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Thomas J. West Music

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Great Performances

Performances that inspire and impress. Enjoy.

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  • Great Performances: Cluster Vocal Sings ...
    by ★ Owner on July 16, 2012 at 7:43 PM
    7510 Views - 0 Comments

    This past weekend, I attended my first festival sponsored by the Contemporary A Cappella Society of America. It was a great experience that I blogged about here. The culminating event of the weekend was a professional showcase concert featuring The Sing-Off favorites Afro Blue and a vocal quintet from Genoa, Italy called Cluster. In their American debut performance, Cluster took us all on an amazing ride. Their penultimate performance at the end of their set was this exquisite arrangement of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".

    This video doesn't quite do the performance justice, but you can still get a sense of the masterful way that Cluster uses contemporary jazz harmony to add tension and texture to various moments in the piece. When the group finished this rendition and the video ends, they received the first completely organic standing ovation of the night.

    At the concert's after-party, I told front man Erik Bosio that his arrangement is the best I've ever heard of that song in any setting, and I've heard quite a few. He was flattered and said, "Everyone in America is so nice!"

    I hope this video stays up on YouTube. Watch it while it is there. If you like what you hear, check out Cluster's website where you can buy their CD's and buy a score of this arrangement.

  • O Magnum Mysterium - University of Utah ...
    by ★ Owner on January 1, 2010 at 11:28 AM
    5403 Views - 0 Comments

    The University of Utah Singers perform "O Magnum Mysterium" by Morten Lauridsen live in concert on December 12th & 13th 2008. Dr. Brady Allred was formerly at Duquesne University and served as guest condutor for one of my students attending the PMEA District 8 Chorus Festival. He is quite easily the most effective and skilled choral director I've ever seen.

  • Great Performances: Raleigh Ringers Hand...
    by ★ Owner on June 25, 2012 at 9:35 PM
    4450 Views - 0 Comments

    I typically feature music performances on this series that demonstrate amazing technique and dedication, some innovative form of music performance, or something that is just plain entertaining. While nothing here is innovative, it definitely is impressive and entertaining. The Raleigh Ringers are a handbell ensemble that can truly deliver amazing performances like this one

  • Great Performances - Lindsey Stirling Du...
    by ★ Owner on February 24, 2012 at 8:29 AM
    4051 Views - 0 Comments

    With the advent of social media and the democratization of communications, not only are regimes crumbling in the Middle East, but new forms of art and music are finding their way into the mainstream. What's the next big thing in popular music? Dubstep.It's big enough now that it is finding its way into the Grammys.

    Born in the dance halls of Britain, Dubstep has been quietly growing in popularity for about 15 years. I have previously featured solo a cappella Dubstep artist DubFX on my Great Performances series, and here today is another Dubstep artist who is blending the classical with the contemporary. Lindsey Stirling is a violinist, composer, and visionary who writes her own original music, makes the sheet music available online, and is filming awesome videos like this one. She's also majoring in Therapeutic Recreation at BYU and plans to work with at-risk teenage girls in the future.

    Lindsey's sheet music for this piece is available for sale here.

    Her inspiration for "Crystallize" was observing Dr. Masaru Emoto's images of ice crystals after being exposed to different types of emotions - a bit of controversial research I have been interested in and aware of for over five years. Read her description here.

  • Great Performances: Mike Dawes Covers Go...
    by ★ Owner on June 22, 2012 at 4:43 PM
    4014 Views - 0 Comments

    It's hard to be in American culture right now and not have been exposed to Gotye's "Someone That I Used to Know". It's a simple song in D Dorian that has really lit a fire in the hearts of many. As with most immensely popular songs, it has been covered, reinvented, remixed, and mashed-up thousands of times on the internet. Some of these reinventions are extremely popular as well, ganering hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. I shared one of those covers once before when the Canadian band Walk Off The Earth played the song with five people on one guitar.

    This song is simple enough that a trick like that is possible. Or, if you are a really talented solo guitarist, you can just play the entire thing yourself. Mike Dawes accomplishes just that in this video. It's all him - no overdub or compositing of any kind. Skill like this is deceptively hard - the performance is so seemless it is easy to forget that he is making every single sound, not just the melody line, two-note bass, and even percussion. This is yet another example of a performer who easily has over 10,000 hours of playing time logged in.

  • Great Performances: Mike Tompkins Does D...
    by ★ Owner on July 10, 2012 at 4:48 PM
    4000 Views - 0 Comments

    I have featured live looping artists like Dub FX in the past, and recently I mentioned Kimbra's live looping at the latest SXSW convention. Live Looping is using looping software to record short segments of music that are then "looped", or repeated. A single performer can create layers of music to perform on top of. Live looping takes skill and an understanding of orchestration. These artists make live looping look easy.

    Three days ago, YouTube a cappella artist Mike Tompkins took up a challenge given to him by his fans - to do an a cappella cover of a dubstep tune. Using Ableton Live software and some controllers, Tompkins did a really excellent cover of two dubstep artists - Skrillex and Santigold. As I have mentioned previously, dubstep is a genre of music that is exploding in popularity with high school and college age students. The dance beats and electronic sounds of dubstep appeal widely to many youth, as evidenced by the fact that Tompkins' video is alredy up to half a million views in the first three days!

  • World Champion Baton Twirler Stacy Singe...
    by ★ Owner on August 1, 2010 at 12:31 PM
    3984 Views - 2 Comments

    I am always impressed and admiring of any kind of performer, musical or otherwise, who demonstrates a high level of commitment to developing an expressive, skillful, and breathtaking performance. This video demonstrates all of those qualities in spades.


