Advertising Agency Blog Posts
Every person who wants to pursue a successful PR marketing campaign has to have a press kit. It’s just part of the business. Media expect to receive one to find out who you are and what you stand for. In the past these kits were all paper. They were unwieldy and expensive, and they were difficult to update. Today, however, the digital world has made creating and maintaining a press kit easier as well as cost effective.
Have a look at these reasons by you need an online press kit:
Today’s fast paced media needs: Remember when you are dealing with the media you are stepping into a frenetically paced world where a 24-hour news cycle keeps editors and producers scrambling for fresh new content. Your online press kit is the key to giving them everything they need, when they need it.
Internet presence: You must have a strong online presence to make a splash in today’s media world. Your online press kit puts you on the media’s radar, one click away from newsrooms and online Web portals that can give you priceless coverage.
Instant news-makers: You never know when news will break that ties directly to your business, profession or area of expertise. Your online press kit helps the media connect the dots and seek you out as an expert on your specialty areas.
After-hours/24 hr access/the media never sleep: Remember that 24-hour news cycle that never sleeps? Your online press kit makes information about you, your product or service, as well as the all-important contact information, available to the media 24/7.
Search engine optimization: In part one we talked about key words and phrases that help you get found online. The news and story angles in your online press kit will make it easier for reporters to find you when they need you as an expert or source.
Page One Google vs Page Six NY Post: Google has replaced individual media outlets as the most coveted PR placement. Online PressKit 24/7 has specific back-end coding to help you get a better presence on the Internet, getting you closer and closer to Page One on Google. That makes you more attractive to media searching for experts in your field.
Help the Media With Story Angles, Part One
Sometimes journalists have assignments that require them to create news stories based on a particular topic. In these cases, if their story is relevant to your expertise, you can pitch them based on your experience and how you can meet their need. Other times, journalists are looking for story ideas and you can help them—and yourself—by pitching story angles that are based on your expertise and what’s happening that day.
For the go-getters among you there are several ways to get media to consider your ideas.
Stay abreast of current events. We’ve discussed this before: the importance of remaining well-versed in the breaking news. The cycle is endless. With the arrival of online news gathering and reporting, there is no excuse for not being on top of things. Browse through the daily headlines from major media featured in news sites such as Google news headlines to find out what the media is up to. Updated constantly from sources around the nation and world, these links can give you ideas on how your product, service or book relates to all kinds of news.
The frenetic pace of newsrooms. If you’ve ever seen an up and running newsroom, you know how crazy it is. There are rows of desks where anxious journalists and editors sit working to meet tight deadlines and feed the 24/7 demand for knowledge. Knowing how busy these people are makes it clear why it is to your advantage to have all your messages and key information ready to use in a handy, concise online press kit. Your job is to provide media with what they need; make it as easy as possible for them and they’re more likely to come back to you in the future.
Story angles: what exactly are they? An angle is an approach to telling a story. It can be a “hook” to a local, national or global story, or a way your story connects to themes of universal human interest. Your goal is to match your expertise to breaking news topics and stories of interesting individuals—things everyone can relate to. The more interesting your angle, and the more people are likely to be influenced by it, the better chance you have of getting a first rate placement.
How story angles help the media. Journalists crave information that’s fresh and new; it is their lifeblood. By staying abreast of the latest news (and that means checking news websites several times per day) you’re able to position yourself right in the heart of what’s happening. When your expertise matches breaking stories, reporters will be much more interested in using your sound bytes in their articles. Hey, they might even interview you!
In our next blog post we’ll conclude this discussion of story angles and how having an online press kit can enhance your value to the media. Stay tuned for part two!
Help the Media With Story Angles, Part Two
In the previous post we discussed four tips that will help get you the media placements you need to make your PR marketing campaign a success. They were: 1. Stay abreast of current events; 2. Keep in mind how crazy the average newsroom is; 3. What is a story angle anyway? and, 4. How story angles help the media.
Today let’s finish up by covering the three remaining tips that will help you use your expertise to create story angles that lead to repeated media placements.
Why do you need story angles to score media coverage? By using clever and catchy story angles that tout your unique knowledge and expertise, you demonstrate to the media how well you understand news stories, human interest stories, money stories, entertainment stories—basically any other topic they might cover. The beautiful thing is that there are story angles for anyone who wants to connect with the media, regardless of your area of expertise. It’s all a matter of thinking creatively and knowing what interests them.
The difference between local and national story angles. National media outlets target a broad audience by stressing universal themes such as money, war, crime, power, health, relationships and justice. Local news highlights what’s going on in a specific area or region; they also seek to localize their own news by showing and telling their audiences how they are affected by bigger national and international stories. So don’t pitch a local story to a national correspondent. Know your media contact and what he or she needs to make that deadline.
Health, wealth and love. These three topics are the trifecta of story angles. Think about it for a moment: Just about everyone wants to stay healthy, have the financial resources to do what they want in life, and have happy, satisfying relationships. If you can relate your product, service, book, or area of expertise to one of these universally compelling themes, you greatly increase your chances of getting the media’s attention. The media are all about giving their audience “news you can use.” And, nothing is more useful than finding ways to get or stay healthy, make money and have great relationships.
We’ve covered seven steps to understanding and using story angles in your media development. Think of them as tools in your toolbox. Keep your online press kit in good shape, stay on top of current events, remember that your job is to make the media’s life easier, and focus on topics that interest as many people as possible. Follow these steps and your story angle is much more likely to score a hit.
Creating your reality—a PR marketing campaign that works, Part 1
The goal of every entrepreneur is to find (and often create) a market for their product or service. Initially this sounds like a daunting task, and we must understand that it’s not easy. The old adage—“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”—is perfect for this assignment. You can’t magically produce your target market, or multiple media placements out of thin air. It requires dedication, organization, tenacity and savvy.
Here are some ways to begin to eat the elephant, as it were.
Short and sweet. When pitching yourself to new media connections, it’s imperative to talk about who you are and what you do in no more than three sentences—what’s known as an elevator pitch. Make sure those short sentences powerfully sum up your brand; it may be the only chance you have to connect, so don’t waste a single second on fluff. Double check that what you say distinguishes you powerfully from your competition.
Break out from the pack. Now that you know how to grab the media’s attention, get out there and deliver some power punches! Start with an introduction on who you are as an expert and then follow-up with more news and story angles created specifically for their beat. The more you target your pitch to their target audience, the better chance you have of receiving a favorable response.
Use your online press kit. A journalist will respond to your pitch either with “Not today,” or “Send me more.” If they pass on your story for that day, don’t take it personally; it doesn’t mean they might now bite another day. At that point, send them the link to your digital press kit (don’t send attachments unless you get their approval). You may have to direct them to the specific page they’ll want, and don’t freak out if they don’t read the entire kit. They’re incredibly busy looking for the core info they can use that day.
In the next blog posting, we’ll conclude this discussion of creating your reality. After all, if you don’t create it, who will?
