bunrab: (me)
Um, a mascot for being in the House of the Bee for Knitting and Crochet Blog Week? I suppose that if I had time to do anything, it could be an amigurumi bee,  but I don't have time to do that this week. This week is totally taken up with music, in real life, since I have three concerts to play this weekend. I know what I'll do! I'll play Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee at some point while practicing.

And I will have to practice, because I found out at tonight's rehearsal that the alto sax is really sick, and if she doesn't get better by Saturday, I'll need to play alto, and I'd rather not sight-read at the concert; there's a couple of short solo spots. So practice it is. Along with practicing the euphonium I bought last week, and the clarinet someone gave me last month.

Did I tell y'all about the euphonium?

When Steve died, I sold most of his instruments. I only kept the bass trumpet, because it was the smallest and the one he had bought most recently - and the one that would bring in the least money if sold, so selling the others made more sense. That includes Steve's euphonium, which 40 years earlier had been Jerry's student euphonium. If I had known that I was going to want to play the euphonium, I would have kept it, but I didn't know then. Anyway, what I figured out recently is that what I want to do is play in a TubaChristmas or two in Steve's memory, and maybe, just maybe, even participate in a reading session at the Army Band's annual Tuba-Euphonium Workshop. Might not be good enough for that this coming January, but I'm pretty sure I can get good enough for TubaChristmas. So, a bass trumpet wouldn't work for TubaChristmas - even though it's in the same range as a euphonium, and it's a valved brass instrument, it's really not the same thing - it's far more like a trombone in tone, and in fact, uses a trombone mouthpiece. Which isn't nearly as useful for practicing to potentially play the euphonium as you'd think - the mouthpieces are different enough in size and shape that I need to work on it quite a bit still.

Anyway. So I went back over to Baltimore Brass, where the bass trumpet was from, and sold it back to them as a trade-in on a euphonium. It's an inexpensive student euphonium, a Chinese brand, and just a three-valve - but that's OK, three-valve fingering is certainly what I was practicing on the trumpet. And three valves are certainly adequate for anything TubaChristmas can throw at me; that's not music with virtuoso solos that require faster alternate fingerings. And so I've been practicing my new euphonium - I can play scales in a couple of keys, reliably hitting the notes I'm aiming at for about an octave and a half, having a little trouble with the notes below the low B-flat, and I can't hit the low E at all yet, and I am having trouble with the notes above the high E, too. But hey, I've been playing the euphonium for all of a week. I'm doing OK for one week. I actually read the euphonium part to a version of Amazing Grace that one of the bands has. Slowly, but I was playing euphonium music from a euphonium part on a euphonium for the very first time.

Euphonium, by the way, is Greek for "good sound thingy."

My sounds aren't there yet - my attacks are still quite buzzy, and the tone isn't smooth between octaves. And on those extra low and extra high notes, I don't reliably hit the one I'm aiming for right off. More practice needed.

If I had kept Steve's euphonium, trying to play it would probably make me cry, so maybe it's just as well I didn't keep that one. As it is, I'm sure that finally doing TubaChristmas will make me cry. But better to do it on a new euphonium so that every single breath doesn't make me think how much better Steve sounded on it. And - I didn't know then that that's what would make sense now. I had no way of knowing what would feel right later on.

Steve would have turned 67 this Thursday.

Not much about knitting and crochet in this post, is there?
bunrab: (me)
I went to the US Army Band Tuba-Euphonium Workshop this past week - and discovered that I enjoy it for its own sake, not just for Steve's memory, and that other people look forward to seeing me there for my own sake, not just because I'm Steve's widow. That was an interesting discovery.

There are a lot of things to enjoy at such a conference, even if one isn't a tuba player. It's a whole bunch of music for free. Recitals by excellent professionals, evening concerts by the Army's professional groups - Army Blues, the concert band, etc. And some of the sessions that were lectures or recitals-with-talks were interesting for any musician. The morning warm-up for tuba players included suggestions about breathing and maintaining embouchure that were surprisingly relevant to a bari sax player. And the conversations in the lobby and the bowling alley dining room (the only place for civilians to eat on base most of the time) and at restaurant meals are with people that share a lot of interests in discussing music of all sorts, and griping about community band conductors, and building a music library, and lots of other stuff that isn't just for tubas.

I got to make lots of ophicleide jokes with people who understand ophicleide jokes and have more in turn. There were vendors who recognized me, and wanted to chat. And I bought a cleaning kit for the bass trumpet, and a swab of sorts meant for cleaning a euphonium that I think will do a much better job on the bari sax neck loops than what I'm currently using. And a couple of euphonium mouthpieces which will fit into the sax neck, which is part of the ophicleide jokes. And I am going to practice the bass trumpet more, and maybe even borrow a euphonium to bring to next year's workshop, to participate a bit.
One of the things I don't like is the process of getting there. Even though Ft. Myer is less than 50 miles away from me, the routes that all the mapping services and GPS suggest are roads that I particularly hate. The BW Parkway is poorly maintained, especially when it crosses into the district and becomes DC-295. Here's one of the more disconcerting steps in the Mapquest directions: "Southwest Freeway/I-695 N becomes I-395 S." That was at least equaled, if not exceeded, in weirdness, by driving right under a sign on the way home that stated that the road that I was on was "I-295 S/ DC-295 N" - really, really disconcerting.The entrances and exits of DC-295 aren;t in the same spots NB as SB. Neither are the entrances and exits to the George Washington Parkway. And neither are the entrances and exits to US-50. All of which means that one can NOT reverse directions to get home.

