One on One with Beatle Paul

When I was kid, my parents often sat down on Sunday evenings to rest and relax watching their favorite television programs. For my dad, it was the Western about the Cartwright family, “Bonanza”. For my mom, it was the variety show hosted by the radio announcer turned TV personality, Ed Sullivan. My childhood favorite was “Lassie,” about the heroics of a talented and loving collie that aired earlier than my parents’ picks. Most of the time I didn’t care which of the two programs they watched as I liked both. Until February, 1964.

IMG_0961Bow
The Beatles take a bow after their performance onstage.

I had heard at school from some friends who had older siblings that Ed Sullivan was presenting a new music group that evening that had come all the way from England to appear on his program. Even though we lived in the heartland of the country, word about this new band had spread. My friends were very excited about it so I thought I must tune in to see what it was all about.

The channel was turned to the CBS affiliate. I sat down on the floor and scooted up close to the screen. The suspense was terrific.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Sullivan announced in his “really big” distinctive voice, “The Beatles!”

The girls in the television audience went wild as the four-member rock band launched into the first of three songs: “All My Loving.” In the second half, they played two more including the one I remember best opening with the four beat introductory measures: “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” A record 73 million watched that evening and the rest, as they say, is history.

I, like every other pre-teen and teenager then, was taken by this mop topped group from across the Atlantic. I liked the strong,driving beat of the music, I preferred their “British” sound to the saccharine tones of Perry Como, my Mother’s favorite popular singer, and I quickly learned the lyrics and the melodies. My parents were less enamored.

My Dad surprised me with the Beatles first album.
My Dad surprised me with the Beatles first album.

But when my Dad returned from his national photography convention that spring, he presented me with a gift that “all the kids in Chicago were buying,” according to the salesman. I nearly flipped when he took out of his bag and handed to me the record album: Meet the Beatles. It was my first long play record and certainly my very first rock music album. I still have it, the album cover shows years of love but the record still sounds great when you pop it onto a turntable.

I had already bought the special magazine about the Fab Four with a cover identical to that of the album. I read it cover to cover devouring the bits of info about the twenty-something Beatle members. Paul McCartney, the “romantic” of the group, became my favorite Beatle.

Beatle cards were collected like baseball cards by young fans such as myself.
Beatle cards were collected like baseball cards by young fans such as myself.

I collected Beatle cards. Each was the size of a baseball card, (which I also collected,) featured a photo of the band and was autographed by one of them. I practiced capitalizing my “G’s” like George Harrison’s and still write it that way today.

During the six short years the band toured in the United States, I never saw the Beatles in a live performance. Tickets were too expensive and they seldom performed anywhere near my small hometown in mid-America.  I finally got my chance recently when Paul McCartney performed his One on One concert in Vancouver B.C.  I was finally in the same room as Paul, along with nearly 16,000 other excited McCartney music fans.

McCartney charmed his fans at his One on One concert in Vancouver B.C.
McCartney charmed his fans at his One on One concert in Vancouver B.C.

Paul may be 73 now, but I was a teenager again as I took to my seat high above the arena stage. McCartney came out to the roar of his audience as he kicked off the evening with what was clearly a crowd favorite–“A Hard Day’s Night.” For the next two hours, the beloved former Beatle played a program filled with mostly familiar songs–including “Lady Madonna,” “Let It Be” and “We Can Work It Out”–from the Beatles and Wings, along with a couple newer tunes.  I and the crowd sang along with most of them. In between, while switching out bass guitars or moving from the guitar tot he piano, he told stories about the songs, about his band mates, about his life.

I never knew, for instance, that the beautiful ballad “Blackbird” was written in response to the Civil Rights movement.  Or that Beatle producer George Martin changed who sang the lead part because John Lennon couldn’t both sing and play the harmonica on the last line: “Whoa, love me do.”

Between songs, McCArtney told ancedotes about the Beatles and his bandmates.
Between songs, McCartney told anecdotes about the Beatles and his band mates.

Some performers who’ve been at it as long as McCartney has, resent singing the old hits. Not McCartney. He clearly enjoyed playing them for the audience and came back at after taking his final bow he returned for an encore (clearly programmed because of the choreographed pyrotechnics) for another 45 minutes.

I looked around at the audience who were waving their arms and singing to “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”.  The feeling was magical. Many, like me, were teenagers when the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan, but it was a multi-generational group.  That a band together for only ten years could produce so much music that has become part of the popular culture is remarkable. I relished every minute of McCartney’s concert. Though those young Beatles stepped onto Sullivan’s stage more than 50 years ago, for me it was almost like seeing them for the first time, because in way I was.

The encore at McCartney's concert was a display of light and pyrotechnics.
The encore at McCartney’s concert was a display of light and pyrotechnics.

 

MIM Shows Stradivarius String Masterpieces

You may have heard a Stradivarius violin, but have you seen one?  Up close?  I had a chance thanks to a special exhibit currently at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix.

