Tag Archives: University of Maryland Concert Choir

Chicago Symphony Chorus treated as Second Class Musicians

Update (29 abril/April 2019): Well, the strike by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has ended due to the intervention of Chicago’s corporatist mayor — who shall remain nameless — and his connections to the super-wealthy. Even though the outcome of the strike has been described as a “compromise,” in the end CSO management accomplished their goals defined in their (what was called) “last, best and final” offer. They accomplished their major goal of gutting fully-paid retirement plans. From the beginning to the end of the strike, the Chicago Symphony Chorus was never mentioned in the articles I read, as if they don’t exist. I was turned off by some of the comments made by the CSO musicians when the strike ended who referred to the CSO as “the greatest Orchestra in the country” and that they would be returning to their audience, “the best audience in the country.” Here we go again with USians having to pump themselves up with the “we are the greatest” pabulum. Even if the CSO were “the great Orchestra in the US” — and how exactly does one determine that? — shouldn’t somebody else be saying that, and not the musicians? What happened to modesty and humbleness CSO musicians? Your comments come off to me as extremely arrogant. Then you have the “best audience” remark/nonsense, which is equally a turn-off. All of this reminds me of a form of Chicago territorial nationalism, and it’s rather childish. “Our Orchestra is better than your Orchestra and we have the best audience, you don’t. Na na na na na.” (roll eyes) You can stand around and pat yourselves on the back and feed yourselves feel-good pabulum (lies?) about how great you think you are, but does it matter at this point when in the end your management got what they wanted? Strikes seem about as futile as protests these days. With the exception of the Gilets Jaunes/Yellow Vests in France, now in their 23rd or 24th consecutive Saturday of protests throughout the country. Their protests have generated some “reforms” from French President Emmanuel Macron, but not enough to fulfill their wishes. So, their protests continue. I think they are banned from protesting on the wealthy Av. des Champs-Élysées. Gilets Jaunes are rather vigilant. Unusual these days. You’d never see that here in the US. Here, especially in the San Francisco, the only thing that people are “vigilant” on is their phone. For the phone zombies, it’s their entire life. Chau.—el barrio rosa

Hola a todos. You’d never know that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has its own Chorus — the Chicago Symphony Chorus — by the coverage of the Orchestra’s strike, going into its seventh week as of this writing. “Outlook is dim” wrote one article I read about the strike.

You’d also never know that the CSO has its own Chorus by any of the free performances given by the CSO in Chicago during the strike because they’ve not included their Symphony Chorus — members of or the Full Chorus — in any performances. Why is that? They’ve only performed orchestral works.

I haven’t heard, because no one is even mentioning the Chorus, but does the elitist management want to erode the salaries of the all-paid Chicago Symphony Chorus too? I don’t know, since nothing has been written about them. According to the performance schedule I saw, the CSO Chorus doesn’t have a performance with the CSO until the latter part of June 2019, and that’s opera, of all things, as opposed to what one might think they would be performing: a symphonic choral work since they are a Symphony Chorus after all, and not an Opera Chorus. They are two different instruments, hence the two names.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is on strike (which I support) for some of the usual reasons that major symphony orchestras go on strike these days. They rejected — what was called — managements (here we go) “last, best and final” offer almost two weeks ago. Elitist management with their bloated executive salaries proposed destroying the musicians defined-benefit pensions. They also imposed the predictable salary cuts. In the negotiations, the elitist Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA) Board which is controlled by billionaires and Chicago’s one-percent, would not agree to the musicians’ demands regarding pensions or salary. And the bourgeois management — incapable of feeling shameful — has cancelled all performances through the end of April 2019. In the meantime, members of and or the full CSO have been giving free concerts around Chicago, without the Chicago Symphony Chorus.

I sense that the Chorus does not have (quite) the same reputation it had during the years that its Founder’s name (Margaret Hillis) was attached to it, but then that was a different time and era. And nothing stays the same, does it? Even corruption doesn’t stay the same. It gets worse and worse and more vile. And many people become the opposite of who and what they were as people.

For some time, I’ve had little to no regard for the so-called elitist “management” — they’re usually corporate parasites — that run or try to wreck/ruin musical organisations. We’ve seen this over and over.

I was pleased to see CSO Conductor Riccardo Muti join the strikers and not side with the corporate parasites.