Saturday night, driving in the dark, I decided on an entirely different route. Since the concert got out early enough that we could still get out by the Wright Gate (the north gate to the army base, which closes at 9 p.m.), I went straight up Ft. Myer Drive which ends directly being an entrance to GW Parkway going Northwest, straight to the west side of I-495, the Beltway. No need to read dimly lit local street signs, no need to watch for intersections or parking lots or pedestrians once I was on GW. That route winds up being some 20 miles longer, total, to get home - but being so much simpler, with so many fewer turns, and more time on higher-speed highways, that it takes no longer - and is MUCH less stressful. I think next year I'll use that route to go TO the fort, right off the bat. Yes, it sounds bizarre, yes, it uses up more gas, but so much easier on my sensibilities (avoiding US 50 altogether has a LOT to recommend it) that it'd be worth the extra $2 worth of gas.

In other news, I finished Rage is Back (see previous post) and also Albert of Adelaide, an adult fable about a platypus who escapes from the Adelaide Zoo to go looking for the Old Australia, where animals are all free and live naturally. Instead he meets up with an arsonist wombat, and they have adventures which unfortunately include a bunch of killing. I think the takeaway is supposed to be something about the power of friendship and mutual support, but the lesson I got out of it was more that the supposed good old days were actually violent, and lives were uncomfortable and short, with violent ends; modern "captivity" is actually a hell of a lot better quality of life. That's just me; you read it and see if you get more of that touching "buddy" feel out of it.
bunrab: (me)
that part of what makes them good is the cleverness of the stagecraft. What can be done within the limitations of the size of the stage, with the fact that only so many costume changes can be done within a certain time, with the fact that every singer is live every night? The songs and the acting fit into that frame and part of what we admire is how the songs convey stuff we aren't seeing. Also, the immediacy of hearing the emotion in the songs from live people, who may feel slightly differently about it every night but who still have to convey the same intensity no matter what, is part of what leads us to identify with the characters.

When you switch it to a movie, unless the movie is just a straight filming of a stage production, you remove the immediacy - no matter how close up the actors' nostrils you get while they're singing, it's still not the same as hearing it live - and you remove all the cleverness. They get to do multiple takes, and you know you're seeing only what they selected as the best take of each song - and so it's even more disappointing when even that is not as good as an average stage singer on an average night. And when you remove the limitations of size of set and ability to change scenery, so that, for example, Gavroche gets to ride all over Paris, you have taken away a lot of the cleverness, and a lot of the intellectual reward we get from filling in the scenes ourselves.

And in the opening scene - we come back to that again, that the opening scene is full of everything that's wrong with the whole movie - well, we have all that big expanse of water, and the enormous ship, and the scores more of men than would fit on a stage - and it takes our attention away from the opening song and from the emotions of the men who are singing. We scarcely see or hear any one of them sing his line. Also, for me at least, since I had recently seen Life of Pi, seeing the ship turned somewhat sideways kept reminding me over and over of the ship in Life of Pi as it tilts and sinks, and then my mind would go for a second to an island full of meerkats, and I really don't think that helped me concentrate on the story of Les Mis.

OK, now someone tell me why I'm wrong, what I missed, what the movie did better than the show, at least for you.
bunrab: (me)
The many, many, MANY uses of water, please stop hitting us over the head with virtual BRICKS of water, we GET it already! That was the essay I was composing in my head by about 20 minutes into this film.

Anthony Lane in the New Yorker had it all backward - he thought that people who loved the musical would be the ones who love the film, regardless of anything he said. But in fact it's the opposite: people who have seen the stage production and are fans of it, people who are serious goers-to-musical-theater, are the ones who find the most to be upset about, myself among them. The people who like the movie seem to be people who have never seen a musical performed live, they've spent their lives going to the movies. And not even all of those sorts of people liked it; some people who aren't theater-goers or musicians nonetheless found that there were things about the movie that turned them off.

Let's start with the opening scene. My boyfriend, Larry, who is not a musician and who has never been to a musical performed live onstage, but who was a history major at Penn, was upset right off. That's NOT how ships were brought into drydock. Doing it that way would destroy a ship completely. Ships, even really disabled ones, were floated into the dock, and THEN the hard labor was pumping the water out of the dock - treadmills and turnscrews and such. And, the flag that Javert has Valjean retrieve, is the wrong flag - it should have been the Bourbon flag with the fleur-de-lis, not a tricolor.

Javert using spoken word to have Valjean do that is a big omen to many of the flaws in the film: Russell Crowe can't sing worth a damn (I don't care if he's in a rock band; rock bands are almost never known for the quality of their singing anyway!!), and the director is going to hit us over the head with bricks of message, because he's afraid that the subtleties of the show will go right past us, so he has to make the message far more obvious, and Russell Crowe is the least convincing Javert ever, and close-ups of people's faces while they're singing is a really bad idea. All of that is telegraphed in that couple of minutes. We get closeups of Jackman's face, with lots of twitches and tics even when he's not lifting heavy objects. We get Russell Crowe trying to look mean and succeeding only in looking constipated.

Jackman, for someone who isn't a singer by trade, does a workmanlike job of the songs - one can tell he's put some effort into trying to do it right, even if he's never going to be able to sing it like an opera singer. Hathaway sobs through most of her songs, so we have this close up of her face with tears, and frankly, I kept thinking that she must really have anorexia, because even at the beginning of her role where she has a job, that is one skinny face with way too prominent cheekbones, and really skinny arms - when she's starving and tubercular at the end of her part, she doesn't look that much different, because she was already far too thin. Couldn't they have CGI'd her a bit at one end or the other, so that Fantine alive and well looked somewhat different from Fantine dead?

And then Marius - he did an OK job, and his singing was OK - but he has those freckles, and zooming the camera in on those freckles for minutes on end while he sings is really distracting and really detracts from whatever quality he gives the song. About the only person I enjoyed as both a character and a singer was the grown-up Eponine, whose singing absolutely blew away everyone else in the movie. I liked her much better in the movie than I had liked her as a character in the stage show; I suppose for many people that would depend on the casting in whatever production they saw. But I liked her acting as well as her singing.

