Bringing The Gold Rush! to the Brookvale School, Fremont, CA, was a fantastic way to close this spring season. Wonderful students and teachers filled the auditorium. The Lively Foundation performers truly hit it out of the park; a great performance by dancers Amity Johnson & Audreyanne Delgado Covarrubias, singer & banjo player Jonathan Clark. Ms Johnson & Ms Covarrubias also narrate comments originally written by people living in the mining fields. Mr. Clark is the tech director setting up and running the sound (recorded narrations, music for the dances) and projections of the archival photographs, engravings, paintings which HE researched, found, photographed and made into slides for our absolutely unique, wonderful show. Director Leslie Friedman choreographed the dances, narrates, and wrote the show. She dances in Sweet Betsy From Pike which is appropriate as both Sweet Betsy and Leslie are Californians originally from Missouri. Here are pictures of some of the Broncos from Brookvale, teachers and performers. Thanks to teacher Laura Dean for organizing this great event!Top: two of the classes attending The Gold Rush! May 30, 2014. Bottom row, L to R: Audreyanne Covarrubias, Amity Johnson backstage preparing to perform.
Music@Menlo, the premier chamber music festival, always provides stellar musicians, the finest in classical music, and innovative programming. Music lovers anywhere near Menlo Park-Atherton, CA, will have an opportunity on Sunday, October 13, to hear the renowned Emerson String Quartet perform with their new cellist, Paul Watkins. While he is new as a full time member of the Emersons, Mr. Watkins has played with individual members of the quartet in the last few seasons. He replaces cellist David Finckel in the first replacement of an Emerson member since 1979. Mr. Finckel is co-founder and co-artistic director of Music@Menlo with his wife, pianist Wu Han. The much honored couple together are also co-directors of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, New York, and Chamber Music Today, Seoul, Korea. No worries that Mr. Finckel will have too much leisure time on his hands. Mr. Watkins has been the cellist of the Nash Ensemble, in England, for 16 years. The Nash is a mixed chamber ensemble including piano and wind instruments with strings. He is also the Principal Conductor of the English Chamber Orchestra and a busy guest conductor and composer. When Mr. Watkins made his first appearance as a guest at Music@Menlo his extraordinary musicianship shone through delighting the Hedgehogs and the rest of the audience, too. Even as he was excellent as an ensemble member, he was clearly a special musician. The Emerson String Quartet has found an exciting new member. The 4 p.m., Oct. 13 concert is at the Center for Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton. For tickets: see www.musicatmenlo.org or call 650/331-0202. The program includes quartets by Joseph Haydn, Shostakovich, and Mendelssohn. Future programs for M@M: Pianists in Paris with Jean-Efflam Bevouzet, Soyeon Kate Lee, Anne-Marie McDermott, Wu Han, Feb. 9; Alessio Bax, piano, May 11.
The exquisite opera star, Ruth Ann Swenson, cast her delightful spell through the exquisite Weill Hall of the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University, yesterday, Sept. 29. Ms Swenson is a unique operatic artist. Her angelic voice is matched by her ability to embody a complete character in a song. She is ardent, bereaved, playful, flirtatious, prayerful, and even funny. In each, she is completely convincing. As this writer overheard, the audience was moved and deeply impressed. A music lover from New York commented, “I’ve never seen or heard a great opera singer so able to become a different role. Such an amazing range of theater plus great music.” Charles Calhoun, San Francisco’s distinguished choral director, commented, “She is such an artist. I am amazed at her gift to become these different characters, project different emotions.” Ms Swenson was accompanied by pianist Warren Jones. Mr. Jones demonstrated not only his sensitivity to the singer, but also his own musicianship. He performed Three Pieces from Op. 118, by Brahms, and three mazurkas, thought to be the last music written by Chopin. In both, Mr. Jones’ playing was a bonus gift to the audience. Greatly skilled; he plays with understanding of the music. He becomes a perfect partner for the composer as he is for the singer. Ms Swenson’s program opened with Bellini’s Il fervido desiderio/The Fervent Wish. She immediately captivated everyone with this declaration of love. Her selections from Verdi let the audience know that they must be prepared to experience all of life in a few minutes. She sang Verdi’s La Seduzione/The Seduction, a story of cruelty and grief. Stornello/Refrain posed an opposite tale of love, “Constancy of love is foolish…I’m fickle and I flaunt it!” The program had beautiful surprises. This writer had never heard Ms Swenson sing Richard Strauss. Her three selections by this great composer for sopranos were magnificent. Allerseelen/All Souls’ Day, nostalgic and lovely, Breit’uber mein Haupt, full of sensuous longing “I want only the darkness of your raven locks, and the radiance of your gaze,” and Zueignung, a stirring declaration of dedication. The necessary brevity of an online posting prevents longer descriptions of the astonishing enactment of Mozart’s Quanti mi siete intorno… Padre, germani, addio from Idomeneo. “How many of you ruthless murderers surround me?” Or the refined, alluring L’heure exquise, by Reynaldo Hahn. Now it is time for a confession. This writer has long had an allergic response to opera divas singing American popular songs. Great big voices singing something that Hoagy Carmichael or Cole Porter wrote for something entirely different normally does not work. Not good for the song. Not good for the great big voice. It was a revelation to hear Ms Swenson sing On Such A Night As This, by Barer/Martin; They Say That Falling In Love/My Romance by Berlin/Rodgers&Hart; Embraceable You by G & I Gershwin. Each had been arranged for Ms Swenson by Richard Riccardi. Each was a jewel. Her pristine diction brought out the wit and insight of the lyrics. Her beautiful voice, matched perfectly to the arrangements, revealed the beauty of these musical treasures. She sang them as Ruth Ann Swenson singing great songs (not as an opera star pretending to be Billie Holliday). Good for the songs, good for the singer, S’Wonderful! for the audience. She gave more of herself in Somewhere Over The Rainbow, her encore. Ms Swenson will offer classes at Sonoma State. One must hope that the powers that be at the Weill Hall, Green Music Center, bring her back to perform again. And again. Her career began at the San Francisco Opera. For many years she sang at the Met, in New York, and at the great operas around the world. While she is near, let’s celebrate her magnificent gifts. Hear Ruth Ann Swenson and Warren Jones on the recording i carry your heart, EMI Classics.