SVI Conversation Series: Part 2

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Sydney is a 15 year old singer from Cohasset. Chris (not pictured) is a 15 year old singer from Duxbury.

What do you think is the most valuable skill you’ve learned at SVI so far? 

Sydney: Probably working within a group to master difficult harmonies. They sound so good once you get them. I think that’s a really valuable skill and this camp really focuses on that.
Chris: So far, I’ve learned how to read bass clef, which was something new for me since I play a woodwind instrument. I’m used to reading only treble clef. I learned (how to read bass clef) from Syd!

What is your favorite piece that you’re currently working on, either at the camp or privately?                                                                                                                                               

Sidney: I like “The Nightingale,” which we’re working on at the camp. It’s really pretty but really intense! My favorite solo song is “Wonderful Guy” from “South Pacific.”                                                                                                                                                                                   Chris: “Freeze Your Brain” from “Heathers.”

What are you most looking forward to about the performance?                                                  
Sydney: Honestly, you all (gestures to the other SVI students)! I love you guys and I love working with you. You guys are all great.
Chris: I’m really looking forward to working on my solos on stage and actually performing the finalized pieces. I’m also looking forward to hearing all my friends perform because I love them so much.

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Enjoy the best of Rodgers and Hart

Beth CanterburyBy Beth Canterbury

“I’m wild again, beguiled again, a simpering, whimpering child again. . .”

I was introduced to the songs of Rodgers and Hart as a kid, listening to my parents’ jazz records.  Bewitched, My Funny Valentine, and The Lady is a Tramp: these songs ARE the Great American Songbook!  But when I became a singer and voice teacher, I felt that Rodgers and Hart songs were always eclipsed by the songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein, who had a much longer and more commercially successful partnership.  That changed when I began working at Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick.  Teaching private voice lessons to aspiring musical theatre professionals who needed lots of repertoire, pushed me to dig deeper into songs of the 30s and 40s.

What a wealth of material I found!  I uncovered This Can’t Be Love, I Wish I Were in Love Again, Where or When, all elegant, clever, and snappy tunes, speaking to the universal themes of the comedy of love, memory, and longing.  Now, preparing for South Shore Conservatory’s Evenings Under the Stars performance of musical revue Beguiled Again: The Songs of Rodgers and Hart, I’ve discovered the aching ballad A Ship Without a Sail, the irresistible melody of I’ve Gotta Get Back to New York, and that Rodgers and Hart wrote Blue Moon!   Their prolific musical collaboration spanned 24 years and provided scores for 30 musicals and nine films. Surely everyone must recognize at least one or two of their tunes. Craig Ames created thoughtful and charming arrangements of these songs and so many more for Beguiled Again (released in 1997); songs you have loved for years will sound new and even the most knowledgeable American Songbook fan will discover a new song.

Not only am I thrilled to perform these songs for the welcoming EUS audience, but it’s also a pleasure to be back at South Shore Conservatory (SSC) with old friends Beth MacLeod Largent, Holly Jennings and Devin Morin.  The last time I sang with Neal Harrelson was when EUS presented Carmen in 2007, when I was on the faculty at SSC.  And I’m very excited that some of my former students are singing in the chorus!  I cannot wait to reunite with them. Of course, the amphitheater is such a unique space; it’s a treat to perform for audience members enjoying a beautiful evening out on the South Shore.

If you loved last year’s A Grand Night for Singing Rodgers and Hammerstein revue, or you’re looking for a beguiling evening under the stars, these songs will charm and delight you.  To learn a little background about the production before it begins, join us for a cocktail reception at 6 pm the evening of the concert. See you there!
South Shore Conservatory’s Evenings Under the Stars concert series presents Beguiled Again: The Songs of Rodgers and Hart on Saturday, July 29, 7 pm at One Conservatory Drive. This performance, sponsored by Dorothy Palmer, is the final EUS concert of the summer. For tickets and more information, visit http://sscmusic.org/evenings_under_the_stars.html or call 781-749-7565, ext. 22. Find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SSConservatory/.

