Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sweet singing in the choir

Going through my Christmas vinyl I found a record by the Offenbach Kinderchor, meaning children's choir. I do not remember buying it but here it is, and I put it on the turntable. It is an old Columbia record.

I love the Offenbach Kinderchor! They are like the Vienna Choir Boys without all that finesse. They are just 100 percent enthusiasm. These high-pitched voices, so sweet and funny.

In "Kling, Glockchen," the one kid takes a solo and it was startling, the sound was so immediate, even on this old record, that when he pipes up, you could swear he was in the next room.

I see my Offenbach Kinderchor album going on eBay for $7.95.

I am not sure where mine came from but I am pretty sure I got a steal!

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Praetorius mystery

 Every Christmas there is one thing you have got to love and that is that there is Michael Praetorius, whom we know through "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming," above...

... and another Praetorius, with an even more magnificent name. It is Hieronymus Praetorius! Here is a creative arrangement he did of "In Dulci Jubilo."

 ... and the two are not related!

Come on, you are saying. What are the odds?

It becomes easier to grasp when you realize that there was a Praetorious musical dynasty.

And it becomes even easier to grasp when you realize that Praetorious is a translation of Schulz. It says so on Wikipedia. Click on that link and look under "name."

God knows how that worked out, how Michael and Hieronymous plain vanilla Schulz wind up with that beautiful last name Praetorius.

Music is full of mystery!

Monday, November 11, 2013

My square new Christmas record

Today after work on the way home from the gym I stopped at Goodwill and bought the squarest Christmas albums I could find. I am organizing my church's Christmas caroling expedition and I want to be inspired.

I got the Roger Wagner Chorale which, Roger Wagner is no stranger to this Web log! That was fun and to my surprise it played OK on my ancient stereo.

I also got this amazing square album called "Songs of Christmas" by the Norman Luboff Choir.

It was only 50 cents. Plus who could resist that cover art? The album I got was older. It appears to be a 1956 original. But it is the same picture.

The Norman Luboff Choir sounds like the choir you hear singing at the beginning of "Gone With the Wind." They are that ancient- and square-sounding. And this album is a winner. It only skipped a couple of times in "The First Noel" and after that it was fine.

I looked up Norman Luboff. His choir made about 75 albums and toured from 1963 onwards into the '70s or something.

Here is a picture of the man himself.

It is sad but as was typical of that era he died of lung cancer, only 70. You see that again and again, these guys (and gals) holding cigarettes in their pictures, and they look all glamorous, and then they die of lung cancer. I think of Nat "King" Cole, always pictured with his cigarette. And Leonard Bernstein's wife, Felicia. She was always holding that cigarette and looking beautiful and then she died of lung cancer. Josef Krips died of lung cancer, too, I think. He was always smoking his cigars. I do not think a cigar now and then hurts someone but he smoked a lot of them. Anyway it is terrible to think about.

Dear Norman Luboff, he did a good job with his choir. I was just looking around on YouTube for something to share. A lot of recordings seem to have orchestra. My record is all a cappella! This sounds like what I have.

And this was funny, just the other day driving into work I tuned into the Christmas station and they were playing this "Twelve Days of Christmas" I loved. The dopes on the station did not announce who it was but now after listening to my square album I am 90 percent sure it was the Norman Luboff Choir. I was listening to it just now thinking, That is what I heard on the radio!

Bravo, Norman Luboff Choir.

We will carol in your memory!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Schwann song

Does anyone else miss the Schwann Catalog?

I know I do! When I was a little kid there would be Schwann catalogs kicking around my house. You could pick them up at record stores and I think they were free. Well, they had to have been free because knowing my family we would not have been shelling out for them.

You could look up any piece in the Schwann catalog and it would tell you what recordings were out there. It was much simpler than the Internet and more reliable. I love the Internet and it is good for a lot of things but I am sorry, the Schwann catalog kept better track of records than the Internet does. Now they are praised for their style, too, how about that?

There is some kind of Schwann catalog now. But it will cost you a fortune. I have spent so much money on my Pennario research that I just can't shell out here and there for all this other stuff. Our library never subscribes to anything that would save me money.

A few weeks ago I did buy an old Schwann catalog on eBay. It cost me something like $10 including shipping. Unbelievable, for something that used to be free. But I needed an old one so I could see which Pennario records were in print and which were not and who the competition was. And I just needed it laid out there who recorded what. It is really hard to straighten out all this information online.

Last night Howard was out late at Lounge Academy so I went to bed with the Schwann catalog.

Hahaha... even at the time I was appreciating how goofy it was, using this as my bedtime reading. I was sipping my yummy Peach Sleepytime tea, which I use to bring me down after working on my book for hours. And I am just turning the pages of this Schwann catalog, reading it like a novel. Getting a picture of the world as it was in 1965. I bought the oldest Schwann catalog I could find.

My mom used to laugh about how when I was a baby, I needed something in my crib to read or I would not sleep. She used to give me the Sears catalog. There are baby photos of me sitting in my crib paging through the Sears catalog.

