Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ned Kirk to introduce new musical masterpieces to Lincoln audience

Repost: October 26, 2011

Ned Kirk will perform in Lincoln on October 30, 2011
Ned Kirk will perform in Lincoln on October 30, 2011
Bruce DeFries, courtesy of Ned Kirk

Looking for something to do in Lincoln this weekend? Wesleyan University’s “Bravo Bosendorfer” Concert series brings you Ned Kirk at the piano. This performance takes place on Sunday, October 30th at 3:00pm in O’Donnell Auditorium (50th Street and Huntington Ave.). Tickets: Adult, $12; Senior Citizens, $10; Students, $8. More information regarding tickets is available by calling 402-465-2269

Ned Kirk, chair of the music department at St. Mary’s University in Winona Minnesota, has been performing around the country and the world for the past 25 years. Sharing with Examiner readers, Kirk said; “my most memorable concert was in Mombasa, Kenya, two years ago when I gave a concert at an outdoor pavilion sponsored by the U.S. Embassy. It was incredibly hot and very, very humid, and there were monkeys screaming in the trees nearby, and all I could think was... How amazing is this!”

Although there will most likely not be any screaming monkeys at the performance in Lincoln this weekend, Kirk is hoping that the audience “will enjoy hearing new things.” He wants to present pieces that are lesser known, “but are absolutely masterworks.”

The first half of the program consists entirely of works by Beethoven, a well-loved composer, while the second half will introduce the audience to composers by the names of Medtner, Reger, Rzewski, and Kapustin. Most of the pieces will be new or unfamiliar to the audience, but “to balance that, I have included an audience favorite of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata.” Even with the well-known piece, the audience will discover that there is more to the “Moonlight” Sonata than the first movement!

Kirk admitted that he has no favorites: “I love it all!” However, he hopes that “an audience favorite might be Rzewski because of the interesting mix of 20th Century techniques and Jazz themes – a very effective piece!”

Sunday, October 16, 2011

'The Four Seasons' was wild and stunning

The audience as it eagerly awaited the performance "The Four Seasons" at the Lied Center
The audience as it eagerly awaited the performance "The Four Seasons" at the Lied Center
Amy Flamminio

Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra wowed the audience again with their second concert of the season, The Four Seasons. As Conductor Edward Polochick explained to the audience, the idea for this evening’s performance came to him several years ago. At the time, Polochick conducted the premiere of César Olguin’s arrangement of Astor Piazzolla’s Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas. At last, for a Lincoln audience, Polochick’s inspiration came to life—a program featuring both Vivaldi’s and Piazzolla’s Four Seasons.

“Remember,” the Maestro told the audience, “we really have eight different seasons here because Piazzolla is writing about seasons in the southern hemisphere, and Vivaldi is writing from sunny Italy in the northern hemisphere.”
The Chiara String Quartet took the stage with a string orchestra and piano, and the beginning of Piazzolla opened with what could have been Vivaldi, but suddenly broke into tango rhythms. The audience couldn’t contain itself and broke into spontaneous applause after hearing “Summer.”

“Autumn” could be described as wild. That is, wild and fast, wild and dissonant, and wild and lonely during Jonah Sirota’s achingly beautiful viola solo during this piece. “Winter” had a beautiful and peaceful ending that could have left you wondering what century it was written in because of it’s timeless harmonies. Closing with “Spring,” LSO and the Chiara String Quartet played with unabated energy, wild southern springtime rhythms.

After Piazzolla, the audience was left wondering how Vivaldi’s Four Seasons could follow such a work. But as Rachel Barton Pine took the stage and described the story told by Vivaldi’s work, the audience were wrapped up in the music. Without ever mentioning a technical term, Pine described the motives, or musical ideas, that would be present in each movement. She described the trilling birds, flowing stream, and light thunderstorm in first movement of “Spring.” The second movement, she told the story of a napping shephered, “That’s me!” she grinned, and told how the violins are rustling leaves, the violas are a barking hound, what she declared was “Vivaldi’s version of an 18th century viola joke!” as the audience laughed.

