Does Classical Music Sound Better When You're High?

Categories: classical

Eric Gruneisen
Red Rocks on a "High" Note
By: Chris Walker

"Do you have anything that goes well with Beethoven?"

The clerk at the Denver Wellness Center looks at me strangely, before motioning me over to a display case full of various THC-infused candies and baked goods.

"Well," he says. "We got weed cookies, gummies, lollipops, chocolate...I think any of them should work fine."

"Right," I say, squinting and pointing towards a tin-foil wrapped chocolate bar. "So you're sure that one pairs nicely with classical music?"

I want to have the proper goods. Tonight I'm going to Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver to see the Colorado Symphony Orchestra's end of summer concert. Normally that wouldn't require a visit to a pot dispensary beforehand, but this show is the symphony's first public performance in partnership with the cannabis industry, which ponied up nearly $130,000 to sponsor the Symphony's "Classically Cannabis" series.

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Gershwin's Americana at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater

Photo by Scott Feinblatt
Pacific Symphony
Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre

From alt rock acts to classical orchestras, the cozy and scenic Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, formerly (and more dignifiedly) known as Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, has hosted many types of concerts and musical festivals. And although music appreciation depends upon the taste of the individual, it is difficult to imagine that the strains of George Gershwin's most popular compositions would not command respect from anyone who heard them performed -- much less all in one program. On the evening of Sunday, July 20, Carl St. Clair opened his 25th season as the Musical Director and Conductor of the Pacific Symphony with performances of An American in Paris, Rhapsody in Blue, selections from Porgy and Bess, and the "Overture" from Strike Up the Band.

Gershwin is popularly regarded as one of the prototypical American composers. He synthesized classical music with jazz and yielded wonderfully theatrical music, which has become hallmark Americana. Gershwin referred to Rhapsody in Blue (1924) as "a musical kaleidoscope of America." It has been influential on numerous musicians and has featured prominently in many movies -- most notably as Woody Allen's theme for New York in Manhattan and in Baz Luhrmann's recent film adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

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The Axl Rose of Japan Comes to OC to Play Classical Music

Categories: classical

Press Photo
Usually when you catch up with a rock star at 4 a.m., it's hardly ever a good thing. But in the case of Japanese rocker Yoshiki, it's just an average evening. No, he wasn't partying hard. Instead, he was in the midst of preparing for his upcoming tour of very special shows across the globe. He'll be starting his tour at the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa this Friday night.

While some in the States may not be familiar with the singer, in his native Japan, he's debatably the biggest rock star in the land fronting metal band X Japan. In fact, he's been nicknamed the "Bono of Japan," but a better comparison, at least in terms of sleeping habits, could be Axl Rose. But he's awake because he's working on something that very few accomplished rockers would even dare to do: a classical tour.

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Inspiring Story of Anaheim's First Children's Orchestral Program in 30 Years

Categories: classical

Photo by Brian Brooks for Anaheim City School District
In times of economic hardship, it is a given that school arts programs are the first to get the shaft. Naturally, the three R's are paramount, and, typically, sporting events are shown greater respect due to the social customs that accompany their practice; however, it is tragic that the arts, which offer the greatest contributions to humanity and the enrichment of culture, can be so dishonored that when a small battle is won to bring back what should already exist, the key players are nothing less than saints.

Anaheim City School District (ACSD) is the sixth largest elementary school district in California. Its 24 schools provide education for over 19,300 students; 74% of those students speak Spanish in their homes, and 85% of them qualify for free or reduced rate lunches. According to Dorothy Rose, the executive director of Orange County Symphony (OCS), there had not been an instrumental music program in the district for somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 years. Evidently, this was not to her satisfaction.

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Mike Garson's New Symphony Literally Heals Mind, Body and Soul

Categories: classical

A screen drops from the rafters, obscuring a section of the concert hall stage in the midst of a 44-piece orchestra and 50-member children's choir. As the musicians play the opening strains of an Argentine tango, two ballroom dancers appear in silhouette, moving gracefully behind the screen as the music swirls around them. The song ends, the screen slides away, and a septuagenarian couple, Bob and Nancy Dufault, are revealed as the dancers. Nancy, afflicted with Parkinson's disease, has trouble moving without a walker and is often confined to a wheelchair. But while the music plays, she can dance. While the music plays, she is healed.

