Friday, April 29, 2011

HSU Jazz Orchestra’s Self-Generated Jazz

HSU Jazz Orchestra takes original tunes and arrangements to Fulkerson Recital Hall for their spring showcase on Friday, April 29. Add the improvisation called for in another tune, and it’s a singular evening in the jazz tradition of “you had to be there.”

For example, “Moten Swing” was the signature tune for Kansas City bandleader Benny Moten in the 1930s. “The version that we play,” said HSU Music professor and orchestra director Dan Aldag, “is a postmodern pastiche of a 1950s Count Basie arrangement, free jazz and ‘You're Driving Me Crazy’, the 1930 pop song whose chord progression ‘Moten Swing’ is based on. All of that was worked out in rehearsals by the band.”

“Seduction in 6/8” is an original composition by Jazz Orchestra pianist Aber Miller and HSU alum Nola Pierce. “The band created the arrangement we’ll be playing,” Aldag said. “It features vocalist Amanda Lake, who also plays violin and banjo on other tunes.”

In rehearsal the orchestra also worked out some refinements to the Jerome Kern tune “All The Things You Are,” which was arranged by Jazz Orchestra trumpeter Ari Davie. The Music Department’s newly acquired Hammond organ will debut in jazz composer Bobby Previte’s “Smack Dab,” with an arrangement by Dan Aldag.

"Finally", composed by jazz pianist Jim McNeely, features two of the band's graduating seniors, guitarist Charlie Sleep and drummer John Thomas. “While we're playing it as McNeely wrote it,” Aldag added, “what he wrote includes some indeterminate passages for the full band that consequently sound different each time we play the piece.”

HSU Jazz Orchestra performs on Friday April 29 at 8 p.m. at Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $7 general, $3 students/seniors, from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Free to HSU students with ID. Directed by Dan Aldag, produced by the HSU Music Department.

 Note: Some calendar announcements reflect an earlier plan to move this concert to the Depot. Due to unforeseen circumstances  this concert is at Fulkerson Recital Hall on April 29, as originally scheduled. 

Media: Humboldt State Now, Tri-City Weekly, Arcata Eye

Monday, April 25, 2011

HSU Guitar Ensemble Debuts With Fund-Raiser

“This is a special event for the guitar program at HSU,” said Music professor Nicholas Lambson. “We haven’t held a special concert like this in my five years here. All ticket sales go towards bringing guest guitar artists to Humboldt.”

The concert on Monday evening, April 25 in Fulkerson Recital Hall features the debut of the HSU Guitar Ensemble: students Samuel Shalhoub, Jason Hall, Charles Sleep, Colin Gaddie, Adolfo Acuna, James Puzey, Chase La Rue, Jerry Olofsson, Bryant Kellison, Tom Cielski, Herman Randall and James Adams.

The evening’s program of works by Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Terry Riley continues the theme that Lambson began in his own concert earlier in April: minimalism.

“Since this music has familiar harmonies, melodies, a repetitive nature and syncopations--it’s an easy transition from rock and electronic music for many listeners,” Lambson explained. “Popular music shares so many of these elements with minimalism that it is an extremely accessible style.”

Samuel Shalhoub and Jason Hall combine on “Opening” by Philip Glass, originally written for solo piano but arranged for guitar duet. “It is a relatively short work that highlights many of the elements to be heard over the course of the evening,” Lambson said.

The Ensemble performs “In C” by Terry Riley, a group improvisation in certain respects. “The notes are fixed but each performer chooses when to play each ‘cell,’ or melodic idea. The players must listen to each other to create the full musical experience which differs with every performance.”

 "Nagoya Guitars" by Steve Reich is a work originally written for two marimbas, adapted for guitars by David Tanenbaum and played by Charles Sleep and Colin Gaddie. Sleep and Gaddie will be joined by Jason Hall and Chase La Rue for Lambson’s arrangement of a Philip Glass composition for the motion picture “Mishima.” “They’ve performed this several times on campus,” Lambson said, “and have even moved people to tears.”

The evening will conclude with Lambson playing Steve Reich’s “Electric Counterpoint,” a reprise from his April 8th concert.

“We intend to do a themed guitar concert every year in the spring from now on,” Lambson said. “I have a million ideas for the future.”

The HSU Guitar Ensemble performs on Monday, April 25 at 8 PM in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $7 general, $3 students/seniors, from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Free to HSU students with ID. Directed by Nicholas Lambson, produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye
Nicholas Lambson: Concert Notes

This is a special event for the Guitar Program at HSU. In my 5 years here, we have not held a special concert like this of this magnitude. This concert will benefit the Guitar Program, as all of the ticket sales will go into an account to be used to bring up guest artists. We intend to do a themed guitar concert every year in the Spring from now on, and I have a million ideas for the future. The concert will be primarily performed by students, though I will perform the last work of the program.

