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Piano Hands

nine-letter word

...for awesome, that is

SUTS 2010 volume II
Piano Hands
So I'm doing a two-fer blog for both last night's John Williams concert and tonight's Piano Men concert. Why? BECAUSE I CAN.

John Williams is pretty much the man.Collapse )

Sing us a song, you're the piano man...Collapse )

Tomorrow there will be CANNONS. Seriously. CANNONS. Can't wait! See you then.
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SUTS 2010!
Piano Hands
Oh hello again! Resuscitatin' the old LJ to talk about the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra's Symphony Under the Sky festival. My mom and I have been going to this festival together since it first began! We missed only 2006, when I moved to Boston over the long weekend. Speaking of my mom, you can follow her on Twitter for her opinions of Symphony Under the Sky - and sometimes curling as well. And if you want my opinion, but in a shorter form, you can follow me on Twitter too!

And now that we're all settled in...Collapse )

And now, after my review, I have a question for everyone in Edmonton - where the heck is Colin Lay? For those of you not in the know, Colin Lay is kind of the go-to sound guy for most large concerts here, and he is the head of the recording department at MacEwan University (and their website still lists him as such). Colin's NOT running sound at Symphony Under The Sky this year, and he has for as long as I can remember. He also wasn't either at FolkFest, either. I feel like the sound on both of these concerts was not nearly as good as it's been in the past - bear in mind, outdoor concerts are really hard to set up and make sound good, especially with an orchestra, which we're used to hearing unamplified in one of the best concert halls in the world. Whoever's doing sound this year has some big shoes to fill. But... I want Colin back! He's just the best at live sound. I can really hear the difference this year.

And that's it. Gettin' ready for Movie Night tonight - always one of my favourite shows of the year, and this time it's going to be ALL John Williams! The KING of movie music. See you there!
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Fat is a state of mind...?
Piano Hands
Yeah, so I know I said I probably wasn't going to blog about my life anymore... but I guess I lied. Here I am!

I think, somehow, sort of, that I kind of understand how anorexic girls can look in the mirror and think to themselves that they're fat. Maybe.Collapse )

I don't know why I all of a sudden started feeling worse about my body image, when my body is, in fact, starting to look much better than it ever has. I know I was fine with how I looked before I started losing weight, even though it was less than ideal. So the difference has to be in my mind, right? What is that difference? Am I starting to realize that I was wrong to think my body image was okay when I was fatter? Am I allowing myself to be more critical of my looks because I think I can take it now? Like, maybe it doesn't matter so much if I'm hard on myself, because being thinner means I can take the criticism? I don't have an answer. I don't even know if I'm asking the right questions!

Self-consciousness was never a fun game to play, and it's not an easy thing to get over. I guess I hope that at some point on this skinny-fying journey I become satisfied with my body image again.

And with that... [/emo]!!!

Late Night with Bill Eddins
Piano Hands
So... I haven't written anything here in a long time. Obviously. Since the last time I did blogging for the ESO, in fact. And that's why I'm here again - seems silly to start a whole new one just for ESO stuff at this point, though in the future, it may be something I do. Who knows! But for now, here I am.

Anyways, just a quick note for any of you LJ people who aren't interested in anything ESO-related - I don't know if or when I'm going to be up to blogging my life again. So, I'm not going to be offended if you take me off your flists! If you wanna know what's going on with me, I'm finding Twitter to be my preferred way of internet communication now. Tweet me there at @ErinCraig11. And I promise you, if I do start blogging again, that will be the first place I announce it.

Okay, on to the Symphony!!!

Last night was one of the ESO's performances in a new concert series, 'Late Night with Bill Eddins'.Collapse )

Check out this video to see another blogger's version of the evening. Good times all around, of course!

Cannons and Solstices
Piano Hands
Ahhh, the Labour Day Cannons. This will be my last Blogging Under the Sky post of this year (thanks for the nice little blurb, Phil!), since today was the last concert of Symphony Under the Sky. How bittersweet... I wish that this concert series would go on all year, but sadly - contrary to what our guest artists have had to say about our weather! - the Edmonton winters just won't have it.

Anyways, for me, hearing the 1812 Overture played by the ESO and the 20th Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery on Labour Day is the best signifier of the end of summer, more so than the beginning of the school year, or the technical end of summer, on the solstice. (And how fitting that the Young Composer's Project piece this year was named for the solstice! I'll get to that in a minute.)