While in Phoenix recently as a board member with the Bellingham Festival of Music (BFM), I and BFM President, Karen Berry met with MIM’s director of marketing, Karen Farugia. Afterwards, I had some time before heading off to meet friends. It wasn’t enough time to visit the MIM’s permanent collection (which I’ve done) of 6,000 instruments, but thought I could manage a quick tour of MIM’s special exhibit in the Target Gallery:  Stradivarius: Origins and Legacy of the Greatest Violin Maker.  I bought my ticket and stepped into the gallery.

Phoenix' Musical Instrument Museum, known as MIM, is one of the city's newest museums.
Phoenix’ Musical Instrument Museum, known as MIM, is one of the city’s newest museums.

The exhibit, which opened in mid-January and continues through June 5, welcomes you with a multi-screen video introduction to the area where this legendary violin maker lived and worked: the Northern Italian city of Cremona.  The video gives a brief overview of this rich, historic city which yielded so many early master violin makers, in addition to Stradivari, and explains how the city’s proximity to the Fiemme Valley forest provided these craftsmen with the fine materials they needed to produce what became some of the premier instruments in the world.

The Stradivarius exhibits starts off with a multi-screen video about Cremona.
The Stradivarius exhibits starts off with a multi-screen video about Cremona.

The violins of this exhibit have been artistically (and no doubt carefully) hung within a clear, climate-controlled plexiglass case so that the viewer can walk entirely around them to get a close and complete look at them.  In addition, every ticket to MIM comes a set of earphones so that as you approach the instruments on display, you also hear the sound of the instrument played by musicians who are masters of it. But what’s striking about the Stradivarius exhibit, is how incredibly gorgeous these stringed instruments are, indeed works of art in appearance as well as sound. Their beautiful, burnished wood shines in the light reflected from overhead.

A visitor to the Stradivarius exhibit reads the description on the wall while listening to the music of the instrument on display.
A visitor to the Stradivarius exhibit reads the description on the wall while listening to the music of the instrument on display.

First on display is the exquisite violin made by Andrea Amati, recognized as the father of the violin. Amati was a luthier in Cremona who, according to some histories, was asked to make a lighter instrument than the lyre and viol di gambas that he was building at the time. The viol di gambas resemble the modern-day cello in that they are played upright between the knees. Amati came up with a design that was smaller and lighter although similar in appearance to the viols. He added the fourth string which soon became standard to violins and is credited with developing the methods used in constructing the Cremonese violins. Only 20 of his instruments survive today. One of them, known as the ‘Carlo IX’ created for France’s King Charles IX in 1566, is in the MIM exhibit.

The beautfiul Amati violin with its contrasting neck, fingerboard and tailpiece.
The beautiful Amati violin with its contrasting neck, fingerboard and tailpiece.

As you can see from my photograph taken at the exhibit, Amati used a lighter colored wood for the neck, face of the fingerboard and tailpiece and decorated it with fine, delicate black line design. On the backside of the violin, he added a golden crown and fleur d’lis, still visible but fading with time. Interestingly, whenever Amati made violins, including this one I believe, he made them as part of a matched set. They were used, with the viola, viol da gamba and lyres for example, to provide dance music for those at court. It’s a bit humbling to stand in front of this historic instrument and realize that its maker gave us the start of our beloved violin of today.

The ribs of Sacconi's violin on display at MIM are gorgeously embellished.
The ribs of Sacconi’s violin on display at MIM are gorgeously embellished.

Equally as stunning is the “Violino Barocco” by Simone Fernando Sacconi, also displayed at MIM. This violin is so named because its neck is shorter and its fingerboard like those from the Baroque era of music.  It was built in 1941 by the Italian maker who is regarded as one of the foremost violin makers of the modern-day. Sacconi, who died in 1973, devoted himself to extensive study of Stradivari’s techniques even using his antique tools. Although difficult to photograph through its display case, you can still see here the exquisite design of this violin’s ribs and get an idea of the lacelike intricacy of the bridge.  To view it in person is breathtaking.

The bridge of Sacconi's violin is amazing unto itself.
The bridge of Sacconi’s violin is amazing unto itself.

But of course, the instrument in the exhibit that draws your greatest attention is the one violin made by the master himself, the “Artot-Alard’ violin of 1728. It is the first time that this particular violin has ever been on display in the United States. Made when Stradivari was 84, it is a fine example of his craftsmanship.  Look closely and you can see the close, straight grains of the spruce wood used to make it. Undoubtedly, this is as close to a Stradivari that I will ever get so I stood before it as I might an art masterpiece, which it truly is, taking in its beauty, admiring its deep color and imagining what it must be like to actually play it.

A detail of the Stradivari violin on exhibit at MIM shows the close grain of the wood. A detail of the Stradivari violin on exhibit at MIM shows the close grain of the wood.
A detail of the Stradivari violin on exhibit at MIM shows the close grain of the wood.

