Saturday, August 27, 2011

Who has the "best" national anthem?

In yesterday's post, I praised Goshen College for its decision to stick with its avowed tenets of pacifism and replace the playing of the "Star-Spangled Banner" with "America the Beautiful."  In a nutshell, the anthem--based on a 1760s fraternal drinking song--is extremely difficult for all but well-trained singers to pull off and its text speaks of the horrors of a naval bombardment of an American fort.  Enough said.

However, what makes a national anthem great?  Must it be easy to sing?  Probably.  Must its text reflect the values of its culture and people?  Definitely.  Thus, as an experiment, I have decided to put several examples to the test.  Rather than comparing every extant tune and variant, I have chosen only to include those countries that I have visited (for more than a quick lay-over, thus eliminating Great Britain, Sweden and Denmark).

First, let us example our neighbor to the north, whose anthem "O Canada," replaced "God Save the King (Queen)" in 1967.  French-Canadian-American musician Calixa Lavallée (1842-1891) wrote the tune in 1880 to a French patriotic poem by Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier (1839-1920).  The words have been both translated into English (and Inuit!) and rewritten several times, taking their current form in 1980.  The tune may be found here with the text below:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Our next stop on the national anthem tour is the Netherlands (Holland), the first European country that I spent more than a flyover within.  It's anthem, set to the tune "Wilhelmus," by an unknown composer, is considered by many to be the oldest national anthem in the world as it first appeared in song in 1568 and was first published in 1574.  It has an amazing fifteen stanzas (!), although in actual performance, usually only the first and sixth stanzas (see below) are sung:

William of Nassau
am I, of Dutch blood,
Loyal to the fatherland
I will remain until I die.
A prince of Orange
am I, free and fearless.
The king of Spain
I have always honoured.

My shield and reliance
are you, o God my Lord.
It is you on whom I want to rely,
never leave me again.
[Grant] that I may remain brave,
your servant for always,
and [may] defeat the tyranny,
which pierces my heart.

Hungary:  the country in which I made my European conducting debut with the Northern Iowa Chamber Players in the historical city of Eger.  It's anthem, with truly stunning (and understated) music by 19th century nationalistic composer Ferenc Erkel, includes the following text by Ferenc Kölcsey.  The tune is called, simply, Himnusz (Hymn).  I have included both the first and eighth (final) stanzas as they seem particularly poignant reflections of the Magyars:

O Lord, bless the nation of Hungary
With your grace and bounty
Extend over it your guarding arm
During strife with its enemies
Long torn by ill fate
Bring upon it a time of relief
This nation has suffered for all sins
Of the past and of the future!

Pity, O Lord, the Hungarians
Who are tossed by waves of danger
Extend over it your guarding arm
On the sea of its misery
Long torn by ill fate
Bring upon it a time of relief
They who have suffered for all sins
Of the past and of the future!

While this anthem may not pass my self-established "singability" test, it is perhaps the most beautiful of all national anthems.

I have visited the Czech Republic more than any other European land and must note that the unofficial anthem (which one hears on the plane approaching the Prague airport) is Smetana's "Vltava," aka "The Moldau."  One is reminded never to refer to that holiest of Bohemian rivers by its German name, for the Czechs have labored long and hard to release themselves from the yoke of the German and Russian-speaking "landlords" and become a sovereign nation.  Their official national anthem (since 1918) is Kde domov můj (Where is My Home?) with music by František Škroup and lyrics by Josef Kajetán Tyl.  The song was actually originally part of the incidental music for an 1834 comedy, Fidlovačka aneb Žádný hněv a žádná rvačka (Fidlovačka, or No Anger and No Brawl).

Where is my home, where is my home?
Water roars across the meadows,
Pinewoods rustle among crags,
The garden is glorious with spring blossom,
Paradise on earth it is to see.
And this is that beautiful land,
The Czech land, my home,
The Czech land, my home.

I spent an extremely cold and snowy week in southwestern Poland in January 2004.  Their anthem, the lively mazurka titled Mazurek Dąbrowskiego (Poland Is Not Yet Lost) with poetry by Józef Wybicki set to an anonymous tune, was not adopted until 1926.

Poland has not perished yet
So long as we still live
What foreign force has taken from us
We shall take back with the sword.
March, march, Dąbrowski
From Italy to Poland
Under thy command
Let us now rejoin the nation
Cross the Vistula and Warta
And Poles we shall be
We've been shown by Bonaparte
Ways to victory
March, march...
Like Czarniecki to Poznań
After Swedish occupation,
To rescue our homeland
We shall return by sea
March, march...
Father, in tears
Says to his Basia
Just listen, it seems that our people
Are beating the drums
March, march..

(I think it's kind of catchy!)

And my last (and most recent) visit to Europe was another land of extremely cold winters, although I managed to visit during the famous "white nights"--Russia.  Of course, this land has seen many changes in its governmental structure, from the kingdom of the Czars to 20th century communism and now its baby steps toward the establishment of a more democratic state.  Hence several different tunes have served as the national anthem, from "God Save the Tsar," to the anthem of international revolutionary socialism, "L'Internationale"(until 1944), to the current Gosudarstvenny Gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii (State Hymn of the Russian Federation), with music by Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov and lyrics by Sergey Mikhalkov:

Russia – our holy nation,
Russia – our beloved country.
A mighty will, great glory –
These are yours for all time!
Be glorious, our free Fatherland,
Age-old union of fraternal peoples,
National wisdom given by our forebears!
Be glorious, our country! We are proud of you!
From the southern seas to the polar lands
Spread our forests and fields.
You are unique in the world, one of a kind –
Native land protected by God!
Wide spaces for dreams and for living
Are opened for us by the coming years
Our loyalty to our Fatherland gives us strength.
Thus it was, thus it is and always will be!

Again we must ask if the tune is singable: probably not easily.  But it sure is stirring.