This story has repeated itself time and time again. Why do orchestras need an elitist and out-of-touch group of people called “management?” Now I know why “management” exists, but I think the “management” should be entirely comprised of the musicians themselves, including the members of the Chorus and not elitist corporate parasites. Someone might say: “The musicians have enough to do as it is without being their own management or part there of. The musicians want to play and make music, and not do all that other stuff.” That’s true and I understand that, but this is exactly the problem you run into when billionaires, corporate parasites and non-musicians try to run a musical ensemble. Utter disrespect for the musicians.

To my knowledge, the Chicago Symphony Chorus is still an all-paid Orchestra Chorus. Also to my knowledge, the CSO Chorus is the only all-paid Symphony Chorus in the country/the US. By contrast, only twenty-percent of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus are paid, something the choristers had to fight for and they used the CSO Chorus as an example. I know because I was there at the time. Margaret Hillis, Founder and Director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, offended many San Francisco Symphony Chorus members when she had the nerve to give her opinion during a rehearsal with the Chorus (rather than staying neutral) and sided with San Francisco Symphony management who were bringing her here at the time from Chicago as interim San Francisco Symphony Chorus Director. I remember her saying, “Professional does not mean paid.” Someone should have stood and said, “Well since ‘professional does not mean paid,’ Ms Hillis, may we assume that you won’t mind volunteering your professional services here for free so as to save SFS management the thousands of dollars they’re paying you in salary and to fly you back and forth from here to Chicago to prepare this Chorus? Can we count on you for that, Ms Hillis? Since again, as you say, ‘professional does not mean paid.’ Wouldn’t you like to set an example of that for us? I’m merely making an enquiry, Ms Hillis.” As she’s standing there with a red face and boiling inside from being put on the spot in front of the entire San Francisco Symphony Chorus after sticking her nose into it and supporting “management” with her all-paid Chicago Symphony Chorus. Yes, I’m sure she would have gone for that. The hypocrisy!

To my knowledge, all other Orchestra Choruses in the US are all-volunteer, including orchestras with their own Chorus, such as the 200-voice Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus and the Boston Symphony Orchestra and its currently beleaguered Tanglewood Festival Chorus. By the way, someone came to pink barrio recently searching, “Tanglewood Festival Chorus Christmas performance poor.” Oh dear. Well, TFC Chorus Director, James Burton, is currently working to bring the TFC up to the standards of choral excellence expected of the Official Chorus of the BSO.

It should also be pointed out that “all-volunteer” does not mean amateur in this case. These are professional Orchestra Choruses I’m talking about whether they’re paid or not. They all should be fully-paid, just like the Orchestra for which they serve as the Chorus for. Rather than relegating the Chorus to Second Class Musicians’ status.

The Chicago Symphony Chorus became quite a stellar instrument during the Solti years under Founder and Chorus Director, Margaret Hillis, who was appointed by Fritz Reiner. I trained my “choral ear” on the Chicago Symphony Chorus under Hillis/Solti from their recordings. The same performances that won nine Grammy Awards in the Best Choral Performance category under Ms Hillis. I read online in recent years that some of the choristers of the CSO Chorus complained that Ms Hillis was “too nit picky.” (roll eyes) I bet they didn’t say that when they won nine Grammy’s! Being “nit picky” is partly how one earns a Grammy for Best Choral Performance. Ms Hillis’s rehearsal style was very serious; she didn’t mess around. She was superb with a Chorus, even though I didn’t care much for her personality.

Under the current Chorus Director (since Hillis), the Chicago Symphony Chorus has only won one Grammy.

The Men of the CSO Chorus continue to be as superb as they were under Hillis (or at least they were in their Beethoven’s Ninth performance that I heard), but the sopranos and altos are not quite as good, in my opinion. Their soprano section suffers from what seems to be an increasing problem in the US: some shrill, screechy ugly sounds in the sopranos upper register with some noticeable (but needless) vibrato, which I heard in their Beethoven’s Ninth performance. I didn’t hear any of this when the Chorus was prepared by Margaret Hillis. They always sang with a velvety rich smooth, polished sound under Ms Hillis. I suspect if she were alive today and walked into a rehearsal, she would say in her baritone-alto voice: “Sopranos, we need to do a bit of fine-tuning with you. It seems that something has gone a bit haywire since I left and when you won all those Grammys.”

