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Note x Note: Musical Musings & Cultural Observations
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It's quite easy to overstate the degree to which certain prominent figures are beloved by the public at large. Only rarely are the plaudits and hagiographies heaped upon the myriad of the great and the good among us truly deserved. The steady stream of tributes and glowing memorials to the late Dame Elizabeth Taylor, however, ring true. (Read more on her death here.)

I ordinarily bristle at the maudlin, gushing way in which we tend to instantly beatify dead celebrities, many of whom in their lives and accomplishments were rather unremarkable. Of course, Elizabeth Taylor far transcended any notion of mere "celebrity". (Here is a thoughtful retrospective piece by BBC News.) I'm awfully fond of Elizabeth Taylor - and have been for a while - not because of her glittering celebrity, but because of the unapologetic and, dare I say, gutsy way in which she lived a not-entirely-easy life. She was vulnerable, she was beautiful, she was insecure, she was vibrant, she was bawdy, she was brash, she was honest, she was self-indulgent and profoundly compassionate. But she was completely and wonderfully human, not in spite of her many seeming contradictions but because of them.

Dame Elizabeth, who in 2001 was bestowed the female equivalent of a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II, was one of Hollywood's most remarkable creations. Her arsenal of complimentary traits - her breathtaking physical beauty coupled with the palpable earthiness of the characters she portrayed - instantly and irrevocably endeared her to countless millions the world over. Yet, despite her fantastic early successes and professional triumphs, hers was a life marked by great and frequent personal heartache. She was famously married no less than eight times, with all but one of her marriages resulting in divorce. She has the unique, if dubious, distinction of having had legislation introduced in the United States Congress which would have barred her from the country for reportedly "living in sin" with actor Richard Burton while the two were still married to other people. Later in life, she would face numerous public battles with depression, addiction, and obesity. Yet, despite her litany of personal sorrows, the strength of her spirit still drew countless others to her. And thanks to her many charitable endeavours, she'll be remembered not just for her films but also for her tireless efforts in the fight against AIDS.

As the world pauses to reflect on the close of an extraordinary life, here's a clip that will forever stand out in my mind as one of Elizabeth Taylor's finest on-screen moments. It's a scene from the acclaimed film adaptation of Edward Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the film which resulted in Taylor's second Academy Award for Best Actress.



UPDATE: Essential Elizabeth: An Appreciation via CBC Arts
6 years ago |
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Pardon my language, but this is just fucking daft. The grasping, grafting mandarins charged with the running of the City of Los Angeles have once again demonstrated their contempt for the people they ostensibly represent by demanding an elderly woman remove a mural she had painted on her own property. Valley Village resident Barbara Black recently invited ten local high school art students to paint a graffiti mural on a 50 foot section of wall surrounding her home. The City of Los Angeles was quick to slap Black with a $356 fine for allegedly violating City ordinances regulating advertising as the mural purportedly included text. Despite the subsequent removal of the offending text officials still insisted the mural be removed entirely as new wall murals within the City are no longer permitted. Should she refuse to comply, Mrs. Black's fine will increase to $1,925 by the end of this week. Thanks, guys. I feel so much safer now knowing that you're cracking down on this city's most dangerous criminals!
I'm all for adhering to just and reasonable laws, but in the course of sticking to their guns the City have made a criminal of an otherwise law-abiding, civic-minded citizen. Of course, art is subjective, but the impulse to create art is surely a good and benign thing and something behind which we can all unite. I love projects like this: grassroots and people-powered. We need more of this sort of thing, not less. And we need our civic leaders to support, not stilfe, the creative impulses of their fellow citizens.

According to NoHoArtsDistrict.com, you can lend your voice and help save Barbara Black's mural by contacting Councilman Paul Krekorian in whose district the mural is located. Here's the info:

Twitter: @paulkrekorian
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PaulKrekorian
Email: councilmember.krekorian@lacity.org
Call: (818) 755-7676
Fax: (818) 755-7862
6350 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Suite 201
North Hollywood, CA 91606



View more videos at: http://www.nbclosangeles.com.
Tags: Anthony McAlister (Cello) ; Cello ;
6 years ago |
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Amateur musicians in Southern California are being given some high-profile performance opportunities this year thanks to the remarkably inventive community outreach initiatives of two of the region's premiere performing arts organisations.

The Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles Country (better known as the Music Center) will host another of its popular Public Practice events in April. These unique events, sponsored by Active Arts® at the Music Center, turn otherwise quiet corners of the sprawling Music Center campus into open-air practice rooms. Participation is open to any non-professional musician at least 18 years of age who is willing to practice (not perform) in public. (Seems a bit like musical masochism to me, but I suspect for most amateurs such exposure is a great way to help combat stage fright.) Registration for this event has closed, but watch this space for further details concerning when and where.

Further south, just behind the Orange Curtain, the nationally-acclaimed Pacific Symphony will throw open the doors of its Segerstrom Concert Hall home and invite amateur musicians to join them in what it calls OC Can You Play With Us?. According to the website, "Amateur musicians will have a chance to rehearse and perform with Pacific Symphony on the stage of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall under the baton of Music Director Carl St.Clair. Each hour-long session will consist of a short rehearsal followed by a mini-performance of movements from Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.