Here are some tunes once considered as replacements for the "Star-Spangled Banner:"

"Hail Columbia"

"My Country Tis of Thee"

"America the Beautiful"

I've already made my decision.  You pick yours...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pacifist Indiana College Dumps My Least Favorite Song

Goshen College, 1915
This just in from my Yahoo Newsfeed:  Indiana's Goshen College, a Mennonite institution whose motto is "Healing the World, Peace by Peace," is no longer playing the Star-Spangled Banner before sporting events, supplanting it instead with America the Beautiful.  A more complete story, along with what will be over 11,000 raging comments, is found here.

A little bit of back story is necessary, if you please.  Lest we believe those who might insist that our national anthem is as old as the country itself, the tune--"To Anacreon in Heaven"--penned for a London mens' social club by John Stafford Smith, may very well be.  It is, in fact, believed to have been written by a mere teenaged Smith sometime in the 1760s.  The chorus, containing the text "And long may the sons of Anacreon intwine the myrtle of Venus with Bacchus' vine," certainly portrays the tune's genesis as a kind of fraternal drinking song. 

Everyone knows the story of the writing of the lyrics:  Francis Scott Key, watching the bombardment of Baltimore's Fort McHenry aboard ship was struck by the sight of the "star-spangled banner" still waving above the fort after the night-long siege.  His poem, originally titled "Defence of Fort McHenry" would become known by its current title only after the fact.  Many other tunes would proclaim American officialdom throughout the nineteenth century, including "Hail Columbia!" and "My Country 'Tis of Thee," which was eventually nixed due to its employment of the same tune as "God Save the King," the anthem of our original transgressor, Great Britain.  The "Star-Spangled Banner" was not adopted as our official anthem until a congressional resolution of 1931.  For the record, the combination of Katherine Lee Bates poem and Samuel A. Ward's tune Materna into "America the Beautiful," first appeared in 1910.

Of course, all anyone knows of Key's text (if known at all, thank you Christina Aguilara) is the first of four verses.  The entire poem follows:

O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
’Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto:  "In God is our trust;"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Key's poem is one writer's reaction to a horrific event of war.  With bombs bursting and rockets blaring, one cannot help but visualize the scene.  But is this how we desire to portray this beautiful land we call America?  When I remember many of the other nation's anthems (or even "unofficial" anthems like Smetana's "Vltava"--aka "The Moldau") I recall lyrics noting the beauty of the land or a promise to uphold the principles of the nation, not a reenactment of a battle.

Katherine Lee Bates

Compare Key's poetry to that of Ms. Bates, as offered below, again in its entirety:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.

 America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

O beautiful for heroes prov'd
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country lov'd,
And mercy more than life.

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears.

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

I well know why Goshen College chose this song as it expresses what the college is; what America is; what Americans are.  Of course, we've never even gotten to the music itself.  From a simple musical standpoint, which I feel strongly enough to offer expert testimony, "America the Beautiful" is a much easier sing.  The "Star-Spangled Banner" is difficult even for trained singers to manage, if they can remember the words.  Check back here for examples.

Or maybe the entire debate is a silly one.  Since when did patriotism become equated with athletic contests (and often violent ones at that)?  For me, I've always thought that the final words of the national anthem were "Play ball!"

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Yesterday I published my first annual list for Creative Orchestral Programming in Eastern Iowa, awards that I will henceforth entitle the "Hueys."  These recognize the efforts of four ensembles--the orchestras of Dubuque, Cedar Rapids (Orchestra Iowa), Waterloo-Cedar Falls, and the Quad-Cities (Davenport et al).  In terms of overall creativity, i.e. thinking "out of the box," as well as presenting music of the United States and music of our time.  As noted, there were a few limited concerts of interest, but no orchestra shown above the rest and some were downright pedestrian in their "classical" (or masterworks, etc.) concert offerings.

It only seems appropriate that I put my own programming to the test.  Of course, when examining concert presentations by contemporary concert bands or wind ensembles, a different set of criteria might be in place.  (I know, it sounds as if I am adjusting the parameters so that my own work will be seen in a positive light.)  Still, it is generally agreed that the modern wind band lacks the depth of the repertoire when compared to the symphony orchestra.  Contributions by composers such as Mozart are limited to the wind groups of his time:  usually octets presenting "popular tunes" from his operas, although Mozart is recognized for his "serious" works for this ensemble as well.  These include the two serenades in E-flat (K. 375) and C-minor (K. 388) as well as the longest non-operatic work in his catalog, the "Gran Partita" (K. 361/370a).   Beethoven wrote a few works for wind groups as well, but the modern conception of the wind band can be attributed to the monumental works composed during the French Revolution, culminating with a tribute to those trying times, the Symphonie Funebre et Triomphale (1840) of Hector Berlioz.  Following this was the accepted golden age of the wind band, from the 1880s through the 20th century and leading to the present (more on this history in future posts).

Whereas the literature of the concert band/wind ensemble is less broad than its orchestral counterpart, it is probably as deep due to the outgrowth of activity in the educational realm and the many contemporary composers (starting particularly in the 1950s) who have deemed that the wind band is a legitimate medium for important composition.  This is a worldwide phenomenon, with compositions spanning the globe.  Always important for its many different schools of march compositions, serious works are constantly coming from Europe, particularly the low countries.  The far east, and particularly Japan, is increasing in productivity, where composers are creating exciting and challenging works for the outstanding youth wind groups of that country.  And, of course, the amount of wind music produced in the United States--in difficulty levels from very easy to vastly challenging--is definitely unsurpassed.

Thus, the wind conductor must be cognizant of his/her repertoire; there is no room for "early music specialists" or contemporary ensembles:  the wind conductor has to know it all.  Many in the field are constantly searching for the newest works, sort of a backlash to the "old days" in which much of the band's programming relied on transcriptions of orchestral works.  It is no more viable to play only original works for band as it is to totally ignore transcriptions, marches, etc.  The repertoire is both deep and eclectic, and our programming must recognize this.

