Category Music

Swan Songs: A Departing Symphony Conductor’s Homage to Mahler’s Ninth

Program selection is an art in itself among symphony conductors, quite apart from everything they do at the podium. But some program choices come easy, which appeared to be the case this past weekend in Santa Rosa Symphony Conductor Bruno Ferrandis’s farewell concert after a robust 12-year tenure.

For his final concert weekend, the last performance of which I was privileged to see and hear on Monday night, he zeroed in on Gustav Mahler’s epic Ninth Symphony, long in duration (80+ minutes, depending on who’s conducting) and large as only an ambitious symphony can be in emotional force.

Mahler’s Ninth, quite uncoincidentally, is about endings, leave-takings, death, a subject it explores on a grand scale before it finally, ever so delicately, like the tiniest moth landing on a slowly swaying blade of grass, comes to rest and silence in a final movement wholly unlike any other in the repertoire.

Ferra...

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Brilliant Songs No. 1: Tom Russell’s “The Eyes of Roberto Duran”

So many great songs and songwriters, true poets who weave the disparate shards of life happening before their eyes into something intense, insightful, and profound as that life, every life, deserves. Seeing what we see only dimly or not at all, marching up to questions we shy from and coaxing from them words and images of beauty and inspiration or dead-on-the-money, troubling truth.

So it’s time to have a little more sustained fun with all that, in the form of a series hosted here at Traversing entitled as you see in the headline slot above: “Brilliant Songs.”

I’ll aim for monthly, may slack from or increase that, who knows? (I’m old, and inclined to chafe at schedules…)

What we’ll do is give the song a You Tube play, present, admire and explore the lyrics for a bit (may probe some pure instrumentals as well), draw what we can from them and see where the whole enterprise takes us.

Yes, I’l...

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The World’s Best Love Song

The world’s best love song doesn’t have “love” in the title, nor does it appear on any “Best” lists that I could find of the most love-centric titles for Valentine’s Day. No “Love Me Tender,””Greatest Love of All,” “She Loves You” (“yeah, yeah, yeah!”), “Love Is Blue,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “How Deep Is Your Love.”

None of that.

Instead, the world’s best love song is titled, “Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding,” and it may just be the now departed singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester’s finest work in an illustrious, if under-appreciated career.

The silly title is both fun and deceiving, offering Winchester a playful refrain that could easily have been rendered into a clever har-de-har bit of laughter, an inconsequential breather (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) in an ouevre that sparkles with lyrical originality, accessible, compulsively singable tunes,...

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A Happy New Year Gift From Ludwig van Beethoven

Got 12 minutes on this New Year’s Day for an Ode to Joy that will lift your spirit in appreciation for the year past? Yes, for that year, tempestuous and fraught as it may have been, and truly, for every other year and all the other days you have lived? With luck, there will be still more days stretching out before you, miracles all, awaiting…

Exactly what more important thing could you be going about today, on this first day of the new year, and the rest of your life?

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A note on the orchestra: Consisting of youths from Palestine, Israel, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Spain, it  was founded in 1999 by Argentina-born conductor Daniel Barenboim, who emigrated with his family to Israel at age 9, and the late Palestine-born Columbia University academic Edward Said. Their intention was to “instigate a conversation” in that historically troubled part of the world that would have the ...

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Five Songs of September

When I was probably 12 years old, I took some of my paper route money and, improbable as it sounds about an era when rock & roll was ascendant and all youths thought that “adult” music was  just as impossibly square as they do today, bought the album, “The Shadow of Your Smile” by the pop crooner Andy Williams. Part of my rationale was that my mom was a huge fan of his, and I knew she would enjoy the music on the family’s newly purchased console with “stereo hi-fi.” (Is that perhaps the great-grandfather of “wi-fi?”)

Another part was that I had settled in to watch Williams’s variety show with my mom on a regular basis, and found myself drawn to the man’s voice, his elegant phrasing, and the lush melodic beauty of the title song and a number of others on the album.

Besides, the guy had a gorgeous French wife whose name played deliciously on my tongue—Cllllaaawww-deeeeen Lon-jjhayy...

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