Glen Roven
MY ARTICLES and BOOKS

1. YOU GOTTA GO TO PLACIDO
2. MEMORIES OF ANN MILLER
3. MEMORIES OF CY, ONNA AND FRED
4. FROM CITY SECRETS: LONDON
5. FROM CITY SECRETS NYC
6. FROM GAMES WE PLAYED (longer version)
7. Notes from Mountain Laurel Chamber Series
a. Violinist As Superstar
b. Inspiration
c. That's All Folk
d. Berlin Philharmonic




YOU GOTTA GO TO PLACIDO’S: Some memories of my times with Hildy Parks
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October 11, 2004 - by BWW News Desk

by Glen Roven

To me, Hildy Parks embodied the uber-New York Woman, the career gal/mom who had it all long before having it all was in the American vocabulary. Think Rosalind Russell mixed with Holly Hunter when she’s feisty; then add a bit of Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews for good measure and you have the whirl-wind I knew as Hildy Parks.

Every day, she got up at the crack of dawn to swim a few laps before breakfast. Then she’d rush to her office at the Shubert Theater to write a network TV special. At a time when there could be 10 to 20 writers on any given project, Hildy wrote the entire script (or the whole enchilada as she used to call it) by herself. Of course, Alex produced the whole enchilada by himself too, but that’s another article.

After lunch she’d work with Alex on the creative side of producing Broadway plays and musicals. Whenever they would have a disagreement, she would look to the heavens for guidance and like a Mom scolding a petulant child she’d moan, “Jeeeze, Alex, what are we going to do with you?”

At night when she wasn’t at the theater, Hildy had meetings with the local school boards, or the local community boards, or the landmarks commission, or worked with the World Health Organization or the UN. There was always something to do to make the world better. All this in addition to looking after her two boys. In the morning the exhausting cycle would start again. Exhausting to anyone but Hildy.

I worked closely with Hildy for about 15 years writing/arranging/conducting the music for her television shows. My phone would ring at 9 AM: “Hello, TC. It’s Hildy.” TC stood for Tiny Composer. I rather enjoyed being referred to as tiny by a woman who barely cracked 5 feet. “Listen, what are you doing today? You gotta go over to Placido Domingo’s house and work with him.” I was barely 21. Imagine getting a call like that. Throughout the next 15 years, there would always be a similar phone call with a different name: Julie Andrews, Patti LaBelle, Peter Brook. It was a very heady experience.

The first TV show we did together was called Parade of Stars. I was hired to put together a Broadway tribute that was going to be performed by 35 stars. I had some general meetings with Albert Stephenson, the choreographer, and we went into her office to discuss the number. When we got there she said, “Well, lemme hear it.” I blanched and stuttered, “We need a bit more time.” Hildy gave one of her “Jeeze, Alex” looks, threw a legal pad in the air and said, “We’re shooting this next week. Let’s do it now. What should Linda Lavin sing?” And led by this feisty spark plug, we finished the number in 15 minutes.

My friend Robin and I were on vacation in England once. Hildy called and said she was in town for the day and wanted to work on the Emmy show. I politely told her I was going to Glyndebourne, a country opera house that is sold out for years in advance. You have to go in black tie, take a train 2 hours outside of London, eat between acts, and then return. Very English and very exclusive. Hildy said she’d meet us on the train and come too. Robin was relieved because he felt she would never get a ticket on such short notice and he was confident we would continue our much-needed vacation.

Just as the train was pulling out of Victoria station and Robin was breathing a sigh of relief, the door to our compartment swung open and there was Hildy, in full evening gown regalia, but holding her legal pad. “But how did you get a ticket?” Robin asked stupefied. “Oh, I called Peter Hall. Now, what should Hal Linden sing in the Opening?”

I remember shows where we would shoot for 24 hours straight. Everyone was exhausted, but not Hildy. I once tried to grab a cat-nap in a dressing room when she walked in, “Oh, sorry. Didn’t mean to disturb you. But as long as your up, have you thought about the closing of Night of 100 Stars III? And this years Tony’s, let’s do a tribute to Kander and Ebb. Think about it.”

I was doing a production of my first musical in Cleveland. We were having our last dress rehearsal where nothing was going right. Actors were forgetting lines, dancers were forgetting dance steps, the usual. I was much younger then so I didn’t quite know how to remain calm in the face of adversity. After one particularly bad flub I had had enough: I looked to the heavens and screamed “Jeeze” and threw my legal pad in the air. Everyone stopped. They had never seen me so upset. But my friend Robin easily broke the tension by saying, “Don’t worry. He’s just doing Hildy.”