Particpants must be at least 24 years-old, must be able to read music, and must play and provide their own standard orchestral instrument. The rehearsals and short performances will take place on Monday, 16 May beginning at 7:30pm. The cost to participate is $50. Visit the website for more information.
6 years ago |
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I am a huge fan of British composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies which is why I couldn't help but grin when I first learned of the following story. It seems that while dining last month at a popular Italian restaurant in Canterbury, Sir Peter, who in 2004 was appointed Master of the Queen's Music by Queen Elizabeth II, found the restaurant's choice of musical accompaniment rather difficult to bear.

"I asked the waitress if it could be turned down - and it was, but then it came back up again. It was idiotic pop music. You just couldn't hear yourself think, let alone order. It was deafening," said Sir Peter. "So I told the owner we were going elsewhere. We found a very nice Italian restaurant a few doors down. It too was playing muzak but agreed to turn it off. Nobody noticed - in fact the atmosphere noticeably improved. People were actually talking to each other and enjoying the art of conversation without the dulling, stupefying effects of muzak. I would urge more people to demand that piped music is turned off and vote with their feet if shops and restaurants don't comply. This is a protest movement that wants peace to be given a chance."

So, is this yet another case of cultural snobbery - elitism run amok, or is Sir Peter making a valid, timely criticism? I say yes to the latter. As a musician, I can well identify with his annoyance at the seeming ubiquity and mindless musicality of Muzak. And lest one think we're but two lone fuddy-duddies crying in the wilderness, behold Pipedown, the UK-based pressure group devoted to ridding the world of the deafening, noisome presence of piped music. You know, I think I just might join...

NOTE: An earlier version of this post referenced the "noisome presence of pipe music". That was a typo. Let it be known to all and sundry that I am an enthusiastic and unrepentant lover of the bagpipes.
6 years ago |
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Awful pun aside, you've got to see this amazing video. As with so many of these sorts of viral videos I've no idea what inspired it, but the raw technique and remarkable tone of these two cellists is rather extraordinary. (And, yes, those are carbon fibre cellos they're playing. You'd be mad to attempt those kind of cellistic fireworks on a traditional cello!)


See more funny videos and funny pictures at CollegeHumor.

And if the long-haired cellist looks familiar it may be due to yet another video which has gone viral... well, at least among classical musicians. He's 24 year-old Croation cellist Stjepan Hauser, a pupil of Bernard Greenhouse and one of the classical music world's brightest up-and-coming stars. Check out his irreverent homage to some cello greats, living and dead.

6 years ago |
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My sincerest thanks to those of you who have, via email and Twitter, sent well wishes and messages of concern over the past few weeks. My near complete hiatus from the blog during this month was not intended but was, in many ways, unavoidable. 2011 has gotten off to a rocky and frustrating start, though, happily, things are beginning to look up. I look forward to resuming regular blog posts over the weekend.
Tags: Anthony McAlister (Cello) ; Cello ;
6 years ago |
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As tempting as Rare Earth's "I Just Want to Celebrate" might be, I think I'd still rather start this day off with a bit of Gerald Finzi's sweetly sentimental Dies Natalis. Happy birthday to me!

6 years ago |
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In celebration of Mozart's birthday today, I'd like to share five of my absolute favourite Mozart moments. Enjoy!


"Laudate Dominum" from Vesperae solennes de confessore, K. 339




Serenade for Winds No. 10 in B-flat major ("Gran Partita"), K. 361, Mvmt III 




Le Nozze di Figaro (K. 492), Act IV Quartet & Finale




String Quintet No. 4 in G minor, K. 516




Symphony No. 35 in D major, K. 385, "Haffner"
6 years ago |
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Today marks what would have been the 66th birthday of famed English cellist Jacqueline du Pré, OBE. During her all-too-brief life du Pré was widely held as one of England's finest performing musicians. Her bold, fearless, utterly unselfconscious style of performance as well as her extraordinary virtuosity endeared her to countless people then and still does today. Her tone, while far from "pure", was wholly enthralling and had the remarkable ability to seduce and charm, to cajole and provoke. Sadly, she was diagnosed with a rather advanced form of Multiple Sclerosis at age 28 and spent the next 14 years in rapidly declining physical health. She died on 19 October 1987, Black Monday.

du Pré's recordings of the cello concertos of Elgar and Schumann are considered by many to be the definitive interpretations of those works. In 1998 the film Hilary and Jackie was released. It is beautifully acted though sadly based on an unfair, inaccurate, and hugely bitter memoir written by du Pré's siblings Hilary and Piers. It starred Emily Watson as du Pré and earned several Oscar nominations. Read more about Jackie's unforgettable life. Below is a the trailer from Chistopher Nupen's touching documentary Jacqueline du Pré: A Celebration of Her Unique and Enduring Gift.

6 years ago |
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On Thursday, 27 January at 6pm, Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale will host the opening reception for "Matisse: A Celebration of French Poets & Poetry". The exhibit features 63 etchings and lithographs by groundbreaking French artist and lithographer Henri Mattisse, all of which are inspired by the romantic poems of Pierre de Ronsard and Stephane Mallarme. The works are from the collection of famed Swiss art collector and book dealer Albert Skira; the exhibit runs until 8 May. For further details visit the Forest Lawn Museum website or email museum@forestlawn.com. Read more about Matisse and French poetry.
Tags: Anthony McAlister (Cello) ; Cello ;
6 years ago |
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