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The Spokane Symphony and Symphony Chorale, Friday, March 1, at the Opera House Joseph Haydn's oratorio, "The Creation," ranks high in the esteem of just about everybody who cares about choral masterpieces. How odd then that Friday's exciting, robust performance by the Spokane Symphony, the Symphony Chorale and an excellent team of soloists marked the the first performance of the work in the orchestra's 50-year history. This oratorio is the work of a composer with more than 20 operas, a 100 or so symphonies, and a whole library of other music already behind him. Haydn used every trick he had learned to make "The Creation" his crowning achievement. It combines greater lyric charm, more sonorous nobility and more gentle humor than most conductors can shake a stick at.
Zephyr Sunday, Feb. 25, St. John's Cathedral Unsuspecting concertgoers might think that a program called "A Spiritual Odyssey" would take them to the music of Palestrina or Bach. Instead, the performers of Zephyr led a large audience at St. John's Cathedral through 20th-century religious works that touched on medieval chant, theatrical dance and even Middle Eastern vocal traditions. Organist Charles Bradley opened the program with an effective performance of Arvo Part's "Trivium" ("Crossroads" is just one of its several meanings). The work, though written in 1976, begins and ends with the quiet sounds of late medieval music with melodies moving in hypnotically relentless rhythm above a single sustained bass note.
Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Pepsi International World Jazz Concert Wednesday, Feb. 21, University of Idaho's Kibbie Dome, Moscow This is the most important message I bring you from Wednesday night's opening concert in the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival: Get yourself down to Moscow for one of the remaining concerts (tonight and Saturday). If you are a jazz fan or have ever toyed with the idea of becoming one, you should not miss this event. People come from all over the world for this festival, so I don't think 80 or 90 miles is too far to go (assuming the weather doesn't turn too nasty).
(From For the Record, Wednesday, February 21, 1996:) Barbara Cantlon performed oboe duets with Keith Thomas during Friday's Spokane Symphony Orchestra concert. The wrong musician was cited in a concert review in Tuesday's IN Life section.
Shoveljerk Friday, Feb. 16, The Met Never mind that Shoveljerk's song "Unwind" is all over the radio and the band's debut album "Swarm" is selling out across the region. And never mind all the other hype surrounding the band, which led to every seat in The Met being filled for Shoveljerk's record-release party Friday night. None of this means a thing if the band can't rock on stage. Taking a nod from Black Happy (three-quarters of Shoveljerk come from that band), playing live is what this Coeur d'Alene rock combo does best. The four won the crowd during opening chords of "Easy Target" and kept it through the final notes of the last encore, "What I Want."
Roomful of Blues Thursday, Feb. 8, at Bolo's It truly was a Roomful of Blues Thursday night at Bolo's in the Valley as the Rhode Island jump blues outfit rocked a packed house. Two years ago, Roomful released a CD called "Dance All Night," a credo taken to heart by a floor jammed with dance-happy blues lovers.
Butch Thompson shared his devotion to ragtime, jazz and blues Saturday night.
Leo Kottke played The Met Friday night.
Northwest Bach Festival Friday, Jan. 12, at First Presbyterian Church A standing-room-only audience at First Presbyterian Church Friday, heard performances of J.S. Bach's vocal and instrumental music conducted by Gunther Schuller. As usual with Schuller's performances, it contained revelations that few other conductors bother to approach. Schuller and his players brought a natural grace and springy dance quality to Bach's "Brandenburg" Concerto No. 2 which opened the program and to the concluding "Brandenburg" No. 1. Trumpeter David Hickman, flutist Michael Faust, violinist Kelly Farris and oboist Allan Vogel performed their difficult solos with the flair of four men in animated conversation, and three of the four turned the Andante ( where the trumpet is allowed a few minutes of rest) into tender operatic trio. In the concluding "Brandenburg" Concerto No. 1, soloists Farris and Vogel were joined by hornists Richard Todd and Roger Logan, oboists Keith Thomas and Ben Fitch and bassoonist Barbara Novak. This concerto is full of lovable quirks in rhythm, instrumentation and structure. Bach's fanciful instrumentation - the remote-sounding violino piccolo part, the snarl of three oboes, the risky pairing of two horns playing high up in their range - was a pleasure to hear Friday. Schuller made a seamless unity of the solo and orchestral parts in both concertos.