Johan de Meij, b. 1953
The first concert of the Quad-City Wind Ensemble will be presented on Sunday, October 23.  Subtitled "Symphonic Moments," the program definitely follows this theme, wherein the first half is actually a model of a symphony unto itself and the second half includes an entire symphony for a small wind group.  The first half of the program lays out like this:
  • (First movement) Johan de Meij (Netherlands) "Gandalf (The Wizard)," the first movement from Symphony No. 1 The Lord of the Rings.  Not to be confused with Howard Shore's film score, this work, which has become a contemporary classic, was composed from 1984-1987.
  • (Second--slow--movement) Alfred Reed:  Symphonic Prelude.  This work, published in 1963, is based on the American folk melody, "Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair," and is in many ways reminiscent of the chorale preludes of J. S. Bach.
  • (Third movement) Jean-Baptiste Arban (1825-1889):  Theme and Variations from Bellini's Norma, a trumpet showpiece written in the 19th century by the leading performer/composer/pedagogue of the cornet.
  • (Fourth movement) Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868): Fanfara Alla Corona d'Italia (Fanfare for the Italian Crown) actually has two separate dedications, respectively dates 1863 and 1868, the latter as a gift of thanks for Rossini's receipt of the Cavalier Great Cross of the Order of the Italian Crown.  William A. Schaefer, who rediscovered the long-lost work in the archives of the British museum, states that is was written for and dedicated to Emperor Maximilian of Mexico (ruled 1864-1867) and has rescored it for contemporary concert band.
  • (Fifth movement) Paul Hindemith: "March" from the Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes from Weber's Euryanthe, transcribed with the composer's permission by Keith Wilson.
Paul Hindemith, 1895-1963
Thus this "symphony" in five movements contains all of the elements of a work of that name and embodies the traditions of the wind band, historical and contemporary.  It includes primarily works written for wind band but does not ignore the transcription: in fact, Hindemith's work may be better known in this version than in its orchestral original!

The second half of the program leads off with A Symphonic Movement, published in 1966 and composed by Czech emigre Vaclav Nelhybel.  Hundreds of this composer's works were once mainstays of the band repertoire, but his compositions have (for reasons unknown to many) have fallen out of favor, or simply are not known to younger wind band conductors.  The time is probably ripe for a renaissance of Nelhybel's music as well as that of many others of his era, for herein are the riches of the wind band tradition.

Charles Gounod, 1818-1893
An actual symphony comprises the entire middle of the second half of our program, the Petite Symphonie by Charles Gounod.  This work was actually written for an octet + flute, the Société de musique de chambre pour instruments à vent (Society of Chamber Music for Wind Instruments), a group established by French flutist Paul Taffanel.  He set out to revive the wind compositions of Mozart and Beethoven as well as encourage new compositions, as heard in this 1888 work.  It is a symphony in its truest form, with an opening movement reminiscent of Haydn (slow introduction leading to an expanded allegro), a stunning second movement featuring the flute, a lively scherzo featuring "hunting" horns, and a finale.

Berlioz (1803-1869) and musicians
The concert closes appropriately (as we began with a "first" movement) with a finale, this from the great Berlioz "Triumphal" Symphony.  Originally composed for a grand celebration of the 1830 revolution (such revolutions were commonplace in 19th century France as were commemorative festivities of their occurrence).   The work was written for a massive ensemble of over 200 players which marched through the streets of Paris during the opening "march funebre," presented the middle movement, an aria for solo trombone and ensemble, and culminated with the grand finale, an "Apotheosis," a triumphal march to which Berlioz added a chorus in 1842.  The symphony remained one of the composer's most popular works during his lifetime and has maintained a place in the modern repertoire thanks to recordings by the U.S. Marine Band and contemporary editions by Edwin Franko Goldman (which we will play) and noted conductor/musicologist David Whitwell.

One of my former teachers, when discussing what exactly makes a musical composition worthy, mentioned the all-important elements of unity and diversity:  as exhibited in a classic-period rondo.  I believe that this program offers the unifying elements of its "theme" as well as the diverse nature of the band repertoire.  However, does this concert satisfy the criteria for the modern wind band and still serve as an informative as well as "audience friendly" concert.  Of course I want to think so, as it provides works both new and old, traditional, historical and contemporary, but certainly not out of the mainstream of tonality.  I am still of the school that wants to leave the audience humming a tune or two after every performance.  I can only hope that this performance satisfies that goal as well.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


...the first annual Brian L. Hughes awards for creative orchestra programming!

There are times, of course, that I have lamented living here in what some may deem to be a cultural backwater.  There is no opera (of course this is the U.S. where one of our largest companies--the Chicago Lyric--ranks only number 66 in the world); there is no chamber music and very little in the form of creative programming elsewhere.  Even though we have three liberal arts colleges, you wouldn't know anything of their music offerings either because a) the music programs don't communicate with their marketing offices, b) their marketing offices don't market, or c) the local paper doesn't deem such activities important enough to publicize.

Where I do have to count myself fortunate is that, even though we do not have a "world-class" orchestra nearby (although the Chicago Symphony is only approximately 200 miles away) there are four regional symphonies within 90 miles including the orchestras of Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo-Cedar Falls, and the Quad Cities (Davenport, Bettendorf, Rock Island, and Moline).  The Madison Symphony is just a bit further outside that radius (and thus is not included in my "awards.")

The "Hughes awards" are totally arbitrary, based upon my own criteria which include possible thematic content, inclusion of both contemporary and American composers and overall creativity and originality.  The latter would imply programs that step out of the Overture - Concerto - Symphony box.  Also of important note is the presentation of works outside the standard repertory; i.e. why offer yet another performance of Dvorak 7 (or 8 or 9) or Shostakovich 5--regardless of my own love for those works--when there are hundreds of neglected works that may be favored by audiences (and surely the players).  Do we need yet another performance of Beethoven 5 instead of say, the Bizet Symphonie?  Or what about the Franck--long a staple of the repertoire that now seems to be rarely played?  I could make a long list of neglected works and that's just the works of the "masters."