Larry's comments on Crowe as Javert: "He's not obsessed; he's not even focused." and he noted that when Javert jumps, we don't even really know why - as far as one can tell from anything Crowe expresses, it might just be because he's disappointed that he's apparently failed in his mission to catch Valjean - there's no hint of the conflict in his mind about his rigid notions of right and wrong and justice. Even when he sings the lyrics about it, we don't feel any connection between the song and what he's doing. And jeez, can we stop with the repeated, repeated, repeated identical views of the Seine already?

Cosette is a character I've never liked - she's wimpy. She's too pretty and too sweet and too passive for my tastes. Wimpy. My opinion of her in the movie is no different.

So, overall: The zooming in on the faces did a disservice to just about everybody; the stuff that was changed from the stage show was mostly for the worse, the director's conviction that we wouldn't understand anything subtle without spoken hints was especially insulting; Crowe as Javert was a complete failure. People who loved the stage show will mostly dislike the movie; for people who aren't used to stage shows, your opinion of the movie will rest on what balance you give to individual acting performances.
bunrab: (saxophone)
Did you know that? If you weren't sure it was true, I'd be happy to send you some of the rabbit fur collecting in corners, as proof - yes, our dust bunnies are made out of real bunnies!!

I did some repairs to wooden toys this afternoon, with mending plates and angle brackets. An internet seller of rabbit play tunnels and such was going out of business, so I ordered some of the last of their stuff (half price!), and, as in previous orders, one piece arrived broken - which may explain part of why they went out of business. Well, no refunds or returns, so I put the tunnel aside for a few weeks. But finally decided that I needed a clearer living room floor, so it and a previous "play station" that had a leg broken off got fixed. We had previously tried gluing the broken leg, but it didn't hold up for long. Metal mending plates should be able to withstand a four-pound rabbit. I traded around who has what kind of tunnels and toys - now Chippy chin has the smaller play station, since the Funnybunnies didn't like it so much; the Funnybunnies have a second litter box to chew on and scatter around; Fern has the refurbished large play station, instead of a tunnel where she can hide herself too much; and the repaired tunnels are now what's between cages - one between Fern and Funnybunnies, one between FBs and Gizmo, and one between Gizmo and the big plastic bin that keeps the hay and Carefresh more or less safe from rabbits. Fern actually seems to like the new setup - she jumped up and down and up again from the new tunnel, and perched on it for a while, which she hadn't when it was in her cage; she had only ever gone under it.

Wednesday MVCB had just a library work session, not a rehearsal, so I didn't have to bring my bari sax. So I emailed my teacher that I was gonna bring my soprano sax for my lesson instead, and then bungeed said soprano onto the back of the bike and rode over there, instead of using the cage. Great weather for it. A big accident on I-95 diverted me onto an exit I wasn't familiar with, so I even got in a little wandering around on strange roads. And after lesson, most of the staff of the music store where I take my lessons had to come out and admire the bike; I am not sure they previously believed me when I said I rode, as they've only ever seen me when I've had to be carrying 30-something pounds of nearly 4-feet-long assymetrical bari sax, which does NOT work on bike. (I have calculated that if I were 6 foot 2 inches or taller, and weighed at least 200 lbs, then I could carry the bari back-pack style and it would not significantly screw up my balance, center of gravity, or wind resistance. But as I am 5'4"...) My Evolve fish carrying a wrench was their favorite of all my assorted stickers and stuff. Then I ran a bunch of errands, since I had a couple hours before the band session. Had to carry the sax in to various places, since I couldn't just leave it bungeed to the bike; it's not a super-expensive sax, but I still don't want it stolen. Luckily, a straight soprano in a grey plastic case looks pretty innocuous. Silver Diner at LakeForest Mall (avoided rest of mall). Gaithersburg Library. CVS. Then Stedwick Community Center. I wasn't expecting Steve - but he decided why should I have all the fun, and rode his bike out to join us, so then we could ride home together - which we did entirely on back roads, no highways at all, during the very long dusk at this time of year. Lots of lightning bugs everywhere; it's so neat to ride through a whole flock (?) of them on a bike! We stopped at the Double T in Ellicott City, on Route 40, for supper. I was pleased to get an overall 60 mpg on this most recent tank, including as it did the stop-and-creep caused by the traffic accident, and the slow riding behind what seemed like every cement truck in Montgomery County.

I told Perry, if rain will kindly hold off on Wednesdays, he can expect me to bring the soprano to lessons for the rest of the summer. Gonna work on some Baroque oboe concerti!
bunrab: (soprano_sax)
Montgomery Village celebrated Independence Day on Friday, with parade and concert. The parade was interesting: the trailer I was sitting on got a flat tire - the one nearest me - almost as soon as we started off. The band sits on two flatbed trailers pulled by pickup trucks; we are a bit too old, on average, to *march* although there are a couple of slightly insane band members who do walk alongside the trailers. I couldn't change seats to get away from the increasingly bumpy flat tire, because a baritone saxophone really doesn't fit many other places on a trailer besides that seat on the right, just behind the rear axle. One of those facts of musical life. Bassoon has a similar problem; bassoon players rarely play in parades. The bumpiness was getting bad enough that even people on the rest of the trailer were noticing it, by the time we turned the corner into the parking lot. And then the truck driver miscalculated and pulled that corner of the trailer right over a curb. That did it! Tire flopped loose from rim entirely, and we traveled a few more feet - enough to get us the rest of the way into the lot - on the metal rim. The rest of the festivities were delayed a few minutes while management figured out how to tow the trailer off for repairs.

