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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: Ole Edvard Antonsen ...
    by ★ Owner on February 16, 2015 at 10:22 AM
    1039 Views - 0 Comments

    image: www.oleedvardantonsen.com


    Ole Edvard Antonsen is a Finnish trumpet virtuoso who has performed with some of the world's most renown orchestras and jazz artists with equal aplomb. His performances go beyond virtuosity into that rare realm where the player is such a master of their craft that they communicate emotionally with apparently effortless ease. Far more than just flawless technique, Antonsen keeps his audiences hanging on his every move.


    In this performance, Antonsen not only delivers a superbly clean performance of one of classical music's most popular cornet solos, he makes a show of it with seemingly "casual" valve work accompanied by smiling eyes and a sense of whimsy. If you think the introduction is impressive, be sure to hang in there for the 1:40 mark.

     

     



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  • Great Performances: Hong Kong True Strin...
    by ★ Owner on January 17, 2015 at 11:01 AM
    1038 Views - 0 Comments

    I often seek out genre-appropriate videos of "Happy Birthday" to post to the Facebook walls of my musician friends. I typically find some very entertaining ones, but this one really stands out because of its skill and artistry as well as its entertainment value. The Hong Kong Pure Strings desecribe themselves as "Possessing the passion towards string music and fanatics in performance," The Hong Kong Pure Strings are a collection of professionals whose mission is to bring contemporary string composition to a wider audience by performing easily-accessible yet virtuosic music. 

    Their "Happy Birthday Variation 1" contains several small vignettes written in the style of some of classical music and grand opera's most recognizable settings. See if you can place them. And by all means, share this video on a musician's Facebook wall for their birthday, with many happy returns!



    This article (c) 2015 Thomas J. West. All content on ThomasJWestMusic dot com is licensed under a Creative Contributions Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. Please contact the author before publishing on or off-line.

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  • Great Performances: University of North ...
    by ★ Owner on August 18, 2014 at 8:19 PM
    1034 Views - 0 Comments


    Many people in the music education world are familiar with hybrid shows such as Stomp and Blast, combining traditional band, drum corps, and percussion performance with theatrics. Similarly to Stomp, this performance by members of the University of North Texas Percussion Ensemble utilizes an array of coffee cups, lids, stirrers, and cardboard sleeves to create an entertianing, yet musically intricate display. It is safe to say that they have fully explored the sonic capabilities of a common coffee cup. I recommend listening to this with either speakers or headphones with a full spectrum response so that you can fully appreciate the timbural differences they explore throughout.


    This video was introduced to me this past weekend as part of a pre-season judges clinic for the Cavalcade of Bands Association. We used it and other videos to talk about the elements of adjudication, including musical, visual, and effect concepts. In the world of adjudication, where ranking and rating is what we do, we gave this performance a second place ranking. I will share the first place ranking in another post.


     

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  • Great Performances: James Hill Plays Uku...
    by ★ Owner on August 12, 2013 at 10:03 PM
    1025 Views - 0 Comments


    A friend of mine posted this video on my Facebook wall, knowing full well I wouldn't be able to resist posting it on my website. I am always on the lookout for people doing innovative things in music performance, and this is definitely unique. It's probably not an innovation that will revolutionize - well... anything, but it is still entertaining, to say the least. There really is no limit to the human capacity for exploration and curiosity, and no limit to the musician's search for the next new cool sound.


    James Hill is a Canadian ukulele wizard who specializes in mixing styles, genres, and sounds. This video is a cell phone shot from the audience at a show in Felton, California in 2011. The audience clamors for an encore, and he gives them a unique one: ukulele played using a pair of chopsticks and a comb. There's quite a lot of lead-in (he starts playing around the 3:50 mark), but his explanation of what he's doing, full of improvised quips, is worth watching. 

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  • Neil Gaiman's Commencement Speech 2012: ...
    by ★ Owner on August 20, 2013 at 9:41 PM
    1024 Views - 0 Comments


    Freelance author Neil Gaiman's commencement speech at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia is a testment to education in the 21st century. The old rules no longer apply. Each of us is in charge of our destiny in ways that our parents could never have envisioned. It truly is a time where, with persistence and the willingness to fail, we can discover what we love to do and go out there and do it for a living.


