Monday, May 16, 2016

Hello, I Must Be Going

 This is no longer an active site.  It now exists as an archive of pre-production information and photos of HSU Music Department performances (for which admission was charged) from 2006-07 through 2015-16 school years.

This site retires along with me, the author of the words (and many of the images) herein, and the person responsible for performance publicity over this period.  Apart from a record of these events, information on composers and the music may continue to be useful, and so it all remains here as a resource for everyone in the world.

Bill Kowinski

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Glories of Nature with Humboldt Chorale and University Singers 

 Humboldt Chorale revives a favorite in John Rutter's "Gloria" and the University Singers celebrate the blessings of nature in the music of seven cultures, on Sunday May 8 in Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 As a community choir, Humboldt Chorale has singers who remember performing Rutter’s “Gloria” in 1990 with director Ken Hannaford.

 “It’s nice to bring back a perennial favorite,” said current Chorale director Elisabeth Harrington, “and it is exhilarating to conduct and sing this very energetic and moving work.” This performance will include accompaniment by a brass ensemble conducted by Gil Cline.

 “We’ll round out our half of the program with the gentle and soothing ‘Seal Lullaby’ by the popular Eric Whitacre, and finish with the upbeat African chant, ‘I Live and Move,’” Harrington said. 

 Directed by Rachel Samet, the University Singers begin with incantations from a Celtic Mass, and end with the Kyrie from “St. Francis in the Americas: A Caribbean Mass” by Glenn McClure, with percussion accompaniment. 

 In between, selections include an African-American spiritual, a psalm from the Italian Renaissance, and a Visayan folk song from the Phillipines featuring soprano Jessie Rawson. 

 “The Moon is Distant from the Sea” is a setting by David N. Childs of a poem by Emily Dickinson. Eric Whitacre wrote the music for “Water Night” to a poem by Nobel Prize laureate Octavio Paz. 

 The two choirs combine to end the concert with a gospel song, “The Storm is Passing Over.” John Chernoff accompanies University Singers on piano, and Larry Pitts plays organ for Humboldt Chorale. 

 University Singers and Humboldt Chorale perform a shared concert on Sunday May 8 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door.  Produced by HSU Music department.

Media: Times-Standard Urge Magazine, North Coast Journal The Set List, Mad River Union, Humboldt State Now.

Humboldt Chorale & University Singers Program

Humboldt Chorale
Conducted by Elisabeth Harrington

John Rutter
"Gloria" by John Rutter

"The Seal Lullaby" by  Eric Whitacre

"I Live and Move"

University Singers
Conducted by Rachel Samet
John Chernoff, pianist

Michael McGlynn
Incantations from Celtic Mass by Michael McGlynn

 My Lord, what a mornin’ African-American spiritual arr. Harry T. Burleigh

 Sicut cervus (Psalm 42:1) by  Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina 
 Catherine Rippetoe, Rosemary Torres, Kyle McInnis, Alberto Rodriguez, Jordan Kramlich, Justine Bivans, Craig Hull, Allie Merten, soloists. MJ Fabian, percussion

 The Moon is Distant from the Sea :music by David N. Childs, poetry by Emily Dickinson

 Rosas Pandan: Visayan folksong arr. by George G. Hernandez
 Jessie Rawson, soloist.

 Water Night: music by Eric Whitacre, poetry by Octavio Paz, English translation by Muriel Rukeyser

 Kyrie from St. Francis in the Americas: A Caribbean Mass by Glenn McClure 
Michael Donovan, steel drums; MJ Fabian, drumset; Wes Singleton, percussion.

 University Singers and Humboldt Chorale 
The Storm is Passing Over by Charles Albert Tindley arr. Barbara W. Baker

2016 University Singers
Justine Bivans, Lisa Ko, Jordan Kramlich, Emily Nelson, Marykate Olson, Gabriela Pelayo, Antonia Picardi ,Stephanie Price, Jessie Rawson, Hope Botelho, Debi Cooper, Sara Dobson, Jenna Donahue, Jessica Golden, Erin Henry,  Kylie Jenkins,  Cecilia Kane, Allie Merten, Joelle Montes,  Linda Portillo, Catherine Rippetoe, Rosemary Torres, Ken Bridges, Victor Guerrero, Andrew Heavelin, Craig Hull ,Luis Landon, Richela Maeda, Kyle McInnis, David Vaughan, Raul Yepez,  Josh Abrams, Mark Berman, Kevin Blake, Michael Donovan ,John Pettlon, Alberto Rodriguez, Dan Szylewicz, Corey Tamondong, Julio Torres.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

HSU Jazz Orchestra’s Positive Sweat and Awful Coffee

 HSU Jazz Orchestra cooks “Awful Coffee” and exudes “Positive Sweat” in its adventurous concert of contemporary big band jazz, with originals by current and recent HSU students, on Saturday May 7 in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

 “Awful Coffee” is by contemporary jazz composer Carla Bley, from her album tribute to the Big Band era. “Walking By Flashlight” by Maria Schneider is from this year’s Grammy winner for a large ensemble jazz album. 

 Other selections on the Jazz Orchestra playlist include an Ellington-inflected piece by David Berger, Pedro Giraudo’s "El Cuento Que Te Cuento," a medley of “Samba de Orfeo” from the 1959 film “Black Orpheus” and a Louis Armstrong tune from the late 1920s by acclaimed arranger Oded Lev-Ari. 

 “Positive Sweat (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Funk)” by Jazz Orchestra member Kyle McInnis is one of three HSU originals. The others are by recent alums Ryan Woempner (“Jibber Jabber”) and Dan Fair (“Omar.”) 

 The HSU Jazz Orchestra performs on Saturday May 7 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Directed by Dan Aldag, produced by HSU Music department.

Media: Times-Standard Urge, Mad River Union, Humboldt State Now.

Jazz Orchestra Concert Notes

Program with comments by Jazz Orchestra director Dan Aldag:

"Walking By Flashlight" by Maria Schneider. Recorded on her album The Thompson Fields, which won the Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Recording this year.

 "Awful Coffee" by Carla Bley. Bley has been a major composer and arranger in jazz since the 1960s. This piece comes from her album Appearing Nightly, a kind of concept album that hearkens back to the big bands of the 1940s and 1950s, and is filled with quotes from old jazz tunes, and a few non-jazz songs.

 "Hindustan" by David Berger. Berger is the world's foremost authority on the music of Duke Ellington, and he also leads his own band in New York City. He composed this piece for his band, and it shows the influence of both Ellington and Gil Evans.

