Thursday, May 26, 2016

Orange County Register: Pianist André Watts, who performs in Costa Mesa this week, looks back on a storied career

Conductor Leonard Bernstein has a smile and a pat for 16-year-old pianist Andre Watts after the youth's performance of Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the New York Philharmonic, Jan. 31, 1963. (AP Photo)

The Orange County Register


The great American pianist André Watts, who turns 70 in June, had no idea that Sony planned to release a commemorative boxed set of his recordings. Sony hadn’t contacted him. Sony hadn’t even sent him an advance copy. A musician friend in Germany was the first to mention the set, and then Watts’ manager, after a reporter’s query, got wind of it.
“And he Googled it, and that’s the first I’ve seen of this boxed set,” Watts says, on the phone the other day from his home in Bloomington, Indiana. Due early next month, the set features the 12 recordings he made for Columbia dating back to 1963, all remastered, all slipped into tiny versions of their original jacket covers.
“You can’t read the notes, it’s too small, but the covers are fun,” Watts says of original jacket cover releases in general. He still didn’t have his own set in hand. Nor has he heard any of the recordings in a long time. Does he have a favorite?
“I like different recordings for different reasons,” he answers. “I have sentimental memories for doing the Brahms (second) concerto, just because I was young and it was such a big deal and doing it with (Leonard) Bernstein, it was great work.”
He remembers others. “Not the recording itself, but the performances that preceded the Tchaikovsky concerto (again with Bernstein) were I think really great performances. I don’t think that the recording measures up to that.
“There’s an old Beethoven album that has, like, variations and maybe ‘Für Elise’ and things like that on it, and I like that because there’s no splices in movements. I mean the sonata (Op. 10, No. 3) is not all one take, but every movement of the sonata is one take.”
But, ever humble, he’s not willing to say any of them are good, or a favorite. “I wouldn’t really know,” he says. Perhaps he’ll change his mind when, and if, he sits down to listen to the set.
A frequent visitor here, Watts, friendly, thoughtful, deep-voiced, is in town this week for three performances of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with Carl St.Clair and the Pacific Symphony. He hasn’t any musical plans to mark his milestone but his wife is taking him to Paris for a few days and he’ll have dinner at L’Arpège, as a “birthday treat.”
Watts was born in Nuremberg, Germany, on June 20, 1946, his mother a Hungarian and his father an African-American soldier. His mother was his first piano teacher and he prospered on the instrument early.
His big break made him instantly famous. He won an audition and then appeared with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in a Young People’s Concert, nationally broadcast in prime time in January, 1963. Watts was 16. A couple of weeks later, Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic asked Watts to step in on two days notice for an indisposed Glenn Gould. (He remembers telling them that he’d have to ask his mom if it was OK.) On both occasions, he played Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Columbia recorded Watts, Bernstein and the Philharmonic in the same piece two days after the performances and the recording is included in the Sony set.
Watts remembers those events vividly. Race played a factor in his overnight celebrity, he says, and he remembers Bernstein, a deeply political being, playing it up on the television broadcast, introducing the young pianist as “looking like a Persian prince” and all but openly extolling the virtues of mixed race marriages.
“Look, he was a very smart man, he thought this through,” Watts says of Bernstein’s speech. “I’m sure he discussed it, ‘Can I say this? Can I not say this? How far can I go?’ All that. So to that degree, of course race was a factor.”
But there were other factors as well. Watts recalls that there was a newspaper strike when he substituted for Gould.
“So because of that, big periodicals, Life, Newsweek, Ebony, all these magazines, sent people. There was a giant spread in Life and all that. That was the kind of publicity you would not have gotten if there hadn’t been a newspaper strike.”
Still, it was the conductor’s advocacy that probably meant most.
“I always say Bernstein basically handed me a career on a plate and said, ‘Here, kid, you want this, you can have it, it’s yours,’” Watts says.
He took it and ran with it, but carefully. As his career took off – “second only to Cliburn as a box office attraction,” says the American Grove – he signed up to study with the celebrated pianist Leon Fleisher at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and worked with him off and on from 1963-74. The two remain friends still.
These days, in addition to a busy solo career, Watts teaches at Indiana University’s School of Music in Bloomington and loves it. His model is Fleisher.