    "When life goes wrong," Gaiman states, "make good art. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutant boa constrictor? Make good art.... someone on the internet thinks what you're doing is stupid or evil or it's all been done before? Make good art." 


    His commencement speech highlights what truly are the new rules of the game: love what you do, and do it a lot. Share it with those who will listen.


    Enjoy all 19 minutes of this excellent speech.

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  • Great Performances: Gustavo Dudamel & Th...
    by ★ Owner on January 25, 2015 at 3:31 PM
    1020 Views - 0 Comments

    Gustavo Dudamel

    This particular recording has been floating around the internet for two years, but it continues to demonstrate Gustavo Dudamel's committment to making classical music more accessible to people of all walks of life. The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra is the top performing ensemble in the Venezuela Youth Orchestra System. "El Sistema" has gained much traction in America's inner cities as a way to revitalize and empower underprivilidged youth to connect and fall in love with quality music performance. Gustavo Dudamel himself is a product of El Sistema and has gone on to a career as an internationally renown conductor. 


    This performance thumbs its nose at the stuffy, formal traditions of orchestral music and makes Leonard Bernstein's score for "Mambo" from the legendary Broadway show West Side Story come to life in all of its intended youthful vigor. This orchestral transcription remains very faithful to Bernstein's show score, which I have had the pleasure of performing as part of the pit orchestra for a production of the show by the Penn State Thespians many moons ago.




    This article (c) 2015 Thomas J. West. All content on ThomasJWestMusic dot com is licensed under a Creative Contributions Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. Please contact the author before publishing on or off-line.

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  • Great Performances: Kevin Spacey And Fri...
    by ★ Owner on January 12, 2015 at 7:00 PM
    973 Views - 0 Comments

    Image: Carolyn Kaster / AP

    Billy Joel is someone I consider to be a musical idol of mine. He is the only popular music artist that I've seen at a live concert more than once. His music permeated my youth and continues to inspire and entertain in adulthood. He recently was honored as the sixth recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. He joins the likes of Paul Simon, Burt Bacharach, Carole King, Paul McCartney, and Stevie Wonder.


    This video is of the grand finale performance with a number of the performers returning to the stage to sing Billy's seminal closing number "Piano Man". Kevin Spacey takes center stage, playing the harmonica solo with aplomb, while fellow performers Boyz II Men, Natalie Maines, Josh Groban, Gavin DeGraw, Tony Bennett, LeAnn Rimes and Michael Feinstein trade stanzas with Billy Joel as he plays piano.


    Kevin Spacey yet again proves that he is not only a consummate performer, but also a gracious and down-to-earth person. The performance, while a bit raw around the edges, is filled with a spirit of sharing. Cuts to audience members singing along and the entire crowd swaying together demonstrate what anyone who has ever been to a Billy Joel has experienced, a legacy of song that invites each of us to share in the story.


    This article (c) 2015 Thomas J. West. All content on ThomasJWestMusic dot com is licensed under a Creative Contributions Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. Please contact the author before publishing on or off-line.

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  • Great Performances: Low Brass Version Of...
    by ★ Owner on June 16, 2014 at 12:35 PM
    921 Views - 0 Comments

    Contrabass trombone

    I actually started reading George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series before the HBO series based on his books became widely popular. I read them until the infamous "Red Wedding" scene in book 3, then put them down. I took issue with Martin's knack of spending thousands of pages to get you invested in characters only to kill them quite unceremoniously. It's a bit too realistic for my taste - not something I want to feel when reading or watching fantasy.


    I watched season 1 of HBO's Game of Thrones shortly after season 2 aired, and I saw as much as I needed to.


    This, however, is a really fun and well-done version of the title theme from the series done by all low brass instruments, including six players on the elusive contrabass trombone. Unless you have  a great speaker system on your computer with a sub-woofer, I recommend watching this using headphones with good bass response.


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