Sing Handel in Boston, Bring Healing to Haiti!

JP Concerts presents: Sing Messiah!
Saturday, December 11, 8 p.m.
St. John’s Episcopal Church
1 Roanoke Avenue, Boston (map link)
$10 Donation includes score rental

Happy Holidays, Music Nerds!

Photobucket‘Tis the season for performances of Handel’s Messiah, both the all-pro and sing-along variety. And Boston, being the turbo-charged classical music mecca that it is, boasts many opportunities to get in on this holiday tradition. Today I would like to draw special attention to one that McDoc and I are involved in, because it will benefit a very good cause!

PhotobucketIn April of this year, McDoc went on a medical mission to Haiti, where he spent a week caring for patients who had sustained spinal cord injuries in the January earthquake. The mission was organized by Boston Healing Hands, the local affiliate of Healing Hands for Haiti, an organization with a 10-year history of providing physical rehabilitation services in Haiti. This excerpt from their mission statement explains what they do better than I can:

Healing Hands for Haiti supports and encourages the Haitian people in providing quality physical rehabilitation services for themselves in a spirit of self-determination, independence and human dignity with a focus on empowering Haitians with disabilities

Before I began learning about McDoc’s medical specialty, physical medicine and rehabilitation, I had very little awareness of the kinds of ongoing, long-term care needed by people with the conditions the specialty treats. Did you know that when someone undergoes an amputation (of which there were many in Haiti resulting from earthquake-related injuries), they need very specialized care in order to be fitted for a prosthesis and use it successfully? And folks with spinal cord injury need ongoing follow-up care as well. Healing Hands for Haiti’s medical volunteers not only provide direct care; they also train local caregivers to continue this crucial work.

McDoc has the opportunity to go on a second mission to Haiti, in March 2011. He’ll volunteer his time (and one of his three annual vacation weeks!), but there is also the matter of travel and living expenses, which total about $2,000 per team member. That’s where Handel comes in: proceeds from this Saturday’s sing-along Messiah will help support McDoc’s mission!

So if you’re in the Boston area and you love to sing, please join us on Saturday! Even if you don’t sing, you’re welcome to come and listen. Accompaniment will be provided by the Young Artists Philharmonic, led by conductor Isaac Kramer, and featured soloists include Megan Bisceglia, Nathan Keoughan, Farah Darliette Lewis, Joshua Pelkey, and Yakov Zamir.

If you can’t make it on Saturday but are moved to help, here’s how: checks payable to Boston Healing Hands may be mailed to:
Boston Healing Hands
Box 465
Milton MA 02186

If you designate your donation as in support of Dr. Brian McMichael, it will help McDoc directly. Thank you so much!

To help you prepare for the event, here’s a vocal warm-up courtesy of Random Acts of Culture:

Miss Music Nerd’s Fall Arts Preview: A Far Cry from Boston!

Fall really is upon us, Music Nerds! One minute I was enjoying my Labor Day vacay, and next thing I knew, the concert season was in full swing! For me, it started last night with the [plain] song, in a program being repeated Saturday and Sunday (details here).

photo: Yoon S. Byun

It continues tomorrow afternoon with A Far Cry. Fortunately for you, dear readers, you have three chances to hear this concert as well. However, I strongly recommend tomorrow’s performance, not only because it will be your chance to meet Miss Music Nerd in person, but also because the venue has marvelous acoustics and the tickets are only $10! (Said venue is the church where I am Minister of Music, so yeah, I’m biased!)

A Far Cry: “Primordial Darkness”
September 18 2010 4pm
JP Concerts, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Jamaica Plain

September 19 2010 1:30pm
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

September 24 2010 8pm
Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory, Boston

A Far Cry is an exciting young string orchestra, now in its fourth season. They perform conductor-less, with the performers standing up (except the cellos!), which lends an intimacy and excitement to the playing that is very compelling. Or as they put it, “seeking the freedom and flexibility of a string quartet as well as the power and beauty of an orchestra.” In addition to their Boston area performance and outreach activities, they have recently begun taking it on the road, as an article in today’s Boston Globe relates.

The theme for their fourth season is “History of the Night,” and this first concert is titled “Primordial Darkness.” In keeping with that theme, they will play Mozart’s Serenata Notturna in D major. Here’s the full program lineup:

Xenakis: Analogique A et B
Mozart: Serenata Notturna in D major
Cornell: New Fantasias
Purcell: Suite from “The Old Bachelor”
Bartók: Divertimento for String Orchestra

The piece by Boston composer Richard Cornell was commissioned by and written for A Far Cry, so I’m very excited to hear it. I believe it is one of the pieces, along with the Xenakis, requiring the sound system the group is bringing in – I got a sneak peek today when I stopped by the venue to open the door!

So get ready to rock out in a classical kind of way, and tell ’em Miss Music Nerd sent you!

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The Transcendent Organist: A Conversation With Gail Archer

Happy International Women’s Day, music nerds! As luck would have it, I have an outstanding woman to introduce to you today!

Gail Archer is a very busy concert organist and dedicated teacher with an impressive list of projects to her credit, including a concert tour going on right now, and a newly released CD, both featuring music by J.S. Bach, part of a project entitled Bach the Transcendent Genius.

I had a wonderful conversation with Gail recently – we talked about church jobs, what Bach and “Messiaen have in common, and the ups and downs of being a woman in music, then and now. Click Mr. Readmore for the scoop! Continue reading

Cantata Singers: A Revelation to Revel in!

