This page is about the music…my personal raison d’être
Peter Gabriel – So
One of my most rewarding finds of 2015 was the Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack of the Broadway musical Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s game-changing play earned 11 Tony awards, making it the second most awarded musical in Broadway history ONLY to 2001’s The Producers. With only a few minor changes, this song, performed by Lin-Manuel Miranda at the White House “Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word” on May 12, 2009, became the opening to Hamilton. I cannot recommend the Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack strongly enough. It is brilliant and captivating storytelling…
And, when Lin-Manuel appeared on SNL (15 Oct 2016), his opening monologue was staggeringly good. Those of you who know me know how sold I am on the play’s soundtrack. Well, watch Hamilton’s uniquely gifted writer and star as he does a different take of “My Shot” from Hamilton, set to his appearance on SNL. As he goes through it, watch for the picture of Donald Trump on the hallway wall. His reaction/performance is priceless, as he repeats another line from the Hamilton song “The Reynolds Pamphlet,” which goes, “You’re never gonna be President now, never goanna be President now….” Keep in mind, this aired just 30 hours after the Trump “Locker Room Talk” tape was released. This is just perfection, both in its cleverness of writing and the timing… Just brilliant…
September 25th, 2021 – South Bend Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade in C major for String orchestra,” Leighton Hall, DeBartolo PAC, Notre Dame
the view from my seat for the performance…
Last evening, Saturday, September 25th, 2021, coincidentally, my birthday, saw the opening of the 2021-2022 Jack M. Champaigne Masterworks Series for the South Bend Symphony, held in the remarkable Leighton Hall of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.
They opened with two pieces that I had never heard. “Starburst,” composed by Jessie Montgomery, is a three minute, one-movement work for string orchestra. (YouTube link here) This was a surprisingly vivid play on imagery with rapidly changing musical colors, exploding with gestures and fleeting melodies, creating an amazing, multidimension soundscape. I have to admit to being swept away with this piece.
Next up was “Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra,” featuring its composer, Adam Neiman, on the Steinway Concert Grand. (YouTube link here) Clearly influenced by the great romantic concertos, his piano work was highly complex, and woven into the tapestry of the string lines to create a vivid conversation between the instruments. The composition, and Neiman’s playing, were of the highest caliber, and again, I was very moved by this previously unheard concerto.
Finally, I must admit that the “Serenade for Strings” is probably my favorite Tchaikovsky work. And, I’ve heard it here in Leighton Hall before, in October of 2004, performed by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-fields under Kenneth Sillito. Yet tonight’s performance was compellingly moving… Such a heartfelt composition, with remarkable artistic worth.
The evening proved to be a marvelous and fitting commencement to this post-Covid-19 reopening and resurgence of the performing arts season here in the Midwest – and a fine birthday present to myself! ? I AM SO READY for this to all be behind us and be able to get back to celebrating our lives as a community once again…
September 24th, 2019 – Bruce Cockburn at Umbel Hall, Goshen College
Bruce Cockburn, with son John, touring his “Crowing
Ignites” release, September 24, 2019
I cannot tell you what at treat it was to finally see Bruce live… I’ve been following him since his 1980 release of “Humans.” This was the first opportunity I had to see him, and in Umbel Hall to boot, a very intimate, 400-seat theater at Goshen College. I think his two UNDISPUTED MASTERPIECES are 1980’s Humans, and 1984’s Stealing Fire! I can’t image either album without a single track that it contains… That was such a fertile period for him… And seeing him live in September of 2019, touring with son John Aaron, was amazing. He even played, “Peggy’s Kitchen Wall,” one of my all-time favs…
October 28, 29 & 30 -2011 – The First Annual SOKA/Blueport Jazz Festival – SOKA Performing Arts Center
The incomparable Mike Garson…
You can see my full report, with nearly 50 photos, on the AMAZING show published at Positive-Feedback Online here
20-May-2010 – REO Speed Wagon (with special guest, Blue Öyster Cult) – Morris Performing Arts Center – South Bend, IN
This was a show that I was genuinely concerned about. I hadn’t seen REO since the late 1980’s, or Blue Öyster Cult since the late 1970’s. After the letdown with Kansas last year, I was hopeful that the guitar band that was created as an American answer to Black Sabbath would still be something to recon with… I shouldn’t have worried.
