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Friday, November 15 edition              
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Thanks, everyone, for a wonderful OSHER class!

Nov. 17, 7 p.m.  -- Festival Concert with The Chorale and guest conductor Dr. Craig Jessop, McKinley Presbyterian Church, Urbana Illinois

Nov. 21 Mason Christian Village (7pm) -- Mason, Ohio

this week's featured recording (11.15.19)
 Now Praise the Lord, My Soul!

by Michael Praetorius (1571-1621)

 This week on the blog:    Friday, November 15, 2019
Diversity in Adversity


Life happens, to composers as it does to everyone else. Sometimes it isn't that pretty.

I didn't set out to depress everyone when I decided to teach "Composers in Exile: Music in Adversity," a five week OSHER course that included the music and life stories of a number of persons making music in difficult circumstances. Those circumstances included voluntary and involuntary exile, imprisonment, isolation, societal shunning, war, the threat of execution, mental illness, racism, sexism, and depression.

On the other hand, it would be facile to see in all of those stories of composers who went on creating their art in the midst of trying circumstances a triumph of the human spirit. Not just because some of those spirits broke down in the end but because it is easy for those not in the midst of those trials to use the suffering of others as feel-good entertainment. We like movies in which the heroes struggle as long as they win in the end. Well, some of us do. There are also those who don't even like to confront life's ugliness long enough to make it a plot point.

Given my usual propensity to inject wit into the proceedings, as well as the music's frequently cheerful tone, the class was not the funeral procession you might think if you were not in attendance. Before last week's litany of woman barred from public performance, composition, and even teaching by the attitudes of the men who controlled their decisions, I strode to the piano holding my three-ring binder filled with music aloft and proclaimed "this is my binder full of women." Several people laughed, which was a good release since the next half-hour was more likely to make them angry or depressed.

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Friday, November 1, 2013


It's going to be an interesting weekend. The bishop is coming for a visit at Faith UMC this Sunday. We are having a single service and inviting the entire church to it. Normally we have four weekend services, of which I play for them all, so, in a way, it is like getting three quarters of a week off. Sort of. Of course that one service will be more elaborate and stressful and call on more of my resources than a regular service would have, but it will certainly not be a snooze. Fortunately, that gives it a bit of luster for me.

The rest of the weekend will be spent in rehearsal with The Chorale, a community choral organization with about 70 members who sing at least three concerts annually, the first of which is always the first weekend in November. This time we are welcoming back Dr. Craig Jessop, former conductor of The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, for a fifth time! In an unusual twist, there will be no 20-piece orchestra this time around. Instead, Dr. Jessop will lead the group in mostly a cappella numbers. As the group's accompanist, I'll play the piano a couple of times and the organ once, and largely sit back and enjoy the concert. After about 8 or 9 hours of rehearsal Fri, Sat and Sunday, I won't mind the break. Normally I spend Sunday afternoon becoming the orchestral pianist and sight reading a new part in which most of my favorite notes have been farmed out to the other instruments.

But it doesn't quite end there.

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If you're dialing in from Saskatoon or Zanzibar or any other place that isn't Champaign-Urban Illinois, and you weren't in the audience of about 300 who packed First Methodist Church in Urbana last night to hear The Chorale perform it's annual Celebration of Life concert, you missed an event.

The Chorale sang 15 hymns and spirituals largely from arrangements by Alice Parker and Robert Shaw. Tenor Davion Williams, a former Chorale scholarship winner, sang three lively pieces by African-American composers. I played a set of pieces you can hear by checking out the blog above. We were led for most of the evening by a man Artistic Director Julie Beyler referred to as "our Principal Guest Conductor" since he has been with us now five times in the last decade, Dr. Craig Jessop. Dr. Jessop was the director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir until 2008 and apparently doesn't mind conducting our "chamber ensemble" of a mere 70-80 members from time to time!

What can I say about this man? He has a pile of energy. I don't know where he gets it all, but it is certainly necessary when working with groups of that size. Even better, it radiates outward to the members of the ensemble and makes it seem we will never get tired and that there is no place we would rather be than right here right now making this glorious music. What a privilege!

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from November 4, 2013

Some concert!

in case you're confused, this picture is actually from a different festival concert, one with more instruments!

pictures from the festival concert weekend

from May 10, 2015

This weekend marks both a homecoming and a finale. I'll be in Champaign, Illinois, for a festival concert with The Chorale, directed by Julie Beyler, with our favorite guest, Dr. Craig Jessop. I'm dedicated this week's edition to a look back at past performances, and this blog is all about the pictures that I took in May of 2015, two festival performances ago.

The Chorale has been making music for nearly 40 years, well before I became their accompanist, and for a few years after. This is their final concert. Thanks to all of you, including our dearly departed members. I'll see you in Champaign later today!

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