Monday, January 23, 2012

Yo-Yo Ma, Symphony combine for unforgettable night

from the KC Star

Yo-Yo Ma performed Friday night with the Kansas City Symphony in Helzberg Hall of the Kauffmann Center for the Performing Arts.

When Yo-Yo Ma comes to town, it’s not just a concert — it’s an event.

Palpable excitement permeated the Kauffman Center on Friday night as the world-renowned cellist appeared at Helzberg Hall with the Kansas City Symphony under the baton of his longtime friend and colleague Michael Stern.

You’d just about have to be a visitor from Mars to be unaware of Ma, who has produced a remarkable 15 Grammy Award-winning recordings. Besides traditional classical repertory, he has played and championed Argentinean tangos by Astor Piazzola, bluegrass music and traditional melodies from China and the Silk Road.

The orchestra tested the hungry audience’s patience by placing Ma last on the program.

The first half of the concert opened with a rousing rendition of Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture. Beginning with a hushed tone, the orchestra played with admirable blend and balance. Stern delivered effective stylistic contrast, alternating energetic phrases with melodies with smoother articulations.

The performers approached the work with romantic sensibility, stretching phrases in the slower sections and infusing them with energy and passion in the faster ones.

The final section, based on the drinking song "Gaudeamus igitur," was broad and bombastic, and drew hearty applause from the audience.

For years, Michael Stern has proved himself an imaginative programmer with the ability to strike a marvelous balance between popular works and uncommon repertory. The orchestra also performed the rarely heard Concerto for Orchestra by 20th-century Polish composer Witold Lutosławski. Writing under the shadow of Soviet censure of “formalism” in contemporary styles, the composer used folk music and dance as the raw materials from which he constructed the three-movement work.

The darkly colored opening featured string basses and pulsing timpani. Upper strings, wind and brass gradually joined the others, and the orchestral fabric soon turned into a sonic spectacular.

It wasn't long before it was clear that the one of the composer's greatest strengths lie in his rich palette of orchestral colors. Against a thick texture of orchestral sound, solo violin, flute, clarinet and other instrumental lines blended effectively.

The second movement opened with a very rapid passage for the upper strings. The passage was difficult, and the strings were not quite together with their intonation or rhythm. The rhythmically intense finale was, unfortunately, interrupted by a rogue cell phone.

After the intermission, Ma took the stage to a warm and extended round of applause from both the audience and the orchestra. Ma and the ensemble performed the Concerto in B Minor for Cello and Orchestra, by Antonin Dvořák, written during the final year the composer was living and working in the United States.

After the orchestra played the opening robust theme and lovely second theme, Ma repeated and developed the themes on the cello.

Ma played the opening theme beautifully, but the slower second theme was absolutely stunning. The tempo slowed to a near crawl and Ma played with sheer beauty and soulful abandon. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the splendor of that moment — at least I hope I never do.

In the second movement Ma produced a rich, singing tone and highly expressive playing. The soaring opening theme in the third movement began in marchlike fashion.

It was fascinating to watch the soloist interact not only with the conductor, but with the orchestra members. His beaming face reveled in the beauty of the moment and encouraged his fellow musicians. The final moments of the piece were both thrilling and compelling.

After vigorous applause and a few bows, Stern carried Ma’s cello and bow onstage. Ma clowned around a bit by mounting the podium and pretending to conduct. For an encore, he played a slow and very expressive reading of the Prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major.

Posted on Sat, Jan. 21, 2012 12:00 AM

Friday, January 20, 2012

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

from todays White House Briefing.

...

Q Can you give us a status update on same-sex marriage, where the President is on that evolving process? And what is he doing to assist that evolution? Does he meet with people? Does he read books? What is he doing?

MR. CARNEY: Dan, I appreciate the question. I don’t have an update for you on that. I think it is important in this, as part of my answer here, to just remind you about the President’s record on these issues -- ending “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and on marriage in particular having the federal government stand down from -- or his administration stand down from defending DOMA, believing that it’s unconstitutional and working to have it repealed. The President’s personal views I will leave for him to describe. But this administration, his administration’s record on these issues that are very important I think are pretty clear.

Q So no movement at this time?

MR. CARNEY: Again, I will leave it to him to describe. It’s the same answer I have given in the past to Chris, for example, who has his hand raised. (Laughter.) And I think you’ve deprived him of the opportunity to ask it today.

Q Actually, I have a follow-up question to that. Can I jump in?

MR. CARNEY: Sure. Chris, how are you?

Q I’m doing good. How are you?

MR. CARNEY: Very well.

Q A number of state legislatures in the coming weeks, including those in Washington State, New Jersey and Maryland are going to try to push for same-sex marriage legislation in the coming weeks. I know you said you don’t want to talk specifics about the State of The Union address. I’m just wondering if you could rule out the possibility of the President completing his evolution and endorsing marriage equality next week.

MR. CARNEY: Again, I will not rule anything in or out. I’m just not going to talk about, beyond pointing at his words, his personal views on this. I think his administration’s policies on related issues are there for people to judge.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Someone Saved My Life Tonight

Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Music by Elton John - Lyrics by Bernie Taupin

When I think of those East End lights, muggy nights
Curtains drawn in the little room downstairs
Prima Donna Lord you really should have been there
Sitting like a princess perched in her electric chair
And it's one more beer and I don't hear you anymore
We've all gone crazy lately
My friends out there rolling round the basement floor

And someone saved my life tonight, sugar bear
You almost had your hooks in me didn't you dear
You nearly had me roped and tied
Altar bound, hypnotized
Sweet freedom whispered in my ear
You're a butterfly
And butterflies are free to fly
Fly away, high away, bye bye

Never realised the passing hours of evening showers
Slip noose hanging in my darkest dreams
I'm strangled by your haunted social scene
Just a pawn out-played by a dominating Queen
It's four o'clock in the morning
Damn it, listen to me good
I'm sleeping with myself tonight
Saved in time, thank God my music's still alive

And someone saved my life tonight, sugar bear
You almost had your hooks in me didn't you dear
[From: http://www.elyrics.net/read/e/elton-john-lyrics/someone-saved-my-life-tonight-lyrics.html]
You nearly had me roped and tied
Altar bound, hypnotized
Sweet freedom whispered in my ear
You're a butterfly
And butterflies are free to fly
Fly away, high away, bye bye

And I would have walked head on into the deep end of the river
Clinging to your stocks and bonds
Paying your H.P. demands forever
Coming in the morning with a truck to take me home
Someone saved my life tonight, someone saved my life tonight
Someone saved my life tonight, someone saved my life tonight
Someone saved my life tonight
So save your strength and run the field you play alone

An' someone saved my life tonight, sugar bear
You almost had your hooks in me didn't you dear
You nearly had me roped and tied
Altar bound, hypnotized
Sweet freedom whispered in my ear
You're a butterfly
And butterflies are free to fly
Fly away, high away, bye bye

Someone saved, someone saved, someone saved my life tonight
Someone saved, someone saved, someone saved my life tonight
Someone saved, someone saved, someone saved my life tonight




This is the song that I'll be singing (not in the original key mind you lol) at the Homegrown Cabaret on Feb 11th.