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Archive for August, 2011

“Taps” for Japanese-American WWII Veteran at Evergreen Washelli in Seattle

Posted by glennled on August 21, 2011

Yesterday, I played “Taps” as part of the military honors accorded a Japanese-American veteran who served in World War II after having first been interned at the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Hunt, Idaho with his family. Born in 1923 in Seattle, he was 18 when the U.S.A. entered the war. Within a year after internment, he enlisted in the Army. He served as a translator of Japanese for the Military Intelligence Service during the reconstruction of Japan. He died 25 December 2010. His wife, also born in Seattle, died 14 July 2011. They were married 61 years.

The graveside service at Evergreen Washelli Cemetery in Seattle was led by the head minister of Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Church. Near the end of the service, the Honor Guard carefully unfolded the American flag and dramatically displayed it to the family and friends. That was my signal to sound “Taps.”

I now own my version of “Taps.” Before, I had been experimenting with slight variations in the way I would play those 24-notes. But as of yesterday, I realized that I’ve now worked out every detail of how I play it. I’ve chosen the key signature, tempo, rhythm, phrasing, and dynamics. I know when to breathe, I know when to use vibrato, I know how long to hold each fermata, I know when to make the notes swell and when to let them fade. Whether loud or soft, I keep the tone solid.

The Honor Guard then folded the flag and presented it to a gentleman in a dark suit. Afterwards, he thanked me.

“Are you his son?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“A good life?” I asked.

“Yes, a wonderful life, a wonderful man!”

I said I served in the Navy and thanked him for his father’s service. I said I would like to know more about his story. “It’s my honor and privilege to play for him today.”

Posted in Ceremonies & Celebrations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess” Opera at McCaw Hall in Seattle

Posted by glennled on August 15, 2011

George and Ira Gershwin

Porgy and Bess premiered in New York in 1935 during the Great Depression and in Seattle in 1987. My wife and I finally saw it for the first time yesterday in McCaw Hall, home of Seattle Opera. It was my gift to her for her birthday.

Yes, we knew many of the hit songs from this most famous American opera: “Summertime,” “I Loves You, Porgy,” “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” “I Got Plenty O Nuttin’,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and “A Woman Is a Sometime Thing.” But no, we had no idea of the content, storyline, and plot. I was simply expecting a love story with some hard times; the ending might be happy or sad, I did not know. This folk/jazz opera was that and much, much more.

I learned that the uncut opera is almost four hours long. This version (including a 30-minute intermission) lasted almost three hours. It is set in Catfish Row in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1935, it was quite radical—an all-black cast using authentic dialogue. It’s based on a 1925 novel, Porgy,by DuBose Heyward. To me, the love story is turned tragic by addiction to sex and drugs. And yet, Bess’ love for the

Ruby Elzy, the original Serena, performed the role more than 800 times.

beggar and congenital cripple, Porgy, would not have happened were it not for her addiction and his disability. He is her means from a dissolute to a decent life; she is his means out of rejection, isolation, and loneliness. The opera is filled with conflicts: striving for good—survival, love, a better life, God and Jesus—and falling into evil—gambling, drinking, racism, promiscuity, prostitution, pimping, drug dealing, cocaine (“happy dust”), abuse, and murder. The ending is ambiguous. For all this, it is said that the show is born from a love of black people.

The star performer was Gordon Hawkins (baritone) as Porgy, paired with Lisa Daltirus (soprano) as Bess. Among my favorites were Angel Blue (soprano) as Clara, Jermaine Smith (tenor) as Sportin’ Life, and Mary Elizabeth Williams (soprano) as Serena.

And how exciting would it be to play in the ~60-piece Seattle Opera Orchestra? That must feel so special and so fun! For Porgy and Bess, there were three trumpeters: Justin Emerich, principal, Vince Green, and Brian Chin. Emerich is former solo/first trumpet with the Canadian Brass and is now a faculty member at the Cornish College of the Arts. Green is on the faculty of Western Washington University and often performs with the Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle Opera, and the Seattle Symphony. Chin teaches full-time at Seattle Pacific University and is principal trumpet at the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra.

Posted in Professional Concerts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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