Creating your reality—a PR marketing campaign that works, Part 2
In the first part of this blog post we discussed three ways to move your PR marketing campaign forward: 1. Keep it short and sweet; 2. Break out from the pack; 3. Use your online press kit. Now let’s look at three additional ways to create the PR reality you want for yourself and your product.
Breaking and seasonal news. When you research potential media connections, note what breaking and seasonal news they cover—the events that are important to them. Understanding their tastes goes a long way towards winning them over in your initial introduction. You can say something like, “Celeb X is back in jail and I noticed you were covering that news. I have something to say about that as I’m an expert on X. Have a second?” or “It’s July and I bet you’re already working on your December magazine. Might you use information about product Z? It would be perfect for your December readers.” Keep close tabs both on what’s hot today and what will be hot six months from today.
Follow up or fall behind. It’s important to follow-up without really following up. That might sound incongruous but there is a truth in it. Don’t say, “Did you receive the package I mailed you?” or “Did you get the link to my online press kit?” Rather, say something like, “We talked two weeks ago and I noticed you did a story on Y. May I send you a link to my article on Y? May I send it to the same email I used two weeks ago? Our emails are communicating, right?” Continue to be of service to them: send them articles; send them pitches; send them what they need. Don’t take up more time from them; just assist them so they can get their work done.
Connect with the local and national media; they’re both important. You’re probably going to get local media coverage first—it’s only natural since there are so many more people vying for national placements. So don’t feel that local print, Internet or broadcast placements are not as important—they lead you to a larger market. How? When you pitch a national media outlet they’ll always want to see what you’ve done before. If the national correspondent is interested, he or she will say, “Send me your tape.” If you’ve cultivated your local outlets, you’ll have what they want. Local TV segments look great on the media coverage page of your online press kit, so be sure to order copies of the segment from the station or a media news clipping service. Use those clips in your pitching!
We’ve gone over six important tips on how to create your own PR/marketing reality. If you are an eager entrepreneur you’ll be ready to act. Nobody knows you, your product, or your target audience as well as you. Become an expert on yourself—your motivations, priorities, goals, and dreams. Then you can set your PR marketing campaign in motion. And, hang on, because eventually your work will pay off in ways you can’t even imagine today.
We’ve had a wonderfully successful year at the Frost School of Music. We’ve seen the inauguration of the Henry Mancini Institute, a laboratory for our students to learn and hone the entrepreneurial spirit that will propel them to the zenith of their fields, along with the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra, which performed throughout the school year to great acclaim.
We also launched the Bruce Hornsby Creative American Music Program, designed to develop the creative skills of talented young artist/songwriters by immersing them in the diverse traditions that form the foundation of modern American song writing. Furthermore, I’m delighted to report that the Experimental Music Curriculum is well on its way to becoming a permanent part of the Frost School of Music. In this ground breaking curriculum students will experience their music education in a very new way—a complete integration of musicianship skills with performance and hands-on learning.
;Festival Miami 2008 was a tremendous success, featuring such artists as John Corigliano, Tierney Sutton, Steve Miller, Patti Austin, Monica Mancini, and Pablo Ziegler. Attendance was at an all time high and I could not have been more pleased by the performance of our students and faculty, along with our many guest performers. At the Frost School of Music we’re proud to be one of the major cultural institutions in South Florida and are committed to increasing our presence here.
Still, as you well know, times are tough. The economy is weak and many people are having difficulty making ends meet. Unfortunately, many of our students are in the same predicament; they need our help more than ever. Your gift to the Frost School of Music Donor Society enables us to constantly improve our offerings to our students, who are, after all, our most important asset. With your help we can ensure that no worthy student will be denied an education here because of financial difficulties.
Believe me when I say that now more than ever we—I—need your help. Every gift is appreciated, and right now we want your support more than ever. Please take the action today that will guarantee that we at the Frost School of Music will continue to serve our students to the best of our ability.
Shelton “Shelly” Berg
Dean and Patricia L. Frost Professor of Music
A singular measure of a school of music is its responsiveness to the ever changing environment into which it graduates the next generation of performers, composers, educators, business executives, therapists and technological wizards. Here at the Frost School of Music we take this challenge seriously—with high expectations of our students and ourselves. Helping students to succeed in the marketplace is our primary goal; indeed, it is our chief responsibility.
To that end the FSOM has launched two new institutes of learning—the first of their kind in this country. Named after one of the most important popular composers of the 20th century, the Henry Mancini Institute is a laboratory for our students to learn and hone the entrepreneurial spirit that will propel them to the zenith of their fields. Students lay the foundation of their careers through networking, working with renowned conductors and participating in master classes with legendary performers. Their opportunities are limited only by their imagination and ingenuity.
FSOM alumnus Bruce Hornsby has endowed the Creative American Music Program. In addition to performing classics from the Great American Songbook, the curriculum is designed to develop the creative skills of talented young artist/ songwriters by immersing them in the diverse traditions that form the foundation of modern American songwriting. This rigorous approach will require students to become intimate, both in understanding and practice, with the vast and varied legacy that is American music.
We recognize that not every FSOM alumnus can make major donations and in our view the amount given is almost beside the point. Our aim is to include alumni in the many changes that make the FSOM such an exciting place to study and perform musics of every type. We’re not so interested in how much money you give; rather, your participation is the prize we hope to win. We believe that by engaging you in our work and fostering in you the kind of “buzz” that exists today on campus, you’ll spread the word about your alma mater.
As a FSOM graduate, you are our number one recruitment agent. We’re depending on you to send us the best and brightest students so that the momentum we’ve achieved will continue; that the changes we’ve instituted will prosper; that the future success of your school will never be in doubt. Take part in the action! Make a gift today—of any amount—and remain active as we strive to literally alter the way that music is taught in American higher education.
We value each and every gift, but not as much as we value you.
Shelton “Shelly” Berg
Dean and Patricia L. Frost Professor of Music
Success breeds success. It’s an old maxim that is nowhere more evident than at the Frost School of Music—in part your Frost School of Music. This year’s spring and fall terms were marked by outstanding performances by students, faculty and guest artists. Festival Miami 2009 was hugely popular, with many standing room only concerts; our signal educational institutions—the Creative American Music Program and the Henry Mancini Institute—more than fulfilled their directive to prepare students for a professional life beyond the mainstream Classical tradition.
I don’t have to tell you that 2009 was a time of overwhelming economic challenges in the nation. We recognize that many of you were personally affected by the downturn. Here at the Frost School of Music, the collapse of the financial markets impacted our own ability to provide comprehensive support to our students—in the form of scholarships—and to our prestigious faculty—in the form of research grants.
Consequently, I write you with a keen understanding of how nationwide events have squeezed us all monetarily; it is with real humility that I ask for your support. The same cutbacks implemented here at the Frost School of Music were put into place in many of our students’ households, burdening entire families as they try to provide the best education possible to their children.
