Just a few articles of note today:
- The City of Chicago urges residents to call 311 to report non-essential business remaining open.
- President Trump admitted on "Fox & Friends" this morning that adopting common-sense election reforms would mean "you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again." (Unless, I suppose, they changed their policies to match the mainstream, right?)
- The Times reports on General Motors' efforts to produce 2,000 ventilators a month (an order-of-magnitude change from now) even as the president slagged the company on Twitter.
- Jennifer Rubin points out that "Trump's narcissism has never been more dangerous."
- Richard Florida examines how society will need to change after the current stay-at-home phase of the pandemic passes.
And finally, London took advantage of reduced traffic on March 24th to give the Abbey Road zebra crossing a much-overdue paint job.
The New York Times' chief classical music critic, Anthony Tomassini, gives credit to the person who was Germany's greatest composer, until Bach:
[B]orn in 1585, exactly 100 years before Bach, he is considered the greatest German composer of the 17th century. I hardly knew his music, however, and neither does much of the concert-going public today.
One day, that professor put on a recording of Schütz’s “Die Sieben Worte Jesu am Kreuz,” a setting of Jesus’s final words from the cross, framed by two stanzas of a hymn text. From the start of the poignant Introitus to this austerely beautiful piece, I was hooked.
What grabbed me was the importance Schütz gave to making the German text clear. In faithfully rendering the clipped rhythms and natural cadences of the language, the music taps into the deeper meaning of the words. Schütz drives home the emotions through deliberate repetitions of overlapping phrases. As a devotee of musical theater, I was struck by how Schütz seemed to anticipate the word-setting techniques of Broadway songsmiths.
Later in life, Schütz — who died in 1672, at 87 years old — composed three passions that anticipated those of Bach. These works are affectingly austere. The elegant, supple, quasi-melodious recitatives for the Evangelist and Jesus are unaccompanied; the lucid choral writing is dramatic, but understated. The tenor Peter Schreier, who died last year, recorded all three of the Evangelist roles with the Dresdner Kreuzchor choir, singing with radiant sound and aching sensitivity. I especially love the “St. Matthew Passion.”
I don’t think Bach would mind if, now and then, a performance of his own “St. Matthew Passion” were replaced with Schütz’s. I’d be there.
If you find yourself with extra time on your hands, check out some of Schütz’s works.
Apollo Chorus assistant director Cody Michael Bradley has put out a series of "Quarantunes" to keep us musical through the social distancing phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today's installment was the old Joe Dassin song "Les Champs-Élysées."
New lyrics immediately sprang to mind. Voilà:
Je m'baladais sur l'avenue, le coeur ouvert à l'inconnu
J'avais envie de dire bonjour à n'importe qui
Mais tous les gens, et tous les autres les interdits d'aller dehors
Donc on peut pas dire quelques mots pour deux semaines plus
Aux Champs-Élysées, aux Champs-Élysées !
Je souhaite toutes on a sant' parce que je n'suis pas introvert
J'ai peur j'allerais perdre la tête aux Champs-Élysées
We just sent this out:
After much deliberation, and in consultation with Music Director Stephen Alltop, the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra, and both of our concert venues, we have decided to cancel our concert at St Luke’s scheduled for this Saturday March 14th.
The ESO has agreed that tickets to Saturday’s performance will be honored on Sunday at 3pm at the Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church performance. If you bought a ticket through our online system for Saturday’s performance and provided an email address, we will also be in contact with you directly.
The health of our members, our audience, and our communities is our first priority. We will continue to monitor this situation, and abide by requests from CDC and other government entities. Tonight and on Sunday, we will have hand sanitizer available throughout ECRC, and church staff and ushers will be wearing gloves on Sunday.
Thank you for your support of the Apollo Chorus of Chicago during this difficult time.
Let me just say that the board meeting we had a couple of hours ago had surprisingly little acrimony.
I wrote three versions of the release, one for our members, one for the community at large, and one for our ticketholders. It's been a busy afternoon. And we're still rehearsing tonight for Sunday's performance, just with more hand sanitizer than usual.
...as long as you aren't in Chicago:
Lake Shore Drive was being hammered with waves Saturday morning causing officials to shut down the bike path in some parts on the North and South sides.
Officer Michelle Tannehill, a spokeswoman for police, said the northbound path remains closed between Ohio Street and Fullerton Avenue as of 11:30 a.m. There also were reports of trouble on South Shore Drive in the northbound lanes from 7100 to 6700 South Shore Drive.
Still under a winter weather advisory until 3 a.m. Sunday, parts of Cook County along the shoreline were expecting winds to reach up to 50 mph as rain showers threaten to create slick conditions.
It gets better:
Those in and around Chicago can expect snow by Saturday night, but before then, a complex and messy storm will possibly bring freezing rain, thunderstorms, sleet and dangerously high lakefront waves into early Sunday, forecasters said.