Often billed as a “thinking man’s” heavy metal group, they opened with the AOR classic, “Burnin’ For You” from 1981’s Fire of Unknown Origin, their most successful album since the 1976 release of Agents of Fortune.
“The Blue Öyster Cult,” from left to right, Richie Castillano, Eric
Bloom, Rudy Sarzo, Jules Radino, and Don “Buck Dharma” Roeser.
The two guitar leads, alternately Richie Castillano and “Buck Dharma,” were remarkable – they just fed off each other, much as did Tommy Shaw and JY when Styx was here last year. They ran through many of their older songs but found time to work in most of their big AOR hits.
Don “Buck Dharma” Roeser and Rudy Sarzo during one of many
of this guitar band’s blazing guitar pyrotechnical demonstrations.
I have to say that I found it rather appropriate that they chose to close with “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” which they dedicated to the memory of Ronnie James Dio, who passed away (coincidentally, as did jazz pianist Hank Jones), the previous Sunday, May 16th.
Bruce Hall and Kevin Cronin “jammin” early in the show…
Next up, one of the true superstars of Arena Rock, now best known for their sting of “Power Ballads” throughout the ’80’s, REO Speed Wagon made it clear that they were there to take no prisoners. As it has been 30 years since the release of Hi Infidelity they opened with a string of songs from that album.
REO Speed Wagon is currently, left to right, Bruce Hall, drummer Brian Hitt, front man Kevin Cronin, co-founder Neal Doughty, and traveling guitar slinger, Dave Amato.
As expected, the made it a point to play all those AOR hit power ballads, but they also dug back to the R.E.O. T.W.O. days for some serious ROCK, like “Golden Country”. Call me crazy, but I MISS the influence of an early member, guitarist Gary Richrath. They also managed to squeeze in “Time for Me to Fly,” one of my all-time favs from this group, and, true to every time I’ve seen them, performed “Ridin’ the Storm Out” during the encore.
I must admit, these guys can still bring it…
9-April-2010 – The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields – Leighton Hall – Notre Dame, IN
This was another wonderful event, and the performance was almost as stunning as the last time they were at Leighton in October of 2004 when they performed Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. This was an unusual yet interesting program.
Fra Holbergs tid (from Holberg’s Time) “Holberg Suite,” Op. 40 by Edvard Grieg (1843–1907)
Sonata for violin & piano No. 9 in A Major “Kreutzer,” Op. 47 (Arrr. Tognetti) by Ludwig Van Beethoven (1970–1827)
Arpeggione Sonata, D. 821 (arranged for viola and strings – Arr. Tabakova) by Franz Schubert (1797–1826)
Cuatro estaciónes porteñas (Four Seasons of Buenos Aries – Arr. Leonid Desyatnikov) Astor Piazzolla (1921–1992)
The Cuatro estaciónes porteñas was a very intriguing variation on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, which seemed to “borrow” from many more works and composers than just Antonio’s work. It was something I’d never heard before, and though a bit odd, it was both familiar and new at the same time. All in, a fascinating program.
26-Sept-2009 – Opening of the 2009 South Bend Symphony Season – Morris Performing Arts Center – South Bend, IN
Saturday the 26th marked the opening of the South Bend Symphony‘s 77th season. It was a stirring success. The Rimsky-Korsakov “Easter” Overture and emerging sky-Korsakov “Easter” Overture and emerging Russian virtuoso pianist Gleb Ivanov’s take on the Rachmaninoff Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 3, or the “Rach 3” for short, were superb.
Though I enjoyed the Bernstein Symphonic Dances, a medley of themes from West Side Story, the 1957 American musical based on a book by Arthur Laurents, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, all based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, in my opinion, it would have been better served at a Pops show, rather than a Masterworks event…
One of the more interesting images in this year’s Season announcement was the double page spread for the Masterworks events which features a photo of my friend and Notre Dame colleague, Dr. Scott Russell. Besides being one of the most effective Apple Engineers I know, he also plays (and teaches) French horn with the symphony.
