Free and Low-Cost Concerts You're Missing Out On

on . Posted in Inspiration

In addition to the fantastic, professional organizations that we have here in the Twin Cities (and around the country!), there are loads of interesting free and low-cost concerts you may be missing out on. The programming is different, the presentation can be more relaxed. Add variety and some new music genres to your concert season.

Colleges and universities everywhere have music departments brimming with students, majors and non-majors alike, who are studying with the best teachers in the US. These students are often already experienced performers, providing an excellent musical experience.

Music majors are frequently required to write program notes for their recitals and choir concerts will have them anyway, so attending is educational and entertaining.

In college we had chamber music recitals at 5 p.m. on Mondays. They were no longer than 1 hour, which left students plenty of time to get to the dining hall for dinner. They were also open to the public and there was one man there who attended almost every single recital. He wasn't a student, no one knew who he was, and he always left just as soon as the concert was over.
English: The Portrait of Felix Mendelssohn

English: The Portrait of Felix Mendelssohn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We finally met a few years ago at another Augsburg Music Department function and I told him, "I remember you--you were at so many recitals and concerts here!" He told me Augsburg was on his daily walk to and from work and since he loves music so much, he would just pick up the concert announcements on his way home from work and attend a concert whenever he had time.
This man has probably seen hundreds if not thousands of hours of quality music for free, simply because he walked in the door of the music building and picked up a piece of paper. He's heard everything from Brahms to Leo Brouwerand Philip Glassto Felix Mendelssohn. He has applauded hundreds of students and supported his community.

Faculty also give recitals and concerts; frequently it is required of them by their university. These are seasoned professionals who have high standards of performance and presentation. A faculty recital is often brimming with their students, which makes for a fun, sometimes awe-filled atmosphere.

Check the websites of all the churches and other religious institutions in your neighborhood. Watch the local paper listings for community choir concert advertisements and special summer music series. From a one-night coffee house to a regular, Wednesday-night-music-in-the-park, there are countless concerts all over your area.

You probably already know someone who sings in a choir or other ensemble (especially if you're reading this blog). The next time they tell you about a concert their choir is having, buy two tickets. Try it. I bet you'll like it!

Here are some more ideas:

  1. When you see a concert flyer, pick it up. (Just taking the flyer doesn't commit you to going. Just being open to the possibility.)
  2. Make a donation to a college music department. You will surely get on their mailing list then!
  3. Sign up for the music series mailing list at the nearest religious organization. Email is a convenient way to stay in the loop.
  4. Subscribe to your local paper, whether it's a hard copy or an online version.
  5. Ask at the barista your local coffee shop where he or she likes to catch concerts and performances. You might even have just met your next favorite concert-going-buddy!
What other ways have you enjoyed great concerts in your community? Or do you only ever attend concerts at a professional orchestra/choir? Comment below and spread the word!

When (Not) to Clap at a Concert

on . Posted in Inspiration

For classical music newbies and those who've been put off of classical music by classical music snobs, the convention of clapping at a classical music concert is a bit of a mystery. However it's easier than you think! Here are a few rules of thumb for when to clap. And when not to clap.

1. When it's a welcome:  clap when the featured musicians come on stage. (If you're not sure who they are, don't clap.)

If you're at an orchestra concert, the orchestra is usually already on stage when the concert begins. Thus the conductor will be the featured musican and almost everyone will start clapping. Go ahead and join in!

If it's a concert with featured soloists, like the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, the clarinettist and the conductor will come in together; go ahead and clap for them! If it's Beethoven's 9th, the vocal soloists and the conductor will enter together. Welcome them with clapping. Everyone has been practicing and rehearsing pretty hard, so your welcome is a boost for them.

2. In between pieces of a set or movements of a larger piece:  do not clap. I repeat:  do not clap. Look for the conductor to keep holding one or both hands suspended in the air--that's a sign that it's not time to clap. It may be tempting, it may be so utterly moving, it may be so awesome, but it's the musicians' gift to you and there's plenty of time to clap when it's all done.

To give you a better idea, here is something you might see in your program:

Old American Songs Vol. I Aaron Copland (1900 - 1990)
  1. The Boatmen’s Dance
  2. The Dodger
  3. Long Time Ago
  4. Simple Gifts
  5. I Bought Me A Cat

Clap when "I Bought Me a Cat" is over.

Why?

It's better for your experience as an audience member to hear the whole set as one "chunk" of music, the singer and pianist can concentrate better, and it lends a certain flow to the performance of that set. So sit back, relax, and take it all in. It's there for you.

3. When the set is over or when the performance is over:  Go for it! Clap 'till your hands fall off. Let the performers know how much you enjoyed it, how much you appreciate their work and their creativity. Unless of course, you didn't like it, then don't clap.

4. At certain concerts, such as memorials and remembrance concerts:  it's considered inappropriate to clap, as there is a certain kind of respect and reverence at such events. You will feel the weight of the meaning settle upon you, and that is the entire purpose of the event. Let it rest with you.

