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Babeville to host forum on art, culture and 'placemaking' tonight

Jason Schupback, director of design for the National Endowment for the Arts, will lead a forum on the role of art and culture in the development of urban spaces tonight at 7 in Babeville's Asbury Hall

As projects such as Larkinville and Canalside spring up in American cities recovering from decades of economic stagnation, developers, architects and politicians are thinking much more about the role of culture in creating new urban landscapes and economies. The term for that trend is "placemaking," a highly lampoonable piece of jargon The Atlantic Cities included on its list of "Urbanist Buzzwords to Rethink in 2014."

Whatever you may think of the word itself, the trend is well worth exploring. Tonight's forum is sure to touch on many important issues central to the development of Buffalo in the next few years. Anyone interested in the rapid development of the city should check it out.

The forum is sponsored by Partners for a Livable Western New York, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and presented by Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center. As seating is limited, those interested in attending should RSVP by calling Hallwalls at 854-1694.

--Colin Dabkowski

Five Songs For a Freezing Day

By Mary Kunz Goldman

1. Sonny Boy Williamson, "Nine Below Zero." "The woman waits till it's nine below zero, and puts me down for another man." A timeless, ageless theme, and a wonderful video of the great Sonny Boy singing and playing his harp.

2. "Gute Nacht" ("Good night") the first song from the song cycle "Die Winterreise" ("The Winter Journey") by Franz Schubert. It is in German but this song translates roughly to "Nine below zero, she put me out for another man." Enjoy this bleak portrait of winter, and listen to the whole thing because the ending is magical. Your singer is baritone Thomas Quasthoff.

3. "Moonlight in Vermont." Let's see the cold in a more affectionate light. This is a romantic portrait of winter but still gets across the chilliness with its words about icy fingertips and snowlight. No one sings it as beautifully as Ella Fitzgerald with Louis Armstrong. 

 4.  Frank Bridge's song "Blow, Blow Thy Winter Wind" quotes from Shakespeare in laughing at the winter wind and reminding us that in the grand scheme of things a cold wind is not that bad. "Hey, ho, sing hey ho, unto the green holly..." Here is Canadian baritone Gerald Finley, a singer I love, with Roger Vignoles on piano.

5. Not a song per se, but we cannot have a list of music for a single-digit-degree day without the vivid "Winter" from Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons." There is that exquisite melody in the middle movement -- that part is supposed to be about warming up by the fire -- but the other movements really sum up what a day like today is like. I chose this video for its great images, but even without them, Vivaldi makes you feel the shivering and the chattering teeth.

The real Billy Elliot is on stage in Toronto -- and he's not a dancer


By Mary Kunz Goldman

Sir Thomas Allen, a British opera baritone from a coal mining town, was the chief inspiration for the mega-hit "Billy Elliot," about a boy who transcends a similar background to become a great ballet dancer. He is singing the pivotal part of Don Alfonso in the Canadian Opera Company's new production of Mozart's "Cosi fan Tutte."

There has already been one performance and there are nine left to go. The staging, by filmmaker Atom Egoyan, looks really weird. Why do they have to do this to Mozart, you know? Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera," the COC's other offering this time around, looks OK.

But what a pleasure to see, and hear, Sir Thomas Allen.

Here is a Toronto audio interview with him in which he talks about a number of things including "Cosi" and his childhood. "I was a shy, retiring lad, but I wanted to sing." He sounds like such a gracious man. It is poignant to hear him laughing ruefully how he tells how he was bullied -- including being thrown over a railroad embankment and getting his nose bloodied -- because he was studying singing and interested in the arts. You could not get away with that in his hometown, he says.

And: "I've never got on with pop music." It takes courage to say that!

Hmmm, he mentions how his father plays the piano and was especially influenced by Charlie Kunz. "If that name means anything these days," he laughs. As a Kunz myself I love hearing that name mentioned! On a more serious note though this is a very moving interview. Try to find time to hear it.

Besides being an opera star Sir Thomas Allen is a great singer of Lieder, an art form I love. Here he is singing Schubert's "Serenade." 


Hallelujahs for Renee Fleming and her Super Bowl gig


By Mary Kunz Goldman

Renee Fleming, above, is getting shouts of "Brava!" for singing the National Anthem at the upcoming Super Bowl on Feb. 2.