 "El Cuento Que Te Cuento" ("Storytelling") by Pedro Giraudo. Giraudo is an Argentinean bassist and composer now living in New York who fuses the American big band jazz tradition with Argentinean rhythms. This was recorded on Giraudo's album Cuentos.

In the liner notes for that album., Giraudo wrote of this piece, "Inspired by a line in a poem by Marianela Fernandez, my wife, this tune is a musical representation of human interactions. Every time we communicate with people verbally or musically, what is being said or played is different from what is understood or interpreted by the listener, sometimes slightly, other times significantly. This piece presents many repetitions that are altered by small melodic, harmonic or timbre changes."

 "Samba de Orfeo"/"Struttin' With Some Barbecue,"a medley of two tunes.The first was written by the Brazilian guitarist and composer Luiz Bonfa as part of the soundtrack for the film Black Orpheus in 1959. The latter tune was composed by Louis Armstrong and recorded by him and his Hot Five in the late 1920s. The arrangement combining the two was written by Oded Lev-Ari for the Anat Cohen album Noir.

Three pieces by current students or recent alums: "Positive Sweat or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Funk" by Kyle McInnis "Jibber Jabber" by Ryan Woempner "Omar" by Dan Fair.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Humboldt Symphony and ArMack Orchestra in Home-and-Home Concerts

An orchestral suite from the opera Carmen, favorites by Rachmaninoff and Copland, and a tribute to Louis Armstrong highlight two combined concerts by the Humboldt Symphony and the ArMack Orchestra of Arcata and McKinleyville high schools, in a home-and-home Mother’s Day weekend series on Friday evening May 6 at HSU and Sunday afternoon at Arcata High School. 

 The ArMack Orchestra under the direction of Cassandra Moulton performs Satchmo! A Tribute to Louis Armstrong and The Fair, an orchestral arrangement from Stravinksy’s ballet Petrouchka. 

 The Humboldt Symphony performs the first movement of Rachmaninoff’s popular Piano Concerto #2. As winner of the HSU concerto competition, student Charles McClung is the piano soloist. 

 The buoyant An Outdoor Overture by Aaron Copland is another popular piece on the Humboldt Symphony program. “On any collection of Copland’s Top Ten hits, the Outdoor Overture would definitely be included,” said Symphony conductor Paul Cummings. “It’s energetic but with more serene passages. All sections of the orchestra are given their moment of glory, with a number of prominent solos.”

 Carmen Suite #2 is itself a kind of greatest hits package, assembled from Bizet’s opera and including its most familiar melodies (including the Toreador Song.) Humboldt Symphony will perform the entire suite, together with the ArMack Orchestra. 

The Humboldt Symphony and the ArMack Orchestra perform on Friday May 6 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. The two ensembles also perform on Sunday May 8 at 2 p.m. in the new theater in the Fine Arts Building at Arcata High School. Admission is $5.

Media: Times-Standard Urge Magazine, North Coast Journal The Set List, Mad River Union, Humboldt State Now.

ArMack Orchestra and Humboldt Symphony Program Notes

Armack Orchestra
Cassandra Moulton, conductor

 Satchmo! A Tribute to Louis Armstrong arranged by Ted Ricketts

"Louis Armstrong was the first important soloist to emerge in jazz, and he became the most influential musician in the music's history. As a trumpet virtuoso, his playing, beginning with the 1920s studio recordings made with his Hot Five and Hot Seven ensembles, charted a future for jazz in highly imaginative, emotionally charged improvisation. For this, he is revered by jazz fans. But Armstrong also became an enduring figure in popular music, due to his distinctively phrased bass singing and engaging personality, which were on display in a series of vocal recordings and film roles."
--William Ruhlmann for

Louis Armstrong  "practically invented jazz." "Improvisation was created by the likes of Louis Armstrong."  He "invented swing, a strictly American form of music that will never go out of style, because it's our national tempo.  Louis invented bop; he invented rap.  Whatever the next category that comes out, you'll discover he was the first one who did it."--singer Tony Bennett from his book Life is a Gift.

The Fair from Petrouchka by Igor Stravinsky, arranged by Merle J. Isaac

 The Firebird was Stravinsky's first big hit, and it made him famous, almost literally overnight, at the age of twenty-eight. Petrushka is that most difficult of artistic creations—the follow-up.

 The Firebird had not only made Stravinsky the talk of Paris, then the capital of the international art world—capturing the attention of the city's biggest names, including Debussy and Proust—but it had scored a huge success for Sergei Diaghilev, who had taken a risk hiring the young, relatively unknown composer to write music for the Russian Ballet's 1910 season. Naturally, both men wanted another sensation for the next year.

Stravinsky already had an idea. While he was finishing the orchestration of The Firebird, he had dreamed about "a solemn pagan rite: wise elders, seated in a circle, watching a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the god of spring." These powerful images suggested music to Stravinsky and he began to sketch almost at once.

At first he thought of it as a symphony, but when he played parts of it at the piano for Diaghilev early that summer, the impresario immediately knew that this was music for dance.

 With Diaghilev's urging, Stravinsky continued working on the score that would eventually become their biggest sensation, Le sacre du printemps—The Rite of Spring. But in the meantime, Stravinsky got sidetracked. When Diaghilev went to visit Stravinsky in Switzerland at the end of the summer, he was stunned to discover that the composer had begun a completely different work instead. As Stravinsky recalled, Diaghilev "was much astonished when, instead of the sketches of the Sacre, I played him the piece which I had just composed and which later became the second scene of Petrushka."

What had begun as just a detour from The Rite now became the main project of the year, and at the same time, the score with which Stravinsky found his modernist voice—the voice that made The Rite possible. -- Phillip Huscher for Chicago Symphony

Humboldt Symphony
Paul Cummings, conductor

An Outdoor Overture by Aaron Copland

"A funny thing about Aaron Copland’s buoyant, invigoratingly open-air piece, An Outdoor Overture: it was written in 1938 for performance in the indoor auditorium of the High School of Music and Art in New York City. The work owes its existence to a request from the school’s orchestra director, Alexander Richter, for a composition to begin the institution’s long-term plan to concentrate on “American music for American Youth.” And who better to inaugurate such a campaign than an American composer who had so recently affected a radical and crucial stylistic change in his music, a change from austerity and dissonance into folkish simplicity?"

