Concert-going for the Affluent: A Takedown

music snob

I’ve been going to classical music concerts for as long as I can remember. At this point in my life, I attend about 40-50 concerts each year. But apparently, I’ve been clapping wrong this whole time.

That is, if Joy Weaver is to believed, I am most definitely applauding incorrectly. How to do it properly is one of a handful of classical music concertgoing tips for the wealthy in Weaver’s latest article for Affluent magazine. (I’d link to the article, but linking encourages clicking, which increases pageviews. Google it if you must.)

Yes, sadly, such a magazine exists. Its mission statement includes the reminder that “money may not buy happiness, but it definitely buys ‘happier,‘” and later goes on to discuss the etymology of the world “luxury.” (Lux = Latin for light, meaning Affluent must naturally be “a beacon of light that helps bring [rich people] more awareness, enjoyment and, hopefully, even more wealth and abundance [of money, time and spirit] then they ever thought possible.”)

Enter Joy Weaver, if that is her real name. An etiquette expert who, as I’ve learned, “frequently appears on Good Morning Texas” and name-drops Zig Ziglar, and who has penned (pen by Tibaldi, no doubt) an article for Affluent entitled: “Symphony Etiquette: Protocol of the Hall.”

It’s nauseating. As someone who has devoted his life to making classical music more accessible to as many people as possible, I couldn’t help but reprint Joy’s article here with a bit of translation/amplification. Continue reading

Music and The Wall


I was seven years old when the Berlin Wall came down. It was one of the first world events I remember. My parents, sister, and I gathered around our TV and watched the fuzzy images stream into our living room. I didn’t fully grasp the enormity of the moment, but I knew something big was happening.

Four years later, I would visit Berlin for the first time. Various museums had already sprouted up, telling the story of a divided Berlin. Sections of The Wall remained positioned around the city; people could walk right up to it, take a few swings, and bring a hunk of The Wall home with them as a souvenir. (Looking back, I’m sure this was probably frowned upon, but it’s something that literally everyone was doing. And I like the poetry of that: leaving a portion of the thing that represented oppression and violence in place and quietly looking the other way as citizens and tourists alike chip away at it for years.)

Julio Fernandez sprays air freshener while mopping up a mess in a bathroom at the Main Street Station casino, Las Vegas. The wall holding up the urinals is a piece of the Berlin Wall. The wall that once separated East from West Berlin has largely disappeared from the city. The few sections that remain stand as potent monuments to the ideological divisions of the Cold War. But 25 years after the Berlin Wall fell, some 120 parts of it can now be found in more than 40 countries, from Britain to South Africa and the United States. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Julio Fernandez sprays air freshener while mopping up a mess in a bathroom at the Main Street Station casino, Las Vegas. The wall holding up the urinals is a piece of the Berlin Wall. The wall that once separated East from West Berlin has largely disappeared from the city. The few sections that remain stand as potent monuments to the ideological divisions of the Cold War. But 25 years after the Berlin Wall fell, some 120 parts of it can now be found in more than 40 countries, from Britain to South Africa and the United States. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Conductor Daniel Barenboim happened to be in Berlin in November 1989, recording with the Berlin Philharmonic, when The Wall came down. Here’s how he described the scene that weekend:

“When I came to the recording studio on Friday 10 November I discussed with the musicians, who were in a highly excitable state, what we could do to mark the event. We planned a free concert on the Sunday evening exclusively for the citizens of East Germany, of Beethoven’s 7th, a purely practical decision because we’d been practicing it for the recording.

“There were no tickets, they just had to show their GDR ID cards. People were queuing outside from 4am in a line that stretched around the building. …

“After the concert I sat in my dressing room, and a woman came to the door accompanied by a young man, with a bouquet of flowers … she came up to me shaking and gave me the bouquet and thanked me profusely, saying the Berlin Wall had separated her from her son (the man with her) and that they had been reunited again just the evening before for the first time in almost three decades. I was moved to tears by her story and told the woman she could always reach me and I’d invite her to a concert.”

That “Concert for the Citizens of the GDR” was filmed and the Berlin Philharmonic recently made it available in the orchestra’s Digital Concert Hall. I was hoping the orchestra would offer the concert free of charge during this weekend of the 25th anniversary of the falling of The Wall, but it doesn’t look like they will. Still, less than 10 Euros gets you a week’s pass to the DCH…and you can watch the trailer for free…and the Berlin Phil has put the final two minutes of the concert on YouTube. (The cheers of the audience get me every time.)

