During the early days of my music career, I was a buyer for a chain of music stores in Texas called Brook Mays Music Company. I bought reeds, mouthpieces, guitar strings, band instruments, metronomes, every instrument imaginable and banjos. Yes, banjos. Everyone had to have one. The movie Deliverance was in the theaters, and the public went wild for the dueling banjos. I never caught the fever. There was a New Yorker cartoon of the time depicting a rehearsal hall with a terraced orchestra of banjoists along with a tuxedoed conductor standing next to devil. The caption read, “This is your room, maestro.”
Steve Martin plays the banjo—very well, I hear. I think he is very funny but I am not following his banjo career. I was pretty much the same with anything about the ukulele. In my early life I have had several dogs with fleas but only one out-of-tune ukulele. The names Don Ho and Arthur Godfrey never screamed “PARTY!” to me. I would have liked to have known Tiny Tim if only to get closer to Miss Vicky. George Harrison had a go at the instrument.
Then, along comes Jake.
The New Yorker says, “Jake Shimabukuro is revolutionizing the perception of the ukulele. [You'll hear] the Hawaii native's lightning-fast fingers and revolutionary playing techniques and get a preview of his… album Peace Love Ukulele (Hitchhike Records, January 4th, 2011). …join gigantic festival audiences all over the world and millions of viewers on YouTube in enjoying the rock, blues, funk, classical, bluegrass, folk, flamenco, and jazz he plays—with just four strings and two octaves to work with.”
Ukuleles have gone viral.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
Gagaku, Japanese for 'elegant music', is the oldest classical music in Japan. Introduced into Japan along with Buddhism from Korea in the 6th century, gagaku can also accompany classical dance performances called bugaku. Gagaku musicians belonged to special guilds who were not allowed to perform this music for the general public. We are grateful to curator Barbara Ruch, director of the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies at Columbia University, for making our performance of Japanese Sacred Court Music possible for our JapanOC festival, as well as South Coast Plaza for its generous sponsorship.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
The history of the Opole, Philharmonic of Poland can be traced back to the years immediately following World War II. One of Poland’s leading orchestras, the Philharmonic of Poland was founded in 1947 and became the resident orchestra of Opole. In 1952, a major performing arts center was built in the city of Opole as a permanent home for the orchestra. In June of 1969, the orchestra was awarded the State Award for Arts Excellence by the Ministry of Culture of Poland in honor of the great Polish Composer Jósef Elsner.
Their program for us is drawn from the heart of the romantic orchestral repertoire. My favorite Brahms symphony, the third, has the lovely horn solo in the slow movement, one that I have played many times. I still get sweaty palms when that passage begins. It is still a Liszt year. The E-flat Concerto is one of his most often performed works. For those of you who are not familiar with the piece, it is often called “The Triangle Concerto” for reasons that will become obvious. Richard Strauss’ Don Juan closes the concert, another barn burner for the horn section.