WXXI Classical Blog

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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Fashion sense

When soprano Allyn Van Dusen walked into the Hochstein Performance Hall, I half-expected she’d be wearing a full-length antique wrap that had belonged to her grandmother. (She’d mentioned it when we'd talked about her appearance on WXXI's weekly live radio show, "Live from Hochstein.") Instead, she appeared in a metallic sleeveless top, a casual, fringed broomstick skirt, and jeweled sandals. Her appearance hinted at the exotic influences in the music: Ravel’s “Sheherazade,” for example, unfolds in tri-tones to evoke the sight of a bejeweled Persian queen.

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Ravel


"It is beautiful, it is beautiful after all. I have said nothing. I leave nothing. I have not said what I wanted to say. I have so much more to say.”
- French composer Maurice Ravel

Wednesday, May 7th on Live from Hochstein, soprano Allyn Van Dusen sings Ravel’s “Sheherazade.”

Update: Hear Allyn talk about singing here.

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Are you smart? trustworthy? sober?

Ten random strangers are willing to judge you, based exclusively on your looks, when you upload your picture to Facestat.com. The site uses Amazon Mechanical Turk, an automated web service named after an 18th-century chess-playing mannequin, which turns artificial intelligence on its head by making requests of humans. On Facestat, people judge faces. Among other things, they’ll estimate your intelligence, relationship status, and whether or not you were drunk at the time the picture was taken.

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Secret Confessions from Skitty

Skitty says, "I SO dig Gnarls Barkley."

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Yo-Yo Ma takes your questions now

Thanks to Gerry Szymanski, Andrew Galbraith-Ryer, Christoph Sahar, Eric Fundin, RPO Music Director Christopher Seaman and my mom for coming up with great questions for superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma. I asked him all of your questions, and you can hear his answers in this interview.

Yo-Yo Ma talks about losing his cello, the upcoming Beijing Olympics, and playing with a robot conductor next month. He was warm, funny, and forthright. He’ll appear with the RPO on Monday, May 5th.

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Pride & Prejudice

It’s official!

October 21st is the date of the Pre-Broadway Premiere of Pride & Prejudice, the musical by Lindsay Warren Baker and Amanda Jacobs. Eastman Theatre, Rochester.

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Yo-Yo, Robot

After Yo-Yo Ma leaves Rochester next week, he’ll play under the baton of a robot with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, according to Wired magazine.

A robot might have done a better job than guest conductor Alexander Mickelthwate, who made his first appearance with the RPO this past weekend. The D & C’s Stuart Low got it right: the hot, young conductor from Winnipeg was boring. Unnamed sources say local musicians concurred.

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Operatic interruptus

On Saturday afternoon, hundreds of opera lovers at Victor’s Regal Theatre missed significant chunks of Donizetti’s “La Fille du Regiment” during The Met at the Movies HD broadcast. The video broke up and the sound dropped out at the beginning of the second Act. We watched distorted faces and heard digitized squawks for about a minute. Then the screen went blue. We waited. A staff member rushed in and said they were working on the problem. About ten minutes later, the sound came back and the singers reappeared. Then it happened again. Audiences members groaned, since things were getting really interesting with the shocking disclosure of the Duchess’s illegitimate daughter!

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