10 Can’t-Miss Classical Music Festivals

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BY TOM HUIZENGA

In much of the country it still feels like summer is a long way off, but it’s not too early to plan on hitting the road and hearing great music. From bucolic college campuses in New England to musical rafting trips down the Colorado, these are 10 of the most intriguing classical festivals. And below them is a listing, by region, of many of the best fests. Been to one we missed? Pass along your own advice in the comments section or via or .

June 26-Aug. 17, Aspen, Colo.

In many ways, the Aspen Music Festival is the Cadillac of summer classical music fests, in terms of its unparalleled roster of guest musicians and its extensive student training program. This year, the 65-year-old festival explores the idea of the New Romantics. Violinist Joshua Bell takes up the old school sound of Bruch, while Robert McDuffie finds the contemporary Romantic in Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No. 2, “The American Four Seasons.” There’s Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin, but also Lowell Liebermann’s recent operatic take on The Picture of Dorian Gray. Seven world premieres are scheduled — from the likes of Mason Bates, Matthias Pintscher and others — amid more than 300 events. Need more than classical? Jazz guitarist Bill Frisell makes an appearance, as do Tony Bennett and Rufus Wainwright.

June 27-Aug. 17, Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Celebrating its 25th year, the adventurous Bard Music Festival picks a single composer and creates an immersive experience including music from contemporaries, plus film, dance, drama and lectures. Schubert and His World is the theme this year, with concerts following the stages of the composer’s short but fertile career. Schubert’s songs come into sharp focus in performances throughout the festival by Paul Appleby, Susanna Phillips and Nicholas Phan. And there’s an opportunity to hear Schubert’s opera Fierrabras and Carl Maria von Weber’s Euryanthe, both rarely performed. Leon Botstein conducts several of Schubert’s symphonies and Luciano Berio’s fascinating Rendering, a reworking of fragments Schubert’s unfinished Tenth Symphony.

June 27-Aug. 2, Vail, Colo.

If musical heaven is overdosing on orchestras, Bravo! Vail is the place to be. The New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and Dallas Symphony are the headliners. Alan Gilbert leads the New Yorkers in music by Richard Strauss and Pulitzer winner Christopher Rouse, including the former’s Don Juan and Till Eulenspiegel and the latter’s Oboe Concerto. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts the Philadelphians in Beethoven’s “Eroica” and pianist Hélène Grimaud joins them for the Brahms First Piano Concerto. Jaap van Zweden and the Dallas musicians offer Beethoven’s Ninth, Copland’s Third and Barber’s Violin Concerto with James Ehnes. And, to scale down a bit, pianist Anne-Marie McDermott, the Calder Quartet and others are on hand for chamber music from Steve Reich and Bartok to Bach and Vivaldi.

June 21-Aug. 3, Katonah, N.Y.

Opera mavens flock to Caramoor, as the festival often gives plum roles to important young singers. In 2010, when soprano Angela Meade sang her first Norma there, critics gushed and many others discovered an amazing voice for the first time. She’s back this year in the title role of Donizetti’s hair-raising Lucrezia Borgia. Verdi’s Rigoletto stars Stephen Powell and Georgia Jarman. Cellist Alisa Weilerstein is Caramoor’s artist-in-residence; she’ll give a solo recital, join the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in Elgar’s brooding Cello Concerto and team up with the Ariel Quartet for chamber music by Schubert and Arensky.

June 11-Aug. 16, Chicago, Ill.

Not to be confused with Chicago’s huge, multi-genre (running concurrently), the Grant Park Music Festival, now in its 80th year, focuses on classical music. Best of all, it’s all free (if you don’t mind picnicking on the lawn or sitting in seats near the rear). Pulitzer-winning composer William Bolcom’s week-long residency includes the premiere of his Concerto for Orchestra. Festival artistic director Carlos Kalmar, known for his creative programming, leads performances of Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, the world premiere of Christopher Theofanidis’ Northern Lights and Piston’s Suite from The Incredible Flutist. Guest artists include Leonard Slatkin leading Shostakovich and David Robertson conducting Britten’s Violin Concerto with soloist Gil Shaham.

