Blog Archives

The Pit and the Pendulum, Part 2


Robert Baldwin, Music Director for the Salt Lake Symphony, Music Director for the Utah Philharmonia, and Director of Orchestral Activities at the University of Utah shares more of his thoughts on the importance of rhythm, meter, and tempo in music. He shares that music is not a perfect mathematical equation and neither is time in a musical piece. There is always ebb and flow. There is always adaptation, especially in live performances.

Before the Downbeat

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I’ll be climbing out of the pit after the last run of Susannah tonight.  It’s been a great experience, and full of potential for the pondering mind.  Inevitability.  Events that lead to something else.  The Grand Finale.  That incessant beat of the clock, metronome, and human heart; counting down to a predestined end.  Is this where we find meaningful rhythm and flow?  Or is it rather a stream into which we we enter, subdivide, and play?   Always present.  Welcoming us to participate.

The problem with the first example, is that it is too clinical, too easy.  In my experience it’s also completely wrong.  The thought that music, creativity, or life itself can be relegated to mere numbers is a popular misconception.  Yes, music is math.  Life is math.  Yes, proportions, ratios and relationships certainly exist.  But as human beings, our lives simply don’t operate this way.  Science is starting to…

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Rhythm in Music


Robert Baldwin, Music Director for the Salt Lake Symphony, Music Director for the Utah Philharmonia, and Director of Orchestral Activities at the University of Utah shares his thoughts on the importance of rhythm, meter, and tempo – an aspect of music often neglected when focusing on notes, pitches, timbre, sound quality, etc.

Dr. Craig Jessop, director of the American Festival Chorus, stresses this as well. Dr. Jessop uses “count singing” – a method he inherited from studying with Robert Shaw and the Robert Shaw Singers. This is where the notes are sung by singing “One, Two, Tee, Four”. This ensures the musicians keep an “inner pulse” going on inside their head when the time comes to put actual words to the music. It also helps musicians know exactly when notes are moving, beginning and ending of phrases, and note durations. Dr. Jessop swears by this practice.

Before the Downbeat

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I’ve emerged from the pit thinking about rhythm and tempo.  I’m there all week with the orchestra putting together Carlisle Floyd’s opera, Susannah.  There’s a lot that can go wrong on stage, and even more with this show as it includes live gunshots!  All in all, it was a good first rehearsal.  The only lingering issues are finding a consensus with rhythm and tempo.

Certainly, these are two things that are very important to my craft as a conductor.  Tempo control, metric organization and rhythmic precision are all something that is a great responsibility for all of us–the conductor, singer, and orchestra.  But behind all my admonishments to “watch the stick,” “play the subdivision correctly,” and  “don’t rush (or drag),” there is a deeper truth to the importance of flow and rhythm in the music.

“Time is like a superglue, keeping our story in order as we navigate the world…

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American Festival Chorus Concert – Sun Valley Summer Spectacular


Sun Valley Resort (http://bit.ly/HsFQYh) and Sun Valley Opera (http://bit.ly/HsFYHo) present Sun Valley Summer Spectacular with the American Festival Chorus and singer Alyson Cambridge on June 30, 2012 at the Sun Valley Pavilion in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Concert details: http://bit.ly/HsG6Xp\
More Concert details: http://bit.ly/HsJ1PV

The American Festival Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by Craig Jessop, are joined by Soprano Alyson Cambridge (http://bit.ly/HsGcyg) for this incredible evening of uplifting and beautiful music for the entire family! Come join us in beautiful Sun Valley for this incredible evening!

Add this event to your Google Calendar: http://bit.ly/HXC3Q8

Join the Facebook Event: http://on.fb.me/HsMvls

Further details to follow.

Blog on this event: http://bit.ly/HsUUFm

Tickets:
Buy Tickets Online: http://bit.ly/HsIJs0
To order general admission tickets call Sun Valley Resort 208-622-2135

Seating Map: http://bit.ly/HsITjj

GENERAL TICKETS can be purchased online at seats.sunvalley.com, through the Sun Valley Recreation Center in the Sun Valley Village, or by calling (208) 622-2135/(888) 622-2108.
All tickets are non-refundable.

DIVA TICKETS can be purchased online at www.sunvalleyopera.com, or by calling the Sun Valley Opera at (208) 726-0991.