Not part of the repertoire!
It is incumbent upon the modern day symphony to be a proponent of the music of our time BECAUSE that is the heritage of the medium.  It was not until the mid to late nineteenth century that works of the past started to form any kind of "repertory."  In the time of Mozart and Haydn, people were "discovering" the works of Bach and Handel as if they'd been composed in another millennium, rather than some one hundred years previous.  In Mozart's time (and Beethoven's and many other's) the music presented on a concert program had to be new.  There were no "interpreters" of the music of the past; most performers were led by the composers themselves.  But, somewhere along the way (the early twentieth century and the rise of serialism?) the audience became disconnected from the music of its time.  If we are to remain viable, we must espouse the changing milieu in which we live.

I have yet to come up with a plethora of categories, so there will be just one "grand prize" winner, with honorable mentions of individual programs from the aforementioned ensembles.  Thus, the winner of the first annual Brian L. Hughes award for creative orchestra programming (Eastern Iowa) is....

(drum roll, please....)


What, you say?  There is no orchestra in Eastern Iowa worthy of an award for overall creative orchestral programming?  Frankly, no.  There is no orchestra with I feel has dared to "push the envelope" in a way that is going to be both exciting while expanding the audiences' sphere of reference.   There are a limited number of bright spots, but most of the programs are limited to the tried and true, dyed in the wool, old models of orchestral programming.  For example, take this program from the Dubuque Symphony:

  • Glinka: Russlan and Ludmilla Overture
  • Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme 
  • Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2
Or this example from the Quad-Cities:

  • Dvorak: Carnival Overture
  • Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3
  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 5

On the American music front (number of composers), here is the rundown:
  • Dubuque: 3
  • Orchestra Iowa, aka Cedar Rapids Symphony:  1
  • Waterloo-Cedar Falls:  2 (one shared with Dubuque)
  • Quad Cities:  3
In the "contemporary" vein, we do see:
  • Two world premieres (of the same piece, by Iowa-born composer and Julliard-trained Michael Gilbertson.)
  • A work by Peter Maxwell Davies, an often thorny composer but represented by his user-friendly Orkney Wedding with Sunrise.
  • A work by Bartok!  (Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta)
  • A work by Stravinsky!  (but really, the Rite celebrates its 100th birthday in two years:  does that still make it new?)
  • Works by Samuel Coleridge Taylor and Louis Moreau Gottschalk (yea, Dubuque!)
I must present an award for the best in "pops" programming, although the outdoor concert by Orchestra Iowa is part of their masterworks series.  Here is an example of a listener-friendly concert that doesn't sell out:
  • Elgar:  “Nimrod” from Enigma Variations 
  • Walton:  Crown Imperial 
  • Elgar:  Pomp and Circumstance (which one?)
  • Holst:  “Jupiter” from The Planets 
  • Parry:  Coronation Choral Anthems 
  • Rozsa:  Parade of the Charioteers, from Ben Hur
  • Respighi:  Pines of Rome
Many orchestras have also tossed their "Christmas" concerts on the trash heap of popular music, much to the chagrin of the players (in particular) and even many in the audience (so I'm told).  Not so, Orchestra Iowa:
  • J.S. Bach:  Christmas Oratorio
  • Corelli: Christmas Concerto
  • Handel:  Messiah
Thus, this is the end of the first-ever Hughes awards.  There is interesting programming to be found on each of the orchestras' seasons, not just an entire season that dares to be radically different.  Take this for (one last) example:
  • Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade 
  • Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez 
  • Ravel: Bolero 
If there is any program that fails in EVERY WAY to push the audience in any way, it is this one.  Okay, count me as one who is not a fan of Bolero (I have conducted it, thank you...) and the Rodrigo, for all of its tunefulness and beauty, is vastly overplayed.  One would think that there exists only one concerto for guitar (even Rodrigo wrote more than that), and must yet another presentation of one of R-K's "big three" be heard?

Here are the web sites for the four orchestras:
  • Dubuque Symphony:
  • Orchestra Iowa (CR Symphony):
  • Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony:
  • Quad City Symphony:


The world's most sold out opera house....

Festspielhaus--Bayreuth, Germany
Is it the Met?

The Chicago Lyric?

Any company in America?

OK, maybe Bayreuth?  Covent Garden?  The Berlin Statsoper?

The answer?  None of the above.  Norman Lebrecht reports that the Glyndebourne Festival just completed their four month season.  Operating without any governmental support (something almost unheard of in Europe) and needing to sell 92% of their seats just to break even, the festival sold 99.18% of their tickets.  Amazing...

Friday, August 19, 2011

What's to become of the Crystal Cathedral?

As one who is not immediately drawn to television evangelicals, I should probably care less about the ministry of the (infamous?) Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California.  Still, as I remember my own mother faithfully "worshiping" with Robert H. Schuler and his cast of evangelical and musical luminaries, I suppose that I have a fleeting interest.  Of course, too, there is the organ.

Of it, the Cathedral's web site states:

"The stately Hazel Wright Pipe Organ inside the Crystal Cathedral is the most widely heard organ in the world today, made possible through our Hour of Power television ministry. The organ also ranks among the world’s largest in scale.

This magnificent instrument was made possible by more than $2 million in gifts from Mrs. Hazel Wright of Chicago, Illinois. Mrs. Wright and her husband were viewers of Dr. Schuller’s weekly television program, “Hour of Power.” As adorers of the church’s music, they sought to thank Dr. Schuller for his ministry with the gift of a pipe organ for his congregation’s new worship space. With Mrs. Wright’s enthusiastic support and participation, world-recognized organ virtuoso Virgil Fox was asked to design an instrument befitting the splendid glass cathedral.

