musical milliner

April 25, 2015

Hostile Concert Venue: Green Music Center


Note! Musical Milliner goes one a bitchy, divaesque rant. On reflection, I would have handled certain things differently. But the overall gist remains. It’s not so much that I expect exception. I do expect professionalism and reason from myself and others.

I was excited when, after many years of challenges which included at least one federal legal investigation, the new music halls opened. The music department relocated from Ives Hall, and the impression and hope was that the department could grow now that there were facilities worthy of the quality of musical education so thoughtfully and competently offered by the faculty.


From a colleague I heard that Green Music Center, and most especially Weil Hall, are really not part of the department, but under separate management. I’m told there is hostility between the two.


I had an interesting experience at Green Music Center via House Manager Ms.H.
I’ve been a performer or guest in many fine houses. Never have I been so rudely treated to the point of harassment when I observed a dress rehearsal to which I’d been invited, and in which two participants were my students, and two more were young people who received big scholarships from a recent competition I judged, and in whose future I am invested.
This house manager came after me, smoke seeping from her ears and nose after noting that I had taken a sip of water from a stainless steel spout bottle. She told me she would have to take my bottle. I refused. But it’s the rules, she said. Yes. I  understand. I am a singer. I carry spill-proof bottles with me and sip constantly  to stay hydrated. Like my colleagues. I wasn’t aware of the rule. I put my bottle in my purse, and said, I promise, between one adult to another, that I would not open the thing in the auditorium. To me, this is just professional courtesy. Clearly, she didn’t care, and I sensed she wasn’t interested in nuances or how to approach someone in any way not hostile or aggressive  (And I kept my word. The bottle behaved.)
This woman continued to aggressively harass me: what are you doing here; this rehearsal is closed (I was invited by faculty). I am a professional musician and teacher, but “nobody ever sits in on rehearsals.” This was the fourth rehearsal I’d been invited to attend in the past two years. This was NOT a music dept decision. It is the Green Center’s decision. The GMC is not part of the music department as one might assume. I did not know this prior to the incident. Music students are treated as a necessary evil. After the DR, I was asked to leave the building, and wait outside until the house opened. It was raining, cold, windy. It would be against the RULES to allow a middle aged, working singer who needs to be mindful of drafts and the rest, a seat in the giant lobby, in a corner, out of the way.
The whole question about rules and their application got me thinking. What is the purpose of rules? What does it mean to uphold them for their own sake? When can they be bent? When are exceptions made?  Are rules part of the overall social contract? Well, yes they are. In my experience, I get hostile when someone says that it doesn’t matter the circumstances, it’s a rule. I can take it as a dare. I’m trying to evolve.
I went all the way around this massive complex back to the artist’s entrance where there was plenty of room out of the weather, bathrooms, and…water. I sat by the door in a corner far from the green rooms, far from people, et al. But this battle-ax  bully appeared again. There are cameras everywhere, so she saw me. Now, this was a big concert, but it seemed Ms.H’s mission was not to assist her confounded ushers, and help the guests and performers. No. Ms H had it in her head to hunt me down because I was not allowed in the building before the house opened. It’s the rules, you know.
It was a wonderful performance!  Afterwards, I went to talk to some of the youth choir sitting in the house to congratulate them. Remeber, two in this group recently sang in a competition I judged. And…there was this same graceless  woman asking me why I was talking to these kids, and I needed to leave. Thank God one of the chorus managers spoke up for me and invited me to continue to talk to the kids. She later told me that for those two young ladies, I had “made their day.”
My guess is Ms.H will not be around GMC too long. Not in a job which require diplomacy, and common sense.

September 16, 2009

Respecting the Composer: Coda

Filed under: composer,lieder,Soprano,Strauss — by SAMM @ 3:19 am

imagesI’ve written an imaginary letter. There is a storage room somewhere full of these!

Please note the gentleman to our right (or stage left, if you will)  is our composer.

