Weekly Magazine

CHINATOWN  in 2020: Faye Dunaway, “Are you alone?” Jack Nicholson, “Isn’t everybody?”


THE WESTERN STAGE, celebrating the 10th Anniversary of its 2×4 BASH theatrical series, refuses to let a global pandemic halt its plans to create provocative and innovative theatre on the edge. Rather than present published works in repertory, the norm for the BASH, the collective of 19- to 29-year-old aspiring actors, designers, and directors have opted to create original work for an audience sheltering in place: a live-streamed series of skits that explore the struggles of the year 2020 and predict what life will look like during a prolonged pandemic. A production titled “2×4 Declassified: 2020 Survival Guide” will stream live on Youtube.com at 7:30 p.m. (PDT) on Friday, Aug. 14. Viewers can visit the 2×4 BASH’s YouTube channel to watch the performance. It’s recommended that those interested subscribe and turn on YouTube notifications to stay informed about 2×4 BASH activities. Instead of charging admission, the 2×4 BASH company members will be collecting donations to the Black Resilience Fund during the live stream. *Content advisory: Mature language and adult content. Click HERE


THE NEW VIRTUAL SEASON will use Zoom to begin its regular Wednesday orchestra rehearsals on Sept. 2. YMM has also instituted a new Fresh Perspectives series with masterclasses by guest artists: YMM alum Miriam Adam will conduct a clarinet masterclass from Paris on Sept. 5. Grammy-winning JoAnn Falletta, music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic (pictured) will describe her teaching and conducting techniques on Sept. 19. Other guests include composer John Wineglass, violinists Roy Malan and Paul Hauer, film composer and YMM alum Alexander Janko, jazz flutist Ali Ryerson, oboist Gabe Young, trombonist Sean Reusch, trumpeter Lenny Ott, and ensembles to be announced. Some of these presentations will be available for public viewing. These programs are being coordinated by YMM staff members Danko Druško, Suzanne Mudge, and Alyze Rabideau. For details and registration info click HERE


VARIOUS Monterey Bay music presenters have offered their archives online and on YouTube, some vidoes, some audio only. Most notify their in-house mailing lists sent out last minute. We’ve responded that we need to receive notices at least one week in advance with dates and times so we can pass their efforts along. So far, it’s pretty much all we can do except to update our weekly Virtual Calendar as notices come in. Spread the word.


THEIR VIRTUAL 20/20 SEASON, that concluded last weekend, took the extra step of bringing the performing arts together with urgent social currents–racism, sexism–of our time, a connection most regional performing institutions generally do not embrace. One of Cabrillo’s extraordinary programs was a conversation between music director Cristi Măcelaru (pictured) and emeritus music director Marin Alsop, followed by Anna Clyne’s Rift, a symphonic ballet premiered during Alsop’s final season in 2016. Click HERE


BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA violist Mary Ferrillo called it “a sweet whirl of emotion in a beautiful little package.” Click HERE


THE PIANIST accompanied her brother Gil at Sunset Center for the Carmel Music Society. Click HERE then mark your calendar.



MORE THAN 30 MILLION AMERICAN CHORUS SINGERS should raise their voices together—virtually—this Sunday to celebrate and honor the 95th birthday of the prolific California composer of vocal and choral music, Kirke Mechem. Believe Your Ears, his memoir, traces an unorthodox path to music in a fascinating narrative. Mechem wrote songs and played music by ear as a newspaper reporter, a touring tennis player, and a Stanford creative-writing major before studying composition and conducting at Harvard. He describes his residencies in San Francisco, Vienna, London and Russia, and gives detailed attention to his choral music, his two symphonies and, especially, his operas. He writes that “the twentieth century gave us much brilliant music” but shows how atonality came to dominate the post-war period. “I have come to believe that equating music with science was the root cause of the calamity that befell classical music.” His lyric style belongs to no particular “school,” avoiding the trends: –isms, experiments and fads. He encourages younger composers who are trying to bring back beauty, passion and humor—even entertainment—to classical music. He asks music lovers to believe their own ears, not the lectures of “experts.” Mecham was born and raised in Kansas by a Presbyterian mother and concert pianist and an atheist father who wrote and published novels, poems and plays. Like any budding but late-blooming musician, Mechem suffered through hours of practice at the piano. “How many times have I wished my arpeggios were as good as my backhand!” In his book, Mechem credits by name the many friends, colleagues and associates who guided his growing career. One of his teachers at Stanford was Sandor Salgo, the longest serving Carmel Bach Festival music director/conductor. Mechem’s four operas occupy center stage in Believe Your Ears. The comedies Tartuffe (satire) after Molière, and The Rivals (farce) after Richard Sheridan, have enjoyed international success—Tartuffe has been staged more than 400 times—with John Brown, about the life of infamous abolitionist/terrorist/martyr, in between. Pride and Prejudice, after Jane Austen, got its stage premiere last November at Baltimore. In each case, Mechem crafted the librettos according to his own theatrical and musical instincts, though the time between completion and premiere sometimes took years. Believe Your Ears is addressed to all who love classical music. Along the way, readers will meet Dmitri Shostakovich, Wallace Stegner, Billie Jean King, the Grateful Dead, Richard Rodgers, Benjamin Britten, Bill Tilden and Aaron Copland. In his final chapter, Coda, Mechem takes a lucidly argued final shot at atonal music, right after cheering a couple of dozen master composers of the 20th century and several more 21st century masters, including Philip Glass, John Corigliano, Morten Lauridsen, John Adams, Libby Larsen, Aaron Jay Kernis, Jake Heggie, Michael Torke and Kevin Puts, all—save Lauridsen—alumni of the Cabrillo Festival in Santa Cruz. SM