Trumpets!Collapse )

A highlight of the entire festival for me is always the Young Composer Project. I admit, this particular project has a soft spot in my heart because I was fortunate enough to be the "young composer" in 2002/03, when the ESO played my piece. I can't tell you how exhilarating it was to hear a professional orchestra play a piece I'd worked on for an entire year, under the mentorship of Allan Gilliland. But enough about me - this year it was all about Jia Jia Yong. I loved this piece! I've noticed that lots of the young composers over the years - myself included! - have seemed to feel that they needed, in one six-minute piece, to use every orchestral texture and dynamic they could possibly use. Okay, maybe not that intense. But I do remember hearing lots of pieces with some very wide extremes - very loud and dense sections, and very soft and tender sections in the same piece (mine included!). Don't get me wrong, there are composers young and old who do this skillfully, and composers will continue to do it until the end of time. But as young musicians excited at the fact that we get a whole entire orchestra at our disposal (!!!!!), we forget that not all orchestral music has to be enormous-sounding in order to be good. So much of the most beautiful orchestral music is quiet and subdued - think of that Hansel und Gretel piece we heard today! It makes me cry in the best of ways. Ms. Yong remembered this, and wrote a powerfully musical piece without calling in the "big guns". I was so impressed! It was about the music, rather than about the tools. Ms. Yong, if you are reading this, congratulations!!! You did a phenomenal job, and I really hope that you keep writing.

A quick note (including my unsolicited opinion!) to the people selecting the program order on the Young Composer day:Collapse )

And cannons! The 1812 is always an enjoyable piece to listen to - I've heard it so many times, I've just about got it memorized. It's exciting for me and my mom to watch the percussionists in this piece - Court Laslop is a good friend of mine from our MacEwan College days, and was playing the chimes today (when we were all ringing our bells). Darren Salyn is a friend of my old piano teacher, and was cuing the cannons today - I think that has to be the best job. I want to do that job. I surely don't have to know how to play the drums to do that, do I...? Wouldn't any old instrument do...? Anyways, I'm not sure whether it was Mr. Salyn or the 20th Regiment, but the cannons sounded extra good today, did you notice? There are (I believe) four shots in a row in both the places the cannons are fired, and often it seems like the first cannon just can't get reloaded fast enough to get the fourth shot in. (The Boston Symphony Orchestra gets four cannons when they perform it on July 4th - but listening to the 1812 at that time in that place is just wrong for me, so even if their cannons are perfectly in time, it won't register). Today, they seemed to get reloaded and fired more quickly than they have in previous years. It sounded great! And even the last shot, which often turns into three last shots, was as close to unison as I've heard it in a LONG time. So, nice work 20th Regiment and Mr. Salyn!

And... that's it for the Symphony Under the Sky. Let the autumn begin!

Movie Music night
Piano Hands
Another blogging under the sky entry - don't worry, LJ-friends, it'll be over soon :)

Some rants about concert etiquette.Collapse )

Okay, now back to the music. There is something so magical about movie music. It's something I can't quite put my finger on... hmm... maybe I should have taken that Intro to Film Scoring class while I had the chance! But these composers know just how to tug at your heartstrings in just the right way to suit the film. And the best film scores are the ones you don't even hear, because they're just so perfectly matched to the mood you're feeling. It's art, guys. Well, it's really all art. This is a festival of symphonic music, after all.

Guys, I am so thrilled that I got to see Kathleen Brett sing again! She is something else, let me tell you. Remember what I was saying about Maestro Bill Eddins last night, and how brilliant it is that he is such a versatile and flexible musician? One who is respected in the fields of both conducting and instrumental performing? And how rare that is? Kathleen Brett is another one of those cases. And before you say "wait, Erin, what the crap are you talking about? She sang in both concerts!" just hear me out for a second. Have you ever heard of an opera singer making a pop record? Or a popstar who gets a starring role in an opera production? Aside from a couple of exceptions... well... just this one I can think of off the top of my head, but I'm sure there are a couple more... they're very rare. It's because singing operatically and singing pop-tastically is really like playing two different instruments. You use your voice in such a different way for each one. Ms. Brett, of the stunningly beautiful voice I talked about earlier, showed us another reason why we should love her. She can do BOTH! And she's awesome at BOTH! And her voice is just so INCREDIBLE, in both genres! (Seriously brought to tears again tonight.) And she's hanging out in EDMONTON! Guys, let it never be said that we have a second-class arts community in this town. Nothing of the sort. Especially not when we've got such a solid orchestra to call our very own. I LOVE the ESO.

