Sunday, August 20, 2006

S. P. B. H.

Our drive to and from church takes us past a number of housing developments with buildings of significant size. Vicki and I commiserate that we would make much better use of such a house, since most of those owners are almost certainly not trying to host musical rehearsals and festivals, as we would.

This weekend a thought struck me: perhaps we can arrange a program of mutual benefit. Suppose that there existed a Society of People with Big Houses, and a collection of aspiring, dedicated string players. Perhaps we could arrange a program whereby a handful of string players, perhaps twelve or so, could meet every other weekend at another of the big houses owned by members of such a society. Said string players would then have a place to sight-read quartets and other chamber music, and homeowners would get a free afternoon of music in multiple rooms of their big house.

If you play a stringed instrument, would you be interested in spending up to 26 Sunday afternoons a year reading chamber music?

I have a feeling that this is not far from a good idea. Unfortunately, I don't know how to proceed in making the idea even better, or bringing it to fruition.


Monday, July 03, 2006

Seeking A Violinist

A small, mostly string ensemble is preparing to play for the Williamsport SDA church this coming Sabbath, July 8. We could use an additional violinist. The music is simple, and we can send you a PDF to review ahead of time.

We offer lunch, good fellowship, and transportation from Germantown to Williamsport and back. Other terms negotiable. If you're interested, please send me a note.


Thursday, June 29, 2006


During my commute each day I have been listening to a podcast from down under called Brasscast.

A podcast is like a radio program, delivered (typically) as an MP3 file that you can download to your computer. You can use your computer to listen to it, or use any of the host of MP3-playing portable devices, such as an iPod or certain cellular phones. Some recent car radios can play MP3 files, including podcasts. The Brasscast shows are typically around 20 minutes in duration, so listening on a weekly basis doesn't require a major investment of time.

I find Brasscast to be instructive, as well as pleasant listening and entertainment. The show is focused on the music of bands, mostly all-brass bands, and, more often than not, bands that are conformant with the British Brass Band instrumentation. Each show features an interview with one of the featured musicians, and some of these are very instructive and encouraging.

I recommend this podcast to each of you, whether you are a brass player or not. The show features a wide variety of bands, many of whom are repeat competition winners. I find it interesting to compare the bands from week to week. Some are simply good bands playing challenging music, but some are truly remarkable in their sparkle and professional performance. I suggest that you listen to these podcasts as a means of training your own ear, giving thought to why some bands sound so much better than other winners.

If you know of other podcasts that relate to music performance, whether band, chamber music, orchestra or choir, please post a comment here.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Brass Blast!

As I described in this earlier post, the Washington Symphonic Brass are presenting concerts at three locations this month, with the final concert being Sunday evening. My family and I attended the concert this evening in Annapolis, and it was a fantastic experience.

If you play a brass instrument, you owe it to yourself to hear this ensemble. If you play in the MCO Brass, please rearrange your schedule and shake out your piggy bank and meet me in McLean, Virginia this Sunday evening at 7:30. Brass players, if you have ever needed to have the "brass dream" refreshed in your heart and your imagination, this concert will do it for you.

If you are familiar with string repertoire, this will be a moving experience for you no matter what instrument you play. The concert this evening contained the following numbers, and I expect to hear the same Sunday evening:
  • Holst - Jig from St. Paul's Suite
  • Albinoni/Giazotto - Adagio in g minor
  • Vaughan-Williams - Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
  • Schostakovich - Chamber Symphony from String Quartet No. 8
  • Barber - Adagio for Strings, Op. 11
  • Tchaikovsky - Serenade for Strings, Op. 48 (although omitting the third movement)
Four of the six selections were arranged or adapted by WSB founder Phil Snedecor, so the arrangements are perfectly suited to the instrumental forces of this ensemble.

This concert was particularly moving for me because I am intimately acquainted with these works in their original string settings, and observed with amazement and joy the way in which the brass transcriptions met the challenges presented. The opening Jig by Holst set the scene perfectly, showcasing the technical abilities of these musicians. And I was moved to tears again by the opening and closing of the Tchaikovsky Serenade. The full brass presention of those opening and closing chords would surely have met with approval from the composer.

The conductor, Milt Stevens, gave very appropriate commentary on the background of each of the works, and I'm glad to have thus become acquainted with Schostakovich' 8th quartet.

Overall, this was an experience that I cannot put into words. I urge you to make time in your schedule to catch their last performance Sunday evening.

See you there!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Worthy Student Recital

I received notice today that Gabrielle Liverpool will be presenting a recital this weekend, at five o'clock in the evening of April 29, at the Metropolitan Seventh-day Adventist Church, 6307 Riggs Road, Hyattsville, MD.

Gabrielle was one of the student violins who played for our recent Messiah performance, and I think she attended as many rehearsals as any other orchestra player. She supported us, so lets take time to support her in this recital.

Washington Symphonic Brass

I have avoided WSB concerts in the past not because of their quality: on the contrary, they play very professionaly and their concerts are a pleasure to experience! Rather, most of their recent concerts have featured explicitly anti-sacred music (such as Carmina Burana) performed in the dedicated sanctuaries of churches.

Although they are still performing in church sanctuaries, their current repertoire, as listed in their advertising, does not apparently include such overtly secular music, and so I am very eager to hear their next performance, and I recommend them to you. The remaining concerts are Wednesday evening, April 26 and Sunday evening, April 30. You can find more information on their website.

Their tickets are a little pricey, perhaps, but the performances are worthwhile and awe-inspiring.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Seven Last Words, Seabrook SDA, April 8

Hello fellow musicians,

As some of you have heard, the Seabrook SDA church choir is presenting Dubois' Seven Last Words of Christ for church this coming Sabbath morning. An orchestra is forming to support the choir in this performance.

