Participating in PostADay2011!

It’s soon to be a new year, and I’m going to make it the best one I can. Motto:  Get things done.

One of my goals for 2011 is to blog each day, so with the new WordPress effort, PostADay, I’ll get in the practice of writing every day, while working through WordPress tutorials.

The themes for these entries will include information on classical music, where appropriate.


Sketches of Spain

I enjoy jazz a lot, and “Sketches of Spain” is a favorite CD that I have by Miles Davis. The album was first recorded in 1960.

I first discovered this music at the library a few years ago, and I checked it out so often that I eventually dropped not-so-subtle hints to receive it as a birthday or Christmas gift. My aunt complied, and every once in a while, I just have to listen. My aunt really enjoys it now, too. Last year I listened to it a lot while exercising, and that’s where she picked it up. She says a lot of the music I listen to during exercise time is too calming, but sometimes it works.

On the November 9th episode of “Composer’s Datebook,” I learned about the Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo, whose 1940 “Concerto de Aranjuez” is a big part of Davis’ recording. It was originally written for classical guitar, and it is very pretty. It makes you feel like you are actually in Spain. I also never knew that Rodrigo became blind at age three from diptheria, and composed all his works on a braille typewriter. He died in 1999 at the age of 97. Maybe I can find a biography of him at some point.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of Rodrigo and Davis. The latter is owned by Sony Music Entertainment, and clicking on the album cover will redirect you to the YouTube site to listen.

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! I was reading a friend’s blog today and came across a lovely performance of “The Wexford Carol” by Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma. I am very familiar with the melody, but not the words. It’s so beautiful! I hope you like it.


The Nutcracker Never Gets Old!

I’m listening to the St. Petersburg Orchestra perform The Nutcracker on the Classical Music Discoveries podcast. I saw it performed live at Lisner Auditorium when I was in high school, and I have my own recording of it, which I have been known to play in July. I never get tired of “Waltz of the Flowers,” The Grandparents’ Dance,” “Trepak,” and the others.

Perception — Something to Think About

A friend sent me the following item tonight. I thought it was great, and so I’m sharing.

In Washington DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes.  During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.  After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing.  He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar.  A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly.  The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time.  This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes:

The musician played continuously.  Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while.  About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace.  The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over.  No one noticed and no one applauded.  There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world.  He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.  Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story.  Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the DC Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:

*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

*If so, do we stop to appreciate it?

*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made . . .

How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?

Joshua Bell playing at L'Enfant Plaza

A Seasonal Favorite: Handel’s Messiah

I hope that Sandy and Ken Hedgecock, producer and hostess, respectively, of the podcast Classical Music Discoveries, will not mind my including text from their newsletter today:

Please click the link below to view it.

This week we are very proud to present to our listeners the Southwest Symphony Orchestra and Chorale, conducted by Gary Caldwell, as they perform selections from Handel’s Messiah.

Performed selections are:

Overture – Orchestra

Comfort Ye My People – Kelton Brooks, tenor

Ev’ry Valley Shall Be Exalted – Kelton Brooks, tenor

And the Glory of the Lord – Chorale

Thus Saith the Lord – Jacob Pohlsander, bass

But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming – Jacob Pohlsander, bass

Behold, a Virgin Shall Conceive – Joslyn Cook, mezzo

O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion – Joslyn Cook, mezzo

For Behold, Darkness Shall Cover the Earth – Rick Pickett, bass

The People That Walked in Darkness – Rick Pickett, bass

For Unto Us a Child is Born – chorale

Pastoral Symphony – orchestra

There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Field – Cynthia Coombs, soprano

And Lo, the Angel of the Lord – Cynthia Coombs, soprano

And the Angel Said Unto Them – Cynthia Coombs, soprano

And Suddenly There Was with the Angel – Cynthia Coombs, soprano

Glory to God – chorale

Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion – Jenny Smith, soprano

Then Shall the Eyes of the Blind – Chelsie Pendleton, alto

He Shall Feed His Flock – Chelsie Pendleton, alto

Come Unto Him – Celia Gonzales, soprano

His Yoke is Easy and His Burden is Light – chorale

Behold the Lamb of God – chorale

He Was Despised – Lisa Szymanski, mezzo

Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs -chorale

All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray – chorale

Thy Rebuke Hath Broken His Heart – Nic Chamberlain, tenor

Behold and See If There Be Any Sorrow – Nic Chamberlain, tenor

Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates – chorale

Why Do the Nations? – John Scott, baritone

Hallelujah – chorale, soloists and audience

I Know That My Redeemer Liveth – Stephanie Lister, soprano

Since By Man Came Death – chorale

Behold, I Tell You a Mystery – John Scott, baritone

The Trumpet Shall Sound – John Scott, baritone; Amy Paterson, trumpet

Worthy is the Lamb That Was Slain/Amen – chorale and soloists

Recording/Mixing – Ken Hedgecock

Show Hostess – Sandy Hedgecock

Show sponsor – Hinton-Burdick

(c)Classical Music Discoveries 2010


I enjoy listening to Handel’s Messiah every Christmas, and I wanted to write down a list of titles being performed in the show.

