La Forza del West Bay

The reviews are in from the first weekend of Verdi’s La forza del destino at West Bay Opera, and they are raves indeed:

As all the reviews mention, the cast is uniformly strong. The biggest revelation to me has been Gabriel Manro’s powerful Don Carlo. Manro is making his West Bay Opera debut in this role. Janos Gerbern put it nicely in his San Francisco Classical Voice review:

If no weapons are involved, next time I am facing a gang in a dark alley, I want Gabriel Manro on my side. The young, lanky baritone would need only sing “Morir! Tremenda cosa!” (Die! Darn it!) and all the bad guys would run away, presto.

It’s rare that you get a chance to see such a large opera like this in a 400-seat house like West Bay’s Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. There’s one more weekend to see this remarkable production – and to hear me sing 18 measures in the Act II offstage pilgrims’ chorus. JoAnn’s also singing in the pilgrims’ chorus, but the women don’t have quite as much music.

The remaining performances are on Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 2:00 pm. If there are partial conflicts with Giants’ games, I’m sure you’ll be able to get the score at one of the intermissions. Buy your tickets now!

And to the Giants: May La Forza be with you!

Posted in Chorus, Music, Opera | Comments Off on La Forza del West Bay

Celebrating MusicXML’s 10th Anniversary

New Recordare logoThis month marks a major landmark in Recordare’s history – it’s MusicXML’s 10th anniversary!

We date the anniversary from the first time that MusicXML was presented in public. This was on October 23, 2000 at the First International Symposium on Music Information Retrieval in Plymouth, Massachusetts. I gave a poster presentation on “Representing Music Using XML” which described MusicXML version 0.1 and its early implementations for Finale, Sibelius, MIDI, and MuseData.

In the 10 years since, MusicXML support has grown to over 130 applications on the Windows, Mac, Linux, and iOS operating systems. All the major music notation editors can read and write MusicXML 2.0 files, including Finale, Sibelius, Capella, and MuseScore. Similarly, all the major music scanners can create MusicXML files, including SmartScore, PhotoScore, SharpEye, and Capella-Scan. Developers of mobile sheet music apps use MusicXML to exchange music notation files with these desktop programs.

To celebrate this anniversary, we have launched a redesigned web site at, including a new logo. The new site is more attractive and easier to navigate than the old site. It includes key information in German and Japanese as well as English.

MusicXML has broken down the barriers that kept musicians from getting the most out of their digital sheet music. Over the past ten years, MusicXML has become the standard when people work together to prepare written music for print, film, shows, and online services. We expect it will soon become a popular consumer format as well.

Thank you to everybody in the MusicXML community for your support and encouragement over the past 10 years. We have had great success so far, but I think the best is yet to come!

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Herb Pomeroy: “I don’t believe in recorded music.”

Herb Pomeroy Band in Copley Square, Boston, early 1980sHere is another insightful excerpt from Herb Pomeroy’s interviews with Forrest Larson for the Music at MIT Oral History Project. This came at the end of the last of the three interviews, conducted at the MIT Lewis Music Library on April 26, 2000.

Besides being a great jazz educator at Berklee and MIT, Herb Pomeroy was a trumpeter and the leader of an excellent professional big band. One of his early albums, Band in Boston, has finally been released on CD by Fresh Sound. For his great 70s and 80s big band, you had to hear them live at places like the Scotch ’N Sirloin in the North End. That band only released one album – the magnificent Pramlatta’s Hips on Shiah Records – which has never been reissued on CD.

Maybe this had to do with Herb’s opinions about recorded music. He was years ahead of his time in anticipating the increasing value that listeners would put on live vs. recorded music:

I’ve never heard a recording – never’s an awful strong word but I never can recall it – that was as glorious as a live performance: a good live performance. I don’t believe in recorded music. I don’t believe in the act of recording music. I believe that music is so precious that it should only be heard by the musicians who’ve given their life to play it, and the listeners that would drive 200 miles through snow to listen to it. Like it used to be maybe pre-radio days, early radio days, where people would drive all over the place to hear a symphony concert.

Oh, there was a marvelous article in the Atlantic Monthly just recently. Ah, did he hit the nail on the head for me in a number of areas. We’ve become so comfortable. You sit at home and listen to a CD with the fire going and your drink beside you. That’s not what music, as far as the listener and the player, the partakers of the whole act…

But I know, I mean I would have kids at Berklee who would study with me for two years, and then the last week of the last class, I would lay this on them, you know, and they’d say “Wow, are you weird!” Because they grew up in this period – and I’ve grown up, I mean, recordings were being made long before I was born in 1930.

