Friday, November 30, 2012

Back from Berlin!

After an easy return to the U.S. and a fabulous family Thanksgiving--I hope everyone also had a wonderful Thanksgiving!--I'm returning to post on my shamefully occasional blog.

Yes, oh faithful and forgiving blog readers, today's post goes into the shameless plug department, to quote, shamelessly, from the recently retired Car Talk show hosts, the "Tappit" Brothers.

But first, a tad of catching up...
The last part of my trip was a whirlwind of train rides (Go, Eurail!), meetings, a beautifully played, moving concert in Berlin, archival research at the Akademie der Kuenste and snippets of sightseeing here and there.  Budapest, for example, is ever so schoen (oh, so lovely)!

The moving concert was "Musik der Erinnerung," performed by the Neue Juedische Kammerphilharnomie Dresden, conducted by Maestro Michael Hurshell at the Synagogue Rykestrasse.  The NJKD program explores orchestral music by some of the composers that we also focus on in the Jewish Music & Poetry Project.

Which leads me to the shameless plug.  Coming up on Sunday, December 9 at 3:00 p.m., at the Berkeley Arts Festival, 2133 University Avenue in Berkeley, pianist Dale Tsang-Hall, cellist Adaiha Macadam-Somer, and I will perform new music to poetry by Jewish women writers, as well as "forbidden" music, i.e., by composers whose works were banned and whose lives were altered--or worse--during the Holocaust.

The program includes songs and solo piano music by: composers Alexander Zemlinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Erich Korngold, Pavel Haas, Edwin Geist, Vitezslava Kapralova, and David Garner, the collaborative composer-in-residence and co-director, with me, of the JMPP, to poetry by Mascha Kaleko, Annette von Droste-Huelshoff, Rose Auslaender, Richard Dehmel, and more..

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Speaking of David Garner, kudos and congratulations!  After years of writing terrific, cool, and beautiful music, he has been nominated for a 2013 Award in Music by the American Academy of Arts & Letters!

What I'm working on: music for our December 9 concert (natch)

What I'm reading: after waiting for from the ever-popular and well-stocked Berkeley Public Library, Gone Girl.  Definitely worth the wait.  A twisted murder mystery about a woman who goes missing.   Without adding any plot spoilers, suffice it to say that the usual suspect is...suspected, but the missing woman's body is...missing.

What I'm listening to: Dresden songwriter Ursula Kurze's CD, which she was kind enough to send a copy of to me. Very nice.  She has a setting of Mascha Kaleko's "Gebet" (which David Garner also set), that's quite different from his.  It's always interesting to hear two different artistic minds approach the same text!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Back in Berlin: Don't Forget to Vote!

Dear long-suffering blog readers who've told me they wish my occasional blog would...occasionally have an occasion...and to new readers, too,

I am back in Berlin after a great concert here about two weeks ago at the Lichtburgforum, presented by the Juedische Gemeinde, with the Jewish Music and Poetry Project.  I promise to post soon and to catch everyone up, at least somewhat.

But in the meantime this is just a quick post to say, run, do not walk--safely, of course--and VOTE today, preferably for the candidate of my choice, i.e., Obama, but no matter what, please, vote!

The world is watching with a decent amount of anxiety to see what we do, whether the shenanigans of voter registration will affect the legitimacy of the count, whether the electronic balloting in Ohio will be honest and fair, and most of all, perhaps, if the shadow of Sandy that still hangs over the Northeast will cast a pall on the overall ability of people to get to the polls and cast their vote.

So, even if it seems super-daunting this time around, if you haven't already voted, please,make that extra effort, folks, get out there and vote.  (And for those who are wondering, I cast my vote via absentee ballot from the U.S. Consulate in Munich.)

What I'm reading: various books on Kindle for the Sharp Writ Book Awards (there are some excellent ones this year!).  What I'm working on: the Marshallin's monologue (Rosenkavalier)--except bin ich ein bisschen erkaeltet, also singe ich nicht fuer ein Paar tage.... Total pain...
What I'm listening to: Ravel's Sheherazade, which I recently heard live by the Berlin Staatskapelle (along with a wonderful performance of Beethoven's 8th and Berlioz' Romeo and Juliet), in an illuminating Regine Crespin historical recording:  Here's to you, Christina!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Vinaccesi Ensemble and Jewish Music & Poetry Project

Photo credit: German Consulate General in San Francisco

Even by my own occasional blog standards, it's been a shamefully long time since I've posted here, due primarily to a very busy performing year. The summer is looking to be a bit calmer, which will let me catch my breath, and--I promise--catch up here on my beyond-occasional blog.

In the meantime, above is a picture from the concert last month at the German Consulate General in San Francisco with Adaiha Macadam-Somer and Dale Tsang-Hall. Our new name is the Jewish Music & Poetry Project and we are performing in Berkeley in Aug. and Berlin in October. More on all that later, BUT as you can see, the concert was packed and overflowing, the audience was knowledgeable, generous, and appreciative, and the performance was a marvelous success.

Tiny plug: we are now a fiscally-sponsored affiliate of the SFFCM and are actively looking for donations (i.e., begging for your help) in raising funds to get us to Berlin this fall. Click HERE to make a tax-free donation, please!

Why post today, though, instead of any other random day in June...or May? Well, it's shameless plug time:

The Vinaccesi Ensemble, my Baroque chamber group will be performing at the Berkeley Fringe Fest this week: WEDNESDAY, June 6 at 12:30 p.m.

We have a great lineup and a great group...

Who: Nanette McGuinness, soprano, Kindra Scharich, mezzo-soprano, Jonathan Smucker, tenor, Kirk Eichelberger, bass, Sarge Gerbode, archlute, Farley Pearce, Baroque cello, and Yuko Tanaka, harpsichord

Where: Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana, Berkeley
How: For advance reservations, call 510-549-3864
How much: $15/ $10 Info:  No one turned away for lack of funds.

What: Musical treats from the north Italian Baroque: a seldom-heard but stunning Monteverdi madrigal from Book VIII, arias and duets by Monteverdi, Cavalli, and Barbara Strozzi, and two new-to-the Fringe Fest cantatas by the quirky and creative Benedetto Vinaccesi, fresh from our recording sessions for our Centaur Records CD. Hope you'll be able to come!

~~~ What I'm listening to: the Vinaccesis this week, also gorgeous music by Elena Ruehr for August. What I'm reading: Death Cloud, a fun prequel to the Sherlock Holmes stories for young readers (Young Sherlock Holmes: the Adventure Begins, by Andrew Lane). Who was he before he grew up? Also Between Shades of Gray (by Ruta Sepys) a mesmerizing, stark look at the seldom-told story of the genocide by the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union before, during, and after WWII. Beautifully written and researched, it is a multiple-hanky read that I'd delayed starting for weeks, as I knew it would be a horrendous tale. According to the notes at the end, some 20 million people were killed, including roughly 1/3 of the population of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. Man's inhumanity to man never ceases to astonish me. Will we never learn?

Added note: Dora Sorell, Holocaust survivor and author of To Tell the Story, about Jewish life in Romania before, during, and after the war, will appear at the North Branch of the Berkeley Public Library (1170 The Alameda) on Saturday June 9m, 2-4 p.m.