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Adele’s Concert Special: Too Much Operah, Not Enough Adele

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2021 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved Throughout the last two weeks CBS had been promoting the special they were going to show last night about the singer Adele. It was billed as “Adele: One Night Only” and was a live show that took place in front of the iconic Griffith Observatory in Lous Angeles, where much of the film Rebel Without a Cause was shot. She performed on the famous steps where Sal Mineo’s character is shot in the movie and a little man in a suit, played by director Nicholas Ray, shows up at the end to open the observatory. The show promised a concert by Adele as well as an interview of her by Oprah Winfrey, and from that I was hoping that it would be the full interview and then the concert. Instead it was a ghastly format in which Oprah’s interview with Adele, filmed in the garden of Oprah’s estate, was cut up into segments and kept intruding itself into the performance. Through the two-hou9r length of the show Adele got

Mark Herman Shines in Two Concerts at Balboa Park’s Organ Pavilion

Stunning Musical Performances Overwhelm the Silent Films He was Accompanying by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2021 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved My husband Charles and I just returned from the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in San Diego’s Balboa Park, where for the last two days a quite spectacular theatre organist named Mark Herman has been performing. On Saturday, October 30 he closed out this year’s Monday night organ festival concert – though this one was moved to Saturday, October 30 so it would take place before Hallowe’en instead of afterwards – which was the venue’s traditional “Movie Night,” an annual event in which they show either a silent feature or (as this year) a program of silent shorts, with the organist supplying live musical accompaniment. This, mind you, is how silent films were shown “in the day”: the very largest theatres had full orchestras, the next rung down had organs, the theatres below them had string trios (piano, violin and cello) and the c

Michael Hey at the Organ Pavilion October 11

Great Playing but Some Pretty Bland Music by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2021 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved Last night’s Monday night concert at the Organ Pavilion featured Michael Hey (and of course we couldn’t resist the temptation to make bad jokes about his name – including what you would say when you called him, “Hey, Hey!”), organist at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. It’s a prestigious job but also a rough one, as he described it, since among other duties he has to be in the church at the console at 7 a.m. for the daily morning Mass. He was one of those players who decided to tear up his printed program and play his pieces in a different order than listed – though there was only one complete substitution: instead of French composer Eugène Gigout’s “Grand choeur dialogue” he played his own transcription of the “Lyric for Strings” by Black organist-composer George Walker (1922-2018). It’s not clear why he didn’t play a Walker piece actually compos

Ahreum Han at the Organ Pavilion October 4

Lousy Weather but Great Music by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2021 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved Last night’s organ concert at the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park featured Ahreum Han, who was described as coming from Korea via Atlanta, Iowa and Texas (which certainly sounds like the wrong way around – did she fly over the Atlantic instead of the Pacific?). Though the edited version of her biography in the Organ Pavilion’s program didn’t make it clear whether she was Korean or Korean-American, the full version on her Web site, http://www.ahreumhan.com/biography/ , made her background apparent: “Han was born in Seoul, Korea. Her family immigrated to Atlanta, Georgia when she was sixteen. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in organ performance from Westminster Choir College, a Diploma from prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, Master’s degree from Yale School of Music and Yale Institute of Sacred Music, Doctor of Musical Arts degree from University of Iowa. Her t

Mahler’s “Das klagende Lied”: Grisly and Derivative, But At Least Not Sentimental

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by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2021 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved I’ve spent this morning and early afternoon listening to an oddball work by Gustav Mahler, Das klagende Lied , whose first draft was composed in 1880-81 (while Richard Wagner, whose footprints are all over this score, was still alive – I’ve never been a fan of Mahler and have often joked that if Wagner had lived long enough to hear Mahler’s music he would have regarded him as confirmation of everything nasty Wagner ever had to say about Jewish composers) but which wasn’t premiered until 1901 in a version that simply removed “Waldmarchen,” the first part of the story. The overall title means “Song of Lamentation” (by interesting coincidence the first work of another prominent Jewish composer-conductor, Leonard Bernstein, for singer and orchestra was called “Lamentation,” and was later incorporated as the last movement of Bernstein’s first symphony, “Jeremiah”) and the work is based on two German fa

Alcée Chriss at the Organ Pavilion, Balboa Park, San Diego: Great Eclectic Organ Concert

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2021 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved Last night’s concert at the Organ Pavilion was fantastic, a quite beautiful mixed-bag program whose sheer range made me think of George Bernard Shaw’s snippy remark about Adelina Patti: “Of all miscellaneous concerts, a Patti concert is the most miscellaneous.” The organist was Alcée Chriss (actually Alcée Chriss III, according to the program bio – which I didn’t bother to look at before the concert, and therefore I was expecting “Alcée” to be a Black woman and was startled when he turned out to be a Black man instead), and my husband Charles noted that three of the 10 pieces listed on his program were by African-Americans – though there’s a caveat to that. Only one of the three was actually written by a Black composer – “In Quiet Mood” by Florence Price (incidentally I had just dug out the BBC Music CD of her Symphony No. 3, and like the first and fourth Price symphonies Naxos recorded it was a tec

2021 Global Citizen Concert: Kidjo, Lauper, Eilish Shine in Worldwide Charity Event

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2021 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved Last Saturday, September 25, I spent the entire day at home, watching more than nine hours of the 2021 Global Citizen telecast, an annual event designed to build awareness, funding and the political will to deal with human-caused climate change and global poverty. The event was actually scheduled for 24 hours and encompassed concerts in various cities, including Paris (where the opening ceremony was held), New York, Los Angeles, London, Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai, Sydney and Lagos (the capital of Nigeria), with special one-artist presentations from places like Tuscany (Andrea Bocelli), Johannesburg (a South Afrkcan dance troupe) and Seoul, South Korea (so they could accommodate the inexplicably super-popular Koirean boy group BTS, who are still cute but getting older and noticeably heavier, while their music remains a confusing bowl of various ear candies; as I’ve joked about BTS in previous TV appearan