SVI Conversation Series: Part 1

Brooke is a 14 year old singer from Cohasset. Julia is a 14 year old singer from Kingston.

We’ve started an interview series with the Canto singers at Summer Vocal Institute here at SSC! Today, we asked Julia and Brooke some questions about their experience at the camp and their passion for music.

What has been your favorite part of SVI so far?

Brooke: What I love that we do in the mornings is some movement exercises to energize us, and I love hearing advice when we do solo songs so I can improve.

Julia: I love meeting other kids who love music and singing as much as I do.

What are you looking forward to in the days to come? 

Brooke: I’m looking forward to our final performance and seeing how it goes.

Julia: I’m looking forward to learning new skills from my amazing teachers and the solo concert next Thursday night.

What is something you love about music?

Brooke: I love that when you sing high notes, they float.

Describe how you feel about music in one word.

Julia: Awesome, both in the 21st century sense and in the 17th century sense!

Just Captured: Young Performers Move and Groove to Drum Beats

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Designed for our youngest performers, ages 4-6, “Curtain Going Up” offers children an opportunity to develop speaking, listening, and social skills through structured dramatic play.  Students engage in creative exploration through participation in theatre games, as well as an age-appropriate “mini-musical” experience, integrating simple song work and movement.

SMF Students Offer an Introduction to Potential Developments for SSC Teens

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I had the pleasure of interviewing some Summer Music Festival students recently. Working with Sarah Troxler, Director of Student Engagement, I asked both SSC students and students from outside of the community about the kinds of programs they’d like to see at SSC in the future. Current students and non-SSC students alike expressed an interest in community service opportunities, such as performances at hospitals and retirement centers. Another popular idea was the establishment of more student ensembles, such as jazz ensembles. Stay tuned as we continue to explore student activities possibilities for the 2017-2018 school year and years to come!

Summer Music Festival Students Take the Stage

DSC_0048 (2)By Elaine Sorrentino
Many years ago, when I first heard Summer Music Festival ensembles warming up and playing through their music for the first time, I couldn’t believe I was listening to student musicians.  The Jane Carr Amphitheater was yet to be built, so their sound infused our building with a musical fullness you would only associate with a professional orchestra.  I could only imagine what it would be like to be a part of something that sounded so majestic.  Years later, I am still in awe of those first notes played during the two-week camp, and the excellence of their final performances.

Summer Music Festival (SMF) is one of South Shore Conservatory’s longest standing programs.  It offers woodwind, brass and percussion students, in middle school through college, the opportunity to spread their wings and hone their music skills by performing in high-level wind and percussion, chamber and jazz ensembles.  Music educators from all over the state send their most dedicated students to be a part of SMF.  This year we have students participating from many South Shore communities, as well as from as far as Bellingham, Needham Heights, Wellesley Hills, Foxboro, Mansfield and North Attleboro.

What I find fascinating about these students is their willingness to give up precious hours of sleep to be here on campus, ready to play, by 8 am.  In my book, that’s dedication!  And, they’re not here because they need five credits for school, or because they need to fill their sixth period block.  They’re here because of their commitment to their craft and their desire to be the best musician they can be.  Of course, many are also here for the friendships formed and bonds shared through their mutual love of music.

This year’s performances are coming up this week.  On Thursday, July 20 at 12 noon, the amphitheater will be graced with the sounds of chamber music.  This program is coordinated by Janet Underhill, who has managed and developed the chamber music program for Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra for ten years. I look forward to hearing a variety of pieces and styles.

SMF’s two jazz ensembles, directed by Bobby Glynn and Aaron Bush, present their final performance Thursday, July 20 at 7 pm.  The Afternoon Chamber ensembles, directed by Janet and Lidia Chang, and comprised of mostly advanced student musicians, open the program for them.  These groups always wow the audience with their confidence, skill and ability to improvise their music. As for me, I’m more of a ‘rehearse-it-until-you-can-do-it-in-your-sleep’ kind of musician.  I leave nothing to chance, but not these students!