Like those parents, we too are committed to offering a first-class environment in which our family of students can prepare themselves for a career in music education, composition, solo and ensemble performance, music business and technology or jazz studies. Providing a world-class conservatory, as you know, is an expensive endeavor; to maintain our status as a leading music school requires that caring individuals like you donate to the best of your ability.
Every gift is precious to us: we make no distinction between personal contributions and corporate or foundation bequests. Indeed, individuals like you comprise the bulk of our support base and we more than ever count on you to help us further our primary mission: to prepare the finest music professionals this country will come across. I send you my continued thanks for your continued support and good wishes.
Shelton “Shelly” Berg
Dean and Patricia L. Frost Professor of Music
As you know, the University of Miami Frost Band of the Hour is the largest and most spirited student organization on the UM campus and draws its membership from the entire student body. Band members represent most academic majors and hail from every state in the nation. And, the band performs for more than one million Hurricane fans annually.
In order to ensure its continued success, the Band of the Hour Annual Fund asks for your support. The Annual Fund provides assistance to deserving students while making certain that unforeseen expenses for instruments and facility needs are covered. Your contribution will enable the Band of the Hour to continue its outreach, which includes band clinics (known as exhibitions) to high schools throughout Florida.
Featured most prominently at Hurricane football games, the Band of the Hour also performs at other university functions such as Homecoming, Parents Weekend, alumni events and selected functions at President Shalala’s home. Moreover, the band has performed at the Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, Orange, Peach, Liberty, Bluebonnet, Gator and Cotton Bowls.
The Band of the Hour is one of UM’s most important PR assets and has been part of the university community since classes first met in 1926. The Band of the Hour needs your support now more than ever. Take a minute now to make your tax-deductible donation and help us further the good work of the Band of the Hour.
Thank you, and best wishes.
Phillip L. Clements
Director of the Band of the Hour
If I were a more formal Dean this correspondence would begin:
The Frost School of Music gratefully acknowledges your recent gift to its Annual Fund.
However, since I’m a jazz performer and more of a laid-back kind of guy, I’m more comfortable with something along the lines of “I’d like to propose a toast to Jane and John Doe in honor of their financial support.”
Now, in a perfect world, I’d invite you for coffee. I’d shake your hand vigorously and there’d be no mistaking the sincerity of my gratitude. In this almost-perfect world, though, I have a music school to run. So, the only practical method of conveying my thanks—and the thanks of the school—is to send you this letter.
We really appreciate your support. Without the help of generous folks like you we couldn’t begin to achieve our goals: educating the next generation of performers, composers, teachers, and engineers; assembling the finest faculty money can buy; offering South Florida a buffet of terrific concerts; and, making sure that music will remain an important part of our everyday lives.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Draw yourself a mental snapshot of a student with a huge smile on her face. Add a soundtrack of your choosing and experience the particular type of joy that comes from sharing your resources with others, the satisfaction of making a difference in the life of one aspiring musician. Now there’s a picture that is worth a thousand words: Thanks!
Shelton (Shelly) Berg
Frost School of Music
At the Frost School of Music we believe that visionary leadership and careful planning enables us to augment our considerable legacy and invent novel solutions to the challenges that face any large school of music. Just as permanent structures such as bridges and skyscrapers require years of planning and a substantial foundation, at the FSOM we value donors such as yourself. You are the foundation upon which we will build our School and shape the next generation of professional musicians.
Accordingly, we gratefully acknowledge your recent gift to the Capital Campaign. As you know, every gift of $100 or more will be permanently commemorated in our next critical expansion: The Center for Experimental Music.
This much-needed building will house practice rooms, rehearsal spaces, administrative offices and innovative instructional areas. I hesitate to describe them as “classrooms,” since our goal is to reinvent the entire basis for educating future music professionals.
To that end, we have inaugurated the Experimental Music Curriculum, a groundbreaking method in which each student is assigned to a chamber ensemble. These small groups will be laboratories for performance, composition, ear training, analysis, and entrepreneurship. Moreover, each student will have electronic keyboards and computer laptops to enhance and accelerate their learning process.
As you know, these kinds of programs require significant (and ongoing) funding; we count ourselves blessed to count you among our friends and supporters. We hope you’ll continue to remember us in your charitable giving and we invite you to stop by the school anytime. Here you’ll find a beehive of educational and performance activities as well as a collection of students incredibly enthusiastic about their futures. You will be inspired merely by seeing them in action.
A thousand thanks and our sincere best wishes!
Shelton “Shelly” Berg
Dean and Patricia L. Frost Professor of Music
Each time a conductor mounted the platform or a singer took her place beside the piano during the 2010 Festival Miami, it was fulfilling its commission to bring to South Florida the finest performing artists from around the world. Having completed its XXth season, we at the Frost School of Music are proud that we could again enrich the lives of South Floridians.
On behalf of Dean Shelton Berg, all the faculty and staff and performers who made the 2010 Festival Miami one of the best in its history, accept our heartfelt thanks for your gift of $XX,XXX. We know the economy has been challenging; we’ve feel it too. Because of that we are doubly grateful for your gift.
We invite you to join us for a concert during the 2011 Festival Miami. As a token of our appreciation for helping to underwrite Festival Miami, we’d like you to have two tickets to a concert of your choice. One of our staff will be contact you as Festival Miami 2011 approaches to help you make your selection. We hope you’ll understand if your first choice is sold out, and we promise you’ll be glad you experienced firsthand the fruits of your corporation’s or foundation’s support.
Assistant Dean for Development
Frost School of Music
Every season of the year is a good time to support the Frost School of Music, and your recent gift of $XXX to the Annual Fund gives me the opportunity for me to send you my thanks as well as my cordial greetings. Keeping in touch with my family of Frost School of Music supporters is one of my most important, and certainly my favorite, activity. This way, I can take the pulse of our community of supporters and friends and make certain we are addressing your unique needs and requests.
As you know, we use these donations to the Annual Fund by generous individuals such as yourself to provide scholarships, to expand programmatic activities, to purchase and to maintain our many musical instruments and scores—a way to make sure the workings of the Frost School of Music don’t ever miss a beat.
Sometimes I get a little behind in my correspondence and I hope you’ll forgive any tardiness. We strive to respond to all gifts in a timely manner and when we miss that mark we’ll do whatever necessary to make it right. What you do for the Frost School of Music is terrifically important and I want you to know that! Without your help, we’d never have been able to make the Frost School of Music one of the finest university-based music schools in the United States.
Pick up the phone and call me at any time. I always have time for a member of the Frost School of Music family. Meanwhile, please accept my warmest thanks for your continued generosity and support.
Assistant Dean for Development
Frost School of Music
Here in South Florida winter brings with it mild temperatures, lots of warm sunshine and the opportunity to finish out the old year with a generous contribution to a favorite charity. One of the many upshots of supporting the Frost School of Music Annual Fund is the feeling of accomplishment: of laying a brick, as it were, in the foundation of the school’s future. And your recent gift of $XXX helps us to turn our “architectural” plans into a musical and educational “building.”
