Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

THE SUBJECT IS MUSIC

June 9, 2019

Let’s Discuss

Chapter 3

The Symphony

 

In my lifetime, I have seen a decline in audiences that attend symphonic concerts. Not too many years ago, when the Columbus Symphony
Orchestra performed at the 2,700 seat Three Arts Theater, formally the Royal movie and stage show theater, the theater was almost
filled for every concert. Not only were the audiences large,they were dressed well, the wearing men suits and ties and ladies in their
Sunday bests.Now, in the beautiful, state of the art almost 2,000 seat Bill Heard Theater at the River Center, there are many empty
seats. Also, many attendees just don’t bother to dress up any more. That’s certainly not because of the quality of the orchestra,
because, in my view, it is superb.

It’s true that back in the Three Arts Theater,  days there were not as many competing musical events as now. The Columbus State University Schwob School off Music offers many free concerts, some by the school’s Philharmonic Orchestra, an excellent  full-sized student symphony orchestra.  Except for Kaleidoscope, when all students in the Schwob School participate, the Philharmonic does not use the Bill Heard Theater. It performs in the much smaller Legacy Hall.  Still, I think the professional Columbus Symphony should be attracting more patrons. Hopefully, the upcoming season will draw larger crowds again.  Director George Del Gobbo makes a very good case for your participation. More on that in Chapter 4.

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THE SUBJECT IS MUSIC

May 27, 2019

L e t ‘ s D I s c u s s

Chapter 1 — Marching Bands

The man with the baton, whose picture I took a few years ago, and I have something in common. He was leading the Williamsburg Drum and Fife Corps, representing the very first U.S. Army marching musical units. They started during the American Revolutionary War. Over time woodwinds and brass were added to become the Army bands like the 30th Army Band that I led as drum major in Munich.

Richmond 162

Fife and Drum Corps, WIlliamsburg, VA

It was a very good band. After all, Army bands are made up of professional musicians. The Fort Benning Maneuver Center of Excellence Band is truly impressive right now, not only on parade, but in concert, also. Let me hastily add, the Munich band was quite good not because of me. My MOS was “percussionist.” I was good enough to know that I was outclassed by the rest of the section. However, I think I was quite proficient as a drum major, so I didn’t feel guilty about my musician status. That’s because I had been legendary band director Bob Barr’s first male Jordan Vocational High School Red Jacket Band drum major. He accepted nothing less than a student’s absolutely best effort. And, not only did I lead the band in football game halftime shows, I led it in ROTC Pass in Review parades, so I already knew how to do that. As a side note, when he learned I wanted to be a radio announcer, he introduced me to WDAK’s Ed Snyder, a savvy announcer who had a degree in broadcasting from the University of Alabama. Ed became my mentor and helped me land my first job in broadcasting at WDAK in 1948. Pardon the digression. Back to the subject, marching bands.

Then, there is the college marching band. My experience there is quite limited. In the early 1950s, I was in the Mercer University ROTC band. It was the school’s only band at the time, formed when I was there to play for ROTC parades. I played snare drum in that one. Maybe someone reading this has big time college band experiences to tell us about, bands like Georgia’s, Auburn’s, Alabama’s, Tech’s, etc. I have four great-nephews and one great- niece who played at Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. I don’t know if any of them will see this, though.

If I get any comments on this way too long post, I’ll continue the series. The symphony will be Chapter 2.

Musical Chairs Make a Big Difference

November 20, 2017

Cameron Bean, Executive Director of Development for Columbia s State University, with Col. (Ret.) Hal J. and Marie A.Gibson standing by the new display for their donation of the Distinguished Chair in Conducting for the Schwob School of Music.

No doubt, one of the main reasons that the Schwob School of Music attracts extraordinarily talented student musicians from all over the world is that it has world-class instructors. And one of the main reasons is they are paid well, thanks to a large number of endowed chairs funded by generous benefactors.  Faculty members who are honored with Chairs in Music get significant supplements to their salaries.

Schwob Wind Ensemble conducted by Jamie L. Nix, The Hal J. Gibson Distinguished Chair in Conducting,

The latest faculty member to receive that honor is Jamie L. Nix, Conductor of the Schwob Wind Ensemble, thanks to Hal J. and Marie L. Gibson.  Cameron Bean, Executive Director of Development for Columbus State University, announced the addition of the Hal J. Gibson Distinguished Chair in Conducting at the Schwob Wind Ensemble Kick-off Concert for the 20th Anniversary CSU Conductors Workshop.  Bean said that Col. (Ret.) Hal Gibson is a retired Schwob School of Music faculty member, who, after leading the U.S.. Army Field Band and the United States Armed Forces Bicentennial Band, came to then Columbus College in 1976 to develop the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, gaining national recognition and acclaim for the Columbus State University band program. He retired from CSU in 1991. The Legacy Hall audience gave the Gibsons a standing ovation.

