farewell, Rosa!

My experience as the marketing intern at the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra has been very exciting and eye opening. I have learned and gained an incredible amount of valuable information. From learning to write copy for brochures and program books to using excel to create response reports; from scanning the music library of past performances for new podcast audio material and creating music clips to collecting biographies from musicians; from getting the opportunity to photograph antique harpsichords to giving my input during a promotional ideas marketing meeting. At LACO, I got the opportunity to really understand the ins and outs of what it takes to run the marketing department and the significance and importance of it within the organization. I even got to attend the annual board meeting and to help clean during the annual “grubby day;” a day on which instead of working at our desks we clean all day. It was tons of fun and I got to keep a bunch of cool things that were otherwise going to be thrown out (like CDs, posters and a pink stuffed Valentine’s Day elephant!).

read more →I am very grateful that I got the opportunity to be a part of such a great organization. Not only does it strive to bring great classical music to all ears but it also offers it to public elementary schools for free and to college students at the amazing $30 all access price. When I found out I could go to ALL the concerts for that price I almost had a heart attack! I am so glad that they make it affordable to students and I can’t wait for the season to start so that I can take advantage of this deal and see the results of my work in the program book. I feel very privileged to be working alongside very talented people both in the office and on stage. I am definitely going to miss LACO now that the internship is over, but an everlasting experience will remain in me. My appreciation for music (a cellist at heart) and for non-profit art organizations has grown even deeper. ↑ less ↑

welcome Patty!

Every summer, LACO welcomes a new high school intern from the Constitutional Rights Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to “assuring our country’s future by investing in our youth today.” I am happy to introduce you to this summer’s intern, Patty Sanchez, who works withLACO through mid-July:

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“All my summers have given me memorable moments, but I believe this summer with the LACO family I will have the most memorable and learning experiences of my life. Although I may not call myself a musician, music has always been there for me. Music has been my way of expressing myself, it has allowed for me to be whom I am and express what I feel. Even though I played the violin for a brief time, I can say it was a very rewarding experience. It taught me that practice and hard work always pay off. Music is an important part of my life because it has helped me through stressful times.

LACO has given me one of the biggest opportunities to grow as an individual and I am forever grateful. I believe that I will learn from this experience, I will become a more responsible young adult. Having been accepted into this internship I hope to give back more than I will gain. The older I get the more I realize the importance of growing as an individual. LACO has given me a chance to show how much of a hard worker I am and how much I am willing to do in order to learn and be more responsible. There are many things I hope to gain from this internship, but most importantly I hope I will be helpful and show that I am here to do whatever it is they need. Thank you LACO, I appreciate this grand opportunity.”

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charlie chaplin’s modern times

This year, LACO’s annual silent film screening features Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times and Kid Auto Races in Venice.

Kally Mavromatis of WelcomeToSilentMovies.com offers a bit of history into both the films and the man himself.

read more →It’s an enduring image: A man, trapped in a machine, rolling along the cogs, seemingly trapped into becoming a part of the machinery itself.

Pink Floyd may have welcomed us to the machine in the ‘70s, but Charlie Chaplin introduced it to us in the ‘30s with his film Modern Times, and it’s as remarkably relevant today as it was when it first premiered in 1936.

Modern Times is the story of the Little Tramp who, driven mad by his mind-numbing job in a factory, goes on a rampage and is taken to a hospital. Later he is mistaken for a Communist agitator and thrown in jail. Pardoned, he tries – and fails at – a variety of jobs, along the way meeting the “Gamine” (Paulette Godard). Just when all seems to be going well for the pair, they are forced to go on the run, but are confident that as long as they are together, they will be just fine.

Modern Times is Chaplin’s first foray into social and political commentary. By the time he began production in 1934, he was deeply dismayed by the depths to which the Depression had left scores of people unemployed, accelerated by the dehumanizing increase in industrialization.

In mining these dark themes for comedy, Chaplin chose to use his “everyman” character, the Tramp, who struggles to find his place in this modern world.