After doing the Tony for 25 years, Alex had some sort of problem and he and Hildy did not do the 1987 Tonys or any subsequent ones. This was very hard on both of them because the Tony’s were their baby. This was the best award show on TV and the entire industry knew it was because of Hildy and Alex. We were all nominated for an Emmy for something else that year and gathered in their living room to see if we had won. The Tony Award show was nominated for Best Variety show and it won. Alex was very magnanimous and you would swear he was glad the show’s quality would continue. But Hildy looked at me and she quietly said, “Oh well. You’re worst nightmares do come true.” I had never seen her so vulnerable before. That’s the Hildy I remember most.


Cheese, Egg and Poultry: A few memories of Ann Miller by Glen Roven
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January 25, 2004 - by BWW

When I was 19 I was the Musical Director of Sugar Babies on Broadway for the entire run. This was a pretty heavy job for a kid and when I asked Mickey Rooney if he minded that I was so young, he looked me straight in the eye (we were the same height) and said, "Kid, when I was 16 I was the biggest box office star in the world!"

During the difficult out of town try-outs the choreographer and producer were at odds with Mickey’s co-star, Ann Miller, and they were also constantly trying to fire me, so Annie and I had an immediate bond: misery. Plus, she liked my conducting because I always followed her, no matter what she did. So every night after the show we would have a dinner of commiseration.

Sugar Babies made it into New York, was a huge hit, and all was forgiven. Ah, show-biz. For three years, Annie and I were inseparable. Now, remember, I was nineteen and this huge show-biz fan, so imagine what it was like for me to meet all her friends: Fred Astaire, Hermes Pan, Katherine Hepburn, etc. etc. One by one, and virtually every night they would parade into her dressing room after the show. The most fun I had though was after the shows. Mickey would rush out of the theater before I had even finished the Exit Music, but Annie would take her time, take off the famous wig, and get ready for her evening.

We would wait for the fans to leave and then Annie and I would hop into her waiting limo and head to a restaurant. Sometimes Ethel Merman came with us, sometimes Patti LuPone (she was Evita next door,) but every restaurant gladly stayed open for Annie because she was the toast of the town.

These were the days before VCRs and way before DVDs so the only way to see an old movie was to wait for it to appear on TV at 4 AM. But that wasn’t good enough for Ann. She kept renting the original prints and projectors and screening all the classic MGM movies for me in her hotel suite. She claimed, "they’re for your education, Glen," but I know she wanted to see them. And why not? She was amazing and gorgeous and hysterically funny.

We saw the famous ones of course, but I urge anyone who wants to pay tribute to this great lady to go out and rent Reverly for Beverly. Not quite seminal but pretty damn fun. As famous as the 500 taps per minute were her legendary gaffs. I honestly can’t tell if they were unintentionally ludicrous statements or incredibly calculated brilliance. But it doesn’t matter. Annie’s death brought them racing back to my memory.

Mickey was out for a show and the understudy was on. The show was dying. Ann came running to me before the show and said, "Glen, it’s awful. We have cheese all over our face." "Annie, it’s egg." She said, "Cheese, egg, it’s all poultry."

One day she came back from getting fitted for a new dress for the Tony’s by Halston. Breathlessly, she said, "Glen, the dress is gorgeous. And you know what? Halston’s name is spelled the same backwards as it is forward." I paused and said, "No, it’s not." "Yes, it is." "No, it’s not," I said more forcibly. "Yes it is…Wait a minute. It’s not. Why’d he tell me that?!"

The first summer the show was in New York I rented a house on Fire Island. Because of the late night ferry connections I had to wait until Sunday morning to get to the beach. However, I realized if I gently speeded up some of the tempos I could cut 4 minutes off the show and make the Saturday night midnight ferry. (Forgive me, oh Gods of the theater, I was young.) So after she finished her first number, panting and sucking oxygen by the stage manager, she somehow got out, "I don’t care…pant…pant…pant…if he is going to…pant…pant…pant…Fire Island…the tempos are too Goddamn fast!"

You gotta love her.