"In composing the piece, Copland kept in mind that, although he was writing for a high school orchestra of at least near-professional capability, he must still hold careful rein on the over-all difficulties. But neither did he underestimate the expertise of the student players and in devising the music in his typically syncopated, brilliant manner, he provided them, and professional orchestras, with an attractive bit of Coplandiana."--Orrin Howard  for Los Angeles Philharmonic

Concerto #2 for Piano and Orchestra by Sergei Rachmaninoff
First Movement

"A quality especially apparent in the Second Piano Concerto is a sense of effortlessness in its unfolding, and that is something new in Rachmaninoff's music. He begins magnificently, and with something so familiar that we come perilously close to taking it for granted—a series of piano chords in crescendo, all based on F, each reinforced by the tolling of the lowest F on the keyboard, and, through the gathering harmonic tension and dynamic force, constituting a powerful springboard for the move into the home chord of C minor. Once there, the strings with clarinet initiate a plain but intensely expressive melody, which the piano accompanies with sonorous broken chords.

 The piano's role as accompanist is also worth noting. Nowhere is the pianist so often an ensemble partner and so rarely a soloist aggressively in the foreground as in this first movement of the Second Concerto."--Michael Steinberg for the San Francisco Symphony

Both Orchestras

Carmen Suite for Orchestra No. 2 by Georges Bizet, assembled by Ernest Guirard

"Whereas the first suite drawn from Bizet's opera Carmen focused on preludes and entr'actes, the second is mostly a string of hit arias and ensemble pieces, with individual instruments filling in for the missing voices."

"The opening "Marche des contrebandiers," or "Smugglers' March," depicts the nocturnal progress of smugglers through the mountains...Befitting the secretive nature of the business at hand, this is a predominantly quiet but still cocky march, full of pert woodwind solos.

 Next comes one of the opera's two most famous numbers, Carmen's teasing-seductive "Habanera," concerning the fickle nature of gypsy love. Bizet based it on a popular song by the Spanish composer Yradier. In this non-vocal form, the line is divided into long phrases and allotted to various instruments-usually solo woodwinds, but also trumpet, and at some points the violin sections.

The long Nocturne is actually Micaëla's aria from Act 3. Here the long, flowing, yearning melody is taken mainly by the solo viola (solo horn in some versions), although it becomes violin property when it begins to soar halfway through the piece.

 The "Chanson du toréador" is the opera's greatest hit, although Bizet was ashamed of it and denigrated it as "trash." Here, the torero ("toréador" is a French fabrication) enters in the form of a solo trumpet to tell his bullfight story through dramatic verses as well as the famous marching chorus.

"La Garde montante" is the Act 1 children's chorus, in which kids tag along at the changing of the guard. Thus, the piece begins with militaristic fanfares in the brass, but quickly is taken over by a whimsical piccolo march. Clarinets and violins also fill in for the children's voices as the piece progresses."--James Reel,

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Calypso Band 30th Anniversary Fulkerson Hall Finale With Guest Artist Andy Narell 

Humboldt State Calypso Band ends its 30th anniversary celebration in the place where the band began—Fulkerson Recital Hall—with a concert featuring a guest artist, the legendary steel pan player Andy Narell, on Thursday May 5. 

 Eugene Novotney, founder and current director of the Calypso Band, calls it as “our student and community appreciation show,” marking the band’s first appearance in Fulkerson Hall in the spring of 1986.

 Guest artist Andy Narell is a virtuoso steel pan player (he played more than 25 parts on an album recorded one instrument at a time) who teaches in Paris and across the U.S.

 "Andy Narell is not only one of the premier steel pan artists and composers in the world, he is one of the best musicians on the planet,” Novotney said. “He is the true definition of what it means to be a performing artist, and his influence both in the steelband movement and in the jazz world has been immeasurable.” 

 “He is undeniably the most recorded steel pan artist in history, and his compositions for the steelband are historic and profound,” Novotney continued. “We are beyond thrilled to have him come to Humboldt State, and we are extremely excited to share the stage with him and experience his artistry. This will be the show of a lifetime, and we could not think of a better way to celebrate our 30th anniversary at HSU." 

 In addition to his performance in this concert, Narell will hold a free workshop for HSU students on Wednesday May 4 at 3 p.m., to be followed by a rehearsal with the Calypso Band, also open to the public at no charge.

The Humboldt State Calypso Band with guest artist Andy Narell performs on Thursday May 5 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door.  Directed by Eugene Nototney, produced by HSU Music department.

Media: Eureka Times-Standard Urge Magazine, North Coast Journal The Set List, Mad River Union, Humboldt State Now.

Humboldt State Calypso Band

 Founded in 1986 by Dr. Eugene Novotney, the Humboldt State Calypso Band was the first ensemble of its kind in the entire California State University system.

As of spring 2016 marking the 30th anniversary of the Calypso Band at HSU, the Calypso Band now stands as one of the oldest and longest standing steelbands in the entire United States.

 The Humboldt State Calypso Band is a 100% acoustic group comprised of an orchestra of steelpans. The Humboldt Calypso Band prides itself in maintaining an accurate and authentic connection to the roots of the steelband movement and the innovative musicians of Trinidad & Tobago, the island nation that created and developed this unique percussion phenomenon.

 Many of the Humboldt State Calypso Bands’ original steelpans were built and tuned by Clifford Alexis, a Trinidadian native who’s work with steelbands in the Caribbean and the United States is legendary.

 The indigenous “Calypso”and “Soca” music performed by the Humboldt State Calypso Band represents the true voice of steelband music in the Caribbean, and steelband arrangements from Trinidad & Tobago greatly influence the group's repertoire and instrumentation. The Humboldt State Calypso Band has developed a relationship with some of Trinidad & Tobago’s most important steelband composers, most notably Ray Holman & Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, who have written many of the arrangements and original scores that the group performs.

Some alumni of the group have traveled to the West Indies, where they performed in the National Panorama Competition during Trinidad’s famous Carnival celebration, and performed in some of the best steelbands in the world, such as the Phase II Pan Groove, the Invaders, Silver Stars, Starlift, the Hummimgbird Pan Groove, and others. Other alumni have gone on to lead steelbands in communities, in public schools, at colleges and universities, and professionally throughout the United States.

 In addition to the Humboldt State Calypso Band’s regular performances in Humboldt county and throughout Northern California, the Calypso Band has undertaken tours to San Francisco, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Santa Rosa, Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno, Bakersfield, Berkeley, Oakland, Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Diego, Eugene, OR, and Seattle, WA.---Humboldt State Calypso Band

Andy Narell

The following is a brief bio of Andy Narell. For more, check out his website.

 With his first solo album in 1979 Andy Narell took the steelpan out of the steelband and brought it into the jazz band, and with every recording and concert since, he has explored the possibilities and expanded the role of the pan in contemporary music.

