Old News

In the old days of HTML, everything needed a title and when you send an email, it needs a subject, so I feel compelled to title every blog entry, even if the title is insipid. is this a dumb idea or good practice thinking up titles, since every piece of usic needs a title, no matter ow insipid. Of course, I’ve been titling some of those by date. Hmmm

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Last Wednesday, I did not go to work with Christi for some reason. None of my car pool really wanted to go to the Rorem reception, so I skipped it. I didn’t drink the good wine. I didn’t meet the composers or the board of directors. I didn’t hear Tom Armanio’s speech. He had two minutes allotted to him in the schedule. I understand he went somewhat over time. In retrospect, I have no idea why I didn’t just go with Christi to work that morning.
I did see the concert, although not the pre-concert talk. The only song of Rorem’s that I’d really heard before was I am Rose, which is not my favorite song, so I went to the concert with low expectations. It started and was very neo-romantic. His songs seemed to be composed primarily with intellectual conciet, to show off his skill at setting the words, rather than to highlight the meaning of the words. He used a whole bunch of poetry about love, life and death, mostly death. as the piece went on though, the power of the words began to build intensity and his setting seemed more to highlight the intensity. finally, by the third part, in the midst of a long and emotional, angry, worried poem about AIDS that the baritone was belting out with all the anger and intensity that belonged in the poem, the audience was moved to tears. There was a lot of sniffling in the auditorium. I reached for my hankerchief.
There was a lot of ego in the settings, but also a lot of artistry. The singing and piano playing was excellent. All of the songs were played through with only minimal pause. At the end, the applause was tremendous. the Palace of Fine Arts is not a resonant hall and applause tends to die very quickly, but the audience was very enthusiastic and clapped for a long time.
Then one of the opera singers, two pianists and the gay men’s chorus came out to play and sing christi’s arrangement of King David’s Lament for Johnathan by Lou Harrison. It was moving and fit very well with Rorem’s work. It also personalized and made immediate all of the song and poetry about death. Some of the poems were very immediate and personal that Rorem set, but Lou just died and many of the singers, players and even audience members knew him. He was featured in the previous year’s festival and spoke briefly at the film festival, so many folks there had at least seen him before. The song is a wonderful and beautiful lament and Christi’s setting flowed very well from soloist, to chorus to chorus and audience singing. The San Francisco Chronicle review described it as “moving.”
Christi, however, was not happy. There was no time for a tech rehersal, so the micing of the chorus was uneven and they were quiet (the acoustics in the hall are not good enough for anyone to sing unamplified, even a full chorus). the sound guy tried bumping up the volume and good a bit of feedback. Also, one of the piano players apparently did not have time to reherse. The piece opens with a piano line that continues throughout and some nice tone clusters. One of the pianists missed some of the opening notes and although the performance notes called for them to link arms, Christi said they did not do so. The piano part quickly came together, though. and the audience’s singing was surprisingly good, given the difficulty of the vocal line. There were clearly some excellent singers in attendance.
afterwards, I was listenign to what folks around me were saying and it was all good. Charles told me that he felt bad for Christi when the pianist missed the notes, but I don’t think many folks in attendance noticed it, or if they did, they forgot by the end.
All in all, and excellent evening and the largest audience of the entire festival.

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Charles Céleste Hutchins

Supercolliding since 2003

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