I love hearing the Hallelujah Chorus. Tradition says Queen Elizabeth I was so moved by it that she stood up through its performance. Everyone else in the audience followed suit. Today’s audiences still keep it up.

GRACE Offers Discounts to Readers!

The Greater Reston Arts Center has an exciting new Preschool Program! And the organization is offering discounts to readers. Here is more information:

GRACE (Greater Reston Arts Center) would like to offer a special discount to your readers!  We are proud to announce another stimulating and innovative series of workshops for preschoolers (3-6 years old)!

By mentioning upon registration, your reader will receive a 10% discount off of the entire series of The Preschool Program.

The Preschool Program – Quick Facts

  • Dates:  Fridays, January 7, 14, 21, 28
  • Times:  1:15pm – 2:00pm
  • Listed Fee: GRACE members ($60 for series of 4 workshops), nonmembers ($72 for series of 4 workshops)
  • Reader Discount:  GRACE members ($54 for series of 4 workshops), nonmembers ($64.80 for series of 4 workshops)
  • To register: Call GRACE at 703.471.9242, be sure to mention the discount!

Thanks for your continued support of GRACE!

Stacie Kirby
Social Media Director
Greater Reston Arts Center

Here’s more information on the GRACE blog. Also enjoy the main GRACE website.

Happy Birthday, Joshua Bell!

Today, Thursday, December 9, 2010: Joshua Bell is 43 today! I hope he found an enjoyable way to mark the occasion.

I have his Voice of the Violin CD, and his version of The Four Seasons so far. The Academy of St-Martin-in-the-Fields joins him on that one. You can’t go wrong with either artist.

I have never seen Joshua Bell in concert–something I would still love to do. Strathmore and the Kennedy Center are so close, and yet so far away, even though I’ve been to both places many times over the years. The tickets sell out so quickly! Classical WETA rebroadcasts his concerts sometimes, and I do keep up with PBS’s Great Performances, just in case he is on. Fritz Kriesler is his favorite composer, so I’ll have to research Kriesler more. Bell recorded Kriesler’s material in 1996.

I recently read parts of Gene Weingarten’s book, The Fiddler on the Subway. Wisely, this essay written for The Washington Post Magazine in April 2007 was last in the book. In it, Joshua Bell pretended to be a street violinist at L’Enfant Plaza Metro. The question was whether anyone would recognize him or his playing. (I don’t think anyone did.) Bell doesn’t like to be remembered only for that, but it must have been a fun thing to do. If I had been there, it would have been fun to listen for a while, and maybe to ask for his autograph if I had seen his face, which was obscured by a baseball cap.

After rereading this essay, I was reminded of all the street musicians I’ve met or enjoyed over the years. There was the flute player at Farragut West every morning when I first started working. I tried to give him something as often as I could. He was always cheerful and never failed to say, “Good morning.” The Andean music ensemble was also very good. I bought one of their tapes once. At Metro Center, a man with an eye patch played a really cool, bouncy, bluesy harmonica (along with singing) every evening. Every once in a while, the guy who liked to play keyboards at the main Metro Center entrance would say hi. Every Christmas he would wear a Santa hat. Sadly, I read where he passed away of pneumonia a few years ago, but I can still see his face. And there were more than a few great guitar players at various places.

Speaking of street music, I thought the Korean woman who sold purses and jewelry had a beautiful voice as she sang folk songs. The Ethiopian food cart vendor would tell me about music from her country. And every Tuesday at noon at the Church of the Epiphany, there were lunchtime concerts–classical, jazz, bluegrass, a cappella gospel, and more. And there were the bells chiming the hour, half hour, and quarter hours. I remember the late rector, Edgar D. Romig, saying in one of his concert intros: “Great music comes in many forms.”

I hope the church still has these free events. I’d love to go back sometime. There’s no need to be in the area now. The church is situated between two large buildings. In the spring and summer I kept an eye out for the roses in their garden. It is a nice little island within Washington, D.C. My only unhappy memory was trying to get there for a Washington Bach Consort performance, and the ramps were blocked. I should have fought harder for people to move their cars, but it doesn’t matter now.

Anyway, here is video from The Washington Post–Joshua Bell’s subway day from April 10, 2007:

And because it’s getting to be Christmas, here’s Joshua playing Ave Maria, backed by the St. Luke’s Orchestra. It’s from December 31, 2007. Enjoy!