Narell has made 15 albums as leader, one as co-leader with Relator (University of Calypso), two as co-leader of the Caribbean Jazz Project (with Paquito D’Rivera and Dave Samuels), and two as co-leader of Sakésho (with Mario Canonge, Michel Alibo, and Jean Philippe Fanfant).

Along the way he has worked with such artists as  Bela Fleck, Tito Puente, Spyro Gyra, Nancy Wilson, Aretha Franklin and the Kronos String Quartet. He has performed on movie scores by James Horner, Maurice Jarre, Elmer Bernstein, Hans Zimmer, Michel Colombier, Thomas Newman, and Carmine Coppola, and his compositions are featured in the film ‘PAN – Our Music Odyssey,’ plus television shows and commercials.

 As a bandleader and soloist he has played hundreds of concerts and jazz festivals throughout the USA, Canada, Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, South America, and Africa. In 1999 Andy became the first foreigner to compose for Trinidad’s Panorama steel band competition, guiding the 100 player Skiffle Bunch Steel Orchestra to the finals of both the 1999 and 2000 Panoramas.

 He has been an artist in residence at  many United States colleges and universities. "My other ongoing teaching assignments are at Calypsociation in Paris, and Laborie Steel Pan in Laborie, Saint Lucia. I make the rounds of universities and high schools in the USA every year."

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Madrigals & MRT Singing Rainbows

 It's all about rainbows at the Madrigal Singers and Mad River Transit concert on Sunday May 1 in Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 The Madrigal Singers perform music from a rainbow of nations and cultures, sometimes in combination. "It's a very diverse range of music in four different languages, from Rachmaninoff to a Hawaiian piece, to a traditional Yiddish folk song, to a contemporary piece set to Native American poetry," said conductor Rachel Samet.

 "Bogoroditse Devo" is from "The All-Night Vigil," an a cappella setting of a Russian Orthodox ceremonial text by Sergei Rachmaninoff. A history of Russian music published by the University of California in 2002 calls it Rachmaninoff's finest achievement. 

 The text for "Grandmother Moon" is a poem by Mary Louise Martin that uses the language of the Mi'kmaq people of Canada's Atlantic seacoast, with music by Eleanor Daley. It has been described as "tender" and "gorgeous." 

 Other selections include a Hawaiian hymn, a requiem by Texas folk singer Eliza Gilkyson, and a joyful tune taken from a Yiddish folk song and arranged by Joshua Jacobson. 

 The rainbow theme returns as the MRT jazz singers perform a program that is specifically colorful, with tunes including "Orange Colored Sky," "When Sunny Gets Blue," "The Pink Panther," "Sweet Georgia Brown" and Ella Fitzgerald's vibrant "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" ("A brown and yellow basket.") 

 Both vocal groups combine for Craig Hella Johnson's arrangement joining a 1970s Christian Rock song, "I Love You," with Louis Armstrong's 1967 hit, "What A Wonderful World." 

The HSU Madrigal Singers and MRT perform on Sunday May 1 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door.  Directed by Rachel Samet, produced by HSU Music department.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Symphonic Band’s Promise of Star Wars

If the blockbuster movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens got you nostalgic (or curious) about the Star Wars that started it all, you’re in luck. The HSU Symphonic Band performs the original Star Wars Suite, plus a world premiere by HSU composer Brian Post, Copland’s “Promise of Living” and a trombone piece featuring student Craig Hull, on Friday April 29 in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

Symphonic Band played two movements from John Williams’ Star Wars Suite in December, before “The Force Awakens” was released. Now old and new fans can enjoy the entire suite, based on music from the first trilogy.

 “This is not your average high school band Star Wars arrangement,” said Symphonic Band director Paul Cummings. “This suite is at least 20 minutes of substantial music, and the hardest by far for band. It calls for a number of unusual instruments. But when you hear music from the suite, you appreciate the genius of composer John Williams in a way that the movie soundtracks don’t quite deliver.”

The concert also includes the world premiere of Textures, a two-movement work by HSU composition professor Brian Post, and the first movement of the Trombone Concerto by Danish composer Launy Grondahl that features HSU student trombonist Craig Hull as soloist. “This is an excellent piece,” said Cummings, “and one of the best in the repertoire for trombone.” 

 On the program is “The Promise of Living” by Aaron Copland, taken from his only full-length opera, The Tender Land. “It’s beautiful music that’s not known very well because Copland is just not known for opera. Though this is tuneful, it’s not typical Copland—it’s a slow, reflective piece, beautifully scored for band, including some very nice passages for the English horn.” 

 The Symphonic Band also performs several movements from the Suite Francais by Darius Milhaud and Lincolnshire Posy by Percy Grainger. 

The HSU Symphonic Band performs on Friday April 29 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door.  Directed by Paul Cummings, produced by HSU Music department.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Three Ensembles Evoke the 19th Century in “Alcatraz Brass Plus” 

 Two brass quintets play 19th century works on period instruments, and join in a grand finale performing a Eureka-made march with the Humboldt Bay Brass Band in the “Alcatraz Brass Plus” concert on Saturday April 23 at Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 A quintet from Sacramento, the 5th California Volunteer Infantry Regiment Band, specializes in 19th century brass band music. At Alcatraz Island, they recently reenacted a performance of a military band based in San Francisco in the 1800s. As guest performers for this concert, they play 19th century works with a California flavor, including “Crossing the Grand Sierras,” “Pacific Rail Road Polka” and “Banks of the Sacramento.” 

 The brass project for HSU students this semester is the 19th Century Quintet, which also performs on period instruments. This group plays works by 19th century German composer Ludwig Maurer and Russian composer Victor Ewald. “This music is ‘symphonic’ in tones, and chamber music in setting,” said HSU brass professor Gilbert Cline.

 The two quintets combine for two famous 19th century works, Stephen Foster’s “Maggie By My Side” and “Hail, Columbia” which for much of the 19th century functioned as the American national anthem. 

 They are joined by the entire Humboldt Bay Brass Band for a Humboldt County finale: “Sequoia Carnival March,” composed in 1895 for a summer festival in Eureka. “This one is part John Philip Sousa, and part Scott Joplin,” Cline said.

 “Alcatraz Brass Plus” is performed on Saturday April 23 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Produced by HSU Music department.

Alcatraz Brass Plus: The Program

5th California Volunteer Infantry Regiment Band

Banks of the Sacramento based on Stephen Foster
 Arranged by Conrad Ray Hicks and John Moore Jr.

 Banner Of the Sea by G. Hewitt
 Crossing the Grand Sierra’s by Henry Clay Work
 Adapted by John Moore Jr.

Pacific Rail Road Polka arranged by Ken Brungess
 Edited by John Moore Jr.

