Cary Ratcliff

AS YOU WISH, the top classical music stories in Rochester in 2010

Let’s recall the top classical music news stories in 2010 in Rochester, New York, with a nod to the Rob Reiner film, The Princess Bride.

NOT UNEMPLOYED IN GREENLAND     RPO Music Director Christopher Seaman announced his retirement at end of the 2010-2011 season.  Norwegian conductor Arild Remmeriet will step up as RPO’s new music director in 2011. Glimmerglass Opera announced that Francesca Zambello will be new executive director in 2011.

MUCH NICER THAN THE FIRE SWAMP   Eastman School of Music opened a new wing with dramatic atrium, recital hall, rehearsal spaces, and eye-popping hanging glass sculpture.

INCONCEIVABLE!   Rochester entrepreneur Tim Enright launched Virtuoso Television, or VTV, an internet service for musicians to record and store music lessons online for reference in future practice sessions.

HELLO, MY NAME IS “GIBBS AND MAIN”     Rochester chamber ensemble Quartsemble changed moniker.

NEVER GO AGAINST A STRING PLAYER WHEN DEATH IS ON THE LINE    RPO principal violist Melissa Matson stepped on needle, performed Harold in Italy with injured foot. RPO principal cellist Stefan Reuss fell and injured ribs and wrist, missing first few weeks of concert season.

A GREAT GIFT FOR RHYME    Baritone Jonathan Beyer earned Rochester Oratorio Society’s annual Classical Idol top prize with compelling performance of aria from "Nixon on China." Composer Cary Ratcliff gets oratorio "Ode to Common Things" published. Composer Amanda Jacobs won national award for "Mass for the Living."

HER APPEAL IS UNDENIABLE    Soprano Renee Fleming released “Dark Hope,” a collection of pop covers of songs by groups such as Arcade Fire, Death Cab for Cutie and Leonard Cohen. Rochester chamber choir Madrigalia premiered new work by Libby Larsen; Larsen visits.

NO ONE WITHSTANDS THE MACHINE  Michael Daughtery piano concerto, “Deus Ex Machina” co-commissioned by the RPO, earned 2010 Grammy nomination.  The Eastman's Ying Quartet was also nominated for a Grammy.

ANYBODY WANT A PEANUT?   Several Western New York public schools named “Best Communities for Music Education” in the United States by the non-profit NAMM Foundation; Albion Central School District, Brighton, Leroy, Pittsford, Royalton-Hartland Central School District, Rush-Henrietta, Webster, West Irondequoit.

Congratulations and Happy New Year!

Soprano saves opera! Dies on stage! Wakes for interview!

Eastman grad Kathryn Lewek, who recorded an exquisite set of art songs by Rochester composer Cary Ratcliff in 2008, got an amazing, unexpected chance to step into the starring role in Ambroise Thomas' opera Mignon at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara on August 7th.  The lead got sick. Lewek was her understudy.  Big moment ensued.  This could be a huge advance for her career.  After the show, she was interviewed about the experience. 
 
 
 
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Ear to the ground

First of all, Eastman Theatre is a MESS, according to Eastman student and WXXI intern Dylan Smith. He poked his head in the other day, and tipped us off to the fact that the School is posting pictures.  Thanks, Dylan!
 
Workers have less than two months to finish major renovations before the RPO opens the new digs October 8th, 9th, and 10th with a performance of Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony.” The Rochester Oratorio Society will sing the famous ending (“Ode to Joy.”) Members of the Society got an e-mail this week announcing the group has been asked to sing Verdi’s “Requiem” next May with the RPO. This is a significant change. The orchestra’s current schedule lists Verdi's “Aida” in concert May 20th and 22th. So now, as it stands, ROS will bookend the season of Philharmonic concerts. 

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From Park Avenue to the Forbidden City

Still jet-lagged. My body's convinced morning is night. My mind's still racing, thinking, processing. After so much stimulation, I'm starting to crash. I sleep like the dead.

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Music in China

On our last morning in Shanghai, I found myself in the hotel lobby with a dozen or so Rochester singers waiting for the bus to the airport. With our suitcases collected by the glass revolving door, others drifted into the gift shop or hotel Internet center. Three of four Chinese businessmen sat smoking and chatting on their cells. The Chinese smoke pretty much wherever they want. Bored, I wandered over to a baby grand piano draped in a red velvet cover. I pulled the ruffled fabric away and sat down in front of a heavily lacquered, black Yamaha. I touched a few keys. Perfectly in tune.

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Two songs, one about a radish

Composer Cary Ratcliff has graciously given me permission to post two songs for you from his new CD, “Kathryn Lewek Sings the Music of Cary Ratcliff.”

Click below to hear “Travel” and “The Radish.”

Click here to see my article about Cary in this week’s City newspaper.

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China trip II

We got our visas. But that wasn't all.

In less than a month, about eighty singers (including myself) will land in Beijing to sing in a Pre-Olympic Cultural Festival. On Monday night, members of the Rochester Oratorio Society finally received their passports with Chinese visas pasted in, marked in each booklet by a paper clip. Besides the visas, our conductor, Eric Townell, passed out three new pieces of music. Less than four weeks before the trip! We leave July 12th.

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Radish-struck

Next week, composer-pianist Cary Ratcliff releases a new recording of art songs. Elegant and spare, many explore the cusp of change, the breath before a new reality takes shape.

I’ve been writing a piece for City newspaper, and I got an advanced copy of Ratcliff’s songs, interpreted by soprano Katie Lewek. They’re luscious and addictive.

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How to win friends and influence singers

Regular readers may recall that when I started this blog, I was the choir director and organist at a small town Episcopal church in Upstate New York. I loved the creative work and the core singers whom I now consider some of my dearest friends.

But certain aspects of the job were tedious. I used to spend a fair amount of time cajoling volunteers into showing up for choir practice. Palestrina is sunk without participation, and you can’t pull off Mozart’s “Ave Verum” without at least a couple of basses and tenors. So I used to compose a weekly e-mail, such as:

“Dear St. Luke's choir member,

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