You can also watch an interview with Daniel Barenboim about the concert.

On Christmas Day, 1989, in the former East Berlin, another grand performance of a Beethoven Symphony took place. This time it was an ensemble made up of musicians from six different orchestras, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. In the final movement, Bernstein asked the chorus to sing the word “Freiheit” (freedom) in place of “Freude” (joy). That entire concert is available here:

And it was the legendary Russian cellist, Mstislav Rostropovich–who was such a courageous champion of Soviet-era dissidents–who brought his cello to the crumbling Berlin Wall, and played Bach, triumphantly and “from the heart.”

An “Independence Referendum Day” Scotify Playlist

scotlandAs voters in Scotland decide whether or not to remain a part of the United Kingdom today, here is a playlist of some of the best classical music to come out of Scotland. (I especially like the bagpipe cameo in Davies’ “An Orkney Wedding With Sunrise.”) And despite her Italian name, violinist Nicola Benedetti–who just released an album of Scottish music–claims the Scottish heritage from her mother’s side of the family.


Here Are The Best Beatles Covers On Spotify

beatles-abbey-road_2220576bYou’re welcome.

There are nearly 250 Beatles covers here. That adds up to more than 14 hours of music. So, you could hop in your car and drive from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon without hearing the same song twice.

I’ve put it in alphabetical order, so it’s easy to find a specific song. (At least I thought I did, but that’s not the way it’s showing up in the embedded playlist.) If you’d just like to listen, I recommend putting it on shuffle and going along for the (ticket to) ride.

A few highlights:

  • Otis Redding losing his mind on “A Hard Day’s Night,” live at the Whisky a Go Go
  • Brad Mehldau’s perfect improvisations on “Because” and “Dear Prudence”
  • Two very different versions of “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” (Fats Domino and The Feelies)
  • “Yesterday,” arranged for classical guitar by the contemporary Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu
  • Youssou N’Dour performing “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”
  • Johnny Cash’s wonderful and poignant “In My Life”
  • William Shatner’s take on “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” which is everything you’d expect it to be
  • Speaking of L in the S with D, perhaps my favorite one of the whole bunch: The Flaming Lips featuring Miley Cyrus and Moby
  • A not-so-subtly political “Happiness is a Warm Gun” by Tori Amos
  • Several covers from Rita Lee, including “Here, There, and Everywhere” sung in Portuguese
  • Plus: Bono, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Phish, Michael Jackson, Yo-Yo Ma, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, The Beach Boys, David Bowie, Little Richard, Rufus Wainwright, Sonic Youth, She & Him, Tom Petty, and many many more.

As I said earlier, you’re welcome.


Report: NFL Asks Coldplay to Pay to Play the Super Bowl Halftime Show


This is not satire. This is #truth. According to the Wall Street Journal, the NFL is asking the three finalists for the Super Bowl Halftime Show to pony up some ca$h for the privilege of doing what they do for a living. From the article:

The NFL has narrowed down the list of potential performers for the 2015 Super Bowl to three candidates: Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Coldplay, these people said. While notifying the artists’ camps of their candidacy, league representatives also asked at least some of the acts if they would be willing to contribute a portion of their post-Super Bowl tour income to the league, or if they would make some other type of financial contribution, in exchange for the halftime gig.

In other words, not only does the NFL not want to pay musicians for services rendered, it wants musicians to pay them for rendering said services. By this, the NFL is saying the halftime show is free advertising for the performers and it’s doing them a favor by giving them such a big stage.

But here’s the thing: the halftime performance isn’t just a giant commercial. The musicians are providing entertainment at what has become the most-profitable annual television event on the planet. Those profits go to the NFL. You know who else is providing entertainment at this event? The players. Is the NFL also going to ask the players to donate their services? But come on, Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning, think of all the promotional opportunities that could come out of this.

NFL MoneyDear NFL, pay the musicians. You have annual revenues of nearly $10 billion, with aspirations to reach $25 billion. Pay the musicians. Without musical entertainment during halftime of the Super Bowl, what would you put in its place? 15 minutes of commercials? No one would watch. Original television programming? That costs money to produce. Pay the musicians.

