Friday, October 31, 2008

Reviews of our Masterworks series opener

Click the following three links to read two reviews of Saturday night's concert featuring Jaime Laredo, Augustin Hadelich, and Joseph Schwantner. The third link will take you to a story from Seven Days about the YoPros.

Jim Lowe's review in the Times Argus

Paul Orgel's review from Classical Voice of New England

"Classically Awesome" by Matt Scanlon for Seven Days

Post your review below by posting a comment.
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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Program Notes: October 25

On October 25, the VSO will begin its two-year 75th Anniversary celebration with "Music of Our Time." The 2008/2009 Masterworks series will feature music written only in the last 74 years, or the lifetime of the VSO. The program notes have been included here. For bios of Augustin Hadelich and Joseph Schwantner, scroll down to the posts featuring each guest artist.

Chasing Light…
Joseph Schwantner

One of the special pleasures of living in rural New Hampshire is experiencing the often brilliant and intense early morning sunrises, reminding one of Thoreau’s words, “Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me” (Walden). Chasing Light… draws its spirit, energy and inspiration from the celebration of vibrant colors and light that penetrate the morning mist as it wafts through the trees in the high New England hills. Like a delicate dance, those images intersected with a brief original poem that helped fire my musical imagination.

Chasing Light…

Beneath the sickle moon,
sunrise ignites daybreak’s veil
Calliope’s rainbowed song
cradles heaven’s arc
piercing shadowy pines,
a kaleidoscope blooms
morning’s embrace
confronts the dawn

The four-movement work, about eighteen minutes in duration, proceeds from one movement to the next without pause. Each movement’s subtitle is associated with a pair of lines from the poem.

Mvt. I: “Sunrise Ignites Daybreak’s Veil” (Con forza, feroce con bravura) opens with an introduction containing three forceful and diverse ideas presented by full orchestra: (1) a low rhythmic and percussive pedal point on “F” followed by (2) a three-note triplet figure in the brass overlaid by (3) a rapid swirling cascade of arch-like upper woodwind phrases cast in a stretto-like texture. These primary elements form the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic materials developed in the work.

Following the introduction, the strings present a theme derived from the pedal point rhythmic gesture and the brass three-note figure leading to an extended series of upward thrusting six-note sonorities and a long increasing assertive line (first brass, then later strings and woodwinds) partitioned into two parts. The movement ends with a return to the introductory material and a sustained pitch on “G” providing a link to the next movement.

Mvt. II: “Calliope’s Rainbowed Song” (lontano) The rapid arched woodwind phrases in the introduction to the first movement, occur in a variety of divergent contexts throughout the work, not only as small scale gestures but in larger more extended designs. Cast in a major arch-like palindrome form, this movement begins softly, first with solo clarinet followed by a repeated piano sonority that forms the structure of a theme played by solo flute. Gradually, this theme builds to an exuberant midpoint, followed by sections that appear in reverse order finally ending quietly and gently with solo clarinet and a high ethereal violin harmonic on “A” that carries over to the third movement.

Mvt. III: “A Kaleidoscope Blooms” (lacrimoso) a slow expressive and elegiac movement for oboe (for Andrea Lenz, principal oboe of the Reno Chamber Orchestra), opens with a low dark repeated pedal played by piano, contrabass and tam-tam. Sudden rapid woodwind gestures contrast and frame a succession of gradually ascending oboe phrases that accumulate ever-greater urgency as the music approaches its maximum intensity at the end.

Mvt. IV: “Morning’s Embrace Confronts the Dawn” (lontano…leggiero) The rapid and aggressive woodwind phrases in the first movement now emerge in delicate and shimmering string textures. These earlier elements prepare for a stately but urgent chorale theme that builds forcefully to the palindromic music of the third movement, the introductory materials of the first, and a final climatic conclusion.