The story on Yahoo! News is eliciting comments that can pretty much be translated to "Viva la Diva." 

"Thank God! How many horrible renditions have we had to endure over the years? Love her voice!"

"At least we won't have Pop Divas taking one syllable words and turning them into 50 syllable words spanning four octaves."

"Finally, they have someone with talent."

"A real singer singing our National Anthem. Refreshing."

"I think this is great! I hope she sings it as written. Opera singers have incredible voices!"

Best of all...

"Wait a minute, they're having someone who can actually sing perform the anthem? This is a breaking a long standing tradition!"

Renee Fleming, who is from Rochester, has sung here in Buffalo a number of times, including opening the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's season in 2002 and 2006. She is reportedly the first opera singer to have the honor of singing the anthem at the Super Bowl. As we rejoice in this turn of events, here she is singing Mozart's famous "Alleluia."

Hmmmm... a bit like "The Star-Spangled Banner," it builds to a dazzling high note at the end!

Could we maybe hear this at halftime?


BPO Recap: Musing on 'Mozart and Salieri'


By Mary Kunz Goldman

A concertgoer was nice enough to read my review of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's concert this past weekend, which featured Rimsky-Korsakov's opera "Mozart and Salieri." He writes, in part:

...You took no shots at an obviously lame piece. While I'm a big fan of Ms. Falletta, I am often mystified at her penchant for taking obscure pieces and presenting them to us (or maybe subjecting us to them.) There's a reason these pieces are obscure. I know musicians and directors get tired of playing the same Bachs and Beethovens over and over, and yes some of her selections can be interesting, but for every decent new piece she delivers to us there is something like that awful stinker Gliere piece, or this Rimsky-Korsakov....  Paraphrasing "The orchestra performed it wonderfully" - maybe so- but the piece itself was a piece of crap, especially that Gliere. Again, there is a reason these pieces are obscure.

I like this guy's passion for music and his civil discourse -- I mean, he didn't call me an idiot or anything because I wrote positively about a piece he did not like. I did, honestly, enjoy "Mozart and Salieri." I was looking forward to it and it did not disappoint me.

As I wrote back to our correspondent...

Continue reading "BPO Recap: Musing on 'Mozart and Salieri'" ยป

You, too, can be on TV with Lance Diamond!


By Mary Kunz Goldman

Television cameras. Did we hear the words television cameras?

Because Lance Diamond is going to be chowing wings with Mo Rocca on "CBS Sunday Morning," as many Buffalonians as possible must join him in the national spotlight.

For part of the shoot Lance is doing a special two-hour show at Milkie's on Elmwood today from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. CBS is going to shoot some of the show for their story.


Costner, Leno among Seneca Casinos star-studded spring line-up

Actor Kevin Costner and comedian Jay Leno are among the acts announced for the spring lineup of the Seneca Casinos in Niagara Falls and Salamanca.

Kicking off a stellar spring line-up, Heart will rock the Seneca Niagara Casino Events Center (310 Fourth St., Niagara Falls) with a concert at 8 p.m. March 27. Tickets are on sale and at start at $55.

Heading out on the road after concluding his stint on "The Tonight Show," Jay Leno will headline at the Seneca Niagara Casino Events Center at 8 p.m. April 5. Tickets are on sale and start at $50.

Jon Anderson, the original lead vocalist for the band Yes, will perform in the Seneca Niagara Casino Bear's Den Showroom at 8 p.m. April 11. Tickets start at $45 and go on sale at noon on Jan. 20.

The Seneca Allegany Casino Events Center (777 Seneca Allegany Road, Salamanca) welcomes country singer-songerwriter Gary Allan for a concert at 7 p.m. March 29 and Kevin Costner & Modern West at 7 p.m. April 12. Tickets start at $35 for each show and go on sale at noon Jan. 20.

All tickets are available through the Seneca Casino box offices, online at or charge by phone at (800) 745-3000.