A winter storm warning was in effect for McHenry and other outlying counties northwest and west of the city from 9 p.m. Friday until 3 a.m. Sunday, with snow as deep as 7 inches predicted in some areas. A winter weather advisory was in effect for Lake and Kane counties starting at 3 a.m. Saturday and for Cook, DuPage, Kendall and LaSalle counties, lasting until 6 a.m. Sunday.
Officials said the storm will start with rain and sleet. There may also be ice pellets, but it might not freeze all surfaces, which may cause patchy slick spots in the area. It is expected to snow after 5 p.m. Saturday and continue snowing till 1 a.m. Sunday, Friedlein said.
Tonight I'm hosting some fellow singers for madrigals and wine. (You read this blog and didn't realize I'm a nerd?) Fortunately I'm close to public transit. I hope I'm not stuck with too much extra cheese and wine; that would be tragic.
Somehow, it's December again: winter in the northern hemisphere. Another 8 weeks of sunsets before 5pm, sunrises after 7am, and cold gray skies. At least it builds character.
For me, it also means two weeks of non-stop Händel. Rehearsals tomorrow, Thursday, next Monday, and next Wednesday; performances Tuesday, Friday, and on the 14th and 15th.
Two of those won't be Apollo performances per se. On Tuesday a few of us will visit a local retirement community and help out with their annual sing-a-long of Part 1. We go every year and apparently they keep asking us to come back. Then on Friday, some of us are volunteering for a local church's performance of Parts 1 and 2, another event they keep asking us to come back for. We must be doing something right. (Not to mention, this will be our 140th year doing Messiah, so we've had some practice.)
As Gordon Sondland throws the president under the bus (probably because (a) he's under oath and (b) the president would do it to him soon enough), there are actually a lot of other things going on in the world:
More work to do now.
On Sunday, Pitchfork revisited Aimee Mann's third solo album, which she recorded 20 years ago:
The best song on the album, and the one that most thoroughly embodies its wary, bruised point of view, is “Deathly.” Warmed up by whispered backing vocals from [Jon] Brion and Juliana Hatfield, it’s a preemptive rejection from someone who’s been hurt too many times to risk heartbreak again. “Don’t pick on me/When one act of kindness could be deathly,” Mann pleads, her emphatic down-strums and simple rhyme scheme inviting a cathartic sing-along. She repeats the brief but evocative title so many times, it finally morphs into a word that’s even more devastating by virtue of its finality: “definitely.” Because she chooses her maximalist moments carefully on Bachelor No. 2, the song’s stratospheric, almost overblown minute-long instrumental outro lends an epic scale to what amounts to Mann’s refusal to keep experiencing emotions.
It was “Deathly” that inspired Anderson to complete the circle of inspiration, making Mann’s music the centerpiece of his 1999 film Magnolia. It makes up the bulk of the soundtrack, alongside a score from Brion (whose history with Anderson dated back to the director’s 1996 debut Hard Eight, on which he collaborated with Mann’s husband, composer Michael Penn). Unfolding over a night punctuated by violent L.A. rain—and culminating in a biblical cloudburst of bullfrogs—Magnolia follows an intersecting cast of lonely, angry, wounded and regretful characters.
In one scene, an abuse survivor and addict named Claudia (Melora Walters) abruptly ends what looked to be a promising first date with a kind, embattled police officer (John C. Reilly) by speaking the opening salvo of “Deathly”: “Now that I’ve met you, would you object to never seeing each other again?” (“I heard that line and wrote backwards,” Anderson recalled in an introduction to the shooting script. “This ‘original’ screenplay could, for all intents and purposes, be called an adaption of Aimee Mann songs.”)
I think I'll have to put the album on after my conference call.
Chicago Classical Review attended our performance of Everest and Aleko this weekend:
There are a myriad of reasons why an operatic adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air should not work. And yet it does. Composer [Joby] Talbot and librettist Gene Scheer have crafted a compelling 70-minute opera adapted form Krakauer’s nonfiction book about the disastrous 1996 Everest expedition in which eight people died.
Scheer wisely narrows the scope to three mountaineers, alternating their increasingly desperate situation on the South Summit with communications with their concerned loved ones and the base camp. The large vocal ensemble in back acts as a kind of Greek Chorus, questioning the men, offering philosophical observations, and commenting on the climbers’ actions, and the fates of the many who have died attempting to reach the summit.
The Apollo Chorus delivered all the power, mystery and atmosphere of Talbot’s choral passages, directed by Stephen Alltop.
The Stage & Cinema blog also gave us a nice review.
Not to mention, we really enjoyed the works. And the performance. Plus, Scheer and Talbot came to the cast party afterwards.
The audience loved last night's performance of Everest and Aleko. Everest composer Joby Talbot and librettist Gene Scheer attended, and I had the opportunity to meet them backstage at intermission. They both reported being overjoyed by our performance. Nice.
I discovered in researching this post that the BBC Symphony Orchestra will perform Everest at the Barbican on 20 June 2020. Hell yes, I'm going.
If you don't want to wait until June, you can hear us this afternoon at Harris Theater.