Glenn’s Trumpet Notes

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Archive for January, 2013

Does Rossini’s “Cinderella” Opera from 1817 Play Well in 2013?

Posted by glennled on January 22, 2013

On Sunday, 13 January, it was time for my wife and me (opera novices) to be re-introduced to Gioachino Antonio Rossini, the blog_poster_cinderella, 1-13-13composer whose nickname was “The Italian Mozart.” We were both familiar with The Barber of Seville, but it was so long ago, we can hardly be sure of when, where and what. So off we drove to McCaw Hall not knowing what to expect to see and hear at the Seattle Opera’s matinee performance of Cinderella (La Cenerentola)—almost 200 years after it premiered at Teatro Valle, Rome, 25 January 1817.

The prince wins Cinderella in Seattle Opera’s La Cenerentola, with sets and costumes designed by Joan Guillén - Photo © Elise Bakketun

Prince Ramiro wins Cinderella in Seattle Opera’s “La Cenerentola,” with sets and costumes designed by Joan Guillén – Photo © Elise Bakketun

It turns out that Rossini’s Cinderella is a romantic comedy of the bel canto (“Beautiful Singing”) kind. The story was altered by librettist Jacopo Ferretti both in characters and in plot, but yes, in the end, the prince does get the lovely, virtuous Cinderella as his bride. This takes two acts stretched over three hours (including a half-hour intermission). During the pursuit, there are lots of laughs and some extraordinary singing.

The basic premise of the opera, writes Spreight Jenkins, General Director of the Seattle Opera, is that the prince wants to marry someone who loves him for himself, not his position, power or wealth.  That romantic ideal still plays well in 2013 in Western society, does it not? Cinderella, called Angelina in this opera, is a forward-looking person who also will marry only for love but wants respect, too. She is not a male-dominated person, and she is not ambitious to become a princess. She stands up for herself, knows what she wants, and wins it fair and square on her terms—her man must be willing to make an effort to win her. This idea of feminity is still modern and plays well in 2013 in America and elsewhere, does it not? Jenkins writes in Encore, “There’s a lot of humor, but we see in Angelina a far more recognizable and believable young woman than many created in the nineteenth century. She is generous when she wins, and altogether she is a really charming person who might fit very well into the twenty-first century.”

Here’s what the bel canto style meant when it was dominant from the 18th century until about 1840, according to the experts at Wikipedia:

  • an impeccable legato production throughout the singer’s (seamless) range
  • the use of a light tone in the higher registers
  • an agile, flexible technique capable of dispatching ornate embellishments
  • the ability to execute fast, accurate divisions
  • the avoidance of aspirates and eschewing a loose vibrato
  • a pleasing, well-focused timbre
  • a clean attack
  • limpid diction
  • graceful phrasing rooted in a complete mastery of breath control

    Alidoro (Arthur Woodleyj), tutor to Prince Ramiro, has other plans for Cinderella - Photo by Alan Alabastro.

    Alidoro (Arthur Woodleyj), tutor to Prince Ramiro, has other plans for Cinderella – Photo by Alan Alabastro.

The music was written to show off the exceptional quality of the singers’ voices. I especially enjoyed the various ensembles. The precision of the attacks, phrasing, and breath control were remarkable and often, as intended, funny! I imagine it would be quite challenging and possibly exhausting to sing for so long in that style. Among the voices I enjoyed the most were those of Angelina (Cinderella), mezzo-soprano; Alidoro, bass; Dandini, baritone; and Don Magnifico, bass.

Courtesy of Seattle Symphony & Opera Players' Organization

Courtesy of Seattle Symphony & Opera Players’ Organization

I enjoyed listening to the orchestra, too, hearing and watching how the music from the pit matched the action on stage. It’s great fun to play trumpet in the orchestra of a musical or an opera. I did both long ago on the college level—but now I’m just a happy spectator. I wonder if any of my trumpet students will ever have that wonderful experience. I hope so. That would please me, as did this .  😉  Please click on any photo to enlarge it:

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Dire Straits: “They don’t give a damn about any trumpet playing band”

Posted by glennled on January 17, 2013

dire-straits-sultans-of-swingLately, I’ve been listening again to Dire Straits, a British rock band led by Mark Knopfler. Their biggest selling album, Brothers in Arms, has sold over 30 million copies, and their worldwide album sales exceed 120 million. The band’s career spanned a combined total of 15 years (1977-1988, 1991-1995). Their most popular songs include “Sultans of Swing,” “Money for Nothing,” “Walk of Life,” “Brothers in Arms,” “Lady Writer,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Tunnel of Love,” “Private Investigations,” “So Far Away,” and “Your Latest Trick.”

