All posts by wjacobson

An Obit for the Ages….

Did you hear about the copper heiress who died last week at age 104? As obituaries go, it is a most interesting read – one of those where you kind of laugh and cry at the same time. Be sure to read both pages – the second page contains a real musical doozy or two! Read all about it here.

The Peaceful Cubicle

A little over a week ago I was at my cubicle, amidst about 30 other cubicles in a large office room. There was chatter – some of it louder than I felt it should have been. You know how offices can get on certain days. My concentration was suffering, so I donned the headphones and carefully selected a CD that would help regain my focus and calm.

Gabriel Faure’s Requiem.

Wow. I hadn’t heard it for so long. It was like getting together for lunch with an old friend. My first experience with the Faure Requiem was back in the 80s, as part of the Abendmusik Chorus in Lincoln, Nebraska. John Rutter came from England to lead the performance and I became a fan for life.

The CD I chose to block the office chatter was a disc featuring Rutter’s Cambridge Singers and the City of London Sinfonia – a recording made just a year before the performance in which I participated. For me it was just another reminder of the many redeeming qualities of music. Listening to this recording took me right back to 1986, to First Plymouth Congregational Church in Lincoln, to the sound, feel and smell of the sanctuary, and to that queasy-kind-of-anxious feeling….you know, not wanting to mess up in front of a choral genius like Rutter. Then there’s the music itself – typical Faure – lush, serene, contemplative, and stunningly beautiful. The Requiem is a little over 30 minutes long. I listened to it three times that day – back to back to back. And I got a lot of work done too.

So the next time you feel yourself headed to a place you’d rather not be, stop. Take a deep breath and grab the headphones. Find that music that transports you to a better place. But if you need directions, the Faure Requiem is a pretty decent route to take.

Next Year's Super Bowl Anthem

I think there’s probably been more than enough criticism of Christina Aguilera’s rendition of the National Anthem at Sunday’s Super Bowl. Perhaps we should move on, and look ahead to next year.

Super Bowl XLVI is in Indianapolis, February 5th, 2012. Nearby is the renowned Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington. I would suggest the NFL go local and look no further than right there for their anthem performer(s).

I offer just a partial list of potential performers with ties to the Jacobs School at IU, either as a student, graduate, faculty member, or combination:

Joshua Bell, violinist

Sylvia McNair, soprano

Chris Botti, jazz trumpeter

Edgar Meyer, bassist

Jorja Fleezanis, violinist (former Minnesota Orchestra concertmaster!)

Andre Watts, pianist

Jaime Laredo, violinist/conductor

Leonard Slatkin, conductor

And believe me, that’s only a partial list. Surely the NFL could come up with someone (or even better, a combination of people) from this group. C’mon NFL….go local next year!

Slatkin to the Rescue in Chicago

We learned about Riccardo Muti fainting during rehearsal with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra yesterday. The 69-year-old maestro is resting in the hospital, in stable condition.

The show did go on in the Windy City last night, as Leonard Slatkin was called upon to be a last-minute (and I do mean last-minute) fill-in to lead the CSO in the Shostakovich Symphony No. 5. With no rehearsals, Slatkin conducted from memory. Bravo, indeed!

Read all about last night’s performance here.

Nearly Half a Century for Minnesota Orchestra and Messiah

For the 45th consecutive year, the Minnesota Orchestra presents Handel’s oratorio, Messiah this week. Three performances are scheduled at Orchestra Hall (11am Wednesday, 8pm Friday and Saturday) and one performance at Cathedral of Saint Paul (7:30pm, Thursday). For the first time, Osmo Vanska will conduct the performances that also feature soloists and the Minnesota Chorale.

As always, Friday night’s performance will be heard live on Classical MPR.

For me, there are several Messiah moments that I most look forward to (nothing gets the blood pumping like a rousing rendition of the bass air, “Why do the Nations Rage?”).

So what about you?

More Cancellations in Detroit

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has canceled three additional weeks of concerts due to the musicians strike, beginning with four classical performances Thursday through Sunday that were to have been conducted by music director Leonard Slatkin.

In addition, Pops Series concerts next week and an additional weekend of classical concerts Nov. 26-28 have been canceled. A total of 27 concerts have now been canceled since the five-week old strike began Oct. 4.

Read more about it here.

Meanwhile, Viktoria Mullova plays Beethoven this week with the Minnesota Orchestra.

Virtual Sing-a-long

Remember the old Coca-Cola commercial, “I’d like to teach the world to sing?” Well, American composer and conductor Eric Whitacre has taken it a step further – inviting the world to sing-a-long online in an attempt create the world’s largest virtual choir.

The Juilliard-trained Whitacre, whose first Virtual Choir became a hit on YouTube, aims to combine thousands of individual choral parts sung by people around the world and submitted as video clips for his composition “Sleep.”

“I’m delighted to lead what I anticipate to be a big step forward for classical — and indeed, all — music,” Whitacre said in a statement on record label Decca’s website. “I hope this will be a moment in music history for the YouTube generation.”

Whitacre’s original Virtual Choir became a YouTube hit, receiving 1 million hits in just 60 days. While that project included many professional singers, this is the chance for everyone and anyone to become involved.

Entries to the record attempt will be via YouTube and will include an online tutorial explaining how to record and upload their chosen part. The closing date for entries is the end of 2010.

(thanks to Reuters and my colleague, Julie Amacher)

A Way to Help

I stopped to admire the marvelous fall colors while crossing the Lake Street bridge yesterday. Not so marvelous was the rapidly rising Mississippi River, at an unusually high level for late September, thanks to last week’s torrential rains.

If you’d like to contribute financially, donate supplies or offer help to people affected by flooding in southern Minnesota, call the United Way’s 24-hour hotline at 1-800-543-7709. Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Managment officials say that makes it easier to get donations to those who need them.

Magic Number 2. Music to the Ears of Twins Fans

The Minnesota Twins (specifically slugger Jim Thome) are on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week. Pretty cool if you’re a Twins fan, like me – even if there is that dreaded S.I. cover jinx (let’s not think about that).

As the Twins sit poised to clinch the American League Central Division title on this final full day of summer, here are just a couple joys of baseball and how they relate to music.

What other sport lets the crowd sing in unison during the game? Gotta’ love the 7th inning stretch. Just about everyone seems to enjoy doing this, whether they can carry a tune or not.

By the way, did you know you can mingle with the Twins organist at Target Field? You can, and she’s a gem.

And just one more – earlier today, Julie Amacher shared the story about how violinist Gil Shaham (just here over the weekend with the SPCO) once broke his violin bow as a kid using it as a baseball bat. He told his parents he sat on it. Hmmm…knowing how well Shaham uses that bow with the violin, I bet the kid went 4-4 at the plate that day.

Go Twins!