Trio Forte Perform for the First Time

Fernando, Hana and Josh have never performed together on stage. They met each other online just a few days before their audition as opera trio Forte! See them captivate the crowd with a flawless performance!

Dr. Fuddle at the Steinway & Sons Galleries in Atlanta, Georgia

It was a great day Sunday September 8, 2013 at the Steinway Piano Galleries in Atlanta, Georgia to be among the crowd congratulating Dr. Sergio Gallo for becoming the 1600th living Steinway artist and for a superb induction concert!

Dr. Warren Woodruff presented the book Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton to distinguished guest and performers at the Steinway Piano Galleries. The attendees enjoyed the program that consisted of: Piano Quintet in C Minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) and Quintet in A Major ("The Trout") by Franz Schubert (1795-1828)

Shown in the photos: (top left) The accompanist to Dr. Gallo were (left to right) Cello: David Starkweather, Violin: Nicolas Favero, Basso: Milton Masciadri, Dr. Woodruff, Viola: Kate Hamilton - (top right) Tommy Edds, Sales Manager of Steinway New York with Dr. Woodruff - (bottom left) Dr.Sergio Gallo with Dr. Woodruff - (bottom right) Christoph Syllaba, President and CEO of Steinway Pianos with Dr. Woodruff.

From Welded Worshipers, a Joyful Pneumatic Noise

Chico MacMurtrie’s Robot Musicians Perform in Brooklyn

Robert Wright for The New York Times
Chico MacMurtrie, standing at right next to a staircase, and staff members at the Amorphic Robot Works studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn, tending to some of Mr. MacMurtrie’s music-making robots in his “Robotic Church” installation.

CHICO MacMURTRIE, a Brooklyn-based artist, has been building robots for nearly three decades. His creations do not vacuum the house, teach foreign languages to children or try to take over the world; they were designed to play music, mainly syncopated rhythms, and perhaps evoke some thought about humanity.

Robert Wright for The New York Times
The robot Urge.

Robert Wright for The New York Times
The robot String Body.

Robert Wright for The New York Times
The robot Tumbling Man.
Most are abstract creatures, from knee high to larger than life size, controlled by a concert of computers, pneumatic actuators and small motors. Though they were all made for different installations around the world, the robots have in common a sort of whimsical darkness, born of the contrast between the brutality of their machinery and the innocence of their awkward movements. One robot, for example, plucks its own stringed body, while others hop around on the floor in a manner not unlike children playing leapfrog.
Now, MacMurtrie has assembled his sizable collection into an orchestra that will perform for the first time on the East Coast, in what Mr. MacMurtrie calls the “Robotic Church.” Three free shows will take place on Sunday, Sept. 22, at 111 Pioneer Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Additional concerts are planned for the weekends through Oct. 27. Times are listed on the Robotic Church Facebook page. Seating will be limited, and visitors are asked to make reservations on the Facebook page.
The site is the former Norwegian Seamen’s Church, a 19th-century building that Mr. MacMurtrie has used as the studio for Amorphic Robot Works, the robotic sculpture group he runs, since 2001. Some of the church’s original white plaster walls and trim work remain, leaving hints of the building’s Protestant origins, but the ceiling is a vast dark space with exposed rafters.
Mr. MacMurtrie has repurposed the space for what he calls robotic “masses,” drawing inspiration for the installation’s religious theme from the building’s original use. Its ecclesiastical architecture inspired him to present his mechanical creations in corners and on walls, in front where a preacher would stand and even in the balcony, where they are intended to evoke saints in a chapel.
“The ‘Robotic Church’ is about taking this society of machines that have traveled around the world and putting them into a permanent home,” said Mr. MacMurtrie, a native of Bisbee, Ariz., who made his first robot sculpture in 1987 for an M.F.A. thesis at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Working with his wife, Luise Kaunert — who manages many of his shows — and a small staff, he composes each “mass” by computer. During the concert, more than a dozen robots are programmed to rise up and join in an incremental buildup of sound, creating what Mr. MacMurtrie said he hopes will be a viscerally uplifting experience.
The robots share an organic quality that mimics the human body’s imperfect nature. Many of their faces resemble impressions of a tortured soul, formed from vacuum-molded plastic, melted metal or bent and soldered wires. In spots, cuts and welds parallel the scars and deformities that life can write upon skin and bone.
“As our human society is being taken over by technology, we have to reflect and think about the human condition,” Mr. MacMurtrie said.
The “performers” include Transparent Body, who affects a sort of tap dance on a metal sheet; lights shine from within its plastic body and face. Queeko, a childlike form, stands about a foot tall and plays a drum that sounds like a slightly unbalanced washing machine.
There’s String Body, which has banjo strings in its neck that are plucked by a motor-driven pick.
The arms and legs of String Body contain bass strings that can change pitch with its movement, and across its rib cage are stretched harp strings.
House Player, a human-size robot with a pair of large mallets, plays a giant xylophone whose keys are made from thick planks of wood. One of the more sympathetic characters is Tumbling Man. It weighs in at about 200 pounds and kicks up a row as it tries to stand, but continually falls forward. Its steel feet strike the metal floor of the church with a resounding thud. Its struggle, Mr. MacMurtrie said, is among the most identifiably “human.”
As other robots perform, Rope Climber works its way up a thick rope hanging from the ceiling.
“They’re kind of a tribe of machines that evolved one from another,” Mr. MacMurtrie said. “The pieces themselves were my teachers. Each time I built one, I would learn something for the next step.”
During a visit to his workshop last month, Mr. MacMurtrie, Ms. Kaunert and their team were busy readying the robots’ various MIDI sequences as well as the pneumatic air-supply hoses and computer cables the robots depend on. The group can run the whole show without loud compressor motors switching on mid-performance.
But there was plenty of noise: a cacophony of drumming, thumping, chiming, metallic thuds and atonal string notes, accompanied by the hisses of the pneumatic rams that operate many of the robots’ body parts, creating the show’s complex sonic texture. Two men in a control booth high above the floor work the computers, making the air-dependent machines come alive at the right times.
Mr. MacMurtrie tested out the robots’ credibility as metallic clergy on Aug. 17, when he and his wife held a wedding ceremony for family and friends from the East Coast and Europe. (They had officially tied the knot in December at Brooklyn Borough Hall.) After Ms. Kaunert’s uncle, a retired minister, delivered the blessing, the robots were activated for celebratory drumming.