Yes, the platform of Super Bowl Halftime Show is huge. Millions of people will tune in and millions may also purchase recordings or concert tickets afterwards. But it is the musical, theatrical, and (yes, even) artistic prowess of the musicians in performance that compels people support an artist with their dollars–not the fact that the NFL provided them with a big stage.

The NFL is greedily trying to profit from the success of others. It is shameful. I hope each of the musical acts being considered for this year’s halftime show remain vehement in their opposition to this sort of workplace exploitation.

Foolish Classics

I love April Fools’ Day. A day to stop taking ourselves too seriously, which is certainly a problem in the world of classical music. So to help, here are a few videos of classical music pieces and performances on the lighter side.

1. Sir Malcolm Arnold: A Grand, Grand Overture – features vacuum cleaners, a floor polisher, guns & ammo. Who could ask for anything more?

2. Ernest Tomlinson: Fantasia on Auld Lang Syne – depending on who’s counting, this work features between 129-152 references to other pieces of classical and film music. How many can you count?

3. Charles Ives: Piano Trio, Op. 86: ii. “TSIAJ” – The title of this movement “TSIAJ” stands for “This Scherzo is a Joke,” which is a joke in and over itself, since “scherzo” means “joke.” Yes, Ives is saying “This joke is a joke.” And later he’ll tell you where to find an ATM machine.

4. Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 93: ii – It’s not roflmao funny, but Haydn does end the second movement of this symphony with a bassoon fart. And farts are funny. At least they were in fourth grade. (Jump to around 12:00-12:30ish for the flatulence.)

5. Gioachino Rossini: Duetto buffo di due gatti (“humorous duet for two cats”) – Okay, Rossini didn’t actually write this, but it’s been attributed to him because it uses themes from his opera Otello. Whatever. It’s two sopranos singing nothing but “meow” for three minutes. The internet ought to love this one.

6. Franz Reizenstein: Concerto Populare – If you know Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Grieg’s Piano Concerto in a minor, you’ll love this one.

7. Georges Bizet: Le docteur Miracle (Dr. Miracle): “Make Way For the Omelette” – Four opera singers singing about how great an omelette is.

8. Happy Birthday – Because it’s awesome.

9. W.A. Mozart: Leck mich im Arsch – I’ll let you guess what this means in English. Go ahead, sound it out…or Google it. (Make sure you include “Mozart” as one of your search terms, otherwise the results are very decidedly NSFW…or so I would imagine.) It’s Wolfy being kinky. That’s right, the same guy who wrote Ave Verum Corpus, wrote this.

I know I’ve left out lots of funny ones. If your favorite isn’t on this list, please leave me a link in the comments. I’d love to know what tickles your classical funny bone.

Domingo To Take It Up A Notch

Placido Domingo

With 144 roles and nearly 3,700 performances under his belt in repertoire ranging from Mozart to Berlioz to Wagner to Ginastera, there’s little that 73-year-old Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo can’t do–and hasn’t done already in his illustrious 57-year professional singing career.

Add one more thing to that long list.

Domingo announced this week he will sing his first countertenor role this fall in his hometown of Madrid, at the Teatro Real. The special gala performance features two one-act operas: Handel’s Acis and Galatea and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, with Domingo in the pit conducting the former and singing the role of the Sorcerer in the latter.

“Over the last few months, I’ve been trying some new warm-up exercises that are designed to bring more depth and richness to my lower range, but they ended up opening the highest registers of my voice as well.”

Domingo, who has been singing baritone roles almost exclusively in recent years, said he wasn’t surprised his voice is still evolving.

“I started out as a baritone,” he said, “Then for so many years I was a tenor. Now it’s back to baritone and also these new high notes.”

It’s not uncommon for baritones to make the switch to countertenor. Just ask David Daniels and Andreas Scholl–two of the top countertenors today who both started their careers as baritones. But usually the upward migration of the voice happens early in a singer’s career.

Domingo, whose motto is “If I rest, I rust,” says he’s embracing his new-found range, but he cautions audiences not to get too excited about his renaissance as a countertenor.

“I’ve had a good career. The public has been very kind to me. This will be a fun thing to try for my voice, but I’m not expecting to perform as a countertenor too often.”

In other words, if you were hoping for The Three Countertenors, don’t count on it.