Last night my last memory before falling asleep was dropping the Schwann catalog to the floor next to the bed, and hearing Howard walking in.

And so to sleep!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Van Cliburn's mother: 'Make it sing, honey'

Researching something just now, I stumbled on "Glimpses of Van Cliburn," in the New Yorker the day he died last February.

A writer recalls joining the Cliburns for the celebration of his mother's 94th birthday party. He wrote that the mansion was decorated "as if an inauguration were about to take place."

When Cliburn sat down to play "Happy Birthday," his mother said, "Make it sing, honey."

There is also an interesting section where Cliburn is young and the reporter sits down with him in Manhattan, in the Oak Room, and Cliburn talks about fame and his strange situation.

What a weird story Cliburn was, you know? I am glad I met him. I can't believe I was in that house, where they had that birthday party. How generous he was to invite us. I have pictures of myself with Cliburn from that week when I was in his amateur competition but they were pre-digital camera. One of these days when all my deadlines are met I will have to find them.

Meanwhile here is a picture I love, of Howard talking with Cliburn. 

And here we all are together along with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's concertmaster, Michael Ludwig. I have shared these pictures before and will do so again.

Ah, memory lane. I met Leonard Pennario a couple of weeks later. I wore that same dress! It was my favorite dress that fall. Anytime I had to meet anyone important I wore it.

Cliburn was a very interesting artist but, and I thought this through once, you would have to worry about this big gap in his life when he was not playing very much. Writers get around that by writing chapters in which he philosophizes, or they philosophize about him.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Contestants tackle Schubert on 'The Amazing Race'

Did anyone else catch the Schubert song-singing contest on "The Amazing Race"?

My sister Margie hipped me to it! I had not only never seen "The Amazing Race," I had never heard of it. Apparently it is a kind of obstacle course where teams race each other from place to place while having to complete challenges along the way.

On this recent episode they had to stop in Vienna to sing the famous "Die Forelle" ("The Trout") with the Vienna Choir Boys.

It's not perfect. The millions of viewers who aside from this show would never get to hear a Schubert song never get to hear this song the way it is supposed to sound. The one guy who finally sort of gets it together sings the song in a ridiculously deep register so it sounds silly. When he finally sings a verse in the right register, the music is blocked by a voice-over.

Perhaps the Schubert Club could get in touch with the show and suggest a follow-up.

On the plus side, any publicity for Schubert is good publicity. It is hilarious and heart-warming to see the show's contestants poring over the formal German score. This one guy has had a good shot at it but blows it and his team-mate yells it him: "You've come closer than anyone! Go and fix it and bring it back!"

I never heard this arrangement, with choir, and it is a lot of fun. There is a kind of thrill when the song finally comes together. Also you are just hit in the face by how good the Vienna Choir Boys are. They sound fantastic.

It's fun to see them giggling over the bad efforts. And to see the choirmaster shaking his head and saying, "Leider nicht gut."

Also a big Bravo to the show for attempting to show Schubert song singing as the essential life skill that it is.

In the link above, you will have to sit through some commercials but you can kind of skip around. The Schubert segment starts about 16 minutes in.

Here is a fine performance in case you want to practice.

Or just enjoy!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Scholar defends Mozart's archbishop

I am being challenged on my post about Archbishop Colloredo, above, whom I called Mozart's mean archbishop. And I am going to look into it because the comment writer is Michael Lorenz whose Web site I love.

If he tells me to do more research I will do more research! I admire Michael Lorenz and am always honored to hear from him.

Was Archbishop Colloredo a villain, a major pain or at least a bad boss?

Or is he among the saints?

I will say one thing, if I was wrong about this, a million other people have been wrong too.

"Please do not repeat old nonsense," Michael Lorenz writes. If old nonsense this be, I am only the thousandth person to repeat it. Still it is easy to see how that can happen because after all, the version of events we are always fed began with Mozart himself.

It will be fun to see if we can defend old Colloredo.

Meanwhile, I have been sitting here on this rainy and brooding All Souls Day ...

... cataloging Leonard's records, a major pursuit in my life these days. Today I am going through his recordings of the music of Miklos Rozsa. I have all these letters written by Rozsa and Pennario and I am checking different things in these letters, pinpointing exact recording dates, things like that.

I sometimes look up peripheral people to see if they are still around, because then maybe I can get them on the phone or something, if they might be useful. I noticed that the liner notes to three of these records are by a writer named Christopher Palmer. He seems to have been an authority on Rozsa's music. So I Google Christopher Palmer. He is dead. He died a long time ago. Which is too bad because he was passionate about film music and under-appreciated composers.

Christopher Palmer's obituary in the Independent is beautifully written. and details his many accomplishments. In the middle of it, though, is this sentence I love:

"The errors he did not notice and allowed into print reached legendary status."

The writer said proof-reading was not the Palmer method. Which makes sense to me because on one of the Rozsa albums this one mistake jumped out at me and I had been wondering what the story was about it. Now I know!

Anyway, inspiration from all sides to check my work more carefully even on a Web log written in haste.