MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

A Trip Through New York City in 1911

Originally filmed by SF Studios, a Swedish company. Sound of course added on.

Filed under: film, miscellaneous

The Esoterics: Concert Review


Photo by Bruce Weber

Review of The Esoterics for the Seattle Times:

The Esoterics Sing Radically Secular Rewrites of Texts from the Christian Mass

The Esoterics have a reputation for giving voice to new ideas. But this past weekend’s program explored a concept that was unusual even for them.

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Filed under: choral music, review, Seattle Times

Quiara Alegría Hudes’ Theater of Dichotomies

Very glad I decided to catch The Happiest Song Plays Last before the run ended — thank you, Theatre22, for staging this.

I sadly missed the company’s production of Water by the Spoonful a few years ago and have never been able to catch the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning Quiara Alegría Hudes in New York. But now I get what the fuss is about.

The Happiest Song Plays Last is a beautifully constructed play, with rich, in-depth characterizations that the Theatre22 cast dug into and projected compassionately. Quiara Alegría Hudes’s dialogue cuts to the bone. It emanates a kind of honesty I found genuinely moving and dramatically effective.

She also carries off an intriguing structural challenge in this final play of her Elliot trilogy (named for the young Puerto Rican soldier Elliot Ruiz, who comes from North Philadelphia and serves in Iraq — a protagonist inspired by the playwright’s real-life cousin).

Cinematic in scope but resolutely avoiding the formulaic clichés of commercial film and theater, Happiest Song unfolds in two very different, very distant worlds. One is in the Middle East, on a film set, with veteran Ruiz now playing the lead role in an indie docudrama about the Iraq War.

It’s being filmed in Jordan, and during off hours, Elliot develops intense connections both to his co-star, Shar, an Arab-American actress, and Ali, an exiled Iraqi hired as a consultant-gofer for the film. The Egyptian chapter of the Arab Spring starts to play out at the same time, which they learn about via the media.

The other world is the North Philly neighborhood where Elliot grew up with his cousin Yaz, cared for an adoptive mother who has since died. Yaz has decided to take her place, moving into her home to continue her activist and care-taking work supporting this impoverished community. She develops an unexpected attachment to neighbor Agustín, an older, married man passionate about his music.

Hudes cleverly splices these distinct settings, revealing the weight of guilt on Elliot — scarred by his experiences in Iraq — and also on Yaz as she confronts the pressure of living up to her saintly model. World crisis and local community protests intersect in Hudes’ warm, humane web to form this compelling story.

“Being an artist is about honoring the dichotomies that are always around us,” says Hudes. “We’re alive, and we’re going to die — that’s the basic one — but every little dichotomy that reveals itself to me is a treasure for writing and for life. You always need a yin and yang… As an artist, that daring to go beyond, that taking the next step beyond the moment you’re in is the thrill of the chase and the love of the craft.”

Filed under: playwrights

In Search of Mahlerian Music Drama at LA Phil

I covered a very unusual approach to Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde for Musical America. This remarkably original staging by Yuval Sharon and the Chile-based Teatrocinema Company was performed this past weekend by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel, with soloists Russell Thomas and Tamara Mumford.
[review behind paywall]

Filed under: Los Angeles Philharmonic, Mahler, Musical America, review, Yuval Sharon

Alan Gilbert Reflects on Juilliard

Nearly a year after bringing to a close his eight-year tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert reflects on another farewell—he’s stepping down as director of conducting and orchestral studies at Juilliard this spring. As announced in March, David Robertson will succeed him in the fall.

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Filed under: conductors, Juilliard, New York Philharmonic

Discovering Vaughan Williams

Delighted to be immersed in Ralph Vaughan Williams’s A Pastoral Symphony (Symphony No. 3).

The composer on the true character of the work: “It’s really wartime music – a great deal of it incubated when I used to go up night after night in the ambulance wagon at Ecoivres and we went up a steep hill and there was wonderful Corot-like landscape in the sunset. It’s not really lambkins frisking at all, as most people take for granted.”

The BBC offers a wonderful resource here on getting to know VW’s music better.

Filed under: Vaughan Williams

George Walker’s Piano Sonatas


The Eastman School of Music celebrates the 95th birthday year of one of its illustrious alumni, the composer and pianist George Theophilus Walker (’56), with a special recital this evening. At 7:30 p.m. EST, the Albanian pianist Redi Llupa will perform all five of Walker’s piano sonatas, which span a half century, from 1953 to 2003.

The concert will be streamed and made publicly available here.

Filed under: American music, George Walker

Some Music for Easter

Filed under: holiday

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