Without throwing terms like “concerto grosso, ripieno, motives, or programmatic music,” Pine made Vivaldi’s music engaging for everyone, and her virtuosic performance was spectacular without drawing attention to itself. It may best be summed with her description of the first movement of “Autumn,” “I represent a particularly drunken guy, stumbling around, and basically making a fool of himself...” This comical account won the audience’s attention to the story told by the music, almost forgetting the brilliance and vivacity with which Pine’s violin played the virtuosic passages of the “drunken fool.”

Another wonderful part of the performance was Polochick at the harpsichord performing as harpsichordist and as conductor. Just to hear the harpsichord on stage gave a vital and delightful authenticity to the performance.

After a thoroughly engaging and flawless performance of the Four Seasons, Pine was called back on stage by a standing ovation and gave an encore from her latest CD. Fittingly, she chose to play Piazzolla’s Liberetude in closing, and give us a taste of the wild tango rhythms and an exciting finish to a stunning concert.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lincoln's piano teachers learn from Barbara Lister-Sink

Barbara Lister-Sink's mission is to "free the caged bird" by teaching injury-preventive keyboard techniques.
Barbara Lister-Sink

On Barbara Lister-Sink’s recent trip to Lincoln as Guest Clinician for the Nebraska Music Teachers’ Association (NMTA) 2011 Conference, October 13-14, she spoke with this Examiner about her work of teaching injury-preventive keyboard technique. Lister-Sink has given numerous presentations for national and international music organizations, and at the NMTA conference, she gave three sessions on the subject.

At the Conference
Of course, she was speaking about what she loves. As Lister-Sink said about her work, “the driving force is that I want people to be available to make fabulous music. I’m not a doctor or a physical therapist, although I embrace aspects of all those things in order to train teachers and musicians, so that we can unite to make beautiful music.”
In order to be free to make music, Lister-Sink primarily covers “the roots and casues of discomfort, pain, and injury in playing the piano.” She said that she also tries to impart “the urgent need for all of us to work together to find common language and common core principles of good body use.” She defines technique as “the best coordination of the whole body, directed by the brain.”

Lister-Sink draws attention to the fact that the music-making involves a relationship between the body and the instrument, “I’m like a marriage counselor. There’s an ergonomic relationship going on and you have to understand the body, muscles, how they work, and how the piano works.” In the end, you discover the most efficient way to produce sound. “Once you understand these core principles, I teach how to embody them, to use sensory information, and know the various muscle groups, where they are, and what they feel like.”
Another analogy she drew was that of an energy conservationist; “it’s like going into someone’s house to do an energy check.” To help do her energy checks, on Thursday at the conference, Lister-Sink “did something about the medial deltoid because, for whatever reason, we’ve modeled our teachers or nobody’s told us not to, and we hike out the upper arm, demobilizing the shoulder joint.” The goal, she said is to allow the joints “to move easily and subtly at the piano.”

One of Lister-Sink’s goals is “getting a language that is useful and factual.” She is continually fact-checking with physical therapists and biomechanics experts as well as going back to school to combine the study of neuroscience and pedagogy. One way to describe the goal of her methodology of teaching is that there must be an understanding of “what the fundamental sensations are of sound production. Sort of like learning the primary colors, but by the time you get to a Chopin Etude, you’re mixing, and you don’t even see the primary colors anymore, but it’s all in a mix that works.”

By knowing how the body works and using it properly, Lister-Sink says she “can be more fully available to listen, the musician’s primary duty, to see whether my concept is actually being produced acoustically. If I’m all bound up in motion, too much muscle tension, I may distract myself to think I’m being musical, but am I really doing what I think I’m doing?” She encourages pianists to record themselves and listen to whether they are producing the sound they want and creating a musical aural experience.

