Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A work of art: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Highest recommendation for this movie . . . . very special.

One word thoughts: Inspiring, beautiful, artistic, moving, compelling, understated, southern..

I loved it.

Favorite moments:

1. Sunsets for loved ones.
2. Lightning strikes.
3. Sequence of scenes that begin with Benjamin taking his father to the lake and ending with Daisy performing ballet to "Some enchanted evening . . ."
4. Inspiration to read more F. Scott Fitzgerald, see more of the world, and have the courage to change situations if you don't like the way they are going. (no deep meaning there).

Go see it. Or leave your comments here if you've seen it.

Positive reviews here, here, here, and here.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

On Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet the words repeat,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had roll'd along th' unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bow'd my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

'Til ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Laurel Masse gives us this beautiful impression of Christmas Eve:

Every Christmas Eve I listen to the BBC Radio broadcast of "Lessons and Carols". In years past, especially while I was living in the Adirondacks, this was my only Christmas experience of the lovely sound of Anglican choral singing. It is fairly deep in my personal history; in 1962 my family moved to England, and there were hymns sung at chapel every morning at the school I attended. Since I started singing at the Cathedral (St. John the Divine, in Manhattan), I have heard (and sung) a lot more of that style, and under the cathedral's new music director, Bruce Neswick, there will be much more to come. And a lot of that is coming tonight.

The Cathedral, newly rededicated after a seven-year restoration triggered by the smoke and water damage incurred in the fire of December, 2001, will no doubt be full tonight. It is quietly thrilling to stand with my fellow singers in the choir and, looking down the whole length of that beautiful structure, see the seats - all the seats! - filled by the devoted, the devout, the curious, the skeptical, the travelers, the fans of music, the fans of architecture, the tourists, the sad, the lonely, the joyous, on and on. I look at this, and think "Here comes everybody", as James Joyce (I think) said when describing the Church.

Here we are, in need of the "tidings of comfort and joy" now perhaps more than ever, when it seems that light cannot possibly overcome the darkness. But look out the window tonight: trees are alight, menorahs glowing. Families are gathering together if they can. I come from a family of singers, and even though we are not all together this year, I know that, wherever we are, we are gathering to sing, and sing, and be reminded of why we are singing.

Thanks for sharing, Laurel.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

9.5 million views and a recording contract

Wow . . . . the power of one performance. Two videos, watch them both.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Spring 2009 Exam Times (Recording Sessions)

I'm looking ahead to the end of next semester and have discovered this for the choirs:

Chamber Singers
Exam time: Monday, May 4 4:15-6:45 p.m.

Concert Choir
Exam time 1: Thursday, April 30 1:30-4:00 p.m.
Exam time 2: Friday, May 1 1:30-4:00 p.m.

Please put it on your calendars.

Final exam schedule here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Decent quotes, horrible picture

Don't miss my brilliance and beauty here.

Or my eloquence here. As I listened, I prayed that the interview would end before I would say something incredibly stupid.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Considerations: Weigh In!

I'm thinking about the AMEA Concert in January and I'm having these thoughts listed below. Now is your time to weigh in on the decision and I'm not offended at positive/negative feedback on any of it. Just sign your name.

The thoughts:

1. Bring back "With a Lily in Your Hand" (Whitacre). We only performed that piece in Alabama one time, I think. And I'm not satisfied with any recording that we have except for the Spring Concert, and that was not in the best acoustic. And it didn't have a very good beginning.

2. Early part of the program works this way:
First piece: Glory be to God (Rachmaninoff)
Second piece, without a break for applause: Alleluia. Kiyoshi's opening chant solo begins on the same note that the sopranos end the Rachmaninoff.