January is a particularly happy month for me because I write so many thank you notes to kind donors like yourself. Some development professionals think of these letters as a chore, but not me! I look forward to the chance to correspond directly with my fellow FSOM supporters; it is my time to touch base. I often receive touching responses to my notes, and I’m always glad to hear from you. So drop me a line anytime and remain an active part of our FSOM family.
With your gift, we can invest our annual fund in our students and their education, which is, after all, the entire raisôn d’etre of the Frost School of Music. I hope you feel warm from the sun and warm inside for what you’re done to help us meet the needs of our students.
Best wishes, and happy new year!!!
Assistant Dean for Development
Frost School of Music
Great Performances Comes to Gusman Concert Hall
First week of thematically grouped concerts showcases acclaimed Classical artists.
African-American ensemble featured and legendary pianist Ivan Davis honored on retirement.
“Adrienne Arsht Presents the FSOM: Passion and Pathos,” at the Arsht Center, sets the tone for the entire month. Composer John Corigliano will be present to hear renowned violinist Jennifer Koh, acclaimed by The Strad as “a risk-taking, high-octane player,” perform his “Red Violin” Concerto with the Frost Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maestro Yongyan Hu, Music Director of the Shanghai Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra.
The program also includes Corigliano’s lush setting of L’Invitation au voyage on poems of Charles Baudelaire, with Joshua Habermann, newly appointed Director of Choral Activities at the FSOM, directing the Frost Chorale Finishing off this exciting evening is the Florida premiere of Corigliano’s Circus Maximus by the Frost Wind Ensemble, conducted by Gary Green with musicians positioned throughout the concert hall.
Ritz Chamber Players, the nation’s first African-American ensemble, lauded by the Baltimore Sun as “an irresistible and remarkable ensemble,” performs the music of Antonín Dvorák.
Much of Dvorák’s work, including the Piano Quartet No. 2, is flavored by the African-American musical heritage. Cellist Tahirah Whittington and pianist Terrence Wilson also perform the Cello Sonata of George Walker—the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize.
FSOM faculty artists honor the distinguished career of legendary FSOM Pianist-in-Residence Ivan Davis. Dean
In addition, the Bergonzi String Quartet, described by Fanfare as “exceptional performers”—join, along with the Miami Saxophone Quartet, which “is very much into rich tonal colors and intricate harmonic schemes.” (allaboutjazz.com) A reception honoring Ivan Davis in the lobby follows the concert.
FSOM faculty composers discuss their creative methods and thoughts about music’s future. Afterwards, the Frost Symphony Orchestra will present representative works of FSOM faculty, including Dennis Kam, Lance McLoskey—“a great talent and a deep thinker with a great ear” (American Composers Orchestra), and Fred DeSena, known for high-energy South American rhythms and darkly colored melodies. Open your mind (and ears) to the stimulating world of modern music.
Winner of the 2000 American National Chopin Piano Competition, pianist Ning An gives “penetrating and illuminating” performances. (New York Concert Review) Known for his interpretations of Frédéric Chopin’s later works, he captures the composer’s melancholy as manifested in haunting melodies, brilliant technical passages and evocative harmonies. The concert commemorates the anniversary of Chopin’s death in Paris.
Friends of Chamber Music present an evening of the music of Johannes Brahms and Antonín Dvorák. Violinist Cho Liang Lin, violist Roberto Diaz, cellist William De Rosa and pianist Joseph Kalichstein perform two major works: Dvorák Piano Quartet No.2 in E-flat, Op. 87 and Brahms: Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34. One of the most lauded chamber ensembles in America concludes the week of Great Performances.
Festival Miami Continues with Week Two: Jazz and Beyond
Organizers train the spotlight on Jazz, the best-known “American Music,” as Festival Miami moves into its second week. Major guest artists and local legends offer audiences a wide array of styles, combos and genres.
The Evening Standard writes that, “At his best, Joshua Redman seems a class apart for technique, invention and artistry.” Winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, his trio continually expands the outer reaches of jazz improvisation. Their recordings have consistently won awards and have featured legendary artists such as Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden, Christian McBride, and Brad Mehldau. Son of famed saxophone virtuoso Dewey Redman, rhe New York Times writes that he “is one of the brightest young stars in mainstream jazz.” Jazz and Beyond continues with an evening of piercing rhythmic melodies, soaring improvisations and electrifying arrangements.
Latin Grammy nominated, Little Havana-based DJ Le Spam & the Spam Allstars blend improvisational electronic elements and turntables with latin, funk, hip hop and dub to create an electronic descarga—a sound that is influenced by the multicultural atmosphere of Miami and the lives of individual band members. They have performed and recorded with legendary saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis and in 2004 created the introductory music used at every Miami Heat game.
Rolling Stones writes that, “an authentic Miami sound is being forged by DJ Le Spam and the All Stars” while the Village Voice describes their music as a “hot anthology of retro Cuban, early NYC salsa, Southern funk and soul, mixed with live horns, looped drums, video, and living art.” Miami’s own DJ Le Spam & the Spam Allstars concludes the second week of Festival Miami: Jazz and Beyond.
Creative American Music Showcased in Week Three of Festival Miami
UM students participate in an American Idol-style format with celebrity “judges.” Musical theater stars pay tribute to American songwriters Alan and Marilyn Bergman. And local children are feted in a Halloween blast.
One of the most popular formats of reality TV is the talent showcase, where experienced performers critique up and coming entrants. The FSOM premieres its own showcase with legendary songwriter Bruce Hornsby and his friends, who will offer constructive advice to students in a fun and friendly concert. Unlike TV, at the Frost School all the students are winners!
Rolling Stones wrote that “Bruce Hornsby has become a synonym for class.” Join him, Steve Miller, Patti Austin, Monica Mancini, Six-time Grammy nominated saxophonist Dave Koz, Ricky Scaggs, Tom Scott, Will Lee, Jon Secada and others for a performance in the BankUnited Center. Our guest artists will be backed up by the Frost School’s Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra—making it the absolute concert of the year in Miami!
If you’ve been to the movies, watched television, or attended the theater in the last 50 years, you’ve heard a song by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Their films include Yentl and A Star is Born; The Way We Were; and The Thomas Crown Affair. Television series include Maude, Ironsides, In The Heat Of The Night, and Barbra Streisand: The Concert.
Godparents of American pop” (New York Times) they told the Los Angeles Times, “When we hear a melody, we feel
The Detroit News wrote, “If the Pied Piper had been twins, odds are he would have been Gemini!” Twin brothers Sandor and Laszlo Slmovits (known to their peewee fans as “San” and “Laz”) are a musical celebration for both children and adults. Their recordings have won awards from the American Library Association, Early Childhood News, Parents’ Choice Magazine and the Children’s Music Web.
Children are encouraged to wear Halloween costumes. Everyone is invited to participate in the ABC Party afterwards: A for apple juice, B for balloons, and C for cookies. The party, hosted by Peter the Mime, includes a musical instrument petting zoo! Know of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon with your family?