Fred, Onna and Cy: Oh, My - A Few Memories by Glen Roven
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May 18, 2005 - by BWW News Desk

With the passing of Fred Ebb, Onna White and, most recently, Cy Coleman, the ‘death comes in threes’ superstition seems to have a sorrowful twinge of truth.

These three legends were part of the last generation of professionals who came of age when it was possible-- so it seems to me--actually to maintain a career on Broadway, to do a show every year or every few years, and not only make a living from the theater, but create a body of work that was respected, admired and cherished. I was fortunate enough to work with all three, and I’m grateful for the knowledge they so willingly shared.

I first met Fred Ebb in 1978 when I somehow persuaded CBS to do a half hour television version of Flora, The Red Menace, Kander and Ebb's first show. I was only an aspiring musical director/composer, but I guess my naïve enthusiasm and insatiable appetite for Broadway music somehow connected with the producer of CBS’s CAMERA THREE. Now even back then, having a musical produced on TV was a very rare occurrence so Kander and Ebb were around the set. The 1965 Broadway failure of the original Flora had been followed, of course, by enormous success (and I had all the cast albums) so I was a kid in a candy shop. (And what candy! I remember a magical day crawling around John Kander’s dank, depressing basement searching for the orchestrations that were collecting dust in a remote corner.)

We had to shoot the show quickly, and something wasn’t working in Flora’s song, “Sing Happy.” It didn’t have the impact it needed, or as they say in the theater, it wasn’t landing. Fred, the first one to sense the problem, quietly started talking to Lenora Nemitz, our Flora, who was outstanding in the rest of the show. He whispered to her for a few minutes and then started gesticulating wildly. Suddenly, something wonderful happened: Fred started to perform the number full out. And he wasn’t doing it as Fred Ebb, he was doing it as Lenora, or more accurately as Flora -- or as Lenora doing Flora -- complete with the choreography, the character and in Lenora’s key! It was a remarkable moment. And lo and behold, Lenora scored on the very next take, imitating Fred imitating her.

Over the next few years, I worked with Fred on a multitude of projects with all his favorite performers, Liza, Chita, Joel. In every case, the exact same transformation took place. He came to rehearsal and when we needed dialogue to lead into a song, he would morph into that performer and the words would pour from his mouth like a theatrical font. When Fred did Joel, he was Joel. When he did Chita, he was Chita. As for Liza, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Fred Ebb sing Liza With A Z!

***

I was hired to be the musical director of an ill-fated Broadway production of The Three Musketeers in the early eighties. I was subsequently fired before the show came to Broadway but the sting was lessened by the fact that Onna White, the consummate Broadway choreographer was also let go. Misery loves company, and Onna was great company.

I never knew exactly how old Onna was, but she’d been a Hot Box Girl in the original cast of Guys and Dolls and when we first started working together, she’d just had both her hips replaced. Tall and elegant and with a deep sophisticated voice, she loved telling anyone who’d listen, “I have the same material in my hips that they put in the space shuttle.” Despite this—or perhaps because of it-- she was still dancing up a storm, demonstrating all the steps for the teenaged company.

I was doing the dance music and felt privileged to be working with her. After all, she had choreographed the film, Oliver!, a seminal film to those of us who are artistically inclined. She loved to tell stories about the dance arranger she'd used on Irma La Deuce ; she once asked him to come up with some music for a transitional section of the second act ballet--music that sounded like penguins dancing. (Check your CDs for the identity of that dance arranger, none other than a young John Kander!) Here was a great lesson in creating dance music: often the choreographer can’t quite verbalize the musical terminology. Many times he or she simply describes the desired mood and it’s up to the dance arranger to come up with “penguin music.” Stories like that make me weep!

***

Most composers I know are pretty good pianists. Some are even great. But Cy Coleman was in a class by himself, a composer who was also a “monster” pianist. Cy rattling off one of his jazz standards instantly conjured up the ghosts of everything cool: Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and the entire strip of the old Las Vegas. Key signatures didn’t matter; he could play a song as easily in one key, but once on stage, he often forget the rehearsed key (sometimes on purpose) and play in whatever key his fingers happened to choose. His dazzled musicians had to adjust instantly and without warning to Cy’s musical high-wire act.