“Blow ye the trumpet” from the opera John Brown. (The hymn was John Brown’s favorite, from which Mechem created an original adaptation.)

Blow ye the trumpet, blow. Sweet is Thy work, my God, my King.
I’ll praise my Maker with all my breath. O happy is the man who hears.
Why should we start, and fear to die, With songs and honors sounding loud. Ah, lovely appearance of death.



A REVIEW by Jeff Kaliss. Click HERE


SHE MARRIED the famed civil rights activist, W.E.B. Du Bois, in 1951. She composed opera in the grand manner. Click HERE


ISIDOR ACHRON (1892-1948) was a Russian pianist/composer who trained in St Petersburg, toured with the violinist Jascha Heifetz and emigrated to the US in 1922. His two piano concertos, which I had not heard until now, were premiered in New York, respectively in 1937 and 1941, with John Barbirolli conducting. The first concerto, in a single movement, compresses all of the composer’s unique style elements of the three-movement second concerto. In these two pieces you get a panoply of contemporary currents: the bluster of Khachaturian, fresh melodic themes of Rachmaninoff, the jazzy whims of Prokofiev, the tonal ambiguity of Scriabin and structural clarity (including fugues) of Hindemith, all deftly arranged with individual authority. As such, and with pianist Barry Goldsmith and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by David Amos, they belong in the repertory of the best-known piano concertos of the composer’s aforementioned contemporaries. Lazar Saminsky (1882-1959) was born in Ukraine and studied with Rimsky-Korsakov and Liadov in St Petersburg. His surprising The Vow, Rhapsodic Variations on a Dual Theme was discovered by Goldsmith in an unpublished manuscript for two pianos, even though the composer intended it to be a concerto; Goldsmith had it arranged by San Diego-based orchestrator Abelardo Flores. The first theme, in D, opens with a flourish, then gives way to the second, Kol Nidrei, the old Atonement melody reserved for the eve of Yom Kippur; both themes are transformed in a series of variations. Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) completed the virtually unknown symphonic poem for orchestra Helvetia, The Land of Mountains and its People in 1929; it paints a loving portrait of the composer’s native Switzerland in bucolic terms with touches of folk music and a dramatic central episode. This finely performed album on the Kleos Classics label fills several holes in the catalog. SM


CELLIST INBAL SEGEV joins the London Philharmonic and conductor Marin Alsop in this new Avie release. Here is the fourth movement from Clyne’s Dance, “In your blood.”



By Norman Lebrecht

AS BEETHOVEN LAY DYING in 1827 the vultures descended. Friends, neighbors, acquaintances, passers-by, tourists and tradesmen, all popped in to see how he was getting on, some to make off with whatever they could. Any portable possession that might have value as a posthumous trophy was taken. While he slept, people cut off locks of his hair. One was the young composer Ferdinand Hiller whose motives were slightly purer. Hiller thought the lock might somehow lead him to the physical secrets of Beethoven’s genius. The gruesome relic languished in his family for a century and more until it was put up for sale. There was a regular trade in the auction rooms in locks of Beethoven’s hair, some of them genuine. To read the rest of the story, click HERE


“You failed, (sweet)heart,” by Pedro Infante (1917-1957)



Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca CR Brooks, associate editor