Thursday, March 27, 2008

Detroit Symphony Orchestra - Pops Concert

Just a word about the pops show "The Beat Goes On - The Music of the 60s.":

It was shocking to see the audience react to six singers and an orchestra recreate familiar tunes. The full house of people were swaying, singing and mouthing along and remembering the first time they heard the music.

I am fearful of the future when it will be the music of the 80s and 90s that are made into orchestrated medleys.. While I spend my days working toward the weekend productions of orchestral music, I often retreat to my love of popular forms, mostly alternative rock. Never could I imagine the day when the twain shall me. Will the proverbial "crossing of the streams" disrupt the rotation of the earth?

Can you imagine "Whip it" using the wooden orchestral whip blocks? With the inclusion of the Moog synthesizer, 80s bands carried music to a new level of sonic confusion. The purist rockers were still in force, putting out monster ballads to "come sail away" with your loved one. The first pop stars emerged, from the virginal Madonna to the king Michael Jackson and the odd but lovable Prince.

And how about the strains of Nirvana set into cellos and bases? The 1990s can be compared to the 20th century of Classical music. There was no one styles that dominated, but all were welcome to compete. From the mega pop stars to the birth (and death) of grunge, the coast division of hip hop (later becoming gansta rap), boy bands, teen divas and rebirth of r&b. There were power-pop bands, funk metal, industrial metal, ska, new-age punk, rock-rap and Hanson. (Side note: There was also a resurgence in Country. See ACHY BREAKY HEART).

If someone manages to create a show combining all of these elements I will be scared.... very scared.

But if it does happen, here are my top 5 80s hits to orchestrate:

5.) Madonna - Like a Prayer
4.) Michael Jackson - Billy Jean
3.) Prince - Raspberry Beret
2.) Guns 'N Roses - Welcome to the Jungle
1.) Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody

And my top 5 90s hits to orchestrate:

5.) TuPac - California
4.) Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
3.) Soundgarden - Blackholesun
2. ) Snoop Dogg - Gin 'n Juice
1.) Hootie and the Blowfish - Let Her Cry

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Detroit Symphony Orchestra - Concert No. 1

When I hear the name Jarvi, my mind first drifts to Paavo and the Cincinnati Symphony. They have been such a staple in my life for the past four years, it is hard to shake myself of that free association. But when I found out my first concert with the DSO would be under the direction of Paavo's father Neeme, I was excited to see where the skill and drive came from.

The program utilized half of the orchestra to perform great works of the Classical canon. Opening with Haydn's Symphony No. 88, the reduced orchestra sung under baton of Maestro Jarvi. And while I am sure it was a great performance, the work bored me nearly to sleep. No matter how well played, it is rare to find a composition by Hadyn that engages me.

The next work featured Canadian piano phenom Martin Stadfelt in his U.S. debut with Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23. He also reappeared on the second half of the program with J. S. Bach's Keyboard Concerto No. 4. Of the two pieces, the Bach was better the better work performed. Stadfelt is a young pianist and his age betrayed him in his hands. The Mozart was technically okay, but what was missing was the emotion behind the work. One of the DSO co-workers agreed with me, citing "he needs to get his heart broken a few times before re-attempting the piece."

The final work was Schubert's Fifth Symphony. This would have been a great piece to hear, but when set at the end of three very classical works, my ears had just too much of one style of music. I lost interest somewhere during the first movement, which was sad for this being my first connection with the DSO.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Toronto Symphony Orchestra

During my 27 years, I have traveled to 29 states and 10 European countries but I have never visited our neighbor to the North. During my first week at the DSO, I managed to cross into Canada twice, get harassed by Homeland Security transporting several artists and bring back a questionable bit of food from a dim sum restaurant.

Tonight the Toronto Symphony made the trip to Detroit for a performance. Peter Oundjian leads the orchestra and his relationship as Principal Guest Conductor of Detroit has afforded this cultural exchange. I think it is great to have both communities experience the continuity of conductor with the difference of an orchestra. It is an idea to be expanded upon, which could blossom to having national and international sister cities exchange musicians or entire orchestras.

The performance of Mahler 4 had me stunned. When Peter lead my Sinfonia in Aspen, it was an amazing experience because the orchestra was close to me. Now, with a world-class set of musicians, the sound was moving, powerful and stimulating. I think I actually teared up. I was there at Peter's first rehearsal of Mahler 4 and to now see it come full circle was fulfilling.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Welcome to the Motor City

Here I am, less than 200 miles from where I originally grew up, to complete my final assignment as part of the Fellowship. It could be fate that returns me to my humble beginnings or perhaps a bit of luck, but mostly it just reminds me of just why I left in the first place: to pursue my dream or working in the music industry.

For my final assignment, I knew to have no expectations. The entire nation casts Detroit in an downtrodden economic shadow, but I have heard so many positive things about the symphony. And people tell the truth. The staff of the DSO immediately welcomed me with open arms. I have gotten use to being thrown into a new work environment and immediately being expected to swim. The staff was quite inviting and allowed me to test the waters, get comfortable and orient myself... before plunging into a stack of meetings about marketing and operations.

It should be a good 13 weeks.

New York Week No. 2

3 days in the car, then 4 hours on 2 planes to reach one bus to take me to Manhattan.

An intense three days of discussions on leadership, mock interviews and horrible theme bars.

I missed my Fellows.