October 19, 2006

La Bohème is iTunesified

I just finished ripping and editing this brilliant opera into my iTunes library. The default setting in iTunes is to start playing CDs as they start copying. I usually let them roll, and I did again tonight. La Bohème is possibly the only piece of music that has the power to make me cry just for the sake of its beauty, passion, and sadness. I have been known to cry on account of music plenty of times, but usually it is because I make some kind of personal connection with my own past. Bohème can do that, but it moves me to tears just for its own sake.

Everyone should have a copy of this opera. I suggest this recording featuring Pavarotti at the top of his game. For my money, there is no better opera than La Bohème, and no better operatic tenor, living or dead, than Luciano Pavarotti. I miss his masterful, seemingly effortless performances, but I can always listen to his old recordings to hear him in his prime.

Posted by Andy at 12:40 AM | Comments (2)

October 18, 2006

iPod aCtion

I've spent the past three or so days copying all of my music from CDs to my computer for use with my shiny new (new = refurbished) iPod. Woo! Well, not quite "woo" yet, but we're getting there. This is a lot of work, and iTunes, the software designed for use with an iPod, is not super friendly with classical music.

I'm realizing how much I love listening to the music I own. Whenever I test out something on the iPod to see if the volume is set properly or if the quality is good, I have to force myself to stop listening. The same goes for anything that starts playing when I'm transferring from CD to hard disk. Great stuff.

Any iPod experts out there? I could use your help.

Posted by Andy at 09:39 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2006

Big Surprise Today

Today was chugging along and kinda blah until I opened an airmailed, handwritten letter around 4:00 from none other than Bryn Terfel, world-renowned operatic baritone, regarding my battle with illness over the past few months. Here is an excerpt:

Dear Andy,

Just a little note in the middle of my rather hectic "Wagner" year to hope and pray that you are holding up after your recent bout of illness. I hope a letter from the mountains of Wales will remind you of what music and its powers mean to so many of us whatever the complications of life.

Mr. Terfel continued with some detail about his latest engagement, tied it to the above quoted material with a well thought out comparison, and ended with a quote. He is clearly an intelligent and caring person to have taken the time to do something like this for a person he will likely never meet. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Bryn and his agent, Doreen O'Neil, for making such a wonderful gesture.

... but how did he even know about me in the first place?

That would be because of the incredibly creative and persistent Mei-Ling Johnson, who has of course received mention on this site any number of times for her continued efforts on my behalf.

Thank you, Mei, for setting this once in a lifetime occurrence in motion back in February when all of this cancer news hit. I don't think it's possible that I could ever have a better friend than you.

Posted by Andy at 10:05 PM | Comments (2)

January 23, 2006

Another Day, Another Lesson

I had another voice lesson today, as I do most every Monday at 3. I'm really starting to notice a substantial difference over the past two months. I can handle more demanding music without intervention, and I'm getting a feel for specific practices that don't seem like much but amount to a whole lot.

For instance, I'm getting more and more accustomed to forming the "ah" sound with a brighter quality essentially by thinking of moving the sound toward the front of my mouth. That isn't exactly what happens, but adding a "toothy" quality makes the vowel much more effortless, which translates into a great many words suddenly falling into place, which translates into being able to think about something else, like actual musicality. I'm still not at the point where I can just sing difficult music in a fully musical way without having to concentrate on technique issues, but I get a bit closer each week.

I'll be able to break that glass any day now.

Posted by Andy at 10:19 PM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2005

BSO / Renée Fleming Christmas

Mom and I just got back from a Christmas concert at the Meyerhoff featuring soprano soloist Renée Fleming, the preeminent soprano on the opera scene over the past several years. My friend Jordana met us there as well.

The concert was disappointing due to poor balance between soloist and orchestra, and even between the wind instruments and strings within the orchestra. For reasons beyond my reckoning, those in charge had Ms. Fleming stand in line with the first row of violins and the conductor instead of out in front. During the first half of the concert much of her performance was thus overshadowed by the orchestra, especially during several Handel arias which required a more delicate sound.

The balance improved somewhat in the second half, mostly due to the nature of the music, but several all-orchestral pieces suffered from an overpowering wind section. I must admit this surprised me immensely, as a flute was actually the culprit during the Pastoral Symphony from Handel's Messiah, which created the effect of a harmony line appearing to be the melody.

