Friday, May 27, 2011

                                       photo by David Fung

Ryan’s Return to HSU: Ryan MacEvoy McCullough in Benefit Concert

Fresh from playing Rhapsody in Blue with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and being named the University of Southern California Thorton School of Music’s outstanding graduate of 2011, North Coast favorite son Ryan MacEvoy McCullough returns to HSU for a solo piano concert on Friday, May 27.

“It's my first solo concert at HSU in several years,” he said, “and I'm really excited to be playing at home.”

With an audience likely to include people who have known him since childhood or as an HSU student, McCullough looks forward to displaying his progress as a pianist. “I've worked very hard these six years I've been living outside Humboldt, so even if playing at home represents the lowest pressure professionally, it means the most to me personally.”

In addition to works by Beethoven, Debussy and Franz Lizst, his concert will include a piano sonata by another HSU graduate and his good friend, Dante De Silva. It is subtitled “Arcata,” because it is the composer’s response to moving there from southern California. “He wrote a large chunk of this piece while renting the downstairs living space at my mom’s house in Bayside,” McCullough noted. At HSU both Ryan and Dante were students of pianist and professor Deborah Clasquin.

As the concert finale, pianist and HSU professor Daniela Mineva will join McCullough for a two-piano piece by contemporary composer John Adams called Hallelujah Junction. “It's a fantastically joyous piece,” McCullough said, “and a great way to end what I think is going to be a fun and interesting program.”

Proceeds from this Fulkerson Recital Hall concert will go towards bringing other guest pianists to HSU. This past year the piano program hosted celebrated artists Natalya Antonova, Pamela Mia Paul and Fang Zhang. Additional contributions are also gratefully accepted.

Ryan MacEvoy McCullough performs a rare local solo piano concert on Friday May 27 at 8 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. $10/$5 from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Produced by HSU Music Department.

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

                                                 photo by David Fung

Artist's Commentary

As sometimes happens, this program assumed a unique theme, which always pleases me. The theme of this recital is different kinds of travel.

The program begins with a work by the 19th century piano virtuoso Franz Liszt: his Sonetto 123 del Petrarca (or the 123rd sonnet after Petrarch), transcribed for piano from a song for baritone and piano he had written in the 1830s. It was included in a set of works called the Years of Pilgrimage, which was essentially a travelogue of his life as a touring performer. This piece was specifically included in the set about Italy, which is probably the most well known of the three (each "book" is about a different place).

Next is a work by Claude Debussy-- Estampes, a set of three "prints" (literally, "stamps") was written in 1905. This work is also a sort of travelogue, though more an imagined kind. Debussy never really travelled outside France.  He never even made it to Spain, yet the second movement from this set is probably the most famous example of Spanish music written at that time. The first movement is about Southeast Asia, so you can imagine how much of a stretch that would have been for this isolated Frenchman. Travel here is approached more as an abstract idea, without any obvious emotional connection to the composer's own life.

Concluding the first half of the program is Dante De Silva's Piano Sonata no. 1, appropriately subtitled "Arcata." Dante is a good friend of mine.  He wrote a large chunk of this piece in 2007 while renting the downstairs living space at my mom's house in Bayside. As a stark contrast to the emotional abstractness of the Debussy, this piece is intensely personal, and was almost a cathartic outpouring for the composer's feelings leading up to his move to Arcata. He had just gotten engaged to his girlfriend of 7 years, and had never lived apart from her, but was suddenly offered this temporary job teaching at HSU that he couldn't refuse. So the piece is in three stages: the first movement depicts the anxiety and anticipation of leaving for something new, unknown, and potentially life-changing. The second movement expresses a feeling of loneliness and isolation in the new place, and then the third movement depicts the return home and all its clangorous excitement (incidentally, the third movement is meant to sound like calypso music, which is of course a big part of cultural life in Arcata).

