Storytelling: Where Have You Gone, Rosie The Riveter?

300px-Cambridge_Bridge_postcard

“People really haven’t been riveting for quite a while,” said Mary Grieco, metals control engineer for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. “It’s a learning curve for everybody. There are no specifications anymore that tell you how to rivet, so we make the best engineering judgment on how to do it.”

 

 

On the heels of the excellent Marketplace story discussing the decline of – and the attempt to, er, “kick start” – American Industrial Design, comes a fascinating story in today’s local rag explaining just why it’s going to take so long to refurbish the iconic Longfellow Bridge spanning the Charles River between Cambridge and Boston.   Turns out it’s all about rivets and rocks … or to be more precise, the elusive, prized Rockport Granite – “The Granite of Character.”  Worth a read!

Description of Rockport Granite, taken from Sweet's Catalogue of Building Construction, 1915

Description of Rockport Granite, taken from Sweet’s Catalogue of Building Construction, 1915

Macca Joins The Choir

Macca on Music

With all of the hoopla and remembrances this month about the 50th Anniversary of the “Beatles Invasion” of the US, I’ve been thinking about Paul McCartney’s post-Beatle, post-Wings, career as a budding classical composer.  Which,  it should be remembered, tended to veer towards choral works like the Liverpool Oratorio and the symphonic poem Standing Stone, featuring the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and New York Choral Artists.

The American premiere of Standing Stone was my first brush with Beatlemania, when I produced the live broadcast from Carnegie Hall for NPR…which the Fleet Street-inspired PR folks for McCartney hyperbolically declared the live web/broadcast as “The Single Largest Classical Music Event in History.”  (Remember, this was 1997, folks, when a “Web Cast” was a totally new phenomenon!).

But I digress.  Here’s the Macca quote, which I think is such a nice summation of why people can be freaky about singing in a choir:

MaccaChoir

As it happened, Standing Stone turned out to be the first of many shows I produced for NPR involving McCartney.  One of the most successful I think was another choral program: A Garland for Linda, a “choral song cycle” written as memorial for Linda McCartney/benefit for The Garland Appeal breast cancer research fund.

The 1999 Album/Concert "A Garland for Linda"The 2000 Garland, which featured contributions not only from Macca but such leading UK composers as John Tavener, Judith Bingham, David Matthews, (not to be confused with Dave Matthews),  John Rutter, Roxanna Panufnik, Michael Berkeley, and Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, was in turn inspired by the 1953 Garland for the Queen, featuring contributions from such composers as Benjamin Britten, Herbert Howells, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gerald Finzi, and Arnold Bax.  And there was an even earlier precedent, according to the British music blog The Land of Lost Content:

The Garland was commissioned by the Arts Council of Great Britain, to celebrate the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in 1953. One wonders if that ‘quango’ would be active in anything so ‘establishment’ in our age? The ten poets and ten composers were bidden to create settings for mixed voices. The idea was to craft a 20th century ‘replica’ of the famous The Triumphs of Oriana (1601) which was presented to Queen Elizabeth I. The present series of songs is not a parody of the earlier cycle but it is certainly influenced by it. The madrigal is a creative inspiration for both of these composite pieces.

The Garland program was a live broadcast from the cavernous Riverside Church on New York’s Upper East Side, featuring conductor Helen Cha-Pyo leading the excellent Riverside Choir. NPR’s Susan Stamberg and WNYC’s John Schaefer were the hosts…and we actually broadcast from the 3rd level “side aisle”  on the right side of the church (click here for your handy glossary of cathedral architecture).   The playlist for the complete program is here.…and posted below.  It reminds me that someday I need to dig up the piece that I don’t think was ever recorded: the USA premiere of Peter Broadbent‘s arrangement of Four Songs for Chorus by Lennon & McCartney:

For No One; Here, There and Everywhere; And I Love Her; Good Day Sunshine

Don’t think it ever appeared on a recording.  Peter was really the driving force behind the entire project, as I recall.

riverside2

The Garland project actually turned out to yield a broadcast, a Bob Edwards interview on NPR’s Morning Edition, and even a CD, as we recorded a benefit concert at the Supper Club in NYC that featured a performance by the rather impromptuly-assembled Loma Mar Quartet  of string-quartet arrangements of a few of the pieces.  Alas, no chart action on Billboard, however…

Linda+McCartney+-+Selections+From+A+Garland+For+Linda+-+5"+CD+SINGLE-398473A Garland for Linda Selections CD- back cover Read more

A Rain of Tears – Anderson & Roe

As January snows give way to February rain, and as I start to think about an upcoming Concert Preview I’m doing at the La Jolla Music Society before a two-piano extravaganza with members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, time to feature my favorite piano duo: Greg Anderson and my “distant Korean cousin” Elizabeth Joy Roe.   Three stars in this video…you can also check out the stunning backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean that is part and parcel of every performance of the Shalin Liu Performance Center at Rockport Music. Enjoy!