It’s a world we could easily recognize today: Layoffs. Strikes. Increasing mechanization. Income inequality. Yet in the face of so much change, turbulence and turmoil, by the end of the film the Tramp manages to maintain a ray of optimism: The final intertitle is of Chaplin’s Tramp, telling the Gamine, “Buck up – never say die! We’ll get along.”

Modern Times can be taken not only as a commentary on modernization, but as an elegy to a lost world, as well.

Not only does it bid farewell to a lost art – silent filmmaking – but it bids farewell to a world that saw the creation of the Tramp, Chaplin’s enduring persona, and to the character itself.

By the time Modern Times was completed in 1936, the silent era was long over. The first all-talking picture, “Lights of New York,” had premiered in 1928 and by 1930 even stars such as Greta Garbo had made the transition.

But for Chaplin, the talkies presented a unique challenge. His type of comedy, he felt, was best expressed through pantomime, the “language” of silent film. It allowed his character to be understood by everyone, without relying on words or dialogue, and thus was more universal in nature.

Chaplin fought long and hard against using all synchronous dialogue in his films, but by the time he was ready to make Modern Times he was ready to experiment with this new medium.

Originally intending Modern Times to be a talkie, Chaplin initially wrote dialogue for his characters and even recorded some test scenes.

But unsatisfied with the outcome, he opted to stick to what he knew best: pantomime. However, there are numerous examples of the use of synchronous sound throughout the film including sound effects, which Chaplin enjoyed creating and were made part of the overall music score.

More famous, however, is a scene in which the Tramp, hired as a waiter, is pressed into service for a missing tenor and asked to sing Léo Daniderff’s comical song Je cherche après Titine; Chaplin’s own voice is heard singing a mish-mash of French and Italian to great comic effect.

Despite its limited use of sound, Modern Times is in many ways the last major silent film. It carries on the tradition of using intertitles to convey what the actors can’t, and was shot in silent film’s traditional 18 frames per second; when played at “sound speed” of 24 frames per second it only emphasizes the frenetic nature of Chaplin’s slapstick comedy.

If Modern Times is the Tramp’s Omega, then “Kid Auto Races in Venice” is its Alpha.

While the Tramp character was “born” in a Mabel Normand short, Mabel’s Strange PredicamentKid Auto Races in Venice is the first of Chaplin’s films to feature the Tramp in a starring role. It’s a 6-minute short with a thin plot: The Tramp continually finds himself in front of a movie camera that is filming a soap box derby race, much to the dismay of the cameraman and the racers.

Modern Times was a critical and commercial success, and Chaplin would go on to create talking pictures, but without the Tramp. In many ways, Modern Times serves as a bittersweet farewell to a character, a way of life and a style of filmmaking that gave way to…modern times.

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sound investment with Hannah Lash

In LACO’s latest Sound Investment Salon on February 20, composer Hannah Lash shared insights about her approach to composing and her world premiere composition, This Ease.

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On her approach to composing:

  • If I were asked to write a piece for an event that involves four people then that might have something to do with how I approach the piece. But if it is something a little bit less specific, then if I really could tailor my piece to the hall or to the size of the audience then I could really limit the playability of the piece after the premiere. So I try to let it sit somewhere in a comfortable place where it can be done in various different contexts.
  • I guess the thing that probably influences the way that I approach a piece more than whether it’s a commission or not is if I’m writing for, say a soloist that I know very well as a person. That will probably have a greater impact on how I approach that process creatively than anything. And you know, it’s a sort of a blessing and a bane to be able to write for your very close friends. Then you have a potential judgment (fall out). You don’t want that to happen.
  • One of the parts of my job in the very beginning is to try and figure out how the material moves and what it needs to do. And for me, normally what happens when I play with an idea usually I’ll do that idea for quite some time before I commit to too much of the piece. Usually when I play with it for a while, what I’ll get is the first say four or eight bars of the piece that I feel really good about and from there I pretty much know how it will move. Of course there will always be those surprises because it’s hard to kind of preempt anything that might happen later on, and sometimes you know something will pop up that is a result of the potential that you might not have seen in the very beginning. So there might be something that feels like a gift that the material gave you that you had no idea was coming along.
  • Despite the fact that I may have a pretty clear idea of the general architecture, some characters may emerge in ways that I never imagined. You start with an original idea and you know something may crop up later because you begin your interaction with other parts, and you realize suddenly a window opened up, and a whole bunch of lights spilled in. Then you want to highlight those things that are highlighted by the light somehow. And bring them to the foreground much more than you imagined in the beginning.
  • I have to write the full score because the way the piece and the material work for me is so integrated in who plays the material that it would be very weird for me personally to conceive of an extract type of material than to score it. I just find that the surface of the piece is so connected to the background structure that I need to keep that sense of fluidity and connection throughout.

