Week in Review: Summer of Change, Op. 5

July 6, 2020, 7:30 PM · This week’s selections are visually stunning, emotionally compelling, and technically inspiring. The creativity that exists amongst musicians is nothing short of amazing. I will always be in awe of music's ability to heal our hearts and be the final words for our lost souls. As I listened to the lovely lyrics in one selection — "…to turn, turn will be our delight, ’til by turning, turning we come round right" — all that came to mind is that in these turbulent times, oh, that we could turn, turn and come round right.

Op5

An anything but simple “Simple Gifts”

My first selection is as glorious visually as it is musically. The Knights perform the traditional Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts," but in a splendid, not so simple, arrangement. I’ve read this performance evolved out of "friendly late-night chamber music sessions" at the home of violinist/composer Colin Jacobsen and conductor/cellist Eric Jacobsen. (I guess my e-vite accidentally went to my spam folder.) In addition to the Jacobsen brothers, pristine performances are delivered by Aoife O'Donovan, vocals, Christina Courtin, violin, Shawn Conley, bass, Alex Sopp, flute, Michael P. Atkinson, horn, David Byrd-Marrow, horn, Sycil Mathai, trumpet, Dave Nelson, trombone, and Megan Conley, harp. (In the “always last to know” category, the winner is this writer, who just realized Colin Jacobsen also plays violin in one of her favorite string quartets, Brooklyn Rider.)

I dare you not to listen to the entire movement

Remember the old Lay’s potato chip commercial? Nobody can eat just one? When testing the clips (not chips), I always think I’ll just listen for a minute and make sure everything is operational. But I simply can't start W.A. Mozart’s Divertimento in D and not listen to the entire Allegro! For the final recital of the virtual Sphinx Performance Academy Curtis Summerfest, students performed an exhilarating finale to Mozart's Divertimento in D Major. (If these players represent our future, then we’re in very good hands!)

Never to forget is unforgettable

I will never forget being physically overcome when I first visited the Vietnam memorial in Washington D.C. Although I was a teenager during the war and had seen the grizzly footage and photos, nothing prepared me for the two acres of names engraved in the stone wall. Quite literally, it knocked the wind out of me. I had a similar reaction hearing Never to Forget, a piece commissioned by the London Symphony Chorus, composed by Howard Goodall CBE. Brainchild of choral director Simon Halsey CBE, it pays tribute to 122 health care workers who were among the first die from Covid-19. The lyrics are simply, and heartbreakingly, the names of the fallen. One hundred singers from the chorus performed, alongside members of the London Symphony Orchestra, and the composer himself. (When the piece receives its first “live" performance, it will be extended, sadly, to include over 300 names.)

Vivaldi at a distance

Violinist Joshua Bell and the United States Air Force Symphony Orchestra give a socially-distanced (and masked) performance of "Summer" from Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Who needs fireworks when you can listen to this explosive performance! (While I could posit a few great reasons not to have a stand partner, how do you turn pages?)

A tribute to Elijah McClain

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra violist Michael Casimir is joined by his friends, violinist Randall Goosby, cellist Sterling Elliott, pianist Rafalimanana Yannick, and dancer Amber Barbee Pickens. With Antonín Dvorák’s Piano Quartet, Opus 87, Lento as the backdrop, the artists deliver a poignant tribute "dedicated to the life of Elijah McClain." (Thank you, Michael, for all that you did to create this clip and make it available.)

Thank you very much

Composer/cellist Mike Block and Silkroad debut a video of Mike's piece "Iniche Cosebe," which means "thank you very much." The ensemble consists of faculty and artists from the cancelled Global Musician Workshop. The performance was dedicated with gratitude to all front-line health care workers. (Mike guarantees it will inject a dose of musical joy into your day. Agreed!)

Summer of change ideas welcome

With large-scale concerts and symphony performances almost universally on hiatus, we've put "The Week in Reviews" on hold and instead bring you this roundup of "summer of change" activities. If you’d like to share links of socially-distanced performances, teaching experiences, camps, or master classes you’ve enjoyed, please do so in the comments or e-mail me for possible inclusion in a later opus.

Replies

July 7, 2020 at 01:51 PM · Simple Gifts is beautiful... especially in the middle when the two violinists really get going.