The absence of any mention or participation of the CSO Chorus during the strike, once again, relegates choristers of the highest caliber to that of second class musician status, and I’m sick of it frankly. The thinking seems to be that “they’re just the Chorus; they don’t matter. They’re not real musicians.” Yes, but of course. Just like the Orchestra is “just the Orchestra. They’re not real musicians either, are they?” I bet no one thinks that! Sadly, musically-ignorant people look at choristers differently than they do other musicians. Anyone who thinks that “the Chorus is just the Chorus” doesn’t have a clue what is involved in being in a Symphony Chorus of this caliber and what it takes to get in the Chorus in the first place. I think most people probably think — particular those with no ear for music — that being in a Symphony Chorus is no different than being in one’s podunk church choir, even though no comparison can be made.

Even if the Chicago Symphony Chorus is not at all being affected by the strike, they should indeed still be mentioned and acknowledged in articles about the strike — such as, “the Chicago Symphony Chorus is not affected by this strike” — since they are the Official Chorus for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Again, I’ve not read that the Symphony Chorus has been included in any free performances the CSO has given to the community. The Symphony Chorus — either the Full Chorus or the Chamber Chorus (a smaller group of them) — could easily perform any number of symphonic choral works with the Orchestra. Works they prepared earlier for this season and previous seasons. A Chorus of this caliber has quite a repertoire at-the-ready. They could perform their Beethoven’s Ninth again, as one example. The Orchestra recently performed at a rather large apostolic church in Chicago. The Chorus could have performed there with the Orchestra, but didn’t. I’ve also read nothing about the choristers being on the picket lines to support their orchestral musicians.

“The Big Three”

Assuming there is a next season, the CSO has announced the 2019-20 season and two of “The Big Three” are programmed:

Händel’s Messiah
Beethoven’s Ninth
Orff’s Carmina Burana

Yes, we’re now down to “The Big Three.” Why are they called “The Big Three?” Because they are pretty much the only symphonic choral works that the sheeple will support these days. (Sigh). Mostly gone are oratorios, Bach cantatas and other symphonic choral works, such as Ralph Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony. I haven’t seen anyone programme that in the US. There has been a run on the Rossini Stabat Mater in the last couple years with at least two major orchestras and their Chorus or a guest Chorus performing it. Even Mendelssohn’s Elias/Elijah hasn’t survived and that was one of the more frequently performed oratorios in its day. Put back on dusty archive shelves. I had noticed this sometime ago about “The Big Three,” and DC Chorus Director, Robert Shafer, confirmed that. He’s the former Chorus Director for The Washington Chorus (they used to be known as the Oratorio Society of Washington and performed in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall). He’s also Professor Emeritus of Shenandoah Conservatory where he prepared some of the Conservatory’s choral ensembles.

For the 2019-20 season, Chicago is also performing two of “The Big Three:” The Orff and the Beethoven. “The mighty Ninth” in their language. “The mighty Ninth” language appears at least twice on the brochure. I guess some “management” people sat around a conference room table and said, “We’ll call the Ninth ‘mighty’ and the Orff ‘powerful’. Does everyone agree with that? Good.” Yes, there’s all this hyped language throughout the brochure about the pieces to be performed. Another example: “Carl Orff’s powerful Carmina Burana.” And related to my earlier article about vocal soloists-screamers, this is how the CSO “management” is marketing their screamers: “Muti is joined by the CSO Chorus and a cast comprising some of the world’s most distinguished international vocalists.” But I thought that some of the world’s most distinguished vocalists were in the CSO Chorus, so why aren’t they serving as soloists? They could easily do so. It’s the usual: Baiting the public to come to the performance because of the “world’s most distinguished CAST of vocalists.” If they were being honest about it, it would read “A CAST of screamers,” since that’s what most of them amount to. For the 2019-20 season, it looks like the Chicago Symphony Chorus has only 4-5 performances with the Orchestra all season. Other orchestras have really reduced their performances of symphonic choral works as well.