I start the second half with Beethoven's piano sonata no. 28 in A major, op. 101. This work doesn't fit into the travel theme explicitly, but more in a musical sense. Late in his life, Beethoven became interested in Eastern philosophy, and became acquainted with Buddhism and Hinduism. His later works became more cyclic. This piece is a good example of this, sort of like a snake eating its own tail, the opening movement returning at the end to make you feel like the journey you've been through has changed you for the better. Basically, I programmed this piece because it's amazing and I love playing it.

Last on the program is John Adams' Hallelujah Junction for two pianos, written in 1998. Daniela Mineva joins me on this piece. It is literally named after a place, a small truck stop on the Nevada-California border, and the title is a double pun. The word "hallelujah" becomes the motivic material for the piece ("le-luuuu-jah, le-luuuu-jah"), and is used in full later on, Messiah-style ("hal-le-LUUU-jah.") "Junction" can also refer to the fact that the two pianos are always slightly offset, so they sound like echoes of each other, constantly intersecting. It's a fantastically joyous piece and a great way to end what I think is going to be a fun and interesting program.

The Program

Sonetto 123 del Petrarca . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Franz Liszt

Estampes (1905) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Claude Debussy
I. Pagodes

II. La soirée dans Grenade

III. Jardin sous la pluie

Piano Sonata no. 1 “Arcata” (2007) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. Dante De Silva
I. Moderato ritmico

II. Largo – Poco animato

III. Toccata agitato

– intermission –

Piano Sonata no. 28 in A major, op. 101 . . . . . Ludwig Van Beethoven
I. Etwas lebhaft und mit der innigsten Empfindung
Allegretto ma non troppo

II. Lebhaft. Marschmassig
Vivace alla Marcia

III. Langsam und sehnsuchtvoll
Adagio, ma non troppo, con affetto

IV. Geschwinde, doch nicht zu sehr, und mit Entschlossenheit

Hallelujah Junction (1998) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  John Adams
with Daniela Mineva, piano

photo by Terry McNeill

Born in Boston and raised in northern California, pianist Ryan MacEvoy McCullough is beginning to develop a diverse career as soloist, collaborator, and proponent of new music. In a recent performance of Chopin, “his virtuosity was evident and understated, his playing projected a warmth... that conjured the humanity of Artur Rubinstein.” (Eli Newberger, The Boston Musical Intelligencer) Later, in a performance of contemporary music, his playing was described in the New York Times as having “found a perfect balance between the gently shimmering and the more brittle, extroverted strands... and left you eager to hear the rest.”

He has appeared as concerto soloist with numerous orchestras throughout the United States, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, World Festival Orchestra, Colburn Conservatory Orchestra, San Francisco State University Orchestra, Eureka Symphony, Inland Valley Symphony, and Coachella Valley Symphony. In addition to concerto engagements, he has also performed in collaboration with contemporary music ensemble eighth blackbird and the Mark Morris Dance Group.

He is the laureate of top prizes at the Milosz Magin competition in Paris, the World Piano Competition, Virginia Waring Piano Competition, and Bronislaw Kaper Awards in Los Angeles. He has performed at such festivals as the Music Academy of the West, Montecito Chamber Music Festival, Tanglewood Music Center, and Token Creek Chamber Music Festival, and has presented solo and chamber recitals at the 92nd St. Y in New York, UNESCO Hall in Paris, Zipper and Walt Disney Concert Halls in Los Angeles, and the Eli Broad Stage in Santa Monica.

An avid interpreter of new music, he has collaborated with composers John Harbison, Andrew McPherson and Dante De Silva, and has most recently entered into a commissioning project for a brand new solo piano work by the American composer James Primosch. In 2008, Mr. McCullough released a CD of solo piano music by 20th century Polish-French composer Miłosz Magin on the Polish label Acte Prealable. This recording was praised in the Polish music journal Ruch Muzyczny as displaying “exceptional skill and precision combined with intelligence and sense of design... [slowing] for parts of reflection and very evocative Polish reverie.”