Chasing Light… a “Ford Made in America” Commission, the largest commissioning consortium in the United States involving some fifty-eight orchestras in all fifty States, is a Partnership Program of the League of American Orchestras and Meet the Composer, generously funded by the Ford Motor Company Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts with additional support from the Aaron Copland Fund, Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts and the Amphion Foundation.

Known for his dramatic and unique style and as a gifted orchestral colorist, Joseph Schwantner is one of the most prominent American composers today. He received his musical and academic training at the Chicago Conservatory and Northwestern University and has served on the faculties of The Juilliard School, Eastman School of Music, and the Yale School of Music, simultaneously establishing himself as a sought after composition instructor. Schwantner's compositional career has been marked by many awards, grants, and fellowships, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for his orchestral composition Aftertones of Infinity and several Grammy nominations. Among his many commissions is his Percussion Concerto, which was commissioned for the 150th anniversary season of the New York Philharmonic and is one of the most performed concert works of the past decade. Schwantner is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Schwantner’s music is published exclusively by Schott Helicon Music Corporation and recorded on the RCA Red Seal/BMG, Hyperion, Naxos, Koch International Classics, EMI/Virgin, Sony, Delos, New World Records, Klavier and Innova labels. Schwantner’s recent commissions include works for the 75th anniversary of the National Symphony Orchestra, eighth blackbird, Flute Force, a work for flute and piano to honor flutist, Sam Baron’s memory and a Concerto for Percussion Section, Timpani and Orchestra for the Percussive Arts Society and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, for the Society’s 50th anniversary.

Ballet Suite from Estancia
Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983)

Alberto Ginastera was born in Buenos Aires and died in Geneva. Educated in Buenos Aires, his professional career included teaching positions at Argentine conservatories and universities, several years in the USA, and the directorship of the Latin American Center for Advanced Musical Studies. He is celebrated as one the foremost composers of his generation from the Americas, and a number of his works, such as his first string quartet, the harp concerto, and several symphonic works, have achieved a permanent place in the international repertory. The ballet Estancia is one of Ginastera's earlier mature works. An earlier ballet, Panambí, composed in 1937 when Ginastera was still a student, impressed the New York ballet impresario Lincoln Kirstein, who commissioned Estancia in 1941 for a planned South American tour by his company. Unfortunately, the troupe disbanded in 1942, and the work had to wait ten years for a stage premiere. In the meantime, Ginastera extracted the suite of four dances heard here. The ballet depicts the work of a single day, from dawn to the following dawn, on an estancia, or Argentine ranch. During the course of the day, a country woman rejects a suitor from the city until he demonstrates that he can work as hard as the gauchos.

In style, the music falls in the main stream of the mid-twentieth century, drawing particularly on early Stravinsky and Bartok, and bearing a similarity to some works of Aaron Copland, who became a friend of Ginastera's. Ginastera builds each movement from short, relatively simple, folk-like modal melodic ideas often of primarily rhythmic interest. Indeed, rhythm is of central importance; seemingly all the instruments of the orchestra are used at times as extensions of the percussion. The first dance, Los trabajadores agricolas ("The Farm Workers"), from the "morning" sequence of the ballet, introduces the laborers with rapid, energetic music full of ostinatos, cross-rhythms, and a large battery of percussion. Danza del trigo ("Wheat Dance") is a mostly quieter episode that builds to a lyrical climax, but with an ever-present pulse in pizzicato strings and pulsing winds. Los peones de hacienda ("The Cattlemen") is another fast dance, switching bewilderingly among different meters, in which the influence of The Rite of Spring is clearly audible. The suite, like the entire ballet, ends with a malambo, or competitive dance, in which the gauchos strive to outdo one another with increasingly vigorous steps. Ginastera made a specialty of adapting the malambo for concert music. The malambo from Estancia is a characteristic example, with an unrelenting and precipitous rhythmic drive that builds in intensity through a series of varied episodes and leaves the listeners -- and no doubt the dancers as well -- breathless.