(This paragraph has been corrected. Were 1-2 more performances added for each Chorus since when I first looked at the brochures for the season? Or were they on another page that I somehow missed? Maybe I should stop listing specifically what Orchestra Choruses are doing since the list looks a bit different when I go back months later, then I look like I’m presenting incorrect information which is not my intent. Regardless…) For the current 2018-19 season, the Kennedy Center’s National Symphony Orchestra programmed all of “The Big Three.” The Choral Arts Society of Washington have three performances with them: Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, Philip Glass’s Itaipu and one of “The Big Three:” Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. The Washington Chorus have two performances with the NSO: Lera Auerbach’s Arctica (Kennedy Center Concert Hall) and one of “The Big Three:” Beethoven’s Ninth at Wolf Trap. The University of Maryland Concert Choir came in with two engagements for the season. I think that’s correct: One of “The Big Three” (that war horse Messiah) and the Rossini Stabat Mater which they’re performing in May 2019 in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall and also in Carnegie Hall with the NSO. (Tongue in cheek: Is the Choral Arts Society “seething with envy” because the University of Maryland Concert Choir got the Carnegie Hall engagement and not them, as they did when the University of Maryland Chorus was awarded with similar invitations?) The Rossini performance is one that the now-retired and renowned University of Maryland Chorus would be performing with the NSO if The Maryland Chorus (as they were also known) were still around.

The Bottom Line: Orchestras are programming far fewer symphonic choral works these days than in the past (as when I was in major Orchestra Choruses). Because the public will only support “The Big Three?” It seems that I came along at the best time; when the performance of symphonic choral works were at their height. For example, when I was in the Choral Arts Society of Washington, Norman (Scribner) would announce the upcoming season at the beginning of a rehearsal. We’d have maybe 8 performances of major symphonic choral works, mostly with the NSO in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, or with one or two touring guest orchestras, such as The Cleveland Orchestra, for example. The same for the University of Maryland Chorus who usually had the most performances especially under Antal Doráti, since he preferred them, and Robert Shafer’s Oratorio Society of Washington would have one or two engagements with the NSO, since at that time they performed only oratorios, as their name specified. They later changed their name to The Washington Chorus.

As the CSO strike continues, I hope to eventually read something about the Chicago Symphony Chorus. Either about how the strike affects them and/or that they performed with the CSO in one or more of the free concerts. But at this rate, I suspect they’ll never be mentioned, or even invited to perform with the CSO while on strike. “They’re just the Chorus, you know.” (roll eyes/groan). Chau.—el barrio rosa

Related:

The Second Class Musicians

Review: Beethoven’s Ninth – San Francisco Symphony and Symphony Chorus

I’m looking for that song called Beethoven’s Ninth

Hola a todos. To most people, the musically-illiterate — especially in the shithole US where some people consider it “cool” to be stupid — any music they hear they call “a song,” including major Beethoven symphonies. Even though there’s no one singing in Beethoven’s Symphonies No. 1-8. There are people singing in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in d, Op. 125 (Choral) but Beethoven’s Ninth is not “a song.” It’s a symphony with part of its title being (Choral) in parentheses. And the people singing in the last movement of the Ninth are the Chorus and the vocal quartet (4 voices).1 What they are singing is not called “a song.”

On the rare occasion, some people will point out this mistake to others such as when someone wrote in a YT comment about a Rachmaninov piano concerto: “I love this song.” One person responded with: “That’s funny, I didn’t hear anyone singing in that.” Exactamente. Gracias for that. At least someone knows that a piano concerto is not “a song.”

I decided to write this article because I get so tired of reading comments from people referring to any piece of music as “a song.” I see this mainly in dumbed-down YT comments. It seems that people who have no music training — and even a few who do and who should know better, one wonders where they trained? — erroneously call any piece or work of classical music they hear “a song.” Very amateurish.

Alright class, here’s a bit of Conservatory of Music training for you:

Question: Do you hear anyone singing in a piano concerto?
Answer: No.
Then it’s not “a song.”

Question: Do you hear anyone singing in that clarinet piece?
Answer: No.
Then it’s not “a song.”

Question: Do you hear anyone singing in that flute concerto?
Answer: Again no, just the solo flautist/flutist playing and being accompanied by the Orchestra.
Therefore it’s not “a song.”

Question: Do you hear anyone singing in that violin concerto?
Answer: No.
No one is singing in any of the above music.
Then it’s not “a song.”

A song has to be sung. A song is usually sung by just one person, a solo voice.

A song can be sung by two people in what’s called a duet (a soprano and alto, for example). But even when you hear a Symphony Orchestra and Chorus perform the massive Berlioz The Grande Messe des morts (or Requiem), Op. 5, for example, where there are vocal soloists, that is not “a song.” In that case, it’s called a Requiem, as the title of the piece indicates. It’s a major work for Chorus and Orchestra. Even when one person is singing an aria in an oratorio — an oratorio is a sacred work for Orchestra and Chorus without costuming or scenery — that’s not called “a song” either. It’s called an aria. An aria is a lengthier, usually piano or orchestral-accompanied piece for a solo voice. Arias are found in oratorios and operas.

