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The Wonder That Was Luciano Pavarotti

It is strange that often when we hear about the death of a famous personality, we begin to personalize it. We reflect on how that individual influenced our lives and what memories we have that connect with that personality’s name and fame.

It is a fact that most of us are not a big fan of opera but that don’t stop us from being a fan of the talents of Luciano Pavarotti. Most among us seldom have the chance of seldom see in person. In fact, I never met the man. But I have enjoyed many of his performances over the decades over the television. He was no Beethoven. Many others did as well but Pavarotti was the best selling classical artist selling more than 100 million records since 1970.

Who can forget his recording with Soparno Joan Sutherland. Beside this, he promoted his tenor’s voice among the popular folks. In order to train your vocals the right way, click here to read. His is still living in the music collections of Elton John, Sheryl Crow and Spice Girls and has shared his voice with the leading pop and rock singers such as Sting and Bruce Springsteen for raising charities.

Luciano Pavarotti was also famous for performing in stadiums and parks. The Three Tenors Concert was a major hit and was said to touch the record of the world wide audience of 1.6 billion people. One of his most famous performance was during the opening ceremony of 1990 Soccer World Cup in Italy. His final public performance of Nessun Dorma at the opening ceremony of 2006 Winter Olympic Games was simply celestial.

He was also a humanitarian. He hosted an annual ‘Pavarotti and Friends’ concert in Modena to raise funds for the United Nations. He also worked for the War Child and other victims of the civil unrest and conflicts around the world including Bosnia and Iraq. Indeed, his magnificent voice and personality will continue to captivate us for long time to come.

Don’t Let the Dog’s Out; Just Let Christmas Sing!

xmas-orchestra

I am wore out we just finished our final rehearsal of the annual Christmas Sing. Every year Central participates in the Christmas sing. Not just the Orchestra but all music departments, Band, Orchestra, Show Choir, Jazz Band, and excreta. It is a lot of work but it is my favorite time of year, and the perfect way to send out the year end. I have always loved Christmas anyway, so you add that with a music extravaganza and I like a lot of people am well pleased.

This year we are performing a lot of the same standards. Those classic Christmas songs from the 1940’s and 50’s are very much in vogue. Orchestral arrangements for Frank Sinatra’s, “I’ll be Home for Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” are big hits. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is always a favorite of mine every single year.

There is just something oh so magical when it gets around to the lyrical portion of the song, “And let your heart be light”. Right when the melody arrives at, “light” you hear the cellos and violin play that drawn out open A string, and it just sounds wonderful. Just having the melody singing out “Light-Whole Note A………!” It is just so magical to hear and really puts you in the mood of Christmas. This year I will be leading the arrangements with a few piano pieces as well. This is my time to shine.

We also have a very good collaboration this year with the woodwinds, with cooperation of their director Mr. Barnett it is coming along very promising indeed. Our Symphony Orchestral arrangements are very solid. Even the guy that hits the gong is managing to do it in time! It should be great.

I have also been petty impressed by the Show Choir this year as well, they have been doing a lot of good tunes from the late 19th century. Standards like, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” are coming along very nicely. They have an excellent chorus effect building while the verses are being sung, very touching. We almost could not use the song this year though believe it or not.

The song has been criticized in the past as being to specifically religious. Well, yeah it does tell the Christmas story of Christ, and I understand that there are those with conflicting belief systems. But this is a Christmas standard loved by probably 99% of the audience. Regardless of belief almost everyone loves these songs. The melody is spellbindingly Christmas.

My personal stance when it comes to this kind of controversy is this. Regardless of belief we have to have at least a small residual of respect for the original tradition that Christmas was founded on. And of course, before Santa Clauses and Easter Bunnies tried to rewrite the show, most of the holidays that the western world celebrates are of a Christian connotation.

Most people I know are not really offended by Christmas songs that relate the story of a baby Jesus, it just brings them back to childhood memories of happy bygone days of Christmas past. I always feel like we need to be cognizant of differing belief systems without losing all of our musical tradition. The great composers from 2 hundred years ago for example, yes, even drunk Beethoven, were religious men.

