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Thomas J. West Music

Live webcam private music lessons, music education articles, compositions, clinician services, reviews

Great Performances

Performances that inspire and impress. Enjoy.

 
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  • Great Performances - Gustavo Dudamel Dan...
    by ★ Owner on February 17, 2011 at 8:13 AM
    2629 Views - 0 Comments

    Once again, Gustav Dudamel shows why he is worthy of attention.


     

     

    The Youth Orchestra of Venezuela is such a success story. El Sistema is such an important program not only for preserving classical music, but for creating social change.


     

     

    Dudamel's unbridled passion and infectious energy, combined with a reverence for the music and a willingness to break from tradition, make for the perfect storm. This video typifies all of those qualities in 90 seconds.

     


  • Great Performances For Valentines - The ...
    by ★ Owner on February 14, 2011 at 1:02 PM
    2254 Views - 0 Comments

    The history of Valentine's Day and Saint Valentine is extremely interesting to me. Such strange obscurity and juxtaposition of ancient pagan festivals, the Catholic Church's attempts to cover up paganism with their own holidays, and even the fact that there were 14 different Saint Valentines all martyred in ancient Rome have led to yet another commericialized celebration involving superficial sentimentality and plenty of processed sugar.


    Despite this, Valentine's Day invites us to pause and take time to consider those we love in our lives, particularly those with whom we share the most intimate connections. Those closest to us know us in a way that no one else can, and it is in them that we see our own attachments and limited perceptions reflected back to us.


    This performance, from last year's Valentine's Day, is by one of my most favorite performing ensembles, The King's Singers. This prodigious group has been the epitome of technical perfection and expressive close harmony singing for decades. This performance of Gustav Holst's "I Love My Love" shows the sextet as they normally perform - in small venues with no amplification (the microphones are for recording purposes only).


    I saw the King's Singers live about 15 years ago and was absolutely stunned by their artistry. Share this video with someone you care about today.

  • Paul Nowell Covers Mike Posner's Please ...
    by ★ Owner on February 13, 2011 at 1:06 PM
    2099 Views - 0 Comments

    Today, a friend of mine shared this video on Facebook. I have had a few exchanges with Paul Nowell on Twitter (@jazztrombonist) before seeing this performance. Paul shows that sometimes pop music such as this has some hidden depth to it that can be coaxed out of it with the proper adaptations. I'm a big fan of musicians who cover a piece of popular music and reinvent it. When done well, reinventions bring out nuances in the original song that sometimes enhance its effectiveness. For a comparison of Paul's arrangement to the original, click here.


    At the end of the video, Paul gives us a funny little invitation to subscribe to his YouTube channels. You might just take him up on it.

  • Great Performances - Richard Stoltzman P...
    by ★ Owner on February 11, 2011 at 7:54 PM
    2065 Views - 0 Comments

    Clarinet is my primary instrument. As a lover of all kinds of music and all kinds of musical instruments, I can honestly say that every mature musical instrument (meaning one that has been mechanically and acoustically improved over time by scientists and craftsmen) has aspects of its sound and the way it is used in music that I find enjoyable.


    The clarinet, besides being an instrument capable of great dexterity and virtuosity, has a depth of tone quality and breadth of playing range that few instruments can match. While many instruments require vibrato to "warm" the tone for a more expressive presentation, the clarinet can use simply its round, full tone in the lower register and its clarion upper register to great expressive effect.


    The Andante movement of Aaron Copland's clarinet concerto is one of my favorite pieces of music and a great example of the expressive capabilities of the instrument. Richard Stoltzman's performance is flawless and beautiful. This piece, along with the accompanying movements, were originally premiered by jazz legend Benny Goodman, who was equally at home in the classical realm.

  • Great Performances - Whitney Houston Sin...
    by ★ Owner on February 7, 2011 at 12:53 PM
    3705 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 - The Combined Academ...
    by ★ Owner on February 7, 2011 at 12:51 PM
    2158 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 first is from Super Bowl XXXIX, when the combined Academy Choirs from the four branches of the U.S. Armed Services along with the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets performed a very traditional yet stirring rendition.

  • Great Performances - Dub FX Performs Lov...
    by ★ Owner on February 5, 2011 at 8:30 PM
    2520 Views - 0 Comments

    About two years ago, during my first months on Facebook, one of my friends introduced me to Dub FX. He's a street performer from Melbourne, Australia who specializes in dubstep music performed entirely a cappella with the aid of a loop machine. This video, now nearing 8 million views, shows Dub FX on the street explaining how he uses the machine to record, loop, and layer musical material into an accompaniment that he then sings the lyrics on top of. Throughout the performance, you will see him use foot switches to turn on and off musical elements and a foot pedal to add and remove reverb.


    Not only does it take some skill to operate the equipment live while performing, but it takes a strong sense of composition to be able to add and remove layers of musical content, not to mention being able to produce all the sounds with the voice and write original melodies and lyrics. This is musical creative equivalent of a double-shot espresso.


  • Great Performances - Stjpan Hauser and L...
    by ★ Owner on January 28, 2011 at 9:05 AM
    2795 Views - 0 Comments

    Here's a great example of what I have decided to call "New Folk Music". Two performers, who have obviously mastered their instrument, stepping outside of what is typically accepted as the style of music performed on that instrument, and doing their version of an immensely popular song that has stood the test of time (at least the past 25 years or so, which in the modern music world is significant).


    They obviously have a film crew of some kind helping to put this together, as evidenced by the boom cam shots, and it has been very professionally mixed and edited, but looks can be deceiving, especially in the digital age.


