Fun promo

Here is the poster for the Swashbucklers and Gunslingers concert this weekend. Our Marketing Director, Kent Wissinger, created this, and it's created quite a sensation in Harrisburg. It seems like a lot of people want to have signed copies to frame and hang in their homes. Figure that....


There are already posters done for the remaining two concerts, but I don't want to scoop Kent. The concerts are An Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Stay Tuned: The Golden Age of Television. Use your imagination and you'll probably come close. I'll post those soon.

Carnegie Hall, Pt. 2

Well, another Carnegie Hall concert come and gone. Again, it was a thrilling experience, and again, there were a few hundred friends and patrons from Harrisburg at the concert.

Let me start with that. How cool is it that 200 Harrisburg Symphony patrons made the trip to NYC to see me conduct at Carnegie Hall? It certainly give me a fuzzy, warm feeling inside. And people wonder why I like it here....

I took the train to NY on Wednesday afternoon, affording me several uninterrupted hours of work time. I stayed Wednesday night with my dear friends the Azenbergs, who conveniently live a block away from Carnegie Hall. I watched the ball game, couldn't sleep (sadly, par for the course), and went to rehearsal on Wednesday morning, the start of a very long day. The rehearsal was in the auditorium of the Jewish Community Center on 76th Street. Nice facility. Rehearsal was vigorous, focussing mostly on the Korngold violin concerto (with Pip Clarke), and the Enescu Rumanian Rhapsody #1. Neither is your typical pops piece, and there was much to work on. The orchestra and staff was extremely warm and welcoming, a fact I very much appreciated.

After rehearsal, James Johnson, the NY Pops Executive Director, and I met Ruth Henderson, Skitch's widow for lunch. Skitch of course was the founder and only director of the NY Pops up until his death in 2005, at the age of 87. Ruth is younger, and vibrant, intelligent, driven, warm and wonderful. It was great hearing her stories and getting to know this amazing woman (James aptly decribes her as a "force of nature").

From there it was on to the Pops offices, where I was to give a conducting lesson to the winner, at auction, of a chance to conduct the Pops at my concert. he was conducting the "Star Spangled Banner," which as it turns out, is not the easiest piece of music. It has stops and starts. Yikes! Mike Appling, the conducting student, had just the right combination of eagerness, humor, rhythm, and a bit of moxie. We worked for a while and thn it was time to move on.

Off to Michael Feinstein's house on the East Side, to go over his set for the concert. Michael lives in a gorgeous townhouse, which at present is a work in progress. Some rooms are not yet done, but the piano room, where we met, was beautifully decorated, with great art on the wall. One wall was a sort of shrine to George Gershwin, whom Michael clearly holds dear to his heart (he had worked closely with Ira Gershwin in his younger days). When people ask me what Michael Feinstein is like, my response is that he is as warm and charming in person as he is on stage. I really liked him. And I love the way he performs the American songbook. He knows this repertoire like few others anywhere. What fun for me.

After our meeting it was back to the West Side for dinner and a show. My old friend Aaron Sorkin has a new show in previews on Broadway (at the Music Box Theater), so he invited me to come see the show and I suggested we meet for dinner, as we haven't had the chance to visit in an age. He and I went to Scarsdale High School together and did lots of shows when we were younger. We met two other friends - Jeff Gardner, also of Scarsdale, who is currently producing a headed for Broadway production of a musical version of the film Grumpy Old Men, and Rob Jones, a friend of mine from Harvard, who became friends with the rest when we were all living in NYC in the late 80s. So it was a most enjoyable dinner. What I love about this kind of old, dear friend is that time passes, but the friendship doesn't change. It's a beautiful thing. It was doubly nice that we were to see the new show, and Aaron was coming the next night to Carnegie.

The show, The Farnsworth Invention was terrific. Beautifully written (I don't think anyone writes dialogue better than Aaron), beautifully acting and expertly directed and presented. I get very emotional when my friends do cool, great thins, and the show effected me anyway, so I was a bit "verklemmt" at the end.

