The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: A new opera takes listeners back to The Bad Old Days of anti-gay America – and reminds us of the bigotry today that camouflages itself as religious freedom

July 2, 2016
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CORRECTION: Yesterday’s post about the fourth annual Handel Aria Competition had a mistake about when it will be held. The correct time is next FRIDAY, July 8, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. The Ear regrets the error. General admission is $10. Here is a link with more information:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/classical-music-handel-aria-competition-announces-2016-finalists-to-sing-next-thursday-night/

By Jacob Stockinger

Issues pertaining to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people are much in the news these days.

Of course there were the shootings and mass murder at the Pulse gay bar in Orlando, Florida.

And there were the so-called “bathroom laws” enacted against transgender people and designed to protect “normal” people who ere never really threatened.

In contrast, the military announced that transgender people could serve under the usual conditions and regulations.

Then President Obama declared the Stonewall Inn (below) in Greenwich Village in New York City, a national historical landmark. In 1969 a police raid against the gay bar led to riots that, in turn, sparked the gay liberation movement to secure human rights and civil rights for homosexuals.

stonewall inn

This week saw a U.S. District Judge in Mississippi ruling against so-called “religious freedom” laws that many states have enacted in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage a year ago.

Such laws were ruled to discriminate against LGBT people and to unconstitutionally favor certain religions or forms of religion.

A lot of the proponents of such laws seem to have a false nostalgia for the good old days.

Well, maybe they were good for some people. But they were terrible times for many others, including LGBTQ people.

Gregory Spears’ new opera, called “Fellow Travelers” (below is a crucial scene in a photo by Philip Goushong for the Cincinnati Opera) has an interesting take on that historical era with its “Lavender Scare” that parallels the Red Scare of McCathyism.

Fellow Travelers and Lavender Scare CR Philip Groshong for the Cincinnati Opera

Here is a story that aired on NPR or National Public Radio:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2016/06/18/482307467/a-new-opera-illuminates-the-lavender-scare-a-little-explored-era-in-queer-histor


Classical music: Another Stradivarius violin is rescued – and teaches us a valuable lesson about loss and perspective.

August 9, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Stradivarius violins may be rare, but they have sure come in for their share of adventure in the past year and a half.

First, there was the theft of the “Lipinski” violin owned and played by Frank Almond, the Paganini Competition-winning concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

That story made national headlines.

Now comes word of a second Strad (below) that has been rescued 35 years after it was stolen.

Ames Totenberg Stradivarius

This violin belonged to Roman Totenberg. He was the concertizing violinist and violin teacher at Boston University who was the father of the well-known and prize-winning legal affairs reporter for NPR, or National Public Radio, Nina Totenberg (below center with her two sisters). She is probably best known for her stories on the U.S. Supreme Court. When her father died in 2012 at 101, she also did a memorable obituary.

(At the bottom in a YouTube video, you can hear Roman Totenberg playing the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Polish composer Karol Szymanowski, with the Boston University Symphony Orchestra on the occasion of his 90th birthday.)

Stradivarius Totenberg sisters

Roman Totenberg bought the so-called Ames Stradivarius for $15,000 in 1943. It is now said to be worth tens of millions of dollars after restoration. But his daughters promise it will be sold to a great violinist who will play it and perform with it as their father did — and not go into some museum or investment collection.

The story was all over the media -– maybe because it was good news amid so much bad news, a happy ending amid so many unhappy endings.

And what do you say when Nina Totenberg explains that her heart-broken father, who suspected who the thief was, moved on after the theft and bought another violin – a Guarneri del Jesu -– because he had personally suffered much bigger losses such as the deaths of his family in Nazi death camps during World War II.

That is perspective at a time when we sorely need perspective, especially about the worth of material objects versus humanist values.

Here is a story from NPR in which Nina Totenberg takes part and in which you can hear excerpts of her father playing a violin and piano sonata by Johannes Brahms and solo violin music by Johann Sebastian Bach:

http://www.npr.org/2015/08/06/427718240/a-rarity-reclaimed-stolen-stradivarius-recovered-after-35-years

And here is the big story it got in the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/arts/music/roman-totenbergs-stolen-stradivarius-is-found-after-35-years.html


Classical music: The Ear celebrates marriage equality or same-sex marriage with a piece by Francis Poulenc and a list of LGBT composers. What music would you play to celebrate the occasion? And how many composers can you name?

