heartland men’s chorus: baby, it’s cold outside

KCMetropolis.orgThe holiday season is in full swing here in Kansas City! In this week’s issue of KCMetropolis.org I have a new review:

On Friday after work I ventured into the frigid temperatures for a night out. First, I had drinks and snacks at chef Celina Tio’s Collection downtown with my friend Karen before we went to our respective shows. It was great and I’ll definitely be back! I had a signature cocktail and the mac n’ cheese. MMMM.

Heartland Men's Chorus

After that I headed over to the Folly Theater to review the Heartland Men’s Chorus‘s annual holiday production, this year titled Baby, It’s Cold Outside. I always enjoy HMC’s concerts because they are usually so uplifting, high energy, and silly, not too saccharine, and with just the right amount of heartstring-pulling. This one was bittersweet in particular though due to it being artistic director Joe Nadeau’s final production with HMC (he accepted the post of AD at the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles recently). The touching tributes and looks on the faces of the HMC members made it clear he will be fondly remembered and sorely missed.

Read my full review at KCMetropolis.org:

(Photo credit: Heartland Men’s Chorus courtesy of Susan McSpadden Photography, provided by HMC)

the wiz + arts in prison

KCMetropolis.orgIn this week’s issue of KCMetropolis.org I have a review and an interview:

First, I interviewed Leigh Lynch, executive director of Arts in Prison last week in anticipation of its East Hill Singers’ upcoming concerts and documentary. The East Hill Singers is Lansing Correctional Facility’s inmate choir, which is allowed to perform outside prison walls. Music is so powerful, and I was moved learning about this program’s positive effects on the inmates and their sense of teamwork, personal accomplishment, and community. Reading about their kids coming to hear them sing had me tearing up. I actually played with the East Hill Singers once—I was hired to accompany the choir with several other instrumentalists in a performance at Yardley Hall a few years ago, and it was a great experience. I look forward to watching the documentary when it airs around here.

On Sunday I saw The Wiz at the Coterie Theatre. Coterie is a children’s theatre, but The Wiz was still fun for anyone who loves the classic Wizard of Oz story, of course. When I was a little girl I was OBSESSED. I carried around a basket with a tiny stuffed “Toto” dog in it. I wore those horrid plastic jellies (you know what I’m talking about) and called them my ruby slippers. I asked my parents if we were in Kansas yet. (So of course when I ended up deciding on Kansas City for college I was teased… even though I live on the Missouri side!) But anyway, seeing this version of The Wiz brought back a lot of fun, happy memories.

Read my full reviews at KCMetropolis.org:

100

Hello, readers! This week I got the notification that I now have 100+ followers on my little slice of the internet. I’m so happy to have you join me here to check out my reading, writing, and musical adventures. Thank you!

I hope all of you in the U.S. have a great Memorial Day weekend 🙂

happy new year!

Happy new year! I’m a little late getting my 2012 reading retrospective post up, but I returned to work after a glorious eleven days off and getting back into the swing of things have kept me a little busy this week. My year in reading, 2012:

This year I went there and back again with a hobbit; traversed the Pacific Ocean as a castaway with a Bengal tiger; played a bunch of college and minor league baseball…

Hiked the Appalachian Trail; hung out with Tina Fey, Anthony Bourdain, Carole King, and Marilyn Monroe; traveled to VietnamItalyIndiaRomaniaJapan, and Afghanistan

Learned about economicswarpoliticssexcancer cells, and society; lived on a hippie commune; tried to outwit an insane spouse; made some unusual and interesting friends; prepared myself for murderous cats; improved my grammar; explored the music world

Tackled race relations in Mississippi; wondered about life’s purpose at an isolated private school; got the full star treatment at an NFL game; time traveled to post-WWII rural Canada; experienced an epic long-lost showbiz love story across decades and continents; and re-became the patriot I never wasn’t; among a few other things!

It was a great year for reading for me. After a dismal three books in 2011, I really got back into my habit of always having a book on me and reading pretty much every day. In total, I read 40 books (with a Goodreads goal of 30), and not a horrible clunker among them. I think that might be the most books I ever read in one year, so I’m pretty happy.

Looking ahead, I set my goal on Goodreads for 2013 at 35… but this past year I raised my Goodreads goal at some point during the summer, so that could happen this year, too!