Jeff walked me back, and I spent another mostly sleepless night.

Friday was spent preparing: In the morning, I spent some time tginking about what I wanted to say at the concert. Certainly the most important part of that was a tribute I was to give for John Griner, the Chairman of the board of the NY Pops, who just died a month ago. John was a special man, and I wanted the words and sentiments to be just right. I also wanted to make sure I had my ideas straight for the rest of the first half of the show. I generally do not like to memorize words - it tends to come out rigid that way. So I fill my head with possibilities and ideas, and speak off the cuff. It's something I think I do pretty well.

My wife Marty arrived in the early afternoon, and we went to the hall together. I went up to the Maestro's suite, a bit less overwhelmed than the last time, but nonetheless very excited. Rehearsal was okay, but I knew that in some ways we could have used more time, and we'd be flying a bit by the seat of our pants. This is par for the course, I think. Certainly I feel most of the time that I could stand another rehearsal, especially with difficult repertoire, but the happy news is that the orchestras generally kick it up a notch (to quote Emiril) and come through in the concerts.

This was no exception. The concert went very well. I felt pleased with my conducting and the orchestra's playing. The audience responded well to my banter, and seemed to have a great time. Michael Feinstein was splendid. I saw a bunch of family and good friends at intermission and after the show was over. It's great having that kind of support.

After the concert, there was a lovely reception where I got a cance to meet some patrons of the Pops. There is nothing like a good schmooze after a long night's work.

Of course, I didn't sleep much....

So what is it with this insomnia? I wish I knew. My mind simply races. It does make things tugh sometimes, being really tired. Ah, well... I've learned how to cope with it.

So now it's back to work here in Harrisburg. No rest for the weary. And it's more movie music. Swashbucklers and Gunslingers. Should be fun.

Opening Night at the HSO

Last weekend we opened our 2007-2008 Masterworks season.

A few reflections:

1) The orchestra is really good. It's such a pleasure to be reminded of that every time I take the podium. The Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra is a dynamic, exciting, and talented bunch of players, and I am lucky to work with them. We had a fair numbers of substitutes in the orchestra this time. For those new to this concept, the players of the HSO, like most of the orchestras in our region, have a minimum requirement of concerts to play, beyond which they have total flexibility. this allows us to have the caliber of players that we regularly put on the stage. Of course, the only way this can work is if we have subs of the same high level. Luckily, as this opening night proved, we do. The repertoire was difficult, and in the case of Tchaikovsky's 2nd Symphony, somewhat unfamiliar. Rehearsals were upbeat and the results exciting. I will not soon forget the feeling on Sunday afternoon of pushing the accelerando at the end to its furthest limit, and the orchestra seamlessly following. Ah, the pleasure of conducting a responsive group!

2) Karen Gomyo, who played the Dvorak violin concerto with us, is a splendid violinist. She is an intensely gifted musician, but her playing is never self-indulgent. She simply makes every phrase gorgeous, and she is a delightful young woman who is easy to collaborate with. I can't wait for the next time.

3) What a difference 550 new subscribers makes! The orchestra ran two promotions: half-price subscriptions for new subscribers to the entire series, and $27 season tickets (in designated seating areas) for students and their families. Needless to say, they have been rather successful (and continue to be). This is not just a good thing for our balance sheet, although it certainly helps. These extra audience members actually make the concert a better experience, both for the players and for the audience. There is a "critical mass" of audience members (at the Forum I'd say it's about 1300) beyond which it feels like a full house. We are finally there, and the entire ambiance of the concerts is better. I certainly felt it. I imagine everyone there did as well.

4) The "talkback" sessions after the concerts are picking up steam. We had fairly large groups staying after both performances to ask questions of me and Karen, and reflect on the concerts. This is our third year doing these, and they are always enjoyable. For me, it's a chance to unwind, and an opportunity to have face to face time with our audience. For the attendees, it's a chance to get some new insight into the musicians and what makes us tick. Those of you who have never attended them should consider giving it a try.

That's all for now. I again ask that you send comments and questions - let me know what you think.