These aural experiences that music should create can be compared to “listening to a story on the radio" which "puts it deeply inside a part of your brain” versus watching the same story on TV, which "is a different experience because there are other things lighting up your brain, it’s neuroscience, really. I think there’s a profound experience just listening. The great late Rubinstein, and Horowitz, if you look at them on youtube, you see pianists really listening, you can see it in their face, really listening, and then controlling the sound so they can do with it what they want. It’s hard for young people to model after it now because there’s not a lot of it around still. I’m trying to empower people to know what they’re doing ‘freeing the caged bird’ of their artistry.”

When asked what first got her interested in “empowering” people, Lister-Sink replied that the first transformative experience was her own injury at the age of 16, “that was a wake-up call. I didn’t know that was possible, and it continued to be a mystery. Nobody really knew what I had; there was a lot of misdiagnosis. In those decades, there were also injuries of choice, lots of pianists in the 70s were getting a nerve clipped in the thumb!”

In Holland, Lister-Sink had a “Eureka! experience” when she found a great teacher who told her to “be aware of what you’re doing: you have to be aware of what state your muscles are in.” By teaching Lister-Sink virtuosic technique that involved impulse techniques and fragment work, she was able to play the big repertoire without the pain that she used to experience when playing it. But the pain returned a few years later when she was back in America and she went back to Holland to try to find some answers. There she found a physical therapist who did something no one else had ever done: “She made me sit down at a piano and observed as I played. She said, ‘you’re back is bowed, you’re hyper-extended, and you’ve cut of circulation with your alignment of your arm, and you’re lymphatic system’s clogged.’ Suddenly, it was like ‘oh! The restof the body, not just my arms and fingers!’ Your spine matters, the control center is the brain, and communicates through the spine.”

Lister-Sink, continually fact-checking and learning more, is helping to empower teachers and future musicians through her injury-preventive techniques, and Lincoln teachers learned a lot from her this past week about “freeing the caged bird”—allowing the freedom to create music!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Kraig Scott to perform 'Basically Brahms'

On Sunday, October 16, the Lincoln Organ Showcase (LOS) presents Kraig Scott in concert at 3:00pm on the organ in the College View Seventh Day Adventist Church. A few weeks ago, the LOS hosted the performance ofJonathan Ryan, and this is the second performance of the season. Tickets are $15 at the door, but under 18 is free!
Kraig Scott, professor of organ at Walla Walla University, has performed in many states and at least ten countries from South Korea to Scotland. According to his biography at the WWU website, “Scott’s responsibilities at WWU include conducting the University choirs, teaching organ and harpsichord students, serving as church organist, and overseeing all music at the University Church. In addition to these duties, Scott is an adjunct professor at Whitman College and director of music at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.”
Basically Brahms
For the performance in Lincoln, Scott will be presenting “Basically Brahms” and shared a few thoughts in an exclusive interview for title of this performance, Scott explained came about in “a very personal way.” After a colleague at WWU passed away last summer, “her husband wanted lots of Brahms at her service. I ended up rearranging some of the Requiem for solo voice and organ accompaniment and learning most of the Brahms chorale preludes.”
In preparing Brahms for the funeral of his colleague, Scott says he was “reminded of the great beauty and intensity of this music,” and thus “decided it would make a great recital to program all of the Brahms chorale preludes.” Scott is also giving us a glimpse of Brahms early and late compositions since “he is one of those composers whose last musical thoughts were for the organ (like J.S. Bach and Cesar Franck, for instance).” However, Scott points out, “Brahms wrote for organ very early in his life and at the very, very end of his compositional output. So the program will feature very early Brahms and very mature Brahms.”
Included on the “Basically Brahms” program is a work by English composer Charles Hubert Hastings Parry. “Parry longed to travel to Germany to study with Brahms, but this dream never materialized. I like the connection however, and hear a connection between their compositional styles. So we begin with a Prelude and Fugue by Brahms and end with a Fantasia and Fugue by Parry.”
Comfort, memories, and light bulbs
When asked what he hopes the audience will take away from his performance on Sunday, Scott said he hopes that they will experience “the comfort and love that, I believe, Brahms wanted to communicate in his chorale preludes. Musicologists have spilled a lot of ink arguing about the nature of Brahms’ spiritual experience. I cannot say for sure what he thought of organized religion or whether his beliefs were orthodox. But I have no doubt that he believed in a divine higher power and that he found comfort, love, and strength in that belief which he in turn sought to communicate through his compositions.” Basically, Scott wants his audience to have a truly musical experience, one that is spiritually and emotionally moving.
He also shared some of his own memories. “Favorite memories? The impact of the locations of organs I have had the privilege to play. For instance, the medieval glory of the 900-year-old Dunblane Cathedral; the many staircases leading up to the organ lofts of North German churches in places like Hamburg, Lubeck, Norden, and Lüneburg; and the crow’s nest view from the organ of a large Spanish church in La Selva del Camp.”
But it is in teaching organ that Scott gets to see the “light bulb” come on. He said, “I love seeing the light bulb come on when a student begins to understand how to make music on the organ,” and went on to explain, “the organ can’t inflect dynamics, but I remind students that all art is, in a sense, illusion and miracle. When we see a picture that depicts a landscape, we actually see depth... but that’s an illusion because the canvas is flat. Through vanishing point perspective, we have a miracle of depth in a picture. The same thing happens in all music. The fact that an organ cannot inflect dynamics means there is more room for miracles. It’s a very exciting thing to see a student come alive to that fact.”
This Sunday, a Lincoln audience will be treated to the miracle of organ music with “Basically Brahms.”
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tony Caramia and an intimate evening with an American theme