Fanfare Straining to Be Heard

Benjamin Britten was delighted to have been born on Nov. 22, the feast day of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians and church music. That the year of his birth, 1913, was also the centennial of Verdi and Wagner is something Britten never particularly remarked upon in later life.
Erich Auerbach/Hulton Archive, via Getty Images
The composer Benjamin Britten conducting his “War Requiem” in 1965.

    Julieta Cervantes for The New York Times
    The tenor Ian Bostridge.

    Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
    The tenor Anthony Dean Griffey.

    Yet that coincidence has complicated things for Britten this year, the 100th anniversary of his birth in the town of Lowestoft on the coast of East Anglia in England. Celebrations of the Verdi and Wagner bicentennials have been plentiful around the world and will continue this fall. Inevitably, Britten, the most important figure of 20th-century British music, and, for me, among the handful of 20th-century giants, is being eclipsed by the dynamic duo of Italian and German opera.
    England, of course, has been awash in Britten this year. The Britten-Pears Foundation, named for the composer and his lifelong partner, the tenor Peter Pears, has been overseeing a series of international events under theBritten 100 banner. In addition, Britten’s record label, Decca, has just weighed in, literally, with a deluxe, six-pound boxed set of his complete works, containing 65 CDs, a bonus DVD and several booklets of informative program notes.
    In cooperation with Britten 100, Carnegie Hall is teaming up with other New York institutions, including the Metropolitan Opera, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the New York Philharmonic and Trinity Wall Street, to honor him. Carnegie Hall’s contribution, an extensive and smartly organized series, looks to be a high point of the coming season.
    Britten’s landmark opera, “Peter Grimes,” which brought him international renown after its 1945 premiere in London, is the most ambitious offering of the festival. On Nov. 22, David Robertson will conduct the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a concert performance of “Peter Grimes” at Stern Auditorium, starring the tenor Anthony Dean Griffey in what has become his signature role. He brings uninhibited dramatic intensity and a distinctive voice, at once lyrical and powerful, to his portrayal of Grimes, a hulking, isolated fisherman in a small Suffolk coastal village in England, part poetic dreamer, part dangerous misfit. Mr. Griffey sang the role to acclaim in the director John Doyle’s production that the Met introduced in 2008. This summer he again excelled as Grimes in a semi-staged performance of the opera at the Aspen Music Festival.
    The Carnegie Hall series begins on Oct. 20 with a program offering Britten’s complete canticles. These five extended vocal works accompanied by various small groups of instruments were written over three decades. Each has a major part for a tenor, the one constant in a diverse set. The texts range from medieval mystery plays to poems by Edith Sitwell and T. S. Eliot. The tenor Ian Bostridge, who has championed these seldom-heard works, will perform them on this program at Zankel Hall, joined by the countertenor Iestyn Davies, the baritone Joshua Hopkins and the pianist Julius Drake. The program includes some Britten arrangements of Purcell songs, ideal companion works.
    Three nights later, on Oct. 23, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s under its new principal conductor, Pablo Heras-Casado, performs Britten’s great Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, featuring Mr. Bostridge, a program that includes Mendelssohn’s Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Shostakovich’s Ninth Symphony.
    There are also two smaller-scale events of great interest: the dynamic British-basedEndellion String Quartet plays works by Britten and Schubert (Nov. 8 at Weill Recital Hall); the impressive Brooklyn Youth Chorus sings a program called “Britten’s Young Voices” (Nov. 17 at Zankel Hall). And all afternoon on Dec. 14, there will be a “Discovery Day” exploring Britten’s life and works through panels, videos, a lecture and a voice recital.
    When Carnegie Hall presents a festival, the goal is to keep events within a relatively concentrated time frame. The Britten celebration spans seven weeks this fall, with one exception: Robert Spano will conduct the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Britten’s wrenchingly beautiful “War Requiem,” with Mr. Griffey among the vocal soloists, but not until April 30. The concert should be worth waiting for.
    The institutional partners in Carnegie Hall’s celebration have come up with some enticing programs, especially Trinity Wall Street’s “Celebrating Benjamin Britten,” offering more than 20 concerts from September through December, including choral works, songs and pieces for children.
    That Verdi and Wagner continue to loom large over the field of opera is clear from the Met’s programming in this year of three anniversaries. While the company honored Wagner with a major new production of “Parsifal” that opened in February and will celebrate Verdi with a new “Falstaff” in December, Britten is only getting a revival in October. Still, it’s a worthy one, his ingenious adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the Tim Albery production that the Met introduced in 1996 and last presented in 2002.
    A version of this article appears in print on September 8, 2013, on page AR42 of The New York Times in the New York edition with the headline: Fanfare Straining to Be Heard.