I was the executive producer of an ill-fated arts center somewhere in the bowels of Pennsylvania. I had the good fortune to nab Cy and his trio for the first night of our jazz festival. The previous night, I'd been flicking around TV and in quick succession heard Cy’s "I Love My Wife" as a theme song for a cable show, Sinatra singing "Witchcraft," and a commercial using "If My Friends Could See Me Now". My opening speech was all about how Cy’s music has pervaded our culture, how it was virtually impossible not to hear some of his music every single day. Cy came out and was clearly touched by my introduction. A few weeks later I was preparing a show in Greenwich Village called Singular Sensations where I’d interview and accompany legendary musical theater people like Carol Channing, Donna McKechnie and others. Cy's manager, always protective, phoned him to confirm I could handle such an undertaking. His manager reported to me that Cy, who didn’t suffer fools gladly, told him in no uncertain terms, “Oh yes. Glen can do it.” For me, his approval, was a tremendous gift.

***

I had different relationship with all of these giants, but I will always remember the days spent in those musty rehearsal studios working out the numbers. I have to believe that although we have lost monumental artists, they are not finished. In fact, heaven is a bit more heavenly now with Fred doing Piaf for Piaf, Onna telling Mozart to give her some giraffe music, and Cy jamming with Dizzy, surprising him by playing in unexpected keys. Now that’s theater!

Glen Roven


JACK THE RIPPER WALKING TOUR

I know this sounds as corny as the wax works at Madame Taussaud’s, but trust me, it ain’t. It’s my favorite walk offered by The Original London Walks, the group that organizes hourly tours with subjects ranging from “Charles Dickens’s London” to “Princess Diana’s London,” from “The Old Jewish Quarter Tour” to the “Beatles Magical Mystery.” Show up at the Tube Stop, meet your guide, pay your £4 and you’re off. In two hours, see and learn more about London than most Londoners will ever know in a lifetime. “Jack The Ripper Haunts” meets Sunday nights at 7:30 PM at the Tower Hill Tube and is led by Donald (the world’s leading “Ripper-ologist”) Rumbelow. He escorts his group through the East End of London describing in gory detail the wheres and hows of each murder finishing at “The Ten Bells,” the pub where the prostitute-victims drank their final pints. Despite initial protestations from visiting friends, they invariably return to my flat in a Victorian frenzy saying, “That was the best thing we’ve done in London.”

SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE

Fact: theatre is better in London. Don’t argue. It’s true. They take it more seriously, young people go, and despite the protestations from artists that it is under-funded, the government gives the institutions buckets of money. The most astonishing theatrical experience takes place at the Globe, a recreation of Shakespeare’s playhouse, the “Wooden ‘O’” itself. What initially seemed to the cognoscenti (or “luvvies” as they’re called over here) a potentially Disney-fied experience has proven the opposite. To hear an actor deliver a Soliloquy directly to the Groundlings from a bare stage with only the sun for illumination redefines Shakespeare; in fact, it redefines theatre in general. It almost makes any theatrical innovation since 1595 seem obsolete and twee. Who needs scenery, lighting, helicopters, when you can connect, one on one, with the most glorious poetry ever written? Granted, not every actor is great, not every production is flawless, but, as a rule, these are life-changing experiences. Especially for a theatergoer.

Glen Roven


The Dakota

When I was kid trying to escape the monotony of Flatbush, I’d take the D train across the bridge each Saturday to the place I really belonged: Manhattan. Despite all the mysteries and glories I discovered , I remember the rush I got walking up Central Park West and coming upon that behemoth of a building for the first time, that German Gothic, French Renaissance, English Victorian cacophony called the Dakota. Of course, I didn’t know the architectural styles when I was 15. I only knew this wasn’t Brooklyn. This wasn’t Flatbush. This was glamour. This was sophistication. This was Manhattan. Although half-shutters mask the first floor windows, you can still peer into an apartment or two, now as then; I was dazzled by the enormous rooms, and the spectacular architectural details. I remember wondering, “Who lives here? What kind of people can be surrounded by this luxury.”

Of course this was before December 8th, 1980 when John Lennon was killed outside. Now tourists come by the score to pay their respects and /or gawk. But, when I first discovered the building, it’s pop-culture claim to fame was that it was was where Rosemary’s Baby was set.

The Dakota was designed by Henry Hardenburgh who also designed the Plaza Hotel. Legend has it that it was called the Dakota because it was so distant from the then urban hub. About ten years ago the grime of New York City was sandblasted away and now, instead of the black sooty color I remember, it’s a camel-hair tan. It seemed more gothic, more foreboding with the dirt, but I still can look at it for hours in amazement: the moldings, the terra-cotta panels, the corner pavilions and the story book gables and roofing.