When Beethoven wrote Ode To Joy it was about God. We can’t just rip up his great composition just because some of us do not believe in God. There has to be a middle ground, or we will lose a lot of great music.

I remember last year we did have a lot of the Christmas standards cut out. And it was a tragedy. We had to suffer through some horrendous renditions of Madonna’s Holiday from the Show Choir and then there was the awful howl of the Jazz Band playing some bizarre take on the Baha Men’s, “Who let the dogs out!” We received a lot of complaints that year. For the simple reason that a lot of people left the performance scratching their heads saying, “What the heck does all this have to do with Christmas?”

So this year, thank God! The Christmas spirit is back!

I’m Just Taking a Shower!

There must have been something in the drinking water in Bavaria, so many stars were rocking the classics in that place. And of course one of the Orchestral Giants of that place and era was Beethoven. Browsing through YouTube the other day I saw a portion of the Beethoven autobiographical movie. This autobiography of the Classical Great was not exactly too flattering but it wasn’t completely critical either. It was more or less a realistic portrayal of a mad genius.

Yes, I said, “mad” genius. Beethoven really was a kind of rock star in his day and this movie gave testament to that. But like many famous musicians today he had a lot of problems. Number one in this was his addiction to alcohol. The film showed him to be a complete alcoholic. He was either in his study perfecting his compositions, conducting in front of an Orchestra, or at the bottom of a beer bottle. The man loved to drink about as much as he loved playing music. I like the realistic portrayal, instead of putting him on a pedestal it showed him as a genius that had problems.

When I first played his music as a child I think I envisioned him as some master composer sitting in a walled in castle or some other majestic place. So it was interesting to see this film depict him as he most likely was. Not in a castle but in an upstairs apartment that to the chagrin of his downstairs neighbors was not even soundproofed!

One comical scene showed Beethoven leaning over a water basin pouring water over his head (low tech shower), then missing the bowl and dripping a bunch of water on the floor. The scene then cuts to his downstairs neighbors having the dirty Beethoven bathwater drip all over them and their food. The guy at the head of the table yells, “I know you are deaf you moron, but we are trying to eat!”

And of course Beethoven whose hearing loss was very real did not hear his neighbors yelling at him and just pleasantly continued on his way. That was another interesting aspect the film focused on, it portrayed his personal struggle with hearing loss and how he composed his final symphony while he was almost completely deaf. The movie was very realistic and very touching.

Don’t Break My Bow!

Proper instrument maintenance! This is something that I can not stress to my students enough! Do you know what happened today? One of my young cello players had the bridge of his cello collapse (That’s maybe $75). Shortly after this calamity a viola broke two strings, during tuning. (Poor girl still doesn’t know how to tune!) And then after these disasters were averted by quick band room replacements, I looked over to see my second chair violinist with barely any hair left on his bow. Come on now young man! My father has more hair on his bald head then on your bow strings! Let me stress maintenance!

violin-parts

Obviously I am being a little funny here, but I really must stress to my students that we need to try to maintain the integrity of our instruments. If you want a good sound out of your musical tools you have to take proper care of them. If you saw away with your violin bow like a hack saw it will eventually grind its way into sounding like one. Please take care of your instruments.

My best student this semester when it comes to maintenance of his instrument is one who did not originally come from an Orchestra background. This kid is great. He signed up with me personally at the beginning of the year. He explained to me that he always wanted to be involved with music in school and had always admired strings arrangements, he had however never played an orchestral instrument in his life. His mainstay was actually electric guitar. This was fine by me, I figured he could possibly do well, and add some extra flavor to my Orchestra.

This fellow did not disappoint me. He begin as last chair cello, and I just promoted him to third. He is quickly learning, sometimes to the chagrin to those that have been playing for many years, but it doesn’t matter. For someone who did not even know how to read sheet music three months ago, this student is a quick learner. He took everything he knew about guitar and applied it to cello, after that he transitioned on the instrument rapidly, his main hurdle was learning sheet music, but that is coming along just great too. Every once in a while I catch him tilting his head a bit and trying to play by ear, but after a quick nod from me he jumps back into the sheet music.