First published October 13, 2011

"It's like you're in his living room." This was the reaction of one audience member to Tony Caramia's recital, An American Journey. Caramia brought everyone in the O'Donnell Auditorium into his living room by his stories about creating this particular "themed recital." With music teachers and students in Lincoln attending the NMTA 2011 Conference, they were given a wonderfully fun evening of music by attending Caramia's recital tonight, October 13th.
The audience entered to the sounds of Meredith Wilson's Orchestra playing and covers from late 1800s-early 1900s song covers, a setting of the mood, both aurally and visually. Caramia began with an "American Beauty Rag" and a slideshow of rag sheet music covers from all over America.
But Caramia made it an intimate setting when he began describing how he comes up with his themed recitals. "Titles intrigue me," he said,"and 'sonata' just doesn't appeal to me." Instead, he starts with a title like "Accent on Rhythm," fascinated by that title, it led him to find American titles from the same publisher, and he began a search through IMSLP, NAXOS, and, "everybody's favorite," Google. A delightful discovery that Caramia shared was Manuel Blancafort's Homage to Chaplin fromAmerican Souvenir. "For the younger people: If you don't know who Charlie Chaplin is, try a Google search of him," Caramia advised, "this piece gives a great musical tribute to his humor and his compassionate side."
Caramia shared the themes of some of his past recitals. "One year I chose to do 'Ballads and Ballades,' I played a lot of Jazz ballads with some Classical ballades.... Another year, my theme was 'Preludes,' so I did all Preludes, none of the Fugues." Last year, Caramia said that he chose to celebrate two birthdays. In honor of Chopin's 200th birthday, he sought out and performed, not the works of Chopin, but works of other composers written in honor of Chopin. "The second birthday I celebrated, was my own." He said as the crowd chuckled, "I played pieces from 1950, like the great music of 'Guys and Dolls' and a wonderful piece by Norman dello Joio."
The last half of the program consisted of some Jazz improvisations based on songs about certain American cities which Caramia called "a jazzy jaunt through St. Louis, Chicago, New Orleans, and Manhattan." All the while, the improvisations were accompanied by a slideshow of artwork on covers of songs about the cities in question.
As the lights faded out completely, Caramia performed an improvisation on "America the Beautiful," and the slideshow presented covers of American or patriotic songs from the Civil War era, World War I, and everything in between, ending with several picturesque covers for various editions of "America the Beautiful."
Caramia gave this Lincoln audience an intimate, fun evening, and the musicians in the audience could learn from him how to program a themed recital as well as how to incorporate visual media with their own performances. He also demonstrated wonderful technique as his hands seemed to simply toss of the notes effortlessly creating energy and rhythm in the music.
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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lincoln's Symphony Orchestra brings you the 'Four Seasons'

Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra brings you the ‘Four Seasons’
As weather in Lincoln changes every five minutes between summer, fall, and winter, Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra will perform a concert called, “The Four Seasons.” This event takes place at the Lied Center for Performing Arts on Friday, October 14, 2011. At 7:30pm, audience members will be treated to Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires performed by the LSO and the Chiara String Quartet.
Piazzolla, an Argentinian composer, is famous for bringing tango and jazz together with classical music. This performance will show the Latin and tango inspiration in Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.
Violinist Rachel Barton will join with LSO to perform the famous work ofVivaldi, also entitled The Four Seasons. Born in Venice in 1678, Vivaldi became music instructor at the girls' school in 1703 and worked there for roughly 15 years. Although a celebrated violinist, Vivaldi composed for many instruments in order to feature different students in concerts at the school.
One piece from The Four Seasons is "Summer." It starts out calm, serene. In Lincoln, this may be compared to early on a summer morning, but it becomes agitated and excited briefly, perhaps to indicate the rising temperature. The second movement sounds like one might imagine the stillness of a hot afternoon. This movement reminds us that it is cool and calm if one stays in the shade or indoors, but intermittently, there is a threat of a coming storm, which then breaks upon us in the third movement.
The third movement of "Summer" may arguably be the most famous movement from all the concertos of "The Four Seasons." A search for "Summer by Vivaldi" on iTunes yields hundreds of albums featuring this concerto. The albums may feature all Vivaldi pieces, or may be collections of summer music, Baroque music, or even rock and techno as this famous piece has been adapted by some artists in those modern genres.
Although summer weather seems to have subsided now, be sure to attend LSO’s The Four Seasons on Friday. Ticket information is available at: 402-476-2211 or the LSO website.
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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bill Cosby and the Cornhuskers

On October 7, 2011, the TV legend, Bill Cosby, came to Lincoln and performed "Live at the Lied." As the opening performance of the Lied Center's 2011-2012 season, Mr. Cosby was certainly a success and tickets had sold out months in advance.
Despite the fact that it is homecoming weekend for Nebraska and many events and parties were taking place downtown at the same time as the Bill Cosby performance, there was a packed house and an air of excitement! As Cosby came on stage sporting a big, red Nebraska sweater, the crowd errupted with not only applause, but a standing ovation--this was before he'd even said a word.
For the next hour and a half, Cosby delighted the audience with his stories, jokes, and especially, his wonderful expressions. He talked about farming and football, proposals, childhood crushes, and marriage. Just as with his famous television show, "The Cosby Show," everything Cosby talked about spoke right to the audience. At age 15, he said "I had only two things going for me, hope and stupidity." For older members of the audience, they could relate to his jokes about growing old. "When I proposed to my wife, I said 'I want to grow old together'... I didn't know what that meant! No, I did not want to grow old!"
Stories about marriage, gleaned from his 47 years of marriage with his wife, rang true to all the married people, even a little girl appreciated the humor, "that's just what mom does to dad!"she exclaimed, as Cosby explained the way things disappear as his wife tidies and puts his things away even if he's right there.
From children to young adults to people of Cosby's own generation, everyone had a wonderful time. One young man was heard to remark, "I can't believe I got to see Bill Cosby live!"
When Cosby asked the audience what time it was so that he didn't get carried away, one person tried to tell him it was 7:30 (the time the show started) because they didn't want it to end!
Leaving the audience in stitches, Cosby left to the sound of wild applause as the audience leapt to their feet. Both the standing ovations, before and after the performance, were well-deserved by this lovable legend of laughter!
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Friday, October 7, 2011

Tony Caramia: Making musical memories with 'An American Journey'