In music — especially the classical music genre — things have a specific name for what they are and they have that name, in part, to make things easier to identify. So when someone sloppily says, “I heard this song on the radio and I wanted to know who it was; I didn’t catch the name,” that would tell me nothing. I would be thinking maybe it was “a song” by perhaps Helen Reddy, Gloria Gaynor or some pop star, and not what the person was really looking for which was a Rachmaninov piano concerto they had heard that they are mistakenly calling “a song.” There is no one singing in any of the Rachmaninov concerti or in his concertante work for piano and orchestra, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

Another example of things having a special name for the piece in the classical music genre: Referring to one of my long-time favourite choral works, Händel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt for Double Chorus, someone asked in YT comments: “Is this song Lutheran?” This song? An oratorio is not “a song.” Have you ever known “a song” to last for 1.5 hours? I can’t think that I have. Most songs are relatively short, 5-7 minutes or less. Israel in Egypt — often called “the oratorio of choruses” because of the abundance of back-to-back choruses in the work — is one of Händel’s well-known works for Chorus, Orchestra and Soloists. It is not “a song.” Even though there are vocal solo passages in it, those passages are not called “a song.” And no, it’s not a Lutheran work. Another person referred to Israel in Egypt as “this opera.” Opera? That’s wrong too. Why would someone think it was an opera? There’s nothing operatic about it. (Sigh) Oh the ignorance out there! Opera is a large-scale production with costuming and scenery and heavy vibrato in the singing — or more accurately described as screaming — from the soloists and the Opera Chorus. Whereas an oratorio has no costuming or scenery and hopefully no vibrato in the Chorus (or soloists), but rather all choristers singing with a perfectly blended beautiful straight tone (no noticeable vibrato).

Referring to Rachmaninov’s Колокола, Kolokola/The Bells, Op. 35, someone wrote in a comment: “Rachmaninov is my favorite composer, but this is a strange song.”

The Bells is not “a song.” It’s a choral symphony. It’s a symphonic choral work for Chorus, Orchestra and two soloists. And what is “strange” about it? What’s your problem?

I see these things all this time, which is why I’m writing about it. It annoys me and nobody has the time to correct every fucking idiot out there that refers to “a song” whenever they hear any piece of classical music.

The problem here should be obvious at this point: It’s musical illiteracy, musical ignorance and a lack of music education here in the shithole US and our public school system. Music and arts programmes continue to be cut in the public schools here in The Cesspool. Which reminds me that I never see anyone — particularly any young people — carrying musical instruments with them these days. All I see anyone carrying and “practising” is their phone that’s nearly embedded in their face. There are millions of people with terrible posture all hunched over staring at their screen and never seeing where they live, other people or their surroundings. Pathetic really.

To seriously study a musical instrument one would have to overcome one’s immense phone addiction, turn that phone off and put it down in order to have full attention to one’s music. Music training requires one’s full concentration. I can attest to that. From what I see out there, that would be impossible for most people. Most people cannot take their eyes off that screen even if their shoes were on fire or if someone were standing in front of them with a gun. Instead, they would have to immediately go on millionaire-billionaire owned “social media” — if they weren’t already on there — and upload images of their shoes on fire or the person about to mug them with a gun to see how much attention they can get for that and see how many “Likes” they get. Meanwhile, the person with the guy has grabbed their phone and ran off. The phone zombie becomes more concerned about their phone than their life. That’s about the extent of it. Another example of the Century of Insanity. I’ve seen what appears to be lobotomised phone zombies walk right into metal street poles and street signs in front of my apartment building in San Francisco unable to look up from that phone embedded in their hand permanently. After they crash into it, then they glance up for a split second to see what that metal sound was that their head just banged into (it didn’t seem to hurt them; there’s nothing up there anyway with these lobotomised phone zombies), but they step slightly to the left and continue on mesmerised by that screen as if they’re reading the most important message in the world. Well, to be successful as a musician, one must have talent to begin with and lots of it, as well as intelligence, years of hard work are required (for professional musicians it’s a life-long pursuit), discipline and a long attention span. And of course some dinero/money helps to pay for classes and private instruction.