--Nathaniel Lew

Violin Concerto No. 1 in a minor
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

This work was written in 1947-48, under the shadow of the repressive cultural measures of Stalin’s regime. Because of the composer’s denunciation by Stalin, it was not performed until 1955. The dedicatee, David Oistrakh, who also premiered the work, commented on the “depth of its artistic content” and described the solo part as “a pithy Shakespearian role.” He also characterized the first movement as “a suppression of feelings” and the second as “demoniac.” There are four movements, with a cadenza linking the final two.

Nocturne: Moderato – A semi-homage to the first movement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto. Anguish and apprehension are conveyed in the deep tones of bass clarinet and contrabassoon.

Scherzo: Allegro – Notable for its pent-up energy and also for the near-complete statement of what was to become Shostakovich’s personal musical signature: the motif D, Eb, C, B, which--using the German letters--spells D-S-C-H, representing the composer himself.

Passacaglia: Andante – Includes a somber utilization of the fate motif from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, first heard in the horns, and elaborated upon in the cadenza.

Burlesque: Allegro con brio/Presto – A ferocious dance in contrast with the sensitive communing found in the slow movements. The theme in the solo violin’s entrance resembles the solo flute entrance in Stravinsky’s Petrouchka.

The Violin Concerto is one of the pieces that has enjoyed a resurgence of attention with the celebration of the composer’s centenary, though it remains a technical (and musical) challenge.

Keep reading!

Yo Pro Lingo

Megan McIntosh Frenzen is a member of the VSO's Champlain Valley Friends board of volunteer leadership, is a professor at Champlain College, and is a YoPro, a network of young professionals in the greater Burlington area that Meg has personally organized to rally on nights when the VSO is playing at the Flynn. Read on for her entertaining letter to the group and a video supporting the research she has done on the program. A quick vocabulary lesson... "dope" means "great."

Dear YoPro:

I sure hope you’re free on Saturday, October 25th… because I have some plans for you!

It’s time to rally it up and support our local arts – by the way, I’m pretty sure I saw you at the Art Hop, wearing nothing but tassels and body paint… (and looking great), but let’s not forget about those old school classical arts – even if there aren’t belly dancers on site.

C’mon, get together with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s Young Professionals Group on October 25th. Are you wondering if you, or anyone you know, could be considered a ‘Young Professional’? Remember, if you’re under 60 years of age and not in jail (parole, OK) – you’re in!! What a great opportunity to hang with old friends, make some new ones, and support locally made music.

Beginning at 6:30pm… enjoy discounted small plates at the Green Room, a lovely joint where you can even cocktail like a localvore with a Sunshine Vodka martini! And, by the way, you don’t have to know a THING about classical music to enjoy FABULOUS company, good food and great music. Trust me.

Sold? Good.

Call Ann at 864-5741 ext. 10 right now and get your tickets – don’t forget to mention that you’re a YoPro to get our 20% discount and seating in our section – yeah, that's right, our tickets are only $36, for a classy night at the symphony, that ain’t bad. If you know any students, please pass the word along to them – their tickets are only $9. I know that’s like 2 weeks’ worth of Ramen noodles, but still… it’s SO worth going hungry to see these guys play.

WHAT: The YoPros go to the symphony.

WHEN: Saturday Oct. 25th. Pre-Game at 6:30pm, Concert at 8:00pm.

WHERE: Green Room (followed by a short walk) & the Flynn Theater

HOW: Foxy. No holes in your Carharts, maybe a button or two on your shirt, basic hygiene preferable.

WHY: Duh. To be awesome, why else?

If you’re interested (or bored at work) read on for details about the concert…. If you’re not interested, or not bored at work, just call Ann ASAP and get set up for the 25th.

Can’t wait to see you!


Chief YoPro and Social Facilitator

Musical notes...

Generally speaking, classical composers are dead. Maybe that’s what makes them ‘classical’. Anyway, imagine my surprise when I hear that the VSO is dedicating a Masterworks season to 'Music of Our Time' – everything the VSO is playing has been written SINCE 1935, which suggests that some of these dudes might even be *gasp* alive.

