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And the Met Opera audition winners are...

DanielleBy Mary Kunz Goldman

A good crowd turned out to see the Metropolitan Opera auditions held Saturday at Nichols School's Flickinger Performing Arts Center. The event had a terrific energy, with the audience focused on what was going on on stage, and coughing and sneezing kept to a minimum, a miracle in the middle of winter.

There were three winners.

They are Cameron McPhail, 29, a baritone from Toronto; Lauren Frey, 26 year old soprano from Pittsburgh; and Magali Simard-Galdes, a 22 year-old soprano from Rimouski, Quebec.

Encouragement awards, amounting to $500 each, went to Mokoto Winkler, 22, a baritone from Seaford; soprano Adanya Dunn, 23, of Toronto; soprano Erin Berger, 25, of Montreal; and soprano Danielle Beckvermit, 21, from Kingston. That is Danielle pictured up above. I caught her performance, and thought she was excellent.

Organizer Dianne Rubin described Cameron, the winner, as "a phenom."

A list of winners across the country appears on the Met's site. You may also watch Mark Mulville's video of Buffalo baritone James Wright in action. Though ultimately he was not chosen, Jim clearly impressed the judges with his aria from "Faust," because they called him back to sing an aria from Mozart's "Cosi fan Tutte."

Anyway, lots of drama, and lots of talent.

Bravi to all!

Farewell to Boyd Lee Dunlop

Boyd

By Mary Kunz Goldman

It is a sad day today in Buffalo because of the passing of Boyd Lee Dunlop. Dunlop, who reportedly died last night, was a great jazz pianist and even greater spirit.

Dunlop's hit CD "Boyd's Blues" captured worldwide attention in 2012 when it shot to No. 5 on the jazz charts. The world was enchanted not only by the fragile, soulful music but also by the surreal circumstances surrounding the recording. Dunlop was in his 80s, living in a nursing home. He had already cheated death several times.

I got to meet him in January, when he was coming out with his new CD, "The Lake Reflections." We met in the Delaware Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where he lived. I was introduced to him by Brendan Bannon, the extraordinary friend Dunlop made late in life. Bannon was instrumental in bringing about Dunlop's CD. He spent countless hours and days with Dunlop in the nursing home, including in the pianist's last hours. Dunlop used to tell him, "You gave me back myself."

Meeting Dunlop was a wonderful experience. People used to tell him, "Boyd, you light up the room," and that day in January, I saw it was true. There was nothing like the sight of Boyd Lee Dunlop, tall and lean, swaggering into a room -- and even at 86, he did swagger -- wearing a cowboy hat and a bright mischievous smile.

That he died at Christmastime could be called appropriate. Boyd loved God. Brendan Bannon, who was with us that January day in the nursing home, said as much. 

"You talk about God a lot, man, don't you?" Brendan said to him.

"I do," Dunlop said. When you complimented him on his playing, he used to point heavenward and say, "It comes from God." There were other memorable musicians in history -- Franz Josef Haydn was one -- who used to do and say that same thing.

Dunlop also took a delight in life. I remember that Brendan good-naturedly baited him: "Now you're walking on the graves of people who said you couldn't do it, aren't you, Boyd?"

And Boyd said, "That's right. I feel good!"

He sat down at the nursing home spinet that day and played for anyone and no one. When he took a break, it was great fun to hear him talk about piano and pianists.

"Earl Hines was old-fashioned even when I was a kid," he laughed. And: "Rachmaninoff was really beautiful. Thick hands, but agile." And: "Art Tatum didn't drink whiskey, only beer."

He is survived by his brother, the drummer Frankie Dunlop, who was famous for performing with Thelonious Monk. It is poignant now to think that Boyd Lee Dunlop has gone to join other jazz greats who have left us. He will be remembered -- as a warm spirit, a bright presence, an inspiration to us all.

"I reached up to the sky and brought the house down," he laughed back in January. 

"God gave me the talent."

Young soprano Emily Helenbrook plans Christmas recital

Emily2

By Mary Kunz Goldman

Emily Helenbrook, the very talented young soprano who is currently a sophomore at the Eastman School of Music, is giving a Christmas recital at Blessed Sacrament Church.

The recital, which supports Veterans Voices, takes place at 3 p.m. Sunday. Emily, pictured above, will be joined by pianist Orlando Buenos Diaz in a range of Christmas selections. Tickets are available at the door for a $10 donation.

Miss Helenbook has been heard singing with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, with the Ars Nova Musicians at Buffalo's Viva Vivaldi Festival and on the radio show "From the Top." At 10, as the Gusto Blog has chronicled, she received encouragement from renowned diva Kathleen Battle. Sunday's recital offers a great chance to catch up with how her voice is evolving as well as take a breather from the holiday bustle.

Blessed Sacrament Church is at 1035 Delaware Ave.

From QRS to WNED: Piano roll expert gets a new gig

Berkman

By Mary Kunz Goldman

Bob Berkman, known for his longtime association with QRS Piano Rolls, will be starting a new career in January, as afternoon program host on 94.5, WNED-FM.

Berkman will be on the air Monday through Friday, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., as host of Afternoon Classics.

We trust his new employment will not in any way impede his continued exploration of piano rolls and the craft of producing them. Berkman is an internationally renowned authority on piano rolls. Above is a picture from his Facebook page, of him making a piano roll with a specially designed shoe. The picture was taken at Asbury Hall, at a recent event called "Becoming Hole -- a Celebration of Performation with Pianola Musings, Films and Readings."