Mr. Fox’s design combined the historic 1962, 100-rank Aeolian-Skinner instrument from New York’s Lincoln Center with the church’s 1977, 94-rank Ruffatti organ from the Neutra Sanctuary. In addition, Ruffatti installed 29 new ranks.

Following its 1982 dedication, the organ was significantly enlarged and enhanced during the 16-year tenure of renowned Organist Emeritus Frederick Swann.  The organ now utilizes 270 ranks, 31 digital ranks, and more than 16,000 pipes. Its 14 divisions are fully playable from two five-manual consoles."

While maybe not as eye-catching as the organ at the L.A. Philharmonic's Disney Hall, it is still a wonder to behold:
The "Hazel Wright" Organ well as to hear (forgive all the tacky people in a hurry to get away).  What a sound!

Aeolian Skinner Op. 1388 in Philharmonic Hall
The original instrument was designed for use in Philharmonic (now Avery Fisher) Hall in Lincoln Center.  This "state of the art" facility's acoustics were immediately proclaimed inadequate and several futile attempts to correct the problem ensued.  Finally the decision was made to completely gut the hall and start from scratch with a huge reconstruction (financed in part--$10.5 million by Avery Fisher) completed in 1976.  At that time the organ was removed, never to appear again and the hall?  Further renovations in 1992 and as recently as 2009-10 have done little to improve the situation, except to make the return of a substantive instrument merely a pipe dream.

What is to become of this noble instrument now that the existence of the Crystal Cathedral itself is in jeopardy?  Surely such a grand instrument requires a space worthy of its spaciousness and sheer speaking power.  The fact that the original instrument had to be moved from New York (and its own mighty orchestra) was bad enough; that this wonderful instrument could possibly be silenced would be yet another dishonor to Op. 1388.

And one has to wonder when the L.A. Philharmonic has this:
Rosales, Op. 24
And Philadelphia's Verizon Hall has this:

Dobson (from Iowa!) Op. 76
....and even the great Casavant is returning to Detroit's Orchestra Hall, New York City's cultural center is left with:

Yes, that's right.......nothing.

"The arts are utterly useless..."

John Adams, NOT the founding father
....So we would believe when viewing the massive cuts being made to arts education programs throughout the country.  It seems to have started in 1978 in California, with the passing of the now-infamous Proposition 13, "the People's Initiative to Limit Property Taxation."  The California schools, once the best in the nation, have decreased to 48th in standard measures of academic achievement, and this is IN SPITE OF huge decreases in funding for arts in the public schools. 

Of course, California is no longer the exception but the rule.  Schools throughout my own state of Iowa are facing similar cutbacks because of an intransitive governor's refusal to allow local schools to raise enough operational support.  The idiocy in the Iowa funding model is that our local school district has the ability to practically rebuild every building in the district and yet is still facing another substantive layoff of teaching personnel.  Over a year ago the instrumental music staff was cut by 25% but the district countered by eliminating instrumental music in the fourth grade.  However, through the hard-fought recruiting and retention efforts of the current staff, enrollments--especially in the lower grades--are again reaching peak levels.  We are seeing elementary "specialists" stretched particularly thin, being forced to offer instruction in as many as seven different schools.

But of course, "the arts are utterly useless..." at least according to composer John Adams, in his commencement address to the 2011 graduating class at the Julliard School.  In part he stated,

The wonderful, astonishing truth is that the arts are utterly useless. You can't eat music or poetry or dance. You can't drive your car on a sonnet it or wear it on your back to shield you from the elements. This "uselessness" is why politicians and other painfully literal-minded people during times of budget crises (which is pretty much all the time now) can't wait to single the arts out for elimination. For them artistic activity is strictly after-school business. They consider that what we do can't honestly be compared to the real business of life, that art is entertainment and ultimately non-essential. They don't realize that what we artists offer is one of the few things that make human life meaningful, that through our skill and our talent and through the way that we share our rich emotional lives we add color and texture and depth and complexity to their lives. 

A life in the arts means a life of sacrifice and tens of thousands of hours of devotion and discipline with scant remuneration and sometimes even scant recognition. A life in the arts means loving complexity and ambiguity, of enjoying the fact that there are no single, absolute solutions. And it means that you value communicating about matters of the spirit over the baser forms of human interaction, because you know that life is not just a transaction, not simply a game about winning someone's confidence purely for purposes of material gain. 

What we artists offer is one of the few things that make human life meaningful!!  This must become our mantra.  This, or a form of it, needs to be emblazoned over every doorway of every music classroom in the nation.  While math and science have no difficulty establishing their (necessary) place in our schools' curricula, thus is the same for art.  Life without art is life without meaning.  A life without music would be a quiet and lonely place.  We musicians, writers, sculptors, painters and all the rest need to make this our battle cry--especially in these most trying of times.  If the arts are allowed to be eliminated or left to whither on the vine, we'll never get them back and we will lose the greater part of our humanness.  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

No more arguing? Right...

While doing just a bit of research on programming in the Berlin Philharmonic (to be exact, how much Richard Strauss do they play?  Very little), I came upon this review of the BPO February 2011 set of concerts in London.  Herein, the reviewer, Fiona Maddocks, heartily implores us to dispense with the term "arguably the best" when talking of the orchestra.  Chief music critic of The Observor, Ms. Maddocks takes no pains in her expressed veneration of the ensemble and its conductor, Sir Simon Rattle.

Maddocks even poses the question, "What's its secret?" to which Rattle can only reply, "It's a mystery."  After all, he did assume the helm of this famed band after 35 years with the mercurial Herbert von Karajan and a shorter tenure with the more "loving" Claudio Abbado.  Changes have obviously taken place:  the average age of the musicians is a youthful 38 years, the number of foreign musicians has increased, but there remain only 17 women in the ensemble.

