Tag Archives: Music

Nights at the Opera

With the director of the San Francisco Opera retiring, Jim wanted to see a few of the productions in his last season, so we bought a “4 pack.”  Trust me, if you want to see opera in San Francisco, a “short” subscription of at least 4 productions will make the per-opera cost much more reasonable.  Last year we only wanted to see 2 productions, so we couldn’t get a subscription; this year our 4 opera subscription cost us less than the 2 sets of 2 tickets.

Last week we saw Die Zauberflöte, aka the Magic Flute.  Now, I like Mozart, and I like the Magic Flute, silly as it is.  But I thought SF Opera’s production was odd.  In an opera talking about the worship of Isis and Osiris, they chose to costume all the temple priests like characters in a Japanese Noh play, including whiteface makeup and very odd headdresses.  The hero and heroine, and the Queen of the Night and her court, wore more or less normal stylized costumes; but the “3 boys” who guide the hero through his mystical trials floated in inverted cones suspended on visible wires, and were dressed like Indian servants in a movie about the British Raj, including turbans.

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East Bay Mini Maker Faire

A week ago I spent Saturday at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire, a wonderful place for the gadget minded to hang out.  I had two reasons for being there.  The first was that my singing group, TOSCA, was performing on the main stage – in fact, they were the opening act, performing Ward Swingle’s Music History 101.  TOSCA is The Oakland Symphony Chorus A La Carte, and you can find more about them on the Oakland Symphony Chorus web page.  Page down to the bottom on the right side for contact information.

Here they are waiting to go on:

TOSCA waiting to perform

They sang valiantly, competing with 8-year-olds swinging hula hoops, and a swing-the-hammer-ring-the-bell arrangement in the next field that shot huge bursts of flame into the air at unpredictable times:

TOSCA on stage

Outdoor performances are always trying but they sang their best.

Mr. JazzBo

The jazz tune was great until the sound system died in the middle of it 🙁  The costumed young woman at the right was their “time machine,” who “moved” the performance from era to historical era.  I wasn’t singing because back in August I came down with walking pneumonia and I missed too many rehearsals to try to perform this complicated music.

After the performance I went off to my volunteer stint at the Oakland East Bay Symphony’s Instrument Petting Zoo, which was extremely popular.  I didn’t take many photos there – I was too busy cleaning the mouthpieces of the flute, the trumpet, and the trombone (and the conch shell), before the next person picked one up to try it!

I did like the little Zen fountain behind the booth:

Zen fountain

After my shift was over I wandered around, and could not resist a photo of the Intergalactic Imagination Transporter – that’s what it says on the door.

decorated car

This is my second Mini Maker Faire and they’re always fun.  If one happens near you, drop in on it, you never know what you’ll find.  I remember with pleasure the booth surrounded by 9 year old kids, each madly swinging a small bottle – they were making their own butter!  They were right across from the beekeeper’s booth, with its hive of live bees.  A lovely day.

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Lights Out

Last night was a mixed experience.  The first part was great.  We had tickets for the San Francisco revival of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes.  We rode BART; no agonizing over parking.  We had an excellent Italian dinner at 54 Mint; I recommend it if you’re taking in a show.  The evening was warmer than it has been.  The show was amazing.  The show was fabulous.  The production number of Anything Goes that ends the first act has to be seen to be believed.  (Yes, I liked it!)  Rachael York, singing Reno Sweeney, out-belted every other voice in the cast (unfortunately including the male lead, who was good but not in her class) – a great singer, a great dancer.  Musicals like this are the 20th century equivalent of the grand opera, and I love them even if the plots are silly (and they are).

The show over, we rode BART back, picked up the car, drove back to the condo in Adams Point where we are currently living while we remodel the house, and set about going to bed.  Time, about 11:45 PM.  I shut down both computers and started over to the couch to cool down with a crossword puzzle – and the place went black.  I was just realizing that I’d heard a kind of a thump – when I heard another one, more clearly an explosion, and I realized the power was out.  I probably heard a transformer (or two) blowing up.

