Posts

55th Annual American Country Music Awards: New Artist Tenille Townes Shines in Politically, Socially Aware Show

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2020 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Last night CBS-TV aired the 55th annual American Country Music Awards, which were originally supposed to be in April in Las Vegas (yeah, that well-known center of country music … ) since this was the “rump” country-music awards compared to the Country Music Association awards in the mother ship of the genre, Nashville, Tennessee. Alas, the SARS-CoV-2 dictatorship struck again: Nevada went under lockdown and so the ceremony got put off for five months and ultimately ended up in Nashville after all. The ceremony, such as it was, took place in three venues, all of them without audience members: the main stage at the Grand Ole Opry; Ryman Auditorium (the converted barn that was the original home of the Opry until it outgrew it in the early 1970’s) and the Bluebird Cafe. (It was occasionally jarring to hear an incandescent performance on one of these stages -- and have it greeted with silence at the end…

40th Annual “A Capitol Fourth” Concert (PBS-TV, aired July 4, 2020)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2020 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

I spent the evening on the Fourth of July 2020 watching some interesting programming on KPBS: an early (1985) Ken Burns documentary called The Statue of Liberty (back when Burns still made films of reasonable length — this was just under an hour); a rerun of a local concert special from August 30, 2019 with the San Diego Symphony conducted by Christopher Dragon, focusing on the music of Tchaikovsky; and the centerpiece of the night, the 40th anniversary presentation of A Capitol Fourth. Needless to say, this show was absolutely nothing like any of the 39 previous entries in the series, thanks primarily to the dictatorship of SARS-CoV-2 under which we presently live, in which a sub-microscopic assembly of nucleic acid, proteins and a lipid coat whose only purpose in life is to make more copies of itself has put an end to large public gatherings of virtually all sorts (unless you are Donald Trump, cont…

1812 Tchaikovsky Spectacular (San Diego Symphony, KPBS-TV, originally aired August 30, 2019; rebroadcast July 4, 2020)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2020 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

While most PBS stations (including ours in previous years) followed up the Capitol Fourth telecast with a repeat showing of the same program, this year KPBS chose instead to rerun a local show originally taped August 30, 2019 — and, let’s face it, rebroadcasts of concerts during the SARS-CoV-2 crisis actually make more sense than rerunning sporting events, since with a concert at least you know how it’s going to turn out and there’s no big suspense about the outcome. The show actually began with the San Diego Symphony’s current conductor, Rafael Payare, leading members of its brass section in a piece that was instantly familiar: the old traditional Shaker hymn “The Gift to Be Simple.” (Unfortunately for the Shakers, their idea of “simplicity” included a total ban on their members having sex — and, not surprisingly, their numbers dwindled over time.) The Symphony brass played this in an arrangement b…

2020 Black Entertainment Television Awards (Black Entertainment Television, CBS-TV, aired June 28, 2020)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2020 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Last night CBS-TV presented the 2020 Black Entertainment Television (BET) awards show — the first one I’ve seen since the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic upended the world and suddenly banned large gatherings of people under the same roof (unless you’re President Trump, who can hold all the large gatherings he wants and subject people to viral exposure while having them sign a release that they won’t sue him if they get it) — and given that it took place in the middle of not only the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic but also the turmoil over the George Floyd killing and the sheer number of police murders of unarmed Black people and other people of color, the show buzzed with righteous anger that came forth mostly from the rappers on the program. Once again I’m forced to rely on my hastily scribbled notes to determine who performed what and what the songs’ titles were — unlike the producers of the Global Citizen telecast, th…

Global Citizen 2020: A Social-Service Mega-Concert for the SARS-CoV-2 Age

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2020 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

The TV show I particularly wanted to watch yesterday was the 2020 edition of the Global Citizen telecast — which has been an annual event for several years now, sponsored by a foundation underwritten by several large corporations (including Microsoft, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble) and designed to encourage young people to become “global citizen” activists to, among other things, expand the rights of women, access to education and health care in Third World countries and combat racism and sexism in the developed world. The way the concert usually works is that young people working on these various causes submit reports on what they’re doing and a group of judges goes over their applications and awards the most deserving entrants tickets to an all-star mega-concert featuring the major pop-music artists of today. Obviously the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic changed that; the projects tha…

“Taking the Stage”: ABC Reruns Three-Year-Old Show on Black Culture and It Still Hits Hard

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2020 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

On Wednesday, June 24 at 8 p.m. I watched an unusual presentation on ABC-TV, a rerun of a show they’d done 3 ½ years ago on the opening of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of African-American History, hosted (or at least introduced) by Oprah Winfrey and held at the Kennedy Center in December 2016) with the rather awkward title Taking the Stage: African-American Music and the Stories That Changed America. It was originally broadcast on ABC January 12, 2017 — eight days before Donald Trump took over from Barack Obama as President — and Barack and Michelle Obama were in the Presidential box, sometimes clapping and singing along. Not only did the sight of the Obamas in full Presidential regalia make me nostalgic for the days when we had a President not only of professional competence but personal integrity as well, it was amazing to see him recite the words as rapper Chuck D. of the pioneering group …

Let’s Go Crazy: The Grammy Salute to Prince (Natioinal Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, CBS-TV, aired April 21, 2020)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2020 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

I turned on the TV last night for one of CBS’s Grammy specials, this one called Let’s Go Crazy: The Grammy Salute to Prince. The National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), the organization that puts on the Grammy Awards, has done a number of these retrospective specials before — notably on The Beatles and Stevie Wonder — and they timed this one to air on April 21 because that was the fourth anniversary of Prince’s death. I went through a Prince phase in the mid-1980’s — I was as impressed by the Purple Rain soundtrack as anyone else and I bought some of the Prince albums on either side of it chronologically. When I finally caught up with the movie it was ostensibly a soundtrack for, via a VHS tape in the 1990’s, I was considerably less impressed; aside from the moving scenes between Prince and his father, played by the tragically under-used Black actor Clarence Williams III, it see…