Aug. 28-Sept. 8, Moab, Utah

It’s tough to beat the scenery at the Moab Music Festival. The organizers like to think of their festival as “music in concert with the landscape.” Where else can you hear chamber music in a red rock grotto amid immaculate wilderness or take a four-day, three-night musical rafting trip down the Colorado River? This year, a few geographical themes emerge, including a nod to England with Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial By Jury and Britten’s English Folk Songs and a Polish/Russian exploration of music by Chopin, Mieczysław Weinberg and the excellent but little known Grażyna Bacewicz. Mercurial Colombian jazz harpist Edmar Castañeda makes the trek with his quartet.

July 25-Aug. 23, New York, N.Y.

Naturally, large doses of Mozart are on offer at this Lincoln Center festival. High points will likely include pianist Richard Goode’s performance of the Piano Concerto No. 23 on opening night and the Requiem that ends the festival. In between, conductor Osmo Vänskä teams up with pianist Yuja Wang in a concerto by Shostakovich, and the in-demand-everywhere conductor Gianandrea Noseda leads a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth. Another top draw this year is the Mark Morris Dance Group with three performances of Handel’s Acis and Galatea (arranged by Mozart). Some of the festival’s most popular events are the hour-long late night concerts in the Kaplan Penthouse overlooking the city. Richard Goode, clarinetist Martin Fröst, violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and pianist Steven Osborne are on the roster for these 10 p.m. shows.

June 12-June 15 Ojai, Calif.

What the Ojai Festival may lack in terms of its length it makes up with a concentrated supply of intriguing concerts in both early morning (Brooklyn Rider playing Glass at 8 a.m.) and late night (Uri Caine’s Sextet with Gershwin at 10:30 p.m.). Perhaps the most anticipated work on tap this year is the world premiere of The Classical Style: An Opera (of Sorts), a chamber opera based on pianist and pedagogue Charles Rosen’s book The Classical Style by festival music director and pianist Jeremy Denk and Pulitzer-winning composer Steven Stucky. Crafty young pianist/composer Timo Andres teams up with The Knights chamber orchestra in music by Andrew Norman, and Pink Martini singer Storm Large stars in Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins.

May 23-June 8, Charleston, S.C.

Churches, theaters and parks in historic Charleston play host to Spoleto Festival concerts. Three performances of the oratorio El Niño by John Adams headline a broad variety of events this year, which include operas by Janáček (Kát’a Kabanová) and Michael Nyman (Facing Goya), lunchtime chamber music, orchestra performances and a pair of concerts by the Westminster Choir.

June 27-Aug. 30, Lenox, Mass.

The summer home of the Boston Symphony will be buzzing this year as Andris Nelsons, the orchestra’s new music director, is poised to take over. He’ll lead the orchestra in four concerts including an all-Dvorak program with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, Brahms’ Third Symphony and excerpts from Der Rosenkavalier. Soprano Renée Fleming opens the festival, which includes concert performances of Leonard Bernstein’s opera Candide, Handel’s Teseo and a new chamber version of Jack Beeson’s gripping Lizzie Borden. The list of A-list guest artists, as usual, is long.

5 Types of Songs You Should Have in Your Audition Book

As you build up a repertoire of audition songs for yourself, it’s a good idea to look at the kind of pieces you have in your book. While it is important to have tunes from different genres and time periods, I also find it useful to consider some other elements as well. Here are five categories of songs that are worth looking for in your audition package:

1. A song that shows range. You will often see some variation of this phrase in audition breakdowns. The main mistake that actors make when readingthis term is assuming it means “sing as high and/or low as you can.” Yes, there are some roles where singing well at the extremes of the range are essential, but just as often, that is not necessary. So, if you have a killer high C, by all means, show it off. But if that is not where your vocal strength lies, there are many other ways to show range. Some options include: dynamics (loud/soft), spoken vs. sung sounds, vocal textures and colors, physicality, and emotional arc. A song will feel rangy if these types of elements are employed thoughtfully.

2. A “teeny-tiny song.” This is a term that Victoria Clark taught me many years ago, and it’s always stayed with me. To me, a teeny-tiny song is one where the melody and musical shape is simple enough to allow us to see you as an actor without a lot of bells and whistles. This kind of piece makes a great second song when you’ve done your big personality number first. It also is a chance to showcase your ability to be still and poised. Some favorites in this category include: “What’ll I Do?” by Irving Berlin, “What Makes Me Love Him?” from “The Apple Tree,” and “County Fair” from “Das Barbecü.”