Santa Anna’s Retreat from Buena Vista by Stephen C Foster (1848)
 Edited by John Moore Jr.

 Overture to “Patience” (or “Bunthorne’s Bride”) Sir Arthur Sullivan 1881 Arranged by John Moore Jr.

HSU 19th Century Quintet 

 Suite (1881) by  Ludwig Maurer (1789-1878)

 Quintet by Viktor Ewald (1860-1935)

 The HSU 19th Century Quintet is using historic brass instruments (all from the Cline collection) : ca. 1865 E-flat rotary valve soprano cornet (US) ca. 1895 B-flat rotary valve mezzo cornet (Germany) ca. 1885 E-flat rotary valve alto horn (US) ca. 1895 B-flat piston valve baritone horn (France) ca. 1896 E-flat piston valve bass horn (England) (and also, for the Ewald, a B-flat rotary valve mezzo cornet of my own construction, affectionately called "The FrankenCline Trumpet" because of all the parts I took from older, out-of-service trumpets ! )

Both Quintets

"Maggie By My Side" by Stephen Foster
"Hail, Columbia": music by Philip Phile, lyrics by Joseph Hopkinson

Both Quintets with Humboldt Bay Brass Band

Sequoia Carnival March

HSU Composition Studio at Morris Graves

As part of the Constellation Series, students and faculty of the HSU Composition Studio will perform on Saturday April 23 at 8 p.m. at the Morris Graves Museum.

They will perform original minimalist works as well as the classic minimalist composition "In C" by Terry Riley.

 "At times performers will be located in different parts of the museum while performing at the same time. Four of the pieces performed will be collaborative compositions written by everyone in the studio. Improvisation will be an important element of all of the pieces being given throughout the evening. The goal of each piece will be to spontaneously create a musical and electronic soundscape through the use of pre-composed and improvised material."

For more information, follow this link to Humboldt State Now.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Percussion Rhythms from Bali, Africa and Cuba at HSU

 Three HSU percussion groups lead a rhythmic tour from Bali to West Africa and the Cuban Carnival in their shared concert on Sunday April 17 in Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 The Percussion Ensemble performs “Ketjak,” a contemporary work by Japanese composer Akira Nishimura, based on the Balinese Monkey Chant that traditionally accompanies enactment of the Sanskrit epic story, the Ramayana. Seven percussionists play multiple instruments, including two sets of tubular bells.

 “This virtuosic piece captures the deep emotion of the Monkey Chant in a dramatic percussive orchestration that pushes the seven-player ensemble to the limits of their technique and musicality,” said Ensemble director Eugene Novotney. 

 Then the HSU West African Ensemble performs a suite of traditional Mandeng drumming using all indigenous instruments, including djembe, dundun and balafon.

 Finally, the World Percussion Group presents the driving beat of “Conga Mozambique,” an arrangement of Afro-Cuban Comparsa music. A horn section playing traditional melodies adds to the authentic Cuban Carnival sound.

 The HSU Percussion Ensemble, West African Ensemble and World Percussion Group perform on Sunday April 17 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door.  Directed by Eugene Novotney, Howard Kaufman and Joe Bishop. Produced by HSU Music department.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Jazz Combos: From Winter in Arcata to the Sunny Side of the Street 

Four bands playing jazz classics, newer jazz and HSU originals perform in the HSU Jazz Combos concert on Friday April 8 in Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

The band Trumpet Pancake features two of the more renowned HSU horn players, Andrew Henderson (trumpet) and Craig Hull (trombone), plus David Semon (guitar), Eric Simpson (bass) and Jacob Partida (drums.) They play tunes by Portland-born jazz star Esperanza Spalding and the fusion band Snarky Puppy as well as a David Semon original entitled “Winter in Arcata.” 

 A medley about sunshine that includes the classic “Sunny Side of the Street” highlights the 2:00 Band set. Their other tunes are “Nature Boy,” the 1940s standard by hippie pioneer Eden Ahbez, and “So Beautiful” by singer-songwriter Musiq Soulchild. Alan Spencer plays tenor sax, Leo Plummer plays guitar, Jared Margen is on bass and Eric Tolfa on drums. 

 Old Hat performs originals by its bassist Ryan Woempner and HSU student Aaron Katz as well as Chick Corea’s “Spain” and a tune composed in 1917 by big band progenitor Art Hickman. Besides Woempner, the band features Kyle McInnis on saxophones, Jake Burns on guitar and Wes Singleton on drums.

 Hindsight Bias plays “Peace” by Horace Silver, “One Finger Snap” by Herbie Hancock and “Captain Marvel” by Chick Corea. The band is Max Marlowe (piano,) Abraham Loaiza (tenor sax,) Ricardo Cueva (bass) and Felipe Pezzoli (drums.) Skyler McCormick sings one number each with Hindsight Bias and the 2:00 Band.

 HSU Jazz Combos perform on Friday April 8 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Directed by Dan Aldag, produced by HSU Music department.

Media: Mad River Union, Times-Standard Urge, North Coast Journal The Set List, HSU Now.

Photo above: Jacob Partida, David Semon, Eric Simpson, Andrew Henderson and Craig Hull are Trumpet Pancake, one of four bands performing in the HSU Jazz Combos concert on Friday April 8.

Jazz Combos: The Program

Trumpet Pancake

"Mela" by Esperanza Spalding
 "Winter In Arcata" by David Semon
 "Binky" from the group Snarky Puppy (composed by Michael League)

Old Hat

"Skyhook" by Ryan Woempner
 "Spain" by Chick Corea
 "Rose Room" by Art Hickman
"Waltz For Lily" by Aaron Katz (HSU student and former Jazz Combos member.)

The 2:00 Band

"Nature Boy" by Eden Ahbez
 a Sun Medley ("Everybody Loves The Sunshine", "Sunny", and "On The Sunny Side Of The Street") by Roy Ayers, Bobby Hebb, and Jimmy McHugh/Dorothy Fields, respectively (although the last may have actually been written by Fats Waller, who sold the rights.)

So Beautiful by Musiq Soulchild (composed by JR Hutson and Soulchild)

Hindsight Bias

"Peace" by Horace Silver
 "One Finger Snap" by Herbie Hancock
 "Captain Marvel" by Chick Corea

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Romantic Stories in Music with the Humboldt Symphony

A queen’s romance, a gypsy’s passion, a show of force, and the legend of a cathedral emerging from the sea are all evoked in music performed by the Humboldt Symphony in an afternoon concert on Sunday April 3. 

 British composer Benjamin Britten wrote the opera Gloriana about the romance of Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex for the coronation of her namesake, the current Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Humboldt Symphony plays its most familiar instrumental section, “Courtly Dances.”