I could have lingered there in the exhibit for an hour but my time had run out.  I managed to watch the short video on the “Science of the Stradivarius”, which you can see here by clicking on this link:  http://bit.ly/1pFwDEq.  It’s an excellent and fascinating explanation of how these incredible instruments were constructed.

Should you find yourself in Phoenix between now and June 5, I’d encourage you to plan some time to spend at MIM and this special exhibit. And if you miss it, don’t miss MIM next time you’re in the city. It’s truly a place where you can spend an entire day.  It’s a topic for a future blog post!

I had only a short time to visit the Stradivarius exhibit at MIM but was glad I did!
I had only a short time to visit the Stradivarius exhibit at MIM but was glad I did!

Making Music in Beautiful Bellingham

Bellingham’s Festival of Music’s 22nd season got off to a bang on Friday evening when the orchestra, under the baton of Michael Palmer, performed the rousing Overture to Royal Fireworks Music by George Frederic Handel. Though evening was unseasonably warm inside Western Washington University’s Concert Hall the audience wasn’t deterred and applauded for an encore from soloist Vadim Gluzman who gave a stunningly beautiful performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. The orchestra too sparkled when it played Mozart’s wonderful  (never can have too much Mozart) Symphony No. 36 in C major, the  “Linz”.

Violinist Vadim Gluzman greets fans and sign autographs following hisperformance at the 2015 opening night concert Bellingham Festival of Music
Violinist Vadim Gluzman greets fans and sign autographs following his performance at the 2015 opening night concert Bellingham Festival of Music

I often have to remind myself that I am in Bellingham, a city of only 80,000 located 20 miles from the Canadian border, and not in Seattle or San Francisco or even Chicago or New York when I hear this Festival orchestra perform.  Of course, the musicians who play in this orchestra for two weeks in the summer, come from orchestras located in those cities. As many of them have said, it’s equally a treat for them as well to perform here year after year (some have been with the Festival since the first year). They have made many friends with their ‘host’ families and those who come to hear them play. They enjoy the opportunity to play in a our beautiful city by the bay and welcome the chance to escape from the heat of their home environs. (This summer has been unseasonably warm for Bellingham.)

Audience members await the start of the chamber music concert staged in Bellingham's Ferry Terminal each year with stunning views of the bay and the city.
Audience members await the start of the chamber music concert staged in Bellingham’s Ferry Terminal each year with stunning views of the bay and the city.

It’s one reason the New York Times singled out Bellingham’s Music Festival, along with that of select others in the country, for its article by Michael Cooper which appeared in today’s paper. It is, as Cooper so aptly put it, like ‘summer camp’ for classical musicians.

For concertgoers, the festival brings to the stage some of the world’s best classical music and musicians,  without setting foot beyond the city’s boundaries. In my case, I am only steps away from the WWU campus where they perform.

Mary Kary and Joe Robinson play for guests during a farewell gathering given at a private home to honor their retirement from the Belingham Music Festival.
Mary Kary and Joe Robinson play for guests during a farewell gathering given at a private home to honor their retirement from the Bellingham Music Festival.

I have had the pleasure of listening to and getting to know, for example, former New York Philharmonic principal oboist Joe Robinson, both as a member of the orchestra and as a soloist. (Pinch me.) Robinson retired from the Festival two summers ago but his spot was filled by protegé, Keisuke Wakao, principal oboist for the Boston Symphony.  And I’ve heard some of the finest soloists, such as the Israeli violinist Gluzman, performing in classical music today.

It also brings back to Bellingham local artists such as soprano Katie Van Kooten who’s singing with opera companies and symphony orchestras all over the world, and young rising talent, such as the Calidore String Quartet, whose violist, Jeremy Berry, grew up only blocks from the concert hall where he saw musicians on the very stage where he now performs as part of the Festival’s guest artists.

The Calidore String Quartet visits the Pacific Northwest to perform in the Bellingham Festival of Music.
The Calidore String Quartet visits the Pacific Northwest to perform in the Bellingham Festival of Music at Western Washington University. The quartet is making a name for itself internationally and includes violoist Jeremy Berry who grew up listening to concerts on the Festival stage.

At this writing, tickets are still available for some concerts. If you’re lucky enough to be in the area, or coming to this corner of the Pacific Northwest in the next two weeks, make it part of your summer. If you can’t make it to Bellingham’s music festival this year, put it in your travel plans for next year. And then you, like so many of the festival musicians, may also find yourself returning year after year!

 

 

 

Let Me Take You Down To Funky Town

Some places, such as New Orleans, Monterey, Santa Fe, Newport R.I. Austin,Nashville, instantly bring the word ‘music’ to mind when you mention them. Bellingham, Wa., where I live, probably should be somewhere on the list. You might not say that ‘the hills are alive with music’ where I live, but the streets, schools, parks,clubs, concert halls, churches and homes certainly are. On any given evening, no matter whether you enjoy classical, jazz, rock, hip-hop, blues, bluegrass or country, you can hear or participate in ‘live’ music somewhere in town. I have always found this rather amazing for a city with a metro population of about 81,000 (metro population puts it at  201,000). That’s one reason I chose to live and finish raising my family here. As a photographer, it’s given me lots and lots of opportunities to photograph musicians, both in the studio and in concert.