Got to say it was beautiful weather! 66ΒΊ F, light breeze - we certainly needed our clothespins for the music. And there was a good audience for a weekday; apparently the economy, and budget cuts such that lots of people got mandatory furlough days to have a long weekend, contributed to many people being available to watch a parade on a Friday morning. The concert went well, too, with the weather holding up, the audience hanging around, and only a couple of stands full of music being blown over by the wind. The bass trombone does not like playing the music from "Hairspray" but I love it, and so does the audience. We did "Armed Forces Medley" instead of "Armed Forces Salute." The usual Carmen Dragon "America the Beautiful." And the always fun "Victory at Sea." As well as Sousa marches, and Fillmore, and Kenneth Alford, and RB Hall.

Sunday we'll be playing at Fort Washington National Park, in Ft. Washington, MD, southeast of Washington DC. Check out the Montgomery Village Community Band's website, http://www.montgomeryvillagecommunityband.org, or the National Park Service's website, http://www.nps.gov/fowa/planyourvisit/events.htm, for details.
bunrab: (bunearsword)
Reading: Liquid Jade (about tea); Beyond Red and Blue (about politics); Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (interminably long fantasy, which I am about 1/3 of the way through after 2 weeks of hacking away at the underbrush.)

Music: Went to BSO concert last Friday, going to another one this Friday - that would be today! - last one of this season. Baltimore Symphonic Band played at Charlestown Retirement, here in Catonsville, on Tuesday. Bel Air Community Band will be playing at Shamrock Park in Bel Air on Sunday evening at 7. Next Montgomery Village concert is June 28.


Started June 1, finished June 12! No pattern, just two rectangles, with a V-neck worked into one of them. It's knitted, not crocheted. Has baby cables in it. Craft cotton in the big cheap skeins, one skein.

And before that, there was this one, in May, same deal except I hadn't figured out as much about the shaping yet:

That, and cleaning bunny litter boxes, and cleaning up the old house, packing a bit more at a time each day - almost completely empty now, and it's already being shown!
bunrab: (alien reading)
All right, folks, here's my review of Gaslight Grimoire on Amazon.com - there are three others, so you'll have to scroll down to read mine. Any helpful Yes clicks always appreciated. The anthology includes some very funny Sherlock Holmes pastiches, as well as a story where Moriarty is the hero.

Graphic novel: The Five Fists of Science. Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla battle black magic and a yeti. Need I say more? Well, it is rather nice to read a graphic novel that involves neither teenage angst nor caped superheroes, and is an original story rather than a graphic version of an established classic. And anything with Mark Twain in it is going to have funny moments, yes.

Yesterday we went to the Eastern Trombone Workshop down at Fort Myer. The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Trombone Ensemble was excellent - about 20 undergrad music majors, and the performance included a couple of original arrangements by some of them. The trombones of the Atlanta Symphony, with a guest tubist. Some good hints from them about playing as an ensemble and matching tones - things that even community band players, and even people who play other instruments, could try and benefit from. The big evening concert was the Army Orchestra, doing four pieces, each with a different soloist. Charlie Vernon, bass trombonist for the Chicago Symphony, looks exactly like what you imagine someone who's been playing low brass for a major symphony for forty years or more would look like. Saturday morning he's giving a solo recital, which we may or may not get there in time for.

Tonight we have tickets for the Baltimore Symphony - they're doing Dvorak 7 - and tomorrow we are going to Ft Myer again for more trombone concerts, but returning to Baltimore in the evening because we have tickets to see the *Canadian Brass* (yes, you may all let out little jealous-sounding "oooh" noises). Then Sunday we will be driving up to the Philadelphia suburbs to see my niece Hanna in another school play - as a freshthing, she is already getting parts they normally reserve for juniors and seniors. I am working on finishing a quilt for Gregory - Hanna is my sister Steph's oldest; Gregory is Steph's youngest, all of 4 weeks old at this point; I believe I've mentioned he's my 38th niece-or-nephew. I will take a picture of the quilt as soon as it's done - it's all basted, so if I can do hand-tying/embroidery-floss quilting in the car tomorrow day, then I can finish the binding after we get home tomorrow night, and bring it with us Sunday.
bunrab: (bass)
go to http://www.montgomeryvillagecommunityband.org/video/holiday-concert--2008
scroll down to Jingle Bells Hora, and watch the video! I get to take a quick bow at the end.
bunrab: (soprano_sax)
It has been a musicky couple of weeks. Friday a week ago, we went to a BSO concert. Piano soloist for the Prokofiev was spectacular; it must have been exhausting for the concertmaster just sitting next to her. She did two encores, each one faster: first an arrangement of Rondo a la Turk that sounded like something that Horowitz might have done, and then Flight of the Bumblebee, faster than I have ever heard it on any instrument whatsoever. The second half was Symphony Fantastique, and it was great - the tubas nailed their solo, and they got to stand up and take a bow for it, and the entire thing was just wonderful.

Tuesday night, we got to watch the BSO rehearsing for the upcoming concert - it was the first rehearsal where all the choruses and the orchestra were together, for rehearsing Carmina Burana. It was fascinating watching Alsop's rehearsal technique - and also impressive to see the professionalism of the orchestra; any community band musician will recognize what I mean when I say that when she stops, they stop - if she stops on the first note of an eight-note triplet, NOBODY plays the second note. And nobody starts talking immediately, either. Wish we could get even 1/100th of that into our community groups.

And Friday we attended the performance of Carmina. The first piece was actually a piece of Samuel Barber's Medea, and Alsop gave a short lecture on the plot and had the orchestra play a couple of measures of the meaningful themes. THat is one scary piece - which goes with the plot, yes - if you don't know it, look it up (small hint: she eats her children.) The Carmina went off beautifully. The baritone was slightly more restrained than in rehearsal - he had to be; he had several people cracking up a bit during rehearsal with his gestures to accompany "Ego sum abbas;" there still were gestures that were nicely expressive of the segment, though. He will be worth watching - anyone who can be that expressive and who clearly is having that much fun doing it, while singing well, can probably get work anywhere. The program notes translated "wafna" as "woe." The tenor was an excellent roasted swan. And the soprano wore a red dress that rustled, to go with the lyrics in one of her verses. Alsop also had a Q&A session after the concert - I enjoy those; we've stayed for them several times in the past. Turned out there were people from the Cincinnati Opera in the audience, among other things.

