Leonard Bernstein’s Mass fires questions against God at Blair School of Music

This past week I had the chance to see a fantastic, free production of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass. Not only was the music superb, the actors were talented as well. Blair School of Music doesn’t have a very big stage, but it worked out to be a positive.

I have previously visited this site but decided to go again to take advantage of the high-quality music for free admission. Blair hosts many different concerts and recitals, and It would be wise to take a look at what’s going on there in the future. If you need directions to Blair you can look on my previous blog by clicking here.

If you are unfamiliar with a mass, I will explain. A basic mass is list of musical numbers that are typically sung in the same order every time. Masses started in Catholicism and were meant to be sung every day. Perhaps you might recognize some of these words: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus Benedictus, Agnus Dei.

Bernstein’s took this structure and devised his own version of a mass. However, the difference between normal masses and Bernstein’s is that Bernstein was putting down religion as opposed to lifting it up.

A lot of performances will have the difference parts but will inquire no theatrics. Blair chose to perform a theater version with singers as well as dancers. Because it is part of Vanderbilt, the production had access to a lot of young talented students. All of them were well rounded in singing and dancing. The musicians went above and beyond as well.

The plot is about a group of believers attempting to convert doubters by using reason and compassion, but the doubters overcome and end up making the believers question their own views. The mass brings up a lot of controversial questions about religion, yet it still manages to appeal to many audiences.

One of the songs that troubled me the most was one titled “God Said.” In the song, the doubters quote scripture from Genesis when God saw that it was good. Then, they go on to the say things that are wrong with the earth while still quoting “… and it was good.” I really enjoy the music to this song but am indifferent about what it’s about. Tell me what you think about it.

God Said

Soulshine Pizza Factory hosts acoustic night in Nashville

Nashville is known for being the music city, but how often do you get to experience a free music city? There are few places downtown that will actually have good quality live music; however, most of them are usually drunk cowboys that can hardly play the simplest country tune. Soulshine Pizza Factory is a venue that isn’t all about having a grand old time with your drunk friends; it’s about the music.

Where: This place is obviously more than a music venue; it serves as a pizza restaurant as well– if you didn’t already get that immediately. To get there, go north on Hillsboro Road heading toward downtown. Go right at the fork onto Division Street and you will see it on the right. Head upstairs to find the music stage.

Who: The host announced that the night’s theme would be an acoustic night. The set-list included artists such as Justin Johnson, Nick Fabian, Tom Ramsbottom and many others. Each musician brought his own style of music to perform. This kept the audience interested and always hearing new things. Some of course played country, and others played singer/songwriter-styled music.

The sound quality wasn’t too bad either despite the stage being on the roof of the outdoor patio. My favorite amongst the group of performers was Tom Ramsbottom. He is from the UK and had a really interesting view of music. With simple, yet masterful chord progression, the music captured the audience with his witty and satirical style. His lyrics were clever and had a fresh take on modern issues.

Nick Fabian looked younger than the rest, but he had a matured voice. He used a piano keyboard for his songs, which really changed the flow of the concert. What made Nick different from other pop pianists was his skill level. He could actually play piano with fluidity rather than the basic block chords.

I recommend going to Soulshine for the food, as well as the music. It also has a music calendar on its website that you can look at to see who is playing when.

What kind of music do you look for at a venue?

Jeff Alfiero sets the mood at Italian restaurant Maggiano’s

Yes, I already know what you’re thinking. Why is a music post talking about food? Well, save it because in this case they are related.

What: This past week I went and sat down to a lovely meal at Nashville’s own Maggiano’s. I will say that the customer value here is far higher than any other restaurant in Nashville. Each server commits to his or her guests with passion and attention.

Where: Maggiano’s “Little Italy” can be found heading northeast heading towards downtown on West End Avenue. It is on the left-hand side a few blocks before Centennial Park.

Now, about the music. I was about to bite into a piece of warm bread when I heard the little notes of the higher register of a piano. After closer attention to the sound, I was definitely able to pick out a melody amongst the constant murmur of the dinner crowd.

I took a walk around the place to find where this oasis of beautiful sounds was coming from. I quickly came across a sharp-dressed man behind a parlor grand piano in the corner of the bar. His face was intense and his mind was focused.

Dinner music can sometimes be a challenge. The musician doesn’t want to take all of the attention away from the food, but rather add to the existing experience by subtly giving a constant background noise that pleases the ear. The music ranges from all eras and appeals to all audiences.

Who: I spoke briefly with the pianist during his break. He introduced himself as Jeff Alfiero, and he has been playing live piano for the past 10 years. He performs at other locations, but he is most frequently at Maggiano’s. If you want to check him out, he is there Wednesday through Saturday from 6 p.m. until close.

What is a restaurant that you have been to that has good music?

Lipscomb presents a spooktacular Halloween recital

The week leading up to Halloween is spooky enough, but the Lipscomb Music Department took it to the next level. The music faculty decided to have a Night Gallery themed vocal recital. I already wrote a blog from Lipscomb, but this recital was too good to pass up.

If you are familiar with Rod Serling’s Night Gallery show, this performance shared the same theme. A painting was revealed, and five vocal students would sing a song related to the painting. There were six paintings in total with 26 total songs.

The paintings were done by Lipscomb professor Cliff Tierney. Each painting brought a different category of horror to the recital. The categories included works titled The Cemetery, The Dear Departed, Funeral in my Brain, Midnight Never Ends, Phantom of the Cabin and The Other Way Out.