Don’t try to penetrate its court yard. The ever present guard knows exactly who should be there and who shouldn’t. The apartments are for Yoko, Betty, Rex, Mia, and their friends. But we, the mere mortals, can still marvel at the magnificence. I’ve lived on the Upper West Side for over twenty-five years, but every time I walk down 72nd Street , I still become the 15 year old from Brooklyn, gazing up in amazement at my favorite building in New York.
Glen Roven

ON WITH THE SHOW

Every block had one and I was it: the queer. I grew up in the early sixties in Flatbush, Brooklyn long before queer had any sort of positive, ACT-UP connotation. It was merely one of the epitaphs hurled at me along with the usual fag, sissy, pansy and homo. These were the words that supposedly wouldn’t break my bones.

Naturally, I was excluded from all the block sport. I couldn’t catch a ball to save my life and to this day I still throw like a girl. But quite honestly, I was one, thrilled outcast. Being gay made me feel special, different from the Brooklyn thugs who lived on my block, and the kids who would be stuck in Brooklyn for an eternity while I would make my fame and fortune in Manhattan. For an occasional nanosecond, I did miss the camaraderie of playing on a team. Although having a real friend instead of Lucille Ball and Wally Cleaver might have been nice, I had my world and they had theres; I was fine with the uncrossable rubicund between us.

The big game on Marlborough Road was stoop-ball. Most of the houses had two sets of steps leading up to the front doors. After buying a new Pensy-Pinky or a Spaulding at Lamston’s around the corner, the boys would spend hours throwing the ball against the upper set of stairs, each step having a higher point value, the lowest being 5 and the highest 50. If you were able to throw the ball so that it didn’t bounce on the way back to the street the points doubled. Occasionally, I was recruited to help with the math when my friends couldn’t figure out what came after 1,999. I assured them it was a trillion.

Who needed to play ball outside, anyway? I was quite content to stay in my room and play at something I seemed to have an innate talent for: big Broadway musicals.

These were not just any run-of-the-mill productions. These were extravaganzas complete with (homemade) costumes, an orchestra (my scratchy 78s on a little red, portable record player), and a cast of thousands (the three girls on the block I could recruit)—each and every production directed, choreographed and starring me.

The only cast albums around were my mother’s old 78 recordings of Rodgers and Hammerstein shows. So my Broadway reviews consisted of the four of us lip-syncing to Mary Martin as she Washed That Man Right Out of Her Hair or Cockeyed Optimist (although I was certain that the title was Cockeyed Optometrist and consequently had the entire cast in cardboard cut-out glasses). We would usually end with the Grand Finale: Oklahoma! complete with trenches.

Where I picked this up is anybody’s guess. I hadn’t seen a Broadway musical yet, so it must have been the occasional movie musical on TV. Perhaps it was the perennial running of Wizard of OZ, or Peter Pan. Maybe it’s just in the genes. However this form of entertainment seeped into my consciousness, it filled my mind at a very, very early age. I’m sure my parents’ friends never forgot my definitive version of “People Will Say We’re In Love” sung to my sister’s Chatty Cathy.

For those who are already shaking their heads in horror about the little-gay-boy-putting-on-shows-in-his-bedroom, I fear it gets worse. My parents took me to Balanchine’s Nutcracker at the New York City Ballet and my life changed.

Not that I became a ballet dancer, but I saw how magnificent professional theatre could be. By a happy coincidence, the most celebrated, commercially successful Christmas show in NYC was also produced by the great titan of twentieth Century ballet. I venture to say any kid with artistic ambitions who had the momentous fortune to see this ballet at an early age was forever changed. I still vividly remember the ballet’s two children peeping though the key-hole trying to see the great Christmas tree. And then there was the theatrical coup as the painted scrim of the door dissolved through and we could see the guests actually trimming the tree. Amazing!

When I returned to my rehearsal room—bedroom--I knew I had to move on. Out were the tacky, under-rehearsed Broadway numbers with the amateurs from the block. Sorry Denise, sorry, Suzie. I needed professionals. Luckily, Elise Brodsky, a girl in my first grade class was already taking ballet lessons and when I suggested a full-length production of the Nutcracker with a cast of two, she jeteéd at the chance.