And as for bringing some new life into my orchestral arrangement, he does add some interesting features. From playing guitar in years previous he has already developed a very good vibrato, he does with one finger what my seasoned cellists do with two, I joke with him that all those Eddie Van Halen lead guitar tricks have proved very fruitful on the cello. But that’s the way music is, one technique can build up someone’s playing skill in a way that is beneficial in an area that was not even initially realized. So keep your musical mind and ears open.

Famous landscape photographers

 

Landscape photography is about capturing the world around you and doing it with as much detail as possible. This style may include taking large scale photographs of vast landscapes or close ups of objects in nature. A great landscape photographer should always be able to produce amazing shots. These are some of the famous landscape photographers both from history and even from our time;


1. Ansel Adams- He is one of the most famous photographers. He was born in 1902 and was actually preparing to be a professional concert pianist. However, the passion of photography took over and the rest is history. His photos of the Californian wilderness are stunning and speak volumes of his passion for the conservation of nature. He is also the pioneer of the Zone System, which is a system that comes up with photos with the greatest tonal range. He mostly used a large format camera that he used to take the breath taking large scale photographs of nature. His trademark was black and white photos.

2. Galen Rowell- He was also a conservationist and started out while still working on projects for National Geographic. He was also a climber and was highly regarded in the climbing fraternity. He got some of the most stunning shots while climbing and set new standards in lighting, filters and depth.

3. Edward Weston- He was a gifted photographer born in 1886 and raised in Chicago. Even from a young age, he showed interest in photography. A glimpse of his work can be seen in the eBook about landscape photography tips here. He would later move to California when he was 21. He started out in Soft focus pictorialism but changed his style to more detailed photography. A nude photograph that he took in 1925 and a photo of a shell he took in 1927 were as of 2013, the most expensive photographs ever sold.

4. Charlie Waite- He is one of the most profound photographers still working. His style is one of photographs that communicate calmness. He also uses a unique square format and a ‘painterly’ style of using light and shade. Before he got into photography, he worked in television and theatre for ten years. He is also a recipient of a Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society.

5. Eliot Porter- He was a pioneer of full color photography and was already taking photographs since childhood. He started out taking photographs of wildlife and birds. His focus was on detailed shots and close ups. He published a highly acclaimed book in 1962 named In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World. It featured color images of the New England woods.

6. Peter Lik- He is well known for his panoramic images. He was born in Australia to Czech parents who had moved to the country after the Second World War. His interest in photography began when he got a camera for his eighth birthday. Peter Lik first experimented with panoramic cameras in 1984. Two of his photos have been inducted into the Smithsonian Institute; ‘Inner Peace’ which was a winner at the 2011 Winland Smith Rice International Awards and ‘Ghost’.

7. David Muench- He is a talented photographer who has published 50 books with some of his most famous photographs. He has worked for the Arizona Highways magazine for over fifty years. He was also commissioned to take photos of 33 large murals for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial documenting the Lewis and Clarke expedition. This was to include 350 smaller photographs. His photographs are known for beautiful and natural colors.

8. Jim Brandenburg- He began his career as a photojournalist and later on began his career as a landscape photographer with National Geographic. His work portrays his passion as an avid environmentalist and also features wildlife. He also published a best seller titled ‘White Wolf’ in 1980 that featured images of wolves on the Ellesmere Island. Additionally, he won the Magazine Photographer of the Year Award.

9. Bernhard Edmaier- he initially started out as civil engineer and a geologist. Most of his works are taken from above and show with detail the colors, textures and shapes of the surface of the earth. He is also a numerous award holder.

10. Luca Campigotto- He was born in Venice and his most famous works are of the city. He is also known for his photographs of the rural landscapes. He has also taken photographs in other continents and his works are in many collections both private and public.