, synchronized swimming … but no pool

Margaret Hutto via YouTube

Maybe it’s because there’s not a lot of water in Texas. But these kids from an elementary school in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area pull off a pretty entertaining synchronized-swimming routine during their school’s talent show.

Classical MPR’s Jodi Gustafson spotted this video online and shared it. The music is Johann Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz.

We’re pretty sure the music and the video will make you smile. Even without water, these kids make a splash.

Bang your head with this classical drum quiz

John Bonham of Led Zeppelin at the Los Angeles-area Inglewood Forum in 1973. (Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)

“Beethoven, Stravinsky and Bartók can serve up beats as thunderous as any double-drummer metal band,” writes NPR reporter Tom Huizenga in his introduction to a challenging quiz he posted on the NPR Music website today.

Huizenga’s quiz asks you to identify classical pieces that spotlight percussion. In the seven-question quiz, you’ll hear various uses of timpani, bass and snare drums across a range of works.

Identifying classical pieces using little more than drum fills is not easy. Try Huizenga’s “Classical Headbanging Edition” quiz and you may end up banging your head … against your desk.

Good luck! (And feel free to report back here in the comments below with your score and other thoughts about the quiz.)