It's also really nice to see a shift starting in the ESO, in the staff and in the orchestra members. They're getting younger, and more open to technology! Who else has blogging under the sky? Who else has a twitter page, and it's very own hash-tag for the outdoor music festival? Orchestras - at least, the ones I've been familiar with, which are admittedly few - seem to be slow to embrace technology, like it's going to be a stain on their pristine image of artistic integrity. We can prove to them that it doesn't have to be so! Let's go, Edmonton! Let's keep blogging and tweeting (though, kindly without the cellphone/BlackBerry/iPhone sound effects during the music :) ) and showing the world you don't have to be a stuffed-shirt to enjoy orchestral music.

I'm sadly not going to make the Frank Sinatra show tomorrow, but I'll see you again on Monday! Sweet musical dreams to everyone.

Opera mania!
Piano Hands
Blogging Under the Sky again tonight... ha, you new LJ friends didn't know what you were getting yourselves into! :)

Okay, who else out there thinks that new ESO Resident Conductor Maestro Lucas Waldin should have had some more stage time? Like, a lot more stage time. I do. (Actually, I already tweeted kind of along this vein this afternoon, but I think it bears repeating.) I mean, not to slight Maestro Bernhardt in the least, but he said it himself this afternoon: he just doesn't look like Maestro Waldin does in a tux! Too bad he's already got a lady-friend... :)

But in all seriousness, people, let's talk about music! That's what I'm here to do. Though it looks like it's going to be a bunch of random thoughts...

First of all, I love the opera. I just want that to get out there. Seriously can't ever get enough opera. I love just about ALL operas that are out there - though Wagner's not really my favourite dude. I will admit that he's got some absolutely gorgeous musical moments in his works, and the Wagner piece on today's program was no exception. But back to the topic - I love opera.

I have never heard Kathleen Brett sing before. I was completely blown away by her voice. It was just so... beautiful. Let me elaborate on that a bit: "beautiful" is probably one of the most commonly used adjectives to describe somebody's singing voice, and so I kind of hesitate to use it. However, there are so many operatic sopranos whose voices are praised because they are powerful and strong, or because they are loud, or because they have the fullest high C that ever was heard, or because their voices are extremely flexible, or any number of things. And these are often the first things that I hear when I'm listening to operatic sopranos. I'm not saying Ms. Brett didn't have any of these things, but I'm just so impressed that the first thing that struck me about her voice, the first thing I heard from her, was just the absolute beauty of her vocal tones. Like... wow. Every time she sang, in the afternoon concert and the evening concert, I had tears in my eyes. Wow.

And on a completely different note: did anyone else get taught silly words to the second theme of the Toreador's March by Bizet in elementary school? My mom did, and I did, but they were both different sets. I learned ones that go like so:

This is the best deal in the grocery store
pot roast and ribs, ground beef galore
our hamburger was ground this very morn
so take the bull by the horns!
It's sure to satisfy in every way
so buy a pound today!

My mom's set starts off with "Neither a lender nor a borrower be", but she said she couldn't remember the rest of them. So, whenever I hear this tune, I start thinking about ground beef, and now I suppose I'll start thinking about money lending. Sigh. I don't know whether that's better or worse than images of a sultry cigarette maker... actually, I lied, I do know it's worse :P

Okay, still have one more concert to write about tonight... I'll be back shortly :)

Music making!
Piano Hands
Well, I'm dustin' off my bloggin' shoes. (Yeah, I know it's been a while since I've written, but now I'm blogging under the sky again, so somebody's expecting something of me. Maybe. I dunno.) Awesome! Symphony under the Sky always feels so much more like the new year than January 1st ever could. Summer's over, it's time to get down to business. Or music-making. Or blogging. Or tweeting. Whatever floats your boat.

One of the things I like the most about Symphony under the Sky is that I get to watch people - I'm not a stalker! I just mean I often see the same faces year after year - volunteers and employees doing the same jobs, concertgoers in the same seats, musicians in their same roles. I love watching the ESO because even though I don't know many of the members personally, I feel like they're my orchestra. I've been living in Boston the past couple of years and sometimes go to watch the Boston Symphony Orchestra - most recently at Tanglewood!!! - and they're a great orchestra, but I don't feel like I know them. In some weird way, the ESO feels like my family! It's wonderful. You other SUTS regulars might even recognize me and my mom - we sit on grass seats in the lawn chair section, as close to the front¢re as we can. Tonight we were seen sporting toques, winter jackets, ski mitts, boots, fleece blankets, and thermoses of tea. Oh, we love September nights in Edmonton, yes we do!