 French composer Camille Saint-Saens commemorated his visit to Algeria with a suite that includes a military march, in honor of the French garrison there. “As with most military marches of the 19th century, the trumpet is treated as an heroic fanfare instrument, so the trumpets have a prominent role in this one, especially at the end,” conductor Paul Cummings noted.

 In the 20th century another French composer, Claude Debussy, became fascinated with the legend of a lost city off the French coast, and its submerged cathedral that was said to rise above sea level once a century. Its bells would ring before it slipped back into the ocean depths.

 Debussy’s piece The Engulfed Cathedral is a popular piano prelude, but the orchestral version, Cummings said, is hardly ever performed. Humboldt Symphony provides the rare opportunity to hear the fullness of its mysterious beginning and especially its ecstatic middle, before the sea covers the cathedral again. 

 The orchestra also plays instrumental highlights from a suite Bizet based on his opera about the tempestuous gypsy Carmen—a preview of a fuller treatment ahead in the Humboldt Symphony’s May concert. 

The Humboldt Symphony performs for one afternoon only at the earlier time of 2 p.m. on Sunday April 3 in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door.  Directed by Paul Cummings, produced by HSU Music department.

Media: Times-Standard Urge, Humboldt State Now.

Humboldt Symphony: Conductor's Notes

Notes edited from an interview with conductor Paul Cummings:

March Militaire Francaise by Camille Saint-Saëns

This is the military march from Saint-Saëns' Suite Algerian. As with most military marches of the 19th century, the trumpet is treated as an heroic fanfare instrument, proclaiming the battle is about to begin, or victory is won. So the trumpets have a very prominent role, especially at the end of the piece.

Courtly Dances from Gloriana by Benjamin Britten
This is from the opera that Britten wrote about England’s Queen Elizabeth I, for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Because of its connection with the first Elizabeth, it uses musical structures from her time in the 17th century. So the music sounds like late Renaissance in style, and in keeping with that, Britten uses consorts of instruments. So you’ll hear a string sound, then a brass sound, then a woodwind sound, in the way Renaissance composers use recorders, then Sackbuts, then viols.

The Engulfed Cathedral by Claude Debussy. 

Debussy wrote this piece for piano, in a book of preludes. Though the piano piece is one of Debussy’s most popular and most played, the orchestral version is hardly ever done.

 It’s very slow, and as close to program music as Debussy ever gets. It follows the legend about a cathedral submerged in the sea that once a century emerges out of the water and comes to life when the church bells are heard again. So the music is calm and sort of mysterious at the beginning, then it depicts the cathedral slowly rising, building to the climax when we hear the bells, and then the cathedral sinks back into the water. So musically it has a classic arc shape, a rise to a climax and then a fall back to the beginning point—beginning and ending softly but with a huge climax in the middle.

Movements from Carmen Suite #2 by Georges Bizet

Bizet wrote two orchestral suites culled from his opera Carmen. This was a common practice of getting the music into the concert hall without the elaborate and expensive staging of an entire opera.  This suite has some of the opera's most familiar melodies, such as the Habanera and the Toreador Song.  We'll do some of this second suite for this concert, and the entire suite in our concert in May.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Satie to Arcata with HSU Guitar Ensemble

HSU Guitar Ensemble proceeds from 20th century France to contemporary Arcata and five pieces by student composers, in its spring concert on Saturday April 2 in Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 Erik Satie’s signature Gymnopedie No. 1 for solo piano is given a unique ensemble treatment by 10 guitarists and a bassist. Guitarists Andrew Heavelin and Leo Plummer combine on the Debussy favorite, “Claire de Lune,” and are joined by Adrien Bouissou, Kenneth Bozanich and bassist Ryan Woempner for “Golliwog’s Cakewalk” from Debussy Children’s Corner suite. 

 The concert’s second half is devoted to work born in Arcata from a collaboration of guitarists and student composers.

 “Many of the composition students have not written for guitar before, or they had limited experience,” said Guitar Ensemble director Nicholas Lambson, “and the guitar students had not worked with non-guitarist composers before. Working together this semester, we have five brand new, and very different, works for guitar.” 

 The composers are Kenneth Bozanich, Sabrina Fisher, Charlie McClung, Kyle McInnis and Aidan Sanborn-Petterson.

 Guitarists performing in this concert are Adrien Boussiou, Kenneth Bozanich, Evan Dowdakin, Sabrina Fisher, Andrew Heavelin, Jonathan Hernandez, Sean Laughlin, Rodrigo Nunez, Leo Plummer, Sador Rangel and Hawk Silverdragon. 

The HSU Guitar Ensemble performs on Saturday April 2 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Directed by Nicholas Lambson, produced by HSU Music department.

Media: Times-Standard Urge, North Coast Journal The Set List, Humboldt State Now.

Guitar Ensemble: The Program

Gymnopedie No.1 by Erik Satie 
 Adrien Boussiou and Sabrina Fisher - Guitar 1
 Andrew Heavelin, Rodrigo Nunez, Hawk Silverdragon, - Guitar 2
Evan Dowdakin, Sean Laughlin Leo Plummer - Guitar 3
Jonathan Hernandez, Sador Rangel - Guitar 4
Kenneth Bozanich - Bass

Claire de Lune by Claude Debussy

 Andrew Heavelin and Leo Plummer

From Twelve Preludes, Op.11 by Alexander Scriabin
 No.4 performed by Sador Rangel and Evan Dowdakin
 No.17 by Kenneth Bozanich, Evan Dowdakin

Pavane pour une infante défunte (Pavane for a Dead Princess) by Maurice Ravel 
 Andrew Heavelin, Kenneth Bozanich, Adrien Bouissou, Leo Plummer

Golliwogg’s Cakewalk by Claude Debussy
Adrien Bouissou, Andrew Heavelin, Leo Plummer, Kenneth Bozanich. Ryan Woempner, bass


Verisimilitude by Charlie McClung
 Adrien Bouissou, Hawk SilverDragon, Andrew Heavelin

 Nowhere Rock by Sabrina Fisher
 Sabrina Fisher, Kenneth Bozanich

Suite for Jazz Trio by Kyle McInnis
 Andrew Henderson, trumpet Leo Plummer, guitar Ryan Woempner, bass

Small Feeling by Aidan Sanborn-Petterson
 Sador Rangel, Evan Dowdakin, Jonathan Hernandez

 The Jester by Kenneth Bozanich 
 Leo Plummer, Andrew Heavelin, Kenneth Bozanich, Adrien Bouissou, guitars. Ryan Woempner, bass

Friday, April 01, 2016

Composers include Kyle McInnis, Kenneth Bozanich, Michael Barrett Donovan, Aiden Sanborn-Petterson and Sabrina Fisher.