3. Bring back Shall We Gather at the River. It's a great piece, well known, and I'm not satisfied with the recording. (side note: this isn't the place to criticize recordings)

4. Bring back Silence of Time. One of the best pieces we did last year. December 2007 recording of it here. I think we have a better recording in us and this is always a crowd pleaser.
Potential program:
Glory to God
Lobet den Herrn
O Sacrum
With a Lily
Shall We Gather at the River (Beautiful River)
Silence of Time
Garota de Ipanema

Classes start: Wednesday, January 7
UAB Honor Choir Performance: Saturday, January 17
AMEA Performance: Friday, January 23

Most people will need "Beautiful River" and some will need "With a Lily" and "Silence of Time". Check your email.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sleeping Marimbas

You Eric Whitacre fans will enjoy this:

Here's what he said about it:

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine myself writing the following words, but here they are: I just heard an exquisite performance of Sleep as transcribed for marimba quartet.

I found this on youtube this morning and was just knocked out, not so much by the novelty of the whole thing (roving, voyeuristic steady-cam shots of a marimba quartet), but by their nuanced music-making; their sense of line and phrase; and their deep, deep understanding of the underlying structure of the piece. Really blew my mind.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Kind words from Gunilla Luboff

Received some very kind words from Gunilla Luboff of Walton Music on the recording (G.L. is one of my favorite people in the world).

Here's what she said to me and Mr. Berg:

Philip!! Just downloaded the recording and it is WONDERFUL - the choir sounds just great and the text even comes through when I play it on the computer. You have done a wonderful job and I hope Ken is as pleased as I am. The performance really moves me back to the type of choral singing that I have heard in the traditional repertoire. It has the same vocal glow as the ones that we did in the Ole Miss series... Just great. Many thanks again, both to you and the choir! I look forward to the next track with Little David Play!


Dear Ken,

Thank you so very much for this lovely piece! As you know it is the first time I really hear it sung - it is so rich and sweet and has that Baltic singing depth that is so beautiful, that Philip's choir really brought out. The variations in the verses are lovely and the ending makes me smile. Thank you so much - I think this will be sung by MANY choirs!! Warmest regards and thanks.


Friday, December 05, 2008

5 December 2008 Recording Session

Weihnachten 1
Weihnachten 2

Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen 1
Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen 2

Glory be to God 1

Glory be to God 2

Tooma Laulukoor 1
Tooma Laulukoor 2

Congratulations, Erin!

Erin Pair is the new music teacher at two schools:

Hillview Elementary
Adamsville Elementary

She interviewed for the jobs today--she starts Monday.

Congratulations, Erin!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Yes--choir tomorrow.

Yes, we are in choir on Wednesday.

UPDATED: ACTUAL RECORDING TIME: Friday, 2:30. Arrive at 2:15.

Ending Fall 2008

Originally posted May 24, 2008.

Dec. 6, 2008 Christmas at the Alys Dress Rehearsal
Jemison 7:00 - 10:00 pm

Dec. 7, 2008 Christmas at the Alys
Jemison 3:00 pm

Dec. 5-11, 2008 Final Exams

FINAL EXAM TIME FOR CHOIR: (updated 5/27/2008)
1g: Friday, December 5, 1:30 - 4:00
2E: Thursday, December 11, 1:30 - 4:00

Monday, December 01, 2008

Wow. Birmingham News Today

Birmingham mayor arrested.

Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford was arrested this morning on federal charges and is being held at the federal courthouse, the FBI and other federal officials confirm.

UPDATE:  This is national news.  Saw it on the Drudge Report.  Click picture to go to Drudge.

UAB probably will build steam plant . . . at 85 or 95 million.
UAB is still weighing options for building a new $85 million to $95 million steam system to replace one Alabama Power is closing, according to university officials.
The school is debating whether to construct its own steam plant internally or outsource the project, according to Brooks Baker, associate vice president for facilities for the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He recently updated the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees on the project, and said the school plans to come back to the board in February with a concrete proposal.
The exact budget has yet to be determined, he said, but estimates put the cost of building a new plant and constructing new underground lines around $90 million.
UAB depends on steam for heating, hot water and sterilization in its hospital buildings and laboratories.