For more information, visit or

3 BPO musicians playing tonight in Carnegie Hall charity orchestra


By Mary Kunz Goldman

Tonight, three musicians from the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra will be in New York City, on stage at Carnegie Hall (pictured above). They are part of an orchestra convened to play Shostakovich for humitarian reasons.  The concert, presented by Music For Life International and called "Shostakovich for the Children of Syria," is intended to raise awareness for the thousands of children tragically displaced by the ongoing unspeakable violence in Syria. The net proceeds benefit Doctors Without Borders.

The three BPO musicians involved in the effort are violinist Deborah Greitzer, bassoonist Glenn Einschlag and oboist Brian Greene. Joining them will be musicians from the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke's, the American Symphony Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, as well as students and faculty of the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, the Curtis Institute, and other major music academies.

Shostakovich wrote his  Seventh Symphony, subtitled the "Leningrad," while confronting the horrors of World War II. An hour and a quarter long, it bears dramatic witness to the twin evils of Stalin and Hitler. 

George Mathew conducts the concert, which takes place at 8 p.m. tonight in the Isaac Stern Auditorium, the main performance space of Carnegie Hall. Mathew was quoted as saying, "Dmitri Shostakovich's searing Seventh Symphony 'Leningrad' was written during its own composer's experience as an internal refugee while surviving the twin ordeals of Stalin's oppression and the urban catastrophe, which was the Nazi army's 900-day siege of Leningrad. There are uncanny resonances between the context of Shostakovich's monumental symphony and the Syrian Civil War, now past the tragically kindred milestone of 1000 days."

"I am very proud of our three musicians who have been chosen to perform in this concert," BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta said in a statement. "Music has the power to give voice to the voiceless, and to shake people out of their day-to-day routines and make them think about larger issues." 

MFLI takes its name from the Music for Life concert led by Leonard Bernstein in 1987 at Carnegie Hall. The concert is timed to take place one week before the Geneva II conference on Syria convened by the United Nations on Jan 22 in Geneva, Switzerland. 

Tickets are $33-$199.

BPO budget in the black


By Mary Kunz Goldman

The numbers are in for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's 2012-2013 season, and they strike many a bright, shiny note.

The budget is balanced, for the eighth time in the past nine years, and contributions are up. Concert revenue was at an all-time high, up 5.5 percent to $3,869,000 from $3,666,000 the year before. Louis P. Ciminelli, Chair of the BPO Board of Trustees, called it "one of the most exciting seasons on record for the BPO."

There was an 11.9 percent surge in contributions which was attributed to the fund raising surrounding the BPO's return to Carnegie Hall last spring for Carnegie Hall's "Spring For Music" Festival.

Endowment income grew from $1,110,000 to $1,206,000. Endowment assets under the management of the BPO Foundation are up 7.7 percent, growing to $16,605,000 -- an increase over over $1 million from from $15,410,000 last year, and for a 300 percent increase since 2004. 

Attendance at the BPO's concerts was numbered at 180,000. Season subscriptions are at an all-time high and single ticket sales are also up, a boost the BPO attributes to expanded and creative programming. The 2012-2013 season saw several innovations designed to reach larger audiences, such as BPO Rocks and Know the Score. Several unusual concerts also drew new people to Kleinhans Music Hall. Among them were the appearance of soprano Kathleen Battle, a crossover concert by banjo player Bela Fleck and the Shostakovich concert featuring Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, 

This good news helped the BPO weather the drop in government support. Government money fell to its lowest level in a decade -- $996,000, downfrom $1,018,000 the year before. 

Our orchestra's upward momentum is great news especially considering all the orchestras that are struggling in this uneasy economic climate. It reflects certain things in Buffalo that are just going right. There is cooperation among the various branches of the BPO -- musicians, management and board. There is the loyalty the BPO and Music Director JoAnn Falletta, pictured above, get from the community. And the BPO answers that loyalty with creative programming that keeps the audience in mind. 

The BPO offers more opportunity to crunch numbers and digest details.



Fall Out Boy, Paramore to play Darien Lake

Fall Out Boy and Paramore will headline a July 2 concert in the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center. They will be joined by New Politics on what is being dubbed the "Monumentour."

Tickets are $36, $46, $56 adn $66 reserved seating and $26 lawn (with $78 lawn four-packs available) and go on sale at 10 a.m. Jan. 17 through, or charge by phone at (800) 745-3000.

For more information, visit

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