Sunday, August 28, 2016

Stories as Dogma

The very best stories in the collected wisdom of the human race have several important things in common:
  • They always deal with important tribal mores, values and customs.
  • They are frequently told as "children's stories" although the target is the parents and mentors in the audience. 
  • Irony and frequently hyperbole are integral to the mnemonic.
The problem with these stories after they are collected into Holy Writ is that the irony and hyperbole is regarded as TRUTH™ and used by self-serving preachers to manipulate their followers in ways that would be abhorrent to the originators of the stories.   

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Choral CV




K-8 choir starting 4th grade.  First solo 4th boy sop.  Voice never broke just moved down through the parts.

Elite Church Choir 6-12.  Various parts.

Elite High School A Capella Choir.  One of two freshmen admitted. 

Highlight: Memorial Day concert ending with Faure Requiem.  Due to intense programming no applause was requested.  At the end the audience filed out in complete science. 

Stanford All University Chorus 4 years undergrad, 2 years Grad.  Good chorus nothing special

Five years not singing due to heavy travel for work but something definitely missing. 

New York Choral Society.  Top non-professional choir in NYC.  Frequent performances with visiting orchestras, Beethoven 9th,  Mahler 2nd , Handel Messiah repertoire pieces.  Chorus 1971 to 1979.  On working board 1972 to 1979. Normal venue Carnegie Hall.  We performed almost all of the Choral Standards including the big 5 Requiems and the usual Masses.

Highlights.

·         Beethoven Missa Solemnis under Roger Wagner, Bob DeCormier, and Robert Shaw.

·         Kodali Kallo Dances and Martinu Military Mass under DeCormier

·         Chorus for the Peter, Paul and Mary Chanukah-Holiday concert which was later televised as a PBS Special.  Look for the guy with the fake snow piling up on his tux.

·         Bernstein Chichester Psalms under Maestro Bernstein.



San Francisco Choral Society.  A top tier non-professional symphonic Chorus in San Francisco Bay area. Bass 1998-2005. Tenor 2006-present.  Performs standard choral repertory with emphasis on newer music.   With an annual warhorse in Davies Symphony Hall



Highlights

·         David Lang Battle Hymns: W/C Premier with active chorus, dance and children’s choir.

·         Stacy Garrop Terra Nostra: World Premier of her Modern Oratorio.

Started voice lessons for tenor soloist training 2013 with Brian Thorsett, then with Greg Wait. For the past year I have been working with Lee Strawn.  

Original publication 5/26/16

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Symphonic Choruses

Community Chorus please, well all right, none of us are paid to sing with the SFCS, but amateur is the wrong description of the performers in the Chorus. 
It is a sad fact of life that symphonic choruses are a luxury that few symphonies can afford to support as fully paid performers.  They must be a large group to carry over the orchestration of most of the repertoire, and much of the repertoire including the Verdi Requiem is technically very difficult. Auditioned community choruses are the only way audiences can hear much of the repertoire and new symphonic works like last fall's Terra Nostra by Stacy Garrop,
Many of the singers are music graduates, and some are soloists in other settings particularly church choirs that have a professional quartet as the core. Hardly amateurs in the sense you beat us up with.  All are accomplished musicians able to work up a thrilling group sound that you and audiences can properly applaud on relatively few one day a week rehearsals.  We put in the time and usually money, because we think Symphonic Choral music deserves a place in the Classical music scene.  For the most part community choruses are the only way you will get it. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Choral Fundamentals.



Choral singing whether 2 or a thousand if done beautifully demands brain synchronization on so many levels that a chorus is truly one voice.  This is certainly a genetic remnant from tribal societies or even before.  I am convinced that a good chorus hears the same music subconsciously moments before singing their part. Where this music comes from, the conductor, the lead singer, or the "ether" direct from the composer/arranger is at this point unknowable.  There are intelligent people that think that every thought or impulse from everyone living or dead is present in some space that is tuneable by the proper receiving brain, and music lends some credence to this for me, but I still don't believe it.  The music of the composer/arranger is somehow embedded in the score that the chorus can resonate with subconsciously as a group.  The melodies, the rhythms, the harmonies and the tempos are of course simply marks on some holder.  But when performed all come together to recreate the mind of the composer/arranger. 