Jazz historian Buzz McCoy and Dean of the Frost School, renowned pianist Shelly Berg combine for a lecture and performance tracing the history of jazz piano. Among the great performers represented are Fats Waller, Art Tatan, Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans. The All Music Guide with Shelly Berg, one of the finest jazz pianists in the nation, playing modern, mainstream jazz in the early 21st century.
2008 Grammy Award winner Honeyboy Edwards is among the last Delta Bluesmen who traveled the American South as hobos in the 1930s and shaped early folk and blues music into what later became Rock ‘n’ Roll. Hopping freight trains with Big Joe Williams, Honeyboy spread his unique brand of traditional Mississippi Delta blues. You’ll never get closer to pure Blues than with Honeyboy Edwards.
Music of the Americas Concludes Festival Miami 2008
South American and Puerto Rican artists share the spotlight in final week of performances. Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera celebrated in final two concerts; composer’s daughter to speak and expound on father’s music.
Nelson Faria, who “wrote the book(s) on popular Brazilian styles” (Allaboutjazz), joins the Frost Studio Jazz Band and its director Doug Bickell for a musical tour of the vastly different regions of Brazil—including Ceará, Bahia, Pernambuco, Minas Geraes and Rio de Janeiro. The program is a blend of musical styles such as Baião, Frevo, partido alto, Sambe and Bossa Nova.
Grammy award-winning pianist and composer Pablo Ziegler infuses his performances and arrangements with tango. Ensemble for New Tango, formed in 1990 with bandoneon player Héctor del Curto and guitarist Claudio Ragazzi imprints a unique stamp on music, using the piano as a perrcussion instrument, evoking mood with jazz harmonies, and drawing on rhythms of early 20th-century Classical music.
Billboard writes that “The Sun of Latin Music”—Puerto Rican pianist/bandleader Eddie Palmieri—“is one of the foremost Latin jazz pianists of the last half of the 20th century.” Winner of nine Grammy Awards, Palmieri draws on a century of traditional jazz styles, incorporates Afro-Caribbean rhythms into his works, then fuses it all together into a personal idiom that is simply irresistible. The New York Times writes that when “when Mr. Palmieri is at the piano things take off.”
Isaac and Laura Altman have made great contributions to Salsa for decades. As President of the World Salsa Federation, Isaac shares his passion for dance in Dancescape, revealing his dreams, his speculations and his most sizzling
The Frost School of Music and esteemed guest soloists celebrate the brilliance of the Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera. Highlights of the evening include the Piano Concerto No. 1, performed by the renowned Ginastera interpreter Luis Ascot, with the Frost Symphony Orchestra directed by Thomas Sleeper. The inspired Argentine soprano Virginia Correa Dupuy will perform the composer’s early songs with Dean Shelton Berg at the piano. Performances of Ginastera’s chamber and orchestral music by the Bergonzi String Quartet along with the Frost Symphony Orchestra complete the gala event. Special host Georgina Ginastera, daughter of the great master, will talk about the family’s musical legacy.
Plumb the depths of Ginastera’s music in the second of two concerts commemorating the 25th anniversary of his death. FSOM faculty Glenn Basham, Ross Harbaugh and Paul Posnak perform the Pampeanas No. 1 and 2, followed by the introspective Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah, performed by the Frost Chorale and conducted by Joshua Habermann. The climax of the evening is the Cantata para América mágica, composed for the extraordinary combination of solo soprano and 53 percussion instruments. Soprano Virginia Correa Dupuy, a renowned interpreter of Ginastera’s music, is joined by the Frost Percussion Ensemble, conducted by Thomas Sleeper. Georgina Ginastera, daughter of the composer, whose mother fashioned the texts of the Cantata, will introduce the work and provide rare insight into its performance history.
As the score opened, I was transported to early 20th-c. Vienna and the sounds of Alban Berg. Melodies jumped around disjointedly; chords appeared out of nowhere and just as quickly vanished. There was no discernible serialism but the sounds of Expressionism surprised me.
When soprano Marisol Montalvo began to sing I was startled by the flexibility of her voice and her agility to negotiate the extremes of range as well as the multitudinous sounds she produced with lips, tongue and throat. Eliot Madore appeared and his mellifluous voice easily skipped high to low, loud to soft, bright to dark. He also became an encyclopedia sof timbres and displayed astonishing virtuosity.
Their skill can not be overestimated. The parts are as difficult as anything Berg or Schönberg ever wrote; they resolved wild dissonances into unisons as if by magic, plucking pitches out of thin air. Equally impressive were the players drawn from the Spoleto Orchestra. Bassoon fluttered like a crazy moth; trombone morphed from saloon to the opening notes of “Rite of Spring.” The other players also made sounds I would’ve never dreamed possible; their hard work showed and the exacting parts sounded easy, which is no mean feat.
There are simply not enough accolades to heap upon these performers—vocal and instrumental. Many, many hours of preparation went into bringing composer Lim’s score to life. She is a brilliant orchestrator and also writes individual parts that are beyond challenging: to say they demand extreme technique is like calling Lake Michigan a pond. The ovation they deserved was half what they received.
I believe the audience was less than thunderous because it simply couldn’t grasp what had just happened. Lim’s stated goal was to lead the audience through an “extra day” of life in which all living and nonliving beings exist together—in parallel and intertwined. The plot—such as it was—centered around a young man searching for his deceased father.
From beginning until end a cacophony of sound, motion and light filled the theatre—both perplexing and difficult to follow. I wondered if that wasn’t the point: the “margin of secret time” between life and death is anything but straightforward and sensical.
In her written explanation of the work Lim says “if there is a story…”. Part of the problem is that there are either entirely too many stories or none at all. A son searches for his father; birds and humans exchange voices; so-called ventriloquism permeates Lim’s libretto and mindset. The end result is confusing, rambling and perhaps the cause of the lackluster applause.
Human minds need narrative that unfolds into a discernible plot. Without it the repetition of soundbites turns into unending noise. It’s theater to be sure; but could anyone in the audience reproduce a single musical phrase or explain to passersby what they just saw and heard?
Charleston Post & Courier, May 29, 2018
Chairs for the orchestra were placed behind a scrim, onto which clasped hands were projected. A steam radiator and a chair sat in front. Soprano Natalia Pavlova began the performance by sitting and holding a flute. A talented string quartet—Autumn Chodorowski, Alexa Ciciretti, Andrew François and Sodam Lim—played an unknown piece while the orchestra players took their places—and none too quietly either.
Once seated and settled, the “Lyric Suite” for string quartet by Alban Berg began, while Ms. Pavlova and her baritone counterpart Alexander Dobson moved around the stage, in front of and behind the scrim. Berg’s music is not for everyone, but this piece, while dissonant, is nothing like his later works and was actually quite lovely and sensitively played.
After the final movement, conductor John Kennedy took the podium to perform the third movement again, in an arrangement for string orchestra. Strangely, the segue was interrupted by the orchestra tuning, which disassociated the quartet from the transcription. Nonsensical, it was just the first of many such distractions.