Friday, July 21 at 11:30 am in Cox Hall, All-Star Band, under the direction of Susan May-Goodwin, take the stage for a short “informance.”  These are SMF’s youngest students, most of them in elementary school.

Summer Music Festival’s two wind ensembles, Festival Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Eric Laprade, and Summer Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Bobby Glynn, take the stage on Friday, July 21, 7 pm.  Final performance night is always magical, and the music is indescribably moving and extremely well-prepared. Close your eyes and listen, and you’ll imagine you’re hearing professional performers playing.  Open them, and you’ll see young musicians focused intently on their music, working together to create something really amazing.

The Jane Carr Amphitheater is located on the grounds of SSC’s Hingham campus, at One Conservatory Drive.  Parking is onsite and admission is free for all student concerts.  To learn more about South Shore Conservatory programs and events, visit www.sscmusic.org.

 

Former Hingham music teacher rocks the music of Billy Joel

Jon Abrams 1.jpgBy Jon Abrams
Until I was 14, I listened exclusively to the Beatles. They were my first musical love. Then I discovered the music of Billy Joel. Since then, my relationship with his body of work has been that of both student and performer. Probably my favorite Billy Joel songs to perform are ‘Angry Young Man’ and ‘New York State of Mind,’ especially because I now live on Manhattan’s upper west side, and ‘Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.’  I don’t consider myself Billy Joel fan; I feel more like a messenger.

What moves me most about Billy’s music is how the lyrics reflect the emotion of the music. When he writes a new song, he starts by writing the music first. He doesn’t even think about lyrics until he’s decided on rhythm, melody and harmony for the song. Then, he plays the finished instrumental product back to himself in order to ‘hear’ what the music says to him. I enjoy singing his lyrics and playing his piano parts because they fit together perfectly. And the audience feels it too on some level.

I put together the original Billy Joel tribute band called ‘The Strangers’ when I was a senior in college. My musician friends, all older than I was, had experience playing together and in many types of situations. After few calls, I assembled the six-member band from the drums up. We had our first show in July of 2006. Over the years our name has changed to ‘Jon Abrams & The Strangers’, and then again to simply Jon Abrams and his Billy Joel Band – a tribute. Over the years some members have left and others have joined, but I feel the lineup we have at present is the tightest, most ‘in tune’-with-the-music band we’ve had to date.

Our two sax players, a killer, powerful rhythm section, two guitarists including Billy’s original guitar player, David Brown make for a truly special experience for me (playing piano and singing with this band – it’s like driving a fast, smooth car up 93 at night with no traffic) and for the audience. David became part of the band after I wrote him a heartfelt letter about how his playing has affected my life. I never expected to hear back, but he contacted me, and after an hour-long conversation he agreed to join us onstage at our next show. That was ten years ago and he’s with us still – a gift from the music gods.

In 2009, when I was teaching elementary school in Lexington, the Movin’ Out tour invited me to join them, playing piano and singing Billy Joel tunes. It was a great experience that taught me about professional entertainment and show business. As a Broadway company, we delivered a product the same each night. It’s very different from a concert where one can take musical liberties. Mostly, it taught me that lots of people love Billy’s music, and motivated me to continue on with my tribute band after the tour ended.  Although Billy knows our band exists, he hasn’t been to a show yet. Maybe someday. Fingers crossed.

One of the best experiences of my life was teaching in the Hingham Public Schools. I found the kids eager to learn, eager to please, eager to achieve results, and they couldn’t have been more welcoming. They were cool-headed and warm-hearted, and they made those two years tremendously rewarding. In addition to teaching at the high school, I taught fifth grade chorus from 2013-2015. Those students would now be in eighth and ninth grade.  It would be wonderful to see my former students again, along with their families, at the concert. I hope they come and enjoy the vibe. We are especially looking forward to performing in the amphitheater. Open air shows are our favorites.