As is typical of many guitarists, I had my start playing electric guitar. I was playing a variety of music, focusing on rock and blues. I eventually became infatuated with classical guitar, partly due to the technical challenge of playing more than one line of music at a time (melody, bass, and chords at once), but also because of its many styles. A style that particularly appealed to me early on was Minimalism.

Minimalism is a 20th century musical style that was a response to atonality and complexity that was so prevalent. As the name suggests, the elements of the style are minimal; there are familiar and very tonal harmonies and melodies, the phrases are balanced and predictable, the forms are simple or free, and often short ideas are repeated while very small changes add to or develop the music. There is also an influence of West African music, and electronic music on this genre. The rhythms often interlock and are syncopated. Often, each idea is designed to contribute to the entire texture rather than stand alone.

Since Minimalism had familiar harmonies, melodies, a repetitive nature, and syncopations, it was an easy transition from rock and electronic music as a listener and amateur musician. And so it is for many listeners. Popular music shares so many of these elements with Minimalism that is an extremely accessible style.

The program will feature all Minimalist works on the guitar. Some of the works are adaptations from other instrumentations, some are not, and some are open-ended. We begin the program with "Opening" by Philip Glass which was originally for solo piano. However, we have arranged the work for guitar duet. It is a relatively short work that highlights many of the elements to be heard over the course of the evening. You will hear traditional harmonies, but with cross rhythms of 2 against 3. This is a perfect piece to start us off with.

Then the HSU Guitar Ensemble will be performing Terry Riley's "In C," which is for unspecified instrumentation. I met with Terry Riley several years ago during a rehearsal of this landmark work and his son and I attended the same Conservatory, studying with the same teacher, David Tanenbaum. This work is essentially a group improvisation, except that the notes are fixed. There are many "cells (repeated melodic ideas)" that can be repeated a number of times. However, each performer chooses when to play each cell, and how to play it. For example, one might play the rhythms in diminution or augmentation, play the cells transposed up or down in octaves, or interlock with another player on the same cell. The idea is that the group must listen to one another to create a full musical experience which differs with every performance.

Then on to "Nagoya Guitars" by Steve Reich. This piece was originally written for two marimbas, though it has been performed on guitar numerous times. My former teacher David Tanenbaum recorded the guitar version many years ago on one of his albums calling it "Nagoya Guitars," and that opened the door for the rest of us. The work has several repeating cells that interlock between the two players, which are highly syncopated. The work transfers well to the guitar overall, and it is definitely a challenging work to play, though it is extremely rewarding as well.

The second half will begin with my arrangement of Philip Glass's "Mishima," his third string quartet.  One of my graduating seniors will be playing the first guitar part. They have had multiple performances including the honors recital at HSU, and they have even moved people to tears.

Finally, we end with Electric Counterpoint [by Steve Reich.] I will be playing the solo part with the other guitars on tape, as recorded by David Tanenbaum."

For additional information on "Mishima" and "Electric Counterpoint," see notes for Nicholas Lambson's April 8 concert.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Intimate Magic with Mozart and Opera Workshop's The Magic Flute at HSU

Both a hero’s journey and a love story, The Magic Flute is one of the most beloved operas of all time. Plus it features some of the best—and last—music Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ever wrote.

For three performances beginning April 22, HSU Opera Workshop presents a full production of The Magic Flute in the intimate setting of Gist Hall Theatre.

HSU student and lyric tenor Philip de Roulet plays the hero Tamino, and student Brandy Rose is featured in the lyric soprano role of Pamina, the princess heroine. Soprano Nanette Voss, well known on the North Coast for her community theatre work, plays the evil Queen of the Night. Recent HSU graduate Christopher Hatcher plays the comic baritone role of Papageno, and Steve Nobles (seen recently in Amahl and the Night Visitors at Ferndale Rep) sings the bass role of Sarastro.

 The Magic Flute is in a less formal style of opera that includes dialogue, a forerunner of modern musical theatre. Written in colloquial language, this version is in modern English. Because of the small size of Gist Hall Theatre, the audience will be closer to the action and the music than is usual for opera.

Director and HSU Music professor Elisabeth Harrington, together with student scenographer Rachel Parti have relocated the story’s setting to the ancient Mayan culture. “It’s a great fit,” Parti said, “especially because for the Mayans, birds and feathers were very sacred, and that ties in with the themes of The Magic Flute.”

Emphasizing the motif of birds and nature (a lion, a leopard and a coyote also appear) not only provides more color, it helped Harrington bypass elements of the story that today’s audience might find questionable distractions. “We want to keep the focus on the magic and the mystery,” Harrington said, “and on the message of love and friendship, nobility and bravery.”

The good-versus-evil story with a happy ending, as well as the dancers, comic elements and colorful setting will appeal to school-age children and adults, Harrington said.