Music education continues to be a primary budget cut for US schools while the pro-war, imperialistic US Oligarchy spends hundreds of billions USD on the bottomless pit known as the Military Industrial Complex Killing Machine. That’s the indicator of a sick society. In fact, the pro-war, corporate one-party system with two names voted to give the narcissistic orange despot/international joke — who is void of any sense of human decency and who makes an ass of himself wherever he goes — a larger military budget than this basura had asked for. As I’ve written repeatedly, despite their theatrics to the contrary intended to deceive their constantly gullible cultist supporters, I think the fake-opposition party (the “Democratic” Party Cult) is really quite fond of the orange despot, who’s never served a day in the US military. (He and Nancy Pelosi — whom the voters of San Francisco keep returning to the House of Representatives no matter what she does for the Republicans — are certainly all smiles standing together in this image). The orange despot conveniently got a deferral from military service by getting a diagnosis for bone spurs. Did he have to pay extra to get that diagnosis or did it come legitimately? His other four deferments from US military service were for college enrollment. That’s odd. As stupid, willfully-ignorant and absolutely devoid of any semblance of human decency and “common sense,” clearly his college years were spent partying. And can one assume that his grades were given to him rather than earned by bullying the right people? Along with plenty of “pussy grabbing” along the way? Some people do go to college or university for the wrong reasons. Yet today he’s all “rah, rah, US military.” That’s so typical of those basura who love to rattle on about (fake) patriotism and nationalism. Could someone please buy him a GI Joe set or something so that might help him therapeutically work through his military fantasies.

But with the musically ignorant:

1) Everything in music is “a song.”
Or
2) If a performance involves a Chorus, it’s always called “opera,” by the sheeple, with few exceptions. I don’t know why someone sees an Orchestra/Symphony Chorus on stage and automatically thinks “opera.”

I guess to many people, anything vocal is opera. Perhaps that’s the thinking.

One exception being that I’ve never heard Händel’s Messiahthat ubiquitous warhorse dragged out every holiday season — called an opera and I haven’t heard it called “a song” either. And I suspect most people don’t know it’s an oratorio nor do they know what an oratorio is. Messiah is sometimes incorrectly referred to as “The Messiah.” The name of the oratorio is “Messiah” with no “The” in the title, as you can see here on this Editions Novello score (the authentic/performance edition score cover. I don’t see as many people making that mistake anymore, fortunately.

A brief aside: Händel’s Messiah along with Beethoven’s Ninth and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana are about the only symphonic choral works now on the “classical pops” list. Think: sheeple, “50 great classical moments” such as the perfunctory Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture, Beethoven’s Für Elise or Für Therese (the title of that piece is not definitive; take your pick on the correct title), The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a by Tchaikovsky, Pachabel’s Canon in D, Debussy’s Claire de lune, and the Rachmaninov PC #2 is being overplayed locally on one classical radio station. He wrote PC 1 & 4 as well, why not play those? There are many more pieces I could add to the “50 great classical moments” list and some are probably played more often than these pieces, but they’re not coming to mind at the moment. These were just off the top of my head. Also, when an Orchestra decides to do a choral work on the rare occasion these days, one can count on it being one of those three (Messiah, the Ninth and Carmina Burana) usually. Symphonic choral works and especially oratorios are being performed much, much less than they were when I was in Orchestra Choruses. I think it was for this past season looking at the schedule of performances with the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) in the Kennedy Center that the Choral Arts Society of Washington had only one engagement (they had 4-5 engagements each season with the NSO when I sang with them), the same for The Washington Chorus and the University of Maryland Concert Choir was performing Messiah. When the “now-retired” superb University of Maryland Chorus existed, they had numerous engagements throughout the season. During the Antal Doráti years with the NSO, Dr Paul Traver’s University of Maryland Chorus was practically the Official Chorus of the NSO. Doráti preferred them and chose them as often as possible, which pissed off the Choral Arts Society. The NSO used to do a lot more symphonic choral works than that, but that’s for another article.

