Susanne Mentzer: The Mozart Effect — beautiful!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zi8vJ_lMxQI

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http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=mozart+requiem+images&qpvt=mozart+requiem+images&FORM=IGRE#view=detail&id=D3B199B19A2C038FB4B8F7D577D514A078C653B8&selectedIndex=0

 

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susanne-mentzer/mozart_b_2601959.html?utm_hp_ref=arts

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Susanne Mentzer

Opera Singer

 

I have been at a loss lately as to what I might write about. Writing is not a daily activity for me since I wear a lot of hats, so I normally wait for that Eureka moment.

Last night, on stage at the Pacific Symphony performance of the Mozart Requiem in Costa Mesa, I had a minor one.

When I arrived at the theater a bit before the end of the first half of the concert, I could hear the music director speaking to the audience enthusiastically about the music. The first half had various late works by Mozart. An actor read letters from Mozart as well. I remember thinking, “How cool!” After intermission, we walked on stage to a large audience of extremely welcoming faces.

As a soloist in this type of concert, you are placed right at the lip of the stage, practically in the laps of the first row of concertgoers. Unlike in an opera house, the symphony hall is usually lit so we can see most of the audience. This audience looked so happy to see us — so into what was about to happen. People on the higher levels were leaning over in anticipation. Frankly, I rarely see this. Many people sort of sit back, while this group seemed to be participating. It was a Thursday evening — a work night — and all these people were so happy to be there.

If they could see the bubbles over singer’s head they would see: Am I slouching? Can they see me biting my tongue to stay hydrated? (A little trick if your mouth gets dry) Should I sway a little to the beat or not? I wonder where I should look while not actually up singing — down at the music following along or out at the audience, to the conductor?

There is so much going on behind our backs and we have to rely on looking at the audience to see what they see reflected back to us. I could observe the various reactions; the few looking through binoculars, the man on the front row mouthing all the words obviously very familiar with the work, or the lady settled back with her eyes closed but definitely not asleep. Some people nodded to the music, others had tears in their eyes. Some held hands and others looked knowingly at each other, as one sometimes does in a movie theater. I wished I could see the little bubble over each head with their thoughts!

My role in the evening was very small. As a matter of fact, most singers at my level do not even sing the Mozart Requiem or these works with only solo ensemble as opposed to arias. I find being a team member a really wonderful dynamic and harmonizing is so much fun. In opera, they say that the Mozart singers are the team players. The real stars of a work like this are the chorus and orchestra, both of whom stepped up to the plate in a thrilling way. Maestro Carl St. Clair chose interesting tempi that I had not heard but with reason behind the choices rather than just being different. In rehearsals there was a give and take with the orchestra discussing phrasing, making sense of the music. As most orchestras are union regulated there is not a lot of time to waste, as the clock is always running; yet the work got done.  The amount of concentration during the concert was at least twenty times more than in rehearsal and I could feel it.

Sitting where I did, in from of the concertmaster I could hear predominately his part but was so amazed by the blend and how everyone across the stage could actually be in the same moment playing a different part. This goes on all the time, but it really hit me last night. Then there is the amazing chorus — The Pacific Chorale — spread across the back of the orchestra, yet in perfect sync with the orchestra and each other, despite the distances. The final work on the concert with the sublime “Ave Verum Corpus,” which was so quiet, yet intense, one could hear a pin drop. It seemed the entire audience held their breath. And when it was finished, the maestro left his baton mid-air so as to have no applause break the moment. It seemed like eons; a moment of suspended time that nothing could permeate. How often does that happen in this day of constant contact?

My very first time singing this work was at William and Mary College back in the late 1970’s, when they brought a quartet of singers from Juilliard. I felt so grown up then and I believe it may have been my first experience staying in a hotel room all by myself. Funny what we remember, no? I have sung the work countless times. It is timeless, as is most of Mozart’s music. There is also a story behind it, since Mozart died before it was finished and a protégé completed it based on sketches save for a few movement he finished on his own. Amazing to think that in the history of man on this planet, these composers of note did not come around until the last two to 300 years. I find that quite interesting. I look at museum paintings, tapestries, furniture, etc. of this age and think how precious, fragile and rare they are; needing to be protected, yet here we have this music out where we can all experience it. How amazing is that after over two hundred years? Why does it speak to us so?

Even for years after its premiere, this was the Requiem of choice for major historic figures, even for Napoleon.

Give them eternal rest, o Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them with your saints forever, for you are merciful.

I have my own reasons for needing the Requiem right now. I lost someone very dear to me abruptly two weeks ago. Singing this work in their memory helps me cope with this loss. Reading the text of the work helps me think of their spirit being in a better place. I remember, too, the innocent lives so senselessly lost in events over the past year.

Seeing and hearing classical performances for their therapeutic and intense emotional possibilities rather than an intellectual endeavor is yet one other reason to be thankful that classical music and performances like this continue to exist.

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/musica-amor-will-you-still-love-me-tomorrow-a-la-wondrous-leslie-grace/

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musica amor — “Will you still love me tomorrow?”  a la wondrous Leslie Grace

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sasha-bronner/where-have-all-the-rock-gods-gone_b_2603043.html?utm_hp_ref=arts&ir=Arts

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Where Have All the Rock Gods Gone?

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Talking about music is kind of like talking about sex: there aren’t always the right words.

But as I sat in the famous Cinerama Dome in Hollywood on Thursday night, watching Dave Grohl’s music documentary Sound City, a slow sly smile spread across my face. I could feel a true illumination warm my cheeks, a golden rosy glow of happiness as I watched old footage of Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood recording at the Sound City studio in Los Angeles. And for that moment of self-awareness, I had to wonder: Why does this music make me so happy?