But the live performance – the spontaneity, the reaction to each other, the act of being human beings with each other. I think the social act of being a human being is the most important thing, to me, why we’re on this earth – to get along with each other, to react to each other, to love each other. And I don’t see that a part of music when it’s a track in your head.

The love I feel next to my wife and my children and grandchildren, the next love I feel is the musician I get on the bandstand with to make music. That’s a very embracing thing that happens. And it doesn’t happen in a recording studio. Red light goes on, and 20 to 30 percent of your spontaneous creativity becomes tense. I’ve gotta be safe with this lick – here’s a great lick, I’m gonna, wooh what a lick – no I’m not going to play it – because I might make a mistake.

I’m really fortunate that I made my living and put my Berklee lump sum in a retirement thing, and my wife and I can be comfortable. Because if I lived with these principles, I couldn’t make a living today.

As with other oral history posts on this blog, I transcribed this interview excerpt. Any errors are mine, not the MIT Lewis Music Library’s. The library is working on officially transcribing the interviews. Hopefully the first transcripts will be available later this year.

Posted in Jazz, MIT, Music Business | Comments Off on Herb Pomeroy: “I don’t believe in recorded music.”

Michael Hammer Video Tribute

Michael Hammer at the WhiteboardHammer and Company, the management consulting firm that Michael Hammer founded, has posted a wonderful 12-minute video tribute on their site. I highly recommend it to anyone who knows or is interested in Michael Hammer’s work and life. I don’t know when this was posted; I just found it while cleaning up links on this new site.

It was great to see the MIT people in the video, including fellow Office Automation Group graduate students Stan Zdonik and Sunil Sarin. Of course there are lots of appearances from other business world giants, such as Clayton Christensen and Reengineering the Corporation co-author James Champy.

The text on his biography page describes how “his work remains relentlessly pragmatic.” That relentless pragmatism is one of the things I learned from him at MIT that contributed to the MusicXML format’s success.

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Welcome to the New Site

Construction photoWelcome to my new online home! At Recordare we’re in the midst of a total redesign of our web site. So it seemed like a good time to do the same for my personal site. The main content of the new site will still be the Songs and Schemas blog, but I’ve also added material from my previous personal homepage.

I’ve tried to put in redirects so that everything maps from the old site locations to the new home. But like any construction project, some things might still be a mess. If you see any problems with how links or content have been moved over, please let me know in the comments.

The picture at the top of the page comes from one of the most beautiful concert halls I’ve performed in, the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. There are more photos of The Egg in this post. The construction photo comes from Shanghai earlier in the same concert tour.

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Herb Pomeroy on Discovering Duke Ellington

Herb Pomeroy, director of jazz bands at MIT from 1963 to 1985, was known for his performance and teaching of the music of Duke Ellington. But in his early twenties, he preferred other bands more, like Count Basie and Woody Herman. There’s a great three and a half minutes in the first of his three interviews in the Music at MIT Oral History Project when Herb recalls first discovering the greatness of Duke Ellington’s music. The interview was conducted by Forrest Larson on December 14, 1999 in the MIT Lewis Music Library. Fred Harris, the current MIT jazz director, was also present.

Herb: I had no idea what Duke Ellington was all about at this point. I dismissed Ellington. I had Count Basie records, Stan Kenton records – God help me. The furthest thing in the world from jazz: Caucasian Wagnerian crap, OK, and you can print that if you want! And other bands, Woody Herman’s band, Dizzy Gillespie’s band. Let’s say those three: Basie, Herman, and Gillespie. All of which were very valid, but none of which that had the profundity of Ellington – and I didn’t know this.

Basie could swing magnificently. Dizzy’s band, every time you heard it all these new creative bebop licks and harmonies and arrangements. Woody’s band, sort of a combination of the two.

And I can remember the instance that a light went off in my head. I knew that Ellington – by the time I got to be about 21 or 22, I knew that it was over my head – something there. Too many people who I respect say “listen to this.” And I went to hear a battle of bands with Ellington and Basie down in Rhode Island. There’s a ballroom just outside of Providence called Pawtuxet on the Rhodes – I think it still exists. But back in the ballroom days, 30s, 40s, and 50s, it was big.