Get It Fresh at HSU Composers Concert

A piece for full orchestra evoking a lost Aztec city, and variations for symphonic band based on hip hop tunes highlight the spring HSU Composers Concert of new works on Friday April 1 in Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 An orchestra of student and faculty players conducted by Rachel Samet performs Confluence by the Lake of the Moon by Kenneth Bozanich, inspired by descriptions of Tenochtitlán, a vast Aztec city linked by lakes in ancient Mexico. Kyle McInnis used contemporary hip-hop within a structure based on variations by 20th century composer John Barnes Chance for his concert band work, Variations on a Theme by the Wu-Tang Clan. 

Charlie McClung was inspired by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki’s Thenody for the Victims of Hiroshima to write Requiem for A Lost Forest for string quartet, commemorating a wildfire that destroyed part of Stanislaus National Forest near his childhood home. 

 Sabrina Fisher, Aidan Sanborn-Petterson and McClung wrote pieces for multiple guitars, while Sandee Castaneda wrote for solo cello and Fisher for marimba. Sanborn-Petterson’s Everyday Pondering Song Suite is a piece for voice and piano about the mysteries of ordinary life. The evening ends with a work of “slight morbid humor” by Michael Barrett Donovan called Home on the Range.

 Graduating seniors Kenneth Bozanich, Michael Donovan and Kyle McInnis are participating in their last HSU Composers Concert. 

The Composers Concert is performed on Friday April 1 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door.  Directed by Brian Post, produced by HSU Music department.

Media: Times-Standard Urge, North Coast Journal, Humboldt State Now.

Composers Concert: Program and Composers' Notes

Descriptions of each piece is by its composer.

Variations on a Theme by the Wu-Tang Clan by  Kyle McInnis
I – Tiger Style
II – Shaolin Style
 III – Wu-Tang Style

Performed by symphonic band

"The inspiration for this piece comes from a multitude of musical influences both old and new. The form upon which the piece is constructed is hundreds of years old, but the thematic material is far more modern. It all started as a crazy idea back in October, when I was searching for a new large ensemble composition to start. I had quickly settled on a Symphonic Band instrumentation, and knew that I wanted to create something in the same style as Variations on a Korean Folk Song by John Barnes Chance, but with more accessible source material. After racking my brain for a while, I realized that I had all the source material I needed in my hip hop records. Months of frenzied transcribing, sketching, and orchestrating has all culminated in this set of continuous variations."

 Confluence by the Lake of the Moon by K.C. Bozanich

Performed by orchestra conducted by Rachel Samet

"The title of the piece was inspired by a Native American Studies course that I'm currently enrolled in. In the opening chapters of assigned reading, the book: American Holocaust, David E. Stannard describes the beauty of what once was the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán:

"It's gone now, drained and desiccated in the aftermath of the Spanish conquest, but once there was an interconnected complex of lakes high up in the valley of Mexico that was as long and as wide as the city of London is today. Surrounding these waters, known collectively as the Lake of the Moon, were scores of towns and cities whose population, combined with that of the outlying communities of central Mexico, totaled about 25,000,000 men, women, and children. Tenochititlán overflowed with gorgeous gardens, arboretums, and aviaries. On any given day as many as 200,000 small boats moved back and forth on the Lake of the Moon, pursuing the interests of commerce, political intrigue, and simple pleasure...” 

 With that in mind, imagine yourself as an outsider for the first time laying eyes upon the majestic city of Tenochtitlán. Perhaps on the hillside somewhere by the Lake of the Moon, overlooking the boats of commerce travel from one side to the other. This is a spectacle that the human eye can no longer see. It is now a place that can only be constructed by music and the human imagination." 

Nowhere Rock by Sabrina Fisher 
Performed by Kenneth Bozanich, Guitar
 Sabrina Fisher, Guitar

 "Nowhere Rock" was inspired by a series of films I watched last December. It is intended to elaborate on the feeling of an unfamiliar new world, while presenting familiar ideas in contrasting ways. It represents the cycle of feelings experienced when settling in a new place: hesitancy, excitement, fear and acceptance."

Small Feeling by Aidan Sanborn-Petterson
Performed by Jonathan Hernandez, Guitar
Evan Dowdakin, Guitar
Sador Rangel, Guitar

"A vacation cannot always be taken when a vacation is needed. Small Feeling was written with this statement in mind, and served as the best compromise I could surmise. At times a shift from the dense, and intellectual to the visceral is all that is needed to embody the very spirit of this so needed vacation. This piece is exactly that; deceptively simple, and thoroughly relaxing. It is a break from complexity and the burden of thought, a dream destination in a few minutes of music."

Verisimilitude by  Charlie McClung
Performed by  Adrien Bouissou, Guitar I
 Hawk SilverDragon, Guitar II
 Andrew Heavelin, Guitar III

"Verisimilitude: the quality of seaming real; or a fancy way of saying legit. When I was told that we needed to write a piece featuring guitar, I was a little hesitant because I knew nothing of guitar, and I wasn’t sure how to even start writing a piece for one. So I wrote a piece for three guitars. The idea for this piece came from a minimalist piece for piano called Piano Phase by Steve Reich. I really liked his approach so I used it as a building block. I took an Amaj7 #11 chord flipped it upside down, and just phased that arpeggio in the guitars, with the second guitar playing a simple single line melody over top the oscillating sixteenths."

Requiem for a Lost Forest by Charlie McClung 
Performed by Michael Donovan, Violin
 Thomas Starkey-Owens, Violin
Hanah Rolf, Viola
 Gabrielle Wood, Cello

"In 2013 a wildfire tore through my hometown and decimated over 300,000 acres of the Stanislaus National Forest. The fire destroyed several groves that I have grown up hiking through and camping in. This piece is for all of the lost memories caused by that fire. The way that I wrote it was inspired by the music of Penderecki, and his Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. Requiem for a Lost Forest is comprised of three sections, the Sunrise in the Mountains, the Conquest, and Threnody. Each representing a stage of the fire with each section featuring some interpretive graphic notation, giving the performers the freedom to play what they feel is right for the moment."

Untitled by Sandee Castaneda 
Performed by Santiago-Cello

"The stylistic techniques used were inspired by Bright Sheng’s "Seven tunes heard in China". In this piece I tried to avoid tonality, by simply not thinking about what key I was in and what pitches I could or couldn't use. I listened to Bach's cello suites and tried to emulate some of the intervallic movement that Bach so perfectly used. This piece is my attempt to begin understanding cello and how to compose for the instrument."

