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  • Writer's pictureSt. Joseph Parish

Practicing to be Paul XI (2/12)

There have been a few of them. Not just recently, but coming up in the next few weeks.

Just today we had a master class with Martin Katz, who is internationally recognized as the BEST collaborative pianist around. Collaborative pianists accompany singers and chamber ensembles, coach, and do a variety of things along these lines. He has recently written a book about the collaborative pianist and the duties that go along with this. We all had a chance to look at the book as we listened to 6 classmates play for 6 classmates to sing for this session. Let me start by saying that I have a tremendous amount of respect for any student who agrees to be in the hot seat for a masterclass. They are critiqued up and down, left and right, front and back, and all in an amiable atmosphere, I have to say. We have had 2 or 3 of these so far this year, and they have been very illuminating, Today’s singers used French, Italian, German and English to wow us with their voices…and they did. There were 5 mezzo sopranos and ONE baritone…only ONE I emphasize. Each of hte musicians were given hints on how to improve, even on as small a detail as how to correctly pronounce the American version of “New” and “Knew” as opposed to the English version; subtle but important; the glottals in front of vowels in German; how to correctly emphasize words in French by lengthening the vowel, NOT the consonant, etc. In a couple of weeks Dawn Upshaw will becoming up for a session in Vocal Department Seminar. We still don’t know who will be singing for it. I still haven’t made up my mind if I would like to or not. I suppose if I was given the chance to do it I probably would, I just don’t know what piece I would do for it. Remember, this has to be done from memory, and I do not have a lot memorized yet. I’m working on it…really I am. I have to. At the end of the semester I have to do a jury from memory, 6 pieces from lessons this year.

In classes, things are moving right along, thankfully. In my lessons and for the Brahms Song Cycles class I am working on the Four Serious Songs (Vier Ernste Gesange), op. 121. These were composed in the last year of his life for himself to sing. They are on Scriptural texts, and largely deal with death and end of life issues except for the last one, which is based on a couple of verses of St. Paul’s most famous I Corinthians 13 text. Brahms, as is the case with so many people, carefully excerpts the verses for each of these songs to explain his own views on life and death. All I have to say is that he must have been one heck of a dreary fellow to be around. Ye gads….all about death, the end, sort of like that old joke about the dead atheist at his own funeral…all dressed up and nowhere to go. Here is a link to a fine although old, recording of the songs: Hans Hotter, 1951 – Brahms, Vier ernste gesänge, op. 121 (Four serious songs) – YouTube

In the EEP class, which I have written about before, we are in the stage in class work of performing some of the music we are going to use in our presentation/workshop. I did mine today using Amazing Grace with its typical tune of New Britain, and gave a couple of other options as well, the theme song from Gilligan’s Island Gilligan’s Island Theme Song – YouTube and House of the Rising Sun, Animals – house of the rising sun (with lyrics) – YouTube both found on, of course, YoutTube! The attendees will then be given the opportunity to do similar kinds of work with a given text, and then using the example of the so-called Arcadelt Ave Maria, Ave Maria TTBB – YouTube I will invite them to find a text for a given tune. I call the Arcadelt the So-Called Arcadelt Ave Maria because he didn’t actually compose this. A German composer/arranger in the mid-19th century too the tune from a 3 voice motet called Nous Voyons que les hommes, [Luka] Nous voyons que les hommes : Jakob Archadelt – YouTube took the 2nd and 3rd voice lines and extracted a fourth line, and matched it with the words to the Ave (the Hail Mary). It works perfectly! One can have 7 musicians, voice and/or instruments, perform these two pieces at the same time, and they will all meet at the double bar, so to speak, with no crashes in between. Astounding. I love the irony of the two, as the Voyons text is about the situation of women at the time of Arcadelt (not at all good) and matches it up with the Hail Mary. Great stuff. I love irony.

In Art Song we are currently doing Spanish songs. It is really difficult to find much because Spain no longer, apparently, has a major music publishing company, and the Spanish music that is published is from Germany, France and Great Britain. I am doing one called “No hay quien de una limosna” (There is no one to give him an alms).

Sorry about the break….I was busy with the snow storm and had a hard time getting back to this project. We ended up with 25 inches of the white stuff, digging out and so on and so on. I managed to kill my back from the shoveling. Thank God Ricardo (one of my housemates) and his girlfriend helped to dig us out…front sidewalk from the steps to the street, the walk along the front of the house, and my car. The trade-off, of course, was helping to dig her car out, which had been parked down the street. It was a bit funny, in a tragi-comic way, to see the mounds that were cars. Some of them one could tell there was a car only because the wipers or antenna stuck out. I really felt sorry for these car owners. One street has been so narrowed from snow mounds on the corners that only one vehicle at a time can get through. This is tough because it is also part of the bus route. Classes here, like everywhere, were cancelled Friday and Monday morning. Everything was called off, rescheduled, etc. I really feel sorry for Clare McNamara. Her graduating recital was supposed to be Saturday night. This is going to be tough to reschedule since everyone is so stinking busy. One of the classes I have on Friday has been reset for this Thursday at 4 p.m. This throws off a number of other things I had planned for Thursday afternoon, but that’s okay. I think. I enjoy this particular class, it is the one on the Song Cycles of Brahms. For the ones i am doing follow the link above.

Aside from all this, not much really is going on. OH….before I forget…..this past Sunday we had a baby shower for one of the gals in the choir at church. It was a good time, though I had to get out of the room, a dining room, because there were so many people for the size of the room. I ended up in the kitchen talking with a few choir members and the pastor, Fr. Ed. He is a kick.,,,was in the Marines and so does not “suffer fools gladly” as they say. Towards the end of our conversation I offered to give a helping hand for weekend coverage for him and his buddies. We’ll see what happens with this. I am also going to have to pound the pavement seriously to look for a part-time job to help make ends meet. I do NOT look forward to this. After all, I haven’t done this sort of thing in…well, a LONG time. Again on the church choir line of thought, I have been asked to sing the Exsultet at the Easter Vigil.FINALLY I get to sing it again. I can’t wait. The new version is a bit tricky because of new text and tune additions, so I am going to have a parcel of work to do. Along with everything else.

I a really am going to close off this time, since I have to get ready for choir practice. Keep your fingers crossed that; 1) the piano sells; 2) I find a part-time job; and, 3) I get the trick to memorize the songs I need to learn for my jury!

Happy Mardi Gras!


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