On her world premiere This Ease

  • I certainly had a very strong feeling about This Ease. And I would say in all of my work, I have a very strong emotional feeling about it. I don’t necessarily want to label the emotion that I feel, it’s not necessarily sadness or lost or happiness or tension or any specific emotion. But I do find myself feeling deeply stirred by the material that I’m using. The fact that I have carefully decided to build something allows me to feel much more about it then if I were just sort of to make a “left to right” suite.
  • The beginning starts out much more sparsely. The strings, the glockenspiel, the vibraphone, and then the harp begins to participate more. And then gradually the winds start to come in. So, there is sort of a variation of texture. In the beginning, as I say, it’s much sparser. And it doesn’t return quite to that amount of sparse until the end. So different instruments wind in and out.
  • For This Ease, the idea was to set up a very fluid not so “beaty” feel and part of that I did by making that eight note grid in the glockenspiel in the beginning, which in some ways gives actually a much more disorienting feel than orienting because we just hear these little raindrops just going along.
  • I have never really spent much time in LA before. And my wonderful hosts Allen and Anna have been helping me discover certain parts of LA and I have had a wonderful time driving around throughout the day and see various beautiful parts of it. So I am not intimately familiar with the feel of LA. But one thing that I felt very much about it was this kind of beautiful color a lot of beautiful color and in some ways kind of a “mutedness” to that color while has a certain bright quality. So the sound atmosphere that I started with, and it really retains itself throughout This Ease by reflecting that impression that I have.

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SUBJ: a personal musical journey

In honor of Women’s History Month, we bring you this short, first-person memoir from Judith Rosen, which tells how she began her work as a respected researcher and writer on women composers. LACO is honored to call Judith a member of our Emeritus Board of Directors. She is author of, among other writings, Grażyna Bacewicz: Her Life and Works.

read more →Searches begin in many different ways, sometimes so obscurely that the seeker does not even know the search has begun. The genesis of my search was embodied in the sweet, melodious sound of a violin emanating from the grooves of a phonograph record

Some forty (!) years ago, I was a serious, beginning student of the violin. My husband, Ron, brought me a gift of a recording entitled “The Glory of Cremona,” with Ruggiero Ricci. This recording, which compared a number of violins from that era playing the same Bach etude, also included an LP of some pieces for violin and piano. The second band on that recording fascinated me, and I obsessively played it over and over. The label named the piece “Sicilienne” by Paradis. Months went by, the music was constantly in my head. Then one day my violin teacher found the sheet music and brought it to me. I looked at the score and realized it was too difficult for me; perhaps one day. Then my eyes glanced from the notes to the title and the composer: Maria-Theresia von Paradis. Wait a minute!MARIA-THERESIA. It was a woman composer – a term which I would later consciously and triumphantly discard. I started thinking about women composers of the past, the present. I drew a blank. So did others I questioned. And so a search began.

My first stop was the music department of the central Los Angeles Public Library. I approached the librarian with my query. I must interrupt my story here with a quick look into my childhood. My father was an inventor, and I was brought up with the dictum, “If someone says there is no such thing or it can’t be done, then it is up to you, Judith, to find the answer or create it, but never take ‘no’ for an answer.” I probably should thank the music librarian. If he had said, “Check out Grove’s Dictionary“ or mentioned a few sources, I probably would have spent the afternoon and gone home. Instead, the librarian answered my query with, “There is no such thing as a woman composer.”

