WXXI Classical Blog

Organ bench I

This Sunday morning, all across America, hundreds of thousands of professional musicians rolled out of bed, got dressed, and headed for church. I was one of them. I’ve played the organ and directed the choir in an Episcopal church for five years.

Christmas Eve will be my last service.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up and tell you a bit about my experience as a professional musician in a small town.
First of all, I never quite shook the sensation that I was playing a part in a Thornton Wilder play. Once, while I was practicing for a funeral, a woman I knew from high school walked in, her arms full of flowers.

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how free pizza changed her life

A few weeks ago, I got the chance to interview two Rochester music writers on a live call-in radio show, 1370 Connection Arts Friday.

If you click on the link below, you can hear classical and jazz critic Anna Reguero tell the story of how free pizza changed her life. Anna writes for the Rochester, New York daily, the Democrat and Chronicle. You’ll also hear City newspaper’s Frank DeBlase offend our listeners almost right off the bat with the term “blue-hairs.” (He later gets the chance to apologize to an irate caller.) Frank writes for City, Rochester, New York’s alternative newsweekly.

The future of the CD . . . classical, jazz, rock, and rockabilly . . . analyzing music clips . . . I find this all entertaining, and I hope you think it’s interesting, too.

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Running with Steve Reich II

A few days ago I wrote about running with Steve Reich’s minimalist music on my iPod.

The American composer wrote back. He said,

“Tell Brenda I read her blog and am glad she runs to my music. That's a good use for it. She also points out how classical music doesn't keep a steady beat and is no good for running. Well, tell her that's true for Brahms, Mahler and many other romantic composers of the 19th century, but she should give J.S. Bach a shot. Something as easy to find as the Brandenburg Concertos. He - if correctly played - certainly keeps a steady beat and would seem like a natural joy to run to.

All the best,
Steve”

* * * * *

Dear Steve,

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The RPO, Musical Chairs

It wasn’t earth shattering, but it was mildly surprising.

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra switched the positions of the cellos and violas the other night. The cellos are now sitting in the center of the orchestra between the violins and violas, and the violas are closest to the audience on the conductor’s right side.

“[Pinchas] Zukerman had the Orchestra sit that way when he guest-conducted here,” Music Director Christopher Seaman explained via e-mail. “The string principals and I thought it would be worth trying again. The Cleveland Orchestra sits that way (I think), [and so does] the Baltimore Symphony, the Melbourne Symphony (Australia), Columbus Symphony, and many others.”

Seaman added, “No seating is perfect for every section or all repertory.”

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No Music Day

If someone asked you to give up music for a day, would you? Could you?

Writer and former rock star Bill Drummond wants you to try. Tomorrow, if possible. He’s declared Wednesday, November 21st “No Music Day.”

His point? To get us to think about the unwanted, sometimes-god-awful music we’re forced to hear in public places such as lobbies, restaurants, and shared office spaces. His point is to get us to listen mindfully.

To support Drummond’s mission, BBC Radio Scotland will eliminate all music November 21st, including the short clips before the news. Thousands of people have promised to live in silence for the day on the No Music Day Web site, http://www.nomusicday.com/home.html.

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Running with Steve Reich

I started running eleven years ago, and I’ve run essentially the same four-mile route from the start. The first mile follows the Erie Canal, then jogs south. There’s a long, upward slope, a left by the college sign, and then a loop around the campus of the State University of New York at Brockport. The route winds through arches, down brick walkways and through a tunnel of locust trees. At the end, I huff up a staircase to a place where someone’s sprayed “REPOMAN” on the concrete wall of a bridge. At the end of a run, I’m always glad to see Repoman.

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Behind the Scenes at Backstage Pass


9:59 a.m. Friday, November 16th. Backstage Pass, WXXI's live studio music show, airs in about 3 hours.
Host Julia Figueras is still not sure what guests Juliana Athayde and William Preucil will be playing. Since the two violinists had a student-teacher relationship, Julia decides to focus the interview on the subject of mentoring. 10:15 a.m. Julia shows her list of interview questions to intern Hannah St. Marie.

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Secret Confessions from Skitty


Skitty says, “I like Andrea Bocelli.”

Skitty purred when she heard that Bocelli sang at the Metropolitan Opera earlier this week. But the purring stopped when someone explained to her that he was only testing the acoustics. Bocelli, the blind pop star tenor whose reedy voice is much-maligned by classical music critics, is friends with Met general manager Peter Gelb. Bocelli might perform an out-of-season recital.

How bad can he be? Well, he’s no Elvis.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btfBQQNk8Q8

Read on for miscellany.

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pattern recognition

“So you see, imagination needs moodling - long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.” - Brenda Ueland

My colleague Simon and I slipped out for coffee the other day.

Heading out the back door, we nearly tripped over a tropical plant sticking out of a plastic bag.

Who would throw out that nice plant? I wondered to myself. Did someone get fired? Is it dead? Would it fit in my car? I should adopt that plant, no, wait, I kill houseplants. Maybe it’s still alive. I don’t want it, but it’ll die out here . . .

While I was running down this maternal track, Simon whipped out his camera phone.

“What a great shot,” he said.

He crouched down and snapped a picture.

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the classical flipside

Quartsemble's new album, TangoQuartsemble's new album, Tango
Today a few Rochesterians will go hear string quartet Quartsemble perform in the Hochstein Performance Hall.

Next month, others will hear the same group -- in a bar.

WRUR’s Scott Regan tipped me off to the fact that Quartsemble has been playing a monthly gig at the Flipside Bar and Grill. (Next time they’ll play is December 16th. http://www.flipsidebarandgrill.com/)

A lot of classical musicians, impatient with the clunky cultural trappings of the traditional scene, are popping up in unexpected places.

Baltimore-based saxophonist Brian Sacawa writes about his experience playing bars,

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