Category: Marcia Adair

Catching up with young soprano Jackie Evancho [Video]

February 18, 2012 |  9:00 am

Jackie Evancho
Is Jackie Evancho a prodigy? A product? A cautionary tale in the making? It depends on whom you ask. One thing is for certain: Any mention of the 11-year old soprano with a mature voice is sure to generate passionate comments. As Evancho is set to be in Los Angeles on Friday for a concert at Nokia Live Theatre, we add our thoughts to the mix in this article in Sunday's Arts & Books section.

For those just catching up: Evancho did the local talent show circuit before joining "America's Got Talent" halfway through the 2010 season as part of a YouTube talent search. Her parents posted the first video of Evancho singing when she was 7 years old, which provides an easy way to see how the voice has changed and grown over the last four years.

Continue reading »

Ricky Gervais' cohort Stephen Merchant talks about stand-up

January 16, 2012 | 10:06 am

  Stephen Merchant
British comedian Stephen Merchant (co-creator with Ricky Gervais of "The Office," "Extras" and "Cemetery Junction") will bring his  “Hello Ladies” tour to the Coronet Theatre next week, Tuesday through Thursday.

We caught up with him via telephone  to have a chat about the art of stand-up and what happens when one of those ladies says "hello" back.

Read the full interview with Stephen Merchant.

As things go with funny people, there is always more to say. Read on for some bonus verbiage:

Continue reading »

Bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff retires from the concert stage

January 11, 2012 |  5:40 pm

German bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff announced Wednesday that he will, effective immediately, no longer be giving concerts.

In a press release posted on his website, Quasthoff writes,

“After almost 40 years, I have decided to retire from concert life. My health no longer allows me to live up to the high standard that I have always set for my art and myself. I owe a lot to this wonderful profession and leave without a trace of bitterness.

"On the contrary, I am looking forward to the new challenges that will now enter my life. I
would like to thank all my fellow musicians and colleagues, with whom I stood together on
stage, all the organizers, and my audience for their loyalty.”

Quasthoff has serious birth defects from thalidomide poisoning, which shortened his arms and legs.

He has long been a committed professor of voice and encourager of young singers. He will continue in his post at the Hanns Eisler Hochschule in Berlin, as well as giving master classes and overseeing his biennial voice competition, "Das Lied."

Have a listen to Quasthoff, one of the few classically trained singers who can do jazz, pop and blues as idiomatically as they do Schubert, singing "Georgia on My Mind" from his 2011 disc "Tell It Like It Is."

Continue reading »

Straight No Chaser's hit 'Twelve Day of Christmas' comes to L.A.

December 8, 2011 | 12:15 pm

Straight No Chaser

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" is one of those songs that seems a good idea and then somewhere around the maids-a-milking, everyone desperately wants to abort mission. This and the seemingly nonsensical lyrics have made it a holiday favorite on the comedy circuit.

There's Jeff Foxworthy's redneck version, the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre (a few swears), the Muppets with John DenverJulie Andrews & the King's Singers, a Cajun version and Béla Fleck making all sorts of musical jokes.

The most popular version of all -- at least according to YouTube --is by the a cappella group Straight No Chaser. In 1998, the members made a video of themselves singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas" at a concert. Nothing much happened.

Then, in December 2007, on newfangled video sharing site called YouTube, millions of viewers discovered Straight No Chaser, one of which was Atlantic Records Chief Executive Craig Kallman, who then signed the group to a record deal.

Now the group is on a 50-city cross-country Christmas tour, which rolls into the Wiltern on Friday night. The concert will be a blend of holiday and pop music.

Keep reading to watch the group's live version of "Twelve Days of Christmas."

Continue reading »

5 beloved Christmas carols: Listen and deck the halls

December 7, 2011 |  9:53 am

"A Charlie Brown Christmas"
In Wednesday's Los Angeles Times we look at some common words and ideas in Christmas carols and explore their meaning and history. Listen below for some of the carols that represent each of the themes we discovered:


Often rendered in modern times as "Here We Come A-Caroling," "Here We Come A-wassailing" is a faux-archaic carol created in the mid-19th century just as Christmas was becoming the nostalgia-draped festival we know it as today. Hear the King's Singers and the City of London Sinfonia do their best to take us back to the Middle Ages.

Church Bells

There are many seasonal songs that mention bells but most ("Silver Bells," "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day") are midcentury novelties meant for the crooning set. Handily, the easy-on-the-ears "Carol of the Bells" from the Ukraine is now popular in the United States. This arrangement performed by the London Symphony Orchestra is far less percussive than most choir versions.

Continue reading »

A new kind of classical album compilation, where looks count

October 26, 2011 |  3:30 pm

Let's play a game of word association. Fun: Skipping rope is fun, trampolines are fun; carnival rides are fun. Classical music, not so much. Even less so when you're looking at record covers.

There was a glimmer of hope in the 1970s when the now-legendary Westminster Gold label put out a series of highly stylized and extremely amusing album covers (check out the image of "The Planets"). That they are held in such high regard 40 years later tells us a little about the current state of cover art.

Sure, CDs have two-thirds less real estate as compared to LPs. But still.

In classical circles, are we really so focused on worshiping at the high altar of art that we can't have a laugh once in a while?

More to the point: "How is it that this genre of music, run by and appreciated by fun, interesting people, has this weird complex that it needs to be dull for the benefit of all these other people we’ve never met?"