Unfortunately, this production never came off and I learned a valuable lesson that would hold me in good stead over the years. Stars are different. Stars are temperamental. Stars want things. Elise and I easily divided up the solos in the ballet: she would be the Sugar Plum Fairy, I would be the Mouse King, she would be Marie, I would be Fritz. But when it came to the Candy Cane dance, we reached an impasse. She wanted it and I wanted it too. In fact, I had already cut my hula-hoop in half so I could do the jumpy bit over the multi-striped candy cane.

No matter what I did or how I pleaded, Elise wanted to dance that Variation. I offered more money, better billing, the final curtain call, all the things that you learn to do early in the game. Still no movement. Negotiations collapsed. So, I did what any budding entrepreneur had to do: I cancelled the production. Artistic differences.

It was back to Broadway for me. Back to Mary Martin and the toilet paper wigs for Washing That Man Out Of My Hair. Back to real show business. And when my parents bought me a 60’s style tree-lamp reading light with three adjustable lights for studying, I knew I was right where I belonged. If I took a white sheet off my bed and painted a doorway on it, and if the tree light was positioned just right, we almost had a bleed-through effect. This wasn’t a game. This was theatre.

THE VIOLINST AS SUPERSTAR

The audience is clapping, stomping and shouting his name. He teases them by making them wait. When he finally comes out-- his hair flowing, all dressed in black-- they are in a virtual frenzy. When he plays, the rumors of his Satanic connections are confirmed; no one could play like that, whispered the kids, who wasn’t involved with the dark side. He leaves the stage as quickly as he arrives. The women who weren’t fainting ran down the isles screaming for him to return. But he had left the building the same way he came in: in a black coach drawn by black horse.
Who is this musician? Mick Jagger? Marilyn Manson? No. The year was 1800 and the musician who mesmerized his audience was violinist, Niccolo Paganini. While Mozart’s concerti raised the violin concerto to it’s highest pitch of classical maturity and Beethoven’s violin concerto opened the way for a more romantic approach, Paganini revolutionized the instrument by making the neck longer and with a combination of showmanship, “devilish” technique and his sheer physical presence, became music’s first, true Superstar.
This afternoon we are honored to welcome Israeli violinist, Hagai Shaham to our second Chamber Music concert here at Mountain Laurel. Hagai and I will explore the many aspects of the Violin, concentrating on the Romantic Style pioneered by Mr. P. We will also talk about Grieg’s Piano Sonata #3 and a fantastic piece by Hubay who taught Ilona Feher who taught both Hagai and Ittai Shapira, who will perform here on November 29th.
In keeping with our commitment to new music, Hagai will be playing a piece by Menachem Zur a wonderful, award-winning composer, which was written for his son. Mr. Zur is here today and will talk about his piece, Prelude for Violin Solo.
Conchord, our first group of artists, was blown away by the warm reception they received here at MLCPA, and I was thrilled when I learned that more than half of the audience bought CDs. That meant that we really connected with our audience. Which is our goal, the goal of every artist. Enjoy Hagai and I look forward to our next concert.

Glen Roven

PS. And if you now like classical music, what till you see what we can do with Shakespeare!
INSPIRATION

The year is 1807. We are in a fifth-floor dilapidated studio in the middle of a brutal Viennese winter. Freezing wind blows through the tattered curtains of a broken window. Beethoven is struggling to write a new symphony but the music paper is blank. He’s too worried about his bills and debts to concentrate. Suddenly, his landlord begins pounding on his door. Bang Bang Bang Baaaang. ‘Where is the rent?!’ Bang Bang Bang Baaaang. “Mein Gott!” shouts Ludwig as if struck by lightening. “That’s it. Bang Bang Bang Baaang. My fifth symphony.”
Now, even I, one of the most gullible people alive, don’t believe that. (In actuality, people say that a sweet little bird-call inspired Ludwig’s famous 4 note “fate theme.”) But the point is this: all composers, artists in general, are inspired by something and I would say 99.99% of the time, that ‘something’ certainly not a bolt out of the blue.
This first of our Family Chamber Concerts here at Mountain Laurel is titled, Inspiration, and this morning I will attempt to offer a little insight into two pieces that have been inspired by material written by other people.
The first is by the aforementioned Beethoven who took a famous theme of Mozart’s and spun out variations.
The other is a World Premier by a young English composer Nicholas Korth, who is here with us to day. Korth’s piece was inspired by a Whitman poem. In fact, every concert will feature a new composer and most of them will be here to discuss their pieces. (This is, in fact, our second world premier here at Mountain Laurel; the first, The Nightingales Prepare, was premiered by Dick Hyman in June.)