Pianist Rebeca Omordia & cellist Raphael Wallfish perform John Ireland's Sonata for cello and piano in G minor at the British Music Society's AGM 3:30 PM, 5 June 2016

Rebeca Omordia

Rafael Wallfisch

Eniola Fashanu writes:

5th June 2016, 3.30 pm, St George's Church, Mayfair, London: Nigerian - Romanian Pianist Rebeca Omordia and world renowned cellist Raphael Wallfish perform John Ireland's Sonata for cello and piano in G minor at the British Music Society's Annual General Meeting

Thank you very much. 

Best wishes,

Eniola Fashanu

Dr. Stan Ford: I recently performed in concert in memory of a student of mine, Stefan Buschmueller, who took his own life just over a year ago (YouTube 5:27)

Dr. Stan Ford writes from Austria:

Dear Bill

I recently had the distinct pleasure of performing in concert in memory of a student of mine, Stefan Buschmueller, who took his own life just over a year ago.

Throughout my 35 years + of teaching I have experienced a lot. However, nothing prepared me for experiencing a suicide death of a student of mine. He completed his piano studies the semester before and received a superior grade for his senior recital. He was a bright student with a very promising career ahead of him. For years he suffered chronic pain throughout his entire body. Doctors were unsuccessful in finding the source of the problem. This eventually led to bouts of depression. I always admired the fact that he bounced back and did not allow his handicap to keep him from reaching his goal. At the young age of 26 he took his life. I pray that he is now pain free and is in a better place. I will always fondly reflect back upon my student’s wittiness, his exceptional musicianship and intelligence, in addition to his willingness to help others and friendly demeanor.  May his soul rest in peace.

A video was made of me performing an improvisation of a Church hymn that evening, something my student and I had in common, improvising hymns during worship service. I wish to share the clip with you at this time.

Eric Conway: Morgan State University Choir, Day 2 in Cienfuegos, Cuba

Dr. Eric Conway writes:

Day 2 in Cienfuegos, Cuba

After enjoying a good night’s sleep, we discovered that we had a world-class view around our hotel as we had scenes of beautiful bay water around us. When we arrived last night, it was too dark to see the beauty surrounding our hotel. Our hotel was situated next to the historic Palacio del Valle.  I understand that our hotel was originally owned my the Hilton family. After a very generous breakfast, with fruits that were much sweeter than we could enjoy in the States, we left for our cultural exchange with our Cienfuegos choir that shared our first concert this evening - Cantores de Cienfuegos.

All four of our concerts have the same format: an opening act sung by the local choir, the feature presentation of our Morgan choir, and then a finale where both choirs sing joint songs. During our cultural exchange we rehearsed music to be sung jointly this evening. The Morgan choir learned one suggested Cuban song entitled "Dulce Embeleso,”  about the first kiss one has while in love.  The Cuban choirs all suggested a Moses Hogan spiritual:  “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord” also as a piece in English.  Although he had not sung the Hogan spiritual in years, we quickly relearned this song for these concerts.  We also learned one piece to sing during our section of the concert, Esto Les Digo, in Spanish, based on Matthew 18: 19-20 - "where two or three are gathered in my name, I shall be also.”  We sang this song to the Cuban choir who confessed that our pronunciation was excellent.  After a very strong rehearsal led by both the Cuban choral director Honey Moreira and me, both groups spoke and intermingled discussing choral and overall education challenges all students shared, regardless of country.  

After our cultural exchange/rehearsal we toured beautiful Cienfuegos.  Our concert was in the historic Tomás Terry Theatre, which seats approximately seven hundred.  The theatre is across from the city center José Martí Park. After our tour we had a typical Cuban meal of a paella with various types of meat. We returned to our hotel to rest before our welcome meal at a very nice hotel minutes walk from our concert venue.

Our concert began much later than typical in the U.S. with a 9:00 p.m. start time.  As of this morning 575 of the 700 seats were sold.  I was quite concerned that a translation error may have occurred.  It was relayed to the Cuba presenter that the Morgan Choir had sung frequently with Aretha Franklin, however, we found out this morning, that some flyers may have said that Aretha Franklin may sing at the concert.  I was aghast at the error and immediately tried to make sure that this error was corrected, however, perhaps, some have have purchased tickets believing the Ms. Franklin may have been singing on this concert.  