Hotel Package available – Spend a memorable evening with the American Festival Chorus and Orchestra and special guest star Alyson Cambridge, then enjoy one night’s lodging in the Sun Valley Lodge or Inn for $133.50, per person, double occupancy, (includes two show tickets).
Call 800-786-8259.

WILL CALL/TICKET OFFICE opens at 6pm the night of the show at the Pavilion. They can also be printed at the Sun Valley Recreation Office in the Sun Valley Village in advance prior to June 30th, 2012.
Phone: (208) 622-2135 / (888) 622-2108.
Seating is reserved inside the Pavilion
– The last 5 rows are exposed to the weather

Location: Sun Valley Pavillion, 300 Dollor Rd., Sun Valley, Idaho
Google Map: http://bit.ly/HsGMMd

Gate opens at 7:00 p.m.

“A frequent and compelling presence on the recital and concert stages, lyric soprano Alyson Cambridge makes an encore appearance on the Sun Valley Opera’s concert stage on June 30, 2012. Equally comfortable in her high and low ranges, Ms. Cambridge has been appearing to critical acclaim around the world, has been signed by Choppard Diamonds to appear in their ads and is part of the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s bold new advertising campaign in which a 5 story poster of Alyson hangs on the outside of its building.” – Sun Valley Opera

Snocountry.com is offering a special rate for lodging and tickets to the American Festival Chorus and Alyson Cambridge performance. They will be $133.50 per person, double occupancy, (includes two show tickets). Call 800-786-8259.
http://bit.ly/HsDOra

News Articles:
Sun Valley Opera: http://bit.ly/HsGSDC
Idaho Mountain Express and Guide: http://bit.ly/GXx2KD

Sun Valley Opera Website: http://bit.ly/HsHysC
Sun Valley Resort Website: http://bit.ly/HsFQYh
Alyson Cambridge Website: http://bit.ly/HsGcyg

Here is Alyson Cambridge performing in the Elardo Opera Competition: http://bit.ly/HsIr4t


Here are two promos from our Sun Valley concert with Maureen McGovern in 2011:http://bit.ly/HsLNoi


Here is the promo video from our Sun Valley concert with Peter Cetera in 2010:http://bit.ly/HsMcqH

Musings of Master Music Teacher, Richard Wesp


Alfred Leger Lines Blog shares their interview with Richard Wesp, a choral director who taught in a school district for 57 years. He shares his thoughts on the importance of integrating Arts with any type of education.

Alfred Music Blog

Richard WespWe recently had the opportunity to interview Richard Wesp, an extremely popular choral director who spent 57 years teaching in the Forest Hills School District in Cincinnati, Ohio. Mr. Wesp is a recipient of both the Ohio MEA Distinguished Service Award and the CCM Distinguished Alumni Award. Having taught well over 10,000 students in his career before retiring in June 2011, he has had many opportunities to share his passion for music education with students, student teachers, and now, with other educators.

What is the value of music and arts education in the schools today and has it changed since you started in the classroom?
In the current trend of budget cutting, the arts remain an integral part of any complete education. Years ago, it may have just been a general feeling regarding how important the arts are, but now we have a large body of research that shows exactly…

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Reflections from the Past


Robert Baldwin, Music Director for the Salt Lake Symphony and Director of Orchestral Activities at the University of Utah, shares his insight into Edvard Grieg’s “Holberg Suite” and Ottorino Respighi’s “Church Windows.” The Utah Philharmonia will be performing these pieces this Thursday at the Libby Gardner Concert Hall.

Before the Downbeat

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In Back to the Future, Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) travels from 1985 back to the time when his parents were young, ancient 1955.  He experiences all sorts of awkward situations, but in the end discovers that he shares many traits with his parents.   In essence, they are not really much different (although he is a lot cooler, naturally). Marty learns valuable lessons from the past that help him alter the perspective of his own life (and, of course, save the day).

The human mind has always been fascinated with the past, whether it’s our individual lives, or the collective history of an entire civilization.  We somehow believe that it is possible to find something important by studying the past. It might be lost wisdom.  Perhaps it is secret knowledge.  But in the end, all that we are really trying to do is understand something about ourselves.

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Reichel Arts Review releases their April Concert Calendar


Reichel Arts Review has released their Calendar for concerts in Utah for the month of April. This is VERY useful, please refer to it throughout the month. A couple American Festival Chorus concerts are listed: http://bit.ly/Ht3EbM

Every Breath You Take


Robert Baldwin, Music Director for the Salt Lake Symphony and Director of Orchestral Activities at the University of Utah, shares his thoughts and techniques of how to connect to music through the breath. He describes how essential the breath is to how we live our lives as well as the motion of music. A wonderful article!