Col. Gibson and I had a nostalgic conversation during intermission. I got to know him when I accepted an invitation from him to emcee one of his Symphonic Wind Ensemble’s concerts. On June 1st. 1981, he reenacted a John Phillip Sousa concert at the Springer Opera House.  That was special for me because my mother, Sara McMichael, was in the audience. I informed the audience that she had actually attended  Sousa’s last concert at the Springer on February 18, 1922.

The 2nd balcony is used now for lighting, but it was built as a segregated balcony for African-Americans back in Jim Crow days. There was a second box office and flight of stairs that led to it.

The only seats left when her father decided to take her – she was about 11 years old – were in the second balcony, which was called the “peanut gallery” back then. That balcony was actually for “colored” patrons at that time.  However, for the Sousa performance, the high demand for tickets by whites led the Springer to close the second balcony to African-Americans and open it for whites. That was the way it was prior to 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed by Congress, ending racial segregation in public facilities.

CSO Beethoven Opener was a Winner

September 19, 2016
George Del Gobbo, Music Director and Conductor of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra

George Del Gobbo, Music Director and Conductor of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra

To me, the litmus test for a symphony orchestra is how well it masters the classical music master Beethoven. Saturday night the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, in my view, definitely mastered the master.

It didn’t hurt that it had a world-class concert pianist to dazzle us. Swiss-born American pianist Gilles Vonsattel’s rendition of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37 was…well… breathtaking. I didn’t know anyone could  move their fingers that  fast.  Judging from the standing ovation he got, I would say that the audience was transported.  I know I was .

Once, when rehearsing the Bob Barr Community Band, retired legendary public school music educator George Corridino, not pleased with the way the band was playing the Sousa classic Stars and Stripes Forever, told the band that it simply could not get  away with not playing that song well. “Everybody in the world knows that song! They’ll know you’re not playing it right.”  When it comes to Beethoven, it’s probably Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67.  That’s the one that its first four notes have the same rhythm as the Morse code’s “V.” The British used it to stand for “victory” during World War II. I remember that. I was 14 when World War II ended.  To put it mildly, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra nailed it.

It was really good to hear CSO Executive Director Cameron Bean announce before the concert that there were 200 middle school students in the balcony. Leter, he told me a sponsor made that possible. It’s really important to expose young people to the sound of a live full symphony orchestra.  I was 15 when I first heard one. The Three Arts League brought the Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra to Columbus.  A wealthy Columbus lady bought tickets for all members of  the Jordan and Columbus High bands. We sat on the first and second rows.  I have loved live symphonic music from that moment on.

Some May Just Like Symphonic Music and Not Know It

September 5, 2016

CSO OScars

Symphonic music is highbrow, stuff for the snooty social elite, some think. For an example of that not being the case, look no further than movie music.  D.W. Griffith’s 1915  silent blockbuster Birth of a Nation  featured a symphonic score played by a live orchestra. Like many film score composers, Joseph Breil adapted some classical music for the film, using, for instance, passages from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 and Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries.

For a modern example,  composer, conductor, and pianist John Williams wrote symphonic scores for Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Indiana Jones, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park and three Harry Potter films.

It’s impressive on the big sound systems in movie theaters. But, to me, better when played by a live orchestra. The Columbus Symphony Orchestra demonstrated that last year with its highly successful John Williams concert. The orchestra is going to give us more memorable movie music this year. CSO at the Oscars features such blockbuster scores as James  Bond, Out of Africa, Lawrence of Arabia, and many more including a repeat of the John Williams’ Star Wars composition.

CSO AMerican Icons

The other pops concert this season will be American Icons: Words of our Nation. Musical tributes will be paid to the flag, jazz, bluegrass, baseball, cowboys, and the Grand Canyon and, iconic Americans like Martin Luther King, Jr,  John Wayne, Lincoln, and Elvis, featuring the music of Aaron Copland, John Williams, Ferde Grofe, and others.

The season will feature great classics also. The opener on September 17th is Beethoven’s Fifth, which also features his Piano Concerto no. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37, and Consecration of the House Overture, Op. 67.

There will also be concerts featuring the music of Mozart, Chopin, Brahms, Saint-Saens, Strauss, and Prokofiev and others.

So, join me at the River Center for a super CSO season.

For more info go to www.csoga.org.

