Category Archives: vocal

Ginette Depreist donates Marion Anderson Lincoln Memorial outfit to new museum

If you take a look at the online edition of the New York Times, you’ll find a wonderful walkthrough of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The multimedia feature also tells the stories of several of the many Americans who donated items of historic value to be included in the museum’s collection.

One of these remarkable Americans featured in the article is Portland’s own Ginette Depreist, whose late husband James Depreist was the Music Director of the Oregon Symphony from 1980 to 2003, and nephew of the acclaimed singer Marion Anderson. Ginette donated the jacket and skirt worn by Anderson at her historic performance at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday of 1939, after she was prohibited from performing at hall of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Here is a screen capture of the section of the Times article about this gift:


What an amazing gift and remembrance. I know that next time I’m in the nation’s capital, I’ll be making a visit to this incredible museum part of my stay.

is music really just a luxury?

Sometimes, even we professional musicians begin to believe the sentiment that music is ‘just’ a luxury for people with too much disposable income. We forget that music is an activity that we have partaken in for as long as there have been humans (witness the ancient bone flute dating from over 35,000 years ago), and that is serves a deeply seated need to connect with something that transcends our everyday mortal existence in a way that even religion cannot even touch. Please, take a few minutes and watch this remarkable video excerpt from an upcoming documentary (opening in NYC this month) called Alive Inside:

sixty years, seven days, seven concerts

William Crane

William Crane turns 60 this month, and to celebrate, he’s playing seven one-hour recitals with many friends-collaborators lending a hand. And no wonder. Bill is one of those people who is so excited about the prospect of making and sharing music, and once he sets his mind to doing a project, look out! He becomes a force of nature, bending down any obstacles in his path to musical nirvana.

The concerts early in the evening (6 pm) are short by design, so that, as he himself puts it “so that people can come after work and still have the evening free for other activities”. So practical, so Bill. Continue reading

renee fleming program set for portland

Renee Fleming - Photo: Decca/Andrew Eccles

Soprano Renee Fleming’s program for March 13, 2012 has finally been announced. The conductor is Ms. Fleming’s own, Sebastian Lang-Lessing.

I’m most excited about two of the selections: Ravel’s Shéhérazade, and Korngold’s Marietta’s Lied from Die Tote Stadt, two of the most beautiful pieces ever written for voice and orchestra.

Hector Berlioz Roman Carnival Overture
Maurice Ravel  Shéhérazade
   I. Asia
   II. The Enchanted Flute
     III. The Indifferent One
Charles Gounod Ballet Music from Faust (excerpts)
Charles Gounod  Ah! je ris de me voir si belle (Jewel Song)


Ricky Ian Gordon  Night Flight to San Francisco
Leonard Bernstein Overture to Candide
Matthew Bellamy, Dominic Howard,Christopher Wolstenholme  Endlessly
Leonard Cohen  Hallelujah
Benjamin Gibbard  Soul Meets Body
Erich Wolfgang Korngold Overture to Captain Blood
Franz Lehar  Vilja-Lied from The Merry Widow
Erich Wolfgang Korngold  Mariettas Lied from Die Tote Stadt

NOTE: Interestingly, I picked up this information (the first clue, at least) from Then, intrigued, I went to the Oregon Symphony’s web site to see if the complete program was available, and voila!

quasthoff retires

The great German baritone Thomas Quasthoff today announced his retirement from the concert stage. It has come as a shock to much of the close-knit classical music and opera world. I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with him a few times over the course of my career, and they have always been moments to remember. I first encountered Quasthoff my first season with the Oregon Symphony. We were performing Haydn’s great oratorio The Creation with guest conductor Helmuth Rilling. Quasthoff sang the dual roles of Raphael and Adam. Being unique in appearance, I wasn’t prepared for the sight of him (he is a thalidomide baby, which resulted in stunted arms and legs, but a normally sized torso and head). And I was even less prepared for the sound of him. What a voice. Monumental, intelligent, espressive, powerful, joyous, and soulful. The Oregonian reviewer Amy Martinez Starke said this about Quasthoff at his Oregon Symphony debut:

Unquestionably, though, the three stellar soloists were the highlight of the concert, and of these three, bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff (as archangel Raphael and as Adam) was a joy to hear again.