Before the Downbeat

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Life’s first breath.  A pause filled with potential.  Then you scream.  While that may be the last time parents are overjoyed at hearing the sound, it is a reality of the beginning of life, the expression of potential. Certainly, genetics, environment and education will come into play soon enough.  But I invite you to consider that first event: a breath, a pause, an utterance.  Or put another way: Possibility, Preparation, Sound.

Our expression of music comes from this very personal space.  No one can exist, sustain, or express life without it.  The ancient Greeks had a word for breath: pneuma.  Interestingly, this was the same word they used for spirit.   They, along with people from many traditions, considered breath and spirit to be inseparable.  A  South American shaman uses breath as a magical curing device.  A Christian mystic chants long phrases, intoning praise.  Ancient mariners from many traditions…

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American Festival Chorus Concert – American Festival Singers perform St. John’s Passion


 

The American Festival Singers of American Festival Chorus will be performing the St. John’s Passion in the St. John’s Episcopal Church on April 6th.

Update April 12, 2012: The Herald Journal has posted an article describing the performance on April 6. Here is the article: http://bit.ly/IMtBV6
“To me, this is about three things, really — first of all, it’s about building community and goodwill,” said former Mormon Tabernacle Choir Director Craig Jessop.   “Second, the music of J.S. Bach — whom I feel is, without a doubt, the touchstone of the western music tradition, of western civilization,” Jessop continued. “This represents one of the supreme achievements of the human mind, and it’s motivated totally by both faith and devotion.”

Update March 29, 2012: The St John’s Episcopal Church in Logan, UT provides a wonderful cathedral sound. Here is an example of singing in a cathedral from Westminster Chorus:

Insights into Handel’s Messiah and American Festival Chorus’ performance of the Messiah


Insights into Handel’s Messiah

and American Festival Chorus

performance of the Messiah

 

The American Festival Chorus will be performing Handel’s Messiah on Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. in the Kent Concert Hall at USU. Follow this link for the Concert information on a separate blog post: http://bit.ly/GL6mYY
This blog post contains insights into Handel’s Messiah as well as insights into American Festival Chorus’ preparation and performance of our Messiah concert.

Update April 16, 2012:

The following are thoughts and comments from Brenda Poulsen, a member of American Festival Chorus.

I have sung Messiah probably 6 or 8 times and each time I am amazed at how such a masterful piece was written in such a short time. The spiritual guidance that Handel must have felt would have to have been such an uplift for him.

I truly believe it is a work that was inspired by our Father. How could it not be? Hearing it, performing it, seeing it, is inspiring and engaging for all ages. The story of the life of Christ can be understood by all.

The thing that I find most exciting about our upcoming performance is that the theatrical signers will be with us. I have been in performances with them before and i can tell you they bring a magic and a spirit that is like no other.

My absolute favorite part is during the “Amens” at the end. Dr. Freeman King performs the whole life of Christ in those few amazing bars of music. It is a powerful performance and it really brings a scene to mind. A small glimpse of what our Father and Handel maybe were trying to portray through this musical work. The tragedy and triumph of the Son of God.

You will not want to miss this performance. Dr. Jessop’s insights and interpretation of this work is amazing. The orchestra will be nothing short of fantastic and the theatrical signers, again will bring a new spirit to this piece for everyone who attends.

Update April 13, 2012:

Besides playing the piano and organ while young, Handel also played the oboe and violin. When Handel moved from Germany to England, King George I was his financial supporter. As time passed, less people would attend performances of his operas and he fell into debt. At the time Handel was asked by Charles Jennings to compose the Messiah, Handel’s mother had recently passed away and he was suffering from rheumatism. Handel’s score for the Messiah was over 300 pages in length. While composing the Messiah, Handel would often go without sleep and without food. In one occurrence, one of his servants found Handel asleep with his head on the score with tears on his cheeks, likely due to the power of the music he was composing.

In the Messiah, the overture ends on a minor chord suggesting something ominous is about to happen. However the next chord at the beginning of the tenor solo “Comfort Ye” is major suggesting we should feel comforted. The first bass solo “But Who May Abide the Day Of His Coming, For He is Like a Refiner’s Fire” indicates that with our sins, we will not be able to stand before Jesus Christ when he returns to the earth.