Note: Thanks to the generosity of many friends, I am 20% of the way to my goal for my California trip, after just a couple of days! Can you help me get the rest of the way? 🙂

In a field like classical music, which places so much emphasis on preserving its traditions and maintaining the stored up riches of an established repertoire that is performed repeatedly, year after year, it’s easy to get jaded. When I browse concert listings for symphonies and other venerable musical organizations, I tend to transmogrify into a toxic hybrid of the heckling curmudgeons Statler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show, and Miranda Priestly, the imperious fashion editor portrayed by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. “Sigh… Not another Beethoven symphony… That concerto again? Yawn. Well, I’ve never heard of that composer — how good could she be? And where on earth is my cappuccino? I ordered it at least five minutes ago!”

But then I actually drag my curvy white carcass to a concert, and nine times out of ten my cynicism and ennui evaporate, and I revel in that giddy, kid-in-a-candy-store feeling I get in the presence of this wonderful art form that so enriches my life (if not my wallet!).

it’s nice to know that I can still have my world rocked and my assumptions and expectations blown out of the water. It happened again Friday night.

I was really looking forward to this performance by the Cantata Singers, especially in light of the great conversations I had in recent weeks with Executive Director Jeffry George (in two parts, here and here) and Music Director David Hoose (here).

But to tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure I was really going to dig the music of Heinrich Schütz as much as I would something from a later period. I’m a hard-core romantic; early baroque music doesn’t necessarily make me jump up and down. I felt lukewarm about the Duruflé Requiem as well; I’m a bit of a requiem connoisseur, but there are other examples that I’m more enthusiastic about, like those by Verdi and Britten.

Well. Silly me.

The two Schütz pieces were a revelation. The rhythmic fluidity, expressivity and sensitivity to the text just dazzled me. There were moments in the first piece, So fahr ich hin zu Jesu Christ, when I thought to myself, “If I didn’t know who the composer was, I might guess Brahms.” And the multi-movement setting of Psalm 116 was dramatic and compelling at every moment.

The two motets by John Harbison were a bit spikier than other pieces I’ve heard by him, but nevertheless didn’t seem out of place. We Do Not Live to Ourselves employed an undulating chromatic phrase reminiscent of the BACH motif— I’ll have to ask him if it was something like that! My Little Children, Let Us Not Love in Word had a surprisingly jazz-like rhythm — surprising because it’s not what I would have expected out of the text, but I liked it.

I have a whole new appreciation for the Duruflé Requiem after this performance. The piece is gentler and more understated than other requiem settings, so it doesn’t hog the spotlight. There’s nary a hint of fire and brimstone in the piece, even at the Dies irae portion, which has inspired so many other composers to go all heavy metal (in the classical sense, of course 😉 ) The “Kyrie” (“Lord, have mercy) doesn’t so much beg for mercy as bask in the assurance of it. That’s not to say the piece is bland, however; on the contrary, it’s luscious. I especially enjoyed the solo by cellist Beth Pearson in the “Pie Jesu” movement.

I think both the venue and the size of the group — both in the medium range — were well-suited to making this piece shine, in its medium-scale version for organ and string orchestra.

The next performance by Cantata Singers will be March 12, and I heartily recommend checking it out if you’re in the area. Tell ’em Miss Music Nerd sent you! 🙂

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Back in the Land of Music: Cantata Singers Executive Director Jeffry George

I’ve been living in Boston for just over six months now, and there’s one thing I can tell you for sure (besides the fact that turn signals are for the weak 😉 ): this place is a never-ending smorgasbord of cultural events of all kinds! It is especially rich – lucky me – in musical delights. I’ve barely scratched the surface, but you can be sure that I will continue to carry out my reconnaissance activities and report back to you, my music nerd army!

I recently learned of the Cantata Singers. They’ve been around since 1964, having started as a group dedicated to performing the cantatas of J.S. Bach. Since then, their scope has expanded considerably, but without losing the dedication and focus with which they began.

On Friday of this week, I’ll be attending a Cantata Singers performance at First Church in Cambridge, featuring works by Heinrich Schütz (their featured composer of the season), John Harbison and Maurice Duruflé. If you’re in the Boston area, I invite you to check it out, too! Tickets are $17, and may be purchased at the door or by calling 617-868-5885.

'Music feeds my soul — it always has.'

Last month, I spoke with their new Executive Director, Jeffry George, just four days after he joined the organization. Jeffry was trained in music from childhood through college, then worked as an actor before embarking on a distinguished career in management and administration in the theatre world. Coming on board with Cantata Singers brings him back to his musical roots, while presenting him with new and exciting challenges as an arts administrator.

Here’s the first installment of our two-part conversation, wherein Jeffry tells me about how he got to where he is, and shares his views on the state of performing arts today.

Miss Music Nerd: You worked in the theatre world for quite a while. What brought you back to music?

Jeffry George: This position was brought to my attention by someone who knew of my musical background. It just seemed like a perfect fit, and I was more and more magnetically drawn to it the more I learned about it. I’m thrilled to be back in the land of music. Music feeds my soul — it always has. Continue reading

The Awesome Gravity of J.S. Bach!

So there I was, minding my own business, looking for a particular recording, when gravity conspired against me, as it is wont to do!

Click Mr. Readmore for the whole, messy story… 😉 Continue reading

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