Soloist Aida Ribiero Mechetti, above, joined Linda Siverts in playing Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos.
Versatile musician Stefan Kozinski opened the 18th annual Northwest Bach Festival on Friday. File photo
Spokane Symphony Holiday Pops Saturday, Dec. 16, at the Spokane Opera House "Serious" and "somber" are not words which can totally capture the mood of a concert in which Santa Claus conducts "Sleigh Ride." But most of the rest of this Holiday Pops concert was a bit more stately than usual, which, from an aesthetic standpoint, proved to be quite satisfying. For one thing, it gave the entire evening a spiritual, peaceful mood. Many of us need that in this frenetic time of year. For another, it put the spotlight directly onto the musicianship, as opposed to the showmanship. And the musicianship was outstanding. The Spokane Symphony Chorale was in especially fine voice. I especially loved its powerful and monumental version of Bach's Recessional from Cantata 140 ("Zion Hears the Watchmen Singing"). The chorale moved off the stage and into the side aisles during this piece, giving the audience the sensation of surround sound. We also got some surround-sound action during the big finale, Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus." This time, we heard the massed voices not only of the chorale but also the Spokane Area Children's Chorus - hundreds of voices. It was a truly stirring way to send us out into the night. The Spokane Area Children's Chorus was also in excellent form, and it had a big part in what I felt was the highlight of the concert: Pietro Yon's "Gesu Bambino." A group from the children's choir sang from the balcony while director Tamara Schupman sang an absolutely exquisite soprano solo. The effect was ethereal - enough to bring tears to the eyes. The children's chorus was also sweet and moving during John Rutter's stately "Nativity Carol" and "Star Carol." The Spokane Symphony Orchestra also exhibited some outstanding musicianship, which requires some aplomb when an elf (Miss Spokane) is jamming a Santa hat on your head during a rollicking version of "Sleigh Ride." The orchestra was especially fine in the aforementioned Bach recessional, and also during excerpts from Gian-Carlo Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors." It also did a fine pops version of "The Christmas Song." Conductor Randi Von Ellefson once again proved himself to be a genial host. Just as important, he has a good ear for finding Christmas music that has not been overexposed. Poulenc's Rondeau was especially bouncy and refreshing, and the Mack Wilberg arrangements of "Away in the Manger" and "I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In" were enjoyable. The only piece I was less than enthusiastic about was a hyperactive version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." Overall, this was another successful version of one of Spokane's best Christmas traditions.
Reba arrived onstage in a taxi, changed costumes 13 times and surrounded herself with videos and fireworks. Ken Settle photo
Zephyr Thursday, Dec. 7, at The Met Zephyr did it again. Thursday's "East Meets West" concert at The Met furnished fine performances of unusual music that Spokane audiences have come to expect from the Zephyr series. But the music and the musicians also furnished an insight into the qualities that make music of China and Japan so fascinating. Even before a note of music was heard, the audience was confronted by a visually stunning backdrop designed by Civic Theater artist Nick Adams - a huge piece of Japanese calligraphy hanging between two dark maroon panels. This striking backdrop enhanced the pensive quality of Toru Takemitsu's "Itinerant" for solo flute, a 1981 memorial to his countryman, the famous Japanese sculptor Isamu Noguchi.
Critic-at-large Panacea at the Dock, a three-day rock concert at the old Spokane Marketplace on east Riverside, was supposed to "heal what ails you," according to the show's boisterous master of ceremonies. It's not known whether the ambitious project healed anyone, but you can bet there are a couple of hundred new cases of head colds today as a result of the show. The endeavor sounded like a grand idea: some of the top bands in the region playing under a heated tent complete with a barbecue and an espresso stand.
Hampson's performance Friday night was entirely remarkable.
Don Lanphere Saturday, Nov. 18, Hobart's Jazz Alley
Magic Circle Theatre Company joins Symphony SuperPops for a mysterious affair.