Quasthoff, a German who made his U.S. debut last summer at the Oregon Bach Festival … is a delight. He has a full range of dynamics and colors at his command: both a glorious, ringing baritone, and a huge bass voice as well. When he hit the lowest note in “In long dimensions creeps with sinuous trace the worm,” one wanted to applaud.

The Oregonian – February 6, 1996

I also was fortunate to hear Quasthoff at the Oregon Bach Festival several times, most recently in 2010 when he sang the title role in Mendelssohn’s sprawling oratorio, Elijah. Critic James Bash wrote of  his performance:

Quasthoff embodied the role of Elijah – not only with his expressive voice but also with his entire bearing. When Elijah challenged the priests of Baal, Quasthoff imbued his bass-baritone with disdain. When the widow pleaded with him, he responded with empathy and warmth. These are just a couple examples of what Quasthoff did to convey the persona of Elijah.

I am tremendously saddened by Thomas’ departure from the concert platform, but I’m forever thankful for the artistry that he has brought to the world through his music-making. His unique voice will be missed for a long time.

china forbes talks about her recovery from vocal surgery

UPDATE: Stabler has an expanded print interview here.

From today’s online edition of the Oregonian, courtesy of David Stabler:

astoria music festival – concert two

Saturday night’s concert was especially meaningful in regards to its location in Astoria, as it was devoted to the music of two giants of Scandinavian composers: Grieg and Sibelius.  Astoria is steeped in the traditions of Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, with many immigrants from those nations choosing the settle in what must have been comforting climatic reminders of their homelands.

Elizabeth Pitcairn / Photo: Christian Steiner

Violinist Elizabeth Pitcairn was the soloist in the lovely and imposing violin concerto of Jean Sibelius.  She handled all of its considerable technical and musical hurdles with no sense of difficulty, even with some discrepancies between her tempos and those of the orchestra as a whole.  She was given a well-deserved ovation at the conclusion of the concerto, and was also given quite the hearty round of applause between the first and second movements.

David Ogden Stiers

The second half of the concert was entirely given over to a complete performance of Edvard Grieg’s complete Incidental Music to Peer Gynt.  There was practically a three-ring circus on stage (conductor Keith Clark jokingly noted that only a few wild animals were missing from the assemblage of personnel on stage), with dancers, three choruses (including the Ultima Thule Chorale from Norway) and vocal soloist Amy Hansen and narrator David Ogden Stiers.  Stiers gave great inflection to the story of Peer Gynt, lending both gravity and levity to his colorful characterizations.  Amy Hansen sang wonderfully, as did the North Coast Chorale and the singers of the Astoria Music Festival Apprentice Program.

Amy Hansen

The festival continues through this week and next weekend with the following performances:

Astoria Music Festival Chamber Players
Sunday, June 20 @ 4 pm
with Elizabeth Pitcairn and Richard Zeller
Music of Beethoven, Brahms and Korngold

Vocal Apprentice Artists Opera Scenes
Tuesday, June 22 @ 7:30 pm

Too Much Coffee Man and Bach for More
Wednesday, June 23 @ 7:30 pm
First opera based upon a comic book and Bach’s Coffee Cantata

Vienna’s Sacred Spring – Road to Wozzeck
Thursday, June 24 @ 7:30 pm
Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night & Pierrot Lunaire

Alban Berg’s Wozzeck
Friday, June 24 @ 7:30 pm
Saturday, June 25 @ 7:30 pm

Cellist Sergey Antonov with pianist Cary Lewis
Saturday, June 25 @ 4 pm

Festival Orchestra Grand Finale
Sunday, June 25 @ 4 pm
Music of Mozart, Schumann and Schubert
Sergey Antonov, cellist