Is it simply the emotional ties I have to a childhood full of classic rock; a mother with a stunning voice who sang to us often? I have memories of listening to Fleetwood Mac as a young child, folded in my mom’s lap, on the sand in Lake Havasu, driving in the station wagon on dimly lit nights, the glowing lights of Los Angeles reflecting in my eyes.

Perhaps it is the sheer awe that weighs on me like an anchor when I hear beautiful words sung from someone’s mouth. The Joni Mitchells, the Paul Simons. The way time absolutely stops. And as the documentary unfolded, I sensed an eerie feeling of belonging; a connection to the past, a rootedness keeping me heavy in my seat, my hand frozen above the popcorn bucket in my lap.

Music takes my breath away. That’s not an expression. It actually takes my breath away. I’ve given it a direct line to my beating heart and when I hear a magical song, it feels like my chest is being cracked open — ice cubes popped quickly out of a plastic freezer tray.

And I realize I’ve seen too many films with too many montages, because now I’m traveling back through my life, witnessing moments when music has altered me. Singing Johnny Cash in the snow buried deep in Vermont winters in college, hearing Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen The Rain,” Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin,” Nirvana’s “Drain You,” The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Tearjerker.” And all of these musicians recorded at Sound City. All of these musicians are brought to life on the gigantic screen and watching this documentary, I realize I am overwhelmed.

I’m a nostalgia junkie, yes. The recognition that something is lost or disappeared makes it more romantic. I have stomach pains for the past. And many of the bands in Sound City go down as some of the greatest in history. I can’t recall the last time a new album vibrated through me like so many of these greats did. The moments are few and far between. Where have all the rock gods gone?

After the film’s Thursday night premiere, people headed a few blocks east to the Hollywood Palladium where Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters took the stage with everyone from Rick Springfield to Lee Ving, John Fogerty to Stevie Nicks. And when Stevie hauntingly crooned her acoustic version of “Landslide,” bringing tears to the audience’s eyes, all I could do was I close mine and take a deep breath.

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-astor/music-in-literature_b_2590404.html?utm_hp_ref=books

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Music in Literature

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People who love both fiction and music might waffle Hamlet-like about whether to enjoy a book or some tunes in their free time. But there’s a way to combine both!

I don’t mean reading and listening to music at the same time, though you can do that if you don’t pay full attention to either. I mean reading fiction containing some musical elements.

Music is so much a part of our lives that its presence in literature can help readers relate to fictional situations and characters. Also, characters who love music are often creative people (as is the case with real-life music lovers), and creative people tend to be quite interesting.

In addition, music can give us insights into what makes protagonists tick: What do they listen to? Do they also sing, write tunes and/or play an instrument? Does music set off Casablanca-like memories in the minds of fictional characters (as music can do in the minds of real-life readers)?

Music’s jogging of memory is quite profound in James Joyce’s “The Dead.” That magnificent short story gets really interesting when Gretta Conroy hears a song that sparks a melancholy recollection of a major event in her youth. She subsequently discusses this with her kind-of-stunned husband Gabriel, and readers are reminded that we often don’t know everything about the people we’re closest to. (Thanks, “3fingerbrown” and “donnyraindog,” for spurring me to read “The Dead” when lauding that story under one of my December posts.)

Of course, there are also longer fictional works with major musical elements. Five of many novels that come to mind are Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark, Colette’s The Vagabond, Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, Tom Perrotta’s The Wishbones and Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom.

Thea Kronborg becomes a renowned opera singer in Cather’s book (one of that author’s best), while Renee Nere is a music-hall performer trying to live an independent life in Colette’s poignant novel. An important High Fidelity setting is a record store owned by Rob Fleming, who discusses music with his employees — when not visiting former girlfriends! In Perrotta’s book, Dave Raymond is a wedding-band guitarist who gets engaged to a New Jersey woman but becomes torn about marrying her after meeting a New York City poet. The cast of the compelling Freedom includes indie rocker Richard, whose obnoxious charisma is attractive to the Patty character who ends up marrying Richard’s college roommate — nice guy Walter Berglund.

Then there are novels in which music is mentioned even if it’s not the major theme. Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice features this quoted-in-part line: “A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music…” James Baldwin’s searing Go Tell It on the Mountain includes a scene in which teen John Grimes unenthusiastically listens to lively church music — not feeling the religious calling he’s supposedly destined for.

Indian music comes up periodically in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake novel about an immigrant family. Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife has scenes in Chicago punk-rock clubs that make readers want to dust off their 30-year-old Clash albums. Barbara Kingsolver’s recent Flight Behavior is more about climate change than music, but that absorbing book features a great house party at which Dellarobia Turnbow’s friend Dovey cranks up tunes so skillfully that the usually low-key biologist Ovid Byron moonwalks a la Michael Jackson.

Ragtime great Scott Joplin is referenced in E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime (no surprise given that novel’s title). Rap music, classical music and “oldies but goodies” make their aural appearances in Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale. Lute music, organ music and music books get their cameos in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club.

If you also want to discuss plays, few are more musically themed than Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, which stars Mozart the genius and Salieri the jealous rival. There are also all those “jukebox musicals,” but they’re not exactly literature…

I decided to write this piece after learning that several regular commenters under my posts are or were involved with music — in roles such as singer, songwriter and band member. And of course many readers avidly listen to music.

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64 Responses to Susanne Mentzer: The Mozart Effect — beautiful!!

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