Mr. McCullough holds degrees from Humboldt State University, the Colburn Conservatory, and the University of Southern California, where he has just been named the Thornton School of Music's outstanding graduate of 2011. His primary teachers have been Dr. Deborah Clasquin and John Perry.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Humboldt Chorale soloists Katherine Kinley and James Gadd
 It Might As Well Be Spring with University Singers and Humboldt Chorale

HSU University Singers and the Humboldt Chorale perform choral classics from settings for Latin Masses to famous opera and musical choruses in their shared spring concert at Fulkerson Recital Hall on Sunday night, May 8.

“The Latin texts for the Mass are concise: The Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei only take about three minutes to recite,” notes HSU University Singers director and HSU Music professor Harley Muilenburg. “Yet the greatest composers in Western music have provided the most extraordinary settings, so much so that the history of music could not be properly told without mention of the great Masses.”

University Singers soloist Molly Severida

The University Singers present three settings of the central text, the Sanctus. Soprano Molly Severida sings the Sanctus by 19th century French composer Charles Gounod from his famous Mass for St. Cecilia. Severida is joined by tenor Colin Wagner, alto Tina Toomata and bass Theodore Higbee in a contrasting contemporary Sanctus by Canadian composer John Burge, from his Mass dedicated to Amnesty International. The Singers perform the Sanctus from 19th century composer Gabriel Faure’s Requiem, his most celebrated work.

Tenors Chelsea Rothchild and Chase La Rue, soprano Cara Crofts, alto Sara Scibetta and bass Elliott Pennington are featured in a sacred motet by Baroque composer Il Padre Giovanni Baptisma. Scibetta is soloist for Josephine Poelintiz’s “City Called Heaven,” and soprano Kalea Hammond is featured in “The Lone Wild Bird,” a Presbyterian hymn arranged for the University Singers by Harley Muilenberg. The Singers finish with a Nova Scotia folk song and a traditional Scottish/Irish ballad featuring a flute solo by Caitlin Denning.

The Humboldt Chorale, a community group with singers of all ages, is conducted by Carol Ryder. Among their selections of opera choruses are The Brindisi from Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata, with soloists James Gadd and Katherine Kinley, and Dido’s Lament from Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell, with soloist Cindy Cress. Other pieces include choruses from Rossini’s William Tell and Verdi’s Nabucco.

The Chorale then performs choruses from musical theatre and film, including from “The Rhythm of Life” in the Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields musical Sweet Charity, the Rodgers and Hammerstein tune “It Might As Well Be Spring” from the movie State Fair, and a sultry “Summertime” from George Gershwin’s classic Porgy and Bess.

HSU University Singers and the Humboldt Chorale perform on Sunday May 8 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. University Singers directed by Harley Muilenburg, Humboldt Chorale directed by Carol Ryder; concert produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye, Humboldt Beacon, North Coast Journal

2011 University Singers (not in order pictured) Cara Crofts, Tamsen Bell, Jacqui Hernandez, Amy Chalfant, Hannah Foster, Caitlin Denning, Raena Frolich, Jessica Golden, Daniela Godinez, Kalea Hammond, Nikki Leskinen, Shawn Hard, Cassandra Lindop, Cody Huff, Sarah Martens, Kathleen Johnston, Katherine McCall, Jennifer Kerwin, Molly Severdia, Rebecca Russell, Elena Tessler, Tina Toomata, Julia Torrens, Eiko Ujifusa, Rachel Wierick, James Gadd, Cliff Bruhn,
Chase La Rue, Chris Bogseth, Tufon Kalbassi, Alec Dolan, Chelsea Rothchild, Andrew Duenez, Sara Scibetta, Tyler Ebright, Colin Wagner, Nicholas Hemphill, Kaeden Williams, Theodore Higbee, David Howard, Aaron Libraty, Edress Nassir, Elliott Pennington, Jacob Stadtfeld, Drew Weitzel, Christopher Werner.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Banding Together: HSU and Eureka High Symphonic Bands

HSU Symphonic Band, conducted by Kenneth Ayoob, shares its spring concert with the Eureka High School Symphonic Band, conducted by Gwen Gastineau-Ayoob. After separate sets, the two ensembles combine for the 80-instrument finale, in Fulkerson Recital Hall on Saturday, May 7.