2009’s Subscription mailer featured a wonderful photo of my
friend and colleague, French horn teacher and player, Dr. Scott Russell.
As an aside, I ran into the surgeon who did my shoulder back in July of 2009, Dr. Gregory Peyer, and his wife Pat, in the lobby just before the show. And though I had a front row seat, just after the intermission, he invited me to take an empty seat in the Royal Box with them. It would have been awfully hard to refuse such a gracious offer.
Since you are not allowed to take “real” cameras into these events, I had to leave my Nikon D70 at home. I was able to use my new Nikon CoolPix S60. Not terrible results, but not what I would call great either…
Tsung Yeh the SBSO ‘sconductor at the time,
during the stirring Rimsky-Korsakov “Easter Overture”
Associate Principal Cello Carol Bullock Russell (Peg and Robert O.
Laven Chair), coincidentally Dr. Scott Russell’s wife.
The full Symphony Orchestra during the powerful “Rach 3”
Visiting Russian Pianist, Gleb Ivanov, as he thunders through the
closing of the Rachmaninov Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 3.
25-Sept-2009 – The Tokyo String Quartet – Leighton Hall – DeBartolo Performing Arts Center – Notre Dame, IN
On the coincident event of my 54th birthday, I had front row seats for the Tokyo String Quartet appearance here in the Leighton Hall at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.
The evening opened with the Quartet in B-flat Major, op. 168, D. 112, by Franz Schubert, followed by the Quartet No. 6, Sz. 114 (1939), by Bela Bartok, and after the intermission, “Felix” Mendelssohn’s Quartet in D Major, op. 44, no. 1. While the Schubert was very polite, it was a bit of a yawn to many of the concertgoers I spoke with, myself included.
While I LOVE the earlier and romantic Russian composers (Borodin, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev…), I admit that the more contemporary and atonal works by Bartok leave me wanting. I recognize the difficulty of the piece, and the remarkable skills required to play it well, but it is just not terribly accessible or enjoyable music, to my ears at least. longtime friend Bob Guthrie was a little less polite in his assessment of the Bartok work, claiming “It sucked!”
After the intermission, the Mendelssohn Quartet was breathtaking! That work alone was well worth the price of admission. Just wonderful music, and musicianship, by this renowned and world-class quartet. Coincidentally, it was Cellist Clive Greensmith’s birthday as well, and when first violin Martin Beaver announced that fact, just before their encore Hayden piece, I leaned forward from my seat and got his attention. I silently mouthed, “Me too,” as I pointed to myself. After the performance, I got to spend about 10 minutes chatting with all four gentlemen. AND, I got ALL FOUR of them to sign a harmonia mundi Beethoven String Quartet SACD that I had with me. Image below.
9-Sept-2009 – ZZ Top – Morris Performing Arts Center – South Bend, IN
All I can say is that, Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard (all three born in 1949), collectively known as ZZ Top, can STILL tear it up. I have to admit to a soft spot for the earlier works, and when the second and third thing they played that night was the “Waitin’ For The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago” medley, I was NOT unhappy! I apologize for the poor quality of the images, all I had with me that evening was my htc-S621 Windows CE 6.1 phone…
Billy has his “Blues Hat” brought out to him by some local “fans”
Just a bunch of “Bluesmen” who dig rock, they
really entertained the South Bend crowd
27-Mar-2009 – STYX (with special guest, Kansas) – Morris Performing Arts Center – South Bend, IN
I must tell you that these guys, collectively known as STYX, only get better with age. STYX is now Tommy Shaw (ex-Niles, MI resident), James Young, Lawrence Gowan, Todd Sucherman and Ricky Phillips, along with the occasional surprise appearance by original bassist Chuck Panozzo.
During this performance in 2009, Tommy Shaw was 55 years old, and get this, JY was 60! Yet, these two guitar slingers have ONLY GOTTEN BETTER since I saw them in the late 80’s. They fed off each other’s energy, and while being truly thankful for their reception at Morris, strove to please themselves, which is what made the show so BLOODY good.
Here is a listing of some of the more memorable
performances I’ve attended over the years…