December 20 ~ On This Day in Music

Christmas Countdown: Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker

• 1728 ~ Franz Xaver Pokorny, Czech Classical era composer and violinist.

• 1783 ~ Padre Antonio Francisco Javier Jose Soler

• 1871 ~ Henry Kimball Hadley, American composer and conductor

• 1890 ~ Yvonne Arnaud, French-born pianist, singer and actress

• 1898 ~ Irene (Marie) Dunne, Actress in Show Boat, Anna and the King of Siam, Alternate Delegate to the United Nations, Kennedy Center Honors Lifetime Achievement Award in 1985.

• 1909 ~ Vagn Holmboe, Danish composer and music critic

• 1920 ~ An English-born comedian named Leslie Downes became an American citizen. He had lived in the United States since 1908 and became one of the nation’s true ambassadors for show business and charity. We say, “Thanks for the memories,” to Bob Hope.

• 1928 ~ For the first time, a living actress in the United States had a theater named after her. The Ethel Barrymore Theatre opened in New York City.

• 1932 ~ Al Jolson recorded April Showers on Brunswick Records.

• 1938 ~ John Harbison, American composer and conductor

• 1944 ~ Bobby Colomby, Drummer, singer with Blood, Sweat & Tears

• 1948 ~ Little Stevie Wright, Singer with The Easybeats

• 1949 ~ Harry Belafonte had his second session with Capitol Records. Included in the session were Whispering and Farewell to Arms. With eight tunes then recorded and little enthusiasm from record buyers, Capitol decided to part company with Belafonte by not renewing the singer’s contract. He went to RCA Victor in April 1952.

• 1952 ~ Jimmy Boyd reached the #1 spot on the record charts with the Christmas song of the year, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.

• 1957 ~ Billy (Steven) Bragg, Songwriter, guitarist, singer

• 1966 ~ Chris Robinson, Singer with The Black Crowes

• 1972 ~ Jack Albertson and Sam Levine starred as two retired vaudevillians in Neil Simon’s classic comedy, The Sunshine Boys, which opened at the Broadhurst Theatre in NYC. The play had a run of 538 performances. The movie version later became a box office smash, as well.

• 1973 ~ Singer Bobby Darin passed away following open-heart surgery at the age of 37. He left a legacy of memories in rock ’n’ roll and pop tunes, as well as on television and in movies (even an Oscar nomination for his role in Captain Newman, M.D.). The story of Darin being groomed to replace Frank Sinatra at Capitol Records is absolutely true. Unfortunately, Capitol didn’t think the grooming was going so well and withheld many of Darin’s songs for many years; releasing them in a compilation CD in 1995. Good stuff to listen to: Splish Splash, Queen of the Hop, Dream Lover, Mack the Knife, Beyond the Sea, If I Were a Carpenter, etc. At the end, Darin, who had recorded for Atco, Capitol and Atlantic Records had just begun recording for Motown.

• 1980 ~ Shirley Temple Black became a grandmother. Her oldest daughter gave birth to a baby girl.

• 1982 ~ Artur Rubinstein, pianist (My Young Years), died at the age of 95

• 1999 ~ Hank Snow passed away

• 2000 ~ Roebuck “Pops” Staples, patriarch of the Staple Singers whose lyrics on “Respect Yourself” and other hits delivered a civil rights message with a danceable soul beat, passed away. “They took this really positive message music and made it contemporary and popular by putting it with electric guitars and inserting a groove,” said Sherman Wilmott, who is helping create a museum in Memphis, Tennessee, honoring the musical stars at Stax Records, the Staple Singers’ principal label. Born in Winona, Mississippi, Staples learned to sing acapella and developed his Delta blues electric guitar style. Starting out as a gospel group in 1948, the Staple Singers with son Pervis and daughters Mavis and Cleotha as singers reached an even wider audience with 1970s soul hits such as Respect Yourself, I’ll Take You There and If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me). Before achieving stardom, Staples resisted taking his family on tour and held jobs in Chicago’s stockyards and steel mills. Staples came to believe he could contribute in song to the battle for blacks’ civil rights being waged by the Rev. Martin Luther King and others, Wilmott said. “He sang and played guitar. He was extremely well- spoken and calm and intelligent,” he said. Another daughter, Yvonne, told the Tribune: “When Dr. King started preaching, Pops said ‘I think we can sing it.’ That’s what he felt,” she said. “He believed that the world could be made a better place for all of us.” At age 80, Staples won a Grammy Award as a solo artist in 1994 for his album “Father Father.” He also received a National Heritage Fellowship Award at the White House from first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. The group entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year. In a 1998 interview with the Tribune, Staples said his musical education began early. “We’d come home and didn’t have anything to do after we eat but go to bed. So we’d go out in the yard and sing.”

• 2000 ~ Rob Buck, lead guitarist for the rock band 10,000 Maniacs, died of liver failure at the age of 42, three weeks after he collapsed at his home in western New York.

OCMS 2004 ~ Blues singer-guitarist Son Seals, one of the most distinctive voices to emerge in the genre during the 1970s, died at the age of 62.
More information about Son Seals

OCMS 2004 ~ Italian soprano Renata Tebaldi, one of the great post-World War II opera divas who Arturo Toscanini said had the “voice of an angel,” died at the age of 82.
More information about Renata Tebaldi

Christmas Countdown 2020: Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker

 

nutcracker

A few years ago, we went to see Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker

From http://www.nycballet.com/Ballets/N/George-Balanchine-s-The-Nutcracker.aspx

During the holiday period, the entire Company is immersed in activities surrounding George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. All 90 dancers, 62 musicians, 32 stagehands and two casts of 50 young students each from the School of American Ballet join forces to make each performance as magical as possible. Children of all ages from New York City and the nation fill the David H. Koch Theater to be captivated by the lure of Tschaikovsky’s music, Balanchine’s choreography, Karinska’s sumptuous costumes, and Rouben Ter-Arutunian’s magical sets. George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, based on the Alexandre Dumas pere version of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (1816), demands a full-scale production.

The elaborate stage elements and intricate lighting unleash the viewers’ imagination by providing visual effects that are extraordinarily grand. The most famous example is the one-ton Christmas tree that grows from a height of 12 feet to 40 feet, evoking audible gasps of disbelief from the audience at each performance. Other notable feats include the comic figure of Mother Ginger — 85 pounds and nine feet wide, the costume requires handling by three people once it is lowered by pulley over the dancer’s head — as well as the continuous flutter of the purest, crystal-shaped snowflakes (which are swept up and conserved after each performance for reuse).

While these technical achievements are wonderful fun, it is Balanchine’s choreography that sustains the ballet through two acts. Act I introduces the characters — the Stahlbaum children, Marie and Fritz, Herr Drosselmeier and his Nephew — and also begins the transition from reality into fantasy with the concluding Snowflake Waltz. Act II offers the complete transformation. We have entered the “Kingdom of the Sugarplum Fairy” and there is no turning back.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ is one of the most complex theatrical, staged ballets in the Company’s active repertory. The popularity of the ballet is immense and it provides an unforgettable spark to everyone’s holiday season.

Although the original production was not a success, the 20-minute suite that Tchaikovsky extracted from the ballet was. However, the complete Nutcracker has enjoyed enormous popularity since the late 1960s and is now performed by countless ballet companies, primarily during the Christmas season, especially in North America. Major American ballet companies generate around 40 percent of their annual ticket revenues from performances of The Nutcracker.

Tchaikovsky’s score has become one of his most famous compositions, in particular, the pieces featured in the suite.