Last Thursday evening, for example, found us in the music-lovin’ crowd at the Wild Buffalo, a local downtown music club, where the nationally known funk band from New Orleans, Galactic, was playing to a near sold-out house. It was one of the first stops on the band’s West Coast tour which includes two nights at the Fillmore in San Francisco and the El Rey theatre in Los Angeles. The band played until after midnight with the crowd staying with them.

The New Oirleans based funk band, Galatic, plays to an enthusiastic crowd at Bellingham's Wild Buffalo. I made this shot with my iPhone from within the midst of the crowd.
The New Oirleans based funk band, Galatcic, plays to an enthusiastic crowd at Bellingham’s Wild Buffalo. I made this shot with my iPhone from within the midst of the crowd.

We’ll be there again this upcoming Friday night, March 6, when the Fabulous Party Boys, for which my son is the drummer, takes the stage. Like so many others, the funk band, now based in Seattle, started out when my son was still in middle school.  They stuck together through high school, calling themselves simply ‘The Funk Band,’ until one day Randy Newman came to town for a concert, met them after the show and said that he always thought The Fabulous Party Boys would be a good name for a band. I guess they did too because after that, they became The Fabulous Party Boys.

The Seattle-based funk band,the Fabulous Party Boys, performing onstage at Bellinghan's Wild Buffalo.
The Seattle-based funk band,the Fabulous Party Boys, performing onstage at Bellingham’s Wild Buffalo.

They continued learning and playing funk music ‘covers’ and gradually added their own tunes. They’d appear at school and various community events and at some of the local music clubs, long before they could legally enter the place by themselves. They’d march with their instruments straight up to the stage, play their 45-minute set, then march straight out again. Sometimes, they’d fill-in for the bigger, locally known bands, like the popular but now defunct funk band, La Push, during their breaks between sets. And sometimes, La Push would just let them keep playing.  Not long ago, the lead singer and trumpet player for La Push, Joel Ricci,joined them on stage for a guest stint.

Keyboardist Eliot Gray shakes it up on during a Fabulous Party Boys gig at Bellingham's Wild Buffalo.
Keyboardist Eliot Gray shakes it up on during a Fabulous Party Boys gig at Bellingham’s Wild Buffalo.

During college, the band members went their separate ways, studying music at college, but always re-grouping in the summers when most of them were back in Bellingham. Gradually, the band evolved. Some of the original members have gone on to pursue other avenues of music–Jordan Piper plays jazz piano in New York, Jeff Seigfried is finishing up his PhD as a classical saxophonist at Northwestern University, guitarist Albert Diaz is also finishing up his PhD in musicology from USC, for example.

Drummer Marshall Petryni lays down the funky beat for Seattle's funk band, the Fabulous Party Boys.
Drummer Marshall Petryni lays down the funky beat for Seattle’s funk band, the Fabulous Party Boys.

But my son, Marshall, and Jon Hansen, who plays tuba as the bassist for the group, remain with the band. Scott Macpherson, another Bellinghamster, joined them somewhere along the way to play sax. The other players, keyboardist Eliot Gray, trumpeter Ray Larsen, and guitarist Andy Short, all from the Seattle area, found one another through the University of Washington’s music school.  Recently, Tazlyn Gue, who studied music at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts, became their vocalist and doubles on the flute. In fact,  they are all accomplished musicians, who studied classical and jazz at college. (Jon is also making a name for himself as a classical tubist and composer.) They all also perform with other bands, but it’s The Fabulous Party Boys to which they are first and foremost dedicated.

The Fabulous Party Boys tuba player, Jon Hansen, provides the bottom line for the band's driving funk music.
The Fabulous Party Boys tuba player, Jon Hansen, provides the bottom line for the band’s driving funk music.

They still play ‘cover’ tunes, but most of their music is now their own; full of hard-driving complicated rhythms, upbeat, funky melody lines; tight horns accented by the sounds from Jon’s amazing electric tuba, and Taz’s vocals, which swings from a sparky,bubbling voice on one end to a funky growl on the other. As What’s Up Magazine’s Steven Riley writes: “…their savvy contemporary style of funk elicited fantasies of Michel de Montaigne; it was a merge between serious intellectual speculation, casual anecdotes, and personal narrative. … Needless to say, the Fabulous Party Boys were brilliantly playful entertainers and musicians.”

Trumpet player Ray Larsen of the Fabulous Party Boys funk band playing some tight licks during a performance at the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham.
Trumpet player Ray Larsen of the Fabulous Party Boys funk band playing some tight licks during a performance at the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham.