5. When in doubt:  don't clap. If you're unsure if it's actually the final movement of a symphony, you can't see the conductor's hands or whatever it is--if you're unsure, don't clap. Wait until a fair amount of people have begun clapping and it feels like a trend; this is one case in which it's totally acceptable to be a follower. ;)

Make in Me a Clean Heart - Mache Dich mein Herze rein

on . Posted in Inspiration

Johann Sebastian Bach wrote several of the greatest pieces in Oratorio literature, one of them being the Matthaeus-Passion, the St. Matthew Passion. And from this, the wonderful aria "Mache dich mein Herze rein," in English "Make in me a clean heart."

You don't need to speak German to understand this one.

As It Is In Heaven - Big-time conductor takes over small town church choir

on . Posted in Inspiration

This is a fantastic movie for music-lovers, choral-singers and music enthusiasts. A famous conductor, Daniel, falls ill and decides to return to his small hometown in Sweden to recover. The pastor asks Daniel to take over the church choir, full of vibrant characters. The moment Daniel takes over the choir, their lives change.

Each of the singers goes on their own journey, from the Pastor's Wife to the enthusiastic salesman from the town's largest store, and from the town gossip to Daniel's younger love interest. It's really an incredible story of returning to one's roots, sharing incredible musical experiences with others, and what music and a community through an ensemble can do for your life.

As It Is In Heaven is a beautiful movie, a courageous story, and it also has one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs in it, "Gabriella's Song." Watch the trailer and hear "Gabriella's Song" here:

 

As it is in Heaven

The Pug Under the Piano Bench

on . Posted in Singing

My wonderful, first voice teacher, Nancy Burman, loves animals. Every animal they have ever owned, whether cat, dog, or hamster, has enjoyed an entertaining atmospher e, copious amounts of love from Nancy's numerous voice students and their own family. The Burmans' animals live the good life!

A Pug dog.

When I was in high school the Burmans had a pug named Betsy. Betsy was one of the happiest little dogs I've ever seen. She'd wave her little tail and greet you at the door every week. She loved to sit under the piano bench during lessons and was a very well-behaved dog.

 

Betsy also snorted.

A lot.

Betsy left a legacy of s(n)orts on every lesson recording we made. Because when you're serious about voice, even in high school, you listen to the recording of your lesson to help you practice during the week. Nancy recorded our lessons and song accompaniments for us and we would practice with them to get ready for a competition or a recital.

Betsy was on all of them.

Picture this:  a great voice lesson with loads of progress, and you're learning a wonderful art song like Joseph Haydn's "In the Country." You sing a bit, then the piano is by itself for a couple of measures, you sing a bit, and then the piano concludes the verse.

It's a song that creates a feeling of being out in the country on a sunny day, out in nature with trees and fields, fresh breezes and loads of sunshine...

 

Away from care and sorrow,

I gladly greet the morrow,

When I throughout the night,

Have slept till morning light.

 

 

*PUG SNORT*

 

With freedom in my heart,

When morn dispels the night,

And sorrows all depart,

My heart is ever light.

 

 

*PUG SNORT*

 

(English translation by Frank La Forge, Copyright 1938)

Cook Up Your Resonance: Drop the chicken!

on . Posted in Singing

Few people have informed my singing the way Julia Child did.

 

Really.

 

Here in the Midwest, we don't speak with much resonance. Out East, moreso. But where I come from in Wisconsin, we lock our jaws, freeze our lips, sink the sound to the back of our throats, and cut off all signs of resonance. It's a vast tundra of non-resonant speaking and lack of pronunciation.

This is not helpful when you're learning Classical singing.

It's like only having months-old frozen hamburger in your freezer when you really want a nice, fresh filet mignon. Or my favorite, the New York strip. Yes, this smacks of Alanis Morissette's "Ironic." Very much so.

My first voice teacher, Nancy, tried and tried and tried to help me understand resonance:  "the mask," the "inner smile," what it felt like, what it didn't feel like. She tried one thing, then another, then another, she stayed patient. I did not. I tried, I tried, I tried some more. It didn't grow. I felt awful. I just didn't get it.

 

My next teacher, Lila, looked at me and said

"Can you breathe through your mouth and keep your nose open? Let air flow in and out of both your mouth and your nose at the same time."

What, be a mouth-breather?"

"Yes," she laughed. "Be a mouth-breather for 30 minutes today. That's half of your car-ride home."

We worked on it--it felt bizarre. "Yes, that's it!" Lila said.


Then came Julia Child--in the voice lesson.

"You know Julia Child, right?"

"Of course! She's on PBS."

"OK, do you know the famous story of when she dropped the chicken on the floor, picked it up, and went on cooking?"

I was appalled. That's disgusting. The germ-freak side of me gagged.

"She simply said, 'Oh, damn, I dropped the chicken!' and kept on cooking."

I laughed! That was insane! Someone like Julia Child--with her reputation--that's all she said?! And picked it up off the dirty floor and went on cooking?!

 

"Try it. Imitate her saying, 'Oh damn, I dropped the chicken!' "

"OH DAMN, I DROPPED THE CHICKEN!"I said in the highest, most high-falutin' half-British, half-American I could muster.

That was it! My resonance opened up, I felt the buzz, "the mask" came alive, I smiled inside my nose (without having to raise my eyebrows).