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Culture: May 2008 Archives

Funeral Music

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Songs in the key of death

Edward Wickham on how modern tastes in funeral music owe it all to a medieval composer who went out in style
Guardian UK

Even if it is an urban myth, it deserves retelling. A bereaved family requested Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody for their loved one's funeral service. A CD was duly played, but the organist allowed it to run on to the next track: Another One Bites the Dust. This is up there with another, perhaps mythical, occasion when an organist misinterpreted a couple's request for "the theme tune from Robin Hood" and, instead of playing Bryan Adams's (Everything I Do) I Do It for You from the Kevin Costner film, launched into this bracing lyric from another era: "Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen."

Choice of funeral music dates us just as surely as clothes or what children's programmes you remember with affection. One of the UK's current favourites, according to a recent survey, is Monty Python's Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. The well-balanced funeral or memorial service will, of course, provide an opportunity for both celebration and seriousness: there is a place for Monty Python and Monteverdi. And the best composers of funeral music can turn on a sixpence. Purcell's apparently simple Funeral Sentences masterfully moves from melancholy to hope in just a couple of chord changes.

Read more about this at The Guardian website:

   http://music.guardian.co.uk/classical/story/0,,2282432,00.html

Great Music and Fine Food

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Fine Food

The best meals and the best music make up a menu for the senses

By Paul Horsley
Kansas City Star

It's the night before Dubravka Tomsic's recital on the Friends of Chamber Music's piano series, and dinner is served.

The guests have worked up a sharp hunger in the living room with appetizers of Cognac-cured salmon on cocktail loaf, spread with butter-horseradish mustard.

Hosts Cynthia Siebert and Larry Hicks have spent the day preparing a gourmet meal for their guests, among them the Slovenian pianist who the next night would deliver two hours of stellar pianism to a Folly Theater audience.

Such dinners are an integral part of the Friends series, Siebert said, engendering a relationship that nourishes body and soul.

Read more about this at the Kansas City Star website:

   http://www.kansascity.com/654/story/621942.html

Mariachi Meets Mozart

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Symphonic Mariachi Champaña Nevín

Ensemble brings music of Mexico to concert series

By Jennifer K. Mahal
San Diego Union-Tribune

Classical music and mariachi have always gone hand-in-hand for Southwestern College music professor Jeff Nevin.

Advertisement As a teenager in Tucson, the trumpet player joined the symphony orchestra the same year he became a member of Los Changuitos Feos de Tucson, a youth mariachi group whose name translates to the Ugly Little Monkeys of Tucson. For his undergraduate audition at the University of Illinois, Nevin began playing classical music, but changed to mariachi when nerves made him flub the notes.

And for his doctorate in music theory and composition, one of the three topics for his qualifying exams at the University of California San Diego was on mariachi trumpet styles. The research turned into his first book, "Virtuoso Mariachi."

Read more about this at the San Diego Union-Tribune website:

   http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20080517-9999-1sz17mozart.html

Performing More Works by Women

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Judith Lang Zaimont, composer

Lend Me a Pick Ax: The Slow Dismantling of the Compositional Gender Divide

By Lisa Hirsch
NewMusicBox

In the world of classical music, as elsewhere, women have made tremendous progress over the last 30 years. Following the introduction of blind auditions in the 1970s, which greatly reduce bias, women now make up about half of the string and woodwind players in American orchestras. Women occupy prominent administrative positions in major musical institutions. Women direct and design productions at important opera houses.

Women also make up about 30 percent of composition students in American colleges and conservatories. While this is a vast and positive change, it's still not easy for women to get their works performed, especially by symphony orchestras. During the 2004-05 concert season, works by women accounted for only one percent of all pieces performed by the 300 or so member orchestras who responded to the repertory survey of the American Symphony Orchestra League (now the League of American Orchestras, or LAO). The following year, with a boost from Joan Tower's widely-performed Made in America, the number rose to two percent.

Read more about this at the NewMusicBox website:

   http://www.newmusicbox.org/article.nmbx?id=5576

Bach in Bolivia

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International Festival of Renaissance & American Baroque Music

Music transforms kids and towns in remote area of Bolivia

Inspired by a biannual baroque festival and the legacy of missionaries, young people join choirs and take up the violin and Vivaldi in parishes across the country's eastern lowlands

By Sara Miller Llana
The Christian Science Monitor

San Ignacio de Velasco, Bolivia – Life moves slowly in this town deep in the jungle of Bolivia, 280 miles from the nearest city, where most streets are swaths of red earth, money is made off the land, and TV, for those who own one, is not an after-dinner ritual.

It is not the kind of place one would normally seek out high culture.

But on a recent evening, off the neatly manicured central plaza, the sonatas of Vivaldi and Haydn pour from the town's imposing cathedral. Even more unusual is who is crowding many of the pews: sneaker-clad youths. They are not here under the duress of some imperious teacher. They're eagerly absorbing the sounds of string and wind instruments redounding through the wood-beamed church.

Their rapt attention is one of the most visible legacies of the International Festival of Renaissance and American Baroque Music, which may be leaving as big a mark on the small towns of eastern Bolivia as anything since the Jesuit missionaries 300 years ago. Perhaps in few places on earth is music transforming the lives of a new generation more than in this remote low-land section of South America.

Read more about this at The Christian Science Monitor website:

   http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0512/p20s01-woam.html

Classical Music in Arabia

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King Fahd Cultural Center, by John Paul Jones

Saudis mix genders at 1st public classical concert

By Donna Abu-Nasr (AP)
Seattle Times

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – It's probably as revolutionary and groundbreaking as Mozart gets these days. A German-based quartet staged Saudi Arabia's first-ever performance of European classical music in a public venue before a mixed-gender audience.

The concert, held at a government-run cultural center Friday night, broke many taboos in a country where public music is banned and the sexes are segregated even in lines at fast-food outlets.

Friday's concert of works by works by Mozart, Brahms and Paul Juon was the first classical performance held in public in Saudi Arabia, said German press attaché Georg Klussmann.

Read more about this at the Seattle Times website:

   http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/thearts/2004391176_mozart04.html

Trumpet