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Tuesday Aug 9, 7:44 AM ET new  

New Vivaldi work heard for first time in 250 years

By Paul Tait

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A small part of a newly identified choral work by baroque Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi was played for the first time in about 250 years on Tuesday after being uncovered by an Australian academic.

Janice Stockigt of the University of Melbourne said the 11-movement "Dixit Dominus" for choir and soloists, which she uncovered in Dresden this year, would be played in full in the German city next year.

Stockigt said the work had previously been attributed to Baldassarre Galuppi, a Venetian contemporary of Vivaldi, since it first appeared in Galuppi's name in Dresden's Catholic Court Church in the 1750s.

"I think the music was probably performed during Vivaldi's lifetime and then went to ground under another composer's name," Stockigt told Reuters by telephone from Melbourne.

"I don't think it would have been played at all since then."

Stockigt said she had stumbled across the music while working on a larger project researching the repertory of the 18th century Catholic Court Church in the Saxon capital.

"Something just struck me about the music, it seemed awfully familiar to me," she said.

Stockigt referred her find to Vivaldi expert Professor Michael Talbot, of Britain's University of Liverpool, who examined the manuscript and pronounced it the work of Vivaldi.

While the original work has never been found, Stockigt said copies turned up in Dresden under Galuppi's name during the Seven Years' War about 15 years after Vivaldi's death in 1741.

"Dresden was besieged at this time and so, by the time things got back to normal, Mozart and a whole new style had come in yet again," she said.

Stockigt said "a small snippet" of the 35-minute work was played by a University of Melbourne baroque ensemble and sung to an audience of music students, academics and journalists, with counter-tenor Christopher Field giving the work its first modern performance.

The same piece was played several times over for an enthralled audience.

"It's magic to hear this and it will be even greater when I hear the whole work, I am just longing to hear the choral sections," Stickigt said.

Next year she hopes a complete "premiere" will be performed at the same court where the manuscript had lain since the 1750s.

Vivaldi, the son of a Venetian baker, was ordained a priest before becoming a violin teacher at an orphanage for girls. A prolific composer, he wrote more than 500 concertos but was buried in a pauper's grave after his death in Vienna.

Vivaldi, whose work influenced later musicians such as Johann Sebastian Bach, is best known today for Le Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons), four concertos from his Opus 8 which remains one of the world's most recognizable pieces of music.

Wed Feb 5, 4:37 PM ET

Canada's Charlie Biddle Hailed as Jazz Pioneer

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Tributes began pouring in on Wednesday for Charlie Biddle, the Philadelphia-born bassist who became a pioneering jazz icon while living in Canada for the past 55 years. Biddle died on Tuesday at age 76 after a long battle with cancer.

"Mr. Biddle's extraordinary talent as a bassist, and his work as a promoter, made him a legend of his time," Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said in a statement. "I know that his passing will deeply affect jazz enthusiasts and indeed all Canadians alike."

Biddle's family were with him at the time of his death on Tuesday evening.

"He passed away at home, surrounded by his family. He was serene," Allan Patrick, Biddle's son-in-law, told Reuters.

A memorial service for Biddle is planned for Saturday in Montreal.

A double bassist, Biddle's jazz career endured more than five decades. He is credited with popularizing jazz in Quebec and launching the careers of young artists in the mainly French-speaking Canadian province.

Just over a week ago, dozens of people braved freezing winter weather to hold a vigil for Biddle outside his home, singing songs after a church service nearby. His wife, Constance, acknowledged the tribute from a window near where Biddle was bed-ridden.

Earlier in January, Biddle was invested as a member of the Order of Canada, one of the country's highest honors. He also received the Prix Calixa-Lavallee, presented by Quebec's St. Jean Baptiste Society, for his contributions to music.

Biddle's four children -- Sonya, Charles Jr., Stephanie and Tracy -- are all active in the province's entertainment industry.

SERVED IN WARTIME

Born in Philadelphia in July 1926, Biddle's family roots stretched back to slave plantations of North Carolina.

After a stint in the U.S. army during World War II, Biddle studied music at Temple University on the GI bill.

The outspoken young musician ventured northward across the border to Montreal in 1948.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Montreal was Canada's main center for entertainment, especially jazz, and a mecca for black entertainers. It was also fertile ground where home-grown musicians such as piano legend Oscar Peterson, a longtime friend of Biddle, could hone their skills before striking out abroad.

Biddle played a big role in that, working in many of the local clubs, and throughout mainly French-speaking Quebec. He also brought to town luminaries of the day such as Johnny Hodges, Art Tatum and Earl "Fatha" Hines.

Later, he rented his own clubs, making them venues for the likes of Bill Evans, Art Farmer and Thad Jones, and an outlet for his own playing when the club scene wilted in the 1960s.

"Charlie rarely traveled outside the province to play, and still he became one of the most recognized names in jazz in the country," Canadian jazz pianist Oliver Jones told the Montreal Gazette.

FELT AT HOME IN MONTREAL

In 1979, Biddle organized a three-day jazz festival, something unheard of until then. Following his lead, the Montreal International Jazz Festival took hold the following year. Many artists and fans say the festival is now the biggest and best in the world.

Biddle said he was attracted to Montreal after his experiences in the segregated southern United States during his Army stint.

"I went down south and saw a different type of white man. I saw somebody who was able to do something to me and I could not retaliate. That is what hurt," he told Reuters during an interview in July 2000.

"I came up here to French Canada and something rubbed off right away. I saw people going through pretty near the same thing as I was going through in the States -- racism."

All along, Biddle retained his American citizenship, not wanting to give it up to become a Canadian. But the law changed in 1990, allowing him to take his Canadian permanent resident status up the final notch, while keeping his American citizenship.

Biddle finally became a Canadian citizen in October 2000.

Mon Feb 3,12:26 PM ET new  

Music by Glass Binds Film 'The Hours' Together

By Arthur Spiegelman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As movies go, "The Hours" is different: Three stories unfolding simultaneously in three different time periods featuring three different actresses and a unique score that forces its way into the drama as if it were a key player.

Director Stephen Daldry's adaptation of Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer prize-winning novel, which is based on Virginia Woolf's breakthrough novel "Mrs. Dalloway," has something setting it apart from other films as the season's most intense period of award-giving begins: a pulsating score by minimalist concert hall composer Philip Glass.

Performed by a piano and 50 violins, the score becomes as much of a character in the movie as stars Nicole Kidman (news), Julianne Moore (news) and Meryl Streep (news). And the story is that Glass got the job in classic, or as some would say, typical, Hollywood fashion.

Director Daldry filmed the movie with temporary music and he and the producers kept wanting a score that sounded more and more like Philip Glass. So they had people come in with Glass-like music until, finally, some one had the bright idea to call for the real Philip Glass.

This slightly miffed Glass because it meant that by the time he came into the editing room, the stars had left and it wasn't until the film's promotional tour that he got to meet them. "At the press junket, I followed Nicole Kidman to the podium and ... it's not so bad to have everyone so wide awake when you walk into a room," he said in a recent interview.

TYING THE BOW

Glass has written scores for more than a dozen previous films ranging from the avant-garde "Koyaanisqatsi" and the slasher flick "Candyman" to the Tibetan-flavored "Kundum," for which he won an Oscar nomination. He said he sees the job of writing music for movies as "tying the bow round the box, not baking the cake."

For "The Hours," with its floating from one story and time period to another, Glass's bow became something that held the whole cake together. He saw his job as uniting the three seemingly disparate stories.

"I used the same music to go between the three time periods and the effect was to bind the film. The music was a bridge .... I am so glad that people are getting it."

Or as director Daldry told Reuters recently: "This film seemed to reject music which was in any way merely emotional wallpaper. It needed a very different sort of music, a music that actually allowed a stream of consciousness to emerge, which was as if it was another character.

"The picture and the music worked in counterpoint to each other. It didn't just link the time periods it worked as a subconscious element. And of course Philip's music is so much about time and the relationships of the different time periods to one another."

Daldry said it was an easy collaboration. "The fantastic thing about Philip is that he is such a good collaborator, so we would score and then record, then score and record again, keep working at it. Not only was he brilliantly patient but he was brilliantly engaged in the whole process.

Said Glass, "I wanted the music to lift you away and I didn't want it to be gloomy and downcast at the end .... Even with all the suicide and death in the movie, I wanted people to feel that life was rich."

A RICH HERITAGE

The film is based on Cunningham's novel which blends the life of British writer Virginia Woolf and the writing of her breakthrough "stream of consciousness" novel "Mrs. Dalloway" in the 1920s with those of a reader on the brink of suicide in the 1950s and with a modern day Mrs. Dalloway, performing decades later the same tasks as the heroine of the novel.

If it sounds complicated, it is: Three stories essentially telling the life and death struggles of three women -- all within the confines of a single day. The film begins with Woolf's real suicide and then proceeds to weave the tale of her battle against depression and mental illness into two other deeply connected stories.

Glass's pulls the movie together with his characteristic hypnotic repetitive phrasings and does it so well that the experts think he is a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination, although he will have stiff competition for the statuette itself.

Novelist Cunningham thinks Woolf would have approved. In liner notes for the CD of the film score, Cunningham said, "I love Glass's music almost as much as I love Virginia Woolf ... When I saw the movie with the music added I thought automatically of how I could use the soundtrack ... to help me with my next book."

January 5, 2001

Ancient note: music as bridge between species

By David L. Chandler, Globe Staff

It has long been a cliche that music is universal, but now science is proving just how deeply true the old saying really is.

While scientists can't do much better than the rest of us in defining exactly what music is - although they know it when they hear it - they have shown that human appreciation of music is remarkably ancient, begins astonishingly early in life, and to a surprising extent may be shared by whales, birds, and even rats.

In a pair of articles appearing today in the journal Science, several scientists show that musical appreciation is so deep-seated that it may be one of humanity's oldest activities, and that in fundamental ways it even crosses the lines of species. Through such research, they hope, they may come to understand the human mind better, perhaps even learning important clues about how to overcome damage to the auditory system.

"We became human at the point where we started making music," Jelle Atema, a biologist with Boston University's program at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole and co-author of one of the Science papers, said in an interview yesterday. But, Atema admits, many animals also produce sounds in ways that, to human ears, meet virtually any definition of music.

Atema, like several of the researchers involved in the Science papers, straddles the fields of music and science: In addition to his work in biology, he plays the flute and even studied under the renowned flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal. He has painstakingly made exact copies of ancient bone flutes in order to play them and determine the kinds of sounds that our distant ancestors may have been making around their campfires. Another of the researchers, Harvard Medical School's Mark Jude Tramo, is a guitarist who was selected to play at a world's fair at the age of 8 and is a member of the performing rights organization ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

"Do musical sounds in nature reveal a profound bond between all living things?" asks one of the articles. And the evidence that it may is broad and very specific. For example:

The "songs" of humpback whales follow many of the same, precise rules that are nearly universal in human music, including the nature of the tonal scale, the way themes are introduced and varied, the use of percussive as well as melodic sounds, and the structures of rhythms and phrasing.

Many species of birds also sing in ways that mimic very closely the rules of human song, including the ways that songs are passed from one generation to another or are shared by a group of peers. Many use note scales similar to those devised by humans, even though an infinite variety of such scales is possible: The canyon wren uses the chromatic scale, while the hermit thrush uses a pentatonic scale. Some even make instruments and play them; the palm cockatoo of Australia, for instance, carefully shapes a drumstick from a twig and holds it in its foot to play on a hollow log.

Music goes back to the earliest ages of human prehistory, and sophisticated flutes have been found that date back as much as 53,000 years. The technology used to make these ancient instruments was much more advanced, Atema says, than that used at the same period to produce utilitarian tools like spearpoints and scrapers. "To see that they spent so much time [making instruments] means music was important to them," he says. Music, some scientists speculate, may even predate language.

Tramo, a neurologist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, says he is fascinated by the complexity of the human brain's response to music. "There is no `music center' in the brain," he wrote. Nearly every cognitive part of the brain is involved in listening to music, and when we move to the music many of the motor areas are involved as well. "Imagine how much of the brain lights up when we dance!"

But his research on just how the brain processes the sounds of music is much more than just an abstract question or a way of melding his medical and artistic sides. He sees it as a process that can lead to fundamental and important insights.

"The experiences we naturally have in our culture, in the arts, teach us a lot about how the brain works," Tramo said in an interview yesterday. "The next step, in the next few decades, is going to be to bridge that gap between the arts and the sciences."

By learning exactly how the brain processes and decodes the complex mix of tones, rhythms, timbre, and melodic progression that make up music, a more comprehensive understanding of how the brain makes sense of the world around us may emerge. In the same way, other scientists are using responses to visual arts as a way of probing the workings of the human visual system.

"We really want to understand basic sensory physiology," Tramo said. "That understanding in time is going to help scientists in their efforts to help the deaf to hear, and help the blind to see."

This story ran on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 1/5/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

Sunday December 3, 2000, 12:03 PM ET

Washington Honored Eastwood, Baryshnikov, Others

By Christopher Doering
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It's the closest Washington comes to the Oscars.

Big names from politics and Hollywood, from President Clinton to actor Morgan Freeman, gathered in the nation's capital this weekend to recognize the winners of the 2000 Kennedy Center Honors -- five of the world's top performing artists from the worlds of film, theater, music and dance.

This year's honorees were dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov's, musician Chuck Berry, singer-conductor Placido Domingo, actor-director Clint Eastwood and actress Angela Lansbury.

"Each has given us something unique and enriched us beyond measure," Clinton told a special White House tribute for the artists on Sunday.

"Tonight's honorees have brought to their art form a spark of the new and unexpected. Each has left their form of art more modern, more brilliant and changed for the better," the president added.

The two-day ceremony at the Kennedy Center overlooking the Potomac River marked the 23rd year that Hollywood entertainers have saluted their own and raised money for the center with an extravagant song and dance tribute.

Since the prestigious ceremony began in 1978, 121 artists have been recognized, including singer Bob Dylan, actors Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart, comedian Bob Hope and composer-conductor André Previn.

Lansbury, the veteran stage and film actress perhaps best known for her star role in the television series "Murder She Wrote," said, "I am trying to actively savor and adore all of what is going on, because so often in life these things happen and you race through them" without appreciating what is happening.

Hollywood icon Eastwood -- who made his name starring in movies such as "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" and "Dirty Harry" -- said it feels good to be recognized by some of his closest Hollywood friends.

"This is what America is all about," joked Eastwood, a 47-year veteran of the silver screen both as an actor and director.

"Kiddingly, I told Tommy Lee Jones (who is on the board responsible for nominating the recipients) 'Are you the one that got me into this?"' he said.

The artistic community is largely responsible for selecting the recipients. A 103-member panel that includes Jack Lemmon, Kevin Kline and Carol Burnett submit their recommendations to the Kennedy Center board in April -- a list that blossomed to more than 80 people before it was reduced.

The weekend began on Saturday with the awards ceremony and a toast to the honorees at the State Department. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright hosted the festivities, welcoming the guests and praising the recipients for their contributions to the arts.

Still, it was the three-hour gala on Sunday evening that illustrated through artistic expression the impact these honorees have had in their respective fields.

Each was given a unique tribute that included singing, dancing, music and surprise guests honoring their careers and in some cases, offering a glimpse of today's young stars.

Among the tributes was one by two 22-year-old opera stars honoring Domingo and three Broadway stars singing clips from Lansbury's days on stage.

"These people, through their careers, are still thriving and have already left a legacy," said George Stevens, co-creator of the honors production.

"They inspire young people and that is still another part of the legacy," he said.
Friday October 20, 2000 7:28 PM ET

China's Li, 18, wins Poland's Chopin piano prize

By Christopher Borowski

WARSAW (Reuters) - Li Yundi, an 18-year-old virtuoso from China, has won Poland's Frédéric Chopin piano competition, becoming one of the youngest players to capture the prestigious international prize.

Li charmed the strict, 23-member jury, who had refused to award the first prize in the last two competitions, with his accuracy and meticulous technique in performing difficult piano pieces by the 19th-century Polish Romantic composer.

"The way he plays is very balanced. He is not the type of player which is admired by one part of the audience and hated by the other," said Polish juror Edward Auer after the verdict.

The $25,000 first prize is expected to be Li's pass to lucrative playing contracts with the world's best orchestras.

The competition, held every five years since 1927, is a national event in music-loving Poland.

Past winners of the contest -- such as Garrick Ohlsson of the United States (1970) and Poland's Krystian Zimmerman (1975) -- became classical music stars. Soviet virtuoso Stanislav Bunin won the last first prize in the contest 15 years ago.

"I had a feeling I would win. I thought the audience liked me and I would like to thank them for that," the calm, long-haired player said after the verdict was delivered at the Warsaw Philharmonia Concert Hall late on Thursday night.

The audience gave Li a standing ovation after his final bravura performance of Chopin's E-minor piano concerto with the National Philharmonic Orchestra.

All but one of six finalists chose this more dynamic and emotional of Chopin's two concertos for their final performance.

Argentina's Ingrid Fliter, who played the F-minor concerto, won the second prize and Russia's Aleksander Kobrin came third.

Li outplayed 97 rivals from across the world during the two-week-long competition, that mainly featured Chopin's moody short pieces -- such as Mazurka and Polonaises, which are often based on Polish folk music.

The Chinese pianist is believed to be the youngest winner in the contest. Organisers are uncertain of the ages of the winners before World War Two because all documents were lost during that conflict.

Li, who was born in Chongqing and now studies at the School of Arts in Shenzhen, has already won several piano competitions, including the Stravinsky Competition in the United States when he was just 13 years old.

The Warsaw competition is rivalled in prominence only by the Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow and the Queen Elisabeth competition in Brussels.

But the Chopin contest has lost some of its shine in recent years, with many criticising the jury for failing to award a first prize in the last two competitions.

Reuters/Variety


Music Helps the Body Heal

Soothing melodies play part in recovery, therapists say

By Nancy A. Melville
HealthSCOUT Reporter

SUNDAY, Aug. 27 (HealthSCOUT) -- "Music rearranges your molecular structure," Carlos Santana once said. And though it is still only a scientific theory, many patients of music therapy will tell you that songs do indeed improve your physical state.

Just ask Sunny Hadder, a music therapist who, along with hundreds across the nation, is regularly recruited by doctors and nurses to bring healing harmonics to the sick.

"Nearly all of the patients I'm referred to have a positive response of some form or another to hearing the music," she says. "Even if it's a coma patient, the reaction may be in the form of their heart rate fluctuating in response to the music they're hearing."

Hadder shows up at the University of Alabama's hospital twice a week with a cart full of musical instruments, games and activities. She works with both the patient and the patient's family, and specific music therapies are created for each person.

And just as musical tastes can run the gamut, so must Hadder's repertoire.

"The music that's played all depends on the patient's preferences. I'll talk to them or their family if they're non-responsive, and if they like country, I do country," she says. "If they like jazz, I do jazz. If they like hymns and gospels, that's what I do. And if they even want rap, that's what I'll give them."

According to Al Bumanis, a spokesman for the American Music Therapy Association, the principles of music therapy go back to Biblical times, but the modern practice began in the 1950s.

"The impetus for the modern profession came in World War II, when music was used in veterans hospitals. First it was used there as a diversion, but then it was found to be much more than a diversionary activity, so the profession became standardized and took on ethical guidelines and a curriculum and everything. Now you can even get a doctorate in music therapy."

Central to many music therapy techniques are the benefits of rhythm, explains Bumanis.

"Let's say a person had a stroke and they're recovering perhaps a limited use of walking. The music is then used in a scientific way, helping the patient find a rhythm to their gait and maybe gradually increasing the tempo of the music until the person can walk better."

Music therapists often form a partnership with patients, drumming, singing and even writing songs with them, says Bumanis. But less passive techniques are also emphasized, including listening to music or using guided imagery, a technique frequently used with mothers in childbirth.

Bumanis says numerous studies have shown music therapy's benefits can elicit verbalization, increase comfort levels, reduce blood pressure, reduce pain perception, reduce fear, stress and anxiety, and increase a sense of self-worth and self-control.

According to Cleveland dentist Matthew Messina, a spokesman for the American Dental Association, that sense of control is why many dental professionals have become enlightened.

"It gives patients control over something, and that's the one thing that for a long time experts just couldn't put their finger on that that appears to be at the core of patient unease," he explains.

Whether it's a hospital or a dentist's office, he says, "you have to surrender to other people coming into your space, and you give up your ability to decide when you're going to go and how you're going to go. You give up a lot of your autonomy."

What To Do: Visit the American Music Therapy Association for more information on music therapy techniques. And read this article on the history of music therapy.

I've Got You Under My Skin

Occupational hazards of musicians

Being a musician may seem like a great job - but it does have its share of health hazards. Constant exposure to loud noises can damage hearing, and some musicians are subject to repetitive stress syndrome. According to the March 1999 issue of the International Journal of Dermatology, there's a less~obvious risk, too - for skin problems.

When doctors from the Gazi University Medical Faculty in Ankara, Turkey, examined the hands of 97 musicians, they found loads of skin problems. Horn players were particularly prone to reactions to nickle, but there were also reactions to varnish used on instruments - psoriasis, itch and flaky skin.

Excessive sweating of the palms and calluses of the fingertips were also very common.

The study's authors concluded that while many of the problems might be caused by regular contact with skin irritants, others might be the result of emotional stress.

Maybe musicians should play more songs like Whistle a Happy Tune.

~ Sam Uretsky

Friday August 18, 2000 5:32 AM ET

Columbia, Verve team for Burns' Jazz documentary

By Phil Gallo

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Columbia Records' Legacy imprint and Verve Records are joining forces to release a far-reaching overview in conjunction with Ken Burns' PBS documentary "Jazz."

On Nov. 7, Columbia Legacy and Verve will release a five-CD box set companion titled "Ken Burns Jazz: The Story of American Music" in addition to 22 individual artist discs. There will also be a single disc overview of the 10-episode series, which will air beginning Jan. 8.

Sony Music will release the box set and single disc overview domestically and Verve will release them internationally.

Universal Music Group's Verve label and Columbia possess two of the nation's largest jazz libraries. To make the discs comprehensive, tracks are being licensed from other jazz labels, such as Atlantic, BMG, Fantasy and Blue Note.

A Columbia spokesman said the sets are not meant to be historically inclusive, just representative of the Burns documentary. The five-CD set, which includes music from the shows, is a product of Burns' vision. Repertoire for all the sets is still being worked on.

Among the artists who will have the single disc issued through Columbia/Legacy are Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Herbie Hancock, Fletcher Henderson, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk and Jelly Roll Morton. Verve will issue sets from Count Basie, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Lester Young, among others.

"This project represents a fantastic opportunity to celebrate over 100 years of jazz history, while at the same time helping a whole new generation of music fans to appreciate the beauty, power and importance of this uniquely American art form," said Sony Music/Legacy Recordings senior vice president Jeff Jones.

A marketing plan for the sets is still in the works. Before the series airs, Knopf will publish a coffee-table book of photographs from the series. After its airing, Warner Home Video will release it on DVD.

Reuters/Variety REUTERS

Friday August 18, 2000 5:08 PM ET

Pianist Barenboim returns to Argentina

By Brian Winter

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim made an ebullient return to his native Argentina late Thursday almost 50 years to the day after his first public piano recital given at the age of seven.

This time around, there were nine encores -- compared to seven August 19, 1950 -- as an elated Barenboim entertained a sold-out hometown crowd at Buenos Aires' Teatro Colon operahouse with his versatile piano repertoire ranging from Beethoven to tango.

Barenboim, the musical director of orchestras in Berlin and Chicago, has been called "legendary" in the media. His marriage to deceased cellist Jacqueline du Pre was portrayed in the 1998 movie "Hilary and Jackie."

Thursday, the musician beamed when the scattered few who hung around for the final encore serenaded him with a rendition of "Happy Birthday To You" to mark the anniversary.

"I toyed around with the idea of playing the same program as the one I did 50 years ago," he told the audience, gazing far up into the theater's ornate, golden balconies.

"But I was afraid. I was afraid there would be people here with good memories, and they wouldn't like it as much," he added to a wave of laughter and applause.

Barenboim, who left Argentina at the age of 10 when his family moved to Israel, told Reuters after the concert, "It was a very moving occasion for me. When you come on the stage, and it's a public that knows you, it is a wonderful feeling of community. Today had a wonderful touch of sentimentality."

Child Prodigy

Barenboim still had vivid memories of his first recital, given as a child prodigy in a small Buenos Aires salon.

"I remember the sensation, the feeling of immense pleasure, of wanting to make music for the public, and it's something that has remained with me ever since," Barenboim said.

The audience, wowed by the technical skill and emotional power of the boy, kept clamoring for more until the young Barenboim finally came to the front of the stage with an apology -- after the long program and seven encores, he had used up his entire repertoire.

Half a century later, Argentines welcomed him back.

"He's been gone for many years, but he is still Argentine and we are proud of him as our own. He played marvelously tonight," said Ignacio Fernandez, 66, as he filed out of the majestic theater.

Barenboim plans another concert to commemorate the anniversary of his premiere for Saturday night.

But he said he had not yet chosen a venue for his 100th anniversary performance. c

"I'm just now beginning to plan carefully my next fifty years," he said laughing.

Reuters/Variety REUTERS

Saturday, August 5, 2000

Bagpipers Play Into Record Books

From AOL News, .c The Associated Press

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) - It was music to the ears - well, some ears - as 10,000 bagpipers and drummers set a record Saturday for the largest-ever pipe band.

Organizers of the pipe-a-thon, a fund-raiser for the Marie Curie Cancer Care charity, said more than 8,600 pipers set out on a procession from Edinburgh Castle along Princes Street in the heart of the Scottish capital.

The skirl of the pipes could be heard for miles. At one point, a ring of bagpipers in kilts encircled the medieval castle that looms over Edinburgh as pipers from Spain, Alaska, Guam, Canada, the United States, Australia and Hong Kong joined their Scottish counterparts.

Among the visitors were the Texas Firefighters Band and the pipe band of the New York City Department of Corrections.

Prince Charles was to meet participants Saturday afternoon.

A similar event in 1994 attracted 5,000 pipers. Researchers from the Guinness Book of Records were on hand to verify Saturday's feat, organizers said.

AP-NY-08-05-00 1041EDT

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.

Wednesday July 19, 2000 6:28 PM ET

Barbra Streisand announces final concerts

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Veteran singer-actress Barbra Streisand announced Wednesday that she will give four final concerts in September -- two in Los Angeles and two in New York -- then bid goodbye to her career as a public performer.

Streisand, 58, who has acknowledged a lifelong struggle with anxiety over live appearances, "has chosen to conclude her public performance career in the two cities most closely associated with her work," her manager, Martin Erlichman said in a statement.

She will give two farewell concerts at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, on Sept. 20 and 21, and two more at Madison Square Garden in New York City, on Sept. 27 and 28.

Tickets will go on sale through Ticketmaster on July 30 for the Los Angeles concerts and on July 31 for the New York engagements. No information about prices was immediately available.

Those shows will follow a performance by Streisand Aug. 17 at a star-studded fund-raising concert for the Democratic Party in Los Angeles immediately following Vice President Al Gore (news - web sites)'s nomination for president, publicist Dick Guttman said.

For that show, to be held at the Shrine Auditorium, Streisand will share the bill with numerous performers, but "she will be singing the last three songs of the night," Guttman said.

Streisand's last live performance was a sold-out millennium eve concert she gave Dec. 31, 1999, at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, for which she reportedly received more than $5 million.

"She thought that the performance in Las Vegas would be her last one, but there were so many pressures ... from fans and others for her to conclude her career in New York and L.A.," Guttman said. Streisand, born in Brooklyn, currently resides near Los Angeles in the swank, oceanside city of Malibu.

The Grammy-winning entertainer has performed infrequently in public since the mid-1960s. Prior to a pair of New Year's 1993-94 concerts and a six-city concert tour in the spring and early summer of '94, Streisand had not performed live for pay in 27 years, Guttman said. "She acknowledged when she returned in '93 that she was overcoming a fear of public performance," he said.

Other notable Streisand appearances in recent years included a performance at President Clinton's first inaugural ball in January 1993 and a 1996 political benefit that raised $4 million for his reelection campaign, Guttman said. She also staged the 1986 "One Voice" concert at her Malibu estate that raised several million dollars for political candidates she supported.

Although not always popular with critics, and reputed to be arrogant and sometimes difficult with co-workers, Streisand's music won a devoted fan base, and her aversion to live performances has not hurt her commercially.

With 42 gold-certified albums to her credit, she ranks as the biggest-selling female recording artist of all time, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

Streisand also won fame as a film actress, making her movie debut in the Oscar-winning role as vaudeville comedienne Fanny Brice in the 1968's "Funny Girl." She has gone on to star in nearly 20 pictures and lately has concentrated on her work as a film and TV producer.

She directed three films that she also starred in -- "Yentl" (1983), "The Prince of Tides" (1991) and "The Mirror Has Two Faces" (1996).

Reuters/Variety

Monday, July 3, 2000

PBS's 'Dvorák': Accentuating the Positive

By Philip Kennicott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 3, 2000 page C01

"Dvorák and America," a PBS special that airs tonight at 10 on WETA, is a rarity: an effort at music history that rises above the usual bromides of television cultural documentaries. The hour-long program explores what was almost a utopian moment in the history of music in America: Dvorák's three-year stay in the United States as head of the National Conservatory of Music.

Music as subject matter for film is usually a disastrous undertaking. Filmmakers are too easily seduced: Music seems to say something bigger and deeper than mere images, so it is used as a gloss. Tell a few intriguing stories, then spin that CD: the orchestra swells and the mind goes elsewhere. The depth of music is substituted for the depth of questioning and analysis.

Director Lucille Carra struggles to avoid the trap by focusing on the social realities of America during the composer's visit, which lasted from 1892 to 1895. She succumbs on occasion to the temptations of cinematography (short reveries that mix Dvorák's familiar compositions with sumptuous natural imagery), but she also includes reference to the economic depression of the 1890s, the poverty of immigrant life and the stark landscape of racism.

Dvorák, the dean of Czech conductors at the end of the 19th century, was enticed to come here to lead the extraordinarily progressive National Conservatory of Music in New York. He came for the money, but he also came with an anthropologist's openness to learning about a new country.

The usual Dvorák myth goes like this: Papa Dvorák, a simple man of humble origins, arrived in America and discovered that, unbeknown to us, America had a treasure trove of native song. He wrote us a dandy symphony that uses some of this material, the Symphony No. 9 ("From the New World"), exhorted us to pay more respect to our folk tradition, and then departed happily for his native Bohemia.

"Dvorák and America" doesn't try to dismantle this myth, but it does show the chips and chinks in the facade. Dvorák is celebrated for his sympathy to the North American vernacular; but figures like Jeanette Thurber, the astonishingly farsighted founder of the National Conservatory who brought the composer to this country, are celebrated as well. Dvorák is a hero in context.

Indeed, Dvorák's time here was influential because the groundwork had already been laid for his visit by people like Thurber, critics like Henry Krehbiel and conductors like Anton Seidl. Dvorák's famous call for American composers to use African American melodies--an exhortation that had the authority of the composer's vast celebrity behind it--was tolerable because it was taken up and promulgated by people like Thurber, Krehbiel and Seidl.

The documentary tries to depict contradictions. Dvorák lived in the New York of Jacob Riis, the Danish photographer and social commentator who exposed the squalor of the city's tenements. He also visited Spillville, Iowa, a Czech settlement of great and sometimes harsh natural beauty. For a brief visit, the composer saw much of the best and worst of the country.

Dvorák was celebrated by wealthy New Yorkers, indeed, was brought to New York by Thurber, herself a member of the elite. But Thurber welcomed African Americans in her conservatory and Dvorák was collegial with the black singer Harry Burleigh, who introduced him to spirituals and other African American musics. The composer's fascination with and appreciation of this music is touching. It doesn't make him a saint--musicians appropriate good music because it's good music, not because it's the right thing to do in a moral sense. But it is evidence of a curious mind, which is more than a lot of European cultural figures brought with them when they visited the culturally insecure Americas of this period.

The only major problem with this documentary is its treatment of music. Although Carra mostly resists the tendency toward sentimentality, music is responsible for most of the lapses, including an irrelevant and mythologizing story about the composer's tender sympathy for a birthing sow during his time in Iowa (accompanied, of course, by beautiful music). Less important, but more annoying for musicians, is the visual use of Dvorák's scores: The camera rarely focuses on the passage being heard, and it often pans over the music backward.

And Dvorák's music is left unanalyzed. It's easy to show beautiful fields and sunsets and make the implicit argument that he responded to the landscape; but did he respond, musically, to the squalor as well? And what would such a response sound like?

Ultimately, the documentary is celebratory, which is understandable but troubling. The seeming cultural tolerance of the National Conservatory was remarkable. But if one reads the rhetoric of the time closely, it quickly sounds patronizing. Thurber once said, "The aptitude of the colored race for music, vocal and instrumental, has long been recognized, but no definite steps have hitherto been taken to develop it."

Ask yourself what she meant by the word "develop," and the utopian moment of Dvorák's encounter with America seems a little less sunny than this documentary ultimately portrays it.

© 2000 The Washington Post Company

Wednesday, June 14, 2000; Washington Post Page C02

Unknown Vivaldi Manuscript for Sale at Christie's

ROME –– A dazzling collection of perfectly preserved 18th-century manuscripts of unknown works by musical masters such as Vivaldi goes on sale here today.

"This is one of the most important collections in private hands of an Italian collection of 18th-century music, which is . . . the peak period for the history of music," said Fabio Bertolo, who is organizing the sale at Christie's auction house.

"If you imagine that this period influenced Bach, influenced Mozart--you can imagine the importance of Italian music in the 18th century," he said before the sale.

Christie's is auctioning 80 chamber music manuscripts from prominent musicians active in Italy. The manuscripts belonged to the aristocratic Calori-Provana-Balliani di Vignola Monferrato family from the northwestern region of Piedmont.

"It was produced from musicians that worked for this court. . . . It brings together a huge collection of manuscripts perfectly preserved during the last three centuries in the hands of heirs and in the hands of private collectors," Bertolo said.

The highlight of the lot, which is being sold together and has a minimum price tag of 180 million lire ($88,630), is the unpublished manuscript of Antonio Vivaldi's "L'Improvvisata."

The piece, a work for strings, was played in public for the first time in three centuries in Christie's fresco-lined auction room Monday evening. Bertolo said none of the pieces in the collection had been performed "in the modern age."

Bertolo, speaking in a book-filled manuscript archive at the auction house's sumptuous headquarters overlooking Rome's Piazza Navona, said "L'Improvvisata" was "one of the most important discoveries" of Vivaldi works.

"Not only Vivaldi but all this collection has never been played. . . . It's an important chapter of the history of 18th-century Italian music," he said.

Bertolo said he expected the Italian state archive--which has a huge collection of Vivaldi music in Turin--to be a keen bidder in Wednesday's sale along with private collectors.

Christie's has no idea what the manuscripts will fetch.

"The value of this lot is quite considerable--it's 180 to 200 million lire [$90,000 to $100,000]--but compared with the historical importance of this music it's nothing," Bertolo said.

Reuters © 2000 The Washington Post Company

Wednesday June 7 1:01 PM ET

Famed pianist Glenn Gould seen as autistic

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian pianist Glenn Gould was renowned both for his fantastic talent and for deeply eccentric habits such as rocking back and forth during recitals, humming loudly and conducting the music to himself.

Critics variously described him as "weird," "nuts," "idiosyncratic" and "wacky," and some strongly suggested he was little better than a show-off. But a Canadian musical academic turned medical detective says Gould's behavior shows he was battling Asperger's syndrome, a little-known kind of autism.

Timothy Maloney, director of the music division at Canada's National Library, insists the musical world needs to look again at one of its most charismatic figures.

"Some saw his behavior as a deliberate ploy. To me he was a victim rather than someone who had set out to do something deliberate. This thing ruled him. He was in a lot of emotional pain," Maloney told Reuters in an interview.

His controversial theory will ensure even more attention is paid to the reclusive Gould, who abruptly quit performing in public at the height of his fame in 1964 and turned to media work and recording before dying in 1982 at the age of just 50.

Some 225 boxes of his personal possessions and documents have been turned over to the National Library and are regularly consulted by researchers from all over the world trying to solve the Gould enigma.

'Overwhelmed By The Intensity Of His Playing'

"Gould's superb musicianship captivated many people. Just listen to the interviews of those who saw him in concert -- there was an impact at a deeply personal level," Maloney said.

"People were overwhelmed by the intensity of his playing and how much he put of himself into it. He was unique. No one played like that before or after him."

Maloney's curiosity was sparked by a U.S. psychiatrist's biography of Gould, which mentioned in passing that the odd behavior resembled the symptoms of Asperger's victims. "I went 'Bingo.' I'd suspected for a long time that this was more than just a weirdo," he said.

Once he started investigating Asperger's syndrome, which unlike other forms of autism does not always manifest itself at birth, he found many symptoms that made sense including intense powers of concentration, adherence to elaborate routines and rituals, inability to interact normally with others, abnormal responses to sensory stimulation and intolerance to change.

"There are tremendous assets and liabilities which go with the syndrome. These include perfect pitch, a photographic memory and exceptionally fine motor skills, with lamentable gross motor skills. Gould walked awkwardly but had a fabulous facility with his fingers," he said.

Gould made his public debut at the age of 14 and it soon became clear he was no ordinary pianist. He soaked his hands in hot water before every performance to improve their sensitivity and showed a marked reluctance to change his routine in any way, often placing a small Oriental carpet beneath the pedals before sitting down on his own battered low-slung piano chair.

He could not stand the cold and often wore a hat, scarf, gloves and winter coat, even in summer. He always complained about drafts and interrupted one concert in Jerusalem until a door at the back of the balcony had been closed.

Imagined And Real Illnesses

Gould developed imagined and real illnesses on tour, canceling many concerts. Eventually the pain of public performances became too great and he retired in 1964.

He preferred to keep others at a distance, had few close friendships and never married.

Ray Roberts, who was a close friend over the last 10 years of the pianist's life, says Maloney's theory makes sense. "It certainly fits in with the lifestyle and the profile, how he conducted his life," he told Reuters.

"He was very methodical in some ways and not at all in others. When he focused on something it was so intense as to be detrimental to his health."

This begs an important question: Did Gould have to fight off the symptoms of Asperger's to become a superb musician or did the syndrome in fact help make him a superstar?

"That's a tough question. I suspect the assets it gave him were so important to him that (without it) he may not have been as celebrated a musician and would not have been able to reach such a high a level in the profession," said Maloney.

"Robert Schumann (the 19th century German composer) was in the throes of a massive depression. If he hadn't had those phases, what would his output have been like?"

But Maloney's theory does little to convince Dr. Helen Mesaros, a Toronto psychiatrist who is currently working on what she calls "a psychobiography" of Gould.

Writing in Canada's Medical Post newspaper last month, Mesaros said many of Gould's symptoms can be traced back to his childhood and the insistence of his mother that he focus on the piano to the exclusion of everything else.

"It is known in clinical practice that mental health problems, if untreated, often tend to get worse and become more complex and obscure. This is precisely what happened to Gould," she wrote, adding it was clear the pianist suffered from a form of obsessive compulsive disorder and, by the time he reached 30, was also in grip of severe clinical depression.

"Gould's widely publicized self-neglect, solitude, dependence on the same objects and routines are rather late complications of his mood disorder and underlying personality dysfunction, rather than the neurological deficit called Asperger's disorder," she wrote.

Maloney remains unconvinced, so much so that he is due to present a detailed paper on Gould to the annual meeting of Ontario's Autism Society on June 9.

"I have no doubts. It could happen in a few years' time that someone comes along and proves me absolutely dead wrong but I can't see any possibility that I am," he said.

"I think Gould deserves admiration and empathy from us. He went through his entire life undiagnosed, yet he knew he was different. He suffered emotionally and never had the support system modern sufferers do."

Reuters/Variety

Tuesday June 6 1:49 AM ET

Hollywood Bowl taps gala presenters

By Phil Gallo

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Steven Spielberg, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Dreyfuss have been tapped to make presentations at the Hollywood Bowl's annual gala and concert on June 23. Spielberg and Dreyfuss will present the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame Award to composer John Williams, and Goldberg will present the award to Garth Brooks.

The evening will also feature a tribute to the 80-year history of the Bowl, with Goldblum introducing a segment on the 1937 tribute to George Gershwin. Other singers, pop and jazz artists as well as dancers will be announced soon.

Besides a concert featuring the honorees performing with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra under the baton of Mauceri, there will be film clips, dances and fireworks. Proceeds from the evening will benefit the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Education and Community programs.

Reuters/Variety

Monday May 8, 2000 11:33 AM ET

'Kate,' 'Music Man' Lead Broadway's Tony Nominations

By Christopher Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An acclaimed revival of "Kiss Me Kate," Cole Porter's musical riff on Shakespeare, scored 12 Tony award nominations on Monday while plays by Eugene O'Neill, Sam Shepard, Tom Stoppard and Arthur Miller led the drama category in the running for Broadway's highest honors.

The 2000 Tonys, the top U.S. theater awards, had twosomes in mind, with several artists winning double nominations in the same category, as well as veteran Rosemary Harris competing against her daughter, Jennifer Ehle.

"Kiss Me Kate," with a score featuring Porter classics like "Too Darn Hot" and "Another Op'nin, Another Show," won nominations for best revival of a musical, for leads Marin Mazzie and Brian Stokes Mitchell, director Michael Blakemore, best scenic design, lighting, choreography, orchestrations, costumes and three nods for best featured (supporting) actor.

"Meredith Willson's The Music Man" took nine nominations, including best revival of a musical and best actor for film and television actor Craig Bierko, making his Broadway debut in a role once thought to be owned by the late Robert Preston.

Best new musical nominations went to two dance shows with virtually no original music, "Contact" and "Swing," joining "James Joyce's The Dead," now closed, and "The Wild Party"

The lavish Elton John - Tim Rice musical "Aida", produced by Disney, was overlooked, although John and Rice were nominated for their score as was lead Heather Headley as best actress.

Best play nominees were Michael Frayn's "Copenhagen," Claudia Shear's "Dirty Blonde," Miller's "The Ride Down Mt. Morgan" and Sam Shepard's 20-year-old play "True West" in its first Broadway production.

"Dirty Blonde," a late season transfer from off-Broadway that has been the subject of a raft of articles in The New York Times, won five nominations including a second nod for Shear as best actress in the title role, screen siren Mae West.

Best revival of a play nominees were "Amadeus", Miller's "The Price," Stoppard's "The Real Thing" and the late Nobel laureate O'Neill's "A Moon for the Misbegotten."

Other best revival of a musical nominations went to "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Tango Argentino."

Film actors John C. Reilly and Philip Seymour Hoffman were both nominated as best actor for "True West" for their roles as dueling brothers in the Shepard comic drama, in which they switch parts every three performances.

Several Hollywood stars who put in Broadway appearances this season were overlooked, including Carol Burnett in "Putting it Together," Woody Harrelson in "The Rainmaker" Olympia Dukakis in the one-woman show "Rose" and Patrick Stewart in "The Ride Down Mt. Morgan."

Other best actor in a play nominees included Gabriel Byrne in "A Moon for the Misbegotten," Stephen Dillane in "The Real Thing" and David Suchet for "Amadeus".

Jayne Atkinson in "The Rainmaker" and Cherry Jones in "A Moon for the Misbegotten" joined Harris in Noel Coward's "Waiting in the Wings" and her daughter Ehle in "The Real Thing" as best actress nominees.

Toni Collette, best known for her Oscar-nominated role as the mother in "The Sixth Sense" won a Tony nomination as best actress in a musical for "The Wild Party," one of two musicals this season based on the Jazz Age poem of the same name. The legendary Eartha Kitt was also nominated for the same show as best featured actress in a musical.

Other best actress nominees were Rebecca Luker in "The Music Man" and three-time Tony winner Audra McDonald in "Marie Christine," a musical retelling of Medea which has closed.

Christopher Walken, best known for playing offbeat characters in films, was nominated for best actor in a musical for "James Joyce's The Dead," joined by George Hearn for "Putting it Together" and Mandy Patinkin for "The Wild Party."

The Tonys loved director-choreographer Susan Stroman this year, handing her four nominations for "Contact" and "The Music Man." She will complete against herself in both the directing and choreography categories.

Michael John LaChiusa also won double nominations for his scores for "The Wild Party" and "Marie Christine."

The lavish production of "Saturday Night Fever," an adaptation of the 1977 film, was completely shut out.

Special Tony will be presented to "Dame Edna: The Royal Tour," while the annual award for regional theater went to The Utah Shakespearean Festival of Cedar City, Utah.

Also honored with special Tonys were actress Eileen Heckart, agent-manager Sylvia Herscher and the "Encores!" series of musical revivals performed at City Center.

The nominations were announced by former "Cheers" co-stars Kelsey Grammer, about to star in "Macbeth," and Bebe Neuwirth at a news conference. They will be presented June 4 at a gala hosted by talk show host Rosie O'Donnell at Radio City Music Hall.

Saturday May 6, 2000 8:23 PM ET

UK's First Classical Music Awards Starts With Bang

By Braden Reddall

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's inaugural awards ceremony for classical music started off with a bang on Saturday, opening with violinist Vanessa Mae hitting her notes backed by pyrotechnics and thundering drums.

The Classical Brit Awards is classical music's answer to annual pop music gala the Brit Awards and an attempt by organizers to reach a wider audience.

Mae, described by a U.S. magazine as "Mozart in Doc Martens," is part of a young generation helping to broaden classical music's appeal.

The 21-year-old, who posed in a wet T-shirt for her first album cover, wore a backless green-sequinned shirt as she strutted around the stage playing a rousing version of "Storm and Devils Trill" to kick off the show.

"Television is a visual medium as well as audio," she told reporters after the performance.

Later, Welsh teenage singing sensation Charlotte Church walked away with an award for British Artist of the Year.

Britons buy more classical albums per capita than their European counterparts and twice the amount bought by Americans, but Church enjoys considerable success across the Atlantic. The 14-year-old's

debut album "Voice of an Angel" launched her to global stardom, but she said she could hardly believe she was currently the most popular British artist in the United States -- ahead of The Spice Girls.

"That is great, but it's hard for me to comprehend. It's so unreal," she said.

"Classical Music For Everyone"

Britain's Minister for Culture Chris Smith, prior to giving Church the award, spoke out against the "stuffy people" who criticized the Oscars-style awards ceremony for its populist presentation of classical music.

"Classical music is for everyone," he said to resounding cheers at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

The industry is hoping to boost sales, which make up six percent of the total in Britain.

Church had also been up for Young British Classical Performer but that honor went to Daniel Harding.

Harding, a 24-year-old conductor who is now music director of Bremen-based Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, beat Church and Mae, among others.

He said in his speech that he was glad to win an award on the same day his favorite soccer team, Manchester United, received a trophy for winning the English Premiership title.

While viewing Church on a TV monitor backstage, Harding said: "She looks like (female pop singer) Britney Spears."

Another member of classical music's younger set, punk violinist Nigel Kennedy, took an award for Outstanding Contribution to Classical Music.

Former Beatle Paul McCartney had been nominated for an award for Album of the Year for his crossover classical album "Working Classical," a tribute to his late wife Linda.

But the award, voted for by listeners of radio station Classic FM, went to "Sacred Arias" by Andrea Bocelli, the world's biggest-selling living classical artist.

The Critics Award -- for recordings by a British orchestra or featured British performer -- went to "The English Songbook" by Ian Bostridge, accompanied by Julius Drake.

Argentina-born Martha Argerich took one of the eight gold trophies for Female Artist of the Year, while Male Artist of the Year went to another Welsh singer, Bryn Terfel.

Album of the Year for an ensemble or orchestra went to Stephen Cleobury and the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, for a recording of Rachmaninov Vespers.

Sunday April 23,2000 8:07 PM ET

L.A. Philharmonic sets schedule for 2000-2001

By Alan Rich

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Conflict and peace, pessimism and hope -- the intertwined musical emanations from the Los Angeles Philharmonic's 2000-01 seasonal repertory announced Thursday -- form a fair picture of the orchestra itself as it looks ahead to its 82nd season, which opens Oct. 5.

Those emanations are nicely embodied in a series of large-scale choral works threaded through the oncoming season: Beethoven's Ninth Symphony led by Salonen at the season's subscription opener; Britten's "War Requiem"; the seldom-heard "Persephone," as part of a three-week Stravinsky festival; Mahler's Second Symphony; and Bach's "St. Matthew Passion" later on. Although nominally on sabbatical through 2000, Salonen will emerge from work around the house to lead the orchestra's first two program weeks plus an opening-night gala.

Among the season's novelties: Kurt Weill's "Seven Deadly Sins" to honor the composer's 100th birthday -- with rising vocal star Audra McDonald as soloist; Lou Harrison's Indonesia-scented "Suite for Violin, Piano and Small Orchestra"; an Aaron Copland centennial program with legendary singer Marilyn Horne; an evening of John Adams, including scenes from his "Nixon in China"; and a commissioned work by Italian innovator Franco Donatoni, Salonen's former teacher.

Three separate programs will be guest-led by Christoph Eschenbach: two by the Philharmonic and one with Eschenbach's own NDR Orchestra of Hamburg. Other guests include conductor-pianist Andras Schiff, Roberto Abbado, Anthony Pappano and, for the "St. Matthew," renowned Bach specialist Helmuth Rilling. The "Green Umbrella" new-music series will continue, with programs still on the drawing board.

In addition to its customary New York appearances at Lincoln Center, the orchestra will tour to Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, Seattle's new Benaroya Hall, Chicago's Orchestra Hall and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. The experimental "Filmharmonic" project, with newly created music and film intermingled, will be revived at some unspecified date in the near future, managing director Deborah Borda promised, in cahoots with New York-based producers the Shooting Gallery.

Hastily installed last January upon the precipitous (and still unexplained) departure of predecessor Willem Wijnbergen, Borda smiled through her accounting of the orchestra's current deficit, reported at $3.2 million. This, she noted, was almost exactly the size of the 1991 deficit at the New York Philharmonic that she took over there -- and eventually erased.

Reuters/Variety

Thursday April 13, 2000 2:41 AM ET

Trio showcases fiddling virtuosity

By Susan Schwendener

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The string ensemble performing at Chicago's Orchestra Hall on a recent night comprised three virtuosos: two master instrumentalists/composers and the superstar cellist of this generation.

But violinist Mark O'Connor, bassist Edgar Meyer and cellist Yo-Yo Ma delighted the audience not with classics but with a mixture of foot-tapping fiddle tunes, elegant lyrical melodies and rearrangements of American folk songs.

In their fourth appearance on a three-continent tour to promote their recently released "Appalachian Journey," the trio clearly enjoyed revisiting musical territory covered in their 1996 hit, "Appalachia Waltz," also for Sony Classical.

The new album also features guest appearances by country music star Alison Krauss and singer/songwriter James Taylor.

Critics have labored to label the Ma-Meyer-O'Connor sound, describing it as "a hybrid of chamber music and bluegrass," a "middle ground between classical, country, folk music and traditional Anglo-Celtic fiddling styles," or even a "neo-Americana revolution."

But to the musicians it seemed pretty straightforward.

Talent Inspires

"For me, the primary motivation and excitement of this music is the talent pool" Tulsa, Oklahoma-born Meyer has said. "These two guys (Ma and O'Connor) play with such virtuosity and so beautifully that it's always stimulating."

Meyer, the first bassist to receive the Avery Fisher Career Grant in 1994, began studying bass at 5 with his father and then with Stuart Sankey. A regular guest at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival from 1985 to 1993, in 1994 he joined the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York, which which he regularly performs.

His compositions for "Appalachian Journey," all trio pieces, include "1B," a violin piece written for his 6-year-old son, "Swell New Tune," "Waltzing with My Aunt Hill Da" and "Indecision."

"We live in such different worlds but we come together, and when we're done we leave with the sense that things are a lot closer than even we thought," O'Connor said in one commentary on the group.

The Country Music Association's Musician of the Year from 1990 to 1995, Seattle native O'Connor says he first picked up a violin at 12 and perfected his fiddling under the tutelage of Benny Thomasson and French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli.

Original Works

O'Connor's compositions for the album, which the trio played in Chicago, include "Misty Moonlight Waltz," "Poem for Carlita," a love poem for his wife, "Vistas," inspired by three views from his Vista, California, home, "Emily's Reel," a violin piece written for Ma's daughter Emily, and "Limerock," a duet for violin and cello that is a reworking of a violin/bass concert piece recorded with Meyer 10 years ago.

"We wanted to keep the core idea, which is a strong trio with an unusual instrumentation -- most people overlook that -- and expand it a bit," O'Connor said.

Ma, educated at the Juilliard School and Harvard University, may be the public draw for the trio but he too speaks of his artistic growth spurred by the collaboration.

"When I first started working with Mark O'Connor, his articulation was so much like baroque playing that the only way I could match it, and match the speed of his articulation, was to take my modern bow and play it so that it felt more like a baroque bow," Ma said in one commentary.

"So in a funny way I came to playing the baroque cello from watching very carefully a really great fiddler. Because, of course, that is also a centuries-old tradition."

Sony will also release this spring a sequel to the 1999 Ma-Amersterdam Baroque Orchestra recording "Simply Baroque."

The album of Bach chorales and arias transcribed for cello and orchestra and Boccherini concertos features Ma playing his Stradivarius cello reconfigured as a Baroque instrument along with the period-instrument Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra under the direction of Ton Koopman.

Reuters/Variety

Tie Score

A guide to music appreciation
The late John Cage was an American composer who became well known for his inventive works. In 1952, he composed a work entitled 4'33, in which musicians sat on stage for 4 minutes, 33 seconds without playing a note. The composition wasn't fully appreciated at the time, but according to the journal Applied Psychophysiological Feedback, Cage must have written one of the most relaxing pieces in the history of music.

The psychology department of the University of South Alabama wanted to see what effect different types of music had. They found 21 men and 24 women, and randomly assigned them to listen to classical, hard rock, self-selected relaxing music or no music at all.

The results? Classical music induced feelings of relaxation, as did the self-selected relaxing music. And -- perhaps surprisingly so -- the subjects were just as relaxed with no music at all.

So if a group of musicians ever asks for audience requests, ask them to play 4'33. It's really very relaxing.

Sam Uretsky
Copyright © 1999 Rx Remedy, Inc.

Sunday April 9, 2000, 12:03 PM ET

Harpist's Music Helps Newborns

By DAVID FREY, Associated Press Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Gentle melodies strummed on a 6-foot tall harp lilt into nurseries where critically ill newborns cling to life at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

"It just puts them in a more restful state," says student musician Betty-Ashton Andrews, who is experimenting with using music to help the infants."It makes it easier for them to grow and heal."

There's only budding scientific proof that such therapy helps newborns, but that doesn't dissuade Andrews, 19, from conducting her once-weekly concerts at the hospital's newborn intensive care unit.

Astride the gilded harp on the NICU's tile floor, Andrews coaxes lullabies, Disney tunes and classical music from its 52 strings, including requests that range from "Amazing Grace" to Lynard Skynard's"Freebird."

Her audience, usually 150 babies, is tucked into incubators and surrounded by nests of tubes and wires connected to respirators, heart monitors and intravenous fluids. Nurses and parents say they note subtle changes in the babies when Andrews plays and most welcome any balm for a trying time.

Staff members say the music provides an antidote to the stress that comes with caring for, and sometimes losing, babies who are premature or fighting diseases.

For the babies, it muffles the frightening sounds of machines and unusual voices, and soothes them to sleep when their mothers can't.

NICU manager Diane Deslauriers said the babies' heart rates seem to go down and they seem to rely less on their respirators when they hear the harp music.

Christa Tuttle of Gallatin drove 50 miles round-trip each day to spend about 12 hours in the NICU with her daughter, Caitlin. Born three months early on Jan. 29, Caitlin relied on a respirator the first three days to help her breathe.

Tuttle cannot say if Caitlin's health improved because of the music, but she says she responded to it.

"Probably the one and only way you can tell is her alertness and her calmness," Tuttle said when Caitlin was still in the NICU."She's relaxed and able to look around and listen."

Caitlin went home on March 19, and"is doing great. She is gaining weight much faster than when she was in the hospital. They say the home environment is best and I see that to be true," her mother said recently.

Vanderbilt has not studied the effect of the music on the children, but Deslauriers said,"If I'm carrying a baby and she calms down, I don't need a research study."

Jayne Standley, professor of music therapy at Florida State University, has conducted several studies at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital's NICU and has found babies who listened to lullabies left the hospital earlier than those who didn't.

By hooking tape recorders to feeding tubes, researchers also found they could use lullabies to teach premature babies to nurse.

"If the baby gets 10 seconds of music and then it goes off, they learn to suck for at least 10 seconds to keep the music on," Standley said.

Standley said research was needed to determine whether harp music was comforting to premature babies. Even though it is apparently soothing stimulation, she said premature babies are highly sensitive and the sounds could be disturbing to them.

At Vanderbilt, most babies dozed peacefully while Andrews played. Some were doted on by nurses and nervous mothers. Few showed signs of the restlessness sometimes exhibited by newborns hospitalized for the first weeks of their lives.

Andrews said she has had only a good response since first playing the harp for hospitalized newborns at Carilion Health System in her hometown of Roanoke, Va. Andrews, who is pursuing a degree in harp performance and considering one in music therapy, said she chose to attend Vanderbilt in part so she could lend her music to its NICU.

"I love to play the harp," she said, and"I get to use it in a way that other people will benefit from it."

Ron Price, who teaches harp and music education at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill., said many doctors are amazed at how quickly patients respond to the music.

"Some will say, 'We don't have anything in medicine that works that quickly,"' he said.

As executive director and cofounder of Healing Harps, Price trains harpists to work with people with physical or emotional problems to soothe their pain.

"We do this all the time in hospitals across the country," he said.

The harp's magic is its acoustics, he said. It mimics the sound of the human voice and affects babies - and adults - like a lullaby.

"The music simply bathes them with healthy sounds," he said."It's sort of like a sound massage."

On the Net: Healing Harps: http://www.healingharps.org
American Music Therapy Association: http://www.musictherapy.org

Thursday October 12 12:34 PM ET

Boston Symphony Hall celebrates 100th anniversary



BOSTON (Reuters) - Boston Symphony Hall has been bringing Americans music for 100 years, and for the next four days it will really beat the drum.

A lone Japanese Hirado drummer will herald the opening of Saturday night's gala that will feature performances by the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops Orchestras, cellist Yo Yo Ma, singer-composer James Taylor, the Harlem Boys Choir and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

The celebrations of the hall's 100th anniversary kick off Thursday night with a brief concert by American soprano Jessye Norman singing - not Mozart or Straus - but Gershwin. She will be backed by BSO conductor Seiji Ozawa, Pops conductor Keith Lockhart and former Pops leader and composer John Williams.

Symphony Hall has premiered more than 250 works by such composers as Samuel Barber and Béla Bartók as well as Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev and more recently, Williams and Judith Weir.

Built for $750,000 - including the land - the hall was designed by New York architect Charles McKim. Harvard University physicist Wallace Sabine served as the acoustical consultant.

From an acoustics perspective, the 2,625-seat hall's only rivals are Amsterdam's Concertgebow and Vienna's Musikverein, experts say.

Above the second balcony are niches that were designed to enhance the acoustics. The 16 statues of Greek gods and authors served to give the hall a classical look, explained a spokeswoman, adding that at the time Boston considered itself the Athens of America.

The Hall's first concert took place on Oct. 15, 1900.

On Friday, Ozawa, Lockhart and John WilliamsWilliams will appear again together. This time they will unveil a plaque listing giving Symphony Hall National Landmark status.

Reuters/Variety REUTERS

Tuesday April 4, 2000 5:18 PM ET

Boston's Symphony Hall to mark 100th anniversary

By Christopher Noble

BOSTON (Reuters) - Boston Symphony Hall, one of world's most famous concert halls, will mark its 100th anniversary this fall with a gentle face-lift and a series of special performances, officials say.

A season-long gala will peak with a four-day centennial weekend starting with a ball and ending with a free open house for the community on Oct. 15 -- 100 years to the day after Wilhelm Gericke inaugurated the facility with a performance of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, officials announced Monday.

The celebration will highlight Symphony Hall's beloved place in the Boston community, for although the city's ballet and museums often are forced to play second fiddle to New York's cultural institutions, Symphony Hall's preeminence is accepted worldwide.

The hall is considered by many to be one of the three best concert spaces in the world, along with Amsterdam's Concertgebouw and Vienna's Musikverein.

The hall's century-old walls and floors, with scuffed paint and chipped varnish, will remain untouched as the Boston Symphony Orchestra's (BSO) leaders renovate the surrounding rooms and make the auditorium wheelchair accessible.

The building's exterior, which some have called drab and common, will be enhanced and upgraded.

"It is our commitment that we will do all this without in any way affecting the structure of the building or affecting its acoustics," said BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe.

Music Director Seiji Ozawa, who will end a 28-year run in Boston after the 2001-2002 season, told reporters at a news conference that he was excited by the plan to renew the hall.

"I am a very lucky person to have worked in this hall for 26 years," he said. "I am spoiled."

But Ozawa noted that Symphony Hall needed to look better from the outside to reflect better the beauty of its acoustics. He pledged that the renovation would be carried out with care.

"This hall could look better," he said. "We are very careful because you can't get this back if you do it wrong."

Reuters/Variety

Wednesday April 5, 2000 12:29 AM ET

Pavarotti Lends Voice to Dot-Com

By Phil Gallo
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) ~ Luciano Pavarotti as Ed McMahon? Only on the Internet.

Tibor Rudas, who produces Three Tenors concerts worldwide, is launching superstartheater.com, with Pavarotti introducing the operatic presentations available on the Web site.

Like Tonos.com, the talent-hunting dot-com run by Carole Bayer Sager, David Foster and Babyface Edmonds, Superstar Theater will run talent contests. The difference here is that frequent users (Superstar judges) will vote on who should win. Winners are being offered the promise of "global exposure."

To celebrate the premiere of Superstar Theater, the Rudas Organization has teamed up with Intervu.net to Webcast the Three Tenors' concert at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on April 22.

Those who register with Superstar Theater will be able to view, for free, the Vegas debut of Pavarotti, Jose Careras and Placido Domingo on Superstartheater.com.

Tuesday March 28, 2000

South African blacks hit high note with opera

By Shellee Geduld
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (Reuters) - After years of apartheid suppression, black South Africans are raising their voices in the hope of one day stepping onto the global opera stage with the likes of Italian superstar Luciano Pavarotti.

The Choral Training Program, run by Cape Town's Opera House and taking in people from all walks of life, began in 1994 -- the year South Africa held its first democratic elections.

"They are taught Italian and German. They are taught to read music and they are taught music skills," Alec Beukes, public relations officer for the Opera House, told Reuters.

"They are trained by some of the top opera singers in the country ... and they get formal training at the University of Cape Town as well," he added.

Initially limited to providing free choral training for aspiring singers from the black majority, the CTP gradually opened its doors to all comers, provided they are unemployed.

"For the first two years it was only open to people from the black communities, but now it is open to everybody ... so that it is representative of everybody," Beukes said.

Most members live in Cape Town and surrounding areas, with backgrounds as diverse as the plush formerly exclusively white suburb of Constantia and the black shantytown of Khayelitsha.

Auditions for new trainees are held annually. Competition is tough with only 43 people chosen from 200 applicants.

The chorus master at the Cape Town Opera House, Austrian Guenter Wallner, said he found working with the choral training group very satisfying. He said South African singers had natural potential and warned the world to watch out.

"In the next 30 years a lot of opera singers will come from South Africa," he said. "They have such potential ... it's quite a small group you find with these voices ... and you won't find them in another part of the world."

Aspiring divas already have several role models to follow in the international arena. Former CTP student Abel Motsoadi is studying at New York's famed Juilliard School, Angela Gilbert understudied the role of Donizetti's Adelia at Carnegie Hall in 1998 and Sally du Rand is singing in European opera houses.

Wallner said South Africa was ignorant of its own talent. "They are kind of sitting on a treasure but they don't realize that they are sitting on a box that has gold inside."

Choral Training Leads To Greater Things For Some

A spin off of the choral training program, The Vocal Ensemble, was formed three years ago when Michael Williams, organizer of the Opera School, realized that he could use the students as part of the chorus at the Opera House.

"We suddenly realized we had this group of singers that now had gone through the training, had proven themselves and were now looking for work, so we formed The Vocal Ensemble," he said, calling it a natural progression.

"These are singers generally taken from historically disadvantaged communities who have no musical literacy at all and who haven't had the opportunity or finances to study music," he said.

The Vocal Ensemble consists of 24 singers who came up through the CTP and who go out to schools in the city and perform songs from a varied repertoire ranging from classical opera to top 10 hits.

"The kids love it," Williams said, noting that the program ranged from an up-tempo version of Handel's "Hallelujah" to grand opera choruses from "Aida," a medley of songs by Cher and Ricky Martin and Xhosa traditional music.

"It's a range of musical styles, you've got everything from rock to pop to gospel ... from opera to operetta to jazz to blues to chants, everything you can think of that is sung, we sing it," he said.

The group has just finished a three-week tour and is now rehearsing for "The Merry Widow" and "La Traviata," two of the operas planned for the Opera House.

"For the next two months their outreach work or their community work will be concentrated at the Nico Opera," Williams said. "Once the operas are finished we then start with more community work, going out and doing tours."

Sipho Tswane, a CTP trainee, said he enjoyed being part of the program because he was given free musical skills as well as a voice coach. He said getting paid each month was an undeniable factor in remaining with the program, but he would like to study music at the University of Cape Town next year.

Tswane said he had encouraged some of his friends to join the CTP, but so far only one had passed the audition.

"These are role models for communities that perhaps haven't heard this music and perhaps haven't heard the quality of the singing they can provide," Williams said.

Reuters/Variety

Friday March 24, 2000

L.A.'s Museum of TV & Film Begins Sondheim Retrospective, March 24

There'll be Sondheim, Sondheim and more Sondheim at Los Angeles' Museum of Television and Radio beginning March 24. From then until July 2, the institution will screen television versions of many of Stephen Sondheim's musicals, some never before seen in the U.S., as part of the series "Something for Everyone: Sondheim Tonight!"

The show began playing the museum's New York City branch March 17.

Sondheim, who turned 70 on March 22, was recently profiled in the New York Times Magazine. In addition, he was feted at a San Francisco gala, March 18.

Highlights of the retrospective include:

• Television productions of Passion, Gypsy, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods.
• The U.S. Premiere of the 1976 Japanese television production of Pacific Overtures.
• The U.S. Premiere of the 1996 London production of Company
• A segment of the British series, "Theatreland," featuring songs from the 1997 Bridewell Theatre staging of Sondheim's early work Saturday Night.
• A 1954 episode of the television sitcom "Topper." Sondheim wrote nearly a dozen scripts for the show. In this edition, the ghosts help Topper with a play at his wife's charity club.
• Evening Primrose, Sondheim's only musical written especially for television. The 1966 work -- a collaboration with James Goldman -- stars Anthony Perkins as a poet who hides from the world by spending nights in a department store, only to find a group of people with the same idea are already there.
• The world premiere of "West Side Stories: The Making of West Side Story," a 1996 documentary in which original cast members and crew from the stage and movie production of the musical talk about their experiences.
• A 1958 episode of "The Ed Sullivan Show," in which Larry Kert and Carol Lawrence recreate the balcony scene from West Side Story.
• "Gypsy Rose Lee and Her Friends," the stripper's San Francisco-based talk show. In this 1965 episode, Lee talks with Ethel Merman about Gypsy and shows home movies of rehearsals for the show in the New Amsterdam Theatre.
• D.A. Pennebaker's 1970 documentary, "Company: Original Cast Album."
• A 1971 episode of "The David Frost Show" in which Frost devotes the entire program to Follies, talking with Sondheim, Goldman, Harold Prince and several of the show's stars. Sondheim performs "Can That Boy Foxtrot."
• "Great Performance: Follies in Concert" (1985)
• The 1974 television production of Kaufman and Lardner's June Moon, starring Sondheim as Tin Pan Alley pianist Maxie Schwartz.

Admission to the museum if $6. The museum is located at 25 W. 52nd Street in Manhattan; 465 N. Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, CA. For more information, call (212) 621-6800 in New York; (310) 786-1000 in L.A., or check out the web site at /www.mtr.org.

-- By Robert Simonson

Thursday March 23, 2000

Getting in Verdi Big Trouble

WEDNESDAY, March 22 (HealthSCOUT) -- Not a fan of Wagner, Puccini or Delibes? If sitting through an evening at the opera is your idea of hell, you'll want to stay on Kirk Peters' good side.

Peters is the associate dean of student affairs at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic, Conn., a school that now offers opera as an alternative to community service for students who've committed minor infractions.

If a student has never been to the opera before, he can shorten or wipe out his hours of community service by attending an opera performance at The Bushnell in Hartford. Peters believes that by exposing the students to a new experience, opera provides a positive alternative to traditional discipline.

The idea took shape while Peters was dealing with a group of students who'd played football on the school's softball field during a rainstorm, damaging the field. Each student had to pay damages and do 10 hours of community service. While handing out these sentences, a student asked Peters if he really liked the opera that was playing. Recalling that he had hated it at their age, Peter asked if any of them had ever seen an opera.

All of the students said no. So Peters made a deal with them: If they went to see an opera with him -- at his expense -- he would cut their community service times in half. "I guess you can call it a punishment, but I want to raise the bar. I want students who normally don't go to events like this to have the experience of taking in an opera," says Peters. "By hook or by crook, I want people to experience the love of opera like I have."

On the first trip, eight students went with Peters to see Bizet's Carmen. Two of the students loved the experience, while four were more non-committal. "Two of the students hated it," says Peters. "They said if it was offered again, they'd rather go outside and pick up trash." Since then, Peters has organized three similar trips to the symphony and another trip to see Mozart's The Magic Flute.

Julie Cresenzi, a 20-year-old communications major in her sophomore year, was one of the students who saw The Magic Flute. "It wasn't as bad as people thought it was going to be," says Cresenzi. But she adds, "I don't think it was a punishment. It's better than picking up trash."

Peters denies that this alternative is in some way disrespectful of opera. "I don't mean to demean the United Cerebral Palsy if I send students there as part of their punishment," he says. "I want them to have an enriching experience, and I know for some people it will be very positive."

But his theory doesn't strike the same chord with the managing director of the Connecticut Opera. Maria Levy says that though Peters' heart is in the right place, "I don't like the fact that it's attached to a punishment. While I encourage people to come, I think it's sad that this is being done under the umbrella of [restitution]."

"There's a punishment mentality around it," says Levy, "and the arts are not a negative thing."

Friday March 17 2000 AM ET

World Fest, Williams tribute to highlight Bowl season

By Phil Gallo
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - A special tribute to film composer John Williams, the 200th concert appearance of conductor John Mauceri and the return of the World Festival highlight the summer season at the Hollywood Bowl.

The year launches June 23 with the annual opening night gala featuring a tribute to Williams and the Bowl that Mauceri promises will be "full of surprises" and include film clips as well as guest stars. Williams will be honored as the first inductee into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame.

Mauceri and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra mark their 200th show with a July 8 concert featuring two of Broadway's hottest singers, Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald. The Bowl Orchestra will perform 10 different programs, beginning July 2-4 with Glen Campbell. The schedule includes a concert version of Madama Butterfly on July 9 and Garrison Keillor on Aug. 27.

The World Festival will host six concerts in its sophomore season: a flamenco night on June 25; Miriam Makeba and two other "global divas" July 16; a world blues party July 23, with Koko Taylor, Ali Farka Toure and Alvin Youngblood Hart; a Celtic night July 30 featuring Altan and Natalie MacMaster; former James Brown saxophonist Maceo Parker and Femi Anikulapo-Kuti on Aug. 6; and Brazilian night on Sept. 10, with Jorge Ben Jor and Daniela Mercury. In addition, Brazilian singer Milton Nascimento performs July 1.

A tribute to Mel Torme will feature Maureen McGovern, Cleo Laine and John Dankworth with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra as part of the Wednesday night jazz series.

The season closes with Itzhak Perlman conducting the Los Angles Philharmonic on Sept. 12 and a fireworks finale Sept. 15, 16 and 17 featuring the Bowl Orchestra and Cannes Film Festival party faves Pink Martini.

The L.A. Philharmonic will perform Thursdays July 13-Sept. 7 as well as at several weekend concerts.
Reuters/Variety


Friday March 24, 2000

McCartney's publishing company sues MP3.com

By Derek Caney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former Beatle Paul McCartney's publishing company, MPL Communications Inc., has joined the record industry's battle against digital music company MP3.com Inc.'s controversial database of copyrighted music.

The publishing company, which owns the rights to McCartney's solo catalog as well as songs by Sammy Cahn, Hoagy Carmichael, Buddy Holly and others, filed suit last week in the U.S. District Court in New York accusing the San Diego-based company of copyright infringement stemming from its http://my.mp3.com service.

The suit represents the second wave of attack against the service, which includes a database of over 80,000 copyrighted albums the company has copied. Using MP3.com software, computer users that own one of these recordings can gain online access to the database to listen to those albums over the Internet from any computer.

The service sparked a lawsuit from the trade group Recording Industry Association of America, representing most of the world's largest record labels, accusing MP3.com of violating copyright law by compiling its digital album archive.

"This represents the first lawsuit against MP3.com's undertaken by independent publishing companies," McCartney's spokesman Paul Freunlich told Reuters.

While McCartney isn't personally suing the fledgling company, he is the principal owner of MPL and raises the profile of the record industry anti-piracy crusade by involving one of the best-known names of the rock era.

MPL was joined in its suit by Peer International Corp, whose catalog includes the late Latina star Selena and country music pioneer Jimmie Rodgers.

A spokeswoman from MP3.com confirmed it received the suit, but declined to comment on it.

Elaine Combs, a visiting assistant law professor at Rutgers Law School, said: "The crux of the issue is whether or not the existence of this database constitutes a copyright infringement, even if you cannot access the database without having first bought the record yourself."

But a broader issue, experts say, is whether reliance on litigation hampers the development of innovative technology.

"The danger of lawsuits like these is that it attempts to control and shape the development of technology to serve an exisitng business model," said Yochin Benkler, a New York University law professor. "That is a dangerous way to make technology policy.

"The business models need to change to fit the technology, not the other way around," he added.

This service, Benkler said, allows users to listen to their CD's anywhere without carrying their entire collection around with them. "A side effect is that it is possible to copy the music illegally. But it does not outweigh the usefulness of the technology."

Friday March 17, 2000 3:45 PM ET

Classical Goes Pop in Britain for Glitzy Awards

By Paul Majendie
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's classical music industry Friday took a leaf out of pop music's book -- it announced nominations for a glittering new awards ceremony.

Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney and the Welsh teen-age sensation Charlotte Church headed the candidates for the first Classical Brit Awards to be presented in London on May 6.

Traditionalists may bridle at heavily hyped pop packaging of classical music but marketers have a sharp eye on sales, which make up less than 6 percent of the total in Britain.

So the line-up on the big night will include Vanessa Mae, who posed in a wet T-shirt for her first album cover, the voluptuous Anne-Sophie Mutter and Linda Lampenius, who appeared in Playboy magazine.

Rob Dickins, chairman of the British Phonographic Industry which is organizing the awards, said: "Classical music has spread its influence to encompass all kinds of markets and in doing so is reaching a much wider audience."

Others are not so sure that Oscar-style award ceremonies are the way to go.

Roger Lewis, head of Classic FM, a commercial station with six million listeners, told The Times: "Classical music has taken such a battering over the years we support any attempt to get the music across to as wide an audience as possible.

"But this event will not give the full picture of the breadth of classical activity which we try to cover."

Classical sales in the 1 billion pound record industry fell last year from 7.3 to 5.9 percent.

"Crossover" albums are the biggest hits -- from James Horner's Celtic-style soundtrack for the film "Titanic" to punk violinist Nigel Kennedy's tribute to Jimi Hendrix.

The biggest success has been achieved on both sides of the Atlantic by the diminutive soprano Charlotte Church who is now valued at 10 million pounds after two hugely successful albums.

She is nominated for young British classical performer and female artist of the year.

McCartney, one of the world's most famous pop stars, is another leader in "crossover" classics. He was rewarded with a nomination for best album of the year for "Working Classical," a tribute to his late wife Linda.

Wednesday November 1, 2000 7:38 PM ET

Beatles to enter dotcom era 30 years after split

By Sinead O'Hanlon

LONDON (Reuters) - The Beatles will launch their first official Web site this month, 30 years after the group split up, a spokeswoman for the band said Wednesday.

The site, thebeatles.com, will go live Nov. 13 and will be the band's only official presence on the Internet among a flood of unofficial fan sites.

"Over the past few years, given the thousands of unofficial sites, there has been much speculation as to when the Beatles would create their own," the spokeswoman said.

"With a new CD coming out, it is the right time to put them on the Web and into the dotcom era."

The launch of the site will be tied to the release of the band's latest collection, simply called "1," which features all 27 of the Fab Four's No. 1 hits.

The band's management had been resistant to the idea of setting up a Beatles site, but hopes the venture will appeal to a younger audience more familiar with using a computer than an old-fashioned record player.

"They thought it was the right way to show the Beatles to a new generation," the spokeswoman said.

The band's three surviving members, Sir Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, as well as John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, have all contributed to the site.

Despite other celebrities falling victim to cybersquatters -- people who register the domain names of famous people in the hope of making a quick profit -- the Beatles had no trouble registering the name of their choice, the spokeswoman said.

The site will allow visitors to watch footage of the Beatles' performances, contact one another and take virtual tours through the famous Abbey Road studios where the band made most of their music.

A team of Web designers has been working on the site for a year. While the content will initially concentrate on "1," new aspects will be added over time.

Reuters/Variety REUTERS

Thursday October 5, 2000 12:38 AM ET

Beatles Release Own Account of Band's History

The Beatles Anthology LONDON (Reuters) - The Beatles unveil a new book on Thursday, the first account by band members of their sensational rise to fame and the top of the world's music charts during the 1960s.

British publisher Cassell & Co said in a statement on Tuesday that the three surviving members of the original Fab Four collaborated in the 370-page autobiography. It promises to be the "final word" on their much-documented history.

In addition to Ringo Starr, George Harrison and Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, wife of the late John Lennon, contributed.

Cassell said that more than 1.5 million orders had already been placed for "The Beatles Anthology", which recounts their story from childhoods in Liverpool, northern England, to the split-up of the band in 1970.

"Although approximately 400 books have been unofficially written about the Beatles, 'The Beatles Anthology' marks the first time that the band have had their own say in their own story," the statement said.

The book details how the group's record company paid the band just one old penny between them for each single record sold during the early 1960s and 10 pence for every album.

It also reveals how band members had very different memories of the myriad sensational events surrounding them.

While Lennon said they smoked marijuana in the toilets of Buckingham Palace before receiving an MBE from the Queen, Harrison maintained they did not. Ringo said he was not sure.

The Beatles, and everything connected with them, continue to fascinate 30 years after they disbanded and 20 years after Lennon was shot dead outside his Manhattan apartment.

The piano on which he composed "Imagine" was up for auction in London on Tuesday. It was expected to fetch 1.5 million pounds ($2.20 million).

Thursday October 5, 2000 6:10 AM ET

Yoko Ono Opens John Lennon Museum in Japan

By Elaine Lies

YONO, Japan (Reuters) - Yoko Ono, at the opening of a museum about her late husband, John Lennon, in Japan on Thursday, admired the tribute to the Beatles songwriter but was reticent when asked about a decision denying parole to his killer.

Mark David Chapman, who gunned down the music legend outside his New York apartment almost 20 years ago, was denied parole on Tuesday. Chapman, who is serving a life sentence, was ordered held for at least two more years until his next hearing in 2002.

Ono had written a letter to the authorities appealing for Chapman's continued imprisonment, saying that if he were released, she and John's two sons, Sean and Julian, would "not feel safe for the rest of our lives."

Asked if she felt relieved at the decision Ono said only: "Their decision is something I respect. I cannot say anything more than that, as I think you can imagine."

But she was more forthcoming about the museum, the first in the world dedicated solely to Lennon and founded with her blessing.

"John was a multi-faceted person, and I wanted to show this by showing the things he lived with and used," she told a news conference. "As I walked through the museum, I thought it was very expressive."

WHY JAPAN?

It was unclear why Ono had given the go-ahead to build the museum in a corner of a huge sports arena in this unfashionable town, some 25 km (15 miles) north of Tokyo and at the heart of the urban sprawl that forms Japan's biggest metropolis.

The museum's presence in Japan would have been important to her late husband, Ono said. Lennon several times visited Tokyo, as well as the central resort town of Karuizawa.

"John had so much love for this country," she said. "His son Sean is half-Japanese and we somehow felt we were bridging the gap between east and west."

Written on a wall as visitors enter are lines from a poem by Lennon: "East is east and west is west/The twain shall meet/East is west and west is east/Let it be complete."

Ono said she had initially been nervous about the decision.

"I worried that if it was in Japan, people would just say, 'There goes Yoko Ono, doing bad things again'," she said.

The museum, along with a store selling Beatles memorabilia, is set to open to the public on what would have been Lennon's 60th birthday on October 9. Entry costs 1,500 yen ($13.74).

Asked if she objected to such a commercialized use of Lennon's name, Ono said: "I think the Beatles were the most commercialized band in history, and I don't think John would deny that. But that wasn't bad -- it allowed him to send his message to the world."

White Piano, Lyrics, Glasses

Beatles music plays as visitors view some 130 items that once belonged to Lennon. Most were donated by Ono, including family photos, an old driver's license and a passport, handwritten lyrics for songs and his trademark wire-rimmed spectacles.

In one case rests his first guitar, scratched and battered, purchased via mail order in 1956. He was using this guitar when he and Paul McCartney had their first fateful meeting in 1957 that led to the formation of the Beatles.

Hanako Sugawara, a young member of Japan's Beatles Fan Club, seemed pleased with the displays.

"By seeing his things you get a sense of him as a person and realize how broad his interests were," she said. "It was a terrible waste that he had to die so young."

On the white wall by the exit, in raised white characters, is written the date "December 8, 1980" -- the day of Lennon's murder.

"Celebrating his birthday isn't just celebrating his life but allowing his spirit to live on in us," Ono said.


March 18, 1967

The Beatles: Penny Lane Day

The Beatles went gold March 18, 1967 -- receiving a gold record for the hit single, Penny Lane. This was not an unusual event for The Beatles. However, the recording of Penny Lane has left us with some interesting trivia.

According to Paul McCartney, Penny Lane is a bus roundabout in Liverpool; and there is a barber’s shop showing photographs of every head he’s had the pleasure to know -- no that’s not true, they’re just photos of hairstyles, but all the people who come and go stop and say hello. "It’s part fact, part nostalgia for a place which is a great place, blue suburban skies as we remember it, and it’s still there."

There were at least two different endings to the song. Radio stations were furnished with a 45 rpm version that featured a trumpet solo of seven notes, sustaining on the final note into Ringo’s cymbal conclusion. Record buyers, on the other hand, heard the words "Penny Lane" at the end of the song, which then went into a sustaining note under Ringo’s cymbal. There was no trumpet fanfare.

The original version shows up on the Rarities album on Capitol Records. Those having the original ‘Promotional Copy’ of the song have quite a valuable find. Penny Lane is also included on the American release of the Magical Mystery Tour album, but not the British EP version. While a number one song in America, Penny Lane made it to number two in England, causing some to wonder "if the Beatles were beginning to slip," according to The Beatles -- An Illustrated Record.

The ‘B’ side of gold record was the popular Strawberry Fields Forever.

Monday September 11, 2000 2:17 AM ET

Broadway Blockbuster 'Cats' Closes After 18 Years

By Daniel Bases

NEW YORK (Reuters) - In a flourish of fur and song, whiskers and many tears, "Cats," the longest running show in Broadway history, closed on Sunday after 18 years, 7,485 performances and a box office gross of more than $400 million.

The final performance was given to an invitation-only crowd of 1,500, who literally stopped the show midway through it with deafening applause after a big company number, "The Jellicle Ball."

"Tonight is the last night of 'Cats' first life on Broadway," Andrew Lloyd Webber, the man who scored the musical based on T.S. Eliot's book of poems, "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats," said after taking the stage following the finale.

The audience, filled with former members of the cast, sang along, shouted encouragements throughout and turned the final performance into a reunion of family and friends.

"There probably never has been such an audience of aficionados, very much like cats indeed," said director Trevor Nunn.

The original New York cast of 36 felines opened the show at the Winter Garden Theater on October 7, 1982. The show is still running in London.

The musical has also been produced in 30 countries around the world and seen by an estimated 50 million people.

Within the New York cast was one original member, Marlene Danielle, who played Bombalurina.

Also in attendance was Betty Buckley, whose career was launched when she played the original Grizabella, the weathered "glamour" cat who gets to go to kitty heaven and be reborn at the end of the show.

"It is wild. It's just great. There is such energy here it is incredible. The (current) cast is crying and just trying to hold it together one last time," said former cast member William Park, who played Gus, the Growltiger.

"It's like a family reunion and you just look into someone's eyes and all it takes is two seconds to catch up," Park said.

The show broke new ground with costumes, lighting and staging when it launched in London before coming to New York.

"Cats" then ensconced itself into the drama of the Big Apple, becoming a staple for tourists and, for many New Yorkers, a part of life.

"It started as a curiosity and saw me through some pretty good periods, as well as helped eased pain during bad times," said Hector Motalvo, a computer software salesman from New York who counted this evening's performance as his 703rd. Motalvo's devotion to the show earned him an invitation from promoters.

More than 10 million people saw the Broadway production, according to promoters.

For some standing in the crowds outside the theater, where the yellow cats eyes staring down on Broadway and 50th street, have blended into the background, they wondered what the fuss was all about.

"18 years!" said the tourist from Germany, who smacked her cheeks in disbelief. "That's a long time."

The show's producers announced they would close the musical in June. However, ticket demand jumped, causing them to extend the run for 10 extra weeks.

The show's long life brought notoriety as well as derision from critics who loved the inventiveness of its staging, but found the story line thin.

Gold and white streamers billowed down onto the stage in a final farewell after the speeches were done, with Lloyd Webber, Nunn, choreographer Gillian Lynne and producer Cameron Mackintosh surrounded by the current cast and understudies.

The bittersweet festivities moved from the theater to a gala party, with Grucci fireworks, at Chelsea Piers, a sports and entertainment complex along the Hudson River.

But neither Lloyd Webber or Nunn would be in attendance. Both were flying back to London to tend to new projects.

Citing Eliot, Nunn said: "Every end is a new beginning", and translated into Broadway terms, another opening, another show.

Dreamcoat Video Due for U.S. Release March 28, 2000

By Robert Viagas
NEW YORK -- Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is due to be released on video in the U.S. March 28, from Universal.

The film will also be shown as an episode of PBS's "Great Performances" series April 5 at 8 PM (ET) in the New York area. Check local listings elsewhere. The broadcast will inaugurate the new "Showcase" series that will highlight culture and arts programming for PBS.

Donny Osmond stars as Joseph in the production, as he did on a North American tour. Richard Attenborough plays his father, Jacob. Joan Collins plays Potiphar's wife. The video was released in Europe in 1999.

The 1968 musical was the first from the team of Lloyd Webber (20 at the time) and lyricist Tim Rice. Joseph debuted in 1968 as a 15-minute school production, and was gradually expanded to its current 75-minute length.

Rather than following a dry, straightforward telling of the story, Joseph detours into vaudeville, using a mix of rock, country, calypso and other cheerfully anachronistic song styles to tell the Old Testament story of how the patriarch Jacob gave his favorite son Joseph a coat of many colors. This provokes the jealous wrath of Joseph's brothers, who sell him into slavery in Egypt. But Joseph quickly rises in power and influence through his ability to interpret dreams. Soon, he is Pharaoh’s right-hand man, and saves Egypt from a seven-year famine before a joyous reunion with his family.

Lloyd Webber and Rice went on to collaborate on Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita. Separately, Lloyd Webber wrote Cats, Starlight Express, The Phantom of the Opera and the current Whistle Down the Wind. Rice wrote lyrics to Chess, The Lion King, Aladdin and the current Aida. Their Jesus Christ Superstar is due for revival on Broadway about the time Joseph hits stores.

You can pre-order Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat from amazon.com on either video or DVD.

Tuesday March 7, 2000, 8:06 AM ET

Lloyd-Webber Plans to Set New Musical in Bombay

BOMBAY, India (Reuters) - British composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber is planning a musical on India's financial capital, Bombay, inspired by an Indian film song showing dozens of villagers singing and dancing on the roof of a speeding train.

"I saw the song and was excited about the tune, the dancing and the locales," Lloyd-Webber said at a news conference on Tuesday, where he announced plans to team up with Indian music director A.R. Rehman to make the musical.

The composer of Cats, Phantom of the Opera and several other hit shows, Lloyd-Webber said he was fascinated by Bollywood movies, which he had been watching for some time.

Bollywood is a term Indians frequently use to describe Bombay's prolific film industry, which in terms of the sheer number of movies produced rivals Hollywood.

"This is the first time I have invited another composer to write a musical for the stage. I am excited to be able to explore this possibility with Rehman," said Lloyd-Webber.

Rehman, who scored the music for the speeding train song from the Hindi language film "Dil Se," (From the Heart), is one of India's most acclaimed music directors.

Lloyd-Webber said the musical, to be produced in association with film director Shekhar Kapur, would be set in Bombay and feature characters from the city.

He gave no further details of the musical which he planned would premier in London's West End.

"I have been watching Indian films for some time and I think the Bollywood culture has a lot to offer to international audiences. There is tremendous talent here and I am excited," Lloyd-Webber said.

Most Hindi films are melodramas with three chief ingredients -- romance, music and violence.

Friday April 28, 2000 3:51 AM ET

Final Curtain for 'Saigon'

By Robert Hofler
NEW YORK (Variety) - "Miss Saigon," the sixth-longest running show in Broadway history, will drop its final curtain on Dec. 31, just 14 weeks shy of its 10th anniversary.

Producer Cameron Mackintosh announced the closing of the Boublil & Schonberg musical production, which has grossed $264 million and been seen by more than 5.9 million people. "Miss Saigon," directed by Nicholas Hytner, opened on April 11, 1991, at the Broadway Theater.

From the beginning, the success of "Miss Saigon" startled Broadway. Two weeks after it opened, Daily Variety reported, "The numbers surrounding 'Saigon' continue to be stupendous, from the $10.9 million capitalization to the current $39 million advance to the $100 top (ticket price) to the weekly gross of over $710,000." All four figures set records in 1991.

Broadway then was much less flush than today. Last week's total gross hit a near-historic high of $16,933,545; the week beginning April 8, 1991, saw box office of $5.1 million. Of that 1991 figure, 40% was attributable to just four shows -- "Cats", "Les Miserables", "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Miss Saigon" -- all Mackintosh productions, with the latter's grosses topping the chart.

As with the announced closing of "Cats," the final-performance call for "Miss Saigon" had been expected. The two musicals' box-office records were very similar during the first six weeks of 2000, before Andrew Lloyd Webber announced the last performance of "Cats" would be June 25.

Some legit observers had wondered if Mackintosh would keep his Broadway "Saigon" running until April 2001 in order to celebrate its 10th anniversary, as he had done in London. The show had its world premiere in London in September 1989 and closed in October 1999.

In a written statement, the producer said, "Much as I will miss 'Saigon' at the Broadway Theater, I am utterly thrilled at how long this serious musical has run both on Broadway and in London. It has also been very heartening for everyone involved to have been able to deliver on our promise of putting on a production that has been the greatest platform for Asian talent in theatrical history."

"Miss Saigon" received 11 Tony nominations and won three: Jonathan Pryce, actor in a musical; Lea Salonga, actress in a musical; and Hinton Battle, featured actor in a musical.

Saturday March 11, 2000 4:59 PM ET

Broadway Les Miserables Marks 13th Anniversary March 12

By Randy Gener

Les Miserables will mark its 13th anniversary on Broadway Sunday, March 12.

The show follows the return of J. Mark McVey as the new Valjean last March 7 to give it an extra push.

HOW DOES THIS AFFECT ME?:
An audience favorite continues to break records.

Featuring a score by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, the musical based on Victor Hugo's novel has been seen by more than 40 million people and grossed more than $1.8 billion in 33 productions worldwide, according to producer Cameron Mackintosh's office. The Broadway production alone has been seen by more than 7,600,000 people.

The show will play its 5,300th performance that night. It's currently the fourth-longest running show in Broadway history, after Cats, A Chorus Line and Oh! Calcutta

Gregg Edelman, Jane Bodle, Nick Wyman, Fuschia and Peter Lockyer continue, respectively, as Javert, Fantine, Thenardier, Madame Thenardier and Marius on Broadway.

Production officials recently released other Les Miz-related fun facts and figures related to various productions of the show.

ON BROADWAY:
Les Miserables opened at The Broadway Theatre on March 12, 1987. On October 17, 1990, it moved to The Imperial Theatre to make way for the Broadway production of Miss Saigon.

The Broadway production has grossed more than $370 million. Winner of 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, the New York production cost $4.5 million to mount, and opened with advance ticket sales of $11 million (the Broadway record up to that date).

355 actors have performed in the Broadway Company. 1,538 people have worked on the show in various capacities. 210 people are currently employed in direct association with the show.

Since Les Miserables opened, 429 shows have opened on Broadway, and 399 shows have closed.

Craig Schulman has played Valjean more than any other actor in the world: over 1,900 performances on Broadway, across the United States and in Singapore.

Winner of 2 Grammy Awards: Best Original Cast Recording for the Broadway Cast Recording (1988) and the Complete Symphonic Recording (1991).

Five U.S. Presidents have seen Les Miserables: Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter and Nixon.

173,056 total revolutions for the now-famous on-stage turntable.

Each performance uses 392 costumes, consisting of 1,782 items and 31 wigs.

The Broadway Company has raised more than $1,000,000 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Since 1987, there have been:
  • 5,351 loaves of bread stolen
  • 338,000 pounds of dry ice used for stage effects
  • 132,291 batteries used
  • 6,474 shirts and blouses worn by cast members
  • 179,712 shirts ironed
  • 537 pairs of shoes
  • 1,352,000 yards of thread sewn
  • 54,600 ounces of hairspray applied
  • 12,865 pancakes of make-up
  • 748,800 Wet-Ones used (to remove make-up)
  • 550,368 Ricola cough drops consumed
  • 338,000 Advil swallowed.

In the United States:
Over 25 million people have attended the four U.S. productions (NY and three National Tours).

Box-office gross for the four U.S. companies is over $1 billion.

680 actors have performed in the four U.S. companies.

42 states and the District of Columbia have hosted Les Miserables, and 130 cities have hosted it. St. Paul, Minnesota holds the record for Les Miserables engagements: seven times. It will play a record eigth time in June 2000.

WORLDWIDE:
Les Miserables had its world premiere at The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Barbican Theatre in London on October 8, 1985 and transferred to the West End on December 4, 1985.

Over 42 million people have seen Les Miserables. Worldwide box-office gross is more than $1.8 billion.

There have been over 31,000 performances. There have been 31 cast recordings. Internationally, the show has won 50 major theatre awards.

There have been 38 productions in 29 countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Holland, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and The U.S.

192 cities have hosted Les Miserables. Les Miserables has been performed in 18 languages: Castilian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, Flemish, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Japanese, Mauritian Creole, Norwegian, Polish, Spanish and Swedish. There are currently 11 productions around the world: London, New York, The U.K. National Tour, The U.S. National Tour, Buenos Aires (Argentina), Gothenburg (Sweden), Budapest (Hungary), Tokyo (Japan, in repertory), Tel Aviv (Israel, in repertory), Gyndi (Poland, in repertory) and Helsinki (Finland, in repertory).

Friday March 24, 2000

Live Webcast of Elton John's Academy Awards® Night Party Produced In Cooperation With RealNetworks


Webcast Will Feature Online Auction to Benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation

LOS ANGELES and SEATTLE, March 24 /PRNewswire/ -- eltonjohn.com Inc. and RealNetworks® Inc. (Nasdaq: RNWK - news), the recognized leader in media delivery on the Internet, today announced that Elton John will open his Academy Awards® Night Party to a worldwide audience via a live webcast in cooperation with RealNetworks on Sunday, March 26. The webcast will be featured at http://www.eltonjohn.com and http://www.real.com at 10:00 p.m. PST, exclusively in RealMedia® formats. Traditionally, Elton's party immediately following the Oscars® is the single largest fundraiser for the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF). This year, for the first time, the entire party will be opened to the rest of the world, and online viewers will have a chance to bid on Elton John's 1972 Piano Motif Jumpsuit which will be auctioned online. All proceeds from its sale will also go to benefit the Elton's Foundation. Hosts for the evening's webcast will be actor Bruce Dworkin and Jane Petrov from Premiere Magazine. In addition to announcing the winners of the online auctions, Elton and John Scott, the director of the EJAF, will award a lucky partygoer with a Lexus and also give away his and her luxury watches. The evening will feature musical performances all night, as well as a performance by "Oscars Acrobats" at the stroke of Midnight.

"Webcasting my Oscar party in partnership with an Internet leader like RealNetworks is the perfect opportunity to harness the power of the World Wide Web to allow a much larger audience to enjoy this gala occasion, while giving them an opportunity to contribute to a cause in which I believe very deeply," said Elton John.

"We've had a lot of fun with the variety and extent of our participation and our coverage of this year's Oscars, and the number of events that have surrounded the ceremony," stated Mark Hall, vice president of Media Publishing, RealNetworks. "But it is especially rewarding to be involved in a webcast such as Elton's which will actually make a difference, by raising funds for a very significant cause."

The Elton John Oscar Party webcast will represent the spectacular finish to RealNetworks' comprehensive coverage of this year's awards. RN's Film.com site includes a large media library of clips, trailers and interviews, as well daily news and features, and RN is the exclusive streaming media partner for the official Oscar.com site.

About Elton John AIDS Foundation

With offices in Los Angeles and London, the Elton John AIDS Foundation is an international non-profit organization funding prevention education programs and direct patient care services worldwide. Elton John, who serves as its Chairman, established the charity in 1992. The Foundation's mission is to provide funding for educational programs targeted at HIV/AIDS prevention and/or the elimination of prejudice and discrimination against HIV/AIDS affected individuals, and for programs that provide services to people living with HIV/AIDS.

About the Real.com Network

The Real.com(TM) Network is the definitive source for entertainment online. As the gateway to the ultimate Internet media experience, the Real.com Network leverages leading media technology, vast distribution, and an explosion of Internet audio and video in a suite of tightly integrated products and programming services.

About RealNetworks

RealNetworks, Inc., based in Seattle, is the recognized leader in streaming media delivery on the Internet. It develops and markets software products and services designed to enable users of personal computers and other consumer electronic devices to send and receive audio, video and other multimedia services using the Web. Consumers can access and experience audio/video programming and download RealNetworks consumer software on the Internet at http://www.real.com. There are currently more than 95 Million unique registered users of the RealPlayer. All RealNetworks systems and corporate information is located on the Internet at: http://www.realnetworks.com.

NOTE: RealNetworks, RealMedia, RealPlayer, RealVideo and Real.com are trademarks or registered trademarks of RealNetworks, Inc. ACADEMY AWARD(S)®, OSCAR(S)® and OSCAR NIGHT® are the registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Eltonjohn.com, Elton John AIDS Foundation, are trademarks or registered trademarks of Elton John.

SOURCE: RealNetworks, Inc.

Friday March 10, 2000 4:59 PM ET

Elton John Previews His New Broadway Show

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pop star Elton John paid a visit to a preview performance of his new Broadway show "AIDA" and pronounced the production "11 on a scale of one to 10."

John, who collaborated on the adaptation of the famed opera with Tim Rice, the one-time partner of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, dropped in on Thursday at Broadway's Palace Theater for a preview performance of the show, the biggest and most highly anticipated musical of the spring season.

After visiting with the cast backstage during intermission, he was given a standing ovation from the audience as he took his seat for the second act.

The singer and composer, who also co-wrote the hit Broadway adaptation of the animated film "The Lion King" visited with the cast onstage after the performance, telling them he had "never been more proud of a group of people in my life."

Also on hand were Michael Eisner, chairman of Walt Disney Co., whose Hyperion Theatricals is producing the show, and director Robert Falls who won a Tony award last season for "Death of a Salesman."

"AIDA," which also previewed in Chicago, opens on Broadway March 23.

Friday, March 10, 2000; Page C01

'Piano 300': History in A Major Key

Smithsonian Celebrates Invention That Struck a Chord
By Philip Kennicott
Washington Post Staff Writer

Over the last 300 years, the piano developed from an idea into an instrument into the most popular and widely played instrument of our time. The exact year of its origin isn't known--sometime around 1700--but the Smithsonian has chosen 2000 as the year to celebrate the event.

The odyssey of the piano, an unlikely tale, is the story of man's quest for control of many things, music being only one of them.

The piano was born in or around 1698, delivered by the Italian midwife Bartolomeo Cristofori to parents of uncertain origin. It was an ugly child, sickly and anemic, unsure of its role in life. Compared to its brother the harpsichord, which had plucked rather than hammered strings, it had no brilliance or precision. But it had promise, the possibility of creating gradations of loud and soft tones (indeed, its longer name, pianoforte, is Italian for soft-loud).

Cristofori birthed a few more of these awkward beasts, including one in 1722 that is on display at the National Museum of American History's "Piano 300" show--a year-long exhibition of historic pianos, documents, photographs and music, which opened yesterday in the S. Dillon Ripley Center's International Gallery.

Cristofori's brief burst of inspiration in Italy never became a sustaining national passion; the passion there would be opera. But news of Cristofori's "invention"--it was more like some exceptional tinkering, and nothing is ever really invented by a single person--made it north.

And that's where a singular aberration in the history of keyboard instruments became an industry, and where the piano emerged as the dominant instrument in Western music. Gottfried Silbermann, a German instrument maker, read a description of Cristofori's instrument and built one along its lines. Johann Sebastian Bach, then a little-known keyboard expert, pronounced an early model inadequate.

But the piano was a fortunate child. Music was changing when the piano was in its infancy, and the instrument evolved simultaneously with a musical culture that was putting more emphasis on expressive effects. By the middle of the 18th century, it had its champions in German-speaking countries. But it was in England, in the 1770s, that it found its first muse, Johann Christian Bach, son of the forgotten man who had snubbed the instrument a generation earlier.

The piano evolved throughout Europe, but it was in France that the instrument learned to walk--and run. A new mechanism for resetting the hammers after they strike the strings was developed in 1821 by the French maker Sebastien Erard. The Erard firm would dominate the industry until the Germans and Americans took over with something called the Steinway. Strange that an instrument invented in Italy and pushed to maturity in France would end up seeming so German.

Stranger still that the preeminent makers--at least in terms of quantity--are now in Japan and Korea.

England gave us the Industrial Revolution, an unmusical thing with its whir of looms, hissing steam and clattering wheels on railroad tracks. And it was the Industrial Revolution that gave us the piano: the piano as furniture, as household object, as a commodity.

Gold is beautiful; iron is essential. It was iron--the dull gray timber of the Industrial Revolution--that would help take the instrument to its widest audience. Iron made the instrument more stable, less likely to go out of tune, and iron allowed the instrument to be strung up with heavier metal strings and stretched with unheard-of amounts of tension. Metal frames gave the instrument a kind of potential energy that, when unleashed by the performer, burst out with terrifying new extremes of heroism and violence.

Iron was introduced, as a kind of bracing for the instrument, about the same time that England's rural poor were being snookered out of the little agricultural living they once had, and forced into the cities, where they worked with . . . iron. Some of them were lucky; others became inspirational fodder for Charles Dickens.

The lucky ones, the new middle class of clerks and teachers and accountants, would eventually be able to afford a piano. By 1854, a little book called "The Guard" was published in England to help the middle class make sensible decisions when shopping for a new instrument. There were a lot of shoddy goods, and, in response, there developed a move toward standardizing the instrument, to make the piano into The Piano, a reliable product.

By 1900, hundreds of thousands of instruments were being produced in Europe and the United States, manufactured by hundreds of piano makers who are now mostly forgotten. The piano--especially the more upright piano, which saved space in the living room--began to look a little like the houses of the time: tall and sturdy, dour but solid. Capitol Hill is filled with these kinds of houses, and those houses were once filled with pianos.

Good pianos weren't necessarily slammed out on the production line. Wood makes the instrument sing, and wood can't be fitted into the industrial process as easily as metal. This is why piano lovers today must decide whether to sink their life savings into a BMW or a top-line piano; human hands are still essential to the production of the instrument.

The Industrial Revolution made the piano universal. The instrument became reliable, easier to maintain, easier to find (essential for traveling piano players) and more consistently uniform from one maker to another. In London's Tate Gallery is an 1853 painting--"The Awakening Conscience"--that shows what was lost: A young pre-Raphaelite woman framed by the ubiquitous deep reds of the Victorian style, with a Persian shawl around her midriff, is rising from a piano where she and her lover have been flirting a bit too seriously. The piano is sumptuous, its case covered with a riot of red wood grains, inlay and detailed carving.

The piano of today is a black wooden box. Strange that it looks like a glossy coffin.

Things I hate about Jane Campion's movie "The Piano": Its most beautiful image is a piano, abandoned on an infinitely deserted beach in New Zealand, but pianos and water don't mix; and its most powerful scene is a piano going overboard, into the ocean forever, and again, pianos and water really don't mix. But it's not really a movie about pianos; it's about colonization.

The piano functions as a kind of typewriter of colonization and imperialism, producing documents that record in Westernized form the music Europeans found and assimilated, and allowing Europeans in the colonies (who could afford a piano) the chance to reproduce Bach and Beethoven in the jungle.

It's odd what people pack. The English were already taking pianos to India in the 1790s. How long would a piano built in the 1790s, without benefit of metal bracing, last in the climate of India? A piano arrived in Japan in the 1820s; in 1878, a Japanese-made piano appeared at a European trade show.

That was less than a quarter century after Adm. Matthew Perry "opened" Japan to Western trade. Clearly the piano industry developed rapidly, all the more astonishing given Japan's isolation (at the time) from the piano repertoire. A country in which Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert were, at best, exotic unknowns had the beginnings of a piano industry in the space of two generations.

More common, however, is the strange irony of Africa. The piano went there as well, but it was, in a sense, a homecoming. One of the major exports of Africa was ivory, and ivory was prized for keyboards. (It still is, but most makers use other materials now, materials that are cheaper--and legal.) So at least some part of the piano was returning to the place where it began.

The ivory trade was one of the cruelest and most horrible chapters in the exploitation of Africa. Strange that your grandmother's piano may have something on it that is a document of human genocide and environmental butchery.

Colonizing doesn't happen only in faraway countries. In some ways, the piano was an instrument of an internal, musical colonization.

A famous cartoon of Franz Liszt shows his characteristically long and lean form at the keyboard, but where the strings should be is a collection of orchestral instruments, horns, timpani, bells, all clanging away at the supposedly megalomaniacal maestro's demand. Underneath, a famous piano manufacturer is stoking the industrial fire that powers the machine, scooping coal into a furnace.

The piano was called the orchestra in a box, the pianist compared to a conductor. It was the instrument that gave the lone musician the most control over the largest number of musical elements. Control is a powerful drug, then and now. The piano allowed the evolution of a kind of musician who was no longer a servant, no longer a player in the court orchestra or a silent servant of God in the church. Short of the powers of creation granted to the composer, the pianist was the most domineering figure in music.

The pianist emerges as hero, a conquering hero. Liszt is the most famous example; Vladimir Horowitz may have been the last of the line. The pianist-hero develops a way of playing that communicates his control, a way of being at the keyboard that looks commanding. The hands, wrists and arms are in a flurry of motion, like someone talking on a cell phone while driving a car and checking something on the Palm Pilot.

But the image can cut two ways. Is it just the piano that is a machine? Control can dehumanize the pianist, making him part of the machine. Another cartoon from the 19th century shows the famous virtuoso Sigismund Thalberg, with a wheel of four hands attached to each arm. The fantasy of eight hands, eight wrists and 40 digits is a fantasy of control that makes the pianist himself an industrial object, like Charlie Chaplin merging in a blur into the assembly line.

The final step: The player disappears altogether. The player piano is a peculiarly American phenomenon, something between the mindless replay of a recording and the dream of actually being a pianist. By 1919, U.S. piano makers were producing more player pianos than pianos for players. But interest in them waned as the quality of recorded sound improved.

Today there are new versions, controlled by a computer, which attach to full-size grand pianos. But these very expensive toys are just a musical version of the new Volkswagen Bug: a mix of nostalgia for the lost thing, filled with so much new technology that it's really not the same beast.

In any case, they should be banned.

When is an instrument finished? When does it develop into its complete and final form? The development of the modern piano took about 200 years, during which time it became faster, louder, more standard and more reliable. Liszt wrote his gargantuan and notoriously difficult Sonata in B Minor--which taxed the instrument to its limits--in 1853; although there were important innovations after that (including changes in the way the instrument was strung), the "modern" piano is said to have crystallized around the same time.

By the turn of the century, innovations would be limited mostly to the use of different materials, especially plastic in the action; these changes were invisible and inaudible to most ears.

Along the way, there were feints down other paths that led nowhere. In Mozart's day, there were often more than three pedals; the extra ones sometimes control percussion effects, drums and bells that added to the experience of "Turkish" music.

But the failure of such innovations says something disturbing about the subsequent history of the piano. For example, part of the attraction of new keyboard designs was to render difficult music easier to play, to allow a talented amateur to conquer the Everest of music by Liszt or Rachmaninoff.

Yet the piano was settling into comfortable old age; it was an instrument for professionals, and change meant that the standards of the profession might change. The instrument set definite physical challenges, like the standard 26.2 miles of a marathon. Meet the challenge, or stick to playing records.

There was one more innovation, the electric piano, that caught on fairly well, though not within the rarefied regions of classical music. The strangest thing about the electric piano was that its designers were striving to get as close as they could--in the feel of the keyboard and the sound of the nonexistent strings--to the original instrument. It wasn't innovation, it was imitation.

The piano had stopped evolving, and the illusion of total control over music was better satisfied on a synthesizer.

"Piano 300: Celebrating Three Centuries of People and Pianos," at the Smithsonian's International Gallery, 1100 Jefferson Dr. SW, runs through March 4, 2001. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Admission is free.

© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

Wednesday March 8, 2000, 5:20 PM ET

Dave Brubeck, Billy Joel celebrate piano's 300th birthday

By Deborah Zabarenko

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Billy Joel and Dave Brubeck gathered around a piano Wednesday to wish the instrument a happy 300th birthday.

They were hardly alone. The pop composer and the jazz legend, both piano men, were among dozens of officials and media at the Smithsonian Institution, where a year-long exhibit called "Piano 300" opens Thursday.

Piano wild man Jerry Lee Lewis' plane was late, or he would have come too. As it was, inside the exhibit, "the Killer" was shown on film, pounding out his classic "Great Balls of Fire."

Duke Ellington's immaculate white grand was there too, along with Irving Berlin's battered upright and Liberace's rhinestone-and-mirror model.

Both Joel and Brubeck were eloquent when they talked about what the instrument had meant in their lives.

"The first time I actually got a grand piano, I was in a small apartment, it took up the whole apartment, and all I wanted was that grand piano, a black grand piano ... I slept under it for about a week," Joel said at a news conference at the Smithsonian's S. Dillon Ripley Center.

"It's always been a friend to me, through relationships that haven't always lasted, friendships that have come and gone or business associates, the piano has always been a great source of comfort and friendship," he said.

An Uncertain Birthday

Brubeck recalled his early home on a cattle ranch, where he said he learned to play on an old-fashioned square piano.

"Three hundred years of pianos I've just seen in this wonderful exhibition, and I hate to admit that some of these old, old ones are part of my youth," the 79-year-old Brubeck said, drawing a laugh.

In truth, Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small admitted there was no real way of knowing exactly when the piano -- or pianoforte -- was born.

"We understand that the piano is a bit coy about its exact age, but that's excusable if you're plus or minus 300 years old," Small said.

The Smithsonian chose 1700 as the birth year of the instrument, based on documentation that one was produced by Bartolomeo Cristofori in Florence, Italy.

One of Cristofori's creations dating from 1722 was on display at the S. Dillon Ripley Center, where the piano show will run through March 4, 2001.

Little more than an unfinished, triangular box on legs, with strings and keys, this ancient specimen was a departure from the piano's ancestor, the harpsichord. Harpsichord strings are plucked, while piano strings are struck with hammers.

Its original name, the pianoforte, means that the instrument could make sounds ranging from soft -- piano in Italian -- to loud -- forte in Italian.

"Humans up until that moment made do with the harpsichord," Small said. "Just try to imagine Jerry Lee Lewis on a harpsichord. I think you'd see a pile of kindling wood in a matter of seconds."

The exhibit lets patrons touch the strings of a piano, mounted on a wall for easy reach, and see the workings of a harpsichord contrasted with the more modern piano.

Liberace's Rhinestones, Berlin's Black Keys

There are square pianos, grand pianos, a miniature piano with gilt trim, a "giraffe" piano that looks like a cross between an upright piano and a harp with drapes, and the most flamboyant piano, Liberace's grand, encrusted with rhinestones and with a mirror on the upraised lid.

Berlin's piano, straight out of the Tin Pan Alley crucible of popular songs of the early 20th century, had a special feature: a lever that transposed the keys. The self-taught pianist Berlin played only in F sharp minor, which uses mostly black keys.

"The black keys are right there under your fingers," Berlin once said, according to the exhibit. "The key of C (which requires no black keys) is for people who study music."

There are two clear-walled listening rooms at the center of the hall, where with a push of a button, the air is filled with sounds of ragtime king Scott Joplin or virtuoso Ignacy Jan Paderewski.

Joel mentioned his "association" with the Steinway piano company, which allows him access to better pianos than the first one he played as a child. That association was common for famous piano players, who were used to promote the product.

The show includes the contract between Steinway and Russian virtuoso Anton Rubenstein, who agreed to play 215 concerts in 239 days in 1872 and 1873, which took him to some remote parts of the United States. He demanded his payment in gold and got a sackful too heavy to lift.

Brubeck and Joel were given the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal for their contributions to the popularity of the piano. Lewis will get his later. All three were to tape "Piano Grand!" a PBS television special set to air in the United States in June.

Reuters/Variety

Saturday February 26, 2000 4:39 AM ET

Rock Legend Pete Townshend Premieres New Rock Opera

By Rajiv Sekhri
LONDON (Reuters) - Rock legend Pete Townshend brought to fruition 30 years of work with the live premiere of his rock opera "Lifehouse" in London on Friday.

Townshend, who was part of the rock group The Who, has been developing "Lifehouse" since 1970.

The story of a post-apocalyptic society has become topical with its portrayal of a vast communication network called the Grid -- similar to the Internet -- used for all interaction by urban communities who have fled indoors from rampant pollution.

In fact, the piece is scheduled to be broadcast on the Internet in April or May by MCY.com, a New York-based company that offers digital downloads of popular music.

"The inspiration for (Lifehouse) came from a lot of things," a tired Townshend told Reuters after the performance at a packed Sadler's Wells Theater in London.

"It came from a spiritual journey into the cosmic world of Woodstock and Sufi writings of Mehar Baba."

Three decades ago, when Townshend began work on the rock opera and the Internet was still a fantasy, he found little interest for his mix of science fiction, spirituality, eastern mysticism and good old rock and roll.

"Lifehouse was intended as film script but floundered effectively every time," said Nick Goderson, Townshend's business manager.

He said Friday's performance might lead to a bigger, more dramatic show with more interaction with the audience.

At the premiere, Townshend, 54, took the risk of putting a rock band -- without a drummer -- in front of the 28-piece London Chamber Orchestra, and interspersing both with poetry, for a show that had seen only two weeks' practice.

Townshend apologized for what he felt was an unrehearsed performance, but the 1,500 fans clapped, cheered and screamed as he sang "Baba O'Riley," "Behind Blue Eyes," and "Won't Get Fooled Again."

Goderson said Townshend's goal was to take "Lifehouse," which was playing again at Sadler's Wells on Saturday, to a much wider audience:

"It seemed to us that the best way to do this would be to webcast rather than go the traditional route by television or video."
Thursday April 27, 2000, 12:03 PM ET

Eine Kleine Nine?

The limits of Mozart

You've probably heard a lot, maybe too much, about the Mozart Effect. Just in case you weren't paying attention, there have been studies showing that listening to Mozart's music can improve your scores on intelligence tests. But the psychology department at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, finds that the Mozart Effect has its limits.

In a 1997 report in the journal Perceptual Motor Skills, researchers described how they got a group of subjects to memorize a string of nine random numbers. Then they asked the subjects to repeat the numbers in reverse order.

A few minutes later the whole thing was repeated, this time after a few minutes of Mozart had been playing in the background. The subjects didn't score any better with the music than without it.

So the next time a complete stranger asks you to recite a list of nine randomly selected numbers in reverse order, you'll know not to listen to music before you try it.

-- Sam Uretsky

Copyright © 2000 Rx Remedy, Inc.

Friday February 11, 2000 7:55 PM ET

Medical sleuth says rheumatic fever killed Mozart

BALTIMORE (Reuters) - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the 18th-century Austrian composer, died of rheumatic fever and not from the poisonous envy of his Italian rival, Antonio Salieri, a modern medical sleuth suggested Friday.

Theories ranging from typhoid fever to kidney failure and murder have long surrounded Mozart's death on Dec. 5, 1791, extinguishing the career of one of Europe's most brilliant composers at the age of 35, only a fortnight after he had been in robust health.

Dr. Faith Fitzgerald, professor of medicine at the University of California, Davis, said the high fever, headaches, rash, and painful swelling that afflicted Mozart's final days were all symptoms of severe rheumatic fever.

Her diagnosis, presented at a clinical pathology conference hosted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is more than 200 years too late to help the patient. But it could shed light on one of the more compelling mysteries of musical history.

Rheumatic fever, once a common ailment in Europe, has become a forgotten disease in recent decades thanks to the introduction of life-saving antibiotics.

"Because Mozart was a great and famous man, we tend to expect an extraordinary cause of death," said Fitzgerald. "Here we have a cause of death that no one has heard of in modern times. But it was common in Mozart's time and he died during an epidemic."

Mozart also had suffered from the disease more than once in childhood and so was more likely to contract it as an adult.

Her presentation was part of an annual university forum in which the fatal illnesses of historical figures are diagnosed. In past years, doctors have examined the deaths of Edgar Allan Poe, Alexander the Great, Pericles and Ludwig van Beethoven.

Mozart's life and death were depicted by the Broadway-play-turned-Hollywood-film "Amadeus" which popularized the theory that he died of foul play at the hand of court rival Salieri.

Mozart was ending another productive year that had included the opera "The Marriage of Figaro" when he was suddenly struck by fever. He died 15 days later after enduring a host of agonizing symptoms.

By plying her way through written descriptions of the great composer's demise left by by Mozart's family and physicians, Fitzgerald said she was able to rule out other possible causes including liver disease and typhoid fever.

Bodily swelling, which became so pronounced that his clothes no longer fit, appeared to stem from a buildup of fluid from a bad heart. He was not jaundiced, as would have been the case with a diseased liver, nor did he have the gastrointestinal symptoms associated with typhoid fever.

"He was clear in mind and apparently working on The Requiem right up until just before the end," Fitzgerald said. "He was not delirious, not demented, in no way cognitively impaired, which would be unusual for almost every other disease."

What also helped clinch her diagnosis was the fact that Mozart had his beloved pet canary taken away because he could no longer stand the sound of birdsong.

"Irritability is a classic symptom of rheumatic fever," Fitzgerald said.

Reuters/Variety


Tuesday January 4, 2000 2:01 AM ET

Fantasia 2000 Hits Imax Record

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Disney's animated "Fantasia 2000" broke records at Imax theaters in its worldwide opening bow over the New Year's holiday weekend.

In North America, where the "continuation" of Walt Disney's 1940 classic bowed on 54 screens, the two-day haul was $2.2 million with a sizzling average of $41,481 per screen.

The figure represents the best gross ever for an Imax release and surpasses the highest weekly total for any previous Imax picture, Disney said.

Grosses from the film's 21 international screens are expected to be released Tuesday, Disney said.

"Fantasia 2000" is set to run exclusively at Imax theaters through April 30, having already completed a 10-day "World Premiere Tour" with live concert performances.


Sunday July 2, 2000 10:18 AM ET

Louis Armstrong Centennial Celebrated 1 Year Early

By Steve James

NEW YORK (Reuters) - What a wonderful world. Oh yeah!

America will celebrate the centennial of jazz great Louis Armstrong this week -- one year early. But if "Satchmo" said he was born on the Fourth of July, 1900, does it diminish his legacy to learn his actual birthdate was Aug. 4, 1901?

That he was born at all is enough for jazz fans.

Yet, it seems almost fitting that the celebration of a man who defined the American dream in the century that gave the world jazz, should be slightly clouded.

As a man and a musician, Armstrong was a conundrum, derided as an "Uncle Tom" by some for his Hollywood appearances in stereotypical black roles or seen as a sellout by others for going "mainstream" with hits like "Hello Dolly." Some saw him as a poseur, saying his ready smile was merely a facade. There were always questions about the sometimes questionable company of mobsters he kept.

But undeniably, Armstrong, with his voice of gravel and a heavenly horn, stands as an icon of 20th century culture and an undisputed king of America's gift to the world -- jazz.

"It's poetic justice, in a sense, that he has two birthdates. His was more than a life -- it was an epic," said Dick Golden, a senior producer at National Public Radio, which is airing a 13-hour retrospective series on Armstrong on 125 stations starting on July 5.

"He defined the American dream, he went from rags to riches and overcame incredible obstacles from being born in poverty," said Jim Luce, executive producer of the NPR series: "Satchmo: The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong."

"He always said he was born July 4, 1900, but after his death (in 1971), we discovered from records in the Sacred Heart Church in New Orleans, that he was actually born Aug. 4, 1901," said Luce. "But this is a unique opportunity to celebrate at any time."

The music of Armstrong will be center stage on July 4 with a backdrop of the symbol of American freedom -- the Statue of Liberty -- when the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra led by Wynton Marsalis plays at Lincoln State Park to kick off a yearlong celebration of Satchmo. Also playing will be Armstrong's bassist, Arvell Shaw, who heads the Louis Armstrong Legacy band.

The tribute comes a year after the centennial of another jazz colossus, Duke Ellington.

Armstrong Knocked Beatles Off Chart

To the rock 'n' roll generation, Armstrong may only be remembered for two saccharine-sweet hit-parade novelty discs in the 1960s -- "What a Wonderful World" and "Hello, Dolly" -- which actually knocked the Beatles off the top of the Billboard charts in 1964. But, by then, Armstrong was already a legend.

Daniel Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans and learned to play the horn in a home for waifs where he was sent after being arrested at age 12. Later he played on Mississippi riverboats and then, like jazz itself, he moved up the river to Chicago, where he played with his mentor, Joe "King" Oliver.

In the mid-1920's, he recorded his Hot 5's and Hot 7's -- some of the most important jazz recordings ever -- and by 1931, he was being called the greatest trumpeter in the world.

One of the few artists in music history to have as great an impact with his voice as with his instrument, Armstrong was a larger-than-life personality -- trumpeter, bandleader, composer, singer and entertainer. He also became the first black host of a radio show -- the Fleischmann Radio Hour in 1937.

"Louis Armstrong is arguably the most important American cultural figure of the 20th century," said Murray Horowitz, NPR's vice president of cultural programming. "This series not only tells us why, it also manages to capture the joy, the spirit and the boundless humanity that were Armstrong's."

The series includes sound clips and recordings, and interviews with people who worked with Armstrong like Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. It tells how gangster Al Capone went to Armstrong to get trumpeter Doc Cheatham hired for a Chicago nightclub. Another mobster, Dutch Schultz, once held a gun to his head, which may have prompted Armstrong's brief European exile in 1934.

NPR's Luce tells the story of "Hello, Dolly," which gave Armstrong a unique listing in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest performer to have a No. 1 hit.

"They were playing in Chicago and came back to New York on a day off to record it. They took one look at the sheet music and said, 'You want us to play this?' Anyway they recorded it and went back to Chicago thinking nothing more of it. They were touring in Nebraska somewhere and people started yelling, 'Hello, Dolly' and the band were looking at each other saying, 'What are they talking about?'

"Anyway they didn't know it had become a hit. They had to send to New York for the sheet music," said Luce.

Monday December 20, 1999 12:55 PM ET

Louis Armstrong, just getting to know ya

By Timothy Gardner

NEW YORK (Reuters) - He died nearly 30 years ago after five decades in the spotlight, but we are just beginning to learn who Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong was.

With a new collection of his writings just out, growing numbers of fans and scholars visiting his vast archives and his home of 30 years in Queens, N.Y., soon to open as a museum, Armstrong's many facets are still being uncovered.

Armstrong, cornetist, trumpeter, vocalist and movie actor, had but a fifth grade education. Still, he published two heavily edited autobiographies and many magazine articles and wrote thousands of letters, often backstage after a show.

"Man, I'm a two-fingered blip on my portable typewriter," he once said in a radio interview.

But a pen and any paper scrap would do when the machine was on the blink. He also carried a dictionary of synonyms and antonyms on the road. ""When one of those hard words jumps up, I've got the answer in the bag," he said.

Now many of his previously unpublished manuscripts and letters appear in "Louis Armstrong, In His Own Words" (Oxford University Press). It includes unexpurgated pieces about his childhood coal route through the New Orleans red light district, where "even the tough cops didn't bother me," and his lifelong belief in having a "cleaned stomach."

It includes Armstrong's first known writing: a 1922 letter home from Chicago when he was 21. His mentor, fellow New Orleans cornetist Joe "King" Oliver, had imported him to the Windy City to play in his Creole band. The experience made Armstrong an early chronicler of the great 1920's African American migration to the North.

Armstrong's Feelings About Race. Unheard of in the South at the time, Armstrong played alongside white jazz players in Chicago.

"It's so sad to think how long it had taken for this fine friendship, and meeting between the White boys and the Negroes who has had admiration for each other," Armstrong wrote in a Manhattan hospital while suffering from a heart condition two years before he died. He eventually died of a heart attack in the his Corona, Queens, home July 6, 1971.

In that piece, Armstrong criticized some black people he grew up with in his poor New Orleans neighborhood, Storeyville.

"It's pretty inflammatory," said Thomas Brothers, the book's editor. "But it's important, and not for a minute did I think about deleting it. Here is a person who is dying and felt isolated from the African American community."

Armstrong wrote: "It seemed as they were Jealous of each other, especially if one Negro had a little more than the other, no matter how hard he saved and got it. They always wanted somebody to give them something but too Lazy to work for it."

Brothers said that beginning in the 1940s, Armstrong felt "criticism from his community for taking a role a little old fashioned, a cultural role with its origin in minstrelsy." For instance, he appeared in the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration as King of the Zulus in minstrel makeup. But that was long a tradition, and Armstrong felt honored to sit on the float.

He accepted opportunity where he could, at the risk of offending his fellow blacks.

"Armstrong had a fifth-grade eduction. He could not confront racism and have a career. He had to go through the middle man, through the system. He had to go along with that, or no career," said Brothers.

Armstrong, indeed, learned how to use the system. In a letter to his manager, Joe Glaser, about advice a fellow musician gave him, Armstrong wrote that the friend told him: "Dipper, As long as you live, no matter where you may be -- always have a White Man (who like you) and can + will put his Hand on your shoulder and say --'This is "My" Nigger' and, Can't Nobody Harm' Ya."

Armstrong was a vocal critic of the 1957 integration riots in Little Rock, Arkansas when angry crowds blocked nine black teen-agers from entering a high school.

At the time an ambassador of goodwill who visited Europe and Africa, Armstrong canceled a State Department-sponsored tour to Russia during the riots. He telegraphed President Dwight D. Eisenhower his concern. Later, The New York Times quoted Armstrong saying, "The way they are treating my people in the South, the Government can go to hell."

Brothers' favorite letter is one Armstrong wrote to an American soldier in Vietnam in 1967.

In it, Satchmo wrote his childhood impressions of New Orleans church music: "Man those 'Church 'Sisters would 'begin 'Shouting 'So -- until their 'petticoats would 'fall off. Of course 'one of the 'Deacons would 'rush over to her and 'grab her -- 'hold her in his 'Arms (a sorta 'free 'feel) and 'fan her until 'she'd 'Come 'to."

Archives At Queens College Many of Satchmo's letters are shelved behind glass in acid-free boxes at the Louis Armstrong Archives in Queens College of the City University of New York. He even wrote on the back of his diet menus.

"He'd talk diet to anybody that would listen, people in the dressing room, even royalty in England," said Michael Cogswell, the Archives director, handling one letter while wearing cotton gloves. Some of Cogswell's favorite documents were written by Armstrong on the back of his nine-day diet plan. The plan concludes: "A laxative at least once a week, is very nice."

The archives, open since 1994, also holds the entire collection of one of Armstrong's other passions: tape recording.

Armstrong purchased one of the first reel-to-reel tape recorders made, a 1947 Recordia, and carried it everywhere, sometimes leaving it running during and after a show. The archives holds 650 hand-decorated cartons of tapes that contain 2,600 hours of live music, conversations in dressing rooms, and horsing around. Cogswell is converting the collection to more permanent tapes.

This fall, architects completed plans to convert Armstrong's last home in working class Corona into a museum. Cogswell said The Louis Armstrong Education Foundation has raised $1.4 million for the project and he hopes it will open sometime not far into the new millennium.

Visitors will be able to see faux leopard skin carpeting crawling up his stairs and silver paper and mirrors in his dressing room, the Leroy Neiman interpretation of a saxophone player hanging in the living room, and the love seat facing a portrait of his wife, Lucille.

Armstrong lined his small study with wood cabinets holding the recorder and a microphone where he practiced his playing and singing to recorded music.

Brothers said collecting the documents for the book took seven years of relentless searching, as letters kept arriving from private hands for the archives. "I'm sure there are more letters in New Orleans sitting in people's attics," he said.

Meanwhile, Corona remembers Armstrong. His former bandmates hold annual concerts in his back yard for neighborhood children. On a recent weekday, a young jogger padded by the Armstrong house, touched the brick wall and yelled "Thanks Pops!"

A Web site, www.satchmo.net, created with the help of the Louis Armstrong Archives, offers audio selections of Armstrong's tapes.


Friday December 17, 1999 6:36 PM ET

U.S. symphony on musical mission to Havana

By Andrew Cawthorne

HAVANA (Reuters) - The first major U.S. symphony orchestra to play in Cuba in four decades brought a refreshing note of bilateral harmony to the Cuban capital Friday with two free concerts.

The 48-hour visit by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra came as Cuba and the United States remained locked in a bitter custody dispute over a 6-year-old boy.

"Recent events are, of course, on people's minds, but we are not involved in that. The relationship is purely musical, absolutely nothing political," orchestra spokesman Joe McKaughan told Reuters.

The 88-member orchestra chose special "youth themes, including Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf and U.S. musician Leonard Bernstein's symphonic dances from West Side Story, for the first concert.

"Magnificent! They were really good. I love the beautiful weaving together of tunes and stories in Peter and the Wolf said former music student Miguel Angel Garcia, 24, crowding with others round the U.S. musicians for autographs afterward.

"The experience was absolutely mind-boggling. The response from the audience was just such a love for music," said Louis Rosove, the orchestra's assistant principal violist. "It's very easy to play for this audience."

After the first concert, Cuba's youth orchestra put on an impromptu show for the visitors.

The concerts on the stage of the Amadeo Roldan theater was blocks from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, where hundreds of thousands of anti-American protesters gathered and chanted last week to demand the return of Cuban 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez.

The boy survived the capsize of a boat full of Cuban migrants, which killed his mother, and is living with family in Miami. His father, who remains in Cuba, wants him back, and Havana is supporting him.

Later Friday, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra was to play a selection including German composer Richard Strauss's Don Juan, Hungarian Franz Liszt's Les Preludes, and more from Bernstein.

The trip, which cost $150,000 and was paid for by donations and foundations, also included workshops bringing together the U.S. orchestra members and aspiring young Cuban musicians.

The visit was the latest in a boom this year of so-called "people-to-people" contacts that Havana and Washington that are promoting despite continued political hostilities.

Reuters/Variety

Friday December 3, 1999 10:07 AM ET

Handel's Messiah Gets Modern Makeover in Ireland

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Traditionalists may wince but Handel will go a little bit funky and a little bit rock'n'roll in Ireland this weekend when Roger Daltrey, Gladys Knight and Chaka Khan give the composer's epic Messiah oratorio a makeover.

"It's a modernization of Handel's Messiah that Handel first performed in Fishamble Street in Dublin in 1742," a spokesman for the show's promoter told Reuters Friday.

"We thought it was very appropriate, at the turn of the millennium, to have a popularized version in Dublin."

Former Who frontman Daltrey, soul diva Knight and funk songstress Khan will join a full orchestra, rhythm section and two choirs -- one gospel, the other traditional -- at the 5,500-seat Royal Dublin Society Saturday and Sunday.

An electric guitar, bass, keyboards and drum kit are being thrown in for good measure to add even more musical oomph to the script by Irish playwright Frank McGuinness.

The spokesman dismissed criticism that the modern adaptation was an affront to Handel, saying the composer was a visionary with big production values who courted controversy by setting biblical words to music.

"A lot of people have said he'd be turning over in his grave but Handel first performed in Dublin at a time when Dublin was just kind of off-Broadway, off-London," he said.

"He came here with not very much money and he had a very small orchestra and a very small choir. In his later writings, he said if he had cannon, he would use it."

Sunday, October 24, 1999

Glass Draws Blood With 'Dracula' Score

By Michael Roddy

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Knock knock. Who's there? Knock knock. Who's there? Philip Glass and Dracula.

Should you let them in? You probably already have.

The music of the world's most famous minimalist composer, whose repetitious style is parodied in the run-on "knock knock" joke, is ubiquitous in classical music circles, not to mention films, radio, videos and mimicked in adverts.

The 1931 film "Dracula," with the late Hungarian-born actor Bela Lugosi doing the batty bat and cape swirling honors, needs no introduction.

Put them -- improbable as it may sound -- together, get the trendy Kronos string quartet to play Glass's newly minted film score for Universal's reissued black-and-white classic, and you have the hottest thing to hit the video store and concert hall circuit.

"All you have to say is 'Dra....' and it's sold out," said Glass, 62, recovering one night recently in Budapest -- which is in Hungary, and pretty close to Dracula territory -- after a two-hour, non-stop performance of his solo piano music.

He was talking about the special concert version of his "Dracula" score that he performs live with Kronos in big venues like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and London.

But he may as well have been speaking about anywhere else he shows up these days, including Budapest, as one of the hottest properties in the classical music world.

A Sell-Out Crowd In Budapest

Glass, whose head of curly dark hair, glasses and somewhat stony-faced demeanor might have made him a natural for one of those Universal horror classics, was exhausted after flying in the same day from New York, and facing a flight back the next.

But he was clearly in his element with a sell-out crowd that overflowed onto the stage of the prestigious Liszt Academy.

More legions of adoring fans besieged him afterwards for autographs, to play concert dates, to look at their scores, just to be near him -- like a pop star.

"It could easily have been that I wasn't here," he said, after the crowds had gone, drinking a glass of water in a dressing room.

"This kind of celebrity is fairly new, I'd say in the last 10 years," he added.

This from a man born in Baltimore, Maryland, not Salzburg, Austria, and who drove a cab for more of his adult life than he cares to remember. In fact, he wouldn't talk about that at all, he just laughed.

But he hadn't given up navigating the streets of New York long before his landmark, four-and-a-half hour opera "Einstein on the Beach" had its premiere at the Metropolitan Opera more than 30 years ago.

Since then, it has all been up, up and higher up for Glass, who has managed to maintain center stage in the serious music world while making forays into film, with the score for the cult environmental film "Koyaanisqatsi" and, more recently, for director Peter Weir's dig at television, "The Truman Show."

It all seems natural to Glass, who said his music was connected "to the four elements of theater -- text, music, movement and image."

"The New Tradition Of Tonal Music"

Perhaps even more important, for those who think classical music died an atonal death early this century, it is tonal.

"It's in the new tradition of tonal music," he said. "That means there is a very strong idea of tonality, but it is interpreted in a very different way."

His music is characterized by arpeggiated, or rolling, chords and by melodies that are often wistful and reminiscent of Indian music.

Glass said he and similarly minded composers had to stage a mini-revolution against the musical establishment to gain acceptance for music some critics saw as a throwback, or worse.

"I think I was a significant member of a generation that decided in the mid-60s that the future of music was not in what is historically defined as the 'second Viennese school'," he said, mentioning serialist-and-beyond composers like Pierre Boulez and Luciano Berio as its main avatars.

"You were told there would be no place for you if you did not follow that line...but our generation simply decided to halt that and we began to play in galleries, museums, in pubs.

"Now the big difference is that in the '60s if someone came to you and said 'modern music' you knew what it was like. Today you have to hear it.

"That's a sea change -- just that simple fact is a profound change."

Glass said that as a result, the entire music world opened up to new languages and new projects, which is why he can be heard one day performing a series of 10 scholarly etudes in Budapest and go back to writing film scores the next.

He said the "Dracula" score was not directly inspired by the music of Transylvania, once part of Hungary and now in Romania, but would not rule out some subliminal influence from the works of the Hungarian composers Bartok and Kodaly which he learned as a student.

And he isn't finished yet with what may someday become known as Philip Glass's horror film trilogy.

"Universal sent me three movies, 'Dracula', 'Frankenstein' and 'The Mummy', and I've offered to do the other two," he said.

"I think they were rather stunned," he said. "I think they had no idea....But 'Frankenstein' is a very good movie too."


Thursday, October 7, 1999

New Beethoven work gets first public performance

By Clar Ni Chonghaile

LONDON (Reuters) - Beethoven is back with 51 seconds of a previously unknown composition that got its first public airing in a London auction house Thursday.

For more than 100 years, the single page of music, written by the German composer in 1817, lay hidden in a private collection of papers in a house in Cornwall, southern England.

It was discovered by Stephen Roe of Sotheby's auction house last August.

"I have reason to believe that this short piece is probably receiving its first performance ever, but we can't be sure of that. It's certainly the first performance in public," said Roe, who is head of Sotheby's books and manuscript department.

The manuscript is due to be auctioned by Sotheby's in December and is expected to fetch between 150,000 and 200,000 pounds ($250-$330,000).

"Nowhere is it mentioned in the extensive literature on the composer. The appearance of a new work by Beethoven at auction is almost certainly without precedent in modern times," Roe added.

Secrecy was at a premium before the brief but historic performance at Sotheby's. Even the musicians were only allowed to see the piece 20 minutes beforehand.

Musicians Praise Work

"It's a real treat, especially when you devote yourself to studying Beethoven works. It's a real gem, a real find," said Lucy Howard, a violinist in the Eroica string quartet.

"It is a short piece, but it's 23 beautiful bars of Beethoven, written at the height of his power," Roe said.

Ludwig van Beethoven wrote the short piece for a celebrated English traveler and critic, Richard Ford, who visited the composer in Vienna in 1817.

The manuscript is inscribed: "This quartette was composed for me in my presence by Ludwig v. Beethoven at Vienna Friday 28th November 1817 Richard Ford."

Nobody seems quite sure whether the piece was meant to become part of a longer work or whether it was meant as a one-of-a-kind souvenir.

The piece is in B minor, unusual for Beethoven, and Sotheby's said it was composed at a turning point in his career.

Between 1813 and 1817, Beethoven seems to have suffered a creative drought.

The manuscript was found in the home of the Molesworth St Aubyn family at Pencarrow in Cornwall, hidden in an album also containing a collection of letters and manuscripts by Verdi, Abraham Lincoln and Charlotte Bronte among others.

Reuters/Variety


April 12, 1954

Bill Haley and His Comets recorded Rock Around the Clock

Bill Haley and His Comets recorded Rock Around the Clock for Decca Records on April 12 in 1954. The song was recorded at the Pythian Temple, "a big, barnlike building with great echo," in New York City. "Rock Around the Clock" was formally released a month later.

Most rock historians feel the tune, featured in the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle, ushered in the era of rock ’n’ roll. It hit number one on June 29, 1955 and stayed there for eight weeks, remaining on the charts for a total of 24 weeks. Rock Around the Clock was not Haley’s first recording, however. He had waxed three other songs, all for Decca: Shake, Rattle and Roll, Dim, Dim the Lights, and Mambo Rock. And, through 1974, Haley and his group charted 14 hits, including, See You Later, Alligator from 1956. Rock Around the Clock was re-released in 1974. On its second run it made it to number 30 on the pop charts.

Haley died of a heart attack in Harlingen, TX on February 9, 1981. He was posthumously awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1982 for Rock Around the Clock. The record has now sold over 25,000,000 copies.

May 7, 1941

Chattanooga Choo Choo Day

Glenn Miller and his Orchestra recorded one of the great American music standards, Chattanooga Choo Choo, on this day in 1941. The song was recorded at the famous Victor Recording Studios in Hollywood, California. The record not only became a big hit, it it is said to have been the first gold record -- for selling over one million copies. The claim, incidentally, was a promotion idea of RCA Victor. It was not until over a decade later that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) was formed to designate and audit actual certification for gold, and later, platinum records, tapes, CDs, videos and even computer software.

Song of the Volga Boatman, Elmer’s Tune, A String of Pearls, Moonlight Cocktail", That Old Black Magic and Kalamazoo were also Glenn Miller's #1 recordings alongside Chattanooga Choo Choo. All aboard!

April 24, 1934

Pipeless Organ Day

It was on this date in Chicago, IL that Laurens Hammond announced news that would be favored by many churches across the United States. The news was the development of the pipeless organ -- and a granting of a U.S. patent for same. The year was 1934.

Hammond, a decades-old name in keyboard organs in churches, theaters, auditoriums and homes, is the same Hammond who fostered many of the developments that would make electronic keyboards so popular in modern music. The Hammond B-3 and B-5 organs, for example, became mainstays for many recording artists, while inventions in Hammond organ loud speaker development (the Hammond Leslie Tremelo speaker) produced still other important milestones that allowed small organs to emulate the big concert theater console organs.

Later, solid-state circuitry and computers allowed keyboards the flexibility to sound like other instruments, permitting the organist to play many instruments from the organ’s multiple keyboards.
A line of music

Many thanks to Dearest for everything!


 
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