No composer in history … has been so widely jazzed up, watered down, electrified and otherwise transmogrified, debated and admired as this German provincial.
quotation by Alan Rich, on Johann Sebastian Bach, Newsweek 24 Dec 8
Many years ago, while in 7th grade, I took a battery of interest and aptitude tests; they showed equal interest and aptitude in both music and science/math. It was not too difficult to come to the proper decision: engineering would be the career and music would be the avocation. After all, second-rate engineers still earn enough to eat.
I began informal piano lessons with my mother at the age of three, and began formal (i.e., paid) lessons at age six. After a few years, I tired of the piano and switched to trumpet so I could play in a band. In seventh grade, several of us put together a jazz combo, playing arrangements discarded by the music stores because they didn’t sell. Our grade-school band earned first in state competition, and I did likewise on solo trumpet. In high school, I played lead trumpet in our jazz band for four years, and did a short stint with the marching band as well, rising eventually to first chair. I soon discovered that it is impossible to make good music while marching through mud, slush and snow with a mouthpiece frozen to your lips. I also played with a YMCA All-Star jazz orchestra in the Chicago area. I continued playing trumpet through college, where I had the memorable experience of playing with Herbie Hancock for two years in a big band that he organized and directed. I’ve not played the trumpet since!
I sang in our high school church choir for a couple of years, and then tried out for Glee Club in college. I was rejected, so put singing on the shelf for the next three years. Then a girl I was dating asked me to try out for the college choir with her. Because of my prior experience, I politely declined, but she was insistent. So I auditioned and was accepted (and she wasn’t; how ironic is that!). That started my passion for choral music. I’ve now been singing for over fifty years, and have done quite a bit with it. I have toured extensively, performing in 9 states and 13 foreign countries. I was associated with the William Hall Chorale from 1963 to 1970 before moving to Arizona. In Tucson, I was associated with the Tucson Civic Chorus (a.k.a. Tucson Masterworks Chorale) for some 25 years, serving on the board for 18 years and doing a 2-year term as prez. I also worked with the board of Tucson Sing-In for some 15 years, and have participated in every performance of the annual Messiah Sing. I was a charter member of Sons of Orpheus (male choir) and the University Faculty/Staff Chorus. I’ve sung with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, the State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra, the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra, the Sinfonia of St. Martin’s in the Fields, the Royal Liverpool Symphony Orchestra, the Central Philharmonic (Beijing) and the Springfield (MA) Symphony. I am currently a (charter) member of the Tucson MasterSingers, and I often go off to music camp in the summers with either the William Hall Master Chorale (Orange County, CA) or the Berkshire Choral Festival in Massachusetts. The summer of 1995 found me in the Berkshires in Massachusetts where I sang vocal backup for the Dave Brubeck Quartet; it was truly a peak experience. I was in Santa Fe the summer of 1996 for a performance of the J.S. Bach b-minor Mass, and went back to Massachusetts for a week in 1997 singing Brahms and Schubert with Joseph Flummerfelt. My favorite recorded performances are by the Cambridge Singers. I also enjoy the King’s Singers and Chanticleer.
SUMMER of 2001: I traveled with the William Hall Master Chorale to Italy at the invitation of the Vatican. We opened the Festival of St. Peter and St. Paul at St. Paul’s-Outside-the-Walls in Rome with a performance of the Verdi Requiem, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the composers death. We also performed in the Sistine Chapel and at a Papal Mass in St. Peter’s square. Then we gave performances in both Firenze and Venezia. Afterwards, we kicked back in Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii and on the Isle of Capri. Rounding out the trip was a few days in Slovenia, including Kranj, Bled, Ljubljana and Izola and the surrounding countryside. Quite a trip!
More recently I participated in the Rolling Requiem, with a performance of the Mozart Requiem starting at 0846 on 11 September 2002. It was special; some 350 singers from some 50 different choirs gathered together and put together a superb performance in 5 rehearsals. It may have been the finest “big chorus” concert I have heard in my 32 years in Tucson. Well done!
My debut at Carnegie Hall in NYC happened last May. A select subset of the Tucson Masterworks Chorale traveled to NYC to perform two works by notable composer Jackson Berkey. He is perhaps best known as the keyboardist for Mannheim Steamroller. He and his wife Almeda toured for years with Norman Luboff, and the excellence of that group continues through the Berkeys. It was a neat experience to add to the others. The realization that everybody who’s somebody in music has performed on that stage was pretty special.
In August 2003 I auditioned for the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus and was accepted. We will perform Messiah this December (2003) and the Verdi “Requiem” next Spring (2004). Sounds good so far.
Next up! I plan on joining the William Hall Master Chorale for a performance of the Berlioz Requiem in the Opera House in Sydney on July 4, 2004. That should be quite an experience. I performed in the old Opera House there in 1987, and really enjoyed Australia. It will be nice to get back there.
LATE NEWS FLASH: I was felled with cancer (a chondrosarcoma of the cervical spine) and was forced to miss the entire 2003-2004 season as well as the Australia trip. As of this writing (June 2004), my voice is nearing 100% and I should be good to go for the 2004-2005 season.
I especially enjoy singing vocal jazz, having performed for a year with the Velvetones while in college. This group was founded by Herbie Hancock so he could learn the capabilities of the human voice, and all of our numbers were arranged by him. I’ll volunteer to be this kind of guinea pig anytime! My favorite performers are New York Voices, Singers Unlimited, Real Group, Manhattan Transfer, and Beachfront Property.
Complete (sort of) musical resume of Dr. Jim, showing when, what and where.
My other musical venture involves attempts at composition and jazz vocal arranging using my computer and a MIDI synthesizer studio. I have two full-size Casio synths (CZ-5000 and a CZ-1), a tone module (Yamaha FB-01) ,a drum machine (Yamaha RX-17), and a Peavey effects box. They couple in to the stereo system through a Radio Shack mixer and to the computer via a SoundBlaster Live! I use the Voyetra “Digital Orchestrator Plus” and PG Music “PowerTracks” and “Band-in-a-Box” software. There’s never enough time to get fully involved, maybe after “The Art of Radiometry” is finished.
I have found quite a bit of stuff on the Internet on choral music. A good starting point is Music Resources on the Internet. Another is Yahoo, where you can search on a_cappella. The available information on MIDI is unreal. Start with the MIDI Home Page and take it from there.