That's the question Naxos Chief Operating Officer Andrew Doe was asking when he came up with the label's latest round of digital compilation albums.  

The results may not be your cup of tea, but you can be certain you won't find them anywhere else. Think raw steak and zombies.

Read the full story on Naxos' creative compilation efforts.

--Marcia Adair

Photo: The cover art for a 1970 LP of Gustav Holst's "The Planets" conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. Credit: Westminster Gold

Muslims, Christians, Kurds, music: WikiLeaks finds a connection

September 17, 2011 |  8:30 am

WikiLeaks"What do you get when a U.S. Army band plays an Eastern Orthodox wedding hall in a Yezidi town with Arab, Christian and Kurdish musicians under the watchful gaze of the Barzani patriarch, a crucifix, and the Iraqi flag, plus a banner celebrating the anniversary of an anti-Saddam uprising?"

It's not often that the opening paragraph of a diplomatic cable reads like a Monty Python sketch.

For a Sunday Cultural Exchange column, we found this dispatch, from Iraq, while seeing the various ways that classical music is used in diplomatic circles; it was discovered among the 250,000 State Department cables recently released via WikiLeaks.

Read the full story about the connections between classical music and diplomacy.

While the State Department won't say how the cable system works, it appears that the author of this report is former chargé d'affaires of the Baghdad Embassy and current ambassador to Sri Lanka, Patricia Butenis.

The rest of the dispatch, which follows, is full of tips on how to deal with a hostile crowd, how to solve the cellphone problem at concerts and what to do when the decorators go rogue.

Continue reading »

Anti-Israel protests disrupt London concert, punches thrown

September 1, 2011 |  6:00 pm

Israel Philharmonic OrchestraMore details are coming in on the protests by Palestinian supporters who disrupted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London Thursday night, leading to the cancellation of the live radio broadcast on BBC Radio.

The concert started as normal and then "a group of 10 to 15 people stood up in the choir stalls [behind the orchestra]," said London lawyer Paul Infield, 56, who was in the audience. "Each person was carrying a white sheet on which had been drawn a letter spelling out 'Free Palestine.' " The group was singing words to the tune of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" and went quietly when ushers removed them, he said.

Infield continued his account, saying that many in the audience of close to 6,000 booed, hissed and shouted "Get out!" and "Go home!" along with obscenities. The audience also responded to the protest with slow hand clapping, which is considered an offensive gesture in Britain. Subsequent disruptions, which eventually numbered about half a dozen, were played out in a similar fashion. A man who had silently displayed an Israeli flag was also removed by Royal Albert Hall staff.

According to Infield, the final disruption of the evening involved some shouting from the gallery about the siege of Gaza, which was silenced with a punch thrown by an adjacent audience member. Both parties were escorted quickly from the premises.

Continue reading »

Protesters interrupt Israel Philharmonic concert at London Proms

September 1, 2011 |  4:20 pm

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Reports are coming in from the BBC, British newspaper the Telegraph and Twitter that up to six disturbances disrupted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London and led to the cancellation of the concert's live radio broadcast Thursday night.

The BBC Proms, a 116-year-old concert series held each summer, regularly hosts visiting orchestras.

Anticipating disturbances for the performance, which was conducted by Zubin Mehta, the BBC increased  security at the hall to include bag checks and said via Twitter that, "approx 30 people were removed by security."

Toward the end of the first piece, the orchestra was interrupted by Palestinian protesters seated in choir stalls behind the stage. They unfurled a pro-Palestine banner and started singing before being escorted out by Royal Albert Hall security, according to various reports.

Another group, seated in the upper level, opened Palestinian flags as the violin concerto, played by Gil Shaham, began. Those people also were removed while being hissed at and booed by other audience members, reports said.

Putting together a picture from various Twitter accounts, it appears that there were up to four further interruptions during the second half of the concert, each less effective than the previous. There are some reports of the Prom faithful attacking protesters physically, although these remain unconfirmed.

Continue reading »

Glyndebourne, an opera festival like no other

July 30, 2011 | 11:31 am

Glyndebourne Glyndebourne Festival Opera picnic

If you've ever watched a Jane Austen adaptation, you know there is something magical about the English countryside. Places are beautiful in the sunshine yet can transform gray drizzle into something romantic and brooding.

The sheep, rolling green hills and country lanes are beguiling enough --add first-class opera and a leisurely dinner picnic to the mix and resistance is futile.

Although there are several places to hear opera at English country estates, the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, located just outside the village of Lewes in the south of England is by far the most popular. The Christie family has been offering professional opera productions in an opera house built in their kitchen garden since 1934. Each year from May to August, people come to take in the opera, stroll through the gardens and eat al fresco, dressed in black tie.

One could be forgiven for assuming that, given the rural setting, Glyndebourne is more of a summer fancy than a serious producer of opera. 

You don't have to dig very deeply before discovering that underneath the Jeeves-and-Wooster idyll is a lean, forward-thinking opera company, which has found that ever-elusive balance between pleasing its more tradition-loving donors and making sure the art form doesn't become a museum piece.

Read the story of Glyndebourne.

-- Marcia Adair

Photo: Glyndebourne picnickers on the lawn before the show. Credit: Marcia Adair



Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Explore the arts: See our interactive venue graphics


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.