Tony Caramia, Professor of Piano at the Eastman School of Music, will be giving a concert in Lincoln as part of the 2011 Nebraska Music Teacher’s Conference taking place at Wesleyan University. The concert is Thursday, October 13, at 7:30pm at O’Donnell Auditorium. The concert is open to the public and tickets are $15 at the door.
Caramia has performed on NPR’S “Piano Jazz,” the Rochester International Jazz Festival, and three National Conferences on Keyboard Pedagogy. Besides performing, Caramia conducts workshops in Jazz piano for Music Teacher’s National Association (MTNA) Conventions, International Workshops, and has lectured at conferences on several other continents as well. Besides Jazz and Piano Pedagogy, Caramia is passionate about “theme recitals” and the use of multi-media in performances.
An American Journey
Recently, Caramia shared a little of what has gone into programming this concert, which is entitled An American Journey. “I have a lot of fun planning recitals. I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I think I have more fun planning a concert than in practicing for it.”
For starters, Caramia explains, “I come up with an idea, a concept, and it takes me on a journey of discovery.” He said that the title of this concert has several meanings—for it also took him on a journey. It began when “I came across some music that I had purchased, I don’t remember when. It was 1940s sheet music from a publisher who specialized in publishing ‘Modern Piano Compositions.’ I found this title ‘Accent in Rhythms’ and bought it for the title. Then, I noticed an ad for other publications and it featured ten selections with America in the title.”
From there, Caramia had his inspiration. Meredith Wilson, later to become famous for composing the Music Man, had commissioned these original pieces for his orchestra on a 1930s radio show. Four of these pieces have been newly arranged for piano by Caramia and will be published by Alfred Music Publishing very soon.
He began searching for other pieces that were American themed. “Themed recitals lead me to find composers that I haven’t played before, or to find lesser known pieces by well-known composers.” He found a Spanish composer who had written an homage to Chaplin, a Rag from 1915 entitled “American Beauty Rag,” pieces that feature American cities in the title, and others.
A Musical Journey
“I teach at the wonderful Eastman School of Music, which has an open-mindedness to recital programming.” Caramia explained that this “open-mindedness” means realizing the importance of finding a balance between the old familiars and the new. At the Eastman School of Music, there are performances of the core of Classical music repertoire, “but there is also a Jazz program which encourages Jazz performances and contemporary and new compositions are likewise explored.” Caramia stated that he hopes to see more national performers branching out from the old and trying something new.
For aspiring performers, Caramia has this advice: “Use different aspects of your creativity. If you speak well, speak; if you are artistic, incorporate powerpoints or pictures with your performance—redefine what performing means! Don’t just do the same-old, same-old. I want to encourage as much creativity as possible.”
Caramia’s performance in Lincoln on October 13, will demonstrate not only the theme of An American Journey, but also his use of multi-media. As the audience enters the auditorium and during intermission, they will be hearing original recordings of the American pieces as performed by the Meredith Wilson Orchestra. During the performance by Caramia, a slideshow of sheet music covers that are artistic in their own way and feature the American theme will play.
Come, enjoy An American Journey!
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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bill Cosby live in Lincoln

First published October 4, 2011

William H. Cosby, Jr., better known and loved as Bill Cosby, will be in Lincoln on Friday, October 7th to open the Lied Center for Performing Arts' 2011-2012 season. Lincoln audiences, like people from all over the country, fondly remember growing up and raising families with Bill Cosby's shows always brining a smile to the home. For years, he has brought the American Dream to television audiences everywhere.
From his first appearance on network television with his role in "I SPY" in 1965 to the "Cosby Show" in the 1980s and "Cosby" in the 1990s, Bill Cosby was a familiar face in everyone's home. Nearly three generations of children have or are growing up laughing at his funny faces. Parents can relate to the parenting joys and woes of Cliff and Claire Huxtable.
Bill Cosby has won numerous television and comedy awards from Emmy's, Grammy's, Kennedy Center Honor's, and People's Choice Awards. He has written several wonderful books filled with humorous insights. His new book,I Didn't Choose to be Born (But I'm Glad I Was), is set for release on November 1, 2011.
The Lied Center made a good call when they invited Cosby to perform in Lincoln. Tickets were sold out almost before they became available. Bill Cosby is sure to be a hit with the Lincoln audience who will give him a warm welcome.