  Featured in the HSU Symphonic Band segment is the widely performed and recorded Tuba Concerto, a three-movement work by contemporary English composer Edward Gregson. HSU Tuba Instructor Fred Tempas is the soloist.

The HSU ensemble also performs four other works. The overture to “The Italian Girl in Algiers” is another widely recorded piece by famed opera composer Gioachino Rossini, written when he was 21 years old. Vox Populi is by contemporary American composer Richard Danielpour, who describes his writing as influenced by jazz and popular music, including the Beatles. This work includes 1920s jazz sounds, reflecting its origin as a piece to celebrate the restoration of the Victory Theatre in Evansville, Indiana, which was built in 1919.

Amparita Roca, the best-known work by 20th century Spanish composer Jaime Teixidor is a “pasodoble,” a march-like Spanish musical and dance style often played at bullfights. The Sinfonians (Symphonic March) is also the best-known piece by 20th century American composer Clifton Williams.

The Eureka High School Symphonic Band plays two works: the stirring Fortress by noted contemporary Los Angeles concert band composer Frank Ticheli, and The Thunderer March by John Philip Sousa.

The two groups combine into an 80-piece ensemble to perform the powerful Elegy for a Young American by Ronald Lo Presti. A memorial to President John F. Kennedy, it premiered only 5 months after his assassination in November 1963. It was first played by the Wind Ensemble of the school now known as Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where Lo Presti was teaching. It has since become a respected favorite in the band literature.

HSU Symphonic Band (conducted by Kenneth Ayoob) and Eureka High School Symphonic Band (conducted by Gwen Gastineau-Ayoob) perform on Saturday May 7 at 8 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall at HSU. $7/$3 from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Free to HSU students with ID. Produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye, North Coast Journal

Friday, May 06, 2011

Spring with Vivaldi and the Humboldt Symphony

Humboldt Symphony’s spring concert features two of Vivaldi’s  The Four Seasons, Mozart’s Overture to The Magic Flute and Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony—“some of the most popular classical pieces for orchestra ever written,” said Humboldt Symphony conductor and HSU Music professor Paul Cummings.

Add Benjamin Britten, a modern elegy and a Cinco de Mayo dance, and it’s a generous Symphony program for a Friday evening (May 6) or a Sunday afternoon (May 8) in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

violin soloist Cindy Moyer
 Antonio Vivaldi’s popular The Four Seasons consists of four complete violin concertos: one for each season. Appropriately enough for early May in Humboldt, the Symphony will play the concertos for Winter and Spring. HSU Music professor Cindy Moyer will be the violin soloist.

Almost as familiar as the Vivaldi work is Mozart’s majestic Overture to The Magic Flute. Those who attended the Opera Workshop production earlier this month heard a smaller ensemble play this opera’s orchestral music. This time it’s the full Symphony performing the entire overture—some of the best of Mozart, Cummings said.

In March, the Symphony performed the first movement of Franz Schubert’s eighth symphony, known as the Unfinished.  This time “we finish the Unfinished,” Cummings said, as the Symphony plays both existing movements.

These three popular pieces are ones you’d expect to find on a package of orchestral Greatest Hits, Cummings pointed out. But they have something else in common: “There are some wonderful woodwind and brass solo passages, particularly in the Mozart and Schubert works. This is one of the strongest woodwind and brass groups that I’ve had. It’s a really mature group of students and they can really play.”

 A couple of the less familiar pieces in the program are also accessible: Benjamin Britten’s Courtly Dances are Renaissance-style dances employing modern harmonic twists (though the Symphony did versions of some of these dances in March, this is the complete set as arranged by Britten himself.)