Here's a telling excerpt:

Rattle used the word "fierce" to suggest his players' unifying quality. The Scottish horn-player Fergus McWilliam, in a pre-concert talk about his quarter century in the orchestra, offers three others: passionate, visceral and sensual. There is no inhibition, and no awaiting instruction. They move with a physicality that would be distracting were it not for the fact, as here, that they all do it. Rattle compares the Berlin Phil to "a flock of birds". Make your own analogy: a wheat field in high wind, maybe, or anything to suggest the many who, valued individually, act as one.

Of course arguments can be made (and were in the "comments" section) about the level of state support received by the BPO, as if that is a fault.  Rather, to me, it is a very strong statement by the German government that they value this cultural gem above all else and will do nearly anything possible to continue its cultural legacy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Who can step forward?

As more and more arts and education dollars are siphoned away from our schools and communities, it is becoming increasingly important that the private sector step forward to fill the gaping holes left in the programming of our cultural institutions.  My question is this:  who will be the Rockefeller Foundation for Iowa?  For more information on their program support (at least in 2010) look here.

It is obvious that we cannot rely upon the Iowa Arts Council; Governor Branstad's budget axe is certain to behead much of its funding and as the state goes, so do local arts entities that rely on matching state dollars.  Maybe what we need is a Prince Esterhazy or an Emperor Joseph II.  Oh wait, we threw out the monarchy with the Declaration of Independence....Damn that Boston Tea Party!  <snark>

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Amen brother Morton!

As the contemporary art music scene has, in many ways, withdrawn from the realm of the "general public" (something I've experienced since the dreadful serial compositions of the 70s), it seems tantamount to remember the words of Morton Gould:

“I’ve always felt that music should be a normal part of the experience that surrounds people. It’s not a special taste. An American composer should have something to say to a cab driver.”

Sunday, August 7, 2011

So what are we playing?

The votes are in (from 08-09 anyway...)

I always find interesting reading in the repertoire reports generated by the League of American Orchestras.  The only problem I encounter is that the data therein is usually at least two seasons old; that axiom holds true for the most recent data contained on the organization's website.  Thus, I am left commenting upon programming information from the 2008-09 season of our American orchestras.  Still, the trends are sometimes intriguing and illuminating, the latter not always in a positive light.

There's a shock....NOT!
From the 2008-09 season, the "Top Ten" most performed composers were (drum roll, please):
  1. Beethoven
  2. Mozart
  3. Brahms
  4. Tchaikovsky
  5. Dvorak
  6. Mendelssohn
  7. Ravel
  8. Stravinsky
  9. Rachmaninoff
  10. Haydn
The next ten (the League includes a "Top Twenty" list in every category) includes few surprises except that three Americans (Copland, Bernstein and Barber) find their way into the list.  Of course the data reveals two striking and irrefutable facts:  all these composers are male and all of them are dead.

Then there are the top ten works performed.  No surprises here either.
  1. Beethoven:  Symphony No. 5 (83 performances)
  2. Beethoven:  Symphony No. 7 (77)
  3. Tchaikovsky:  Symphony No. 5 (73)
  4. Brahms:  Violin Concerto (71)
  5. Tie:  Brahms:  Symphony No. 1 and Dvorak:  Symphony No. 9 (65)
  6. Rachmaninoff:  Symphonic Dances (64)
  7. Beethoven:  Piano Concerto No. 5 (58)
  8. Beethoven:  Piano Concerto No. 4 (55)
  9. Tie: Ravel:  Bolero and Brahms:  Symphony No. 2 (52)
Here the second ten includes no Americans and another bunch of dead white guys.  Holst (Planets), and Elgar (Cello Concerto) finally appear on a top list.

#1 American - dead
#2 American - he's dead too, as are 3-5.
The League also generates a list of those American composers whose works have been most performed.  Are you ready?

  1. Copland
  2. Bernstein
  3. Barber
  4. Gershwin
  5. Ives
  6. Adams
  7. Higdon
  8. Anderson, Leroy
  9. Daugherty, Michael
  10. Corigliano, John
So, of the top ten Americans, the top five are dead and only one is a woman AND a composer of novelties (Leroy Anderson) makes the cut.  The second ten is more representative of living composers although Joan Tower is the only other woman to appear.

The Top Twenty most performed American works is just the same old fare:
  1. Barber:  Violin Concerto (39)
  2. Bernstein:  Candide Overture (36)
  3. Barber:  Adagio for Strings (33)
  4. Bernstein:  Symphonic Dances from West Side Story (30)
  5. Gershwin:  Concerto in F
  6. Tie:  Copland:  Fanfare for the Common Man and Gershwin:  Rhapsody in Blue (24)
  7. Gershwin:  American in Paris
  8. Tie:  Barber: Overture to School for Scandal and Copland:  Appalachian Spring Suite (21)
John Adams (b. 1947)
The next ten is rife with similar stuff although John Adams (an old work: Chairman Dances - Foxtrot) and Joseph Schwanter (Chasing Light, which was guaranteed a large number of performances because of its Ford "Made in America grant and 58 co-commissioners) weigh in to represent living composers.  Woman are noticably absent from the list.

Joseph Schwantner (b. 1943)
So....therein is the data.  It at least establishes a point of discussion that I plan on following for the next few posts (and beyond).

Friday, August 5, 2011

Missing out.....

Here's but a short list of musical happenings culled from the New York Times.  I have to quit noticing the enrichment opportunities available elsewhere.  If I lived there, I couldn't afford to go anyway.  But one can certainly dream...

Classical Music/Opera Listings for August 5-11
Published:  August 4, 2011 


It's true:  Brunhilde does Merman!
★ Glimmerglass Festival (Friday through Tuesday, and Thursday):  Maestro says:  Debbie Voigt trades in her horns and breastplates and takes on one of Ethel Merman's signature roles in Francesca Zambello's new staging of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun.  The Times notes that there is no amplification:  as if either Ms. Merman or Ms. Voigt ever needed such a thing.