Needless to say, my violin lessons suffered as I spent every free moment exploring the sociological, religious, psychological and political structure of our institutions that had historically contributed to a denial of equal opportunity for women in music.

I also discovered that if you know five percent of a subject and everyone else knows zero, you become the expert. Soon I was asked to lecture and write on the subject, so I worked hard to stay ahead of what was becoming a major subject. I thoroughly enjoyed delving deep into the history of women as composers. I began lecturing to various groups of interested people as well as some college classes. Additionally, I contributed to articles and books on the subject. A highlight for me was when I asked to contribute to Grove’s — the multi-volume dictionary of music that I originally wished the music librarian had mentioned.

Over the past 40 years, I have seen the complete change in attitude and enthusiastic acceptance of women as composers. I have been privy to many outstanding performances by major orchestras of works by very talented composers — of both genders. A case in point, of course, is composer Hannah Lash, who is LACO’s Sound Investment composer this year. As a Sound Investment member, I look forward to hearing the further development and then premiere of her composition later this season.

LACO presents the world premiere of Hannah Lash’s This Ease on April 26 & 27.

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every stradivarius violin has a story to tell…

Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari is generally considered the greatest and most significant artisan in his field. In addition to violins, he also crafted harps, guitars, violas and cellos. By current estimate, he made more than 1,100 instruments throughout his life. About 650 of these instruments survive, including between 450 and 512 violins.

read more →Stradivari’s instruments are recognized by their inscription in Latin: Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis Faciebat Anno [date] (Antonio Stradivari, Cremona, made in the year …). In the early part of his career, he made instruments in the Amati style but after 1680, he began to develop a personal violin model, setting a standard for violins and cellos that has never been matched, much less exceeded.

When we hear his instruments played today, it’s the sound that tells the story. No two Strads are alike, and so, no two sound alike. But they are all rich and vibrant, soaring and whispering, powerful and delicate, singing out in the hands of the world’s greatest violinists.

If that were all to the story of the Stradivarius violins, if that were all they represented, that would be enough. But that’s not all. Each of the 600 or more remaining Strads charted its own unique journey through the world, a journey that only adds to the wonder and mystique of these fabled instruments. That each path is often difficult to winkle out only makes the instruments that much more intriguing.

Most Strads followed a similar path through their lives. They were created and sold, only to disappear for 50-200 years. Once rediscovered in a shop or attic, they spent life spinning through the various hands of ardent collectors and transcendent players. Every story drifts from to one interesting place and person to another. Perhaps one Strad hid in a damp store room where only through luck or providence did the instrument survive damage. Perhaps this Strad finds its way into the hands of one of the 19th century’s great players, while another one features prominently in well-kept collection. One and all, they have lived lives that rival yours and mine.

We should count ourselves fortunate to know that more than 200 years after Antonio Stradivari gifted them to us, we know some little bit about these instrument’s winding paths and are able to experience their peerless sound.

But Stradivari’s violins are more than the sum of their parts. Audiences and musicians around the world and throughout generations have marveled at the quality of the instruments, both in terms of sound and craftsmanship. It’s as if Stradivari imbued his work with some strange and unknowable alchemy, something that transcends mere wood, varnish and strings.

In celebration of the 370th year of Stradivari’s birth, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra invites music lovers and admirers of superlative craftsmanship to experience up to eight of these magnificent violins in performance over the four evenings of Strad Fest LA.

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meet matthew halls

Matthew Halls’s recent appointment as artistic director for the Oregon Bach Festival has put the 37 year old Brit at the forefront of today’s leading conductors. So, we’re honored that he will be making his California debut for our January 25/26 concerts where audiences will hear a sampling of some of Classical period’s greatest composers: Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn.

read more →Matthew is best known for his energetic and intelligent work with major symphony orchestras and opera companies around the world, as well as his vivacious musical interpretations from all periods. The Oxford-educated conductor has held positions as artistic director of the King’s Consort and is the founding director of the Retrospect Ensemble.