I think I went primarily to hear Basie’s band. And on this night, all of a sudden, I was 23 at the time, something went off in my head. “Oh – there’s something more here than there is here.” Basie, I was loving and enjoying it for the excitement, the swing, the fire, and all that, the rhythm section. But then I started to see. And that for me was kind of one of these changes, like from the swing period to the be-bop period change that I went through in the mid-40s.

Fred: I’m sorry, can you recall what it might have been – orchestration, the saxophone section, I mean… ?

Herb: To say now – now let’s see, what was that? That was 46 years ago – to say now I don’t think would be an honest memory of what did happen in that very moment. It would be what I’ve come to know since then, and I started to talk about that. I want to say it had to do with that coming out of the Ellington band was the sum total of 15 or 16 human beings, each being themselves. But I came to know that later. So I’d like to think that I reacted that way then. I probably was not consciously reacting that way.

You know, I refer to in my teaching that most of the other bands were sort of push-button bands. The leader said, “Do this, and do it to this level of competency, and you’ll get a week’s pay.” And that’s an awful, terrible way of simplifying it. With Duke’s band he just says, “OK, play.”

Forrest: Yeah, they’re all soloists.

Herb: Exactly. Even within the ensemble they were improvising – not as far as the pitches, but their feeling, their sound. I mean, with Ellington, within the sax section, there’s not five saxophones trying to blend with the lead player. It’s five individuals totally being themselves as far as expression. To the point that, by certain standards of accurate section or the entrance playing, it was bad.

The sum total of five people is so much greater than the sum total of five
saxophonists. And I don’t think I realized that. I think that just
something – I was age 23, I was beginning to open up to there’s more to what my previous eight years of semi-professionalism had been leading me to.

Please note that I transcribed this interview excerpt. Any errors are mine, not the MIT Lewis Music Library’s. The library is working on officially transcribing the interviews. Hopefully the first transcripts will be available later this year.

Posted in Jazz, MIT | 1 Comment

MIT’s Lipchitz Courtyard – Then and Now

Hair Pit Orchestra at MIT, 1987The MIT Libraries News blog had a nice article on some recent work done on the Lipchitz Courtyard within Building 14. The MIT Lewis Music Library and the Hayden Library are both on this courtyard. The replanted flower beds and planters and the new patio umbrellas all sound good. In the urban environment at Cambridge and MIT, these types of improvements are much appreciated.

But back in the day, the Lipchitz Courtyard had other uses. At least for one spring weekend in 1987, it became a theatrical venue! MIT students put on a production of Hair there, without the nude scene.

This was one of my last pit orchestra gigs. Having gotten out of the pit earlier that year for an onstage brass appearance during Iolanthe, I would soon start singing lessons. But here I am as an alumnus trumpeter in the pit band, second to the left in the picture. Everyone else in this picture was an MIT freshman or sophomore at the time; that’s the music director on the left. The photographer played percussion and was a junior.

I believe this was a totally student-initiated and student-run project. The trumpet parts in the show are fun and I recall that it was a pretty good performance. There’s a fine recording of last year’s Broadway production, and the soundtrack from Milos Forman’s movie is excellent too.

The sad thing, though, is that there still is no good performance space for musical theater at MIT. The amphitheater next to the Stata Center looks promising for this type of outdoor production, but I don’t know if it is being used that way. This may have been a one-shot for the Lipchitz Courtyard as well. Nobody at the music library could recall any such performances in recent years.

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Dolet 5.4 for Sibelius and Dolet 5.5 for Finale Released

Recordare has released maintenance updates for both the Dolet 5 for Sibelius and Dolet 5 for Finale plug-ins. Version 5.4 of the Dolet 5 for Sibelius plug-in improves how beaming is exported to MusicXML files. Version 5.5 of the Dolet 5 for Finale plug-in adds better import of system breaks from PhotoScore MusicXML files.

These updates are free for current Dolet 5 customers. Both plug-ins are available at the Recordare Online Store, with upgrade discounts available for Dolet 4 users.

We have also updated our MusicXML 2.0 tutorial for software developers. The frequently asked questions (FAQ) and the MusicXML example files have been updated to account for the changes in MusicXML use and software over the past year or two.

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