We have quite the concert this weekend. (Below is just a screen shot so those links don’t work, but to order tickets simply go here for Saturday and here for Sunday.)
Symphony Silicon Valley, under the wonderful direction of Carlos Vieu, and with soloist Daniela Tabernig and the women of the Symphony Silicon Valley Chorale are performing some truly exquisite music.

This is the first time I’ve ever played two of the works: Debussy’s La Damoiselle élue, L. 62 and Strauss’s Vier Letze Lieder.

At last night’s rehearsal Carlos mentioned a video on YouTube about the final song and of course I had to find it and I have to share it. As Carlos said, this really is Strauss saying goodbye, following his long life and the horrific devastation in his country due to the war. The songs were composed in 1948 when Strauss was 84, he died in 1949, and these were published as a unit in 1950.

Through sorrow and joy
we have gone hand in hand;
we are both at rest from our wanderings
now above the quiet land.

Around us, the valleys bow,
the air already darkens.
Only two larks soar
musingly into the haze.

Come close, and let them flutter,
soon it will be time to sleep –
so that we don’t get lost
in this solitude.

O vast, tranquil peace,
so deep in the afterglow!
How weary we are of wandering–
Is this perhaps death?

Diana Doherty is playing Spirit of the Wild by Nigel Westlake with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Robertson. I’m in awe.

(Warning to my dear friend whose ears can’t handle dissonance: you’ll want to skip this unless you no longer have that issue!)

… and double wow!

I did it. I caved and bought Apple AirPods because Costco had them at a slightly (very slightly) lower price. Dan had purchased some yesterday when we were at the store and i thought, “Meh, who needs ’em?” Last evening he suggested I at least give them a try. I knew then I’d be driving back to Costco today. (The miracle in all this is that I ONLY bought the AirPods at Costco … and I didn’t even eat anything from their sample tables!)

And just like that I’m sold. I’m currently listening to a YouTube video on them and for a moment I thought, “These must not be working as I’m hearing the music through my speakers.” But no, I was hearing the music through the AirPods. (Duh: I hadn’t even turned the speakers on!)

I have Sennheiser noise cancelling headphones that I sometimes use on the plane, but the darn things hurt the top of my head. No amount of adjusting has fixed that. I guess I’m just overly sensitive.

So yes, I’m sold, in case anyone is interested. At least after using them for about an hour. We’ll see what I think in a few days, right?

Only issue: I feel just a wee bit nerdy wearing them. Or maybe more than a wee bit.

It’s often said that people just need to embrace music and violence would halt. People love to post the Bernstein quote when things get rough. Others seem to think that musicians are all peace loving folk.

And then there’s the audience …

The rustling of a gum wrapper at a performance of the symphony last week in the Swedish city of Malmo brought a section of the audience back down to earth, and brought several concertgoers to blows. Mahler’s late Romantic epic became the occasion for an epic clash over candy.

As Andris Nelsons, an eminent Latvian conductor, coaxed the quiet notes from the string section of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, a woman in the balcony rustled a bag of gum, the Sydsvenskan newspaper reported. A young man sitting next to her glared a few times and then lost his patience. He snatched the bag from her and threw it onto the floor.

But wait, there’s more:

But as the concert hall vibrated with the final, resounding notes, and as applause rang out, she exacted her revenge.

The gum-rustler turned to her neighbor and uttered something, eyewitnesses told the newspaper, and then proceeded to smack him in the face, knocking his glasses from his face. The woman’s male companion then grabbed the other man by the shirt and began to punch him, as the seizer of the gum sought to defend himself.

And even more if you RTWT

No, great music will not result in world peace. People are people. Go figure.

I’ve not been blogging much, as I know the few who read this have noticed. I’m going to have to see if I can be a bit more diligent. If not, perhaps the site needs to be retired. Still, I think I have more I could write about if I just set my mind to it.

I’d love to hear from anyone who might want to ask me a question about the music life and a career that began so very long ago. After all, I joined the Musicians’ Union (local 153 back then) on May 14, 1974 and landed my job with the San Jose Symphony in the summer of 1975, so I have had a few years (hah!) of experience doing what I do.

Peteris Vasks: The Fruit of Silence
Latvian Radio Choir; Vestard Shimkus, Piano; Sigvards Kjava, Conductor

The fruit of silence is prayer
the fruit of prayer is faith
the fruit of faith is love
the fruit of love is service
the fruit of service is love

Text by Mother Teresa

Yesterday’s job brought me a bit of agony. We were doing an outdoor concert and I was playing a wee bit of oboe and a lot of English horn. I had no issues the night before, so didn’t think to bring my W.R.I.S.T accessory.

My right thumb decided it no longer would like to hold the English horn. It simply couldn’t. At. All.

I don’t know if I tweaked it, or if the previous night’s rehearsal did the thumb in (we were playing Ride of the Valkyries which does require holding the instrument for quite some time). Or maybe it’s just age. But no matter the cause, I was concerned. For most of the first part of the concert (three Gershwin works) I could “cheat” and hold the bell between my crossed ankles. For solos, though, I don’t like to do that: I think it dampens the sound a bit too much, and it just feels so darn confining. Fortunately I made it through those three works, and the solos were okay.

Then I had an hour to wait until we went back to the stage to do the “Symphony Spooktacular” bit. For that I had less to play, so I wasn’t terrifically concerned. Just annoyed that my thumb decided to rebel. Funny though: by the time we began again my thumb was just fine!

The issue, though, was a good reminder: I MUST carry the W.R.I.S.T. accessory with me at all times. Period.

Today I ordered a microphone stand that will allow me to to have the accessory a bit closer to me: connecting it to the music stand sometimes works, but because of how we are set up, and because sometimes we use different stands that don’t even allow for attaching the device, I have decided to be better prepared. Had my thumb continued to rebel I’d have been in tears by the end, I think.

I can highly recommend the W.R.I.S.T. and I can also tell you you’d be paying much less than I did. As the inventor Robert Morgan writes: “Please note: The price of the WRIST has gone down considerably as we launch a new manufacturer relationship.” Nice!

This coming week I have some important bits on our Symphony Silicon Valley concert. If my thumb is disobedient I will simply ignore the darn thing!

With many thanks to Bret Pimentel:

I have lots on things on my list for you today: we should double-check your rhythms on that etude, review those melodic minor scales that were giving you trouble last week, and discuss some finer points of vibrato.

But something about your sunken eyes when I met you at the door, the way you slouched into the room, the slept-in fashion statement, says that today you are Struggling. Not because you are lazy or undedicated. But because college life is fraught with deadlines for research papers and rent payments, and scheduled to the brim with marching band rehearsals and late shifts waiting tables, and fueled by store-brand Pop Tarts and never enough sleep.

Do read the whole thing (link above). This applies not only to Bret’s college students, but to all of our students. I have middle school students who are overly stressed. I have high school students who are so on edge it hurts my heart. All are more important than their oboes!

Arvo Pärt: Alleluia Tropus
Vox Clamantis

As some know, I posted a video of Alex Klein in January.

I’m pleased to report that he announced on Facebook that he has accepted a position in Canada!

Congratulations, Mr. Klein!