Saturday morning we had a dress rehearsal in Bel Air. I do not rehearse well at 10 a.m. And Sunday afternoon was the concert - it went off reasonably well, though not perfect. The audience liked it. Well, it's hard to go wrong with "Four Scottish Dances" with that drunken bassoon solo, and then the music from the 3rd "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie.

Monday night, Bel Air starts rehearsing for Maryland Community Band Day, and Wednesday night down in Montgomery Village, we have our last Band Day committee meeting, before rehearsal; my part is pretty much finished, except for playing bari sax in three of the eight bands that will be performing! Between those three bands and my committee/volunteer t-shirt, I will have five clothing changes that day...

Oh yeah, we settled on the house, it's ours; the painters and electricians are doing their thing and should be finished by the end of next week, and the windows should be here by then, so we can probably move in right after band day. We haven't started packing yet.
bunrab: (Default)
Tonight's Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert was quite good. I've never been that enthused about any of the Leonora overtures (which, let me remind you, are to the opera Fidelio, as there is no Leonora opera) but the performance of the L#3 was good. It was the Christopher Rouse flute concerto that really surprised me - I was prepared to not like a dissonant modern (1993) piece. And parts of it were dissonant. But parts were beautiful. One of the things Rouse (who was there tonight, and took a bow) had said was that when he was writing it, he heard about the 2 kids who murdered another kid, that had recently happened then, and so he turned it into an elegy. And indeed, the 4th and 5th movements are as stirring and powerful as any elegy or requiem in the classical literature. He knows how to use those chords, you know the ones, where the notes and the tone color all say death and hope - prayers for the dead and the hope of resurrection. Whether or not you believe in any sort of resurrection, or prayers, has nothing to do with it - those chords mean "pray for the dead and hope for resurrection." Well, they were done quite powerfully. The flute winds in and around and through there, there are lots of bassoon solos as well, as there must be in any requiem (think of Brophy's Diskworld Symphony), then the 4th movement ends with a bunch of crashing and dissonance that nonetheless makes sense, and the 5th movement starts softly, with more of a flute melody and those death-and-hope chords behind it, building, but then fading again, and the concerto ends with just the sustained flute and a very soft chord in which the bassoons were primary.

The Beethoven 5 was great. Started off at a slightly brisker tempo than the one in the template in my head, which made it sound fresher. (We all have that for the warhorses, don't we? Whichever recording we heard over and over as a kid, that's what that piece sounds like in our heads forever.) And Alsop did a signing after the concert, of the new CD release of the BSO doing Dvorak. She is very chatty and personable while signing.

We ate a bit too much tortellini at Sabatino's afterward.

Oh, and would you believe, I wore a dress to this concert? Granted, it was with tights and black lace-up boots, as though I were 25, instead of the stockings and heels people my age are supposed to wear, but still, a dress! I bought a couple of them last month - one for this summer, when the Baltimore Symphonic Band tours Eastern Europe, and I want to have a dress in which I can sit at a sidewalk cafe in Vienna and look elegant. Anyway, dress, and a real coat instead of my beat-up faux ski jacket. Almost a respectable adult.
bunrab: (Default)
This is my original song for y'all this year.

Blah, blah, copyright 2007 by R. Kelly Wagner, blah, blah.
bunrab: (soprano_sax)
Klezmer Nutrcracker Shirim - not only a good chunk of the Nutcracker Ballet, but also Romanian Rhapsody (Enesco), Hungarian Rhapsody (Brahms), lots of Satie, and more, all in a very jazzy klezmer style. Well done, danceable, fun. Definitely not elevator music.
Trombones Under the Tree - I think the title says it all. A trombone quartet plays lots of traditional stuff, and some of the Nutcracker, speaking of Nutcracker. This is the sort of thing that shows up in the houses of people who play low brass instruments for too long.
In a Christmas Mood - the Starlight Orchestra. Swing era big band stuff, nicely done and it moves right along.
A Christmas Tribute to Mannheim Steamroller by the Westwind Ensemble. As if we didn't have enough Mannheim Steamroller by Mannheim Steamroller, here's a tribute band.
Christmas Guitars: A Benefit for the National Coalition for the Homeless - various artists. 18 of them. Lots of nice guitar stuff - a little on the quiet and calm side, but for a good cause.
A Waverly Consort Christmas - another one that Lea probably has too. "From East Anglia to Appalachia" is the description. Stuff that we don't have anywhere else, 13th century English motets, some beautiful shape-note hymns. Instrumental variations on Greensleeves. This is a really beautiful album.
Christmas Island by Leon Redbone - mix a bit of 1920's Palm Court Orchestra, with dobro and slack-key guitar, with imitation 1950's Bing Crosby, and throw in a bit of Dr. John for accompaniment. It works surprisingly well. The title song is fun.
A Christmas Celebration by Celtic Women. Nice arrangement, lots of folk-dancey instrumental things, some unexpected medleys. Sally brought this one with her last weekend - more about that below - and we really like it, a nice addition to our collection.