3. A song of hope, joy, or optimism. In a day of auditions, it can be a real breath of fresh air when someone expresses a genuinely joyful feeling. Remembering that auditions are job interviews, songs like this can help me think of you as someone whom I will enjoy working with. Examples include: “Nothing Can Stop Me Now” from “The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd,” “The Usher from the Mezzanine” from “Fade Out – Fade In,” and “It’s Amazing the Things That Float” from “The Flood.”

4. A song that has an emotional connection. I think it is important to find a song that you feel in your guts. In other words, don’t just sing something because a teacher, coach, casting director, or friend told you it would be great for you. Only you know what will get your dramatic juices flowing, so do your research to find a piece that you feel passionately about. Other than going on YouTube, I recommend checking out www.newmusicaltheatre.com and www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com as places to start your search.

5. A song for your dream role. Most of us have a role that we long to play, and I am a believer in the power of having a song in your book that you will use to audition for that role. It may or may not be a song from the show, but it should be a piece that feels right for that character. Practice the song as if you will be playing that part soon; you never know what might happen!

By: Andrew Byrne backstage.com

What makes a great soprano????

The following video is a wonderful overview of the types of soprano that exist in the world of opera. They come in all shapes and sizes, with varying timbres from bright to dark. They cover a vast vocal range and are used in operas from the 1600’s to present day. It explores what is needed to become a great soprano; demonstrating the need for the singer to be well versed in languages, stage deportment, and have a solid and flexible technique. Being a great soprano doesn’t happen over night. It takes years of schooling and waiting for the right opportunity to come your way. It has been said that “luck” is where preparation and opportunity meet.

The issue of fitness and strength are discussed quite a bit in this video. It is true, the singer is like an athlete. The muscles of the diaphragm and core are used at all times. The legs and feet must be strong enough to withstand the various sets and raked floors for hours at a time. The lungs, or “powerhouse” for the singer need to be strong, flexible, being able to expand in as little as a single second to accommodate the air needed to sing long, dramatic phrases. While it is true that singers should ovoid being overweight, the same is true for being underweight. As an adjudicator of numerous competitions and auditions, and as a private voice teacher, I have noticed a trend for the young female singer to be extremely thin. I find this quite dangerous. One is not capable of supporting the tone when one lacks strength and stamina in the body. The body is not free and flexible enough to engage the muscle system and take in the proper amount of air. I try an urge all my students to focus on strength of body, to exercise and eat properly. One doesn’t need to be model thin to be successful, however one does need to be strong and body “aware”.

The title of this video is “What makes a great soprano”? I believe the advice is wonderful for any voice type. Whether you sing opera, jazz, musical theater, country or rock, these principles will apply. Singing is extremely difficult and requires a life commitment. With proper training, dedication and of course, a beautiful and exciting voice, one should be able to enjoy many years of great singing.

Singing show tunes helps fight off dementia, Alzheimer’s disease: study

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BY David Harding
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Singing show tunes helps fight off dementia, Alzheimer’s disease: study
A recent research study found that those suffering from moderate to severe dementia did particularly well singing show tunes from movies and musicals such as ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘Oklahoma!’ in group settings and had a marked improvement in their remembering skills versus those who simply listened during the sing-alongs.

The hills are alive with the sound of music, which could help people with Alzheimer’s stave off the effects of the debilitating disease.

A study by U.S. scientists has shown that the brain function of those suffering from dementia can be improved if they belt out their favorite show tunes.

Researchers working with elderly residents at an East Coast care home found in a four-month long study found that people who sang their favorite songs showed a marked improvement compared to those who just listened.

Among the songs sung during 50-minute sessions were hits from “The Wizard of Oz,” “Oklahoma!” and “The Sound of Music.”

The most improvement was among those sufferers with moderate to severe dementia.

Jane Flinn, one of the scientists involved in the study who works at George Mason University in Virginia, concluded singing was beneficial.

“Even when people are in the fairly advanced stages of dementia, when it is so advanced they are in a secure ward, singing sessions were still helpful,” she said.

“The message is: don’t give up on these people. You need to be doing things that engage them, and singing is cheap, easy and engaging.”