So, just some of my thoughts on the music tonight:

Night on Bare Mountain - Mussorgsky
Everybody knows this piece from the movie Fantasia. Watching that part of the movie used to freak me out, but keep in mind, this comes from a kid who couldn't ever watch the part of Mickey and the Beanstalk when the beanstalk was growing because it was too scary. For me, it was a little hard to get into the mood of the piece tonight - not because of anything that happened musically, but because the weather became so pleasant! It was difficult to conjure up images of a stormy and possibly haunted night when I was watching the sun setting behind my favourite orchestra. The best part of it: at the exact moment when the church bells came in, signifying the sunrise and survival of the night, the sun came out from behind a cloud and hit my face. I got goosebumps, and it wasn't from the chilliness!

Italian Symphony - Mendelssohn
You know, I played a lot of Mendelssohn's music on the piano before I ever learned that he, unlike most of the other successful composers from the Romantic era, didn't really have any angst in his life. It was odd for me to learn that in my music history classes - then I felt like I had to go back and re-listen to the music from that perspective. It's kind of strange! But it's great too - Mendelssohn's life story gives me hope that I don't necessarily have to go through some kind of drama or trauma or something to be a successful professional musician. I'm very glad that Maestro Bernhardt brought up that point tonight about Mendelssohn. One clearly doesn't need to be a tragic figure in order to write beautiful music.
Oh, and on another note - this one's for the audience. Guys, don't clap between the movements! If Maestro Bernhardt doesn't turn around and acknowledge your applause (or if he just turns around for a split second with a wan smile on his face), and if there seem to be a bunch of people around you who aren't clapping, then you really ought not to be clapping either. I'm just sayin'.

Concerto in F - Gershwin
Edmonton? We are SO LUCKY to have somebody like Maestro Bill Eddins conducting our orchestra and playing the piano with us. Seriously! There are so few people out there who are respected as both professional conductors and professional instrumentalists in this world, and to have someone like Maestro Eddins who is AWESOME at both things hanging out in our city? Guys, that's amazing. I can't get over how amazing that is.
Watching and hearing Maestro Eddins play is such a treat for me. (Okay, I need to admit this - I tweeted Maestro Eddins today after the concert and I think he might think I'm creepy, but this is seriously just professional admiration here, folks.) I love that he came out in a SUTS hockey jersey to play, and I love that he was not afraid to show how much he enjoyed the music - he was bouncing along to the orchestral parts of the piece and played with so much joy that I couldn't help but smile through the whole thing. So many times I see pianists (and, well, any other instrumentalists too) play concertos with so much concentration it looks like they're in pain - and it also looks like they're forgetting why they play music in the first place, which is because they enjoy it. (Seriously, if you're in the music business for the money, you're in the wrong business.) Anyways - it was so refreshing to see Maestro Eddins enjoying the music he was playing. It kind of gave us permission to enjoy it too, if that makes sense. Gershwin is the kind of music that needs to be enjoyed out loud. Yay for Gershwin!

And that's all I got for tonight, folks - see you tomorrow!

Piano Hands
Just wanted to share this one:


I've been arguing a lot about this subject recently, it seems. I personally don't think there's any argument to be had - though, of course, I'm a "bleeding-heart" Liberal mostly thanks to my mommy :) People in the USA seem to be getting scared off by the word "socialism", which is misleading because it's (incorrectly) used interchangeably with "communism".

I was even arguing about this the other day with my roommate who claims to be another "bleeding-heart" liberal - and even still, he was scared by "socialism" and "OMG all those wait times!" I'll GLADLY take higher taxes if it means I'm not bankrupted by breaking my leg, thankyouverymuch.

Anyways. Go read the link, it's interesting :)

On another note... I won't make my three-week ten-song challenge, exactly. I've done five of them and am nearly finished a sixth. But... I think the point's gotten across. I'll continue to write bad songs until they start being not so bad, and then I'll write mediocre songs, and it will be fine!

Piano Hands
The challenge is this - I have to write ten songs in three weeks, and record them myself on my computer. Just to have them, just to say I did them. The idea is quantity, not quality. I keep wanting to write songs (as differentiated from "compositions" by the fact that they contain lyrics) but I feel so dismally lacking in my ability to write lyrics, that it just never happens for me. I'm aware that you have to be bad at things before you can be good at them - I'm aware that I'm going to write a bunch of bad songs before I get even part of one that I'm happy with. This challenge is basically going to allow me to get ten bad ones out of the way relatively quickly. So, we'll see what happens!

I've already done three - one I'm not happy with at all, and two I'm sorta happy with, but could use some work. Maybe it won't be all bad.

Also? It's SUMMER!!!