 A nod to the concert’s proximity to Cinco de Mayo, “Danza Final” by the foremost Argentine composer Alberto Ginestera “starts fast and ends fast—it’s just relentless in its driving rhythms,” Cummings said.

As counterpoint to a generally tuneful and rhythmic program, the thoughtful Elegy is by contemporary American composer John Corigliano, winner of both a Pulitzer Prize and two Oscars (Best Music and Best Musical Score for The Red Violin.) This 1965 work in what the composer describes as an American neo-Romantic style was written for a play about Helen of Troy. 

 Humboldt Symphony performs on Friday May 6 at 8 p.m. and Sunday May 8 at 3 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. Conducted by Paul Cummings, produced by HSU Music Department.

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

Thursday, May 05, 2011

From Swing to Fusion With AM Jazz Band

The AM Jazz Band of HSU runs the jazz standard gamut from the tune that launched the Swing Era to a jazz fusion classic, in concert at the Fulkerson Recital Hall on Thursday, May 5.

“It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” was written by Duke Ellington during show intermissions in Chicago. When Ellington’s band performed it in 1931, it was the first song to use the word “swing” in the title. Now a classic, it helped launch over a decade of swing music, through the Great Depression and World War II, often performed by bands about the size of the AM Band.

Chick Corea’s “Spain” from 1971 helped launch the young jazz fusion movement to its decades-long dominance. It remains one of Corea’s best-known tunes, which he recorded several times with ensembles of various sizes.

Also on the AM Band program are “Solar” (made famous by Miles Davis) “Pent-Up House” by Sonny Rollins, and Frank Foster’s “Blues in Frankie’s Flat,” written for the Count Basie Band. The concert finale is Duke Ellington’s jam session standard, “C Jam Blues” in an arrangement created by the AM Jazz Band in rehearsal.

The AM Jazz Band performs on Thursday May 5 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 Dan Aldag, produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye 

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Madrigals Go Modern, MRT Stays Jazzy

In their annual spring concert the HSU Madrigal Singers mix the modern and the ancient, and the Mad River Transit Singers accent improvisations and variety with tunes from Duke Ellington and Stevie Wonder to Jimmy Van Heusen. Their voices share the Fulkerson Recital Hall stage on Sunday night, May 1.

The Madrigal Singers perform three “cabaret madrigals” by contemporary American composer William Bolcom and lyricist Arnold Weinstein, who also collaborated on notable operas such as McTeague and A View From the Bridge. These three songs vary from the humor of “Amor” and “Places to Live,” to the plaintive “Waitin’.”

Shakespeare’s sonnets are the theme of three songs by 20th century Anglo-American composer George Shearing and one by English Renaissance composer Thomas Morley. Soprano Cayla Crofts and soprano Tiffany Guenter solo on two of Shearing’s, with Justin Lomiglio adding bass guitar to Shearing’s “Fie on Sinful Fantasy.” The 26-voice ensemble also performs madrigals by Balthazar Donato, Thomas Ford and Gabriel Faure.

Taking over in the second half, the smaller ensemble called Mad River Transit explores jazz, blues and popular music, including Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish,” Duke Ellington’s “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me” (arranged by Madrigal and MRT director Harley Muilenburg), Victor Young’s “Stella By Starlight,” and Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Call Me Irresponsible.”

With numerous solos and group combinations on the program, the singers are Jessi Shieman, Elena Tessler, Brandy Rose, Molly Severdia, Jo Kuzelka, Kalea Hammond, Cindy Cress, Amy Chalfant, Sara Scibetta, Claire Bent, Joseph Welnic, Dolan Leckliter, Lucas Reichle, Gabriel Holman and Colin Wagner. They are accompanied by Darius Brotman on piano, Charles Welty on bass and Dylan Williams on drums.

The HSU Madrigal Singers and Mad River Transit perform on Sunday May 1 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 Harley Muilenburg, produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye