Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Anne Brown (1912-2009)

As I listened to an NPR broadcast this evening I heard that Anne Brown has died. Her significance in music history began when she was cast in George Gershwin's all-black cast opera "Porgy" as in incidental character named "Bess". A student from Julliard, she auditioned singing a Schubert art song. Gershwin asked her to sing a Negro spiritual. This request offended the modern woman, but she complied demonstrating to Gershwin she could sing in the Negro dialect. Gershwin so liked Brown's voice that he kept adding songs for her character to sing. He soon told her that the opera "Porgy" for which she had auditioned was being renamed "Porgy and Bess". And so it was because of Brown's talent that Gershin's famous opera had both a leading man and a leading lady. One song, a lullaby, was to be sung by another incidental character. Brown so liked this song that she convinced Gershwin to write it for Bess to sing. That lullaby was titled "Summertime".
And, as Paul Harvey would say..."Now you know the REST of the story!"

Sunday, March 15, 2009


This group was also at the OAKE conference and deserves its own post. Libana has been singing together for 30 yrs. There are 6 members in the group. I couldn't tell if they'd all been together 30 yrs or if there had been member changes. I think the latter because some of the performers seemed like they were in their 30s.
From the group's website []: Libana is a women's world music ensemble that illuminates the creativity, vision, and spirit of the world's women through the performance of traditional and contemporary music and dance.
This group sang a capella and with simple accompaniment. The songs were in the native languages. The accompaniment might be drums and tambourines of various sizes and other small percussion instruments, a wind instrument, and a lute. Some of their music included traditional women's dances. Simple costuming - mainly scarves - completed their outfits of black.
Each song was of a different culture: Bulgarian, Armenian, Japanese, Arabic, etc. The variety kept the concert very entertaining. The groups learns many of their numbers first hand from people of the cultures. This gives great authenticity to their performances.
One song from the Middle East appealed to me. It was called a "zar" (I'm unsure of the spelling, but is pronounced the same as "tsar"). It is a healing song/dance where a woman joins with the women of her community and seeks healing (of some sort) through the music and movement. It is difficult to describe it. It had a couple or three singers and a dancer. The dancer moves as she is moved by the music. Then as the music's tempo, which begins slowly, builds feverishly the dancer's movements become more energetic. It was easy, as an audience member, to become caught up in the performance.
It is not very often that I thoroughly enjoy a group's performance. I did enjoy this group - so much so that I bought one of their CDs.

OAKE National Conference

I have returned from the OAKE National Conference which was held in Washington, DC. This organization is a group of music educators who adhere to the Zoltan Kodaly pedagogy. My masters degree was in music education with a Kodaly emphasis; hence, my specialty area is in "Kodaly". I have a fondness for this group and have met many amazing musicians.
Of course, a music conference is filled with just that MUSIC!
The organization has a theme song called "Harmonia Mundi". It is sung at all gatherings of Kodaly educators and, since everyone singing is a music teacher of some sort, the music is glorious! The words are: "We gather here together with joyful heart and mind. We raise our voices ever our distant souls to bind. To remember in this moment of friendship, love, and joy, that music made together may one day heal mankind." To stand and watch people's faces as they are singing this is quite an experience. The faces are nearly blissful.
All sessions are music oriented and there are concerts throughout the day.
Thursday night the Washington DC Men's Camerata performed. They were quite good. Of course, Kodaly educators only promote quality music and I love listening to men's choruses so I knew this would be a great concert. A favorite that they sang was Biebl's "Ave Maria" [NAXOS BIS-CD-533 Track 11]. It just swells and encompasses the listener.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The First Post

I hope to use this blog to inform family, friends, students, colleagues, and anyone who cares to read this about quirky music related things that strike my fancy. As I search the web I often stumble across newsworthy music-related items. Of course, I realize they may only be of interest to me. If that be the case then this blog will serve as a journal for me. So please join me on this Musical Sojourn.
May you find peace...