The band appears at clubs and venues all over the Seattle area, but upon occasion will come back to Bellingham where we can still go, just as we have for years, to hear their music. When that happens, I usually end up photographing the band as they play for their long-time followers and new fans. At their upcoming show at Wild Buffalo this Friday, the band will be performing music from their newest CD, “The Fabulous Party Boys”. It’s among their best yet.  You can bet, that I, along with many others who’ve watched and listened to them grow, not only as kids but as musicians, over the years will be there. I hope, if you’re around, you’ll be there too or catch them another time when they play at a location nearer you.

Opening up for The Fabulous Party Boys on March 6 will be the hip-hop band, The Bad Tenants, which also got its start in Bellingham. But that’s another story for another blog post!

Singer Tazlyn Gue of the Fabulous Party Boys at the mic with guitarist Andy Short, sax player Scott McPherson and Jon Hansen on tuba at the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham
Singer Tazlyn Gue of the Fabulous Party Boys at the mic with guitarist Andy Short, sax player Scott Macpherson and Jon Hansen on tuba at the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham

Summer Means Seriously Good Music at Bellingham Festival

Summer means a lot of things to a lot of people. A time to vacation, a time to spend long days lounging in the sun, a time to kick back and enjoy the outdoors, and a time to take in some top-notch music in some surprising places.  That’s right, music festivals seem to be synonymous with summer.  No matter your tastes in music, you can pretty much find a festival for it.  I live in one of those places.  In fact, the Bellingham Festival of Music was one of the reasons my husband and I chose to move to this Northwest Washington city. At the time that we were considering relocation, we were astonished to discover this community, located just a few miles from the Canadian border, where, for two weeks in July, you could pick a performance with world-class classical playing in concert halls that seated no more than 500 people.  It reminded me of so many small European cities where music is part of not only the culture, but fabric of daily life.

We have long since become huge fans of the Bellingham Festival of Music, http://www.bellinghamfestival.org/index.shtml, and set aside those two weeks every year to attend at least some, if not all, the concerts.  The festival has evolved through the years, as good ones do.  It struggled a few years ago to survive financially, but thanks to a dedicated board of directors and loyal followers, the festival emerged stronger than ever.

Conductor Michael Palmer leads the Bellingham Festival of Music orcehstra in its 21st season now underway.
Conductor Michael Palmer leads the Bellingham Festival of Music orchestra in its 21st season now underway.

The festival orchestra, under the baton of conductor Michael Palmer, is like a finely tuned instrument. Many of the members have now played together for years here so that instincts nearly take over when it comes to anticipating what both the conductor and the music demand. It is no wonder. Among their number are principal players from major orchestras across the country, who, for two weeks, alight in Bellingham to enjoy the incredible summer weather in a spectacular natural setting while performing classical music for an appreciative, yet discerning, audiences from Bellingham and the neighboring cities of Seattle and Vancouver B.C.

Oboist Joe Robinson
Oboist Joe Robinson plays at a private home event as part of the 2013 Bellingham Festival of Music. The event was a fund-raiser and farewell party for Robinson who was principal oboist for the festival’s orchestra until the end of the 2013 season.

Thanks to the festival, I’ve heard some memorable music in what I’d describe as ‘intimate’ settings for the musicians onstage.  Performances such as the with international opera star Josie Perez singing the title role in a staged version of Carmen in the 1,500-seat Mount Baker Theatre which sold out that concert.  Or the recital in nearby Mount Vernon’s 300-seat McIntyre Hall–acoustically designed by those who also did Seattle’s renown Benaroya Hall–by then principal oboist of the New York Philharmonic, Joe Robinson. Or the chamber music concert at Mount Baker’s ski lodge staged against he snow-capped mountains.

Last night, the Music Festival kicked off its 21st season with another first-class  program including  Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor with soloist Stefan Jackiw.   http://www.stefanjackiw.com/en/  This was Jackiw’s third time at the festival.   This 29-year-old violinist quickly became a festival favorite after making his initial appearance in 2010.  His international acclaim has soared as well with the Washington Post music writer describing him as possessing “talent that’s off the scale.” That talent clearly apparent at last evening’s performance as the handsome young man, of Korean and German parents, gave concert-goers yet another stunning musical memory.

Violinist Stefan Jakiw first appeared with the Bellingham Festival of Music Orchestra in 2010.
Violinist Stefan Jackiw’ first appeared with the Bellingham Festival of Music Orchestra in 2010.

This year, I’m especially excited about the upcoming performances this week by an up and coming young string quartet that is winning both recognition and awards all over the world. And, the violist is a locally grown young man named Jeremy Berry.  Known as the Calidore String Quartet, http://calidorestringquartet.com/, this musical foursome got its start at Los Angeles’ Colburn Conservatory of Music where Jeremy had gone to continue his musical studies after graduating from the Julliard School of  Music.  Together the quartet, that also includes violinists Jeffrey Myers and Ryan Meehan and cellist Estelle Choi, are charming and impressing audiences and collecting grand prizes at prestigious chamber music competitions such as the Fishoff, Coleman, Chesapeake, and Yellow Springs. They are well on their way to becoming one of the next outstanding chamber music groups and it’s a treat to have them on the schedule at the Bellingham Festival of Music.