Update April 11, 2012:

Most of us associate Handel’s Messiah with Christmas. But, in fact, Handel did not write the Messiah as a Christmas music piece. If you pay attention to the words of the Messiah in the libretto (the text of the music), you’ll see that only the first part of the composition has to do with the birth of Jesus. The second and third parts focus on his death, resurrection, the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost, and the final resurrection of all believers. Also, the original performances of the Messiah happened around Easter time or Lent and not around Christmas. For this reason, much of the Messiah is less well-known due to eliminating many of the choruses and arias from the second and third parts that don’t tie in well to Christmas. It is my belief that Dr. Craig Jessop had the desire to perform these choruses that are often forgotten.

Although all of the lyrics of the Messiah are taken from the Bible, you may be surprised to realize that most of the text comes from revelations given in the Old Testament and only a little text from the New Testament. The “For unto us” movement has text taken from the book of Isaiah and not the book of Luke.

Update April 6, 2012:

Mozart took Handel’s Messiah and re-orchestrated it in 1789. Originally, Handel’s performances of the Messiah had fifteen violins, five violas, three cellos, two double-basses, four bassoons, four oboes, two trumpets, two horns and drums. The original performances also had only around 19 chorus members. Although other composers rearranged the Messiah and put on larger performances, it is Mozart who became known for adapting the Messiah for much larger scale performances than what Handel had done. Some of the proceeding performances had up to 250 instruments in the orchestra. Post-Mozart performances were also known to reach a number of 2000 singers. Mozart also eliminated the part of the organ and added parts for flutes, clarinets, trombones and horns.

Update April 5, 2012:

Handel gave an annual benefit concert for London’s Foundling Hospital which always included the Messiah. This hospital was a place for orphaned and abandoned children. This was known as Handel’s favorite charity.

In 1759, Handel was blind and in bad health. He still found a way to attend a performance of the Messiah at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden on April 6. Handel died in his own home eight days after this performance.

Update April 5, 2012:

I’ve noticed a few people finding this blog looking for information of the Messiah being performed at the Tabernacle here in Logan, Utah. Dr. John Ribera has conducted this the past seven years, but will not be doing it this year, nor in the foreseeable future. I had a conversation with him yesterday evening. Part of the reason he put on the performance of the Messiah every year was the joint effort of American Sign Language (ASL) theatrical performers which would put on an ASL theatrical performance along with the Messiah every year. This year this group of ASL theatrical performers will be performing with us, the American Festival Chorus. And it appears that these performers will not be joining John Ribera in other years. Dr. Ribera said he has loved putting on this performance every year, but it was very taxing on his family as it took much time and effort. He is fully dedicated to his duties on the American Festival Chorus Board now. We appreciate his dedication and support.

I would imagine that there may still be community sing-alongs of the Messiah around Christmas time. I, myself, do not have any details or information about any such events. If you do get word of any, please let me know, as I would love to participate in them in the future. I hope this answers some questions that some of my blog viewers may have. Please come support the American Festival Chorus in our performance of the Messiah on April 21st!

Update April 4, 2012:

The Messiah premiered in Dublin, partly because of the bad reception Handel had received from London residents while composing the piece. Dublin was also a growing city that was trying to edge its way into relevance. Dublin residents strove to display the “sophistication” of the city to Europeans. Handel believed there would be less critics in Dublin and he could try his work out prior to bringing it back to London. The Messiah was very successful in Dublin, and it’s success was echoed in the London debut.

Update April 2, 2012:

A few Houston Symphony Choir members shared their thoughts of performing the Messiah in December 2010. They describe the joy of approaching the Messiah a different way each time it is performed. New conductors will change styles and will have new insights. HSC members describe how they never get tired of performing the Messiah. They also discuss the malismas in the Messiah and the many notes they have written in their Messiah scores over the years.

Links to their comments:
http://bit.ly/HQdwwY
http://bit.ly/HQfo9d

Update March 29, 2012:

Handel composed his first opera, Almira, by the age of 18. This work was first perform in Hamburg in 1705.
Handel’s father originally wanted him to study Law until a friend of Handel’s father heard Handel playing the organ and suggested he pursue music.
The majority of Handel’s works were operas since they were the method of bringing in money during the late 17th and early 18th century.
It took Handel roughly 3 to 4 weeks to compose the Messiah in 1741.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/The-Glorious-History-of-Handels-Messiah.html#ixzz1qXvGV78N

Update March 28, 2012:

Here is a link to the official Poster for this concert: http://bit.ly/H0Ub89

As part of the performance of the Messiah, we are also celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Center for Persons with Disabilities (CPD) on the USU campus, and we will have some ASL theatrical performers for the Deaf, interpreting the Messiah. This will be a special event!