But back to the topic, can’t the public get the name of anything correct? No, apparently not. That’s why some people show up here at pink barrio by having searched “Boston Symphony Orchestra Chorus,” because I’ve written about the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. No one has arrived here by searching “Tanglewood Festival Chorus.” There is no “Boston Symphony Orchestra Chorus.” That’s not the correct name. The BSO’s Official Chorus is called the Tanglewood Festival Chorus (TFC) having been founded by John Oliver for the Tanglewood Music Festival, the summer home of the BSO. The TFC have been around since the early 1970s with their name on the BSO programmes and with WGBH-Boston radio and television announcers crediting the Tanglewood Festival Chorus before and after their performances, yet musically-illiterate idiots with no attention to detail still don’t know what to call them. Astounding. To my knowledge, that wasn’t the case when I was in Orchestra Choruses. People seemed to know the names of choral ensembles back then. I heard performance-goers say, “that Maryland Chorus (referring to the University of Maryland Chorus which also went by the name “The Maryland Chorus”) can sing the shit out of choral music” (I heard someone say). Even one of my non-musical relatives who often listened to country music talked about the Choral Arts Society of Washington when I was in that. She didn’t say, “that Chorus, whatever the name of it is, that my relative is in….” But these days? Ugh. I swear, the dumbed-down public. But I need to keep in mind that choristers are often most unfortunately considered second class musicians, they’re not considered “real musicians” by much of the public and or by some orchestral management, so perhaps that explains that.

So class: I’ve attempted to cover this topic thoroughly and hope I’ve done so. If you’re unclear on what to call something that you hear in classical music, to be on the safe side use these words: “that piece” or “that work” or just use the name of the composition, the name of the piece listed in the title area such as Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2 in c minor. Or you would call that: This piano concerto. See how easy that is? And hopefully one learned something today. This Conservatory instruction has now ended. And you’ll never refer to a piece of music as “a song” again, unless it is “a song,” correct? Oh yes I’m sure. Ugh. (roll eyes) Chau.—el barrio rosa

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1 What usually sounds like a screaming quartet in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in d nearly always sounds like a train wreck (as one guy online astutely described it) because the four soloists — especially the screaming, heavy-vibrato soprano soloist — are not trying to sing beautifully and harmonise with each other. Instead, the soloists/screamers seem to be trying to out-scream, out-do each other as the prima donna some of them think they are. So the sound they’re producing sounds like over-singing, harsh screaming, as if they’re pushing their voices, which one should not do. It usually sounds awful. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the quartet in Beethoven’s Ninth where I said “what beautiful singing.” Instead, with those annoying soloists screaming (especially the soprano and tenor trying to out-do each other) it sounds more like opera even though Beethoven’s Ninth is not opera. Why does it seem to be a requirement to invite operatically-trained soloists to serve as the quartet whose voices cut through/scream through the entire Orchestra and Symphony Chorus? Then when it comes time to take bows, the quartet give the impression they think they have been the stars of the show, instead of the Orchestra and Symphony Chorus who were really the stars and performed most of the work. The screaming soloists have a small role in that piece. But every time I hear Beethoven’s Ninth which is over-performed these days, I have to bypass the sections featuring the quartet. I just can’t take it. I mean, anyone can scream to the point where it sounds like noise rather than music. And when vocalists these days say, “I’m classically-trained,” what they really mean to say is, “I’m a screamer and I scream with heavy-vibrato to cover up my pitch problems and my lack of vocal technique. You’ll hear me clear across town. I was trained with a megaphone-mouth.” That’s what it amounts to most of the time. Well Beethoven’s Ninth starts to sound like (screaming) opera when those soloists get going. But that’s acceptable because audiences have been brainwashed with this thinking that screaming, heavy-vibrato opera is equal to being well-heeled (Dahling), bougi (Dahling), upper class (Dahling) and of course white which is the dominant audience for opera (Dahling). I can’t stand hearing supposedly well-trained musicians mistaking screaming for beautiful singing with their god-awful wobbling vibrato, again, often used to cover up bad technique and vocal problems. And of course the Symphony Chorus should be singing with a lovely straight-tone (no noticeable vibrato whatsoever) otherwise I can’t listen to them either. And I don’t want to hear any cackling, shrill, harsh screaming sounds from the soprano section in their top register like I heard from the unrefined/unpolished wobbling and fluttering soprano section of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in one of their performances at the end of the Tanglewood Music Festival 2-3 years ago. It sounded awful. Clearly some of the choristers have been in that Chorus too long and their voices are no longer what they used to be. Not what I expect to hear from the Official Chorus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Lowered standards? I would say so. But there’s good news about that. As of this writing, James Burton, the TFC’s new Chorus Director hired from the UK is working to raise the standards of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. About time! But that’s for another article.