South Shore Conservatory’s Evenings Under the Stars concert series presents Jon Abrams and his Billy Joel Band – a tribute on Saturday, July 22, 7 pm at the Jane Carr Amphitheater at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham. More information and tickets at http://sscmusic.org/evenings_under_the_stars.html or 781-749-7565, ext. 22.

Songs of Summer

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From upbeat Vivaldi to sensual Gershwin to exotic Ginastera, this summer playlist will inspire you to soak up the spirit of the season! These gems will surely add some sweetness to your sunny mornings and balmy nights. Dip your feet in the pool and relax!

1. Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op. 21: Overture (Tempo primo)

2. Elgar: Serenade for Strings in E Minor, Op. 20: 1. Allegro piacevole

3. Gershwin: Porgy and Bess: Act 1: Summertime

4. Franck: Violin Sonata in A Major, FWV 8: Allegretto poco mosso

5. Ravel: Miroirs, M. 43: III. Une barque sur l’ocean

6. Dun: Eight Memories in Watercolour, Op. 1: 6. Floating Clouds

7. Ginastera: Danzas Argentinas, Op. 2: II. Danza de la moza donosa

8. Tallis: Fantasia on a Theme

9. Saint-Saens: Le Carnval des animaux: XIII. Le cygne

10. Vivaldi: The Four Seasons – Summer in G Minor, RV. 315: III. Presto
 

Celtic music brings her back to her Irish roots

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By Elaine Sorrentino

Once my friend Sharon heard the singers croon, “Oh the summertime is coming and the trees are sweetly blooming…” at A Celtic Sojourn in the Jane Carr Amphitheater last summer, she was immediately transported back to the Dublin elementary school where she learned the traditional Irish tune. She smiled as she told me “it brought back such great memories for me.”

So, it’s no surprise that Sharon is looking forward to WGBH host Brian O’Donovan and A Celtic Sojourn returning to the Evenings Under the Stars concert series on Saturday, July 15. Because Saturdays are busy for her, Sharon doesn’t often find time to listen to O’Donovan’s show, although she thoroughly enjoys Celtic music. Coming to last year’s concert, with its eclectic mix of instrumental and vocal music and dance, brought back fond memories of home for her.

Growing up in Ireland, Sharon remembers music playing all the time in her family home. She was brought up in a time when Ireland was becoming more contemporary, the radio was always on, and there was a real mix of music to enjoy. Her mother and father loved listening to opera and musicals, she and her siblings loved more modern music such as Abba and U2 (this is still her favorite band), and together they all enjoyed a smattering of traditional Irish music. Sharon has fond memories of her family watching Derry-born musician/songwriter Phil Coulter on television, as he performed traditional and original Irish music. Although it wasn’t Abba or U2, she said she loved listening to him play these much-loved tunes. This is some of the same music she heard last summer.

But A Celtic Sojourn: Roots and Branches show is not only about music. It’s also about dance – the kind that is so energetic that makes you tired just watching! Last year’s award-winning Miller Family dancers are returning, and Sharon shares that she thinks they are sensational. She should know. She took a full two months or so of Irish step dancing when she was a kid, but it just didn’t click! She does admit that during those months she learned the basic one-two-three necessary for dances such as the Irish jig, or reel, or The Walls of Limerick or the Siege of Ennis. While she was a school girl she went to a few “ceoils” which were evenings to dance to traditional Irish music. I was surprised to learn that, until Riverdance, Sharon never heard of Irish step dancing being presented as a show of its own, but as a part of other shows, much like the dance portion of A Celtic Sojourn.

Join us on Saturday, July 15, 7 pm at the Jane Carr Amphitheater, One Conservatory Drive in Hingham, for a fun variety of Celtic yarns as told by O’Donovan, acts and music in the open air. If you see a pretty red-haired girl named Sharon, you can be sure that her feet will be tapping, and her body swaying to the lively music. For more information about Evenings Under the Stars performances or for tickets, visit http://sscmusic.org/evenings_under_the_stars.html, call 781-749-7565, ext. 22, or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.

Elaine Sorrentino is South Shore Conservatory’s Communications Director.