  • Rehearsal - Tuesday, April 4, 7:30 PM
  • Performance - Sabbath, April 8, morning service

We have openings for a few more musicians. If you are interested, please let me know.



Thursday, March 30, 2006

Singing Sundays

Hello music lovers!

I am scheduled to direct the choir at Rockville UMC for the next two Sundays, April 2 and April 9. The music will be as follows:

  • April 2 - Farrant - Hide Not Thou Thy Face From Us, Oh Lord
  • April 9 - Randall Thompson - Alleluia

If you know either of these pieces, I invite you to join the choir.

  • April 2 - 11 AM service, arrive around 10:15
  • April 9 - 9:15 & 11 AM services, arrive around 8:30

There's no pay involved; just an opportunity to sing some great music. I hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Community Service by Voice

Our rehearsals need more singers.

Even if you expect to be out of town Easter weekend, you can help your fellow musicians by coming to choir practice and supporting (dare I say leading?) your section as we study the choruses of Handel's Messiah Parts The Second and The Third.

We need voices in all sections (SATB) to help us learn this awesome music, even if you cannot sing in the performances.

Choir practice is Wednesday night at 8:15 in Bowie, and Sunday night at 6:30 at Triadelphia. We need your help at both.

Send me a note if you have any questions, or visit for more information.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Chance to Sing Thompson Alleluia

I know of a church choir looking for a few extra singers for Palm Sunday, two morning services, modest pay, main anthem the Randall Thompson Alleluia. Let me know if this sounds like fun to you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

List of web sites with free sheet music

The following are sources for freely downloadable sheet music:

Monday, February 13, 2006

Choral Competition

My father wrote a setting of Oh Love that Wilt Not Let Me Go, and his composition is a finalist in a choral competition. (Sorry, I'm not sure exactly which competition, but it would appear to be one of the competitions described on this page.)

The final judging will be Sabbath afternoon, February 25 at a Presbyterian church in Wayne, PA. (Not all of the compositions are certain to be sacred.) The winning composition will be performed again that evening.

My folks will be visiting Triadelphia with us Sabbath morning, and we'll have lunch together before driving up to the event.

Would you like to meet us for lunch? (or for any other part of the weekend?) As we make plans, we need to know how many people would like to get together so that we can plan appropriately. If you're interested, please send me an RSVP.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Maryland Choral Exchange

This is an idea that developed over this weekend, and before acting on it, I'd like to bat it around with all of you here in the Maryland Music weblog and mailing list.

I would like a way to unify the church-choir community in our area. As you all know, we're working on a fairly significant performance opportunity right around tax time. (April 15 & 16) I've seen a few other big performance opportunities go by. I would like a way to get the word out quickly to many other church choir directors and singers about what we're doing, and the fact that a) we would welcome more singers and b) we would welcome additional churches that wanted to participate and host a performance.

Similarly, when some other churches are cooperating to present, say, the Brahms' German Requiem, as happened recently in Silver Spring, I want to know about it early enough so that I can get involved.

My idea is to start a weblog and calendar for exactly this purpose. One possible title for the site would be Maryland Choral Exchange, and it might be worth registering a domain like for these purposes.

The calendar and weblog would provide a place for any choir to list the major performances they are proposing, along with comments and links to further information, including rehearsal schedules and locations. Choir directors and singers could watch the site (or subscribe via RSS) to see what opportunities are coming up.

How does this idea strike you? Can you imagine this becoming a useful resource? How would you reformulate or restate the idea to make it more appealing or useful to all church choirs? How would you get the word out to all these singers and directors after the site is up and operational?

As always, your comments will have a longer shelf-life if you post them directly to the weblog.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Two Invitations

  1. As was mentioned in the previous post, we're planning two performances of Handel's Messiah (parts II and III) around Easter time. You are invited to sing or play in these performances. Further information is available. If you are interested, please subscribe to the mailing list on that page.
  2. Chamber Music Weekend is an event focused on playing string quartets, piano quintets and other chamber works. We would like to send occasional (monthly? bi-monthly?) reminders and updates to you so that you can plan to participate. If that's OK with you, you are invited to subscribe to the mailing list using the form found on our contact page.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Messiah at Easter Time

You are invited to join the choir or orchestra to perform the 2nd and 3rd parts of Handel's oratorio Messiah Sabbath and Sunday evenings, April 15 and 16. (We hope that the evening performances will not collide with your regular Easter plans.)

If you are interested in singing or playing, please visit this page and subscribe to the mailing list. Please also drop me a note reminding me which instrument(s) you play or which part you sing.


January 28: Further Details

As was mentioned in this post, this Sabbath we celebrate the baptisms of both William and Beth. We want to share this celebration in your company.

Here is some more information:

Sabbath Schedule
  9:00 AM Brunch at Triadelphia (breakfast potluck)
  9:30 AM Sabbath School
 10:45 AM Divine Worship, including baptisms
Lunch: potluck at our house

Most of the company will be vegetarian: you may wish to plan any potluck dishes with this in mind.

Triadelphia SDA
12950 Brighton Dam Rd
Clarksville, MD 21029

Ashton Family
11726 Zebrawood Ct
Germantown, MD 20876
Here are directions from Triadelphia SDA to our home.

See you there!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Baptism January 28

Vicki and I are delighted to announce that both of our children, William and Beth, are planning to be baptized at the end of this month. The ceremony will be part of the regular Sabbath-morning church service on January 28 at the Triadelphia SDA church.

We have not finalized plans for the rest of the day, but it seems likely that we may augment the regular potluck. We invite you to share this special occasion with our family.