July 7, 2020 at 03:03 PM · Joshua Bell on fire...Bravo!

Addressing the challenge of how to turn pages without a stand partner has been eternal for wind and brass players. (Mr. Bell solved the problem by memorizing his part.) Now orchestral string players are experiencing the frustrations of those musicians and every keyboardist throughout history. Most publishers (including online music providers) pay no attention to this problem, even when software music programs are employed and could be programmed to eliminate the problems. Unfortunately, it has and will remain to be the job of conscientious conductors, librarians, and players to re-paginate their music with awkward, often out-of-sequence insertions. The worst of these are complete opera/ballet parts. It is our collective passion to perform that will guide us to creating practical ways to solve the page-turn challenge.

July 7, 2020 at 05:00 PM · Such inspiring selections yet again, Diana. You were right, I couldn’t help but listen to the end of the Sphinx performance of Mozart, and Never Forget induced tears. Thank you for your work. ~Christina

July 7, 2020 at 05:36 PM · 61.87: I loved that as well. The arrangement was so wonderful in that it started so simply, cranked up to a major frenzy, and then ended again so simply with the solo voice and cello.

228.17: Excellent points on page turning. Thanks for this great comment!

Christina: I'm delighted that you check in each week. Thank you so much! Yes, that Mozart really is addictive, and Never to Forget is just heartbreaking.

July 7, 2020 at 06:19 PM · I was very moved by the Dvorak. The combination of hearing that piece for the first time and seeing the beautiful dancing was a deeply felt experience. It reminds me that all music has an underlying visual accompaniment if we use our imagination.

July 7, 2020 at 10:50 PM · Paul: Beautifully said. Thank you. It would never have occurred to me to combine a dancer with a piece of chamber music, but when I first viewed the tribute, I thought, "it's perfect." And, as you wrote, very moving.

July 8, 2020 at 06:42 AM · Simple gifts is lovely, never forget is heartening, especially given it's tendency for extension, and the sphynx performance is perfect for my yr 7 compulsory music online classes.

I wasn't as surprised by the music-dance collaboration because Sydney dance company did some wonderful new work during lock down which you can find here

https://www.sydneydancecompany.com/performance/cuatro/

We've been back at school for a couple of months now, but these posts are the joy of my long and still not entirely safe commute. Thanks for keeping them going.

July 8, 2020 at 06:42 AM · Simple gifts is lovely, never forget is heartening, especially given it's tendency for extension, and the sphynx performance is perfect for my yr 7 compulsory music online classes.

I wasn't as surprised by the music-dance collaboration because Sydney dance company did some wonderful new work during lock down which you can find here

https://www.sydneydancecompany.com/performance/cuatro/

We've been back at school for a couple of months now, but these posts are the joy of my long and still not entirely safe commute. Thanks for keeping them going.

July 8, 2020 at 12:44 PM · Anish: Thanks so much for your comment and the link (which I will definitely check out). (I had the lovely opportunity to be in Sydney twice when my husband conducted there and I fell in love with the city.) I am so glad these posts are bringing you joy. Please stay safe.

July 8, 2020 at 05:31 PM · Well I never can imagine how you will top the previous week, but you did it again. The Mozart was so wonderful that I can't believe it was played by kids! It must have been dubbed! Joshua Bell blew me away. First Summer, then Summertime then the pièce de résistance, the West Side Story Suite. (I did want to shoot the man in the commercial that popped up in the middle!). Joshua Bell is beyond a master at the "voice-olin". He sang. The WSS Suite was a 3-tissue section of the concert. Ave Maria wasn't bad either.

Simple Gifts was stunning. Each episode you post is a simple gift. Thank you.

July 8, 2020 at 07:02 PM · I really liked Iniche Cosebe--an uplifting tune to brighten one's day. It was nice to see all of those performers from all over the world communicating this joy together in the universal language of music.

July 8, 2020 at 07:11 PM · Joe: Loyal readers like you make it fun searching for clips each week. Thank you for always taking the time to read this weekly feature and then comment on it! YOU are a gift!

July 9, 2020 at 12:09 AM · Such beautiful and moving stuff. Thank you!!

July 9, 2020 at 06:48 PM · 237.207: Iniche Cosebe really is an uplifting piece! Thanks for your lovely comment.

168.88: Thank YOU for reading and listening!

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