So, the concert on the 25th is going to be dope. Jaime Laredo (who happens to be tres cool) will be conducting (that’s the guy with the stick), and this super young violinist (Augustin Hadelich) is going to be the guest soloist – just to remind us all how much talent we lack.

The first piece is called “Chasing Light...' and was written in 2008 *gasp again*by Joseph Schwantner. Holy crap! He’s still alive… he has a website:, he lives in the upside down Vermont (that would be New Hampshire) AND will be at the Flynn when the VSO plays his piece (no pressure). Anyway, it seems Joe is an early riser since this piece ‘draws its spirit, energy and inspiration from the celebration of vibrant colors and light that penetrate the morning mist as it wafts through the trees in the high New England hills’. Hmm… I’ve seen that before. Usually, after a late night (not an early morning), but none-the-less, I’ve seen it. What qualifies this guy to write classical music about such things? Well, he worked his tail off at the Chicago Conservatory and Northwestern University and has served on the faculties of The Juilliard School, Eastman School of Music and the Yale School of Music. He’s won all sorts of awards (read: Pulitzer Prize in 1979, not kidding) and has had several Grammy nominations. Yup, that’s qualified.

The second treat of the night was composed by Alberto Ginastera in 1941. Sadly, he passed away in 1983. 'Estancia: Ballet Suite' is a four-movement suite drawn from his 1941 ballet Estancia, which was inspired by his life on the ranches of Argentina. And here’s a fascinating little tidbit from Wiki for you…

“The progressive rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer brought Ginastera attention outside of modern classical music circles when they adapted the fourth movement of his first piano concerto and recorded it on their popular album Brain Salad Surgery under the title 'Toccata.' They recorded the piece not only with Ginastera's permission, but with his endorsement. In 1973, when they were recording the album, Keith Emerson met with Ginastera at his home in Switzerland and played a recording of his arrangement for him. Ginastera is reported to have said, 'Diabolical!'. Emerson misunderstood Ginastera's meaning: Ginastera spoke almost no English and meant that their interpretation was frightening, which had been his intent when he wrote it; Emerson, being British, took it to mean 'awful'. Emerson was so upset that he was prepared to scrap the piece until Ginastera's wife intervened saying that he approved. Ginastera later said, 'You have captured the essence of my music, and no one's ever done that before.'

To wrap up the evening, the VSO will play the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Dmitri Shostakovich which was composed in 1948. This guy wrote his stuff under Soviet rule in the 1930s and 40s… not the best situation for an artist of any kind. In fact, his largely miserable relationship with the Soviet government led to two official denunciations of his music and the periodic banning of his work. Oooops. Denunciation is one thing – full out banning means you’re really doing something right! This particular piece is often described as ‘ferocious’ – and we’re talking about an orchestra – so that certainly means something... After a brooding opening movement (think McCain after the Couric interview), the orchestra ramps up to this crazy violin thing – in fact, violinists are prone to snapping bowstrings as they get after it in this ultra intense piece. I’m guessing they didn’t have shrinks in Mother Russia back then – cause this guy was working out some issues for sure, and it’s awesome.

Can’t wait to see you at the Green Room!

Meg McIntosh Frenzen

Emerson, Lake, and Palmer performing Ginastera's Toccata

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Friday, October 10, 2008

August musicianship

Augustin Hadelich will be with us on Masterworks opening night, October 25. He will be playing Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1. The young star has had an important year in his career, including a debut at Carnegie Hall in March and a critically-acclaimed stand-in performance with the LA Phil. Read the story here. We look forward to welcoming Augustin at the end of the month. Check back for an interview with the rising star.

Watch the following video of Augustin performing Bartók at the 2006 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis (incidentally, he won).