 But the opera has also remained popular for centuries because of Mozart’s music. “Mozart wrote The Magic Flute in an incredible burst of creativity during the last six months of his life,” said Paul Cummings, HSU Music professor and Humboldt Symphony conductor, who conducts the 20-piece orchestra for the opera. “Even in a subordinate role, the orchestra gets to play the richest and most beautiful music you could possibly imagine.”

 The Magic Flute has a cast of 26, including a large chorus. Running time is estimated at 2 hours and 45 minutes. It is the first full opera to be staged in Gist Hall at HSU in at least six years. There's a special performance for local schools on April 21.

 The HSU Opera Workshop production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute is performed on Friday and Saturday, April 22 & 23 at 8 pm and Sunday Apr 24 at 2 pm in Gist Hall Theatre on the HSU campus in Arcata. $7/$3 from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Free to HSU students with ID. Directed by Elisabeth Harrington, orchestra conducted by Paul Cummings, produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye, North Coast Journal, Tri-City Weekly

The Magic Flute at HSU
Interview: Elisabeth Harrington, director

"The Magic Flute is a Singspeil opera, which technically means a play with singing. It’s telling a story and using music as part of the story. It’s a forerunner of musical theatre. But it’s not your typical musical theatre or operetta kind of singing. It’s opera.

It’s partly a love story between the hero Tamino, played by Philip de Roulet, and the princess Pamina, played by Brandy Rose. Tamino is not a hero from the start—when he’s attacked by a serpent in the beginning, he faints and has to be rescued by three ladies. But he goes through many trials and dangers, so it’s a hero’s journey. Pamina has her moments of despair, but there’s a happy ending.

There are a lot of famous features to The Magic Flute. The role of Papagano, played in our production by Chris Hatcher, is a very popular role, very big in the opera world. Probably the best-known musical snippet is the super high coloratura display by the Queen of the Night—that role is sung by Nanette Voss. It goes up to the top extreme of the soprano range—there’s controversy over whether it was meant to be sung or meant to be ridiculous— it’s kind of scary, which is appropriate since the Queen of the Night is evil.

We moved the action from ancient Egypt to ancient Mayan. Birds are a big image in Mayan culture, and Popagano is a bird catcher for the Queen of the Night. We’ve enlarged the theme of birds, so we have these wild parrots who appear throughout the show, for example. When Pamino plays the magic flute, the birds are revealed to be these noble, wonderful and beautiful creatures.

All of this helps in how we’ve downplayed and in some cases omitted racial and sexist elements in the original script. We haven’t changed significant aspects of the story, but we don’t want the audience to be taken out of the play by objectionable elements. Basically we’ve substituted nature and birds for racism and misogyny.

In the end the focus is on nobility and truth, honesty and bravery and staying the course, as well as love and friendship. Our show is geared towards all ages. It’s a charming and delightful and timeless story, with good triumphing over evil, even though a lot of the evil turns out to be misguided and misunderstood, so the bad characters are not really that bad. There are elements of magic and mystery. It’s visually very interesting and in a small theatre the audience has a lot to see as well as hear.”

Photos: Philip de Roulet and Brandy Rose
The Magic Flute at HSU
Interview: Paul Cummings, orchestra conductor

“Since we’re in Gist, which is a smaller place, we decided we needed a smaller orchestra than Mozart called for. We play the usual string parts but instead of large string sections, we have one or two players for each. Rather than pairs of woodwinds and brass, we use single, except for two clarinets. We’ve substituted two saxophones for the French horns. So we have 20 musicians instead of the usual 40.

This is an unusual experience for our players because of the nature of this opera. It’s not a traditional opera in the Italian style. It’s written in the vernacular with all the characteristics of Singspeil, which includes spoken dialogue, or recitative. The orchestra accompanies the recitative, and students wouldn’t be familiar with it otherwise. Composers use it to advance the plot when it can’t be done so easily through arias and ensemble singing—it is fast and free, so it can be difficult for the orchestra to accompany it, but it’s also exciting.

The Magic Flute is definitely in Mozart’s mature style. It was actually written in the last six months of his life. He was writing the Requiem at the same time. He wrote most of The Magic Flute in the summer of 1791, and then got a commission from Prague to compose a grand opera seriaLa clemenza di Tito—so he dropped everything and wrote that great opera, and went back to finish The Magic Flute. It was an incredible burst of creative activity in the last six months of his life.

I think you can even say it’s the best of Mozart, because many scholars say that what Mozart is most remembered for are his operas and his piano concertos. That’s where he made his most adventurous steps—the most noteworthy and certainly the most trail-blazing compositions.