The Calidore String Quartet visits the Pacific Northwest to perform with the Bellingham Festival of Music orchestra in a concert at Western Washington University. The quartet will also play in recital during the music festival's 2014 summer season.
The Calidore String Quartet visits the Pacific Northwest to perform with the Bellingham Festival of Music orchestra in a concert at Western Washington University. The quartet will also play in recital during the music festival’s 2014 summer season.

On Tuesday, July 8, they will join the Festival Orchestra onstage to perform Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro for Strings, Op. 47. This is a technically difficult piece, particularly for the quartet’s violinist (the composer was himself a violinist). It will give the Calidore a chance to show just how well they can handle what has become a solid part of the chamber orchestra repertoire. That performance will be followed on Thursday, July 10 with a recital by the Calidore.  The evening’s line-up includes Beethoven’s string quartet, Op. 18, No. 1; Tenebrae by contemporary Argentine-born composer Osvaldo Golijov, and Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, known as “Death and the Maiden,” after the composer’s earlier song on which the second movement is based. Both concerts will take place in Western Washington University’s Performing Arts Center. Tickets are still available.   http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?organ_val=22357

While this is the Quartet’s first solo artist appearance with the Festival, they have played in Bellingham previously as part of  ‘Play it Forward’, a collaborative program by the Bellingham Music Festival and the Whatcom Symphony during which musicians perform and play in area schools. The Calidore String Quartet  blew away audiences with their performances so much so that the Festival engaged them for this year’s summer schedule.

The  Festival also sponsors a Welcome Home series  in the spring that features young musicians who are currently studying music performance at a major university or conservatory of music. It gives young musicians an opportunity to perform, enriches the Bellingham community and helps start a career.

In addition, the Festival sponsors ‘master classes’ with guest artists and principal players from the festival orchestra with university-level music students.  The classes are free and open to the public and provide yet one more opportunity to experience classical music in a special, intimate way. A few years ago, I sat in on a master class with piano virtuoso Leon Fleischer. He was so generous, enlightening and understanding in his interaction with the students who played for him that day.

With last night’s concert, the Bellingham Music Festival is off to another great start of creating yet more memorable musical performances. For those of us who live here, it is an extraordinary opportunity to hear world-class music right in our neighborhood.  For those of you who don’t, it’s worth planning a visit to our little part of the world.

 

 

Concert Pianist Touched Many with Music

Famed concert pianist Van Cliburn died earlier this week prompting an abundance of posthumous tributes and  a flood of memories from those who were fortunate to see him perform.  I was among those lucky thousands who heard him play in person.

Vam Cliburn came to my hometown in 1970 when he was 35 years old.  He had won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow just eight years earlier, at age 23 and instantly became an American hero.  He returned home to a ticker tape parade in New York, the first ever given for a musician, then began crisscrossing the country in a concert career that lasted until 1978 when he retired from the stage.

Courtney Fortune was photographed seated at the piano in her home as a high school senior.  She'snow  a jazz singer pursuing her career in Seattle in and Los Angeles.
Courtney Fortune was photographed seated at the piano in her home as a high school senior. She’s now a jazz singer pursuing her career in Seattle and Los Angeles.

Everywhere he appeared, the music-loving American public fell in love with him.  As Anthony Tommasini writes in the New York Times:  “Every American town with a community concert series wanted him to come play a recital.”  My hometown was no exception.  He played in the largest hall in the town–the nearly 1,600-seat Municipal Auditorium.  Although I can’t be certain, I’ll bet every seat in the house was filled.  I know I occupied one of them.

Looking back, I am somewhat amazed that a musician on his stature performed in my small town of nearly 14,000.  Having served on the board of Bellingham’s Mount Baker Theatre, I am very familiar with what it takes to book an artist of that caliber.  Perhaps it was different in those days but I suspect some local philanthropist very generously donated his artist fee

It was worth every penny for those of us who went.  In addition to the evening performance, he gave a special afternoon recital for the junior high school students.  Imagine how many kids he may have introduced to classical music for the first time. Or, like me, inspired to pursue their musical studies in college.  After his evening performance, I, along with some other young admirers, met him backstage.  He was so tall and lanky, and his hands were so large it was a wonder he could play some of the delicate passages he did without his long fingers getting in the way.  He graciously posed for photos (I have one), signed autographs and offered words of encouragement to young, aspiring pianists.

The young man pictured here was chosen to solo with the Mount Baker Youth Symphony in 2006.
The young man pictured here was chosen to solo with the Mount Baker Youth Symphony in 2006.

I was so taken with Van Cliburn’s amazing playing that when he won the Tchaikovsky competition, I was moved to write an editorial for my little ‘neighborhood’ newsletter entitled: Why I Want to be a Concert Pianist.  That was a dream that never quite materialized (I didn’t have nearly the talent it takes to reach that level).  But I did continue to study piano as a music major in college.