As for other challenges, I enjoyed the KC Library Adult Winter Reading Program challenge so much that I’m going to do that again this year, and found two more I want to do that will check off a bunch of books I already own on my shelves. I’m also going to participate in the Bout of Books next week. Individual posts for each challenge coming in the next couple of days!

The rest of the year had its ups and downs, of course, but overall was very good. I attended a lot of great concerts, wrote more reviews and articles for KCMetropolis, enjoyed my lovely little house and neighborhood, visited family (and welcomed our first beautiful little cousinephew in April to the fam!), celebrated my two-year wedding anniversary with Nick, and had my 30th birthday in December. I’m looking forward to this year’s adventures, especially starting after May!

it’s monday! what are you reading? + elliott carter

It’s Monday, what are you reading? Hosted every week by Sheila at Bookjourney… but I can only seem to get one of these “Monday” posts in a month! Pretty busy, and it took me a while to get through the last books I was reading.

Well, I finished Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance and Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, which brought me up to my goal of reading 30 books in 2012! I feel very good about that, especially after only reading three books last year. I think it may be more books than I have ever read in a single year…

This week I started reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, mostly because the film is coming out next month and also partly because the last few books I read were very dark and disturbing. I was in the mood for something lighter and less intense.

But, what I’m really reading this evening are the articles online about composer Elliott Carter, who died today at age 103. I actually broke down in tears in my office this afternoon when I read the news—and I have never cried over a celebrity death.

Carter was a big influence on me when I was a composition student—I really love his music and he was just so inspirational and important to a whole generation of composers. His contributions to contemporary music are immeasurable. Read his New York Times obituary: Elliott Carter, Composer Who Decisively Snapped Tradition, Dies at 103

And here is a heartwarming and delightful interview from only six months ago on Bloomberg.com: Elliott Carter, 103, Has World Premiere, Ponders Hitler, Romney (Yes, he was still composing and having premiere performances of his music!) My favorite quote from this interview:

Tarmy: Can you attribute your longevity to anything?

Carter: I have no idea. I do a little bit of exercise every morning, and now I read in the paper that exercise for older people is bad for the harp—for the heart, not the harp, I mean. The harp is bad enough.

Also, click here for youtube videos featuring Elliott Carter’s music—highly evocative, expressive, complex, and beautiful.

listen to this

My husband gave me Alex Ross‘s Listen to This for my birthday in 2010 and I did start reading it then… only to put it down for over a year and a half. <shameface> However! Last month I was craving some music reading and started over with Listen to This. As a musician and music critic myself, I have admired Alex Ross and his work since I first read The Rest is Noise in 2008.

Listen to This is a collection of essays originally published in The New Yorker, for which Ross is the music critic. The essays range broadly across centuries, from the classical to pop genres, from investigative reporting to academic criticism, and with some artist profiles thrown in for good measure.

Ross’s enthusiasm for his subject matter is undeniably apparent and makes even the topics you are less interested in highly readable. His lively conversational style and accessible language helps bring lofty classical analysis down to earth for the non-trained music lover. (Although, there is very little in way of technical analysis in the book.) He is informative without lecturing. Any social commentaries in the book are more plainly stated, staying away from becoming preachy diatribes. Because of the non-chronological and unrelated arrangement of essays, I ended up reading about a chapter a day, on average. It was easier for me to absorb each topic more fully that way—giving the information a chance to settle before moving onto the next topic.

My favorite chapters were those about Esa-Pekka Salonen, Schubert, the St. Lawrence Quartet, “The Crisis in Music Education,” the Marlboro Music School and Festival, and Bob Dylan. (I have the hardcover edition, so I am a little bummed to learn I missed a John Cage chapter added later in the paperbacks! Grr!)

I am hesitant to declare either Listen to This or The Rest is Noise the “better” book, necessarily. They are just too different, with Noise being very specific to twentieth-century music and composers, and Listen more wide-ranging and non-linear. What I like about Listen to This in particular is Ross’s ability to make it feel okay to like any and all types of music, that each musician and genre has its merits equal and important to our cultures and societies, no matter how opposing in style, traditional or experimental, old or new.

Read from September 8 to October 21, 2012.