Ted Hearne‘s “Katrina Ballads” documents Hurricane Katrina with texts taken from newscasts and quotes, accompanied by video. We were lucky enough to experience this at (where else?) a super-packed LPR, where we stood for all 80 minutes of the show.
So much to love about this music. It was emotional without being sentimental. It was honest–text was quoted verbatim–however, the specific choices of quotes, and more importantly, the music, clearly expressed a point of view. (If you want to know what that is, you can pick up the record here.) The “Katrina Ballads” engages the listener in the turmoil that transpired as a result of Katrina, telling a story with so many nuanced emotions. Sadness and disappointment are expressed, as in ‘Ashley Nelson,’ performed by the sensual Rene Marie. Sarcastic moments include ‘Brownie, You’re Doing a Heck of a Job,’ sung by Hearne in bad-ass James Brown style, and Barbara’s Bush’s quote about everyone coming to Houston is sung in a saccharine-toned swinging, folksy tune. A series of video projections, created by Bill Morrison, was composed of Katrina footage and complimented the music exceptionally well. When a quote by a famous person was being sung, the actual footage of it being said would be projected, which was very effective in providing clarity.
The ensemble was excellent, handling the rhythmic complexity like a well-rehearsed band (this is a good thing: they felt the rhythm and truly knew the music, they weren’t just a tight shouldered ensemble following a score). All the singers gave beautiful performances, notably Isaiah Robinson in his solo of the ballad based on Kanye West stating that ‘George Bush doesn’t care about black people.’ That boy can hit high notes like none other!
There are great performances to be seen everywhere…hell, we are in New York after all. But this wasn’t just good music or a good performance, it was moving. In his Times review, Kozinn wrote that ‘The contrast between the disc and the live performance was extraordinary: the fastidiously produced recording, though it delivered some of the work’s punch, left me cold. But the concert reading had a tough edge and a wildness of spirit that suited the music, and the subject.’ We have yet to hear the work outside the concert, but our opinion will probably remain the same, that the “Katrina Ballads” is the first meaningful piece of new music we’ve heard in a while and its honesty shines through. And it sounds really awesome.
Ted Hearne’s “Katrina Ballads” can be purchased on New Amsterdam’s website: https://www.newamsterdamrecords.com/#Album/Katrina_Ballads
Headed to Hilary Hahn’s Bach Party on a block in the West Village at LPR, where I saw Alex Ross for the first time. He is way hipper looking than I imagined. The door girl asked for his name, and when she scanned her list to see if he was on there, I thought, Are you kidding me? But it turned out she was trying to play it cool. I told her she did a damn good job because I sure as hell thought she didn’t know who he was.
We hung out in the standing room as Ms. Hahn made a casual introduction and then proceeded to perform
‘something short,’ as she said: the Ciaccona from the Partita in D minor. It was pretty much flawless, but what I loved the most was how thoughtful and engaging it was; intense moments were almost palpable. Following this performance was an arrangement of the second movement from the G minor flute sonata, accompanied by Orion Weiss, who studied with the same teacher Rach and I had, Miyoko Lotto. (What up!) Weiss had the una corda down the entire time and released it partially for bigger dynamics, and used an inaudible amount of pedal, which made for a dry, small sound. I wasn’t feeling the una corda at the beginning, which started out rather cold, but Weiss opened up by the second variation and made the music more alive…then that u.c. made more sense, an actual intimate character. Weiss also had some lovely ideas and crystal-clean ar-tic-u-la-tion.
Afterward Fred Sherry played some arrangements of Bach Cantatas with Michael Nicholas. Sherry arranged them himself, and one of the most delightful moment from the concert happened when he flubbed a part, simply stopped, and said something to the degree of, ‘Oops! I messed up my own arrangement! Sorry, my fault!’ and got a laugh from the audience. Loved it. (I’m pulling that move next time that happens to me. Hopefully I also get it right the second time.)
Then there was a point of transition to an artist talk, where the performers sat in a row on stage. That was our cue to leave…what more was there to talk about really? Isn’t this a party of some sort? When do we party? I would have preferred to talk to Hilary after the show and photograph her in her sexy dress. I also just don’t dig artist talks. Artist talks are a tricky thing; they either get really academic or just plain boring. This isn’t always the case, but it seems performers have talk because they’re worried that lay people just won’t get it unless given some sort of explanation, giving a classical concert an educational twist rather than an entertaining one.
I didn’t stick around to find out if this was one of those talks. I was worried that I’d be missing more Hilary, but I really needed a burger. Luckily, as it turns out, I left at the right time. Baching finished.
Publicity for $1?! Your name in lights (ok, more like in ink on quality paper) at our next event! Details here. We’ll be writing this at the bottom of every post until March 19 deadline to let everyone know about our kick-ass Kickstarter campaign!
How do you get people out of their aparments on one the snowiest nights of the year? We have your answer: party with NCP at LPR! Special thanks to (le) Poisson Rouge for helping host the NCP Holiday Soiree! It was an all around good time made complete with the “I Lost My Tooth” stamp, tasty NCP Holiday Cocktails, and some really good looking people! Props to Renee, the bartender/mixologist, who was a delight! Not to mention, she whipped up a mean batch of the NCP Holiday cocktail. I hope you all tipped her well ;)
Also, we hope you enjoyed your gift bags! Remember that in each bag there is a coupon for free admission for you and a guest to an LPR member show. LPR has some fantastic events coming up, so I’m sure you will all put those to good use. In addition, if you want to be seen hanging out at LPR more often, they have some sweet membership options. Event and membership details available here: http://lepoissonrouge.com/
Thanks again to all for coming out – we can’t wait to see you next time!
Who: You+The Nouveau Classical Project
Where: (le) Poisson Rouge
Why??? Open wine bar, Goodie Bags sponsored by Theme Magazine+ LPR (includes a concert ticket to an exclusive member show); support The Nouveau Classical Project’s mission to keep classical music alive through innovative events+supporting up-and-coming composers
When: This Saturday, December 5, 5-9 pm
Where to get tickets?! http://ncpholiday.eventbrite.com for $12 advance tickets (or $15 door at the event)