Eastern Music Festival turns 50




Fifty years ago, Sheldon Morganstern organized a summer music festival for student musicians, and on the night of the first concert, wondered if anyone would come. They did, and in gratifying numbers. What began as the Guilford Music Camp has since been renamed the Eastern Music Festival. Despite a fundraising shortfall that almost destroyed it about ten years ago, the Eastern Music Festival celebrates the half-century mark with more than 100 concert during its five-week run this year. Morganstern’s original aim continues: to allow students a chance to study with top professional musicians for five weeks and demonstrate what they … Continue reading

Chestnuts being roasted: Pachelbel’s Canon by PaGAGnini




Johann Pachelbel was a fine composer. He wrote lots of music. Why does it seem like the canon from his Canon and Gigue for 3 violins and basso continuo is the only piece he wrote? Why is it that when a radio announcer says that music by Pachelbel is coming up, it’s always the Canon–unless the announcement specifically says that it will be something besides the Canon? Anything that’s overexposed on the radio also appears on too many live performances. Orchestras can do it once in a season and be done with it, but pity the poor string group that … Continue reading

A live band!




The leader of a dance band I used to play in told a great story on  himself. His wife dragged him to the Lyric Opera one time. At intermission, he idly wandered toward the stage, noticed the instruments in the pit, and called out to his wife, “Hey Honey! They’ve got a live band!” Apparently he had assumed, since he saw no “band,” that the singers were backed by a recording. And apparently he didn’t care. He played trumpet ;-)   For years now, Broadway producers have hoped, and perhaps assumed, that the audience will neither know nor care where … Continue reading

Three generations of Sitkovetsky’s: a historic reunion




I recently attended a concert of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra (April 1), not knowing that it would be a historical event. Music Director Dmitri Sitkovetsky conducted only one number. Otherwise he played violin. The other soloists were his daughter, soprano Julia Sitkovetsky, and his mother, renowned piano virtuosi Bella Davidovich. That much I knew before I arrived. Guest conductor Stuart Malina announced that the concert marked Ms Sitkovetsky’s first performance with a professional orchestra and very likely Mme Davidovich’s last. Julia Sitkovetsky Ms Sitkovetsky is a second-year student at Queen’s College, Oxford. She has a very pleasant voice, which is … Continue reading

Danzon no. 2, by Arturo Márquez




The orchestra I play in is working on Danzon no. 2, by Arturo Márquez. Since I have written quite a bit in this blog about building an audience for new “classical” music, I am very proud to present this fairly recent (1994) crowd pleaser by a Mexican conductor who is a little younger than I am. Who says composers have to be dead in order to write good music. (Well, my father has been known to say that, and I’m sure plenty of concert goers agree with him.) Márquez, son of a mariachi musician and grandson of a folk musician, … Continue reading

The Wagner tuba: the orchestra’s least known brass member




What is the most recently member of the orchestra? The tuba, invented in 1835 would seem to qualify, except that Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle and some other very important works require an even newer instrument called the Wagner tuba. The invention of valves in 1815 led to the development of numerous new brass instruments. None of them produced the kind of sound Wagner envisioned as he started work on Das Rheingold. In 1854 he set out to find someone who could design something suitable. Playable specimens of the ancient Norse lur, when played by hornists of Wagner’s time had a … Continue reading

Carl Traugott Queisser: Being a musician in the first half of the nineteenth century




Trombonists know the name Carl Traugott Queisser (1800-1846) as one of the first internationally famous trombone soloists. A Concertino for Trombone by Ferdinand David that probably every trombone major in college plays at one time or another was composed for Queisser. A famous virtuoso is certainly not a typical musician, but in many ways Queisser is representative of how many different roles a professional musician of his time had to perform in order to make a living. Like most German instrumentalists, Queisser received his first musical training as a Stadtpfeifer, or town musician. He began his apprenticeship at age 11 … Continue reading

Musical predictions for the new year




No, I’m not going to try to make predictions for musical happenings in 2011. It’s much more fun to look at someone else’s predictions from years past and see how they turned out. I just got back from Christmas vacation, and I confess to hunting for something I could type out quickly. This gem of a prediction appears in the January 1, 1895 issue of The Musical Times. One Arthur E. Grimshaw wrote a letter to the editor in response to a concert review the previous month. It seems that the critic had complained that the loud trombones spoiled an … Continue reading

Classical music at a bar?




According to a story on NPR’s Weekend Edition, “Beethoven and Beer at the Happy Dog,” members of the Cleveland Orchestra have been playing classical chamber music since June 2010 at the Happy Dog, a neighborhood bar on the near-west side of town, under the name Orchestral Manoeuvres at the Dog. People love it, and the bar is packed every time they play. It gives customers who would never go to Severance Hall a chance to hear classical music and gives the bar customers who would not otherwise come. It also gives the musicians a chance to make music more spontaneously. … Continue reading

An excellent high-school orchestra from Indiana




A friend of mine sent me a link to the video below and said to prepare to be impressed. It is a prize-winning performance of the Carmel (Indiana) High School Symphony Orchestra playing “Jupiter” from The Planets by Gustav Holst. As a result of this performance last May, they were named the Indiana State Orchestra Champion. My friend tells me they also won in 2008 playing the finale of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and “Mambo” from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein. These performances are also available on YouTube. This performance is better than many concerts I have heard by prestigious … Continue reading