    "New Folk Music" is generational in nature. Popular music has to a large degree become the emotional voice of a generation. We can all go back in time and appreciate music from earlier generations, and the more enduring music from those bygone decades is worth experiencing, but we all tend to identify with the kind of music that was popular in our youth. It's time for music teachers to ask themselves, "Which music is enduring the test of time, and which current popular music will join the songs in longevity?"


    We've been in a mass media mode of music consumption for over 100 years now, so the patterns aren't too hard to figure out.


    If you like these guys, make sure you also check out Apocolyptica.

  • Great Performances - Jake Shiambukuro Pl...
    by ★ Owner on January 27, 2011 at 9:20 AM
    1901 Views - 0 Comments

    Few people are a better example of what happens when you take your passion, no matter how obscure it may be, and pursue it as far as you can than Jake Shimabukuro.


    About a year ago, I watched his YouTube video of his ukulele performance of The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" - a video that really launched him as an international sensation and as of this writing has topped 7 million views. This morning on Twitter, one of the members of the Music PLN discovered his performance of "In My Life" and I figured it was time to check back in on Jake and see what new performances were out there.


    This video comes from the TEDxTokyo conference and it is 22 minutes long. It features Jake talking about his beginnings as a ukulele player in Hawaii, a charming story about playing for the Queen of England, and four performances: a flamenco song entitled "Let's Dance", his redition of Brahm's "Ave Maria", the tune that made made him famous "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", and the song he played for the Queen - "In My Life". In addition to the obvious virtuosic technique, musicality practically drips off of his instrument.


    Jake said "I truly believe that the ukulele is the instrument of peace." The top rated comment for this video on YouTube stated "Truly, this man is a favored son of the islands, taking aloha far beyond our seas."

  • Pomplamoose Reinvents Beat It
    by ★ Owner on January 23, 2011 at 10:16 PM
    1628 Views - 0 Comments

     

    If you've been online for very long, you've proabably already seen Pomplamoose. They are the poster children for the brave new world of democratized creativity that the internet has created. In today's world, you don't need a record label or film studio to act as your platform for getting your art seen by a mass audience. You do, however, have to be innovative and original to get noticed. Pomplamoose is all that. They don't just cover a popular song, they reinvent it and captivate with how it all goes down on video.

     

     

    This cover of Michael Jackson's smash hit Beat It does what everyone knows you shouldn't even attempt to do - it takes a smash hit song and turns it on its ear. The only thing remaining of the original song is the melody, lyrics, and the iconic guitar hook. The rest: instrumentation, harmony, and even the legendary guitar solo, are all totally reworked. The video brings across the love of music making these two have, and they even show at the end that they're in it simply to give the world a gift of their music.

     

     

    Be sure to check out the other covers on their YouTube channel. They breathe new life into trite pop songs like Lady Gaga's Telephone and Beyonce's Single Ladies.

     

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  • Great Performances - West Chester Univer...
    by ★ Owner on November 19, 2010 at 8:09 AM
    3255 Views - 0 Comments

    The school I currently teach for is right across the street from the practice field for the "Incomparable" Golden Rams Marching Band of West Chester University. I hear them all the time each fall, and occasionally I stop by after work and watch a bit of rehearsal. Rarely do I actually get to see them in uniform performing. This year, I got to watch their final performance of the season from the press box at Hersheypark Stadium! WCU played in exhibition at the Cavalcade of Bands Championship show on Saturday, November 13th, for which I judged music ensemble for the American Conference A and Open class shows. The show is called "Barber" and is quite a concept. This year marks the 100th birthday of the late American composer Samuel Barber, who is a West Chester, PA native. The show begins with an uptempo version of his most famous work, "Adagio for Strings" followed by strains of his "School for Scandal", a commonly used piece of music for the field. Later in the production, the band performs selections from Rossini's opera "The Barber of Saville". What ties the whole barber theme together is the storyline portrayed by the color guard. Recorded dialogue is amplified, telling the story of a bride and her bridesmaids arriving at a hair salon to get their hair done for the big day, and drama ensues. There's a great moment toward the end where the hairstylist makes the final adjustments with a giant pair of scissors while the trombone section does the classic "head chopper suicide line" on the front hash. Hats off to Todd Marcocci for taking concepts from an old Bugs Bunny "Rabbit of Saville" cartoon and visually weaving it together with Barber's music. Hats off as well to director Andrew Yozviak for writing a great music book and once again putting on a top-notch performance with the band members themselves as the majority of the teaching staff. I admire the fact that WCU's band has always been a "learning lab" for its music education students as well as a crowd-pleasing organization. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that, at 350+ members, the band's musical impacts are astounding! The video does not do justice to the impact of the first hit in "Adagio for Strings" when the band wheels from the backfield and lets you have it! I was in the press box at Hershey, which is a medium-high box, and it sounded and felt like I was standing on the track for just about any other band!

  • Great Performances - Fred Omega Pye's Ma...
    by ★ Owner on November 19, 2010 at 8:06 AM
    3050 Views - 0 Comments

    In my days at Penn State, a very unique alumni of my chapter of Phi Mu Alpha lived in State College and visited chapter functions on a semi-regular basis. His name is Fred Omega Pye (which I always thought was the perfect name for someone who is a member of a fraternity with greek letters). I had never seen Fred perform, but stories of his prowess with anything that spins (batons, sabers, rifles, and the drum major's mace) were lefendary. Fred is now the color guard coordinator for the UMass Minutemen Marching Band, one of the premiere college bands in the country. The recent loss of iconic director George N. Parks has brought the band a bit more attention than usual. In the midst of it all, Fred recently posted this video from 2009 of his mace salute. I appreciate the opportunity to finally see FOP do his stuff. Enjoy.


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