Gold medalist of the 2006 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, Augustin Hadelich has established himself as an eloquent and unique voice among the new generation of violinists. Articulate and stylistically convincing throughout the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary repertoires, his versatility is astonishing. In the words of The Strad magazine, “Thankfully the evening closed with a performance worth waiting for…Hadelich showed his superlative musicianship in a daring performance of Mozart’s lesser-known Concerto No. 2, in which he presented cadenzas of striking originality.”

The Indianapolis competition’s first-prize package included $30,000, a four-year loan of the 1683 ex-Gingold Stradivari violin and Tourte bow, a Naxos label compact disc recording contract, and more than forty concert engagements worldwide, including a U.S. and international tour entitled “Pure Gold” with Chinese pianist Yingdi Sun, winner of the 2005 International Franz Liszt Piano Competition of Holland. Mr. Hadelich also received special awards for best performances of a Romantic concerto, Classical concerto, Beethoven sonata, violin sonata other than Beethoven, Bach work, commissioned work, encore piece and Paganini caprice.

In January 2008, Augustin Hadelich made his Carnegie Hall orchestral debut, performing the Brahms Double Concerto under Miguel Harth-Bedoya, with cellist Alban Gerhardt and the Fort Worth Symphony. This was followed by his Carnegie Hall solo recital debut on March 28, 2008 in Stern Auditorium. At Lincoln Center in November 2007, Mr. Hadelich presented a solo recital at the Reade Theater followed by a collaboration with Midori at the Rose Theater in May 2008.

Other upcoming and recent performances include appearances with the symphonies of Charlotte, Chautauqua, Columbus (OH), Fort Worth, Grand Rapids, Greenville, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Louisiana, Louisville, Portland (ME), and Santa Barbara, as well as the Iris Chamber Orchestra (TN) and the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern. Mr. Hadelich will be collaborating with renowned conductors such as Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Günther Herbig, Christoph Perick, Christoph Poppen, Stefan Sanderling, Michael Stern and Mario Venzago. Outside the U.S., engagements have included the Capetown Philharmonic, Dresdner Philharmonie, Museumsorchester Frankfurt, Orquestra Sinfônica do Teatro Nacional Claudio Santoro (Brazil), Staatsorchester Stuttgart, Südwestdeutsche Philharmonie Konstanz, and the chamber orchestras of Bavaria, Berlin, Hamburg, Kiel, Lucerne, Pforzheim and Toulouse.

The 2007/08 season marked Mr. Hadelich’s professional recording debut with three CDs: the complete solo violin fantasies of Telemann and the complete violin concerti of Haydn for Naxos; and a recital CD with pianist Robert Kulek on the award-winning label AVIE.

Born in Italy in 1984, the son of German parents, Augustin Hadelich holds a diploma (summa cum laude) from the Instituto Mascagni in Livorno, Italy, as well as a graduate diploma and the coveted Artist Diploma from The Juilliard School, where he was a student of Joel Smirnoff. He has been a participant at the Marlboro and Ravinia festivals and in numerous master classes with renowned violinists such as Uto Ughi, Christoph Poppen, Norbert Brainin, Pinchas Zukerman, Zachar Bron, Yehudi Menuhin and Miriam Fried.

Keep reading!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Meet Joe Schwantner and reacquaint yourself with Ford Made in America

The opening night of our 2008/2009 Masterworks season is just around the corner. This season, we celebrate Music of Our Time, that is, music written in the VSO's lifetime (1935-present). While some concert-goers might shudder to think the coming season features nary a piece by Beethoven, Mozart, or Brahms, the educated listener will recognize many of the pieces and their tunes on each program. The uneducated listener will at least recognize "Hoedown" from Aaron Copland's Rodeo as the theme music for the beef industry's famous ad campaign.

The VSO is again participating in the Ford Made in America commissioning project. Read more about it here. The VSO will host the east coast premiere on October 25. The piece is Chasing Light..., by Joseph Schwantner. Some VSO regulars might remember the first FMIA commission, Made in America by Joan Tower. Did you know the recording of this piece by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin won a Grammy in 2008?