    Baroque Embedding, Feet First

    Catherine Turocy’s Lessons Unlock Early Music’s Meaning

    Ian Douglas for The New York Times
    Students joining the Baroque instructor Catherine Turocy, right front, at Dance New Amsterdam in Manhattan.

    The strains of softly undulating lute music filled the space in a teaching studio inside Dance New Amsterdam as two rows of dancers, clad in Lycra and cotton exercise wear, closed in on one another and detached again in a graceful motion, then glided through a turn, ornamented with a quick, circular flick of the wrist. We were a group of 18 dancers taking part in a workshop on Baroque dance led by Catherine Turocy, the founder of the New York Baroque Dance Company and one of the leading figures in the historical dance movement of the past 40 years.
    Well, there were 17 dancers, and then there was I.
    I have no background in ballet, and although I enthusiastically seize any opportunity to dance, I have only limited experience with choreography. More often than not during the three-day workshop, I found myself facing the wrong way after a 180-degree turn, or backed roughly into another dancer. But I had signed up because I was curious to experience the spatial dimension of Baroque music. Much of pre-1800 music is rooted in dance forms that would have been familiar to contemporary listeners. Bach wrote some of his most stirringly expressive music in the form of dances, like the keyboard suites and his Partitas for solo violin, which are full of Sarabandes, Gigues, Passepieds, Gavottes and Bourrées. By learning about Baroque dance, I hoped to unlock the physical dimension encoded in the music.
    I am not alone. Ms. Turocy has worked with music students at Juilliard; the University of California, Los Angeles; and the University of Miami.  Last year, the chamber orchestra the Knights invited Caroline Copeland, a member of Ms. Turocy’s company, to teach its players.
    But the workshop that I stumbled into — and would continue to stumble through, clumsily, over three days — was concerned more with artistic and expressive dance of the 17th and 18th centuries: with the ballet onstage, rather than the social dance of the ballroom. But then, whenever Bach used a dance form, it wasn’t intended as a social diversion, either, and the issues of period performance theory and aesthetics that Ms. Turocy discussed were enlightening at every turn.
    Much of Ms. Turocy’s own research centers on two of the most important dancers and choreographers in 18th-century France, Françoise Prévost and her student Marie Sallé. Ms. Turocy led us in a languid Sarabande choreographed by Sallé, in which we were to strive for a gliding motion and sense of skimming the floor that was said to be typical of Sallé’s dancing. It requires a softness in the joints of the foot that is the opposite of the strenuously arched feet of 19th-century ballet and that made me think of the more diffuse attack of gut-stringed period instruments — less precision, more mystery.
    Ms. Turocy quoted a contemporary of Sallé’s describing in admiring terms the “unaffected simplicity” and “negligent and broken steps” that made up her personal style. “A Sarabande,” Ms. Turocy said, “often has that quality of arrested motion, of letting a beat go by and then catching it on the next downbeat.” Surely that sort of freedom in a dancer required a reliably regular beat from the musician accompanying her. But I wondered whether there was not room for a similarly calculated freedom in situations where an instrumental soloist plays against a bass line.
    Most intriguing to me was the idea of psychology embedded in structure. Drawing on early modern theories of the human body, the movements assigned to different body parts represented different expressive aspects, Ms. Turocy said. “Often there is this equation of fate as the path which is traced by your feet in space, while the upper body communicates how I feel about it — happy, anxious, ashamed,” she said. I began to imagine a musical performance in which the walking bass took on the role of the feet, while the upper voices developed a narrative by either straining against it or playfully ornamenting it.
    According to Ms. Turocy, many dance manuals of the period emphasize the primary importance of the figures the dancers draw in space as they move through a work, with one dance master recommending that performers first memorize a piece by walking this blueprint and only then adding the steps, jumps and ornaments. In the dance notation of the time, these outlines have all the symmetry and grace of a manicured French garden. Perhaps in music, too, the harmonic progression holds its own geometric logic that needs to be honored before we consider the virtuosic embellishments above it?
    By the end of the workshop, my feet were no closer to mastering the Sarabande than before. But my ears had learned to see Baroque music in a new way.

    Spark your Imagination.....

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