The art itself brought amazement to the audience, but to have music along with it emphasized the eeriness. A particular painting, The Dear Departed, impacted me the most. The dark songs that were sung brought true sadness to the environment. The Dear Departed is shown below.IMG_0174

Each song was sung by a vocal student that attends classes at Lipscomb. All of them dressed in black with some sort of red accent. A lot of the songs were in a different language, but you could still hear their depression through the intonations in their voice.

Music always makes visuals more intense. All of the best horror movies will have some sort of creepy music. If the music wasn’t there, it would take all of the suspense out because every scary scene would just seem normal.

Do you remember a specific movie that had scary music? Let me know about it.

Lipscomb University presents the All-Steinway School Dedication with The Pridonoff Duo

In April of 2015, the Lipscomb University Department of Music became an All-Steinway School. This prestigious award is given to a university for choosing to use Steinway pianos for their students to practice on.

On the evening of Oct. 20, 2015, a ceremony in Ward Hall was given to announce Lipscomb’s achievement. The university decided to have The Pridonoff Duo come to give a dedication recital on the new Steinway pianos.

Who: Elisabeth and Eugene Pridonoff are a married couple that formed a piano duo in 1982. They have performed their talents in the United States as well as other countries throughout the world. The Pridonoffs are classically trained musicians and are known for their pedagogical skills. Their stellar performance of Mozart, Liszt, Piazolla and Rachmaninoff left the audience in utter amazement.

What: The first piece on the recital was a Mozart sonata for two pianos. Mozart originally wrote this for him and his sister to perform. The Pridonoffs have been playing this piece since their origin in 1982. Next on the list was Liszt himself. Franz Liszt wrote piano music for himself to show off how good he was at piano. Anyone who attempts to play Liszt must be a master of piano.

During the intermission, a Steinway representative came out and gave a speech on the award that was to be given. She handed the plaque to President Randy Lowry, who then gave a speech of his own. “To be an All-Steinway School is something that we have been looking forward to for a long time, and it gives me great pleasure that we can finally call ourselves one,” Lowry said.

The recital was concluded with Piazzolla and a favorite by Elisabeth Pridonoff: Rachmaninoff Suite No. 2 for two pianos. The speed and clarity at which they played seemed impossible, but nothing is impossible for this duo. They collaborated together so well it was hard to hear two distinct pianos.

Part of the reason it sounded so well was because of the two brand-new concert grand Steinway pianos. Steinway pianos are arguably the world’s best. Steinway’s secret is that they make everything that goes into a piano by hand with flawless and careful designing. It is not just an instrument, but a piece of art.

Have you ever played on a Steinway piano? What did you think of it?

Blair School of Music hosts ALIAS Chamber Ensemble for a benefit concert

For this week’s recital attendance, I decided to go to another college campus to see what music was available. The Blair School of Music has numerous performances throughout the year ranging from all degrees of professions. The ALIAS Chamber Ensemble gave a performance at Blair Tuesday night that was phenomenal.

Where: The Blair School of Music is a name given to the music program at Vanderbilt University. There are two main buildings for the performance hall which are located adjacent to one another. To get there, head west on Wedgewood Avenue, and Blair is next to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital on the right.

Who: ALIAS is an award-nominated nonprofit chamber ensemble. Before each season, ALIAS will choose three nonprofits to have benefit concerts for. Their wide variety of music brings different flavors of music to Nashville and brings in support from all areas.

There are 12 musicians in the group, all bringing their own interpretation as well as their own instrument. The instruments in the ensemble span include strings, woodwind and brass. While each piece they play demands around three instruments, there are multiple different combinations in the repertoire.

What: All of the music that was played was considered to be new music. There were four total pieces, and the recital was just around an hour long. Some of the pieces contained some 20th century techniques with the music. For instance, a piece titled LIgNEouS 1 required a marimba with a rubber band over the lower blocks.

There was a Pastorale by Eric Ewazen that particularly stood out to me. The piece was written for piano, French horn and flute. This Pastorale musically took me to a forest landscape with waterfalls and animals, which gave the music a grandeur sensation. It was how I imagined the fields of heaven must be like.

Give it a listen if you want some peaceful music and let me know what you think.

Ewazen -Pastorale

Belmont brings flair to the music scene in Nashville with Olga Kern

Among the many schools that host professional musicians, Belmont University is a great place to find quality performances of both old and new music.

Belmont is known in Nashville as the school for musicians. Belmont has multiple music programs, which bring in many professionals such as pianist Olga Kern.

Who: Kern is a Russian-born classical pianist that has won numerous awards including the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2001. She has direct relations to Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky which allows her to really connect with her Russian heritage.

Where: The hall she performed in is very large and luxurious suitable for an act of this magnitude. Belmont’s performance hall is on the right side of Belmont Boulevard heading toward downtown Nashville. It has a very large steeple that you cannot miss. There are frequently free concerts being held here that are worth going to see.

What: On her recital, Kern played Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Alkan. All pieces required a large demand of technical excellence in which she executed perfectly. These composers are lucky to have a woman like Olga Kern perform their works in such a masterful way.

Olga is such a small woman, yet she can get so much sound out of a piano. There were many moments in her repertoire where she had double octaves in both hands, and she flew through them with such power and accuracy your eyes would have seemed fooled.

Her elegance and finesse just adds to this woman’s ability to work a piano to create beautiful sounds. Her stage performance made her even more desirable. As a pianist, it was an honor to be able to see Olga Kern perform the music she loves. It is hard to find concerts hosting musicians of this caliber– especially for free.

Is there a musician you look up to or wish you could meet? Let me know!