Sally stopped by on her way from New York to her sister's place in VA, on Saturday, and stayed overnight. Around midnight was when we decided that a trio of violin, soprano sax, and euphonium would be just the thing, and we played Christmas carols by ear for about an hour and a half. Good thing John next door is deaf. Different instruments have different favorite keys they tend to default to, and the easy keys on a violin are not the same as the easy keys on a Bb saxophone, which aren't the same as the easy keys on low brass. We were often playing in three different keys for a full verse before we managed to converge on a common key. We had fun, though. We got her on her way Sunday after lunch at Panera - I almost feel like I should do Panera commercials, 'cause I recommend them to so many people on special diets! It was great to have her visit with us; she had never seen chinchillas take a dust bath before! She'll be back for a short stop on her way back to NY next weekend.

Merry Christmas!
bunrab: (Default)
Christmas with Travelin' Light - Sam Pilafian & Frank Vignola. Light jazz with a tuba soloist - need more be said? Pop and traditional favorites.
The Ventures Christmas Album. Ahh, the sixties. This is pretty funny - and they sneak in bits of their own music, too - a piece called "Scrooge," and little riffs from other pop songs sneak into the Christmas carols. Their "Jingle Bells Rock" sounds more like rock than the original did.
Christmas with the Lettermen. Traditional carols, nice harmony, a bit bland (I say that about a lot of things that don't include LOUD).
Christmas - The Players. Lots of stuff on here. Huge variety of instrumentation - you don't often hear soprano sax and cornetto on the same song, let alone both of those with button accordion and banjo.
Psallite! A Renaissance Christmas - Chanticleer. I'll bet [livejournal.com profile] angevin2 has this one, too. Josquin des Prez, Heironymous Praetorius, William Byrd. A must for early music fans.
Christmas Now is Drawing Near - Sneak's Noyse. Lots of English folk carols. Themed medleys. Some stuff that's not commonly heard in the US.
A Froggy Christmas. Novelty album, needless to say. A little of this goes a long way, so it's best played as part of a shuffle rather than trying to listen to it straight through. The back cover text is pretty funny (one of the performers is listed as Ribbit Goulet...)
A Toolbox Christmas. Likewise a novelty album, same caveat as above. "Your favorite carols performed on your favorite hand and power tools." Some spouses think it's funny to put Froggy Christmas and Toolbox Christmas on shuffle with each other (and nothing else). Some spouses are lucky that I am extremely tolerant.
bunrab: (schneider)
The Austin Christmas Collection - another one the rest of you probably aren't going to find anymore, not even in Austin (it's over a decade old). Includes Esther's Follies and all sorts of styles of Austin's singer-songwriter community. Steve Fromholz, Marcia Ball, Gary Nunn...
The Many Moods of Christmas - Robert Shaw & Chorale & Atlanta Symphony. This is all 4 suites of carols that were arranged by Robert Russell Bennett; way back in the early 80's, Randy Bass arranged a band transcription of two of them and the Austin Symphonic Band performed them along with the choir from Grace UMC, so we pretty much know every note of those two suites by heart. Probably, if you were wanting to own just one Christmas album that sorta summed up all the traditional songs, with a large choir and large orchestra and large organ to give it that large holiday sound, this album would be a good pick.
Merry Christmas from Harmony Ranch - Riders in the Sky. They're a comedy group, but they're also good singers, and here their cowboy style goes into a few popular Christmas tunes, a medley of traditional tunes, and several original songs - "Sidemeat's Christmas Goose" is a comedy song, for example, and "Riding Home on Christmas Eve" is a lovely song with a gentle horseriding beat.
Oy Chanukah! - The Klezmer Conservatory Band. Bunches of traditional Yiddish songs, some slightly more modern ones, a few instrumental dance numbers, all with a swingy klezmer style.
Winter Solstice Live! - Olympia's Daughters. This is another one of my favorites. There are songs on here I don't have on any other recording, beautiful harmonies. Mostly a capella. Some, but not all, of the songs have certain explicitly Christian lyrics modified to be pagan/goddess, neutral lyrics - "Good rest ye, merry gentlefolk" for example. My favorite rendition of the Holst "In The Bleak Midwinter" - their voices just do wonderful things for the chords in this. "I have a Million Nightingales" is one of the original songs on here. May be tough to find, since it's small press, as it were - I got it from Ladyslipper Music several years ago. Come to think of it, it's been a couple years since I last browsed Ladyslipper's catalog, and given some of the nice vocal stuff we've gotten from there, it's about time to look for more.
Blame it on Christmas! 17 Weird Yuletide Classics from Around the World - no artists named. Note that these aren't really from around the world; they're the usual christmas carls, but done in styles from around the world, sometimes funnier than others. Starts with "The Silent Night's Spangled Banner," Sousa-style, and includes a middle-Eastern style 12 Days of Christmas called "12 Arabian Nights." There's "The Inexcelsis Polka" and "Good Kingsy" and more that it would take you a couple of seconds to recognize :D
African Christmas: Christmas favorites with an African beat - various artists. This is a new acquisition - Wednesday, in fact - and we like it! There aren't any liner notes other than naming the artists and producers, so there's not information I'd like to have, such as what the traditional African songs are that are interpolated verse-for-verse with Christmas songs or used as intros to other songs, or what language(s) are being spoken. Or what the many interesting bits of percussion equipment are. There's an original song at the end, "African Christmas." Neat stuff!
bunrab: (bass)
I've started writing a Christmas song. Its title will probably be the first line of the song, "We don't need God to have a merry Christmas." Sample verse, draft version (lots of polishing needed yet):
"In the dark, we all hope for light
And so we have the candles burning bright
Candles on the Christmas tree
The candles lit for Hannukah
Candles in the windows
For the travelers from afar."

