Last night millions of Americans witnessed the birth of Clash of the Choirs, NBC’s glitzy, Prozac-driven TV competition of amateur choirs. Singers were picked and prepared by celebrities Michael Bolton, Patti LaBelle, Nick Lachey, Kelly Rowland and Blake Shelton. Over four nights, starting Monday, each choir will compete for the votes of American viewers and a quarter-million dollars in prize money for charity.
Music geek that I am, I was excited by the possibilities, imagining millions of viewers transfixed by the beauty of Morten Lauriden’s Lux Aeterna or Mozart’s Requiem. Lives would be changed!
Twice this weekend, I zipped up my black boots for the drive to Eastman Theatre to sing Handel’s Messiah with the Rochester Oratorio Society and Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. I could go on at length about the wit and drama in conductor Christopher Seaman’s interpretation, what a pleasure it is to sing for him, and how, for me, the oratorio gets better each year like a vintage bottle of wine.
I had the privilege of interviewing writer Alex Ross of The New Yorker last Friday. His new book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, a cultural history of music since 1900, was named one of the top ten books of 2007 by The New York Times and various other publications. He’s a clear and vivid writer, and I will die happy if I ever write something one percent as illuminated and coherent as his book.
Last night when I got on the bus, four or five middle-aged women were singing “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.” They were sitting toward the front of the bus, smiling at each other, wearing puffy coats, and hugging their purses.
"All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games!"
I was tired, hungry, and distracted, and the singers cheered me up as I passed them on my way toward the back.
"Rudolph with your nose so bright
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"
Their heads bobbed back and forth. I sat down and pulled out a newspaper.
Welcome to our first International Reader! Bruce Leslie is a friend and visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge. The SUNY history professor is also a devoted fan of WXXI hosts Simon Pontin and Richard Gladwell. In a recent e-mail, Bruce writes that he was streaming Richard’s show “With Heart and Voice” on Sunday morning, and he sent a picture of his residence in East Anglia with an 11th century Saxon church in the background. Inside the church, he says, is a plaque to the American airmen from the nearby base who died during World War II.
Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people!
Unto your TV set will be born a reality show that will bring peace and goodwill toward men. This will be a sign to you: you will find the show broadcasting on an NBC station, marked by the peacock logo. It’s called “Clash of the Choirs.” Based on a series from Scandinavia and produced by the BBC, this show sends musical superstars back to their hometowns to form amateur choirs. Lo, a great company of the heavenly host, including Michael Bolton, Patti LaBelle, Nick Lachey, Kelly Rowland and Blake Shelton, will descend on O Little Towns with cameras and producers and all the company of heaven to prepare a host of amateur singers to compete live in studio for the title of “America's best choir.”
Several years ago, my friend Nina was walking into the art building at Houghton College when she noticed something lying on the ground. It was a clay head—sculpted, fired, and then, apparently, despised and rejected. Nina studied its flat features, twisted lips, and Medusa-like hair. She asked around. Nobody claimed it, and so she carried it home and planted a snake plant in the open cavity on the top of its head.
The plant thrived in its dirt brain for a couple of years until my friend accepted a new job teaching at Bowling Green University in Ohio. While we were packing up, she yanked out the plant and stuck the head in a heap of junk to throw away. I noticed it.
The RPO’s excellent Gershwin CD didn’t make the list of Grammy contenders announced today in Los Angeles. About pianist Jon Nakamatsu’s 2007 much-praised collaboration with the RPO, my colleague Mordecai Lipshutz said, “At least they’re selling well.”
"That's not right!" exclaimed my friend Carl Pultz when he heard the news that the RPO had been left off the list. Carl says this proves the nominating system is "corrupt."
The last time was Friday on my way to the Plum House, a Japanese restaurant on Monroe Avenue. I swung by his old house, curious to see if the new owners had ripped out the hulking evergreens blocking the front porch, the bay windows, and the lights within.
Before he died, composer David Diamond said he wanted his ashes to be spread between the graves of his parents in Mount Hope Cemetery. His long-time friend and former neighbor Sam Elliott did that for him, with some of the ashes. But Sam got an idea. He divided the remaining ashes into thirds and poured them into three 6-inch plastic vials with screw caps.
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