Here is some commentary from an American Festival Chorus member, Dianne Liebes, about her experience singing with these theatrical interpreters:

Update March 27, 2012:

Handel’s Messiah was originally performed at Easter time on April 13, 1742, as the American Festival Chorus is doing on April 21.

Most of Handel’s other works feature the soloists and only have limited movements by the chorus. But Handel’s Messiah uses the chorus as the main feature of the work. Being such, Dr. Craig Jessop has cut down on the solos that will be performed on April 21 and replaced them with some of the less-well-known choruses such as “His Yoke Is Easy and His Burthen Is Light”, “Behold The Lamb of God”, “Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs”, “And With His Stripes We Are Healed”, “He Trusted In God That He Would Deliver Him”, “Their Sound Is Gone Out Into All Lands”, “Since by Man Came Death”, and “Worthy Is The Lamb That Was Slain”

American Festival Chorus Concert – Freedom Fire Concert with Kansas


The American Festival Chorus – Freedom Fire (Independence Day Celebration) with rock band Kansas and Fireworks West Internationale fireworks program.

Caine College of the Arts, USU and Logan City, Utah present the 2nd annual “Freedom Fire” on July 3, 2012 at USU, Romney Stadium.

 

Link to concert details on americanfestivalchorus.org: http://bit.ly/GBlWKy

Add this event to your Google Calendar: https://www.google.com/calendar/hosted/americanfestivalchorus.org/event?action=TEMPLATE&tmeid=Mm8zdXByazg5b3FsdmoxY2FtanJhNmlra2sgZHEyYzY3NThzbnV2N3YzdGthbHI5ZGZpMzBAZw&tmsrc=dq2c6758snuv7v3tkalr9dfi30%40group.calendar.google.com

Join the Facebook Event: http://on.fb.me/Heii4M

Further details of songs American Festival Chorus will be singing will be added in the time leading up to the event. Check back regularly for updated information.

Blog: http://bit.ly/HeiVLB

Last year’s Freedom Fire featured Diamond Rio, the Grammy award-winning country music group, and received a great response from the community.

This year’s guest artists, Kansas, have produced eight gold albums, three sextuple-Platinum albums and a million-selling gold single, “Dust in the Wind.” “Carry on Wayward Son” was one of the most played tracks on classic rock radio in the mid and late ‘90s.

Tickets: http://bit.ly/xMOyIa
Tickets can also be purchased over the phone at 435-797-8022

Ticket Prices: (all general admission – prices do not include tax)
3-Star: $25 – chair back seating on the west side
2-Star: $15 – south end zone seating
1-Star: $10 – east side seating

15% discount for groups of 6 or more in a SINGLE order
*There is a $1.50/ticket convenience charge for all online orders. To order your tickets by phone, call 435-797-8022.

Arrival Time
Gates open at 6 p.m. | Pre-Show starts at 7 p.m.

Location: USU, Romney Stadium, 800E 1000 N, Logan, UT
Google Map: http://bit.ly/zl0v3N

Romney Stadium, on the main campus of Utah Sta...

“This year’s star-spangled event, Freedom Fire, will spark excitement in Logan as Kansas presents its solid, classic rock sound,” said Russ Akina, Logan’s parks and recreation director.

“Celebrating Independence Day with Kansas will provide a spectacular experience for everyone in attendance, and we’re delighted to be a part of it,” said Craig Jessop, director of the American Festival Chorus and dean of the Caine College of the Arts.

Radio Interview on KVNU about planning this year’s Freedom Fire and also the outcome of the event in 2011: http://bit.ly/yiPUJX

News Articles:
The Herald Journal: http://bit.ly/w8X6i2
Cache Valley Daily: http://bit.ly/z5UsEY
The Salt Lake Tribune: http://bit.ly/AxSV5g
Utah State University: http://bit.ly/GQPcdU

Kasas Website: http://bit.ly/yyXrpD
Fireworks West Internationale: http://bit.ly/w42QkQ

YouTube video of the Preshow for last year’s Freedom Fire: http://bit.ly/yBUING

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