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

Miscellaeneous Musings: the NY Phil, Howard Theatre, WYPR, No Depression, Pete Seeger…

Any resemblance to Mike “I Was Just Thinking….” Barnicle is purely coincidental….

  • Kind of amazing to hear the wall-to-wall media coverage of the New York Philharmonic’s trip to North Korea….startling and gratifying to hear snippets of the New World Symphony in the middle of network newscasts. Worth reading:  Anne Midgette’s column in the WaPo on this not being a case of bringing Great. Western. Art. to poor benighted souls behind the Bamboo Curtain….

But in Vienna, Austria, there is another image of them: as conducting students. The elite conducting class at the University of Music and Performing Arts there has trained no fewer than 17 North Korean students in the past decade.

  • Which reminds me of a similar history-making venture I helped to orchestra for NPR in 1999: The Milwaukee Symphony’s trip to Cuba, which was the first time a US orchestra had performed on the island since the Philadelphia Orchestra had been there in 1959.  ‘Course, it was a little easier for our NPR crew to move around the country than it was for the delegation traveling to North Korea this week…I remember that producer Laura Bertran even managed to lend some technical and logistical help to the struggling public radio station in Havana to broadcast the concert live on the island. (Oh yeah, they played Gershwin, too….the Cuban Overture, natch)  Click here to hear some of the music from similar symphonic excursions in the past,  and here for a similar Washington Post story on other “Diplomacy Concerts” of that past half-century.
  • On the other hand, for the same station to air during afternoon drive a six-month-old repeat of a Mario Armstrong “Digital Cafe”  feature?  About an Internet startup being Beta tested?   With a casual disclaimer that “some information may be out of date?”  Incredibly. Lame.
  • Pete SeegerIt’s nice to see Pete Seeger getting his props from PBS this week, with an American Masters portrait airing tonight on most PBS stations around the country. Except, that is, in DC, where despite Pete being on the cover of the Post’s TV Week,  the local pubtv powerhouse WETA inexplicably is running a show a three-year old show on Judy Garland.    Huh?   I’ll have more to say on Pete in a later post.

A Tale of Two Sites

…both in the “music discovery” category (sometimes called “Music 2.0”) are worth investigating:

First is a site called MOG “a music asylum run by its inmates,” (with a tip o’the’cyberpen to UTunes Advisory Boardster Andrew Dell’Antonio for pointing it out). MOG uses an impressive amount of social-networking tools and techniques to build a site to (in their words:)

Share

…your songs, music library, videos and thoughts on music with friends and mogger

Participate

…in the Web’s most raging music community.

…both in the “music discovery” category (sometimes called “Music 2.0”) are worth investigating:

First is a site called MOG “a music asylum run by its inmates,” (with a tip o’the’cyberpen to UTunes Advisory Boardster Andrew Dell’Antonio for pointing it out). MOG uses an impressive amount of social-networking tools and techniques to build a site to (in their words:)

Share

…your songs, music library, videos and thoughts on music with friends and mogger

Participate

…in the Web’s most raging music community.

Discover

Get instant recommendations and personalized content at the click of a button.

Most impressive are the pages for artists, which are almost entirely generated by MOG users or wikipedia.

Besides on-demand song, video, and album listings, there are bios, photos, discographies, RSS feeds, commerce links, and links to fan sites and newsgroups. At the heart are easy-to-manipulate tools to contribute all of the above to the site, or to embed them in off-site blogs, etc. Veryy interesting.

And a bit buggy….one of the major drawbacks to MOG is that the audio files don’t necessarily appear in a separate player, so you can’t navigate and browse with a song playing in the background, which would tend to defeat a lot of the purpose. And, as is the case with almost all online music destinations, it’s heavily weightd towards rock/pop/singer-songwriters. For example, a search for violinist Julia Fischer (just named Gramophone Magazine’s Artist of the Year) comes up empty.

(with a tip o’the’cyberpen to UTunes Advisory Boardster Andrew Dell’Antonio for pointing it out.

It’s almost the reverse case with the launch on Nov. 5 of the NPR Music site.

Full disclosure: A lot of this was Co-Project Director Ben Roe‘s blueprint while he was at NPR. So best to leave the prose to one of the participating stations: WFUV in New York.

NPR and 12 NPR member stations, including WFUV, have launched NPR Music, a new, free, comprehensive multimedia music discovery web site. There are five specific genre sections (Pop/Rock/Folk, Classical, Jazz & Blues, World and Urban) to explore, where you can hear songs and concerts, read reviews and interviews, scan the music news we’ve pulled together and find blogs from all over the country.
There are already 3,000 new and archived features, with 200 more getting added monthly. Some of the content will come from NPR and some from the member stations (like our interviews with Patty Scialfa and Gil Scott-Heron).
“WFUV and NPR each have great music resources, and together we can share that love with listeners,” says WFUV New Media Director Laura Fedele. “We’ve had some amazing music moments here in our studios, true personal conversations with artists, and now NPR Music can bring it all to music fans across the country who might not be FUV listeners… yet!” You can access the NPR Music site through our home page at wfuv.org.

Searchable Artist pages are also a hallmark of this site (plenty on Julia Fischer, though the archived content is thus far only scratching the surface of what exists at NPR and across public radio), which, if developed, could be a real boon to researchers and educators interested in editorial commentary, live concert performances, reviews, and first-person interviews with the likes of Terry Gross, Fred Child, Scott Simon, John Schaefer, et al.