When Brent Anderson was at UCSB he sang in the ensemble known as Schubertians, singing classical lieder. And while his career path took him into insurance and finance, he still yearned for the power of song, something at the same time more challenging than 18th century classical vocal works and less rarified.
His answer would be barbershop quartet.
“To be a solo singer is one thing, but to blend and harmonize with three other people is another, very complex, thing,” he says. “When I first discovered barbershop I thought it was fun. But then I discovered it was as challenging as anything I’d ever sung.” He quotes rock musician Ben Folds, who called barbershop the “black belt of vocal jazz.”
The Santa Barbara Bowl has rarely seen a full orchestra on its stage, although Monday night’s visit by the New York Philharmonic proved it can not only fit everybody, but the sound – at least for those not up in the gods- was excellent. Why don’t we do this more often?
That just might be the plan with this event that was arranged through Music Academy of the West, which is the first in the NY Phil’s Global Academy initiative. Maestro Alan Gilbert, since taking over the baton at the New York Philharmonic in 2009, has set about reshaping the orchestra for the 21st century. During his tenure, which will be up in 2017 as per his contract, he’s dusted off what was regarded as a stuffy institution and introduced an element of play. He’s reintroduced audiences to composers like Charles Ives, who still may be too radical for the subscriber base.
There some classical quartets dabble in contemporary composers while making sure to keep some Bach or Beethoven handy, Brooklyn Rider has shown its commitment to the shock of the new by commissioning a whole album of new works and then touring it.
“The Brooklyn Rider Almanac,” released on Mercury Classics this last September, contains an hour’s worth of commissioned works from artists like Bill Frisell, Christina Courtin, Gonzalo Grau and others. Not everybody involved is a classical composer. In fact, at Thursday night’s performance at Hahn Hall, Brooklyn Rider will premiere “Ping Pong Thumble Thaw” by Glenn Kotche, drummer of the rock band Wilco. The work was commissioned by UCSB Arts & Lectures.
He was known in his day as the “African Mahler,” but in 2010, few people know of the composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and not just because his name is so close to that of the famous poet. Although prolific and popular, enthusiasm for his work vanished slowly in the 20th century. But as part of Saturday’s Santa Barbara Music Club afternoon concert, one Santa Barbaran intends to reintroduce audiences to the man’s work.
Steven Schneider has appeared as a pianist at previous Music Club concerts for six years. He came across Coleridge-Taylor’s work not by hearing it, but when he attended a workshop at Humboldt University that specialized in music for large and odd combinations. “I just started looking and digging,” says Schneider. He came across a nonet — a work for nine musicians, a chamber music rarity — by the composer, but soon learned it was very hard to find a published copy. After a call to the Royal College of Music in England, Schneider reached Patrick Meadows, who is considered a Coleridge-Taylor authority and responsible for discovering three lost works, including the nonet, and making them available for performance.
Here’s a secret about the Sydney Opera House: the famed space that was designed to host opera and built for optimum acoustic brilliance—on the photos, the larger of the two cones—has never been used for operas.
“After they completed it, ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Company) decided that it would rather use the space for broadcasting and performing symphonies.” The voice telling me this is Jennifer McGregor, famed soprano whose career started at the Sydney Opera Company.