Beethoven’s First Symphony will be Matthew’s third outing with the powerhouse German composer. In a recent interview with Musical Toronto, Matthew describes Beethoven as being “at the heart and soul of the modern symphonic tradition.” For his debut with the Toronto Symphony last year, he led Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a work he calls “the heart and soul of the modern symphonic tradition.” Matthew’s extensive knowledge of early period music informs his dynamic musical interpretations on period instruments, including the harpsichord, which he has performed with some of the legends of the genre, such as Monica Huggett, the English violinist who leads the Portland Baroque Orchestra.

His talents also extend to choral music, where he has conducted works ranging from the Renaissance and Baroque to more contemporary operas. Watch Matthew in action as he directs members of the University of Oregon Chamber Choir while they prepare for a performance of Domenico Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater.

We’re excited to have such an immensely talented conductor and look forward to watching his career unfold with the Oregon Bach Festival!

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an introduction of sorts

Hello everyone!

My journey to LACO has been quite the meandering one. I grew up with music as an important part of my life, always going to symphony concerts, the ballet or local theatre productions in Oregon. I was very fortunate that the arts were a priority in my family, being involved both as a supporter and a musician—I played flute, violin and piano (although piano was the one that finally stuck). I found myself accompanying the school jazz choir along with members of the resident garage band, and subsequently graduating to more sophisticated material during summer master classes with Daniel Pollack. Looking back, I can certainly credit these formative years as the catalyst for my desire to pursue a career in arts management.

read more →After graduating college, I bounced around from Washington, DC, to San Diego then to London, working in theatre and other artistic ventures. I finally landed in Los Angeles in 2012 and am thrilled to call such an exciting cultural destination my home. It’s been great exploring everything that LA has to offer, from the delicious tacos, warm beaches and fun hikes to the plethora of cultural offerings to satiate one’s artistic appetite. So, it seems that I have finally returned to my musical roots with my position at LACO, and I am excited to grow with such a talented and inspiring group of colleagues.

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personal music

Cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras (Kay-ras) plays Haydn Cello Concerto in C major with LACO in October. Queyras hails from the Provence region of southern France where he is an artistic director of the music festival, Rencontres Musicales de Haute Provence, founded by his family in 1983. The festival’s founding objective was to challenge the formality of classical concerts and to present high quality musical performances to local people in their backyards. These priorities remain in place today.

read more →The Queyras family’s approach to breaking the formal ‘rules’ of classical music is a rather lovely one: bringing world-class music to the masses on a modest, rural-town scale in venues where the audience feel right at home. They know where to park and where the bathroom is and they know some of the people performing on stage, just as they know those sitting to their right and left. Jean-Guihen talks about the festival in short video below (around 4:28) but do watch it in full if you have time – he gives a fascinating insight into his musical life from first starting out on the cello to when he found ‘his voice’ in an instrument made by Goffredo Cappa in 1696.

Formal, highbrow, elitist – these are some of the perceptions that classical music ensembles and their marketing teams work to counter on a daily basis and advances have certainly been made. Ticket promotions and social media interaction are popular ways to engage with new and younger audiences. Some organizations are taking bigger and bolder steps to distance themselves from the dress-up and quiet down tradition of concert going. TheLondon Contemporary Orchestra, for example, recently performed Stockhausen’s KLANG in outfits designed byDame Vivienne Westwood – you can read about their sartorial rebellion here. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE), another London based group, performs on period instruments but their concerts are far from old fashioned. The Night Shift is their popular concert series where drinking is permitted and cheering or booing are encouraged, though resting your scruffy Converse on the back of the chair in front might be taking it too far. The OAE also takes its music-making to pubs, creating intimate and boozy musical events. I managed to catch their gig at The Paradise in North London last year, which was apt as Purcell and Peroni* make for a heavenly mix. Best of all I talked a few non-concert going friends into coming too.

