Views and News

Today I have two views to share on art happenings I've experienced over the last 24 hours and a piece of news. First the views:1. The quality that I appreciated the most about Next to Normal, Tom Kitt and Brian Torkey's histrionic musical about a family's struggle to cope with the mental breakdown of one of its members - wife and mother, Diana - was the vocal contrast between two of the performers, Alice Ripley as the troubled Diana and Asa Somers as her long-suffering, gentle husband, Dan. Ripley's voice is not what you would call lovely. The … [Read more...]

Views and News

Today I have two views to share on art happenings I've experienced over the last 24 hours and a piece of news. First the views:1. The quality that I appreciated the most about Next to Normal, Tom Kitt and Brian Torkey's histrionic musical about a family's struggle to cope with the mental breakdown of one of its members - wife and mother, Diana - was the vocal contrast between two of the performers, Alice Ripley as the troubled Diana and Asa Somers as her long-suffering, gentle husband, Dan. Ripley's voice is not what you would call lovely. The … [Read more...]

Outrageous Pasadena Woman

On Friday, at an interior design showcase benefitting a bunch of LA-based arts organizations and education programs which took place at a soon-to-be-renovated, bulbous mansion in Pasadena, I found myself chatting with a woman who is part of the core committee that organizes the event and others like it and then funnels off the funds raised to the non-profit groups supported by her team's endeavors.The woman clearly put a lots of time and energy into her volunteer work, which is laudable. However, I was flabbergasted by her opinions about the … [Read more...]

Epiphany on the Way to LA

While driving to Los Angeles and back this past weekend, I had a good long think about how best to leverage my limited resources to get the most out of social media.I've been a Twitter hold out for too long, reasoning that I simply didn't have the bandwidth to Tweet as well as post on this blog five days a week. But now I see that I can't stay in the arts journalism conversation without developing a presence on Twitter. And after a bit of experimenting over the weekend, I also realize that I quite enjoy the quick and dirty nature of … [Read more...]

Ladysmith should put Paul Simon to Rest

I wasn't expecting to feel so discombobulated by the Ladysmith Black Mambazo concert last night at Yoshi's in Oakland. After all, this is a stellar vocal group from South Africa whose bevelled, tight-knit sound western US audiences have grown to know and love ever since the mid 80s when Paul Simon employed the ensemble's artistry on his Graceland album.At this point in its 51-year-history though, Ladysmith hardly needs to defer to Simon, and yet for some reason the singers feel obliged to do so.The fact that "Homeless," the song that was the … [Read more...]

KDFC Goes Non-Profit: Will its Programming also Venture that Way?

The big news in the US classical music radio world today is that the Bay Area's only classical music radio station, KDFC, has gone from being a commercial company to a non-profit entity. The University of Southern California bought the station from Entercom. USC's takeover became effective yesterday, January 18. An article in today's San Francisco Chronicle has all the main details.KDFC was one of the last of the big classical music stations in the US to support itself using the paid advertising model. Now it'll be running pledge drives to … [Read more...]

Evaluating Countertenors Like They’re Fine Wines

A conversation with my friend Laetitia following the countertenor David Daniels' concert with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in Berkeley on Saturday night reminded me of oenophiles comparing notes about wines.We agreed about Daniels' effort that evening: A lackluster performance of Vivaldi's Stabat Mater (Daniels' just didn't seem to like the music all that much and was overly uptight in his delivery and carriage) was followed by an utterly captivating approach to several arias from the Handel operas Agrippina, Radamisto, and Il trionfo del … [Read more...]

Film Plays

A genre of theatre that seems to be very popular in the Bay Area is plays that are based on movies. From Hush Up Sweet Charlotte (a drag take starring Varla Jean Merman on the 1960s Bette Davis thriller Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte) to Point Break Live! (a show relying on heavy audience participation based on the 1991 Keanu Reeves surf action movie), local audiences have relished the fun of seeing their favorite cult screen kitsch transformed into stage madness.The recipe is a relatively fool-proof one: Take over-the-top film with mass-market … [Read more...]

Guest Blogger Alexis Snyder on GRAMMY Career Day

For the past few years, the San Francisco chapter of GRAMMY has run a student career day for aspiring music industry professionals. I'm curious about the value and impact of this kind of event, during which a diverse range of performers, directors, producers and the like conduct presentations and workshops with a select number of students. I sadly couldn't attend the 2011 GRAMMY Career Day held at San Francisco State University earlier this week, so I asked one of the students who went along to write about the experience.Here's what … [Read more...]

What Is Rock?

The Guardian published an interesting article about the demise of rock music, quoting research data as evidence: "Last year saw the number of rock songs in the singles chart fall to its lowest level in half a century, with only three tracks appearing in the top 100 best-selling hits in the UK," wrote reporter Alexandra Topping in her article. "The percentage of rock songs plummeted from a sickly 13% in 2009 to a terminal 3% - far behind hip-hop/R'n'B at 47%, pop at 40% and dance 10%, according to figures from MusicWeek."One important thing that … [Read more...]

Annual Theatre Surprise

I serve on the panel for an annual theatre award here in the Bay Area -- the Will Glickman Prize -- which honors the best play to have received its world premiere in a Bay Area theatre in the previous year. The award, the most prestigious local accolade for drama, is named for the playwright Will Glickman, a frequent collaborator of Joseph Stein's on Broadway shows like Mr. Wonderful and Plain and Fancy.I've been a panelist for the last five years and every year, the process of selecting candidates for my shortlist has been a matter … [Read more...]

Fantasy Festival

Anthony Tommasini's article in The New York Times on January 7 concerning which composers would appear on his "Top 10 Composers of all Time" list if he were ever to compile such a thing got me thinking about the reasons why rankings can be fun, if not ultimately particularly useful.I complained about Gramophone Magazine's list of Top 20 Choirs a couple of weeks ago on this blog.However, a recent visit to the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival auditions at the weekend made me see that ranking can have its place.For the first time in its 33 year … [Read more...]