The festival also includes "a gripping double bill of two compelling one-act operas: A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck by the composer Jeanine Tesori and the playwright Tony Kushner, about a tumultuous night in the lives of Eugene O’Neill and his wife, Carlotta, and Later the Same Evening by the composer John Musto and the librettist Mark Campbell, which takes its characters and its inspiration from five Edward Hopper paintings."

"The director Anne Bogart gives Bizet’s Carmen a stark contemporary look in a production that features a ravishingly lovely and vocally gifted young mezzo-soprano, Ginger Costa-Jackson, in the title role. In Cherubini’s Medea, the standouts are the impressive young Italian conductor Daniele Rustioni and the soprano Alexandra Deshorties, who gives a fearless performance of the daunting title role. The season also includes a special program, “Voigt Lessons,” Ms. Voigt’s personal, entertaining and poignant one-woman recital in which she tells of her life through songs and confessional stories. Carmen: Friday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and Monday at 1:30 p.m.; Annie Get Your Gun: Saturday and Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.; Medea: Saturday at 8 p.m.; one-act double bill: Sunday at 1:30 p.m.; “Voigt Lessons”: Sunday at 4 p.m. Glimmerglass Festival, 7300 State Highway 80, eight miles north of Cooperstown, N.Y., (607) 547-2255,; $46 to $126; $10 on Sunday only." (Anthony Tommasini)

★ ‘Die Liebe der Danae’ (Friday and Sunday) The Bard SummerScape festival makes a strong case for this long-neglected Strauss opera. Kevin Newbury’s production, set in a stylized contemporary New York, is inventive and emotionally nuanced; Leon Botstein leads the American Symphony Orchestra clearly through the dazzling score. The trio of leads sings well and acts with commitment. The bittersweet opera — a mash-up of Greek myths that speaks to love’s triumph over the abrasive influence of money — could not feel more relevant. Go see it. Friday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., the Richard B. Fisher Center for Performing Arts at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., (845) 758-7900,; $30 to $90. (Zachary Woolfe)

Opera on Tap (Friday) It is Serge Gainsbourg season in New York. A biopic of the French chanteur opens at Film Forum on Aug. 31, and on Friday the intrepid and fun Opera on Tap group presents an evening inspired by Gainsbourg’s song “Chatterton,” an uplifting evening of texts and music about people who have been committed to mental institutions or have committed suicide (uplifting?  you're kidding, right?) At 8 p.m., Barbès, 376 Ninth Street, at Sixth Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn, (347) 422-0248,; suggested $10 donation. (Woolfe)

Classical Music
Bargemusic (Friday through Sunday, and Thursday) This week the barge features the pianist Sophia Agranovich on Friday with an all-Liszt program celebrating that composer’s bicentennial (Maestro says:  Snooze  Sounds a little heavy-handed to me). Saturday brings the Trio con Brio Copenhagen with a program of Beethoven, Schubert and Bent Sorensen; on Sunday the Amernet String Quartet plays Haydn, Janacek and Schubert. On Thursday the refined cellist Eugene Osadchy performs the first three of Bach’s immortal suites for solo cello. (There is also a weekly, hourlong free concert every Saturday at 3 p.m.) Friday, Saturday and Thursday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., Bargemusic, Fulton Ferry Landing, next to the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn, (718) 624-2083,; $35, $30 for 65+; $15 for students. (Woolfe)  (Maestro says:  BOOOORING.  Let's have something writing since the members of the audience were born!  OK, maybe the Sorensen is....Is his first name really "Bent?")

Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival (Saturday and Sunday) Saturday’s program, “From Bohemia With Love,” features music by Dvorak, Martinu and Poulenc. (Maestro says:  Since when is France part of Bohemia, Francis?)  On Sunday Schubert is paired with Chausson and Paul Moravec’s Wind Quintet. At 6:30 p.m., Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church, 2429 Montauk Highway, Bridgehampton, N.Y., (631) 537-6368,; $30 on Saturday and $40 on Sunday. (Vivien Schweitzer)

★ Marlboro Music (Friday through Sunday) This is the 60th anniversary of Marlboro Music, the prestigious chamber music festival in a bucolic Vermont town. The programs for the weekend concerts are subject to change because the resident musicians don’t perform them until they feel ready. The two programs for the festival’s fourth weekend have been released and look typically enticing. On Friday night the musicians present Marlboro’s annual benefit for town organizations in the college’s dining hall, with works by Schubert and Thomas Adès. Saturday night’s program in the concert shed offers a Fauré piano trio; Mozart’s Serenade in C minor for winds; and Brahms’s sublime Quintet for Clarinet and Strings. Sunday afternoon’s program includes Copland’s Sextet and Schubert’s Octet. Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m., Marlboro Music, 2472 South Road, Marlboro College, Vt., (802) 254-2394,; $15 to $35, or $5 for outdoor canopy-area seats. (Tommasini)  Maestro says:  Enticing?  As much as I love all this stuff, it's mostly old hat.

★ Maverick Concerts (Saturday and Sunday) An endearing hallmark of this festival is that it is held in an open barn, which allows the sounds of nature to mingle with those of the musicians — in this case, the eloquent pianist Jon Nakamatsu, who will give a Sunday program at 4 p.m. that includes music by Rameau, Brahms and Liszt. The Young People’s Concert is Saturday at 11 a.m. Maverick Concerts, 120 Maverick Road, Woodstock, N.Y., (800) 595-4849,; Saturday, free for children, $5 for adults; Sunday, $25 to $40, or $5 for students. (Allan Kozinn) Maestro says:  What's the "Maverick" connection?  Brett?  Cigarettes?  It's certainly not the programming....

