AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Major concerts on calendar during next fortnight

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

This article was first
published today in the above papers.

 

Four major concerts occur in our region during the next
fortnight — and that doesn’t count the final two events of the Piatigorsky
International Cello Festival at Walt Disney Concert Hall: a 2 p.m. concert by
the Los Angeles Philharmonic, featuring cellist Alisa Weilerstein (LINK), and a
7:30 p.m. recital by 110 (!) cellists that will wind up the nine-day-long
festivities (LINK).

 

Also on today’s agenda is the final “LA Phil Live” movie
theater telecast: the season-opening all-Gershwin concert with Gustavo Dudamel
conducting and legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock as soloist in Rhapsody in Blue. (LINK)

 

And then comes:

 

MUSE-IQUE ON MARCH
19 AT PASADENA CIVIC AUDITORIUM

Rachael Worby begins this group’s second season with a
typically cheeky program entitled “Ebony Meets Ivory.” Six pianists, including
the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Joanne Pearce Martin, will perform on three
Steinway pianos in a program that ranges from Baroque to jazz, rap to classical
(Moonlight Sonata), and the spoken
word. The program takes place on stage — literally — as both performers and the
audience will be on the stage and a loading bay of the Pasadena Civic
Auditorium. This is the first of seven performances on Muse-ique’s 2012 season.
Information: muse-ique.com

 

LOS ANGELES CHAMBER
ORCHESTRA ON MARCH 24 (Alex Theatre, Glendale) AND MARCH 25 (Royce Hall, UCLA)

Music Director Jeffrey Kahane leads his ensemble and
pianist-composer Timothy Andres in the world premiere of Old Keys, the latest installment in LACO’s “Sound Investment”
commissioning program. Also on the concert is the West Coast premiere of
Andres’ “reconstruction” of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 26, K. 531 (Coronation). Mozart wrote only a few
measures for the left hand of this work although the first published edition
was complete, possibly from Mozart’s publisher. In this new version, Andres has
replaced those left-hand sketches with his own creation; how this “mash-up”
works will be part of the concert’s intrigue. Information: www.laco.org

 

PASADENA SYMPHONY
ON MARCH 31 AT AMBASSADOR AUDITORIUM

Nicholas McGegan, known worldwide as one of the premiere
interpreters of Baroque music, takes on a larger task as he leads concerts at 2
p.m. and 8 p.m. in Ambassador Auditorium that conclude with Beethoven’s
Symphony No. 3 (Eroica). Prior to
intermission, Armenian pianist Nareh Arghamanyan will be the soloist in
Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, K. 466. Information:
www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

 

LOS ANGELES MASTER
CHORALE AND MUSICA ANGELICA ON MARCH 31 AND APRIL 1 AT WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL

LAMC Music Director Grant Gershon conducts 40 singers of his
Chorale, soloists and one of the nation’s premiere period-instrument ensembles
in the first performances of Bach’s St.
John Passion
to be played at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Information: www.lamc.org

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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PREVIEW: “Pipe Organs Inspire” opens tonight in Pasadena

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

______________________

 

Pipe Organs Inspire:

Ae-Kyong Kim, David
Wolfe, Timothy Howard, organists

Saturday, March 17, 2012 First United Methodist Church,
Paszdena

Free Admission

Information: www.pipeorgansinspire.org

______________________

 

Churches often tend to be protective of their turf but three
of Pasadena’s oldest and largest churches — First United Methodists, First
Church of Christ, Scientist, and Pasadena Presbyterian — are combining on a
unique trio of free organ recitals that begin tonight at First United Methodist
Church, 500 E. Colorado Blvd.

 

Full disclosure: I
belong to PPC, sing with and am close friends with Timothy Howard. I like to
quote the late, great Molly Ivins in this regard: You’re free to take what I
have to say with grain of salt or a pound of salt).

 

59183-AeKyongKim.jpg

Each of the church’s organists — Ae-Kyong Kim (FUMC), David
Wolfe (FCCS) and Timothy Howafd (PPC) will play on all three programs. The
music was selected with the unique qualities of each church’s organ (in the
case of this evening’s program, FUMC’s organ is an E.M. Skinner model that was
originally built in 1924).

 

Kim will open the evening with Mozart’s Fantasy in F minor,
K. 608 and will conclude with three movements from Symphony No. 6 in G minor by
Charles-Marie Widor. Wolfe will play October
Interlude
by Clarence Mader (who once taught at Occidental College) and
three Chorale-Preludes by Johann Sebastian Bach. Howard will play Mendelssohn’s
Sonata No. 1, Op. 65, and Buxtehude’s Prelude, Fugue and Chaconne in C Major,
BuxW 137.

 

The recitals give you an opportunity to hear three fine
organist on three significant — and quite different — instruments in three
buildings from different architectural ages, all for no admission charge.

 

The second recital on the series will take place March 31 at
First Church of Christ, Scientist. The final program will be April 14 at
Pasadena Presbyterian Church. Programs, program notes, bios and information
about each of the organs can be found HERE.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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Five-Spot: What caught my eye on March 15, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

______________________

 

Each Thursday, I list five events (six this week — it’s a
very busy weekend) that pique my interest, including (ideally) at least one
with free admission (or, at a minimum, inexpensive tickets). Here’s today’s grouping:

______________________

 

Today and Saturday
at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles Philharmonic:
Piatigorsky International Cello Festival concludes

This nine-day celebration of the cello (named in honor the
legendary cellist and teacher Gregor Piatigorsky) concludes this weekend as
Neemi Jrvi conducts the Phil in programs with three different cellists.
Tonight it’s Ralph Kirshbaum, who will solo in the Dvorak Cello Concerto
(LINK). Saturday night Misha Maisky plays Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1
and a transcription of Lenski’s Aria from
Eugene Onegin (LINK). On Sunday,
Alisa Weilerstein takes center stage in Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme and Respighi’s Adagio con variazioni (LINK).
Each program begins with Dvorak’s Carnival
Overture
and concludes with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5. Piatigorsky Festival Information: www.piatigorskyfestival.com

 

Saturday at 4 p.m.
at Whittier College

Chorale Bel Canto
sings Bach’s Mass in B Minor

Stephen Gothold directs his chorale (which is celebrating
its 30th anniversary this season), soloists and orchestra as it
concludes the 75th annual Whittier Bach Festival with a performance
of this monument of choral literature. Information:
www.choralebelcanto.org

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Zipper Hall (The Colburn School)

Vox Femina

Iris Levine conducts her women’s chorale as it continues its
15th season and celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with a concert of music
from the British Isles and Ireland. Singer-composer Moira Smiley will be the
guest artist. Information: www.voxfeminala.org

Sunday at 2 p.m. at
local movie theatres

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor; Herbie Hancock, piano

No, the Phil has not mastered the trick of bifurcation. The
final event in this season’s “LA Phil LIVE” telecasts into movie theatres isn’t
live. Instead, it a recording of the all-Gershwin concert that opened the
2011-2012 season last October. This isn’t the truncated version that played on
PBS in December; it’s the entire concert. Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Phil in
rousing performances of Gershwin’s Cuban
Overture
and An American in Paris. Jazz
legend Herbie Hancock joins the orchestra as soloist in Rhapsody in Blue and also plays improvisations on two Gershwin
songs, Embraceable You and Someone to Watch Over Me. There will
also be an interview with Hancock in his home and the usual sort of rehearsal
footage shots that makes these telecasts must viewing, even if you saw the
original concert. Information: www.laphil.com

 

Monday at 7 p.m. at
Pasadena Civic Auditorum

Muse-ique: “Ebony
Meets Ivory”

Rachael Worby begins Muse-ique’s second season with the
first of four “Uncorked Events” featuring six pianists in music that’s all over
the lot. My preview story is HERE. Information:
muse-que.com

 

And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …

 

Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at First United Methodist Church, Pasadena

Pipe Organs Inspire
Inaugural Concert

Three Pasadena churches — First United Methodist, First
Church of Christ, Scientist, and Pasadena Presbyterian — are combining on this
series of three free concerts. The churches’ organists — Ae-Kyong Kim (FUMC),
David Wolfe (FCCS) and Timothy Howard (PPC) — will perform on all three
programs with music selected specifically for the instrument. Saturday’s
inaugural program will be played on FUMC’s E.M. Skinner Organ. Information: www.pipeorganlsinspire.org

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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PREVIEW: Muse-ique launches new season Monday, March 19

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

 

59140-Worby Image.jpg

When Rachael Worby — who for 10 years was music director of
the Pasadena Pops Orchestra — unleashed her new organization, Muse-ique, last
year, she promised a radically different programming concept. Last year’s
events (she doesn’t call them concerts) offered a tantalizing taste of her
eclectic vision. The 2012 season — four “Uncorked” events and three summer
programs — fleshes out that vision.

 

The first “Uncorked” event takes place Monday onstage at the
Pasadena Civic Auditorium — literally. Both the performers and the audience
will be on the stage and a loading bay (everyone will enter from the loading
door to the right of the auditorium; the audience is limited to 300). The
evening begins at 7 p.m. with cocktails and the actual event kicks off at 7:20
p.m.

 

As is the case with each of the “Uncorked” programs, Monday
will be unscripted to a degree because they involve conversations between Worby
and her colleagues, in this case, six pianists (thus the title “Ebony Meets
Ivory”): Joanne Pearce Martin, principal keyboard player for the Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Markus Pawlik; Julia Greer; assistant professor of materials
science and mechanics at Caltech; Bryan Pezzone; Kirk Wilson; and Gavin Martin
(Joanne’s husband). They will perform music ranging from Moonlight Sonata to Coltrane, bebop Bach to a 12-hand arrangement
of Stars and Stripes Forever. Also on
the agenda is pop culture analyst/ writer/ performer Sandra Tsing Loh.

 

The only thing that’s a given about Worby’s programs is that
nothing is a given, but the concept is intriguing. Information: muse-ique.com

 

Among the innovative aspects of Muse-ique are the locales.
The April 9 event — a Western theme featuring a Worby regular,
singer-songwriter Michael Murphy and several others — will be at the Gene Autry
National Center in Griffith Park. The Oct. 8 program at the Rose Pavilion will
be a mash-up of Beatles’ music including Sgt.
Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
(the album celebrates its 45th
anniversary on June 1). The fourth program, Nov. 12, will be held amid the
paper rolls of Castle Press (the latter two locales are repeats from the 2011
locales — Rachael loves recycling something or someone that clicks with the
audience).

 

The summer series begins with a free concert June 23 on the
steps of the Pasadena Civic Center. The other two events will be outdoors at
Caltech’s outdoor Olive Garden, which proved to be a terrific venue last year.
Latin Jazz Trumpeter Arturo Sandoval will return to headline the evening on
July 14; details of the August 18 program have not been announced.

 

Information: muse-ique.com

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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OVERNIGHT REVIEW: An Enchanted Evening with Brian Stokes Mitchell

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

______________________

 

Brian Stokes Mitchell

Friday, March 9, 2012 The Broad Stage

Next performance: Tomorrow at 4 p.m.

Information: www.thebroadstage.com

______________________

 

Brian Stokes Mitchell is a true Renaissance man: children’s
book author (On Broadway, with Brian
Stokes Mitchell)
, TV star (Trapper
John, M.D., Fraiser, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,
and most recently, Glee), among other talents. However,
he’s still best known as an iconic, Tony Award-winning Broadway musical theatre
star, a worthy successor to baritone legends such as John Raitt.

 

Now age 54, Stokes (as he prefers to be called, as opposed
to Mitchell) has forsaken the eight-shows-in-a-week grind of Broadway in favor
of concert and semi-staged performances of musicals, but he has also created a
90-minute long, stylishly crafted, winsomely performed show that made its local
debut at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica last night.

 

The show was entitled “From Broadway to The Broad,” ignoring
the fact that the name of the stage is pronounced “brode” (the hall was funded,
in part, through a gift from Eli and Edythe Broad). There was, of course, a
generous helping of powerfully sung Broadway favorites sprinkled throughout the
program (Stokes opened with Some
Enchanted Evening
from South Pacific
and encored with The Impossible Dream from
Man of La Mancha).

 

59035-Mitchell family.jpg

Stokes really connects with the audience (at one point, even
getting them sing the responses in It
Ain’t Necessarily So
from Porgy and
Bess)
and his diction was excellent throughout the evening. Along the way, he wove stories about
his childhood, his performing life, and what it’s like to be the father of a
precocious eight-year-old son (the image pictured right is obviously several
years old) — along with other musical genres — into the fast-paced show. He
even managed to graciously hawk his book, proceeds of which benefit The Actors’
Fund.

 

He was backed by a sensitive accompanying quartet: Jeff Colella
(who doubled as music director) on piano; Chris Colangelo, bass guitar; Rod
Harbour, drums; and Bob Shepherd, who sparkled on several different wind
instruments throughout the evening.

 

After the Some
Enchanted Evening
opener, Stokes sang material from George Gershwin (songs
and two selections from Porgy and Bess), the
Brazilian hit Waters of March, Stars (aided by a sensitive lighting
scheme by Michael Flowers) and a poignant medley of It isn’t Easy Being Green and Hooray.

 

Along the way, he slipped in a couple of pointed political
jibes; he applauded the number of states that have passed gay-marriage laws and
followed that by singing Hello, Young
Lovers
from The King and I — the
context gave the familiar lyrics quite a different spin. 

 

Before encoring with The
Impossible Dream,
Stokes paired an a cappella rendition of the first and
last verses of America the Beautiful (singing
the last refrain as God shed her grace on
thee; and crown thy good with sisterhood …”)
with Wheels of a Dream from Ragtime.

 

For many people in attendance, the show’s highlight came in
the middle. After recounting the back story of how he became involved with the
2005 concert performance of South Pacific
in Carnegie Hall (a performance captured, tbankfully on DVD) and noting
that the musical was originally performed in 1949 and 1950 without
amplification (“cheaters” he called it), Mitchell honored that tradition with a
gripping rendition of This Nearly Was
Mine
sung “au naturele” (without a microphone). His powerful baritone carried
wonderfully in the flattering acoustic of the intimate Broad Stage; indeed, at
least this critic wished the entire show had been done without amplification. This Nearly Was Mine received an
eminently deserved standing ovation from the capacity audience, and there were
more than a few tears flowing.

 

Stokes represents an earlier era of Broadway musicals, one
that young people today rarely get the chance to experience. However, this show
is deeper and richer than mere nostalgia, so if you can get a ticket for
tomorrow’s final performance, grab it.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

One kvetch about Stokes’ commentary: South Pacific was not the first Broadway musical to tackle racism. Show Boat in 1927 had the same theme as
part of that landmark show.

If you’ve never seen The Broad Stage, that’s another
reason to see this show. With just 499 seats and plenty of wood accents, the
acoustics are intimate and flattering and the seats seem wider than normal, in
part because of the low arms.

Another bonus: parking is free and the theater (which is
part of the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center) is accessible via
public transit (Metro’s 704 Rapid Line stops two blocks from the hall and Santa
Monica’s Big Blue Bus runs on Santa Monica Blvd., as well). Some day, Metro’s
Expo Line will be within walking distance.

The hall is a short walk from the Third Street Promenade
and the beach, so if you’re going tomorrow, make a day of it.

Last night’s show was followed by free wine and hors
d’oeuvres, a nice touch that other halls would do well to emulate.

* The Broad Stage is quite a busy spot with six more
programs scheduled during March. Broadway music lovers will want to mark March
31 on their calendars because Jason Robert Brown, whose songs in the musical Parade won him a Tony, comes to the hall
with the Caucasian Rhythm & Brass Kings and Anika Noni Rose. Information: www.thebroadstage.com

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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