The Reno Chamber Orchestra had the pleasure of presenting the world premiere of Chasing Light... on September 20. You can read the review here. Some of the highlights of the review are excerpted here:

"...Joseph Schwantner's "Chasing Light..." is the new piece on the block, and it's a dramatic work embracing a broad sweep of orchestral colorations and textures."

"Schwantner uses clusters of sound like building blocks piled one on top of another to whip up climaxes of epic proportions, then intersperses those explosive moments with hauntingly lovely, reflective interludes. Schwantner's music, at once powerful and reflective, is about the creation of mood and emotion."

The folks at Ford Made in America have produced a series of videos about the project, the piece, and Joe Schwantner. The following video introduces us to the composer.

Keep reading!

SymphonyKids Spotlight: Ford Made in America

How do composers afford their living expenses? I'm sure many teach. Maybe they work a "real" job. Then there are commissions. A commission is when someone pays a composer to write a piece of music for a particular ensemble. Sometimes there are other parameters within which the composer must work. The Ford Made in America Project is an initiative that celebrates music, creativity, and communities nationwide. This partnership of 58 small-budget orchestras has commissioned award-winning composer Joseph Schwantner to write Chasing Light.... With the composer at the core, this program offers orchestras resources that enhance their engagement with communities, deepen their involvement with young people and promote their mastery of the music of our time. So how is it linked with our SymphonyKids Educational Outreach programs?

The organizations responsible for making all of this happen, the League of American Orchestras and Meet The Composer, have created a toolkit to help orchestras make the most of the Ford Made in America project. Included in that toolkit are two educational activities linked to Chasing Light.... The curriculum is aligned with national music standards and is designed to be accessible to teachers and students along the K-12 continuum.

Click here to access the materials on our website.

Here's a video about the instrument building activity included in the materials.

Watch the complete series of videos on instrument building here.
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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bigger is(n't always) better: I toured with a harpsichord

The following is a discourse written by harpsichordist Gregory Hayes, who recently toured with the VSO playing Vivaldi's The Four Seasons as part of the 2008 Made in Vermont Music Festival statewide tour. Read on about his adventures hauling his harpsichord around the state.

In September of 1700 the Parisian harpsichord builder Jean Marius received a Royal Patent for his clavecin brisé, or folding harpsichord. Also known as a traveling harpsichord, this was a strange-looking contraption in three pieces that were hinged together and could be folded up to resemble a modest wooden box. (Think of a right-angle triangle with the hypotenuse approximating the bentside of a miniature harpsichord. The treble corner folds back on the rest to make a large rectangle, and then the rectangle folds over on itself along the long axis to make a narrower one that’s twice as deep.)

Apparently Frederick the Great owned one of these and took it with him on journeys and military campaigns. There are no contemporary accounts of how well it worked or what it sounded like. It had no descendants, and no one else tried to make one. There may be a reason for this. Harpsichords, after all, weren’t meant to travel. They were stationary instruments (especially the big two-manual ones) that resided in the salons and concert spaces of royal palaces and in the homes of wealthy burghers.

Jump now to the 21st century, when palaces are in short supply (especially in Vermont) but audiences enjoy hearing orchestral works by Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and others. Those pieces almost invariably call for a keyboard that doubles the bass line and provides harmonic support by way of a shorthand system known as figured bass. In the baroque era that instrument was an organ (especially for sacred music) or harpsichord. In the early and mid-20th century a piano would suffice (and in some circumstances can still serve honorably), but nowadays more often than not you bring in a harpsichordist.

And, usually, a harpsichord. Mine is a double-manual instrument based on one built by the French maker Pascal Taskin in 1753. I put it together some 30 years ago from a Hubbard kit. Long ago I took my name off it because I had it rebuilt (twice) by professionals who tweaked it in mysterious ways to enhance its sound, mechanism, and stability. Among certain orchestra managers it is known as Big Red. It has a lot of sonic miles on it—probably about as many as my van (in excess of 208,000). Things go wrong now and then, and I carry with it a huge case stuffed with extra wire and odd tools, a few of them homemade. Here an obscure corollary of the Peter Principle seems to be in effect: as long as I lug the toolbag in with me, nothing will go awry.