In the “Sultans of Swing” song, a crowd of young boys in the honky tonk, “dressed in their best brown baggies and their platform soles,” are drunk as they listen to a band called the Sultans of Swing. Two lines, sung with dripping disdain, catch my ear: “They don’t give a damn about any trumpet playing band, It ain’t what they call rock and roll…”

Well, now, wait just a minute! You can’t dismiss all us horns. Those boys obviously don’t know their jazz music history and don’t even care about learning it either. No, even though the Sultans of Swing may play some swing music on their rock and roll instruments (guitars, keyboards, synthesizer, and percussion), that’s not the swing music of the great Swing Band Era, ~1936-1944. And all those big bands did feature trumpeters—and some great ones, too!

Want to hear some swing trumpeters from a time long gone by? Try these, for seven of the best:

Yeah, that was then, way back when I was a boy. Today, I also love the “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits even though they trash us trumpeters. But someday, they, too, will be bye-gones, like brown baggies and platform shoes.   😉

Please click on any image to enlarge it.

Posted in Selected Trumpet Music | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“Mele Kalikimaka” Honors Lost Family Matriarch on Christmas Eve at Home

Posted by glennled on January 12, 2013

Glenn Ledbetter plays "Mele Kalikimaka" on his Super Olds Cornet (1954)

Glenn Ledbetter plays “Mele Kalikimaka” on his Super Olds Cornet (1954)

Our family tradition on Christmas Eve includes singing Christmas carols after dinner and before opening gifts. My wife plays piano as we sing, and a few years ago, we added a couple of trumpet solos to the program. This year, I played “Mele Kalikimaka” because on all our minds was the recent loss of my wife’s mother, Ruth, who died peacefully on 12 October. This was our first Christmas without her.

To Ruth, Hawaii was paradise. She and her husband, Mac, first went to Waikiki to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. They always returned annually until he passed away, and then she continued to go back. In all, she vacationed there for 39 straight years! She was a bright spirit, and we miss her so much.

“Mele Kalikimaka” means “Merry Christmas,” and Robert Alex Anderson wrote the song in 1949. Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters recorded the song in 1950 on Decca 27228 (78 rpm)/9-27228 (45 rmp). To hear their recording, please see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJhYrC8Rq8w.

For my second trumpet solo, I played “Angels We Have Heard on High,” a traditional French carol.

Posted in Musical Events at Home | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

“Taps” for Wreaths Across America Memorial Service at Evergreen-Washelli in Seattle

Posted by glennled on January 9, 2013

Courtesy of Wreaths Across America (WAA)

Courtesy of Wreaths Across America (WAA)

Last month on 15 December 2012, Wreaths Across America (WAA) sponsored and coordinated the placement of 420,000 remembrance wreaths by almost 200,000 volunteers on the headstones of our nation’s fallen military in 825 locations in America and abroad. At Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, more than 20,000 volunteers laid 110,662 wreaths. This was the 21st annual wreath-laying event.

Courtesy of WAA

Courtesy of WAA

In 1992 in Harrington, Maine, as the Christmas holiday season drew to a close, the Worcester Wreath Company found itself with a surplus of fresh, evergreen wreaths. The owner, Morrill Worcester, made arrangements to have the wreaths placed in one of Arlington cemetery’s older sections where fewer visitors were coming each year. A local trucking company transported the wreaths to Virginia, and American Legion, VFW, and other volunteers decorated each wreath with the traditional, hand-tied red bows and laid them on the headstones. There was also a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

VFW Post 1040 Honor Guard, WAA ceremony, Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Evergreen-Washelli, Seattle, 12-15-’12. Photo by Nathan W. Bradshaw, PA3, USCG.

VFW Post 1040 Honor Guard, WAA ceremony, Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Evergreen-Washelli, Seattle, 12-15-’12. Photo by Nathan W. Bradshaw, PA3, USCG.

That started the annual pilgrimage to and event at Arlington National Cemetery which continues today. Others across the nation wanted to participate in their own national, state, and local cemeteries, and so in 2007, WAA was created. The mission of this non-profit organization, now based in Columbia Falls, Maine, is to “Remember, Honor, Teach.”

Lt, U.S. Coast Guard. Photo by Nathan Bradshaw, PA3, USCG

In the state of Washington, 18 cemeteries are affiliated with WAA. The four largest are the Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent (23,000+ graves; 15,500 veteran graves and 13,000  veteran columbarium niches); Evergreen-Washelli-Veterans Memorial Cemetery in north Seattle (5,000+ veteran graves); Mountain View Cemetery in Walla Walla (37,000 graves; 2,500 veteran graves); and Washington State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake (550 veteran graves).

At Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Washelli, this was the 3rd annual wreath laying ceremony sponsored by the Navy Wives Club #277. King5-TV again covered the event in a superb report. Please see http://www.king5.com/video/yahoo-video/200-wreaths-cemetery-183725091.html. You’ll see the VFW Post 1040 Honor Guard fire three perfect rifle volleys, hear the post piper play some of “Amazing Grace,” and hear me play “Taps” in the background as the reporter tells the story. For a description of the previous year’s event, please see my post of 16 December 2011.

Please click on any photo to enlarge it. Here are links to the websites of other organizations mentioned in this post:

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