Monday, 18 October 2010

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Russell (The Voice) Watson's Latest Album

I've just finished watching a very emotional and moving interview with opera singer Russell (The Voice) Watson, and what an interview! Russell spoke about his life, including his 2 very serious health scares. Twice he had to go into hospital to have a brain tumour operated on. He also spoke very candidly about one of the lowest points of his life. I think many people would identify with his utter desperation. He said that the pain from the brain tumour became so unbearable that he contemplated the unthinkable. But in the end, his fighting spirit surficed and along with his love for his children gave him the strength to face his illness head-on. He refused to give up. He was determined to fight and get healthy again. After overcoming such serious health problems, it's so good to see him back with a new album. So not only is Russell singing again (when at one stage he thought he'd come to the end) his voice is said to be even better than before his health problems! In the programme tonight there was a clip where either Lulu or Lesley Garret said that this was 'nothing short of a miracle'. And I believe many people will agree wholeheartedly with that.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Mozart Rarity

Rare. Rene Leibowitz conducts The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (1962)Rene Leibowitz (1913-1972) was born in Warsaw but moved to Paris in his teens and there began a long, illustrious conducting career. Particularly interested in contemporary music, he studied with Webern and Schoenberg and wrote a detailed analysis of twelve-tone music. A keen ear for instrumental coloration (Ravel was his orchestration teacher) was evident in his kaleidoscopic transcriptions of such works as Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue in C (for double orchestra!). But he is best known for his often highly personal renditions of many staples of the Classical and Romantic repertoire.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Concert marks black opera singer's historic performance

In April 2009 more than 2,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday for a concert honoring the 70th anniversary of contralto Marian Anderson's historic performance there in 1939.
Because of the color of her skin, Anderson was denied the opportunity to perform at nearby Constitution Hall and at a local high school. So the opera singer performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in April 1939 to 75,000 blacks and whites standing together.


In the Sunday afternoon sunshine, African American opera star Denyce Graves performed three of the songs Anderson sang: "America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)," "O, Mio Fernando" and "Ave Maria."

Wearing one of Anderson's dresses, Graves called her predecessor "one of my greatest heroes."

She joked that when she looked over Anderson's performance list and saw "O, Mio Fernando" she thought, "My God she sang that song; that's really hard."

The Chicago Children's Choir, the women's a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock and the U.S. Marine Band also performed.

Introducing a number called "Would You Harbor Me," a member of Sweet Honey in the Rock said it was "written because this country has been a harborer to so many, but at the same time it has rejected so many."

Those words highlight Anderson's story. She grew up poor in South Philadelphia, but became famous in the 1930s, performing for royalty and in major concert halls in Europe, New York and Philadelphia.

When her manager tried to book Anderson at Constitution Hall, the largest venue in segregated Washington at the time, she was rejected by the Daughters of the American Revolution, which owned the hall and prohibited African Americans from performing there. The district's school board also turned her away from singing at a school's auditorium.

"To me, it's just very dramatic," said Josephine Pesaresi, 75, the daughter of Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, who attended the 1939 event. "People are younger; they don't realize what huge things have happened and how far we have come. It makes me weep, I'm so happy."

Pesaresi, who sat near the stage at Sunday's concert, said in an interview Saturday that the anniversary made her recall how her father had changed his outlook about race. Black, once a member of the Ku Klux Klan, later joined a unanimous Supreme Court in outlawing segregation in public schools in 1954, and often voted with the court's liberal wing on civil rights cases.

"He and my mother went to that concert because he so firmly believed in equality," she said.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Opera Singer Lawrence Brownlee

Brownlee, one of six children, grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, where the region's steel production, had collapsed. Opera was hardly a priority in the crime-ridden city with rusting blast furnaces turned into "just scrap and rubble," in the words of Bruce Springsteen's song "Youngstown."

As a youth, Brownlee had to sing at a church where the choir director was his father, a GM factory worker.

"I hated it," says Brownlee. "I would have ... the worst feeling in the pit of my stomach all week, if I knew I had to sing solo in church the next Sunday."

But he was a child steeped in music, making drums out of oatmeal boxes and even singing in his sleep. "One night, it was 'Go Tell It on the Mountain' at the top of my lungs — and I never woke up!" he says, repeating family lore.

He also joined his high school choir, though he didn't consider a career until his senior year in a program for gifted music students at Youngstown State University. A coach there told him he had an operatic voice.

"I was not convinced, but I decided to give it a try," he says, first as an undergraduate at Indiana's Anderson University, then polishing his voice as an Indiana University graduate student in Bloomington.

Now, he tosses off the nine high C's in "Fille" that first won Pavarotti fame in the 1960s.

But for Brownlee, fame doesn't mean playing the glamorous opera "divo." He prefers, instead, to fly home just outside Atlanta where his wife, Kendra, is expecting their first child.

And on his private Facebook page, "Bio" is followed by four words: "I am just Larry!"