Once again the musicians rescued the evening. Alexander Zemlinsky’s imaginative and lush “Lyric Symphony” was played with passion—the sound rich and colorful. Mr. Dobson has a flexible voice, capable of penetrating highs and strong lows; he was mostly able to hold his own against the large orchestra. Unfortunately, on more than a few occasions, Maestro Kennedy failed to rein in the players—and to be fair Zemlinsky’s orchestration doesn’t help—and Dobson was drowned out.
True to form, Ms. Pavlova made the stage and the music her own. She sings with intense fervor and feeling, and she was able to soar above the thick chords and heavy percussion. Her voice is both brilliant and supple, and even extreme high notes weren’t forced or shrill. If there was a character in Zemlinsky’s music, with texts taken from “The Gardener” by Rabindranath Tagore in a German translation by Hans Effenberger, she would have easily brought it to life.
The students in the Spoleto Festival orchestra never fail to impress nor please, and Zemlinsky’s musical embodiment of High Romanticism was played with the excitement and nuance the exquisite music demands.
I can’t really speak to any visual elements after the third movement because I closed my eyes in order to enjoy the magnificent music. In the program description, Mr. Egoyan states that “what we present tonight is almost an opera.” Well, that is beyond a stretch. Berg’s quartet is hardly programmatic and Zemlinsky composed a song cycle. Abstract video, catchy lighting and a few random props do not an opera make.
Charleston Post & Courier, June 3, 2018
Tim Brent’s “Peace Song (Beatitudes)” was a wonderful opener. The singers were engaged and animated—as befitted the work. Tone clusters melted into central tonality—a difficult maneuver that requires excellent intonation and well-trained ears. Happily there are plenty of both in this ensemble.
“Kaisa-Isa Niyan” by Nilo Alcala was delightfully entertaining. Not many choirs can pull off the machine-gun rapidity of the text, which was crisp and discernible—if not understandable: it’s a Filipino children’s chant. It was controlled chaos that somehow came together into a virtuoso conclusion.
“Fäbodpsalm frän Darlarnas” by Anders Öhrwall had exactly the opposite effect: settled, contemplative and a little melancholy. The basses created sonic floors while sung rafters emerged from the sopranos, who more than once defied gravity with soaring high notes.
Frank Martin’s “Mass for Double Choir” is such a monumental and strenuous piece that few choirs can successfully perform it. Swiss-born Martin developed a personal harmonic idiom that owed nothing to any school. His choral works are highly praised for their sensitive treatment of texts—particularly religious—made piquant by chord structures and sequences suited exactly to the rise of fall of his melodic lines.
The charm and simplicity of Edward Bairstow’s “I Sat Down” was captured beautifully. Miller’s pacing was excellent and the singers created a choral tone very like that of a men and boys choir. It moved everyone.
True to form, these talented students made the Mass their own. The dynamic contrast went from hushed whispers to bellows that were never strident or ear-piercing. Striking dissonances dissolved into settled harmonies; running passages were as clear as a coloratura soprano; basses droned beneath Medieval-like melodies that contrasted with the Schönberg-like chords that sometimes peppered the piece. I started the applause myself; it grew into a well-deserved standing ovation.
The entire Mass was sung—except the Agnus Dei. The omission seemed inexplicable until conductor Joe Miller said that the final movement was left out so that the audience would purchase the CD coming in September that includes it. I was dumbstruck. Compromising the integrity of Martin’s magisterial work to sell recordings is unbecoming to an artist with the stature of Dr. Miller, who is among the most gifted choral conductors in this nation.
Charleston Post & Courier, June 2, 2018
Pia is inspired by a scene in Dante’s “Purgatorio” where pilgrim Dante encounters the shade of Pia, who asks Dante to remember her to the world. She was married to Nello Della Pietra, a Ghibelline lord, whose cousin Ghino is in love with her. Pia arranges to have a note sent to her brother Rodrigo, a Guelph, arranging a secret meeting. Ghino intercepts the letter, which he takes as proof of her infidelity. Bice, Pia’s maid tells Ghino that Pia refuses to see him, which sparks vengeance in Ghino.
The plot is too convoluted to detail here, but the end result is that Nello imprisons Pia for her supposed infidelity and orders her death. Piero, a hermit priest and Pia’s confessor, tells Nello the truth that Pia has not strayed. Nello rushes to his prison to halt the execution but is too late. In a dramatic aria Pia forgives Nello and begs for peace between Nello and Rodrigo.
Amanda Woodbury, a soprano headed for true greatness, who sings the role of Pia with conviction and extraordinary technical virtuosity, was nothing short of stupendous. Her scales and arpeggios were crisp and swift; her ornaments were tasteful and appropriate. She has a tremendous range—from rich lows to dizzying highs.
All the singers were fantastic—and there are just too many to mention individually—but a few stand out. Vera Savage, Pia’s maid, has a rich, mellifluous mezzo that is facile and colorful—with splendid running passages and heartfelt presentation. Nello was sung by Valdis Jansons, a baritone with both a warm, round tone and passionate highs. He brought pathos and sincerity to a character who is more or less a cad.
Cassandra Zoe Velasco, playing Pia’s brother Rodrigo, was stunning. Her voice is not unlike the great Maria Callas, with the familiar timbre of a mezzo as well as amazing coloratura and dazzling high notes. Velasco's voice is perfect for the role of Rodrigo, but she is petite and, physically, not particularly plausible as a leader of opposition fighters.
The Spoleto orchestra was marvelous, as usual; and the chorus, comprised of Westminster students, was equally excellent.
Aurally the production was wholly successful; visually not so much. The setting was transported from 13th-c. Siena to 1930s Mussolini Italy with Fascist sets and costumes. The bitter feud between Ghibellines (supporters of the Holy Roman Emperor) and Guelphs (supporters of the Pope) was more personal—son against father, brother fighting uncle—than Facism, which was less individualized.
The anchor of the set looked too much like a game board; the salon of an affluent woman doesn’t make a realistic prison cell. Plus there were simply too many incongruities. The text says Ghino will plunge a dagger into his breast, but he produces a pistol. The common folk who were meant to oppose the uniformed Fascists wore suits and hats. Pia’s confessor—supposedly a hermit and priest—was dressed as a decorated military officer!
The whole Fascist business was ill-conceived. Better Pia in a floor-length brocade gown and tattered, filthy rags. Not only believable; I might’ve wept.
Charleston Post & Courier, May 29, 2018
The sopranos and tenors are stretched to their limits by sustained high notes; the impracticalities of the German language don’t help either. Still, the men and women of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Westminster Choir did an outstanding job Tuesday night at the Gaillard Center. In fact, the chorus was the undisputed star: altos had a rich, easy tone and basses sang clear low notes with solid leaps. I hope Joe Miller, conductor of the concert and leader of the Westminster Choir, bows down to his tenors every day because they deserve it.
It’s repetitive to point out just how fantastic the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra is, but each performance is as good — if not better — than the one before it. The cellos and violas made a lovely, embracing sound in the first movement; the start of the funeral march was appropriately mournful.