Recent listening:
The Carol Album: Seven centuries of Christmas Music - Taverner Consort, Choir, & Players. Many unfamiliar items, many foreign language items (Latin, German, French) and Middle English. Interesting listening, and I like the harmonies.
Christmas with the Canadian Brass featuring the Great Organ of St. Patrick's Cathedral. Not only is it bright, loud, brass, but also a large, loud organ. Who could ask for anything more? The Hallelujah Chorus is so good with the organ that you'd almost swear you could hear the words despite the lack of a choir.
Christmas in a Celtic Land by Golden Bough. Like their other album, already mentioned, this has several songs I haven't heard elsewhere, and perhaps more to drink than we associate with modern american Christmas. You can tell it's folk music 'cause it includes an accordion. "Dear Joseph" is something I haven't heard elsewhere, a very pretty tune. "Mrs. Fogarty's Christmas Cake" is a hoot. I really like their voices and harmonies.
A Little Christmas Music - the Kings Singers. I could live without guest soloist Kiri Te Kanawa - I just don't like shrieking sopranos, I'm sorry. Anyway, other than that complain, this is nice stuff. KTK is in the medley of songs done as if by Mozart. I always like the Boar's Head Carol, and sing along with the chorus at the top of my lungs. Ends with Patapan and Farandole - the French carol that everyone here thinks of mainly as the melody from one of the "L'Arlesienne" suites.
Swingle Bells - Swingle Singers. They're sort of out of style now, but I still like a dose of Swingle Singers every now and then. Some foreign stuff on here that one doesn't hear very often, assorted Yule polkas and a bit of Bach.
Christmas Brass - Philip Jones Brass Ensemble. I have this unfortunate tendency to refer to PJBE as Peanut Butter Jelly. But really, they're everything good about brass. A large ensemble than the Canadian Brass and other assorted quintets, and they managed to sound even larger than that; their arrangements are often complex enough that you'd swear there was an entire concert band.
Sing We All Merrily - A Colonial Christmas - Linda Russell & Companie. Older carols, no pop stuff, with dulcimers, mandolin, harp, according, Northumbrian small pipes - very folksy, very nice - Russell's voice gives the group a distinct sound and style.
It's a Spike Jones Christmas. Do I really need to say anything more about this? Actually, yes - there's some perfectly nice stuff, done more or less straight, on here, in between the comedy numbers. But yes, there are all the comedy numbers you expect. It's from Rhino, whaddaya want?
bunrab: (bunnies)
[livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet decided that he didn't want to stand outside holding 20 lbs of brass to his mouth in 35 degree (2 degrees C) weather, so we skipped TubaChristmas yesterday. However, we did play a bit of music at home - he got out the euphonium, and I tried the euphonium mouthpiece plugged into my baritone sax, and managed to make a start on playing a few of the TubaChristmas book second euphonium parts, thus contributing toward my goal of pretending I have an ophicleide come next December and its TubaeChristmases. It certainly sounds as awful as everyone expects an ophicleide to sound, so it should fool everyone!

This evening I made homemade soup and homemade bread for supper - low-fat, low-sodium, and, if I say so myself, yummy. It was a "whatever's handy" soup - a chicken breast cut up, a couple of ounces of leftover macaroni, two potatoes that have been sitting around since Cindy was here in September, some of the bunnies' carrots, and so on and so forth, with a package of turkey meatloaf seasoning mix dumped in for good luck. The bread had just a touch of garlic added to it. It was a good winter supper.

Recent holiday CDs:
A GRP Christmas Collection - a jazzy album, nice stuff, includes Gary Burton, Chick Corea, that kind of stuff.
Yulestride by Butch Thompson - his signature stride piano style; we first became aware of Thompson through his appearances on A Prairie Home Companion.
Make We Joy: Music for Christmas by Holst and Walton - Christ Church Cathedral Choir. Beautiful singing, lovely arrangements, including one of my personal favorites, Holst's "In the Bleak Mid-Winter." Much of this will not be familiar to American listeners and/or those who are not Christmas music geeks - but try it anyway, you'll like it. Almost as much as bright, loud brass, a large, pure-sounding choir sounds like Christmas to me.
Hill Country Hannukah: A Celebration of Jewish Culture in Central Texas (by various and sundry including the Congregation Agudas Achim Adult Choir) - well, you're unlikely to be able to find this one unless you live in Austin; I got it at Waterloo Music over at 6th and Lamar back in 2001 or thereabouts. Nonetheless, I'm mentioning it here, because it's fun. There's some terrific klezmer stuff, a swingy jazz version of Maoz Tzur that is nonetheless respectful, some stuff that's not real familiar. No trace of The Dreidl Song whatsoever. Also, no program notes/liner notes/text inside the CD cover - so the stuff that's unfamiliar remains unfamiliar, unless I work up the energy to Google it.
Merry Texas Christmas, Y'all by Asleep at the Wheel - hey, it's Texas Swing, and it's done right. Guests include Ray Benson, Tish Hinojosa, Willy Nelson, Dan Walser - names familiar to any fan of Texas music. A few original songs, a few standards from contemporary popular secular music, an armadillo in a Santa hat on the back cover. What's not to like?
The Bells of Dublin by The Chieftains - quite a few guests on this one; the surprise is how much I like Elvis Costello on these, even though I'm not an overall Costello fan. It was his performance on these Christmas songs that lead me to Terror and Magnificence which remains one of my favorite albums, although it's not for everyone (and it has nothing to do with Christmas). Jackson Browne doing "The Rebel Jesus" and the Renaissance Singers doing "Past Three O'Clock" which I like. A medley based on "The Wren, the Wren!" which I found particularly fun this year since I just read that The Battle for Christmas book, which gives one a whole new perspective on wassailing and related door-to-door traditions. Other standards and other unfamiliar stuff. This whole album is another one of my very favorites.
Christmas Brass featuring the Dallas Brass - um, it's bright, it's loud, it's brass, Merry Christmas!
Wolcum Yule by Anonymous 4 - early music. I like it. But if you don't like early music, you might find parts of this boring or bland. Mostly less-familiar stuff, several dance pieces, "Grene Growith the Holy" allegedly by Henry VIII. I suspect [livejournal.com profile] angevin2 already has this album; if not, Lea, you gotta get it.