Music can be the most communicative force between human beings. From Beethoven to Korth, it contains human thoughts and emotions that cannot (and should not!) be expressed in words. Now, it is not my intention to cram 4 years of music theory into a 40-minute lecture. But I’m hoping to give you a key that might unlock the door to a couple of pieces of music. Hopefully, you’ll be inspired to come back and hear the next 4 afternoon concerts. Or even go out and hear another concert on your own. That would be great!
Enjoy.


THAT’S ALL FOLK


Before Stravinsky, before Wagner, before Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, even before Pope Gregory had his holy boys sing his Greg-orian chants, there was music. And it was made by the people, the common people, the folk. Thus, folk music.

While prehistoric cavemen were carving out their bison on the walls, they were also discovering they all got rhythm; although none of their music survives today, it is safe to assume they were sitting around the campfire singing of the day’s conquests or chanting fervently for good weather tomorrow.

Throughout history, people would make up little tunes and pass them down to their children or teach them to neighbors. And the tunes spread and spread even without MTV. In fact, during the middle ages, when there were no newspapers, people would get the 411 from strolling singing minstrels who offered the headlines sung to popular tunes. One of the chief differences between folk music and classical music is that classical music is written down, while folk music remains in the collective memory of the people.

As musical performances became more formalized, the so-called serious composers discovered they had a wealth of material at their fingertips, if they incorporated these folk tunes into their compositions. This had nothing to do with being lazy (Mozart could clearly compose an original melody); rather by using a tradition tune, the composer could imbibe his compositions with a national fervor. Imagine a 120 piece orchestra playing a huge symphony by Mahler and suddenly a traditional German folk tune makes an appearance. It practically whipped the audience into a nationalistic frenzy.

Composers loved doing it. Even Stravinsky’s quintessential 20th Century composition, The Rite of Spring, is filled with Russian folk music.

In today’s program, Ittai Shapira and I will explore music inspired by folk music. The Dvorka Sonatina is a piece he wrote for his children, aged 10 and 12 at the time. It is full of Czech and Native American melodies. David Heath’s, Lochaish, is named after a train station in Scotland. This piece is heavily influenced by Celtic elements.

The American Rag, a traditional folk style, is explored in a classical style with the composer, John Novacek playing his Ragtimes with Ittai.

And, as always, we bring you a world premier. Ittai has composed the Virtuoso Variations based on a children song that he grew up with.

Once again, we wish to thank our loyal and dedicated Mountain Laurel Audience for their support. The last concert with the Berlin Philharmonic was a triumph. The players were ecstatic about their reception and look forward to returning many times. They said you were their best audience ever. Quite a compliment, indeed.

Glen Roven

THE COLOR OF MUSIC

The Berlin Philharmonic is the greatest orchestra in the world. Now that’s a pretty big statement especially given our musical neighbors to the north and south, but in this free country, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and that is mine. And by way, I’m right.

My partners and I feel honored and privileged to present the members of this prestigious orchestra here at Mountain Laurel, especially in this intimate environment.

The Berlin Philharmonic was founded in 1882. In their early days some of the most important names in music have conducted them including Hans Von Bulow, Brahms, Greig, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss and the legendary Wilhelm Furtwangler. Peter Tchaikovsky, a frequent guest said, “The splendid Philharmonic possesses a special quality for which I can find no more appropriate expression than elasticity. They are a self-governing body, they play for their own benefit and not for an entrepreneur who takes the lion’s share of the profits.”

Given the glorious artists whom we have today, I thought I would explore the different colors found in an orchestra. I’m constantly asked why a particular instrument plays a particular passage and how does the composer know when to use a French horn instead of a clarinet? This morning I plan to answer some of these questions as well as explain the delicate balance that makes up Chamber Music.

As this is the most important orchestra in the world, I thought I would discuss and explain Sonata Allegro form, arguably the most important form in Classical Music. I’ll discuss the themes and development of Dohnanyi’s Sextet in C Major. Dohnanyi is a composer I wasn’t too familiar with but when I heard Ittai Shapira and Concertante (who will be appearing here at our next concerts) play his Quintet at Merkin Hall, I became his newest fan.