June 27, 2015
5 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Less than 50 years ago, you could go to prison or jail for being gay.

But now, given Friday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that same-sex marriage is legal across the country — IS indeed The Law of the Land under the U.S. Constitution — the same people can now be heading to the chapel (or city hall) where they’re gonna get married!

And have it recognized in all 50 states.

Rainbow flag

So how can one celebrate this long-awaited occasion, which so many gay composers would have wished for and benefitted from?

One way is to feature a piece by a gay composer.

The Ear chose the lovely slow movement from the Concerto for Two Pianos by Francis Poulenc (below), that tuneful and forthright 20th century French composer who said, “If I were not homosexual, I could not compose my music.”

You can hear the music, performed by the composer at one of the keyboards, at the bottom in a YouTube video.

Francis Poulenc

What piece would you choose to mark the occasion? Leave your answer and, if possible, a YouTube link to a performance of the work in the COMMENT section. The Ear wants to hear!!

Now, how many LGBT composers and songwriters can you name?

Here is one pretty impressive list with a lot of names that even The Ear didn’t know.

https://musescore.com/groups/lgbt-composers-and-songwriters/discuss/83075

 


Classical music: The Ear salutes marriage equality and the wedding of two close friends in Seattle.

August 16, 2013
5 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is a special day for two special people.

They are close friends of The Ear.

Their names are Rodney Hammer (below top), who is an accomplished professional interior designer, and the Rev. Michael Ingersoll (below bottom), who is the Communications and Creative Director of the expanding Center for Spiritual Living.

Rod Hammer

Michael Ingersoll

Today marks their 16th anniversary together.

It also marks their wedding day in Seattle.

Some of us have been waiting a long time for this kind of legitimate recognition to happen to gay and lesbian relationships. But when you think about it and compare it to other civil rights movements, it has not really been all that long.

Many of us never would never have guessed back in 1969, the year of the Stonewall riots and the beginning of gay liberation, that marriage equality – or same-sex marriage – would be accepted by the general public, sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court, endorsed by the President of the United States, enacted by more than a dozen states and remain a fast-rising tide by 2013.

So today I celebrate a private and personal joyous event, but also a social and historical event that these good friends, along with others, have brought me into and made me a part of. Thank you.

Cheers, I say, to them and to all the gay men and lesbian women who love each other and make a public commitment to that love, despite what various hate-mongers, bigots and misguided religious zealots try to say about that love and denigrate it as a “lifestyle” or “agenda.”

I am proud and fond of them, so I toast Rod and Michael with music.

Here is a little something as a “wedding gift” for them — a piece by George Frideric Handel that I chose precisely in order to use some of the same Christianity that has been so misused against gay and lesbian marriage to celebrate it. It is sung by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Chicago. For full effect and full fun, click on the FULL SCREEN icon so you can watch while you listen:


Classical music news: Guess what kind of classical music ruled supreme as the U.S. Supreme Court debated the merits and constitutionality of the national health care law?

June 10, 2012
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

The usual session of the U.S. Supreme Court ended last Monday.

So will tomorrow – Monday, June 11 — bring the long awaited decision about the federal health care law?

Perhaps, though some observers say it could come later in June, perhaps next week.

In any case, the NPR blog “Deceptive Cadence” recently offered a behind-the-scenes look at what music is listened by the justices, especially by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who is more deeply and personally involved in classical music than you might think.

If you think about it, The Ear bets you can figure out the most popular genre facing such and august and supreme body. Think dramatic and grand.

If not, here is a link to the story:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/05/15/152781760/classical-music-is-supreme-today-at-the-nations-highest-court

Of course, the tune the public sings will depend on whether the Supreme Court finds the new health care are law constitutional or not.

If the Court says yes to the law, what music should be played?

And if they say no?

The Ear wants to hear.

And what role do health and illness play in the creation and appreciation of music?


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