In places in this opera, where the singers carry the day because of a beautiful aria or chorus, the orchestra—even in a subordinate role—has the richest, most beautiful writing that you can possibly imagine. Where we might forgive Mozart if he chose to be a little casual for an unimportant background part, you find the most challenging, complex orchestral writing. Even in a secondary role, the music is richly satisfying to play. It’s a truism in music that a good way to measure the value of a composition is how substantial are the parts when they are subordinate, in a secondary or tertiary role. Mozart finds a way to get genius into these background parts, these inner voices.

In the Gist Hall Theatre, the audience will be able to hear the singers in a way they normally could not. The same could be said of the orchestra. You’re going to be a lot closer to the solo flute player than you would be in almost any hall where this opera could be produced."

 The Magic Flute at HSU
 Interview: Rachel Parti, designer
  “I’m designing costumes, set and lighting—a scenographic experience, though honestly that wasn’t what I thought I was going to be doing when I started this project. But it’s what I’m trained for in my graduate theatre program as a scenographer, to design for all aspects of the show. So it’s been a wonderful opportunity and a wonderful challenge.

We’re doing a Mayan Magic Flute. We considered several ancient civilizations, because we didn’t want to do a traditional Egyptian motif. The Mayans were handy in that they had pyramids, but the more that I did research into the time period and culture, the more there was really a fit with The Magic Flute, because the Mayans held birds and feathers as very sacred, and this ties in nicely with the themes of The Magic Flute.

I prefer Gist Hall Theatre as a venue because it’s so intimate. I like the JVD but the audience is at such a remove. I’m a painter really at heart, and every single part of this production is painted or decorated, including the floor. It’s all going to be much more visible in Gist.

This is going to be a really unique production. We’ve gotten a lot of support from the music department and the theatre department. Everybody really wants to make it a success."

Photo: Philip de Roulet and Christopher Hatcher

Saturday, April 16, 2011

No Skin Off Their Drums: HSU Percussion Ensemble and World Percussion Group On Their Own

The absence of the Calypso Band and the different venue aren’t cramping the style of the HSU Percussion Ensemble and the World Percussion Group for their spring concert in Fulkerson Hall on Saturday, April 16. Instead they have more time to shine.

While the Calypso Band prepares for their Center Arts birthday bash at the end of the month, these two groups that normally share half of the combined concert have the entire evening.

 Their program takes advantage of this opportunity. “We’re doing a huge piece by composer Vaclav Nehlybel that’s scored for two pianists and 12 percussionists playing every percussion instrument imaginable,” said Ensemble director Eugene Novotney. “It’s highly rhythmic and extremely exciting.”

 Nehlybel, a prolific 20th century Czech-American composer, uses various combinations of membranes, woods and metals to create textures and soundscapes that surround the listener with pulsating rhythms.

 The Ensemble also performs a marimba quartet by Australian composer Nigel Westlake called Omphalo Centric Lecture. “This piece features a beautiful five-octave marimba designed and constructed in Arcata by Ron Samuels and Marimba One,” Novotney said.

 Two students take the limelight for the last two Ensemble pieces. Senior John Thomas from Los Angeles will be featured on the drums in Suite for Solo Drum Set and Percussion by Dave Mancini. Senior Tyler Hunt of Arcata will conduct the Ensemble in Taiko, a 1996 piece by American composer Scott Harding. “It’s based on the exciting and dramatic Taiko drumming traditions of Japan,” Novotney said.

Other selections on the Ensemble program include Third Construction by John Cage and Music for Pieces of Wood by American minimalist pioneer Steve Reich.

Those who come to the concert expecting dance rhythms in the second half won’t be disappointed. The HSU World Percussion Group, in collaboration with the African dance students from the HSU Dance Studio will provide them. “Their performance includes the complex Arara rhythms of the Afro-Cuban tradition, the exciting Mandeng Drumming of Guinear and the dance drumming of the Ewe people of Ghana, “ Novotney said. “It’s high-energy percussion music featuring precise rhythmic interplay and driving dance rhythms.”

 HSU Percussion Ensemble and the World Percussion Group perform on Saturday April 16 at 8 PM in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $7 general, $3 students/seniors, from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Free to HSU students with ID. Directed by Eugene Novotney and Howard Kaufman, produced by HSU Department of Music.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jazz Combos

HSU Jazz Combos perform at an unusual venue and time.  The performance is at 9 pm on Thursday April 14 in the Depot on the HSU campus in Arcata.  Admission is $7/$3, free to HSU students with I.D.  Directed by Dan Aldag, produced by HSU Music Department.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Embraceable Fang Zhang at HSU

Pianist Fang Zhang brings an international reputation and a unique program that includes European classics, American popular music and a Chinese piano work to HSU’s Fulkerson Recital Hall on Saturday, April 9.

“We are delighted to host the Chinese pianist, Fang Zhang,” said HSU Music professor Daniela Mineva. “His superb musicality and mature artistry are combined with impeccable technique.”