Fortunately, the audience was pleased enough with our performance that any mention of Aretha Franklin may have been forgotten or at least not spoken!  Our first concert was a great entr'acte into American (Morgan) culture for the Cubans.  Conversely, we enjoyed the Cienfuegos ensemble immensely.  There was a huge level of excitement in the air throughout our concert this evening.  Once again, the Morgan choir left their mark on another section of the world.  See photos attached.

EC Mothers Of Hope To Host Aaron Dworkin, University of Michigan Dean Of Music, Theatre and Dance, on Tuesday, May 31

Aaron P. Dworkin

May 25, 2016

Aaron Dworkin, Dean of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance, will be featured in two public events in Kalamazoo on Tuesday, May 31. The first is an open forum on how to engage Kalamazoo area underserved minority youth in classical arts, to be held at the Douglass Community Association at 10:00 am. The second is an evening presentation of "Spoken Word Musical Fusion," in which the 2005 MacArthur fellow will present a multi-media program of poetry, projected images, and live music. A benefit for the Kalamazoo-based organization Mothers Of Hope, it begins at 8 pm at the Light Fine Arts building at Kalamazoo College.

In an interview with Cara Lieurance, Dworkin is asked in what way the current "Black Lives Matter" movement is related to the work he began 20 years ago to empower young black and Latino musicians to pursue classical music careers. He founded the Sphinx Competition, now in its 19th year, which has grown in size and influence, with a touring quartet, soloists, and orchestra of competition laureates who perform for and teach thousands of young people each year. Dworkin says he has always believed that the arts "present a critically important way of being able to not just depict, but present and talk about issues that face society, especially where there are issues of social injustice."

In 2011, Dworkin was chosen by President Obama to serve on the National Council on the Arts. It was "incredibly humbling to be able to bring a voice to the strategic vision of how the arts play a role in our society," he says.

Comment by email:
Absolutely awesome, thanks so much!  Aaron  [Aaron P. Dworkin]

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Music Institute of Chicago: Alumnus Places First in M-Prize Senior Division, Students Place Second and Third in Junior Division

Aaron Dworkin, Dean
of the University of Michigan
School of Music, Theatre and Dance,
is the Founder of M-Prize

Ryan Meehan of Calidore String Quartet

Calliope Trio

Music Institute of Chicago

The Calidore String Quartet, including Academy alumnus violinist Ryan Meehan, won the inaugural $100,000 M-Prize, a new chamber music competition hosted by the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance. An ensemble from New York City, Calidore is the 2016 Borletti-Butoni Trust Fellowship recipient, the first American ensemble in the foundation’s history to receive the prestigious career grant. They were appointed to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Two roster for the 2016–19 seasons. The ensemble has also won grand prizes at the Fischoff, Coleman, Chesapeake, and Yellow Springs competitions and captured top prizes at the 2012 ARD Munich International String Quartet Competition and Hamburg International Chamber Music Competition.
Academy ensembles also fared well in the M-Prize’s Junior Division: Vibrante String Quartet placed second, winning $3,000, and Calliope Trio placed third, winning $2,000. Coached by Tatyana Stepanova and Paul Vanderwerf, Calliope include Academy students Karisa Chiu (violin, 16, Palatine), Nathan Mo (cello, 17, Rolling Meadows), and Andrew Guo (piano, 17, Chicago).                         

Sergio A. Mims: The Dessoff Choirs Names New Music Director [Malcolm J. Merriweather]

Malcolm J. Merriweather

Sergio A. Mims forwards this news:

May 24
The Dessoff Choirs today announces its appointment of Malcolm J. Merriweather as its ninth music director.
"I'm delighted with The Dessoff Choirs' appointment of Malcolm Merriweather as their new Music Director. Malcolm is one of the bright rising stars of his generation of choral conductors," said Kent Tritle, Director of Cathedral Music and Organist at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and former Music Director of The Dessoff Choirs. "Dessoff is close to my heart, and I will always be grateful to the choir for our eight wonderful years together. Knowing them as I do, it is my great expectation that their new synergy with Malcolm will lead to new heights of artistic achievement."
The Dessoff Choirs today also announces its 2016-17 season, which opens with a concert at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center-the first time the choir has performed there since 2010.
The five-concert series reflects Merriweather's approach to programming with a focus on connecting audiences to topical and meaningful themes. Under his leadership, Dessoff seeks to personalize the audience experience by extending engagement before, during and after each concert.
Concerts include: We Remember, reflecting on the lives of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. through music with Steven Stucky's Take Him Earth, the premiere performance of David Hurd's orchestrated five moment work, In Honor of Martin, and Franz Beyer's re-orchestration of Mozart's Requiem (November 7 at Alice Tully Hall); Welcome Yule, featuring seasonal favorites, carols, and Bach's Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, BWV 230 as well as a Hallelujah Chorus sing-along; (December 10 at Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan and December 18 at Saint John's Episcopal Church in Brooklyn); French Fête, spotlighting French composers of the twentieth century, including Debussy, Langlais, Boulanger, Dupré, and Hahn (February 26 at Saint Jean Baptiste Church); Bach, Buxtehude, and Barber, featuring the chamber choir joined by chamber orchestra presenting Bach's Jesu meine Feude as well as Maestro Merriweather stepping off the podium to perform Barber's Dover Beach (April 1 at Union Theological Seminary); and A New Amorous World, reflecting the diverse experiences of life with music from the Middle and Far East with special guests, the Chamber Choir from the United Nations International High School (May 14 at Fort Tyron Park and May 21 at the Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity).
Additionally, with Merriweather's appointment, Dessoff has launched its new logo and new website through a partnership with Raven Agency. The new logo, comprised of dots that make up a capital "D" alongside the choir's name, showcases the relationship between the choir and the audience. The choir is represented by the straight line of separated dots while the audience is represented by a curve of overlapping dots that are closer together, nearly creating a solid curve. The two parts come together to form the capital "D" of Dessoff. The new website encompasses the new logo, and is easy to navigate through a streamlined format.
In addition to his new position with Dessoff, Merriweather currently serves as Assistant Professor and Director of Choirs at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, Associate Choirmaster at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and the Music Director of the "Voices of Haiti" children's choir in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He holds his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Conducting from the Manhattan School of Music. A protégé of Kent Tritle, Merriweather was the first graduate of the new doctoral program in conducting. Malcolm recently received the Lotos Club Award in Arts and Sciences, a prize which recognizes individuals for distinguished accomplishments and exceptional talent in the arts and sciences. He additionally holds Master of Music degrees in Choral Conducting and in Vocal Performance from the Eastman School of Music.

NOBLE Notes: Living History: Debbie Montgomery, NOBLE Members and Chapters in the News -- Alaska and New York

National Organization Black Law Enforcement Executives

St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith speaking about Officer Montgomery's legacy during the May 3, 2016 ceremony.

Officer Montgomery's Rookie Portrait.

On May 3, 2016, St. Paul, MN honored Debbie Montgomery, who became the city's first female police officer in 1975. Now, more than four decades after her rookie year and a distinguished career in public service--both in and out of law enforcement-- Ret. Officer Montgomery's rookie portrait and plaque were unveiled and will permanently hang in the Western District Community Room.

St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith, who served with Montgomery early in his career, honored her saying she "set a trail and a history that had never been set for the city of St. Paul." Smith went on to note that "not only was Montgomery the first female police officer ... but also the first African-American female as well. She has been a mentor and a role model throughout her career and even as we speak today (since) she's been retired."

Montgomery, who also served as an assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, rose through the ranks of the St. Paul Police Department to become a senior commander. She retired in 2003.

Montgomery, a former St. Paul City Council member, said she was honored by the recognition. "I was a city planner by profession, so that's what I was doing before I got here and yet when I look back, I couldn't have found a better profession to go into," she said. "My heart is in it. ... It's all about public service." You can see a full video of the local news story on Ret. Officer Montgomery here

Sgt. Sims with Dr. William Walsh, former Director of SPI, and Retired Lt. Col. Cynthia Shain, Director of SPI

On May 12, 2016, Alaska State Trooper and NOBLE member Sgt. Cornelius "Moose" Sims  graduated from the Administrative Officers Course of the Southern Police Institute (SPI) at the University of Lousiville. Sgt. Sims is one of forty-five officers from thirty-seven agencies and sixteen states to graduate in SPI's 135th class.  During the training period, which began in February and concluded in May, Sgt. Sims earned a 99.28% GPA and was bestowed the Director's Academic Award for the Undergraduates due his high academic achievement. The award is named for former Director of SPI, Dr. William Walsh.