To a lesser extent all music requires this synchronization but vocalization is so fundamental that it involves most of the brain.  All must be in sync with the composer/arranger   (Brava, Alice Parker) even if not physically present.  

Every good chorus I have sung with, and there have been many, has been an extremely tight social group where all members have liked and respected each other.  Years later they can reunite either individually or as a group and it as if no time has passed. The few outliers don't tend to last long no matter how well they sing.   

Original publication 12/10/16 

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Future of Suburban Living

As the top 20% crowd into the cities, voluntarily as that is where all the good stuff is within walking distance including most of the jobs that support the top 20% what happens to the suburbs that they leave?  Property values crater, and it becomes reasonable for the bottom 80% to achieve the American Dream of suburban living.  Rents in the strip malls and local shopping centers crater along with the property values, and become affordable for bodegas, Dollar stores, and other services catering to the lower income groups.  Assuming existing transit is maintained, (roads don't matter) as travel outside the neighborhood is mainly for jobs serving the 20%.  The 20% will insure it is maintained as they don't use it anyway and they need the service people who are gentrified out of the city.  

The current suburban standard of 4-5 bedrooms and 2-3 baths will serve an extended family of many as well as it serves the current family of 3.  The family room or a big downstairs room will be turned into a dorm for the kids and the adults will occupy the 4-5 bedrooms.  The modern luxury kitchen will easily serve dozens as well or better than it serves 3.

One can expect the current suburban developments to become ethnic enclaves, since once the block is busted and prices crater further, friends and families will join the blockbuster and remake the development to serve their needs.  The fences will come down and the large backyards will connect to be a big playground for the neighborhood.

It is happening as we chat, many suburban neighborhoods and cities connected by transit to the urban core are now ethnic enclaves, and the white homeowners are taking the money and running while the money is still there.  The elderly to "Adult communities" and the working ethnics are blockbusting a new community for their ethnic group.  

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Illnesses of Older People.

I recently had to deal with a diagnosis of serious throat cancer.  The reflexive recommendation of the Tumor Board for cancer of this stage was Radiation Therapy and simultaneous Chemotherapy starting ASAP. Radiation Therapy for throat cancer has a known side effect of damage to the vocal chords, which as a lifelong singer with a concert coming up I could not allow. 

This dilemma caused me to pull together a lot of things that had been in the round tuit box for some time.  First and foremost get the Advanced Directive registered with my health provider.  Secondly figure out what my priorities for the rest of my life should be.  Cancer, like strokes, heart disease, and many other ailments are to old age what head and neck injuries, joint damage, and wounds are to younger people.  If it doesn't kill you, you have to decide what compromises you have to make to continue to live a meaningful life worth dying for.  In other words, get your living priorities articulated in a way that can be discussed with others that are significant in your life including your medical team.  

At 76 I am well aware that life is finite and death will come sooner or later, preferably much later but not at the cost of compromising those things that make life worthwhile.  While alive my priorities sorted out to be 
  1. Don't die.
  2. Live as you have enjoyed living most of your life, in my case keep singing among several other high priority activities that make up my daily life.  
  3. Deal with serious health issues in a way that keep the above in perspective.  
In my case once I convinced the tumor board that radiation was not an option, they recommended an accelerated and dangerous Chemo protocol that would allow me to sing the concert if it didn't kill me. Knowing the risks I elected the protocol which indeed almost killed me, but knowing the risks enabled good choices of emergency treatment which indeed enabled my singing the concert.       

And many more as it turned out the protocol worked beyond most medical expectations and at this point the tumor and metastases are gone according to the usual cancer scans.  There is nothing useful that medicine can do at this point but watch for a recurrence.