I’m feeling a bit put out that I have to accommodate a harpist and string quartet when a sweet little composition I am offering was written specifically for piano and voice  It’s just a social event, but there will be a million musicians there due to the couple’s affiliation.  The couple being feted put the entertainment in the hands of a capable person of good repute.  The person plays harp.

I cannot say for certain if this song was turned into an arrangement by consent of  the host, or if the music director took it up as a cause.  It is a Lied by Richard Strauss, sung in German, to a sexy text by a wonderful poet.  I learned today that it has grown into an orchestra piece, key changed for harp’s benefit, and the soprano, the Musical Milliner, was not consulted.

I am more than put out.  My thong’s in a twist.

I worship Richard Strauss. I know his music.  I know that he favored the soprano voice over all others.  He fell in love with and married a soprano, who was his muse.   And I know his intentions because he left clear instructions. My integrity is challenged by the idea that a person thinks the music cannot stand on its own as the composer, who was also a greatly esteemed conductor, thoughtfully formed it. It offends me that  “an occasion”  would, in someone’s eyes,  require a simple charming love song to need tarting up to better suit the event.

I am faced with the occupational hazard of choosing sportsmanship over integrity. Good will for more jobs.  We’ve all been there.  I’ll give a good performance, and the people there who know will understand that I’m just the help, singing the gig.  A situation with which they’re familiar.

Back to the imaginary letter.

Good Afternoon,
Thank you for the
pdf file with your orchestration of the Strauss.

I think you’ve done a nice job capturing the feeling of the piece. I appreciate the effort you’ve put into this orchestration.  I do, however, have some concerns.

I am uneasy about the key change. You said it’s impossible to play in Gb.  Strauss wrote this for voice and piano. I can comfortably sing up a half step, but you are changing both the color of tone and the intent of the composer. You play harp, non?  I know nothing about the challenges of your instrument other than I am stunned that anyone can play it. If the key change is to accommodate the harp, I sympathize. I am advocating for my beloved composer and his intentions. Can we return this Lied to its original key, please?

May I add a couple of  housekeeping items offered to you in good faith, from a singer who’s taken a few laps.

Please cite in your copy, especially if you intend to use it again, that the lyrics are by A.F. von Schack. He wrote such beautiful words for these songs.  Without him, where would we be?

Also, this song is part of a group of six Lied for voice and piano. Please cite Op. 19, No.2 My understanding is that Opus 19 is not in the public domain, in case you find yourself using this arrangement again.

In measure 4 ( I’m counting from the start per Strauss, and not the two introductory measures you wrote and kindly agreed to remove for me)  you have the 8th notes in the second beat tied. Strauss made space there in the diction and vocal line. If you must make an adjustment, tie the 8th notes in “da stroemt” -I have misplaced my umlauts-sorry.  I realize it doesn’t matter to the players, but I offer this for notational accuracy.

Please do not tie  “…Klar mir deiner…”  as there is a phrasing there.  And space. You’ve made the same notation after “… Kranz, ich will nur…”  and below it tied vln1 with an extra note.  Strauss put space under the voice because the singer, per the lyricist, is phrasing there in order to build on that crescendo which weeps into a diminuendo of sublime delicacy. That extra note from the fiddle player, although pretty- I think I get your intentions to perhaps extend the legato- will cause the player a bit of grief.  This is a fluid moment for the singer in terms of tempo. My read and my experience is that Strauss wants the voice exposed there.

In this piece, the lover’s ardor is expressed so gently, and at the same time, so quietly passionate  as to not require more that some chords with a few leading tones to convince the listener of the committment of the lover.

As to the 5/4 bar in lieu of 4/4, I understand that will help the players. However, there is no triplet “…und deiner…”  but a rubato, and the singer’s part marked with accents over those five notes. I think the intent in the translation here is  “…and how beautiful I feel when you look at me.”  Strauss places emphases on the romance.

You’ve added quite a lot in the last three measures.  It is pretty, but perhaps a bit busy? The singer ends with an intense piano decrescendo. Shall we trust our composer’s intelligence and let the music reflect the sweetness and simplicity of the piece? Less is more in this case.

Please advise (you complete idiot).

Your Soprano


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