Born in Shenyang, China, Mr. Zhang began piano lessons at the age of four and won his first piano competition at the age of seven. With graduate degrees from the Eastman School of Music and appointed to the faculty of the Peoples University of China, he has performed widely on three continents. He was awarded the 2006 Rachmaninoff Society Special Prize at the Viardo International Piano Competition, among other honors. In 2008 he co-founded the Beijing Chamber Ensemble, and will tour U.S. universities with this group through 2012.

 At HSU he will play Beethoven’s Rondo in C Major and “Funérailles,”the seventh of ten compositions in the Poetic and Religious Harmonies cycle by Franz Liszt, followed by "Sheng dan jing mo chou,”a piano work inspired by traditional Beijing Opera.

 He ends the first half of his concert with two George Gershwin songs, as transcribed for piano by Pittsburgh-born Earl Wild: “Embraceable You” and "I Got Rhythm,” both from the musical Girl Crazy.

After the intermission, Mr. Zhang plays the Piano Sonata in B Minor by Franz Lizst, which Daniela Mineva describes as “very demanding.” It is considered Lizst’s greatest work for solo piano.

In addition to his concert on Saturday, Mr. Zhang will conduct a Master Class on Friday, April 8 from noon until 1:30 PM in the Fulkerson Recital Hall. It is free and open to the public.

 Pianist Fang Zhang performs on Saturday April 9 at 8 pm in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets: $8/$3 students and seniors from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. A Guest Artist concert produced by HSU Department of Music.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Tri-City Weekly, Arcata Eye

Pianist Fang Zhang: The Program

Rondo in c major Op.51 No.1: L.V. Beethoven

Funérailles from Harmonies poétiques et religieuses: F. Liszt

Sheng, Dan, Jing , Mo, Chou : A Mao Wang

Two Etudes: Embraceable You, I got Rhythm: G.Gershwin-E.Wild


Sonata in b minor:  F. Liszt 

Artist's Commentary

Sheng dan jing mo chou” is a piano work inspired by Role Types in Chinese traditional opera -Beijing Opera.

Beijing opera followed the traditions of classical Chinese operas, and was developed on the basis of Kunqu opera and many other local operas. Accordingly, the characters on its stage were divided into sheng, dan, jing and chou, the four major role types, according to their sexes, personalities, ages, occupations and social status (In the early phase of Beijing opera, there used to be sheng, dan, jing, mo and chou five major categories. Later, sheng and mo merged into one.). Different role types had their specific features in singing and other aspects of performance.


The Sheng (生) is the main male role in Beijing opera. This role has numerous subtypes. The laosheng is a dignified older role. These characters have a gentle and cultivated disposition and wear sensible costumes. One type of laosheng role is the hongsheng, a red-faced older male. The only two hongsheng roles are Guan Gong, the Chinese God of War, and Zhao Kuang-yin, the first Song Dynasty emperor. Young male characters are known as xiaosheng. These characters sing in a high, shrill voice with occasional breaks to represent the voice changing period of adolescence. Depending on the character's rank in society, the costume of the xiaosheng may be either elaborate or simple. Off-stage, xiaosheng actors are often involved with beautiful women by virtue of the handsome and young image they project.The wusheng is a martial character for roles involving combat. They are highly trained in acrobatics, and have a natural voice when singing.Troupes will always have a laosheng actor. A xiaosheng actor may also be added to play roles fitting to his age. In addition to these main Sheng, the troupe will also have a secondary laosheng.


The Dan (旦) refers to any female role in Beijing opera. Dan roles were originally divided into five subtypes. Old women were played by laodan, martial women were wudan, young female warriors were daomadan, virtuous and elite women were qingyi, and vivacious and unmarried women were huadan. One of Mei Lanfang's most important contributions to Beijing opera was in pioneering a sixth type of role, the huashan. This role type combines the status of the qingyi with the sensuality of the huadan.A troupe will have a young Dan to play main roles, as well as an older Dan for secondary parts.Four examples of famous Dans are Mei Lanfang, Cheng Yanqiu, Shang Xiaoyun, and Xun Huisheng.[52] In the early years of Beijing opera, all Dan roles were played by men. Wei Changsheng, a male Dan performer in the Qing court, developed the cai ciao, or "false foot" technique, to simulate the bound feet of women and the characteristic gait that resulted from the practice. The ban on female performers also led to a controversial form of brothel, known as the xianggong tangzi, in which men paid to have sex with young boys dressed as females. Ironically, the performing skills taught to the youths employed in these brothels led many of them to become professional Dan later in life.


