Monday, February 08, 2016

Metropolian Opera National Council Southeast Region Auditions results

To the winners of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Southeast Region Auditions, held yesterday (Sunday, February 7, 2016) at Spivey Hall, congratulations!
THE RYAN SMITH FIRST PLACE AWARD
Brian Vu – Age 26 – Baritone (North Carolina)
Lauren Feider – Age 23 – Soprano (Florida)
SECOND PLACE AWARD
Aleksandra Romano – Age 27 – Mezzo-soprano (South Carolina)
ENCOURAGEMENT AWARDS
Matthew Reese – Age 27 – Countertenor (North Carolina)
Alan Higgs – Age 28 – Bass-Baritone (Georgia)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Majestic glory from Empire Brass & Alan Morrison

My office at Spivey Hall is separated from the auditorium by several thick walls, but depending on the forces involved, music does find its way through them to my ears. I always know it's Monday afternoon when I hear the Spivey Hall Children's Choir doing its warm-ups, rising in half-steps to reach the high end of their ranges. Already sold-out are the Spivey Hall Children's Choir Program's three concerts this weekend -- our favorite December holiday tradition.  Lucky those who have tickets!  

If you're not among those fortunate folks, there is a waiting list, so call the Box Office at (678) 466-4200 if you're still wanting to experience the joy of beautiful singing from the 120-member Children's Choir (including the 50-member Tour Choir, who with conductor Dr. Martha Shaw and accompanist Judy Mason will be performing on Carnegie Hall's main stage this June). 

We could not be more proud of the musical achievements of all three of our choirs. The Spivey Hall Young Artists also sing their first program of the season this evening at 7 PM. The remarkable work that conductor Craig Hurley and accompanist Marcena Kinney do to develop the talents of our youngest singers is the basis of future artistic growth that supports the ongoing excellence of the entire Children's Choir Program.We are especially grateful to Spivey Hall Concert Sponsors Rob and Judy Mason for their generous support of the three Season 25 Children's Choir Program concerts this month.

But what's coming through the wall now is the utter magnificence of the Empire Brass and Spivey Hall's organist-in-residence Alan Morrison, rehearsing for Saturday's 7:30 PM concert. Their program combines works for all six musicians, the sound of which is sure to impart to any listener a brilliant, expansive sense of glorious splendor! There will also be selections for brass alone, and for solo organ, with the second half dedicated to Christmas music. 

This combination of artists is yet another celebration of Spivey Hall's 25th Anniversary Season. Tickets to HOLIDAY BRASS & ORGAN are still available (click here for program details and online sales). The music they make in Spivey Hall's superb acoustics will be sure to impress and delight. Plus, there will be an abundance of cookies for everyone at intermission as well. My thanks go out to Spivey Hall Friends Concert Sponsors Lauren Benevich and an anonymous donor for their generosity in making this concert possible, as well as Spivey Hall Friends Arne Troelstra and Kate Troelstra for sponsoring Alan Morrison's Season 25 residency.

Now if only the weather would help get us in mood. Saturday's high is forecast for 75 degrees! (But at least it's not an ice storm; Atlanta's roadways, hills, and airport were definitely not designed for ice.) As always, the spirit of the holidays is mostly in our hearts, which music can summon like no other art. May your holidays be filled with great music!


Wednesday, June 03, 2015

"The magic of live performance"

The New York Times reports  that Pierre Audi, known internationally for his work at the Almeida Theatre and the Netherlands Opera, among other prestigious venues, has been named artistic director of New York's Park Avenue Armory.  In the article,, he is quoted as saying:

"Why should people get up from their apartments, leave their computers and go to a live performance? It's really to be moved, to be challenged and that feeling of reaching something very deep, which I think only the magic of live performance can do."

To put this quote in correct context, Mr. Audi is actually describing the large-scale, spectacular style of presentation for which he is renowned, especially in opera -- not recitals in intimate Spivey Hall.

But I think he's absolutely right on target about why people seek out live performing arts experiences. And not just in the sense of what the individual experiences alone, but how a group of individuals responds to the energy of being with others, and the critical dynamic of audience-encountering-artist-encountering-audience, which when the performance rises to great heights cannot be denied.

With The New York Times also reporting on new streaming services being launched by various providers, it's good to have a succinct reminder that not everything is best experienced at home or in front of a screen.

Not that screens or that being at home is bad. I spend enough of my life at work that I really crave time at home. I also really need full immersion in films that capture my attention so I can get a break from other thoughts and preoccupations for a while. Lately I'm more often finding these experience at home than in movie theaters (aaah, Netflix). So I'm definitely not anti-stream or anti-screen.

Still, now that our main-season Spivey presentations are almost wrapped up for the season -- there's still one concert to come on Saturday, June 13, when OurSong: The Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chorus performs STARS, "a musical tribute to those who have championed human rights, as well as to stars who are no longer living but continue to shine brightly in the heavens" -- I'm yearning, after a few weeks' break from weekend concerts, for the deep experiences with music that mean so much to me, and for which in the summer I generally travel.

So tomorrow, I'm eagerly awaiting the Atlanta Symphony's opera-in-concert performance of Saint-Saens' Samson et Dalila with, in the title roles, the phenomenal Australian heldentenor Stuart Skelton and the magnificent American mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe.

It was with the Sydney Symphony in Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) by Mahler that I first heard Stuart Skelton, at the Sydney Opera House just before the SSO and then-chief conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy were about to tour Europe. Skelton gave one of those hair-raisingly fantastic performances in which nothing was wanting. (I'm certain it wasn't just jet-lag making me more susceptible to emotional swings.) I adore this piece, and in each song, he was fully, completely, intensely, at times ferociously, in character, and in the moment. In excellent and thrilling voice, he was channeling the spirit of Mahler's settings of German translations of Chinese poetry. When not standing and singing, he was sitting, taut, swaying, eyes closed, enraptured, following every note of the orchestra and the mezzo on stage with him. This compelling performance is indelibly etched in my consciousness -- the most deeply satisfying artistic reward of making the trip from Atlanta, otherwise made joyful by seeing friends and former colleagues. I'm totally primed for his Samson. Bring it on...

Just a few months ago, Stephanie Blythe made her long-awaited Spivey Hall debut (see ArtsATL.com review here ) in a cabaret program with pianist Warren Jones -- also a deliciously personal, in-the-moment, wonderfully be-here-now experience, start to finish. A superb artist, rare human being, and musical force of nature is she. When some years back I heard her sing the Verdi Requiem with the Atlanta Symphony and Chorus years back, her sumptuously dramatic sound moved through me physically. There's nothing quite like the impact of the human voice. I am more than ready for "Mon coeur s'oeuvre" and the other deep pleasures that I know she, the ASO, Robert Spano, and Saint-Saens' music can deliver.

Bravo, Mr. Audi, for your words, and good luck in New York -- I expect you'll be getting lots of people out of their apartments and away from their computers, for all the right reasons.

[P.S. to faithful readers: Have you done your "Tin Angel" listening? See previous post. The explication blogpost detailing ways of listening to song that apply to Joni Mitchel and Franz Schubert alike is coming soon. Give a listen also to the opening song of Schubert's Winterreise.]

[P.P.S: This post first appeared earlier today but had to be deleted due to unintended misadventures in HTML errors that were too complex to fix.]