Miller brought out the best in orchestra and chorus. It was refreshing to hear proper articulations, rolling triple meters, distinguishable diction and unforced choral tone. His conducting is fluid and effective and it confidently reflects the score.
It’s well known that music through Schubert does not incorporate continuous vibrato. Less well known is that continuous vibrato didn’t come into widespread use until the 1920s; thus Schumann, Liszt, Wagner — and, yes, Brahms — should be played and sung without vibrato if historically informed performance is the goal.
Period instruments of the time were different than their modern counterparts: oboes sounded darker; clarinetists were expected to use the indicated transposed instrument. Brahms was particularly fond of the peculiar timbre of stopped notes in natural horn. Valves weren’t invented to move quickly from key to key but to obviate crooks; players depressed the appropriate valve, held it, then used their hand and lips to change notes.
Orchestral placement also was different. Violins sat facing each other, double basses stood at the back of the orchestra and woodwinds and brass sat on elevated platforms. Choruses were placed in front of the orchestra, allowing them to be heard above heavy orchestrations.
Sadly, both Natalia Pavlova and Alexander Dobson weren’t in such good voice as a couple of nights ago when they sang wonderfully well. Pavlova had recurring intonation problems; plus, she sometimes phonates beneath the pitch then reaches up. The same brilliant, penetrating timbre that helped Dobson succeed in the performance of Zemlinsky’s “Lyric Symphony” on Saturday made him a poor choice for this work, which requires a warm, comforting sound. He also struggled with the upper register.
Truth is I’ll sit through the whole piece for the high A the sopranos sing at the end. Ladies, you made my evening: it soared. Maestro Miller did everyone — chorus, orchestra, himself and Brahms — proud.
Charleston Post & Courier, June 7, 2018
“Il Matrimonio Segreto” (The Secret Marriage) is an operatic style called opera buffa, comedy that is absurd, with a plot that is totally unbelievable, and at least one character that is a total fool. Happily, there was all of that plus more.
The opera was written by Domenico Cimarosa, a contemporary of Mozart, born in Naples. Famous for his comic operas, he was invited to St. Petersburg by Catherine II herself.
The story revolves around a couple—Paolino and Carolina—who are secretly married. Carolina’s father, Geronimo, is a wealthy eccentric who is deaf but doesn’t realize it. He has another daughter, Elisetta; his elderly sister Fidalma also resides there and runs things. Paolino arranges for Count Robinson to marry Elisetta for a handsome dowry, but when Count Robinson sees Elisetta he is repulsed and falls instead for Carolina, who is already married.
Geronimo agrees to the switch, partly because his dowry is halved and his family will be ennobled. Paolino runs to Carolina’s homely aunt Fidalma for comfort, but she misinterprets his distress and cradles him in her arms when he swoons at her declaration of love. Carolina discovers her husband Paolino in her ugly aunt’s arms; he barely persuades her that things are not what they seem.
Count Robinson behaves like a boor. Carolina and Paolino scheme to run away that night and Geronimo has decided to send her to a convent. The whole ruse unravels and the Count takes Elisetta, Fidalma blesses the secret marriage, and everyone coaxes Geronimo to relent. All is swwell that ends well and the curtain falls.
The six singers giving voice to the puppets were just fabulous, not surprising since they are Westminster students. Margaret Bergmark (Carolina) has a lovely voice with easy high notes and facile runs. The same is true of Betsy Podsiadlo (Elisetta), who played the shunned sister with indignation; her scales ran high to low with no effort. Mckenzie Smith (Fidalma) navigated the turns and trills with facility; she turned haughty Fidalma into the most comedic of the three ladies.
Christopher Fludd (Paolino) has a sweet voice that gave gentle Paolino a warmth that befitted his character’s personality. Scott Kover (Count Robinson) knew just how to animate the Count’s hilarious reaction to the ever-frowning Elisetta; he had no trouble with the rapid ornaments and skips. But it was Matthew Marinelli (Geronimo) who stole the show. Somehow he turned his voice into the ridiculous clown necessary to sing along with the hapless father when his leg would bounce up and down.
Needless to say the orchestra—a pared down ensemble drawn from Cimarosa’s original score—was outstanding. These students can play anything; they were stylistically appropriate and never overwhelmed the singers, who were in the pit with them. Conductor Marco Seco held everything together and the transitions were smooth and steady.
But it was the puppeteers who were the real stars. The final curtain rose to reveal eleven wizards who animated those charming wooden dolls. Somehow they coordinated the gestures—every movement imaginable—with the singing and accompaniments. Marionettes floated as they walked; arms flailed about, exasperated; heads rolled and bodies collapsed. It’s nothing short of astonishing.
My companion laughed until she cried and so did I, between moments of disbelief—not at the preposterous plot—but at the miracle that was the marionettes. If there’s a ticket to be had grab it. And bring a tissue.
Charleston Post & Courier, June 1, 2018
Westminster Choir Delivers ‘Turning of a Day’ Performance
It ain’t for nothing that Westminster Choir College is reputed to have one of the finest choral programs in the United States. This fact was amply demonstrated in yesterday’s concert at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul.
Under the capable direction of Dr. Joe Miller, the choir presented a range of music that, as Dr. Miller noted, “revolves around the turning of a day.” The “Latin sandwich,” as he put it, was filled with one German and five English pieces—all of which were performed with great determination and vigor.
As a conductor Dr. Miller is both nuanced and controlled. Of course, it helps that he is working with the cream of the crop: young people with supple voices that can more or less do whatever is asked of them. And in the course of the 75-minute program, much was asked and much was delivered.
The first work, Lux surgut aurea, (“See the golden sun arise”) by the Catalan composer Bernat Vivancos, began with chant-like melodies that set the stage for the remainder of the piece, which was tonal and largely homophonic, with long, sustained harmonies that sounded effortless.
The single German work, Johannes Brahms’ Abendständchen, Op. 42 No. 1, (Evening Serenade) continued the theme of moving throughout the day. Dr. Miller understands 19th-century performance practice in that he performed this Romantic work without vibrato—anathema to many modern conductors. but frequently described in contemporaneous writings.
“Yes, it’s beautiful” from The Constellation of Apollo by Kile Smith, recounts the conversation between the three astronauts aboard Apollo 8 as it photographed the Earth from outer space for the first time on Christmas Eve 1968.
For Windham, L.M. by Daniel Read—an important early American classical composer—half of the choir came to the middle of the room. The style and timbre of singing abruptly shifted from the warm, well-blended sound of the earlier pieces to the exceedingly bright and somewhat nasal tone associated with Shakers and music from The Sacred Harp. My one criticism of this and the following work, Zion, C.M., arranged by the American composer John T. Hocutt, was that one of the tenors’ voice was rather too prominent—though to be fair he was standing directly in front of me.