As for the quality of the music beyond balance, it was, for the most part, excellent. I felt Renée made a few unusual artistic decisions here and there, and she was slightly behind in the execution of the run passages in "Rejoice Greatly", a Messiah Christmas classic, but on the whole her expressiveness and sound quality were unsurprisingly beautiful. The audience was treated to a double encore, the last of which was a brilliant a cappella performance of Amazing Grace, easily the highlight of the evening. Had more unaccompanied music been featured in this concert, my overall assessment would likely be entirely different, but unfortunately it was just too difficult to get past the imbalances to really enjoy the music without straining to hear the featured performer.

Posted by Andy at 12:30 AM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2005

In the Bleak Mid-winter

Nobody does Christmas like the King's College Choir. Take a moment out of your day and listen to this recording of In the Bleak Mid-winter, composed by Harold Darke.

Posted by Andy at 11:00 PM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2005


Here is a piece from the Rachmaninoff Vespers that I performed in high school in a group of local All-State choristers we called the "nine-tet." It has to be one of the most ethereal and beautiful pieces written (that goes for the entirety of the Vespers) and I know some of you will think so too. I would rate this recording as a "must have" in my collection, and am happy to share more detailed info about it if prompted. This recording is not from my high school group, I should probably add. In fact, many have a problem with the conducting style exhibited on this album, stating it is nowhere near authentic to the original version. I am of the opinion that this version is incredible and conveys its message clearly, thus negating the necessity to maintain absolute historical accuracy.

Bogoroditsye Devo, raduisya,
Blagodatnaya Mariye,
Gospod s Toboyu.
Blagoslovenna Ty v zhenakh,
I blagosloven plod chreva Tvoyevo,
Yako Spasa rodila yesi dush nashikh.

Bogoroditsye Devo, Raduisya


Rejoice, O Vergin Theotokos,
Mary full of grace.
The Lord is with Thee.
Blessed art Thou among women,
And blessed is the fruit of Thy womb,
For Thou has borne the Savior of our souls.

Posted by Andy at 12:54 AM | Comments (2)

October 25, 2005

Next Stop: Rinaldo

Prepare yourself for some high opera! Below you may listen to a "triumphant entry" from Handel's Rinaldo featuring Gerald Finley, who is for my money the best bass on the classical music scene right now, and maybe the best over the past 30 years.

Sibillar gli angui d'Aletto,
e latrar vorace Scilla
parmi udir d'intorno a me.
Rio velen mi serpe in petto,
né ancor languida favilla
di timore pena mi diè.

Sibillar gli angui d'Aletto


All around I seem to hear
the hissing of Alecto's serpents,
and the barking of hungry Scylla.
An evil poison creeps into my breast,
and has stung me with the dull spark
of fear.

Posted by Andy at 10:53 PM | Comments (2)

October 20, 2005


Verdi's Requiem contains stirring music from beginning to end, but the ultimate moment for me lies midway through the Offertorio as the Domine Jesu Christe ends and the Hostias begins. Given the constraints of file sizes, I can only offer you the Hostias itself, which is beautiful in its own right. If you like what you hear or would like to know more about this recording, drop in a comment.

Hostias et preces tibi, Domine,
laudis offerimus,
Tu suscipe pro animabus illis,
quarum hodie memoriam facimus:
fac eas, Domine, de morte
transire ad vitam,
quam olim Abrahae promisisti
et semini ejus.


For those not up to speed on their latin or mass-memorization skills, here is the translation.

Lord in praise we offer to Thee
sacrifices and prayers,
do Thou receive them for the souls of those
whom we remember this day:
Lord, make them pass
from death to life,
as Thou didst promise Abraham
and his seed.

Posted by Andy at 03:39 PM | Comments (0)

New Music Category

I have decided to talk a bit more about music in this blog. I really liked posting the track from Renée Fleming's Handel cd and got a few nice comments via email, so I'm going to continue in that vein and post snips from my collection along with words or background. I have moved my Handel post to the music category now as well. Stay tuned.

Posted by Andy at 02:51 PM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2005

Convey Me to Some Peaceful Shore

I never really listened to pop music of any kind, except for maybe half a year in 8th grade. I figure, when you can listen to something like this, what's the point of listening to anything else? The link at the bottom of the text should play the piece. If it doesn't, please let me know.

Calm though my soul, kind Isis,
with a noble scorn of life,
ideal joys, and momentary pains,
that flatter, or disturb this waking dream.

Convey me to some peaceful shore,
where no tumultuous billows roar,
where life, though joyless, still is calm,
and sweet content is sorrow's balm.
There, free from pomp and care to wait,
forgetting and forgot, the will of fate.

Calm thou my soul ... Convey me to some peaceful shore
Alexander Balus
Posted by Andy at 10:37 PM | Comments (0)