We are also continuing are commitment to contemporary music. Although Alban Berg won’t be with us today (because he’s dead!) I wanted to explore into his wonderful pieces for Clarinet and Piano. Berg is one of the first composers labelled as a “modern composer.” But as far as I’m concerned he’s just as romantic and accessible as Puccini.

Once again, I’m overjoyed that our audiences have been so enthusiastic. It continues to be a great pleasure for me to share with you some of the joys of this wonderful music. Sit back and come with me to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I wish we were serving schlag.

Glen Roven


THE COLOR OF MUSIC

The Berlin Philharmonic is the greatest orchestra in the world. Now that’s a pretty big statement especially given our musical neighbors to the north and south, but in this free country, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and that is mine. And by way, I’m right.

My partners and I feel honored and privileged to present the members of this prestigious orchestra here at Mountain Laurel, especially in this intimate environment.

The Berlin Philharmonic was founded in 1882. In their early days some of the most important names in music have conducted them including Hans Von Bulow, Brahms, Greig, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss and the legendary Wilhelm Furtwangler. Peter Tchaikovsky, a frequent guest said, “The splendid Philharmonic possesses a special quality for which I can find no more appropriate expression than elasticity. They are a self-governing body, they play for their own benefit and not for an entrepreneur who takes the lion’s share of the profits.”

Given the glorious artists whom we have today, I thought I would explore the different colors found in an orchestra. I’m constantly asked why a particular instrument plays a particular passage and how does the composer know when to use a French horn instead of a clarinet? This morning I plan to answer some of these questions as well as explain the delicate balance that makes up Chamber Music.

As this is the most important orchestra in the world, I thought I would discuss and explain Sonata Allegro form, arguably the most important form in Classical Music. I’ll discuss the themes and development of Dohnanyi’s Sextet in C Major. Dohnanyi is a composer I wasn’t too familiar with but when I heard Ittai Shapira and Concertante (who will be appearing here at our next concerts) play his Quintet at Merkin Hall, I became his newest fan.

We are also continuing are commitment to contemporary music. Although Alban Berg won’t be with us today (because he’s dead!) I wanted to explore into his wonderful pieces for Clarinet and Piano. Berg is one of the first composers labelled as a “modern composer.” But as far as I’m concerned he’s just as romantic and accessible as Puccini.

Once again, I’m overjoyed that our audiences have been so enthusiastic. It continues to be a great pleasure for me to share with you some of the joys of this wonderful music. Sit back and come with me to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I wish we were serving schlag.

Glen Roven


THE COLOR OF MUSIC

The Berlin Philharmonic is the greatest orchestra in the world. Now that’s a pretty big statement especially given our musical neighbors to the north and south, but in this free country, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and that is mine. And by way, I’m right.

My partners and I feel honored and privileged to present the members of this prestigious orchestra here at Mountain Laurel, especially in this intimate environment.

The Berlin Philharmonic was founded in 1882. In their early days some of the most important names in music have conducted them including Hans Von Bulow, Brahms, Greig, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss and the legendary Wilhelm Furtwangler. Peter Tchaikovsky, a frequent guest said, “The splendid Philharmonic possesses a special quality for which I can find no more appropriate expression than elasticity. They are a self-governing body, they play for their own benefit and not for an entrepreneur who takes the lion’s share of the profits.”

Given the glorious artists whom we have today, I thought I would explore the different colors found in an orchestra. I’m constantly asked why a particular instrument plays a particular passage and how does the composer know when to use a French horn instead of a clarinet? This morning I plan to answer some of these questions as well as explain the delicate balance that makes up Chamber Music.

As this is the most important orchestra in the world, I thought I would discuss and explain Sonata Allegro form, arguably the most important form in Classical Music. I’ll discuss the themes and development of Dohnanyi’s Sextet in C Major. Dohnanyi is a composer I wasn’t too familiar with but when I heard Ittai Shapira and Concertante (who will be appearing here at our next concerts) play his Quintet at Merkin Hall, I became his newest fan.

We are also continuing are commitment to contemporary music. Although Alban Berg won’t be with us today (because he’s dead!) I wanted to explore into his wonderful pieces for Clarinet and Piano. Berg is one of the first composers labelled as a “modern composer.” But as far as I’m concerned he’s just as romantic and accessible as Puccini.

Once again, I’m overjoyed that our audiences have been so enthusiastic. It continues to be a great pleasure for me to share with you some of the joys of this wonderful music. Sit back and come with me to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I wish we were serving schlag.

Glen Roven