 

PS – there’s also a great Fraser Performance Studio session with Anderson & Roe hosted by WCRB’s Cathy Fuller.   Check it out here.

 

The Arts in Atlanta

Another travel day for the RoeDeo, today passing through (as any Delta passenger inevitably must) the well-worn corridors of Atlanta-Hartsfield airport. And, being early to the gate, the lucky lottery winner of the Highly Coveted Electrical Outlet – incurring of course the Wrath and Envy of My Fellow Passengers. But, hey, I’m not being selfish, it’s not like I’ve got both the laptop AND the cellphone plugged in…as I’ve witnessed on previous journeys. A violation of the Unwritten Code of Airport Travelers Connectivity, in my book. Such is the life of modern-day travel for the biz-nizperson. On the plus side, your choice of three different Wi-Fi providers here, but the fact remains, is there an airport in the country that doesn’t have a pathetic paucity of kilo-juice in its waiting areas? Crown, Club, and Champagne rooms don’t count.

But I digress. I do that a lot. Logged a lot of Deltamiles to and from here during the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation years @ NPR, a remarkable decade-plus of support for cultural programming from a remarkable organization. (A few years ago in a big investigative piece on the administrative and accounting practices of charitable orgs, the Washington Post found that the RWW Foundation had one of the very lowest administrative and overhead costs [read: executive salaries!] of any major non-profit.) Anyway, from the Woodruff fund folks help to underwrite a whole slew of activities – live broadcasts, CD recordings, Olympic shows, choral masterworks conducted by the late Robert Shaw, the “King Celebration” concerts, just to name a few. And in return, they got the inevitable underwriting tagline that was a staple of NPR programming in the nineties: “…the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, for coverage of the Arts in Atlanta.”

Needless to say, I still keep eyes and ears cocked as to whazzup with the Arts in Atlanta, which are in many respects flourishing: In the wee hours of this morning the Alliance Theatre Company was named a Tony winner for “Outstanding Regional Theatre Company;” The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has a terrific and adventurous Music Director in Robert Spano – and they’re building a brand-new Santiago Calatrava-designed Symphony Center; the chamber music and jazz concerts at Spivey Hall are as terrific as ever, (old friend Pierre Ruhe of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently called it “the No. 1 attracter of musicians at the peak of their artistry, even if they’re not yet well-known names. ) and, in the NW Atlanta suburbs, the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, boasting a 2,750 seat theatre, opens Sept. 15.

Witness, then, the strange story splashed across the front page of today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “State of the Art Kennesaw Arts Center Closes:

“Less than a year after opening to great fanfare, the stage has gone dark at the privately owned $35 million Dozier Centre for the Performing Arts in Kennesaw.

Its state-of-the-art recording studios, video-editing facilities, dance studios and classrooms are empty, and about 530 performing arts students have been told there will be no more classes. Its resident theater company, the 5-year-old Big Top Theatre, has folded. And the Cobb Symphony Orchestra — which was thrilled to have a home after 56 years with no fixed address — has been given one year’s notice to leave.

On Saturday, the Dozier Centre will officially become a church.”

Huh? Whazzat? How can you design, develop, build, an arts center – and they really spend $35 million on a modest regional arts center? – and then fold it in LESS THAN A YEAR? HELLO??

“The journey from symphony to Psalms is a confusing story, made all the more mysterious because many key people involved — from multimillionaire founder Don Dozier to public officials — aren’t talking publicly.”

I’ll bet it’s confusing. And the article makes it even more so. You have to read down a bit, but you do eventually discover that this church they’re talking about is also being run by the self-same millionaire Mister Dozier, who was “inspired by the musical artistry of his daughter, Emma,” to build the 85,000 square foot facility (including a 614-seat concert hall) in the first place. Until, I guess, zoning rules and politics interceded. Or maybe just bad acoustics were to blame? Pierre Ruhe also labled the Dozier as a doozy of a “Disappointment” for 2006:

The Dozier Centre for the Performing Arts, which opened in August in Kennesaw, should have been a fine new music hall for the northern suburbs. A music and education center, the facility looks great, but clogged acoustics mean it’s yet another of metro Atlanta’s mediocre spaces for music.”

Ouch. Still, a passing strange story from the Southland today….