 

 

Stage Floors Matter, Too

February 20, 2016

Maybe not a lot last night because there very few people sitting in the mezzanine of the Bill Heard Theater. But, for those few of us who were there, we got a very good view of a pretty messy stage floor apron.  The turn-out for the Rising Stars of the Metropolitan Opera concert was not impressive.  The three sopranos, a baritone, and a pianist/emcee were quite impressive. Too bad  so few people were there to hear  them. I guess not many Columbus folks are into opera concerts. They do seem to show up more when a popular opera with a pit orchestra and sets play the  Heard. There were good crowds for Madam Butterfly and Carmen when road companies brought them to town. I know, because I was there.

Kettledrums Triumph

February 12, 2016

The probably first-ever timpani concerto in the history of Columbus, Georgia brought  the almost full-house audience to its feet for a loud and long ovation at Legacy Hall in the River Center Thursday. That’s because Corey Fair, the student musician who played William Kraft’s Concerto No. 1 for Timpani, put on quite a show. Fair is, as the program says, “from the studio of Paul Vaillancourt.”

Anyone who could play it would have to put on a show, because he or she had to move around and continuously tune five of the huge drums used in Kraft’s concerto. Not only was it something to see, it was also, to me, something very enjoyable to hear. Being a former high school and Army band percussionist, I was naturally thrilled to hear a concerto that featured not only the timpani, but the entire percussion section.  It turned out that the entire audience was as thrilled as I was, judging by the standing ovation.

Talk About a Bargain

February 1, 2016

CSU provides a great gift to music lovers in our area, concerts by extraordinarily talented student musicians and their instructors.  Julie Bray and I were among those who attended Sunday’s impressive concert by the CSU Philharmonic and Joseph Golden on Legacy Hall’s million-dollar organ.  Admission price: zero. 

We agreed that the orchestra’s opening selection, Emmanuel Chabrier’s rthymic and colorful Espana, ,was delightful.   The second selection, Camille Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3 “Organ” in C Minor, Op. was powerful and gave the orchestra and Joseph Golden the opportunity to display their extraordinary musical talents.  We were impressed by the second one.  However, we agreed the first one was more enjoyable. It created a festive and happy mood. The second one was very dramatic. Very.

There are many more free concerts by CSU students and faculty that you can attend. If you love great live music performances, the price is certainly right.  We plan to take advantage of that. Maybe you will, too.     

 

The Icredible Doc

September 11, 2015
Doc Severensin autographing CDs at River Center, Columbus, GA

Doc Severinsen autographing CDs at River Center, Columbus, GA

Doc Severinsen and his big band brought the house down in the Bill Heard Theater at the River Center last night. At age 88, he can still hit the really high notes on his trumpet, and energetically lead his band and emcee the concert from start to finish. The concert featured the great big band and jazz classic songs of the swing era. It was encouraging to see a lot of young folks there, some with their grand parents and some Schwob School of Music students.

I asked one of the CSU Jazz Band students what he thought of the concert. He thought it was great and said, “I’m going to have to practice more.” Doc had taught aMaster Class for Schwob students before the concert.

The line of fans wanting to buy autographed CDs was the longest I have ever seen.

It was truly an enjoyable evening, especially for audience members who, like me, enjoyed Severensin and his band on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show on NBC for thirty years.

Thanks to the Columbus Jazz Society for sponsoring the event.

 

Jordan Band Director Wins the Harry Kruger Memorial Award

April 9, 2013
Columbus Community Orchestra Conductor William Fry and Harry Kruger Memorial Award winner JVHS Band Director Adam Mitchell

Columbus Community Orchestra Conductor William Fry and Harry Kruger Memorial Award winner JVHS Band Director Adam Mitchell

The Jordan Vocational High  School Band is back in the game, and the young band director responsible  was honored at the Columbus Community Orchestra concert at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church.  When Jordan Band Director Adam Mitchell was named this year’s winner of the Harry Kruger Memorial Award for Excellence in Conducting I was reminded of what another young man did in 1946.

Bob Barr also took over a 17-member Jordan band that could barely play an easy march and in no time at all beefed  up the number of musicians  and had it winning superior ratings in the district music festival.  The band went on to become national champions in a competition in New York, play in presidential inaugurations, and travel to play in such places as Los Angeles.  He also was the director of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.

Now, another young man has come along to get the Jordan Band back to winning superior ratings in district music festivals.  The band, under Adam Mitchell’s leadership, has done that for two years in a row.  He got a huge hand when Columbus Community Orchestra Director William Fry announced that he had won the Kruger award.  The late Harry Kruger taught music at Columbus College and was director of the Columbus Symphony for a number of years.