And now, back to sitting in an armchair with cats and a book, listening to the wind howl outside.
bunrab: (saxophone)
Brave Combo - It's Christmas, Man!
It is possible to turn anything into an accordion polka if you try hard enough. Brave Combo tries very hard. There's also traditional xmas songs turned into cha-cha, ska, sambas... It's fun. The "Christmas Polka" is wonderful.
Therapy Sisters - Codependent Christmas
A Texas group, and a couple songs are slightly Texas-centric. All the songs are original, all are funny. My favorite may be "Abraham's Lament," a combination Chanukah-Christmas song, sort of.
The Brass Band of Battle Creek - Sleigh Bells and Brass, The Sounds of Christmas
It's loud, it's bright, it's brass, it's Christmas. For you concert band fans: it includes Reed's Russian Christmas Music. Good album. Loud.
Mannheim Steamroller Christmas
Yes, this is the third MS xmas album I've blogged. I don't know whether we've run out of them yet.
Dr. Demento presents The Greatest Christmas Novelty CD of All Time
It's starts with the Chipmunk Song and gets worse from there - all your favorites, such as "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" and "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas." My favorite is the Dragnet parody.
The Early Light Consort - Christmas Past. Instrumentals including some less-familiar bits of "Messiah," "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" and "Pachelbel's Canon." Instrumentation includes crumhorns, ocarina, pan flute, lute, and more. Very pretty, very peaceful.
Quink Vocal Ensemble - Carols Around the World
Lots of unfamiliar stuff on this, and some that we know in English translations are in their original language. Some of it's very nice; I don't particularly care for their version of "In the Bleak Midwinter" though - personal preference, I'll take Holst's arrangement every time.
Joan Baez - Noël
She's got a beautiful voice and I like her style. Several less-familiar carols on here, and a couple sung in German.
bunrab: (saxophone)
So Tuesday night we played a concert at the Charlestown retirement community here in Catonsville. Audience loves it. By the front entrance of the building we played in are large plant pots, chock full o' ornamental cabbages. So of course, [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet and I starting substituting "ornamental cabbage" in all sorts of Christmas carol lyrics. "Walkin' in an ornamental cabbage" almost even scans correctly, whereas "Hark the ornamental cabbage sings" doesn't, not really.

Wednesday was rent-a-car day since I had to be at rehearsal in Montgomery Village and S had to be at rehearsal in Essex at the same time, each of us with our large conical brass instruments. And it was snowing. So I got to drive my rented Ford Escort (I hate automatic transmissions!) through the snow to MV. About 60% of the band made it to the rehearsal, which happens to be the dress rehearsal for Sunday's concert. The surprising thing? It wasn't a difficult drive. I decided discretion was the better part of valor, and instead of taking the short route I usually take, consisting of 2-lane roads through rural areas, took a much longer route which kept me on interstate highways for all but the last 2 miles: Interstate 70 all the way west to Frederick, then I-270 south to the Mont. Village Ave exit. Yes, it was 20 miles longer, but worth it. The highways were surprisingly orderly - everyone trucking along at about 40-45 mph, no idiots, very few trucks, no accidents that I saw on the 64-mile trip there. Came back via taking 270 the rest of the way south to the DC Beltway which is I-495, took that east, then came north on I-95 to I-695, which is the highway we live 2 blocks off of. That route is about 54 miles. It was also orderly, slowish but steady, and free of accidents. So in about 118 miles I circumnavigated Central Maryland in the snow, in the dark, in a strange car. Was happy to return said car to rental place this morning. The windshield wipers on it sucked mightily - bear grease might have worked better.

This afternoon, we had a matinee performance of the "Sleigh Ride Spectacular" program that the entire performing arts department at CCBC-Essex* is putting on, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Essex Community College. Dancers, singers, band. I played; S was an usher for this particular performance, as the stage is so crowded that only half the band can actually play at a time, so sections are rotating their players. From where I was sitting, I could not see a thing, including the conductor. So I came in on the second note of every piece. I could not even tell WHO was conducting - I don't mean I just didn't have a good view of the conductor, I mean I COULD NOT SEE ANY PART NOR PIECE OF THE CONDUCTOR. At the end of one piece, some people shifted for a second, and that's the first I knew that we were being conducted on that piece by the woman who directs the chorus, rather than by our own conductor! Since the tuba, the euphonium, and I were in a back row which wound up sorta in the wings, completely out of sight of the audience, we felt free to gossip and read during the moments when we weren't playing - felt sorta like we were in Berlioz' book Evenings with the Orchestra. For a while, said tuba and euphonium were busy text-messaging people on their cell phones. Ah, the 21st century.

On the way into the college, two of the three lanes in our direction, and one in the other direction, were blocked by the overturned Land Rover (completely on its side) and the three police cars and two tow trucks that were trying to figure out how to get it off the road. And the road was clear - wasn't even a case of ice or snow causing it!

Anyway. We play there at CCBC-Essex again Friday and Saturday nights (both of us play) and then we miss the Sunday performance of that concert, because I will be playing in the Montgomery Village concert, and S will be playing in the Bel Air Community Band concert, both of which are at the same time, same day. Whee!

With all this performing and travelling and whatnot, we haven't listened to many CDs. Here's one of the few:
A Very Scary Solstice by the HPLovecraft Historical Society - xmas carols rewritten for Solstice, further rewritten to reflect the horrors of Cthulhu. Nicely sung, and clever, but if you're not into Cthulhu, you might not appreciate the album. "I Saw Mommy Kissing Yog-Sothoth."

*CCBC-Essex, formerly Essex Community College, is the Community College of Baltimore County, Essex Campus. CCBC is not to be confused with BCCC, Baltimore City Community College, formerly Baltimore Junior College.


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