Officer Pettus with his wife Whitney.

Aaron Pettus, an experienced law enforcement agent, was recently sworn in as an officer with the Anchorage, Alaska Police Department. He was awarded the Defensive Tactics Award during his graduation ceremony. Officer Pettus previously worked in law enforcement on the West Coast where he served three years with the University of Southern California Public Safety Department and three years with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. 

NOBLE New York Chapter Holds Its 33rd Annual Scholarship Dinner Dance

NOBLE New York Chapter President Timothy Pearson and the night's honorees.

Chapter President Pearson with the scholarship recipients.

The NOBLE New York Chapter, led by President Timothy Pearson, granted 10 scholarships to local students at its annual Scholarship Awards Dinner Dance. The dinner dance, held May 5, 2016 at Leonard's Palazzo in Great Neck, NY, marks the event's 33rd anniversary. In addition to the scholarship recipients, the affair's festivities also honored to eight others for community service.

Eric Conway: Morgan State University Choir arrives safely in Cuba! See photos of our first day in the country

Eric Conway, D.M.A. writes:

Day 1 of Cuban Tour:

The Morgan State University Choir arrives safely in Cuba!  The tour group this year consisted of thirty-two Morgan State Univeristy choir members, director and a nineteen person group of supporters accompanying the choir making a tour group total of fifty-two.  

Knowing that traffic on Interstate 95 can be quite unpredictable, and also knowing to make a 12 Noon charter flight out of JFK in New York, we would have to leave at 4AM in morning, we decided to travel to Jamaica, NY a day early to make sure that did not have any travel concerns to New York.  This turned out to be a great decision as leaving at a 4PM time, one had the entire day to think about what you may have otherwise forgotten to pack for a tour like this one.  We may try this approach on future tours.  We arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn hotel around 9:30, only to find out that all of the rooms were not ready due to “the linen truck not delivering on schedule.”  After a short wait we all checked in with a great night’s sleep, and complimentary cook-to-order breakfast, we were ready for our Cuban adventure!

The hotel had shuttle busses to take us to JFK airport, only one quarter mile away.  We managed to check-in early enough for this international flight - visas and all, that we were comfortably at the gate one hour and half earlier than departure.  I was concerned that the Cuban Charter Airlines chartered JetBlue Air, an airline we had never flown before.  I originally thought that this was a deep discount airline with deep discount service, however, we were pleasantly surprised in receiving more room between seats than on most other airplanes, unlimited snacks and water given from attendants, and free wi-fi, something that we had never heard of on any other airline.  I heartily recommend JetBlue if you get the chance.  We departed from the gate, minutes before the scheduled time to arrive in Havana after a short two and one half hour flight!

We arrived in Havana, Cuba  and were immediately greeted by warm temperatures and high humidity!  The forecast for the week says rain virtually everyday while in Cuba, although meaning showers and intermittent sunshine daily.  We had a three and one half hour bus ride to our first city of Cienfuegos.  Although we from the coast city of Havana to central Cuba, we did not see much, as most of the ride was just crop fields with few cars on the road, especially for a three to four lane highway.  Along the way we stopped at a restaurant for a group meal, which was quite tasty. One of the highlights was a trio of musicians that were singing Cuban music which the choir immediately enjoyed. 

By 9:15 or so, we arrived in our Cienfuegos hotel.  Although over the cover of darkness, we could see that this was a very venerable hotel of many years, and we would enjoy our stay here.  We were impressed at the impressive architecture and cosmopolitan nature of the hotel, that is, we were pleasantly surprised because we had heard of some not-to great experiences with some others who have stayed at Cuban hotels in the past.  

We must now turn in as we have an early 6:45 AM Wake up call for our day of sightseeing, exchange with Cuban choirs, and concert.  We only hope that we can sleep given the loud music that we currently hear in other parts of the hotel - although it is great-sounding music.  See photos attached of our first day in Cuba!