The Jing (净) is a painted face male role. Depending on the repertoire of the particular troupe, he will play either primary or secondary roles.This type of role will entail a forceful character, so a Jing must have a strong voice and be able to exaggerate gestures.[55] Beijing opera boasts 15 basic facial patterns, but there are over 1000 specific variations. Each design is unique to a specific character. The patterns and coloring are thought to be derived from traditional Chinese color symbolism and divination on the lines of a person's face, which is said to reveal personality. Easily recognizable examples of coloring include red, which denotes uprightness and loyalty, white, which represents evil or crafty characters, and black, which is given to characters of soundness and integrity.Three main types of Jing roles are often seen. These include tongchui, roles that heavily involve singing, jiazi, roles with less emphasis on singing and more on physical performance, and wujing, martial and acrobatic roles.


The Chou (丑) is a male clown role. The Chou usually plays secondary roles in a troupe.[57] Indeed, most studies of Beijing opera classify the Chou as a minor role. The name of the role is a homophone of the Mandarin Chinese word chou, meaning "ugly". This reflects the traditional belief that the clown's combination of ugliness and laughter could drive away evil spirits. Chou roles can be divided into Wen Chou, civilian roles such as merchants and jailers, and Wu Chou, minor military roles. The Wu Chou is one of the most demanding in Beijing opera, because of its combination of comic acting, acrobatics, and a strong voice. Chou characters are generally amusing and likable, if a bit foolish. Their costumes range from simple for characters of lower status to elaborate, perhaps overly so, for high status characters. Chou characters wear special face paint, called xiaohualian, that differs from that of Jing characters. The defining characteristic of this type of face paint is a small patch of white chalk around the nose. This can represent either a mean and secretive nature or a quick wit.

Beneath the whimsical persona of the Chou, a serious connection to the form of Beijing opera exists. The Chou is the character most connected to the guban, the drums and clapper commonly used for musically accompaniment during performances. The Chou actor often uses the guban in solo performance, especially when performing Shu Ban, light-hearted verses spoken for comedic effect. The clown is also connected to the small gong and cymbals, percussion instruments that symbolize the lower classes and the raucous atmosphere inspired by the role. Although Chou characters do not sing frequently, their arias feature large amounts of improvisation. This is considered a license of the role, and the orchestra will accompany the Chou actor even as he bursts into an unscripted folk song. However, due to the standardization of Beijing opera and political pressure from government authorities, Chou improvisation has lessened in recent years. The Chou has a vocal timbre that is distinct from other characters, as the character will often speak in the common Beijing dialect, as opposed to the more formal dialects of other characters.

Artist Bio

Fang Zhang enjoys an incredible career both as pianist and performer spread over three continents. He is prize winner and finalist of Viardo International Piano Competition where he was awarded with Rachmaninoff Society Special Prize, and Missouri Southern International Piano Competition. Mr. Zhang is widely recognized for his technical demands of the repertoire and artistic imagination. He completed graduate degrees at the Eastman School of Music (MM), where he also received the Eastman Performer's Certificate, the School's highest award for distinction in performance and Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing (BM).

Frequent guest as an orchestral soloist, Mr. Zhang has performed at some of the most prestige venues in China and United States. As an active chamber musician, he was awarded the First Prize as the collaborative pianist in the 2007 Jesse Kniesel Lieder Competition. In 2008, he co-founded and jointed as pianist the Beijing Chamber Ensemble. The group is invited for season 2011-2012 to perform and give master classes at some of the most prestige educational institutions in USA like Eastman School of Music, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and University of Colorado at Boulder.

In 2010 concert season, Mr.Zhang performance with Xiamen Orchestra Symphony and Shenzhen Orchestra Symphony resulted in CD release “Live Concert under the Beijing EAV Publishing Center.

Born in Shenyang, China, Mr. Zhang began piano lessons at the age of four and won his first piano competition at age of seven. He studied with Thomas Schumacher, Guo Zhihong, Fang Zhang (no relation), Yafen Zhu, Qifang Li and Lu Pan. Currently, Mr. Zhang is on the faculty at the Beijing Renmin University of China, School of Arts where he maintains studio of 18 students.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Whirler of the Dance: Nicholas Lambson

Whether or not you can name the style, you know the music. Guitarist and HSU professor Nicholas Lambson performs a concert of contemporary music at Fulkerson Recital Hall on Friday, April 8, that mostly exemplifies the style called minimalism. “It’s probably the most accessible 20th century style,” Lambson said. With African and electronic music influences, “it’s familiar to audiences, partly because so much modern pop music is so similar.”

Nor does minimalism mean “simple.” Two of the works Lambson performs are complicated enough to be required pieces in guitar competitions, to test a guitarist’s abilities. The first of these is “Whirler of the Dance” by Spanish-born and American-educated Carlos Rivera. “His writing for guitar shows an intimate understanding of the instrument,” with constantly changing meters and melodies, plus percussive effects.

The Suite Venozolano by Antonio Lauro “ is very much in line with Venezuelan music, except that it uses some very interesting jazz harmonies,” Lambson said. “This is another competition piece, with the infamous ‘Danza Negra’ section being the challenge.”