LACO subscribers are no longer surprised when Jeffrey spontaneously spends a few minutes introducing a work from the stage, as he did again at the September concerts before Lutosławski’s Chain 2, and of course, personal introductions of the music and Q&A with the audience are now as much part of LACO’s Baroque Conversationsand Westside Connections brand as the music itself. But what we accept as “normal” in the LACO setting is still unusual fare for most orchestral presentations. Closer to home, LACO educational artists-in-residence PROJECTTrio and LACO colleagues wild Up are doing their part to break out of the stereotypical classical music box.

With his technical and musical brilliance, coupled with a shared passion for the personal touch, Jean-Guihen andLACO are a match made in music-making heaven. If it were on the same continent I’d suggest we do a third performance in that same north London pub!

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reading music with your hands

LACO has partnered with the Braille Institute in Los Angeles for Haydn: Cello Concertos on October 19 & 20. As part of our effort to raise awareness about how visually impaired artists are able to practice and perform music, we invited Monique Marianni, an instructor at the Braille Institute to share her insight on Braille music notation. We are excited to share this fascinating information with you!

read more →Monique joins Jeffrey Kahane on Sunday, October 20 at Royce Hall for the concert prelude to speak about Braille musical notation in more depth and David Simpson, also from the Braille Institute, is at the Saturday, October 19 concert prelude.

Interested in learning more? Visit the Braille Institute online to view their complete array of services and courses.

braille music notation

Where does the word “braille” come from? Simply – from the name of the man who invented it.

Louis Braille was born in 1809 (the same year as Abraham Lincoln) in Coupvray, a little village in France, not far from Paris. His father was a harness maker.

At the age of three, in 1812, Louis injured his eye in an accident while playing with his father’s tools. A tool slid from his hand and penetrated his eye. Not long afterwards, his other eye became infected and at the age of five, Louis Braille was totally blind.

In spite of his infirmity, he was allowed to attend the primary school of his village. He was immediately noticed for his insatiable curiosity and thirst for knowledge. But one crucial problem remained. Louis could neither read nor write.

At the age of ten, he was sent to Paris to a school for the blind founded before the French Revolution by Valentin Haüy, a philanthropist who had been so shocked by the plight of the blind, often mocked at, and earning a few farthings as clowns and beggars, that he decided to dedicate his life to their education.

At Haüy’s school, the Royal Institution for the Young Blind now the National Institute for Blind Children, pupils learned skills as well as grammar, geography, history, arithmetic and music. For reading, Haüy made a few books by embossing thick paper with the shape of print letters. But books were few and cumbersome and reading them was difficult; moreover, students still could not write.

When Louis was about fourteen years old, Captain Barbier – came to the school to demonstrate a method of night reading he had devised for sailors to communicate in darkness without drawing the attention of the enemy. This method consisted of twelve dots in different positions. It was rudimentary, not alphabetic, but based on sounds and deprived of punctuation rendering it clumsy to use. But it was from this method that Louis was inspired to create his six dots alphabet, punctuation system, and later, musical notation which performers have used throughout the world since his death in 1856.

In 1829 he published: Method of Writing Words, Music, and Plain Songs by Means of Dots, for Use by the Blind and Arranged for Them, his first complete book about his new system. A few years later, Louis became the first fully blind teacher at Haüy’s school. An avid cellist and organist, Louis studied with Jean-Nicholas Marrigues and held the position of head organist at several Paris churches.

Braille musical notation is quite different from regular printed notation that sighted artists use. It is not based on the position of notes on different lines, rather it looks like a regular Braille text.

Do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti are transcribed as ‘d’ ‘e’ ‘f’ ‘g’ ‘h’ ‘i’ ‘j’. And all manners of signs are added to specify octaves, pauses, length of notes. A blind musician cannot play and read music at the same time. In order to play, he or she must decipher and learn the whole score first. Throughout the ensuing centuries, different countries have adapted different standards for notation and intervals, but an effort in the past twenty years has arisen to create a more unified system.

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