    Stacy Singer is originally from Canada. This video is a recording of her winning performance as a junior soloist at the World Baton Twirling Federation World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1989. She was 12 years old at the time. She is currently a botanist working for the U.S. Department of Agrigulture [link]


    Not only is her precision and athleticism impressive, but she obviously worked very hard on timing her catches and expressive presentation to match the music. Often, solo baton twirlers' presentations are just a series of impressive tricks that have little integration with the music. Stacy's work here is an exception to that tendency. Enjoy.


  • Great Performances - The Cadets Perform ...
    by ★ Owner on August 15, 2011 at 6:47 AM
    3872 Views - 0 Comments

    This past Saturday, The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps won their tenth world championship. Throughout this summer, the organization has made available for free their All-Access service, a great behind-the-scenes series of videos and recordings normally offered at a subscription rate. This video is from the parking lot of the new Meadowlands facility in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

    It's so fantastic to see and hear this video - not just because The Cadets performance is so precise and emotional, but the quality of the recording equipment and camera work helps to enhance the moment. There are other versions of this on YouTube, but this one will be one of the best. They also filmed a great version of their unofficial anthem, Ron Nelson's Rocky Point Holiday, at the same session.

    As an alumnus of the corps, I am proud that their 2011 program, Angels and Demons, beat out a highly competitive field to win this year. When I watched this video, my heart melted a little. I was a member of the 1993 incarnation of The Cadets of Bergen County, when On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss was used as the ballad in our 1st place show In the Spring at the Time When Kings Go Off to War, featuring the music of David Holsinger. I posted this video on Mr. Holsinger's Facebook wall on Saturday, thanking him and corps director George Hopkins for giving me the opportunity to be a part of something so special.

  • Great Performances - Peter Hollens And T...
    by ★ Owner on May 7, 2011 at 7:07 PM
    3710 Views - 0 Comments

    In my spare time from music teaching, I am a music hobbyist as well. I love contemporary a cappella singing and have been singing with groups off and on for about 20 years.


    Peter Hollens of On The Rocks fame has been putting out some fantastic a cappella YouTube videos since last fall, and his latest collaboration with the Grammy-Award-winning Swingle Singers is purely breathtaking. Peter's arranger, also associated with OTR, is Tom Anderson, and Tom has simply outdone himself this time.


    This arrangement and performance reminds me very much of my favorite vocal group of all time: The Singers Unlimited. Gene Puerling was a genius. The harmonies in this arrangement are a tribute to the quiet innovation that Puerling brought to contemporary a cappella back in the 1970's.

  • Great Performances - Whitney Houston Sin...
    by ★ Owner on February 7, 2011 at 12:53 PM
    3701 Views - 0 Comments

    Last night, The Star-Spangled Banner, the official anthem of the United States of America, was sung by pop singer Christina Aguilera for the opening of Super Bowl XLV. Ms. Auguilera's rendition was, at best, a display of vocal agility and at worst, a self-important display with obvious flaws, including the incorrect lyrics being sung.

    The National Anthem is a difficult song to sing, even when it is done traditionally. The majority of Americans do not even know the words, let alone attempt to sing them. Many celebrity singers have opened events with its performance over the years, to varying levels of success and attention. Basically, no one complains when you do a nice, traditional job on the Anthem, but everyone cries foul when it is misrepresented.

    My two favorite renditions of The Star-Spangled Banner are both also performances that occurred at Super Bowls. The second is Whitney Houston's performance along with the Florida Orchestra in Super Bowl XXV. The arrangement is in 4/4 time rather than the traditional 3/4, which I don't particularly care for, but the grandeur of the orchestra along with Whitney's performance makes for a breathtaking job. Whitney Houston's flawless technique, clear enunciation, preservation of the original melody, yet tasteful ornamentation is a model for other popular singers to emulate. More than that, her obvious connection with the joy of singing and the significance of the song and the moment are written all over her face.

  • Great Performances - Mt. Lebanon Winter ...
    by ★ Owner on February 28, 2012 at 7:50 AM
    3640 Views - 0 Comments

    Yes, I'm a little biased, as this is my alma mater and the Winter Guard's director is a childhood friend of mine. Despite those connections, this is a very technical and artful indoor guard presentation of one of my favorite choral works of all time, Morten Laurisden's "O Magnum Mysterium". I have featured this piece before as sung by the incomparable University of Utah singers under Dr. Brady Allred here.

    The number of hours of work and repetition that goes into making a piece of art such as this performance is hard for people outside of performing arts to fathom. And this is a high school group. Whoever says that American public schools are failing us is speaking in complete ignorance. Performance art such as this empowers the performers to become better people as adults. It makes emotional connections that are indelibly etched into people's memories.

    Congratulations to the Lebo Winter Guard and to my friend Carrie Duffner and fellow director Jason Greenawalt. There's a lot of blood, sweat, and tears on that gym floor, hidden under the veil of Laurisden's masterpiece and a lot of technical know-how.

  • Great Perfomances - Julian Bliss And Ash...
    by ★ Owner on February 9, 2012 at 8:09 AM
    3584 Views - 0 Comments

    There's nothing truly innovative about this video, but it is another great example of what happens when high musical and kinesthetic aptitude is paired with the 10,000 hour principle. Julian Wass was 13 when this performance before the Queen of England at The Queen's Jubilee occurred in 2010. He is accompanied by 23-year-old Ashley Wass, an equally accomplished pianist.

    What is important to note here is that this is high-caliber performing that is not of Eastern descent. So many prodigious young performers come our way from China and Japan, but this is due primarily to culutral differences there which I have discussed in other articles.

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