“Equinox” is by Toru Takemitsu, Japan’s most famous 20th century composer, whose influences include Debussy and John Cage as well as traditional Japanese music. “Being a non-guitarist composer, his piece is unique, but he definitely has mastered the variety of sounds that the guitar can make, even if what he is asking for is quite hard!”

The concert begins and ends with works by two eminent Americans. Probably the best-known American composer in this style is Philip Glass. He wrote music for the 1985 Paul Schrader film “Mishima: A Life in Four Acts,” and later arranged it for string quartet. “I fell in love with this piece, and immediately heard the guitar in this work,” Lambson said. “I arranged the string quartet for guitar—and for many sections, I definitely prefer the guitar arrangement.” For this piece, Lambson is joined by student guitarists Colin Gaddie, Jason Hall and Chase LaRue.

Lambson’s final selection is “Electric Counterpoint” by the influential American composer Steve Reich. It’s a piece for ensemble and soloist, though the ensemble part is often pre-recorded, as it will be for Lambson’s concert. He will play the guitar solo to a recording of 12 other guitars plus two electric basses, made by his former teacher at the San Francisco Conservatory, David Tanenbaum. “I am thrilled to be using his pre-recorded tape to play against,” Lambson said. “It’s a great piece, and I know people will really love it!”

Guitarist Nicholas Lambson performs on Friday April 8 at 8 PM in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. $8/$3 from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. A Faculty Artist Series concert produced by the HSU Department of Music.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Tri-City Weekly, Arcata Eye

Artist Commentary

This will be a contemporary guitar concert. The oldest work by far was written roughly 50 years ago, with everything else falling well within the last 30 years. There will be music from Venezuela, Japan, and the rest from American composers. Minimalism will be a main feature of the night, as our Minimalism on Guitar concert event is on Monday, April 25th at 8. Minimalism is probably the most accessible 20th century compositional style. There are influences from African music and electronic music. The music is very tonal and familiar to audiences, partly because so much modern pop music is so similar; there are familiar chords and scales, with a lot of repetition.

The first Minimalist work is by Philip Glass, entitled "Mishima." Glass originally composed music for the Japanese film of the same name, and later arranged it for string quartet. I fell in love with this piece, and immediately heard the guitar in this work. There are a lot of repeated notes and arpeggios, which are both things that guitarists do very often. I sat down and arranged the string quartet for guitar quartet, and it was a relatively simple transfer. For many sections, I definitely prefer the guitar arrangement!

The next work will be "Whirler of the Dance" by Carlos Rafael Rivera. Rivera was born in 1970, making him a fairly young composer. He is Spanish, but has studied in America. His writing for the guitar shows an intimate understanding of the instrument, clearly drawing on its resources. This work is also quite modern, but in a different way. It is mostly tonal with some modal and chromatic inflections. It also is constantly changing meters, and uses a lot of melodic cells (similar to Minimalism). He also uses some percussive effects. The piece was commissioned by the Guitar Foundation of America for its annual International Solo Competition, which is by far the largest American competition, and draws eminent performers from all over the world. This work was the competition set piece: the required piece for all performers to play to test their abilities.

After intermission, I will play the Suite Venozolano by Antonio Lauro. This work is very much in line with Venezuelan music, except that it uses some very interesting jazz harmonies. This work was written in the 1960s, but it was progressive for that style and time, which is why it is still so relevant today. This is another competition piece, with the infamous "Danza Negra" being the challenge. It features heavy use of hemiola, the rhythmic interplay of three groups of two and two groups of three.

Then I will play a short one movement work, "Equinox" by Toru Takemitsu. His Japanese influences are shown here: the title is based on nature and there are many moment of silence in between the notes. Takemitsu also uses a lot of color and texture in his works, and this is all over "Equinox." He has indications in the score to play different volumes, articulations, colors, and tempo changes. Being a non-guitarist composer, his piece is very unique in the repertoire but he definitely has mastered the variety of sounds that the guitar can make, even if what he is asking for is quite hard!

Finally, I will end with Steve Reich's "Electric Counterpoint." This is for ensemble and soloist, or pre-recorded tape and soloist. The piece was originally written for famous Jazz electric guitarist, Pat Metheny, who recorded it on "Different Trains." However, many classical guitarists perform the work. My former teacher at the San Francisco Conservatory while I was earning my Masters Degree, David Tanenbaum, has done his own recording of the work with classical guitar on his album "Acoustic Counterpoint." I am thrilled to be using his pre-recorded tape part to play against! The tape features 12 other guitars, plus two electric basses, while I have the solo. It's a great piece, and I know people will really love it!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Venetians and Dragons with Humboldt Bay Brass Band

“Venetians and Dragons,” the Humboldt Bay Brass Band concert on April 2 in Fulkerson Recital Hall, features music ranging from some of the oldest known works for brass to the premiere of an original composition combining elements of classical and jazz by HSU professor and HBBB director Dr. Gilbert Cline. And of course, dragons.