But there’s always the matter of tuning. Orchestra conductors and players quite reasonably expect this interloper in their midst to play in tune. But harpsichords are fickle this way, much more so than their big, black, iron-framed successor, the piano. My very first orchestral engagement as a harpsichordist was with the Springfield (MA) Symphony, conducted on the occasion by a guest, the venerable Alexander Schneider. I dutifully moved the instrument in early and tuned it thoroughly. The piece in which I was playing came along well into the rehearsal. We began; things ground to a halt shortly and maestro Schneider glared at me. The harpsichord was noticeably—painfully—flat, and still sinking. I had not taken into account the intensely bright stage lighting in Symphony Hall, which had heated up and dried out the porous spruce of the harpsichord’s soundboard sufficiently to make the bridges descend a bit, thereby loosening the strings and causing the pitch to drop precipitously. I learned my lesson, just as I have when the humidity increases (from a rainstorm, or when the evening damps descend upon an outdoor venue) and things go in the opposite direction. One develops all sorts of ploys, taking into account the weather, the time of day (and year), the lighting, and the likelihood of the orchestral strings going up a bit in the course of the concert (though they will deny this). And you move it in early and tune it a lot--before the soundcheck, before the concert, and a touch--up at halftime. And hope for the best. From the harpsichord tuner’s perspective the up side of the VSO’s Made in Vermont tour is that it takes place in the fall, when the weather tends to be crisp and fairly stable, tending gradually in the directions of cooler and drier. There were, however, a few venues with very hot stage lighting. The Vergennes Opera House gets the toasted soundboard prize, with the Arkell Pavilion (Southern Vermont Arts Center, Manchester) coming in a close second.

Speaking of Opera Houses: these elegant edifices have been the most charming and intimate settings for our performances. These are also centrally located in their small towns. Bless the civic sensibility of Vermont citizens (especially a few wealthy ones) who, a century or more ago, deemed it important to devote prime urban real estate not to football, or hockey, or big box stores, but…to opera.

That said, a harpsichord mover in Vermont quickly learns to associate the name “opera house” with challenges best addressed with some ingenuity and a strong back. The Haskell Opera House, situated atop the Haskell Library and astride the U.S.-Canadian border in Derby Line, offers a uniquely entertaining circumstance: the orchestra sits onstage in Canada, playing to an audience largely situated in the United States. It also offers some tight corners and stage access for harpsichords only via a two-story staircase. Here, as in nine other venues, tour manager Craig Chipman’s assistance (with an occasional helping hand from Eleanor or Rebecca) was invaluable.

And what’s at the other end of all this fuss and bother? For me, a chance to play great music with an accomplished and congenial group of musicians (not to mention a world-class soloist) in beautiful surroundings, both indoors and out. Not only is it a fair trade: I come out ahead.

Gregory Hayes
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Meet Sarah Hicks

Sarah Hicks will be conducting the January 24 Masterworks program and the January 25 Sunday Matinee Series program. The young Asian-American woman is an anomaly in the field of conducting due not only to her demographic, but also due to her approach to programming.

Read an article on Sarah Hicks at Minnesota Monthly.

Listen to an interview with Sarah Hicks by KUNR.

Stay Tuned for an interview with Sarah Hicks to be posted on this blog in January.
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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Episode 4: Sandi Macleod and the Vermont MIDI Project

The purpose of the Vermont MIDI Project is to encourage and support students in composing and arranging music. A community of professional composers, teachers, pre-service educators, and students engage in mentoring and online discussion of student work. In this episode of Vermont Music Now, host and VSO New Music Advisor and Composer-in-Residence David Ludwig chats with Sandi Macleod, Program Coordinator for the Vermont MIDI Project.

Keep reading!