The Argentine tango is just one of 12 movements in the "Symphonic Suite for Healing," a music therapy project that will premiere Saturday, March 1st, at the Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. Composed by former David Bowie pianist and rock star emeritus Mike Garson, each of the movements in the symphony was selected for the beneficial effect it produces in patients with brain-based illnesses. The Foundation for Neurosciences, Stroke and Recovery (FNSR) is sponsoring the concert with the Philharmonic Society of Orange County.

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Ottmar Liebert: A Flamenco Guitarist Who'd Rather Listen to Horns

Matt Callahan
Ottmar Liebert is one of the most popular flamenco-style guitarists, yet he doesn't like to place himself in that genre. Instead, Liebert infuses flamenco techniques with his own style that borrows from non-stringed instruments and genres you'd never imagine he'd listen to. The Grammy-nominated and platinum-selling musician relies on touring and record sales to make a living, which would seem to have given him a practical, unromantic outlook on the art form, but it's actually become his guide for how he interprets the world and finds his way through it.

He plays with his trio at the Coach House on Thursday, and even if you're not into flamenco or its fusions, he shares some sound advice for aspiring musicians in all genres.More »

Broadway Singer Susan Egan Talks About the OC High School of the Arts and Growing Up in Seal Beach

susan egan.jpg
Olivier Ciappa
When I hear the term "Broadway," I think of lots of things, but mostly I think of New York City, bright lights, people wearing pea coats, taxis and how bummed I am that I never got a chance to see those failed "Spider-Man" previews. However, thanks to Saturday's Long Beach Symphony POPS! concert, I can now add "Seal Beach" to that list as Susan Egan, a Seal Beach native and current Orange County resident, is one of three singers featured at the event.

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Long Beach Symphony Orchestra's Enrique Arturo Diemecke Explains the Musical Joke


Two things pop into my head when I hear the term "musical joke." One is something along the lines of Tenacious D or those classic Adam Sandler Saturday Night Live sketches. You know--stuff that's meant to be funny.

The other is a lot less positive and brings to mind the word "trainwreck." We've all heard/seen this sort of musical joke, usually in the form of a teenage garage band playing a show three weeks after buying instruments, our crazy uncles thinking they are on stage at the Staples Center when in fact they are botching a Bob Dylan tune on their couches or Madonna.

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Hollywood Bowl Opening Night Friday Night

Hollywood Bowl Opening Night with Harry Connick, Jr., and Gloria Estefan
June 17, 2011
Hollywood Bowl

The Hollywood Bowl opened its 90th season Friday night with its Hall of Fame concert featuring the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Youth Orchestra LA, Cirque du Soilel performers and sets by HOF inductees Harry Connick, Jr., and Gloria Estefan. That might sound like a lot of entertainment for one night, but the Bowl operates in such a smooth manner that the evening moved quickly without feeling rushed.

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Last Saturday: Long Beach Symphony Orchestra

Two reasons brought me to the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra on Saturday night. First, I'm always on the prowl for something new, and to me, the symphony is definitely something new. The second reason was because I had been locked down by the flu for two weeks and I had enough of staying in bed watching Law & Order.

As an absolute symphony virgin, you'll have to accept my apology for some of the dumb things I'm about to say.

To summarize, the LBSO's performance was amazing. The orchestra ran through Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 in C major, Kopetzki's Concerto for Marimba and String Orchestra and Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, "Eroica."

What first blew my mind was the precision layering of instrumentation during the first movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 in C major. As a recovering rock musician, I'm used to hearing songs with a constant percussion to keep time. But not Beethoven. And not the LBSO. Conductor Enrique Arturo Diemecke had that large group bopping and weaving as tightly as any rhythm section I've ever heard. Plus, his arms moving around made me think he was really into it. Showmanship at the symphony? Whoduthunk? Not me, that's for sure.

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