Over the years, I have become personal friends with other professional concert pianists.  In particular, my friend Barbara Nissman whom I once photographed when she was in residency at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts.  Barbara too was inspired by Van Cliburn and later when she had a career of her own as a concert pianist, met him upon occasion.  “Van truly inspired all of us,” she says. “I remember hearing him in high school. sitting at the top of the Academy of Music in Philadelphia and after he played, said to myself, ‘That’s what I want to do!!’

“He was the sweetest guy,” she recalls.  “I was always amazed that every time I saw him, he remembered my name.  And look what he did for music even though he didn’t continue to play. He didn’t have to.  Not many “icons” like him around! What a great loss.”  No doubt the impact he had influenced Nissman in her own work with young audiences.

It’s been my pleasure to photograph many young pianists here in Bellingham either for a senior portrait or the Mount Baker Youth Symphony.  Some of them have gone on to study music and become professional musicians as well.

Julia was a senior when I photographed her at the piano. Today, she's a busy accompanist and musical director in Seattle, WA.

Julia was a senior when I photographed her at the piano. Today, she’s a busy accompanist and musical director in Seattle, WA.

While someone like Van Cliburn only comes along once in great while, you never know who is going to be inspired by a concert like the one he gave that day in my hometown and who might emerge as the next talented concert pianist of a new generation.

 

For more about pianist Barbara Nissman, visit her website at:  http://www.barbaranissman.com/#!

Back to Brooklyn Brings Back Memories

The last time Michael and I saw Barbra was in Phoenix.   She was in town filming the remake of “A Star is Born” with co-star Kris Kristofferson, directed by the legendary Frank Pierson.  Word was that things were a bit rocky between Kristofferson and Streisand, or maybe it was just hype to build interest for the film, but we decided we would check it out.  At the time, Michael was still covering film for the Arizona Republic; I was editing a downtown business weekly.

Michael learned that the production was planning to shoot an indoor concert scene at Arizona State University’s Grady Gammage Auditorium.  They needed extras to sit in the seats and be the audience during filming.  Michael made arrangements through the production’s press contact for us to among them.    We took our places somewhere in the middle of the main floor seating, holding candles that were given to us as we entered.

Streisand with the film’s co-star, Kris Kristofferson, belt it out in a scene from the movie.

Gammage seats a little more than 3,000 people.  But for this film, only about half the seats would be filled. The rest would remain dark and out of camera.   An undercurrent of excited anticipation swept through the “audience” as filming began.  The shots were set up and the assistant director called for “Quiet on the Set, please.”  A hush settled over the 1,500 seated extras.  Then Barbra stepped onto the stage and took her place for the scene.  There she was.  Onstage. Live.

I was as struck by her presence as was everyone else around me.   After a few takes, the crew stopped to set up for the next shot. There’s a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’ that goes on during filming and at the moment, we were in the ‘wait’ phase.  The ‘audience’ extras would have to ‘wait’ as well.   Then a most incredible thing happened.

Streisand stepped up to the edge of the stage, took a mic and addressed the audience.   She must have known that there would be a  long delay between shots and, as a co-producer,  prepared for it.   I honestly don’t remember where the music came from but the next thing I know, Streisand’s singing.   She sang only two or three songs but one of them was what is  probably still her “signature” song–“People” from the musical “Funny Girl.”   And yes,  I was pinching myself along with everyone else in the audience, maybe even the crew too.

She had us breathless.   It was, what might be considered “an intimate” concert.  Just us, the 1,500 extras and crew and Barbra.

That was then.  This was now.  Or last night.  In Vancouver, B.C.’s  Rogers Arena.  It was only her 88th live concert performance since 1963.  And it was her first ever in Vancouver.

Streisand performance in Vancouver B.C. was an evening of musical magic. Shown here in a photo from the Vancouver Sun.

There were a few more people with us in the audience this time, about 10,500 more.  And  this time, the concert wasn’t free, but it was elegant, classy and demonstrated that this Broadway and film star’s voice is as silky and rich as ever. Even at age 70, her phrasing, dynamic and tone control is unmatched.   The performance was part of her “Back to Brooklyn” tour which opened in Philly followed by two shows in her hometown of Brooklyn.

The evening’s repertoire was a mix of standards, musical melodies and her ever-popular “Evergreen” from that production of “A Star is Born.”  She also performed “People” once again and this time, “The Way We Were”,  my favorite of the evening.It was a  night of nostalgia, filled with family photos and video and family themselves as son, Jason Gould,  and younger sister, Roslyn Kind,  each joined her onstage.  Trumpeter Chris Botti paired up with her for some stunning duets of voice and brass.  The very young Italian trio, Il Volo, and violinist Caroline Campbell also shared in a few numbers to audience acclaim.  She offered a touching tribute to close friend and composer Marvin Hamlisch and to composer Jules Styne.