As one Facebook friend of his commented: "Only in Buffalo."

As you await Berkman's voice on the radio, here is a short film that lets you watch him in action. 

WNY native Michael Christie conducting Xmas opera on PBS

Silentnight

By Mary Kunz Goldman

Conductor Michael Christie, who grew up near the airport, went to Oberlin College and has been music director of a number of orchestras around the country, is making a high-profile appearance on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. He can be seen on PBS, conducting the Minnesota Opera's production of Kevin Puts' "Silent Night."

"Silent Night" is an opera based on the movie "Joyeux Noel," which was based on a true story from World War I -- when on Christmas Eve, up and down the Belgian border, German troops initiated a Christmas truce. The British troops reciprocated and the result was a miraculous, if temporary, lull in the fighting, as soldiers who were enemies only minutes before shared gifts, treats and camaraderie.

The opera, which has been praised by critics, will be broadcast on PBS on Dec. 24 at 9 p.m. and Dec. 25 at 11:30 p.m. 

Visiting pianist plans Sunday recital at Darwin Martin House

Christopher Guzman
By Mary Kunz Goldman

The second season of Music in Buffalo's Historic Places, the brainchild of UB Music Professor Eric Huebner, kicks off at 3 p.m. Sunday with a piano recital at Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin Martin House in North Buffalo.

The guest recitalist is pianist Christopher Guzman, pictured above.

You may glimpse in this video Mr. Guzman playing Beethoven's beautiful Piano Sonata Op. 109 in the 2011 Seoul International Music Competition. The Beethoven is followed by Scriabin and Ravel.

At the Darwin Martin House on Sunday, Guzman is playing classics -- Beethoven's Sonata Op. 27 No. 1 as well as Brahms and Liszt -- and new music by Hans Werner Henze and Jorg Widmann that Huebner points out was inspired by the past and by historic places. A piece of special interest is the brief, seldom-heard reflection by Franz Liszt called "At the Grave of Richard Wagner." 

A Steinway piano is being provided by Denton, Cottier and Daniels.

The concert begins at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Greatbatch Pavilion of the Darwin Martin Complex, 125 Jewett Parkway, near Delaware Park. Tickets are general admission, $20 for general public and $15 for Martin House members and students. Buy a concert ticket and you will receive a two-for-one coupon to use for a future tour of the Darwin D. Martin Complex.  

Seating is limited and reservations are strongly suggested. Reserve tickets online or call 856-3858.

JoAnn Falletta Returning to Carnegie Hall on Tuesday

Falletta-lefevre

 

By Mary Kunz Goldman

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director JoAnn Falletta is returning to Carnegie Hall on Tuesday night, this time at the helm of the prestigious Orchestra of St. Luke's, a New York chamber ensemble.

She will be joined by pianist Alain Lefevre, who is playing the Piano Concerto No. 4 of Andre Mathieu, and who is pictured with her above.

Historically, on the classical music and vaudeville circuits, Buffalo has been a town that previews shows bound for New York. Such was the case with this concert. Lefevre was in Buffalo early this year to perform that particular concerto, which he champions. Mathieu, who has been called Canada's Mozart, was a pianist and composer who was a protege of Rachmaninoff and died young. The concerto Lefevre is playing was put together from fragments after his death.

Lefevre's performance in Buffalo was memorable in part because there was a glitch and the wheels to the piano were not properly secured. The instrument kept rolling away from him as he played. After the first movement he had to tap Falletta on the shoulder, and the situation was subsequently fixed. You could say the pianist was on a roll. Which The Buffalo News did.

Continue reading "JoAnn Falletta Returning to Carnegie Hall on Tuesday" »

Buffalo jazz pianist Mike Jones conquering the nation

Mikejones

By Mary Kunz Goldman

Mike Jones' new trio album, "Plays Well With Others," seems to be everywhere. Now you can read a glowing review from JazzTimes. 

Similar bravos appear all over the place. This one is typical.

You may revisit Jeff Simon's praise for the album here.

The Tattooed One continues to perform in Las Vegas as part of the Penn & Teller show. Friday, he performs at an esteemed Chicago jazz club, the Green Mill.

Here in Buffalo, the album can be had wherever fine recordings by local musicians are sold. A friend just bought it inb East Aurora at Vidler's.

A taste -- 

Erie County adopts a culture-friendly 2014 budget

On Tuesday, the Erie County Legislature passed County Executive Mark Poloncarz's 2014 budget along party lines, as Harold McNeil reported. Just as a refresher, here's a look at what the budget contains for Erie County arts organizations:

  • A 1.5 percent increase in operating funding support for 63 arts organizations, bringing total 2014 cultural funding (not including libraries) to $5.64 million
  • Funding for previously unfunded groups including Arts Services Initiative, Buffalo Niagara Choirs Inc., Central Terminal Restoration Corp., Lower Lakes Marine Historical Society, Preservation Buffalo Niagara and the Orchard Park Symphony Orchestra.

Take a look at the full list below or download a PDF copy here.

--Colin Dabkowski

Where in the World is JoAnn Falletta?

Joann

By Mary Kunz Goldman

It is time for another round of this fascinating game!

The Buffalo News has established email contact with Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director JoAnn Falletta and she is .... where?

Continue reading "Where in the World is JoAnn Falletta?" »

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