Long story as to how and why, but within a few days of the Berlin Wall opening on November 9th, 1989, I was on an overnight train from Budapest to Berlin to check out the scene. Then I was removed from the train in the middle of the night at the Hungarian/(then) Czechoslovak border. The Velvet Revolution in Prague wasn’t scheduled to happen for another week, and I found out they were actually still serious about the whole “transit visa” thing. So I hung out with the border guards until the next train came through on the way back to Budapest.Read this post
My college teacher, mentor and great friend ever since then, Seán Deibler passed away on August 19th. Most of what is important enough to me to write about on this blog can, in one way or another, be traced back to my 24-year association with him. He was a conductor, a singer, a clarinetist, a composer, a teacher, a motivational speaker, a clown, a therapist… The list goes on, and what’s really exceptional is that he was phenomenal at all of the above.Read this post
OK, this may not be on par with finding the score of an unknown Beethoven symphony sewn into the lining of an 18th-Century Tyrolian overcoat, but I think this is kind of cool.
I have on my shelf what seems to be an original copy of the first full score of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, published in 1921 by Édition Russe de Musique. (Prior to that, only the four-hand piano version had been published.) I found it around 1990 in a Budapest antikvárium, a used book store.Read this post
About twenty years ago I responded to an offer for a free magazine subscription that had been made available for college students. It was probably Newsweek or something like that.
Just for the hell of it, instead of my own name, I gave the name “Paul Hindemith” with my valid home address. It wasn’t long before I started receiving all kinds of junk mail addressed to the composer of the Pittsburgh Symphony and a sonata for every instrument.
When I received the envelope above it became one of my prize possessions. It remains unopened, in pristine condition to this day.
Click below for a closer look.
Today was the 10th anniversary of the premiere of my first commissioned work.
Cycle of Friends, for soprano, chorus and chamber orchestra, was premiered on May 3rd, 1996 by the Music Group of Philadelphia. Artistic Director Sean Deibler had been one of my undergraduate teachers, and has been a mentor and all-around guru ever since. I was very lucky to be one of three composers he chose for a three-year commissioning binge he was on at the time, thanks to a special grant. The commission came through as I was finishing my master’s degree at the S.F. Conservatory. (I was studying with Conrad Susa when I wrote this piece; it doesn’t get better than that for choral music.)
This was a dream come true at the time. I had sung in Sean’s choruses at the University of the Arts as well as his Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia, which was then the Philadelphia Orchestra’s chorus of choice. So, thanks to Sean, I was intimately familiar choral music from a cappella gems like the Ravel Trois Chansons, Hindemith’s Six Chansons and Barber’s Reincarnations to massive symphonic masterworks including The Damnation of Faust and John Adams’ Harmonium. (I should post a complete list, just for fun someday. It’s pretty amazing.) So, I was chomping at the bit to write a big choral piece myself.Read this post