The Paper King by Sabrina Fisher
Performed by Michael Fabian, Marimba

 "The Paper King was composed as a score to the beginning of a cute animated short film. It reflects the film's overall whimsical and light humor, while subtle dissonant chords represent occasional conflict. It is centered around a brief ascending theme that relates to one of the main characters in the short film. The unmetered section in the middle of the piece outlines the confusion felt by the character, but resolves back to familiarity with the restatement of the theme."

Everyday Pondering Song Suite by Aidan Sanborn-Petterson
Song of Sky and Cosmos
Song of Ground
Song of Higher Ground
Song of Home

Performed by Skyler McCormick, Alto
John Chernoff, Piano

"This piece says it all in the name. The lyrics are about the simple things that I do in my life, in regards to the people and the world around me. A 12 tone row is used in every song (most clearly stated at the very beginning of the first song), sometimes sparingly and sometimes heavily, yet playing a massively different role in each. This row in a sense symbolizes myself; a constant. No matter what happens, or how I feel, I cannot escape being Aidan. However being oneself does not always feel the same day by day. The music itself embodies this change in emotion, and the way we perceive almost anything. The Lyrics on the other hand represent the flipside. Despite these drastic revolutions of mind and soul, we still go about many of the same things we would have before. We still eat the things we eat, enjoy the things we enjoy, carry the weight we carry, and love the people we love. Down to it’s very core the E.P. Suite is about being human."

Home on the Range-The Short and Tragic Tale of #E445 by Michael Barrett Donovan 
Performed by Alberto Rodrigues, Tenor - #E445
and other performers

"Tonight the audience shall witness a reduced arrangement of a short piece for jazz orchestra, tenor, and stage (In a complete performance, Alberto will be in character and interact with props) - prepare yourself for mild morbid humor and a severely ruined appetite."

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Opera Workshop's Frantic Musical Chairs for Lovers in “Speed Dating Tonight!”

 Steampunk Girl, Panic Attack, Lives at Home and Love Me, Love My Cats! are a few of the characters enacting a frantic contemporary mating ritual in the comic opera Speed Dating Tonight! performed by the HSU Opera Workshop for four performances beginning Thursday March 24 in Gist Hall Theatre. 

 It’s musical chairs for lovers as 15 hopefuls in a bar introduce themselves (some truthfully, some not) with a five minute time limit, and the plot thickens along with the comedy. “Laughing together is a wonderful way to explore the culture of the modern dating world,” said director Elisabeth Harrington. 

 This is the California premiere (and 25th production) of this one-hour opera by American composer Michael Ching, who allows directors flexibility in various aspects of the show. “So no two productions will be the same,” Harrington said. “The characters are fresh and modern, and very diverse. I think audiences will respond to the humanity of the piece--humanity in all its awkwardness as we seek a suitable match!” 

 The Opera Workshop performs Speed Dating Tonight! Thursday through Saturday, March 24-26 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday March 27 at 2 p.m. in Gist Hall Theatre at HSU. Tickets are $10 general, $5 seniors and children, $3 HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Directed by Elisabeth Harrington, produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: Mad River Union, Times-Standard Urge, North Coast Journal, HSU Now

Speed Dating Tonight: Notes and Bio

Notes by director Elisabeth Harrington:

"I chose Speed Dating Tonight! because it is very modern and relevant--the text expresses fears and feelings many people seem to have about the "dating game." Also, it is a comedy! Laughing together is a wonderful way to explore the culture and "isms" of the modern dating world.

Opera Workshop rehearsal
The action takes place in a bar where all 15 daters have gathered to interact with one another (5 minutes at time!) on speed dates. As each character introduces themselves through a brief aria, we gain an understanding of the many ways we present ourselves to the world. Some are truthful and accurate, and some are not.

 I think most people will recognize a character trait that they possess themselves, at least to some extent. Some of the "daters" are: Steampunk Girl, Lives at Home, Feeling Awkward, Talkative Girl, Love me, love my Cats!, Combat Photographer, I like this bar! and Panic Attack.

 There are 19 cast members: 15 daters, 3 people who work in the bar (Bartender, Waitress and Busboy) and Kaylee, the coordinator for the Speed Dating event. All but one of the performers are current HSU students;one is a community member. Some sing more than others, but almost everyone is stage the entire time.

 The characters are fresh and modern, and very diverse. Directors have (almost) complete discretion to place the daters' interactions in whatever order bet fits the casts' strengths. This flexibility is crucial , and also ensures that no two productions will be the same. (Just like no two people are the same!)

HSU student Noah Sims at Opera Workshop rehearsal
Since the premiere in 2013, there have been 24 different productions of "Speed Dating Tonight!" largely on university campuses. This will be the California premiere!

 I think audiences will respond to the humanity of the piece--humanity in all its awkwardness as we seek a suitable match! It's something almost everyone can relate to on some level. The casual atmosphere of the show will also appeal to younger audiences.

It is definitely an ensemble show, and features several large ensemble numbers. Each cast member also has one or more extended solo moments (also making the show a good choice for developing the skills of young singer-actors-a definite requirement when I'm choosing repertoire.).The whole show takes place in just around an hour. This, too, is crucial, since we have 9 short weeks of rehearsal each spring semester before the performances (with only 4 hours weekly, unlike the bigger musicals like "Kiss Me Kate!" which rehearsed every night.)"

Composer Michael Ching

Michael Ching is a composer, conductor and arts administrator.  In addition to Speed Dating Tonight!, his opera compositions include an a cappella version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Corps of Discovery, King of the Clouds and Buosco's Ghost.  His most recent opera, which just premiered, is Alice Ryley.

A performance of Ching's piano concerto is included in the 25th anniversary commemorative recording of the San Jose Chamber Orchestra.  Ching was Artistic Director of Opera Memphis from 1992 to 2010, and is now Music Director of Nickel City Opera, the regional opera of Buffalo and western New York.  He currently lives in Ames, Iowa.

More detailed biographies are here and here.  Here is Michael Ching's blog.

Speed Dating Tonight! is currently his most popular opera.  It premiered at the Janiec Opera of the Brevard Music Center in 2013, conceived by director Dean Anthony, with lyrics and music by Michael Ching.

"With traditional opening and closing numbers, the middle section of the opera is a group of one-to-two-minute “dater arias” which can be put together according to the number of singers available. The order, key, and, in many cases even the gender, of the daters is flexible.

"Some are moving, some are funny. Some are caricatures, some are sincere. There are twenty-five dater arias and duets from which every producer will choose the ones they want to include."