Friday, May 18, 2012

Pit Stop Players and Political Correctness

On Monday I heard the Pit Stop Players at the Demenna Center . This is a new place with a number of halls.  "Conveniently located in midtown Manhattan at 450 West 37th St. The DiMenna Center for Classical Music provides state-of-the-art rehearsal and recording space for musicians and ensembles ranging in size from soloist to full orchestra and chorus."

Led by Joshua Rosenblum the Pit Stop Players are a group of moonlighting Broadway musicians. The New York Times said "Led by conductor-composer Joshua Rosenblum, the ensemble is comprised of some of New York’s top free-lance musicians, commonly regarded as the best instrumentalists in the world. With its unique mission, exciting repertoire, and broad appeal, the Pit Stop Players have already taken their place at the cutting edge of New York’s cultural landscape."

I have the good fortune to be have been asked to compose a piece for the Pit Stop Players, to be performed in late October, just before the US election. So what am I working on? It's a piece called Hard Right, for chamber orchestra and "politician". I propose to write music for a right wing campaign speech, using some of the outrageous statements made by the US Republican presidential candidates.

Please, someone dissuade me! Compositionally speaking, I must have some sort of death wish. Classical music circles definitely cannot abide anything in the least bit controversial, unless it happened 200 years ago, or more.

Case in point, a piece of mine called Tales of the Netsilik for narrator and orchestra and based on tales of the Inuit. Samples: and
Seemed innocent enough to me. Wrong! Turns out it cannot be played in the United States. A text that finds value in the religious system and values of a non-Christian culture is a no-no. The very poems I used, unbeknownst to me at the time, had been used in a program to educate US children about the values of other cultures. When  the good Christian people here found out about what their children were being taught, horrified, they closed down the whole thing.

It's enough to make the blood boil. Perhaps boiling blood = inspiration. I think I'll continue working on Hard Right. Maybe make it into a whole cabaret show.

What do you think? Bigotry can be inspirational. Perhaps there are some things actually worth fighting for - or against.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Finnish Accordion Fantastico

This past Thursday I heard the extraordinary Finnish accordion player-composer Veli Kujala at the Scandanavia House 58 Park Ave. Playing solo, Veli played an assortment of pieces, old and new, on the first half. The second half was devoted to his own music, in this case a theatrical piece complete with electronics and light changes and 1/4 tones. Yes, although his button accordion appears more or less normal, it will play 1/4 tones - something that Veli exploited to great effect.
Tango Dreams, my own piece for accordion and string trio, peaked Veli's interest. I'm sending it off to Finland where Veli teaches at the Sibelius Academy. I'll also include the parts for Serenity for accordion and clarinet. Thanks to the support of Joseph Petric in Toronto, I seem to have written a considerable amount for accordion, including my arrangement of all 6 movements of Ravel's Tombeau de Couperin for accordion, violin, cello, and oboe as well as a raft of tango arrangements for accordion with string trio and baritone for my show, Close Embrace.

Here's Tango Dreams as a ballet:

And some of Close Embrace (an accordion spectacular):

And a couple of MP3's from Tombeau de Couperin, as played by Quarteto Gelato:

Accordionists of the world, where are you? Ask me for these pieces. I would be happy to send them.

By the way, The Scandanavia House is a nice hall, about 200 seats, a fair sized stage, and lighting possibilities. Although it specializes in Scandanavian music, there are other types of music presented here. Rental?

Accordionists! Email me!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Winnipeg Symphony Success

Sunday April 29 The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Motus O Dance Theatre performed
Circus Terrifico for 2300 engaged and entertained and smiling patrons. That's what I'm told by
Tanya Derksen, WSO Director of Education, and Richard Lee, conductor, and Motus O.

I wasn't able to attend this premiere of the live orchestra version of Circus Terrifico. After spending a year orchestrating my own piece, Circus Music (originally for Brass Band), and re-orchestrating 30 minutes worth of Tchaikovsky ballet excerpts, I sat at home, nervous. The WSO did the show on one rehearsal from virgin parts. Wow! There were no rehearsal destroying mistakes and the show went off gloriously. Wow!

Now for the tough part - selling the show to other orchestras. Yes, tough! We have already contacted 85 orchestras, both with a mailed promo package and a phone call and a second email. (Including my own former orchestra, The Toronto Symphony) One would think that having a successful orchestra family show would be enough. It isn't. And no one seems to have much of an answer toward making it any easier.

Come on orchestra folks. Buy this show! It's exactly what I have been told is needed. You say you want new audiences. You say you need something to make money and yet be of high quality. Here it is.
Yes, I know it hasn't won a contest and it is not being plugged by Columbia Artists. Take a risk that's no risk. Circus Terrifico is a winner!

Advice? Suggestions? Criticism? All are welcome