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Fireworks and Sousa

One of my favorite annual events, if I'm in town, is the concert the Oakland East Bay Symphony puts on every July 3 at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, California.  There's nothing quite like watching a fireworks display (Richmond does theirs early) while listening to a full symphony orchestra play John Philip Sousa marches.  It was a gorgeous night; the symphony showcased two very talented young soloists, a singer and a pianist; there was a huge full moon.  I'd like to share a few photos I took last night.

Click here for the full gallery, but I'd just like to share my favorite fireworks shot:

Fireworks at Richmond

… and my "moon shot":

Moon over the East Bay hills

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you really ought to put this one on your calendar for next year.  Best of all – it's FREE!

Posted in Personal, Photography Also tagged |

Virtuoso Accordion and Other Things

Xasásuan Today isn’t a site I normally visit – my hiker husband pointed it out to me.  We aren’t quite sure what Xasásuan is – it may be the name of an Essalen village.  The Essalen lived around the Ventana Wilderness.

The blog has a “check it out” page which apparently has links to everything the author has ever found interesting.  One of them blew me away:

I’ll probably never hear Vivaldi played on an accordion again, but I have to admit, this kid is GOOD!

They also had a link to a 2009 article from Wired magazine called Mapping the 7 Deadly Sins, which is funny enough to check out.  Be sure to read the criteria they use to assign each sin to an area.

Posted in Personal

Ein Deutsches Requiem

I’m still recovering from singing Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem last night.  It was a tremendous evening – somewhere in the sixth movement I remember realizing that everything was going beautifully, and I got a tremendous surge of exhilaration.  Sometimes, when you perform, you aren’t sure how it’s going; sometimes you know you’ve bombed; and sometimes – rarely – you realize that you’ve dropped into the groove and you’re sailing. It was glorious; the performers (including the chorus) got three curtain calls.

I’m really glad I didn’t drop out of the performance.  I considered it.  I’m having my left knee replaced in early March; last weekend I had a really bad night with a lot of pain, and I have a diary entry that says I’m not sure I can sing the Brahms. Now that it’s over, I wouldn’t have missed it.

Performing a choral work of this magnitude is physically demanding; if you’ve never sung symphonic music you wouldn’t know.  It’s long, seven movements, and the chorus sings every one of them, and not just a few bars either.  I didn’t clock how long we took to perform it, but my recording (Philippe Herreweghe, Orchestre des Champs Elysees, La Chappelle Royale) runs 66 minutes.  We’re standing and singing our hearts out for most of that.  Of the pieces I’ve performed, only a couple are longer.  It’s challenging music; alone among his contemporaries, Brahms liked to write fugues, and there are major, difficult fugues in movements two, three, and six, and a minor fugue in four.

It meant rehearsing with the orchestra and soloists until 10 PM Wednesday and Thursday night, and then the performance Friday.  Before I retired, I used to take concert Fridays off, so I could get some rest. During rehearsals we sit on backless benches on stage, baking under the stage lighting, while Maestro Michael Morgan works out performance details with the symphony, standing to sing when he’s ready to go on.  You hold the music up and out in front of you, so you can see the music and the conductor at the same time, and your back aches;  for a long piece like this you have to be careful about your feet.  In a concert years ago, I almost fell coming off the risers, because both my feet were asleep.  It’s hot and cramped and crowded and the music makes it all worth it.

This is probably the only non-Catholic requiem you’ll ever hear; Brahms based the text on the German Luther Bible, and dedicated it to the living.  It has no direct references to Christian doctrine.  But the music is glorious, beautiful, inspiring.  It’s still running through my head.

Posted in Personal

Celtic Music from my Sister-in-law

My sister-in-law, Sally, plays hammer dulcimer in a Celtic band in western Pennsylvania.  Usually we don’t get to hear them play, being 3000 miles (or so) away.  But recently she played at a local winery, and a local blogger recorded a couple of tunes on her cell phone!  You’ll find the link here:

My Life Has Gone to the Dogs and I Love It!

Enjoy the two pieces.

Posted in Family