The next work arranged by Tom Malone, Yonder Come Day, took us from the Neoclassicism of the cathedral to a summer evening camp meeting held in a tent. The African-American spiritual featured two outstanding alto soloists and the energy of the work successfully captured the raw emotion associated with such gatherings; however, the hand clapping was at times overly enthusiastic and had the unhappy effect of drowning out the text—an error easily corrected.
Paul Crabtree’s “Death and Resurrection” from The Valley of Delight is primarily a dialogue between the men and women of the choir; there was one section where Miller dropped his hands and the choir just kept going—all the while maintaining its perfect ensemble.
Laudibus in Sanctis (“Praise the Holiest” from Psalm 150) called upon the singers to explore not only the extremes of their dynamic palette but also of their tessituras. The basses produced clear, articulated low notes while the sopranos sang the high pitches with grace and a sense of ease that belies how difficult such notes really are.
Three encores followed and the concert was finished with a rousing rendition of Great Day—a fitting conclusion since, as far as choral singing is concerned, it really was a great day.
—Charleston, SC Post and Courier,
May 30, 2017
Celebration Concert a stunning showcase of talent
The Celebration Concert Tuesday at the Gaillard Center was precisely that: a celebration of Spoleto and music of every genre and from every historical period and nationality. From the Italian Baroque: Vivaldi to German Classicism: Mozart to late Romantic opera: Puccini to 20th-century: Leonard Bernstein and other Americans.
German conductor Evan Rogister led the evening’s orchestral works and displayed a command of the ensemble that was both subtle and expansive. His gestures range from the smallest hand movements to the full blown dance-like that bring to visual life the aural imaginings of the music. Like Bernstein, and based on drawings of his conducting, Franz Liszt, Rogister used his entire body to bring forth persuasive interpretations of the music and its emotional content.
Bookended by selections from Bernstein’s Candide, the 90-minute program included the L’estro armanico, Op. 3 no. 11 by Antonio Vivaldi. The orchestra was pared down and, refreshingly, seated according to the Baroque plan—that is, second violins on the right. The work featured chamber artists more frequently seen at the Dock Street Theater and was a smashing success. Geoff Nuttall, who simultaneously played solo first violin and led the ensemble in this concerto grosso was outstanding; his partners in the concertino—Livia Sohn, violin; Pedja Muzijevic, harpsichord; and Christopher Constanzal, cello, formed an excellent foil to the ripeno (large ensemble). Constanza in particular displayed a deft facility in what was a demanding part.
The tone of the concert changed when a jazz ensemble, comprised of orchestra players, came onstage to perform I’m thru with love by Joseph “Fud’ Livingston (great uncle of Mayor John Tecklenberg);. Quiana Parker sang beautifully this ballad originally performed by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot. Her phrasing was eloquent and the timbre of her voice was just right for the melancholy lyrics. She was superbly accompanied by the ensemble.
Edward Thornton Jenkins’ Charlestonia followed, performed by the full orchestra. Jenkins was an African-American who studied at the Royal College of Music in London. This nod to his hometown was premiered in London in 1917 and sounds very American; it foreshadows the music of George Gershwin, in particular An American in Paris. It turned out to be the sleeper of the program—unknown but well-received.
Puccini’s “La tragenda" (The Spectre) from Le Villi was appropriately energetic and had the string players sawing away at their instruments. But it was “Vogliatemi bene” (Love Me Please) from Madama Butterfly that stole the show. This tragic duet was brilliantly sung by Natalia Pavlova, soprano and Jamez McCorkle, tenor. Far and away the best singers of the night, their high notes were full with a sense of ease that allowed the audience to simply bask in the breathtaking sound. Their acting was superb and the timbre of their voices when combined into parallel octaves created an effect that clearly moved the audience, which gave them a rousing ovation.
Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances” from West Side Story was the audience favorite, and rightly so. This demanding 20-minute work brought out the best of the orchestra, whether the remarkable percussion section or the brilliant brass. The performance was festive and alive and, well, it danced. It was replete with finger snapping, cello twirling and shouted words and was magnificent.
But the undisputed star of the evening was the Spoleto Orchestra itself. It handled the different styles of music with great aplomb—whether the pure tones of Vivaldi or the rich sound of Bernstein—the orchestra was simply stunning. We should count ourselves fortunate to have such a fantastic ensemble available to us—even if it is only for two weeks out of the year.
—Charleston, SC Post and Courier, June 1, 2017
Review: Mozart paired with Vaughan Williams results in uneven performance
Although at first glance a program of music by the 18th-century W.A. Mozart and the 20th-century Ralph Vaughan Williams might seem incongruous, the pairing worked well in a concert of choral and orchestral music Tuesday night at the Gaillard Center.
The first half of the program was the finer, with the Westminster Choir in its usual outstanding form. “Lord, Thou Hast Been Our Refuge” by Vaughan Williams was sung with great care. The work, a juxtaposition of Psalm 96 with the hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” was beautiful—even if the orchestra was a bit heavy at times and drowned out the choir.
“Serenade to Music” is one of Vaughan William’s finest pieces. It is a free-form fantasy that was a compositional breakthrough for him: freeing him from the usual constraints of instrumental forms. There are ten soloists who sing a few lines each; the Westminster students held their own with their older, professional counterparts and the work was perfectly lovely. Mozart, lacking a patron and a deadline for his lofty project to compose the “Great Mass in C minor,” K. 427, wrote it piecemeal between other ventures during the years 1728–83. Several large portions of the “Credo” and the entire “Agnus Dei” were never to reach completion. It was first performed in Salzburg in 1783. His future wife Constanze sang the “Et incarnatus est” at the premiere.
Regrettably, the “Great Mass in C-minor” left much to be desired. I was surprised—and disappointed—to hear the orchestra play with continuous vibrato, which is most definitely not part of the 18th-century style. And even though there are no pictures of how Mozart’s orchestras were seated, it’s a safe bet that they weren’t placed according to the modern configuration.
In most countries, Latin is pronounced with an Italianate accent—except for the German speaking world, which pronounces Latin as if it were German; there’s no reason to think the same wasn’t true in Mozart’s day. But the chorus sang the Mass with the typical Italianate pronunciation. Some of these criticisms may strike the reader as overly fussy, but a festival like Spoleto, with an international stature, surely ought to present concerts with historically informed performances that strive to recreate a sound that is as close as possible to what the composer expected to hear.
The CSO Chorus, augmented by the Westminster Choir, made a valiant effort towards what is a difficult choral piece. While the sopranos had trouble reaching the high notes, which were almost uniformly under pitch, the tenor section was robust and made an excellent showing.
Happily, the soloists were without exception outstanding. The two sopranos: Sherezade Pantaki and Clara Rottsolk overcame the totally different timbres of their voices to blend quite well on the duet in the “Domine Deus.” Each had excellent breath control for the exceedingly long phrases and both were quite agile in the runs and ornaments. Jamez McCorkle sang well but not quite as good as the Celebration Concert last week. And bass André Courville displayed his excellent instrument, with clear, resonant low notes and fast, delineated passage work. Pity we didn’t hear more from him during the evening.
—Charleston Post and Courier,
June 8, 2017