The concert begins at the beginning of brass music, with three works by 16th century Flemish composer Tylmann Susato. “These are partly ceremonial, partly Renaissance dance music,” Cline notes. Natural trumpets—eight-foot long, with no valves—add to the authenticity for one of these works.

Then comes the Venetian component: a brass quartet by Giovanni Gabrieli and “The Battle” by Adriano Banchieri, which features a two-sided musical battle between choirs of brass and percussion. These compositions exemplify the polychoral music of 16th century Venice, with players arrayed to create stereophonic and surround-sound effects.

Closer to home, an 1865 work commemorates the loss of a paddlewheel steamer, Brother Jonathan, off the northern California coast at St. George’s Reef near Crescent City, before its famous lighthouse was built. “The Sunken Rock” features guest singer Philip de Roulet as well as a recently re-discovered 1896 soprano cornet.

Then after intermission come the dragons, in an adventurous three-movement piece by contemporary British composer Philip Sparke. “’The Year of the Dragon’ is a major work, and a tour de force for brass,” Cline said. “It’s not only serious concert music but has served as a required test piece for brass band competitions around the globe.”

The Fulkerson Recital Hall audience will be the first to hear Gil Cline’s 2011 composition, “Contrapuntus in Pastel Minor.” Originally written for Cline’s Midnight Jazztet, this setting for brass maintains its Bach-like counterpoint in a 1950s jazz groove, with jazz solos by Branden Lewis on cornet and George Epperson on trombone.

With 25 brass and four percussion instruments, the Humboldt Bay Brass Band is northern California’s only true brass band in the British and American tradition. Their only local concert of the spring is Saturday April 2 at 8 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $7 general, $3 students/seniors, from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Free to HSU students with ID. Directed by Gilbert Cline; produced by the HSU Department of Music.

Media: Humboldt State Now,  TriCity Weekly, Arcata Eye, Humboldt Beacon.
Humboldt Bay Brass Band: The Program

Susato Echoes (1551) ...................................................... published by Tylmann Susato (ca. 1500 -1561)
I - Ronde (entrance)-- segue -- arranged by G. Cline
II - Mohrentanz (natural trumpets & timpani) -- segue --
III - Battaglia Die Schlacht(full band).

Ricercar (ca. 1580?) ....................................... quartet ........................... Andrea Gabrieli (ca. 1510-1586)
Gil Cline, E-flat soprano cornet; Branden Lewis, B-flat cornet;
George Epperson, tenor trombone; Toshi Noguchi, F attachment trombone

Sonata octavi toni (1597) .............................. á 12 ........................... Giovanni Gabrieli (1558-1613)
two choirs, left & right -- á 6 each edited by G .C.

Nunc dimittis servum tuum domine (1597) Giovanni Gabrieli (1558-1613)
three choirs edited by G .C.
Canzon septimi toni #2 (1597) ............................. á 8 ........................ Giovanni Gabrieli (1558-1613)
two choirs, left & right -- á 4 each edited by G .C.

The Battle (1596) ................................................. á 8 ........................... Adriano Banchieri (1568-1634)
two choirs, left & right -- á 4 each edited by G .C.

The Sunken Rock (1865) . Premier live performance. Eugene Russel & P. R. Nichols
Philip de Roulet, tenor ;arranged by G. C.

The Australasian march ...William Rimmer (1862-1936)


Year of the Dragon (1985) suite . Philip Sparke
I - Toccata
II - Interlude
III - Finale

Contrapunctus in Pastel minor (2011)... Premier performance ............................ Gilbert Cline
jazz solos by Branden Lewis & George Epperson

Doyen... Goff Richards

Humboldt Bay Brass Band Personnel

Cornets --
Solo B-flat : Branden Lewis
E-flat Soprano : Joe Severdia
1st B-flat : Ari Davie, Alex Fonseca, & Tom Cover
2nd B-flat : William Zoller & Leon Hamilton
3rd B-flat : Sean Gill & Joyce Carter
Repiano Cornet : John Ferreira
Flügelhorn : Ryan Brown
E-flat Tenor Horns -- Matthew Morgan, Anwyn Halliday, & Kate Williams
B-flat Baritone Horns -- Toshi Noguchi & Frédéric Bélanger
Euphoniums -- Phil Sams & Derek Woodward
Trombones -- George Epperson & Melissa Gussin
Bass Trombone : Dick LaForge
Eb Basses -- Elizabeth Cruz & Wilson Bowles
BBb Basses -- Jerry Carter & Ryan Egan
Percussion -- Grace Kerr, Nev Mattinson, Cassie Moulton, & Molly Newkirk
Pipe Organ -- Molly Newkirk
Musical Advisor -- George Ritscher
Director: Dr. Gilbert Cline