Mostly though,  it was a nod to her ‘roots’ made even more memorable perhaps because while she stood onstage in Vancouver singing, post-tropical  storm Sandy was sweeping through her ‘hometown’, giving her opening remarks even more poignancy:  “I left Brooklyn, but Brooklyn never left me.”

Bellingham’s Music Festival

The Bellingham Festival of Music opened this weekend in Bellingham with a concert featuring pianist Jeremy Denk performing a Mozart Piano Concerto.  This evening, the second in the two-week series of performances takes place with the renown violinist, Joshua Bell, soloing in Samuel Barber’s  Violin Concerto, Op. 14.  To have two concert artists of this caliber playing nearly back to back in a city the size of Bellingham is one of the reasons the Bellingham Festival is so incredible.

The Festival, now in its 19th season, is, in fact one of the reasons that my husband and I chose Bellingham when we decided to relocate from Los Angeles.  Bellingham has many amazing amenities and for us, the Festival was one of the most amazing.  Each year, musicians occupying prinicipal chairs from major orchestras around the country–including former New York Philharmonic prinicpal oboist Joseph Robinson– come to Bellingham to be part of the Festival’s orchestra led by conductor Michael Palmer.

Festival conductor Michael Palmer and guest Michael Yip on board the Fourth of July cruise of Bellingham Bay.
Festival conductor Michael Palmer, in they.

And, each year, maestro Palmer does an astounding  job of bringing these players together with a short amount of rehearsal time to become one of America’s finest festival orchestras.  To top it off, world-class soloists, such as Bell and Denk this year, and pianists Garrick Ohlssen and  Horacio Gutierrez, violinist Stefan Jackiw and vocalists Heidi Murphy-Grant, Josie Perez and  Katie Van Kooten, appear with the orchestra as guest artists.     The Festival is a summer treat for Bellinghamsters and visitors alike who, over the years, have made it part of their summer schedule.  My husband and I are among them.  Many of the concerts take place at Western Washington University’s Performing Arts Center, just a short walk from my studio.  On more than one occasion, when sitting in the audience, I have to remind myself that I’m in Bellingham listening to this outstanding music and not in a concert hall in Seattle or New York or Los Angeles.Consequently, I try to support the Festival however I can.  This year, I was among many donors to its annual fund-raising auction.  I gladly gave a family group portrait as part of the evening’s offerings.    And I was lucky enough to join other Festival supporters and musicians for a Fourth of July cruise in Bellingham Bay, courtesy of two other auction donors, Carol and Bob Snowball.  The Snowballs hosted 18 of us on their beautiful boat.  With clear skies, calm waters and warm temperatures, the conditions, and the company couldn’t have been more perfect.

The Van Horns purchased my family portrait auction donation for a group portrait of their family, including one of themselves with their daughter and dog at their Bellingham home.

Like myself and the Snowballs, the Festival brings terrific music to our doorstep and we are grateful for it.

You can learn more about the Bellingham Festival of Music at its website:  www.bellinghamfestival.org.  Hope to see you at  a concert!

Gettin’ Funky with FPB

I listen to music while working in the studio and over the years have found that the music to which I work best is either jazz or funk music.  Classical, which I love, is too demanding of my attention, rock and hip hop are too distracting and country, well, I’m not a huge country fan to begin with.

But jazz and funk lets me work while enjoying some good music.  I also find that it’s good when shooting in the camera room because it seems to relax anxious clients but is upbeat and helps to set the mood for a fun session.

So yesterday, the music was playing when a client came in to place an order happened to the be new CD recently released by my own son’s Seattle-based funk band, The Fabulous Party Boys (FPB).  The band just performed this past weekend at the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham, along with Megatron, a band that seldom plays together anymore.   FPB has played the Wild Buffalo many times over the years and has developed a loyal following both here and now in Seattle.  By the time they started to play at about 10:30, the Buff funk music fans were flowing through the front doors.

The Fabulous Party Boys onstage at Bellingham’s Wild Buffalo.
 I was there not only to hear the band but also to shoot some new promotional photos for them.    The Buffalo is one of the better venues in Bellingham to photograph live performances because they have good stage lighting and it’s a big space so that it’s easy to move around.

My client had never heard the music of FPB, until yesterday.  The band’s new  CD, titled “Shower Together” features eight original cuts written by members of the band.  “It’s so refined,” my client said, “I didn’t expect them to sound that way.”In fact, if you’ve never heard this group you might be surprised by the complexity of their music.  Tempos change, rhythms and riffs are complicated and intricate and the playing is precise.  The members themselves are pretty modest when it comes to their musical abilities but each are trained musicians whose technical skills allow them to execute melodies and rhythms that lesser players might stumble over.  The end result is music that, as one Seattle reviewer put it:  …”is a wonderfully energetic and eccentric piece of funk…the band manages to radiate more soul in five seconds than most bands do in their entire career.”

You can have listen to the funky phrases of FPB yourself at:  http://www.myspace.com/thefabulouspartyboys/music or purchase their CD through Amazon, iTunes, CDbaby, or, if you happen to be at my studio, from me!   Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!