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This week's featured recording:




the summer ensemble at The Windsor of Savoy. My apologies for cutting off the 1st tenors!
Brothers, Sing On!
by Edvard Grieg

Written for a choral festival in 1883 in Norway, this piece has become (in the words of one glee club web site) the "international anthem of men's singing." We use it to open our concert every year. Under the direction of Norm LaDuke, who returns each summer from Arizona to rehearse the group in June and July, the group sings a church service and a concert or two for the community. Norm had to return to Arizona for health reasons this year so I conducted the group and we made this recording for Norm and for ourselves. And for you! Enjoy.

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Monday 6/15

Camp was fun!!!

even if they did run out of ice cream....

Wednesday 6/24

Time to put up the orange barrels

watching inspirational movies still doesn't count as practicing, though.


The blogger is now on summer break. I'll be running "classic blogs" in August, so stay tuned. You might have missed something.

next TimeZone gig:
@ Taste of Champaign
Friday, August 21st
6:30-7:30 pm

What I did this Summer

this essay is from the Summer of 2012...


I don't remember actually ever having to write the classic essay on what I did this summer on the first day back in school. So maybe as recompense for having been denied this childhood rite of passage I'm foisting it on you. You get to grade my paper. Be nice. With any luck what I did was interesting enough you won't be sorry for the exchange.


I like to travel in small doses. Some time ago I became convinced that if I tried to earn my living as a traveling concert pianist I would be sorry. All of that living out of hotel rooms and being in a semi-permanent state of jet lag doesn't really hold that much appeal. But if I stay home too long I get restless, which is why this summer seems to have held a perfect balance.

 

I spent the first part of the summer preparing for a tour of Europe with a choir in our town known as The Chorale. I've been accompanying them for a few years, and this is the first international tour they've done since I came on board. Normally we go on hiatus after our concert in early May and resume in late August, but this year those of us going on the tour kept up the rehearsal schedule through May and into the middle of June when we went on the tour. We were in three central European cities in 10 days, giving concerts in Budapest, Vienna, and Prague, and spending every other waking moment trying to exhaust ourselves and see all of central Europe at once. Although that could have been merely because my wife came along and she's an ambitious traveler. There were a few hours in every day that were not part of the group sightseeing excursions. Down time, if you will. We weren't.

Like the trip to Taiwan I took over 11 years ago and still haven't documented, this one has plenty of archival footage. Between the two of us we took over 600 photographs. Whenever the official tour wasn't officially touring we braved the public transportation and our aching feet to get to remote parts of the cities and see things. There was our adventure at the spa in Budapest. We also saw an ancient Roman city there. In Vienna I spent the first morning trying to get to know the strange pipe organ in the balcony of the Karlschirke and watching the elevator carry workers up to the ceiling to restore the fresco. Another Chorale member and I went jogging on the palace grounds of the Hapsburgs, which is a touch more scenic than Champaign, Illinois. Actually, the entire city of Vienna reminded me of the line from Amadeus where Mozart is complaining about "people so lofty they sound as if they shit marble." Vienna had plenty of marble, and they weren't shy about flaunting it. This was actually the third time I've been there but I didn't recall seeing so much of it.

 

In Prague I concluded my three city jogging tour by running along the Moldau with the mist rising off of it. What an effect! We spent some time outside the doors of St. Vitus trying to listen to an organ improvisation, and another evening tooling around the old town trying to find an organ concert before settling in at a black light theatrical performance, something that is apparently unique to Prague. On the day of our final concert I was taken to the church of St. Francis to play a pipe organ that dates from 1702. Apparently I wasn't the first musical tourist to tickle its ebony; some fellows named Mozart and Dvorak tried it out in the 18th and 19th centuries, respectively. If you shake my hand you might get a little Mozart on you. This offer may not last; I've probably already washed my hands some 100 times since then and the product may already be a little diluted.

 

When we returned home in mid-June, I was ready for a tour of a different sort. Much of July was spent with a group called the Gavin Stolte Project, named after its founder. Basically, we're a five-piece rock band, although we do a variety of styles, cover some really popular songs, and do several original songs as well. We played a couple of the parks in Champaign-Urbana, and a couple of area bars. We'll be gigging throughout the year so if you live in town you can probably catch us. I put GSP gigs on my google calendar along with everything else whether it's a classical piano recital or a bar gig, or you can find us on Facebook.

When I was growing up in a little town in Ohio, learning classical piano, my neighbors would forecast ecstatically that someday they'd see me playing the piano on television, and I'd think, "not very likely. Even if they put a classical pianist on television it would be on PBS, which most of you guys don't watch anyway." Probably they had me confused with the kind of musicians they did see on television, like my cousin, who always assumed I'd become a keyboardist in a rock band. He might be surprised (if he were still alive) to find that these days I actually am a keyboardist in a rock band some of the time. (We've also been on local television. But I've been on local TV stations a couple of times for classical piano as well. I think I was even on Greek television once but I never saw it.)

 

It sounds like it might be quite a stylistic shift, but if you knew how I spend my Sunday mornings, shuttling between the traditional and contemporary services, from Bach to rock sometimes within 30 seconds, you'd see I've gotten pretty used to it. I like a challenge.

In the middle of all of those gigs came a concert by the new Vocal Arts Ensemble of Urbana, directed by University of Illinois professor emeritus Chester Alwes. A dozen university students and professionals sang a concert of art song by Brahms and Schumann. I haven't been playing a lot of art song lately, although that was principally how I worked my way through grad school so it felt like a return to my old stomping grounds. The concert, in a church on campus and featuring an unfortunately out of tune piano, was well advertised on a local radio show. I was surprised to find standing room only for a concert of art song!

 

Kristen and I are beginning August with a short anniversary trip to Madison, Wisconsin where one of the highlights will be the National Mustard Museum. They haven't asked me to give a concert there, and I don't know what I'd play anyhow. Does anybody know of any good mustard-related piano literature?

 

That reminds me how we started off our summer, taking an afternoon trip to Peoria to see the semi-final round of the World Championship of Old-Time Piano Playing. It reminds me because between contestants they were asking about our extensive knowledge of rags that related to various things like trains and beverages and so forth. Do I get points taken off for going out of chronological order and leaving this till the end?

 

I've been trying to put together another piano recital for the and of August but it will probably have to wait until fall (you may recall I gave a very challenging recital on my birthday around this time last year). Meanwhile I've been discovering the world of flashy French organ toccatas. They are surprisingly easy and crowd pleasing. They also give a nice break from the German renaissance literature I've been dipping into. There is a time for everything.

 

There is also a time for the weather to stop hitting the triple digits in the shade. It's something I look forward to with a return to the fall schedule. Hope you had a good summer. I'll see you in September.

 

7/29 (8/1/12)


michael@pianonoise.com