★ Mostly Mozart Festival (Friday through Thursday) The schedule is busy this weekend and next week at this annual summer festival. On Friday and Saturday nights the violinist Joshua Bell plays Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado, on a program also offering Bach and Mozart works. (Maestro:  Bach, Mozart and Bruch:  that's daring...) The exciting Takacs Quartet plays works by Shubert (sic....oops!) and Beethoven at a Saturday “Little Night Music” concert, the popular series of late-evening, informal concerts at the Kaplan Penthouse, and then plays a program with the pianist Andreas Haefliger at Alice Tully Hall on Sunday afternoon. Then beginning on Monday (Maestro says:  Now things get interesting!) the brilliant International Contemporary Ensemble begins a weeklong residency, playing four concerts, including an enticing all-Stravinsky program on Monday night with the brilliant pianist Peter Serkin as soloist. They also play two “Little Night Music” programs, which tend to sell out quickly. Mostly Mozart Orchestra with Joshua Bell: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Avery Fisher Hall; Takacs Quartet: Saturday at 10:30 p.m. at the Kaplan Penthouse and Sunday at 5 p.m. at Alice Tully Hall; International Contemporary Ensemble: Monday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Alice Tully Hall, and Monday and Thursday at 10:30 p.m., Kaplan Penthouse; (212) 721-6500,; $45 to $90. (Tommasini)

Music Mountain (Saturday and Sunday) This longstanding chamber music festival continues on Saturday with the Amernet String Quartet, which will be joined by the cellist Yehuda Hanani for an all-Schubert program. The event includes a postconcert discussion about Schubert’s string quartets. On Sunday the Colorado String Quartet will play Haydn and Mendelssohn; the pianist Melvin Chen joins for Dvorak’s Piano Quintet in A. At 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday, Gordon Hall, Music Mountain, 225 Music Mountain Road, Falls Village, Conn., (860) 824-7126,; $30; $27 in advance; free for under 18 when accompanied by ticket holder. (Schweitzer)  Maestro says:  OK, this isn't adventuresome either, but I like the fact that kids can get in free.

Trying to imagine Stoky w/acrobats...
Philadelphia Orchestra (Friday through Sunday, and Tuesday through Thursday) Each summer the Philadelphia Orchestra decamps to Saratoga, N.Y., and its festivities there continue this weekend with a blend of acrobatics and music. The programs on Friday and Saturday feature classical masterpieces set to acts by jugglers, contortionists and trapeze artists (Selling out?  Anything to make a buck, right?). On Wednesday the Philadelphia musicians, conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero, are joined by the saxophonist Branford Marsalis for works by Debussy, Bizet, Ravel and Milhaud. On Thursday Mr. Guerrero leads Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with the pianist Gabriela Montero as soloist. On Tuesday Ms. Montero will demonstrate her considerable gifts as an improviser (she comes up with tunes suggested by the audience) and will join orchestra members for music by Martinu and Dvorak (That one could be cool.) On Sunday afternoon the Tokyo String Quartet plays Haydn, Ives (OMG!  Ives!  Of course, none of the American ensembles can be this daring) and Schumann. At 8 p.m. except Sunday at 2:15 p.m., Saratoga Performing Arts Center, 108 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., (518) 587-3330,; Friday, Saturday, Wednesday and Thursday, $20 to $72.50; Sunday and Tuesday, $36.50 to $41.50. (Schweitzer)

Skaneateles Festival (Wednesday and Thursday) For more than 30 years there has been chamber music at this festival in Skaneateles, N.Y., near Syracuse in the idyllic Finger Lakes region. The Chiara String Quartet is featured in two concerts next week, joined by the cellist David Ying, the pianist Elinor Freer and the clarinetist Alan Kay. Wednesday’s program features works by Mozart, Stacy Garrop and Brahms, as well as pieces written by community composers using the computer composition program Hyperscore. On Thursday is a program of Poulenc, Haydn and Messiaen. At 8 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, 97 East Genesee Street, Skaneateles, N.Y., (315) 685-7418,; $10 on Wednesday, $18 to $24 on Thursday. (Woolfe) This one's got me excited, and check out the prices!  Cheaper than a movie (east coast prices anyway) on Wednesday!

Tanglewood:  If the music bores you, keep drinking....
★ Tanglewood (Friday through Thursday) The weekend at the Boston Symphony’s summer home in the Berkshires begins with a promising collaboration between the conductor Raphael Frühbeck de Burgos and the sizzling young pianist Yuja Wang on Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.” Also on the program: Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony and Strauss’s “Rosenkavalier” Suite. (As if we haven't already heard that stuff) On Saturday, Sean Newhouse conducts the orchestra in Pierre Jalbert’s “Music of Air and Fire,” the Rachmaninoff Second Symphony and, with the violinist Sarah Chang, the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto (Gotta give them their Rach and Mendelssohn "dessert" after hearing a new piece). On Sunday afternoon Lionel Bringuier conducts Smetana’s “Moldau,” (Come one now everyone knows that it's called Vltava!!!) Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and, with Emanuel Ax as the soloist, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22. The weekend also includes the final installments of the Tanglewood Music Center’s Festival of Contemporary Music (of course we can't talk about what they might be performing...), and the coming week features a performance by the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, on Tuesday, and the mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe (and friends), on Wednesday. Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the Koussevitzky Music Shed. The Festival of Contemporary Music runs through Sunday at Seiji Ozawa Hall, various times. The Boston Symphony Chamber Players and Stephanie Blythe perform at 8 p.m. at Seiji Ozawa Hall. Tanglewood, Lenox, Mass., (888) 266-1200,; $9 to $91 on Friday; $19 to $91 on Saturday and Sunday; $20 to $102 on Sunday; $11 for Festival of Contemporary Music concerts; $18 to $52 on Tuesday and Wednesday. (Kozinn)

OK, so maybe I'm not missing that many things that might challenge my ear and sensibilities.  Still, I'll bet that they play all this old stuff well.