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Dawn Upshaw Explores New Music at Bard and Abroad

Music Scene

In a career spanning 30 years, the American five-time Grammy award winning mezzo-soprano Dawn Upshaw has carved out a distinctive niche for herself, especially as a champion of modern, contemporary and, most particularly, American music.
For that reason, her latest album of song cycles, “Winter Morning Walks” by Minnesota-born composer Maria Schneider is not exactly a departure, but certainly it is an interesting exploration. Schneider’s jazz-inflected compositions, a bit like Phillip Glass, stand somewhere on the periphery of contemporary classical music.

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Brahms and Watts, For Cold Relief

The Music Scene

The bone-chilling weather of the past few weeks calls for some kind of antidote. A tropical island, perhaps, a bit of grog by the fireplace.
But not for me. I’m thinking about Andre Watts’s upcoming concert with the Albany Symphony Orchestra, where he will be featuring the warmest of Brahms’ compositions, his Second Piano Concerto in B-flat Major.
The concerto was completed in 1881, in the most productive and successful period of the composer’s life.

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Music To See Too

The Music Scene

I have always appreciated Beyoncé as an artist. Her songs are powerful and catchy, her videos are impressive and her dance moves are legendary.
And at midnight on Friday, Dec. 13, she sent the Internet into a frenzy by releasing her fifth studio album, titled simply “Beyoncé,” on iTunes without any prior notice or promotion.
In a world where spoilers for every type of media — movies, television, music, books, you name it — are almost impossible to avoid, Beyoncé somehow achieved the impossible and kept this major release a secret from the world.

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Jazz and Baroque Finish the Year With Style

The Music Scene

The ever-fresh, ever-smooth John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey bring their brand of jazz and swing to the historic Mahaiwe in Great Barrington Dec. 28. Joining them is John’s dad, legendary jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli.
The husband-and-wife team are best known for their breezy public radio program, “Radio Deluxe.” They perform and record together and separately, around the country and around the world, and are credited with giving new energy to the Great American Songbook. As entertainers, they are relaxed, intimate, and effervescent.

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Music Performed In an Extraordinary Place

The Music Scene

Even on a chill, early-winter’s day, the Church of St. John in the Wilderness cuts a dashing, inviting figure.
Perched on a hill at the edge of the little hamlet of Copake Falls, NY, the Episcopal church is well-named. Next door is the headquarters for Taconic State Park. Continue up the road and you enter dark forests on the way to Bash Bish Falls.

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The Drought Ends

The Music Scene

It’s an interesting time to be a fan of A Perfect Circle. After a nine-year gap between albums, the rock group — which was formed by Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan and guitarist Billy Howerdel — just released five albums that chronicle the band’s entire discography through live tracks and a greatest hits collection.
Considering APC released but three studio albums between 2000 and 2004 (as well as “aMOTION,” a DVD and remix CD combo), unveiling five new albums at once can be a bit overwhelming, but diehard fans will surely want to add these new pieces to their collection.

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Seeking an American Sound

The Music Scene

No holiday is more American than Thanksgiving. Somewhere between myth and reality, it celebrates the survival of the Pilgrims through their first harsh seasons. The more mythical part may be the feel-good tale of Colonist-Indian relations, but that is not what interests me at the moment.
What interests me now is the fact that only one song — the hymn “We Gather Together” — has a clear association with the holiday. Contrast that with the hundreds if not thousands of Christmas carols and other songs. Even Hanukkah comes with a few tunes of its own, including the insipid dreidel song.

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Yearning for Peace

The Music Scene

Remember the Thirty Years’ War?
Neither do I. So I checked the modern-day Cliff Notes — Wikipedia — and read that it had to do with both sectarian and political struggles, spanned the reigns of Louis XIII of France and his son, Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” and devastated much of the population of Europe in the 1600s.
In other words, it was pretty much the same thing happening today in Syria or any number of other conflicts.

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From Prayer to Song

The Music Scene

It’s a special church service, Evensong, particularly strong as a tradition in the Anglican and Episcopal churches, in which the evening prayers are largely set to music. For the holiday of All Saints Day, celebrated on Nov. 1, two churches in our area—Trinity Lime Rock in Lakeville, CT, and St. Andrew’s in Kent, CT—will be holding evensong services.
I asked Christine Gevert, music director at Trinity Lime Rock (and of Crescendo), to describe evensong.

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Music New Now, Music New Back Then

The Music Scene

For the American Symphony Orchestra’s season-opening concert, music director Leon Botstein has chosen an eclectic program including a contemporary concerto, along with two works that might be thought of as straddling the early and mature careers of Felix Mendelsohn and Igor Stravinsky.
The present-day piece is Avner Dorman’s Piccolo Concerto.

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