Sunday, January 15, 2006

Kronos Plays the Music Hall

I've had to think for a few days about this posting. I am a fan of Kronos' work. They are a unique quartet. And they have probably done more for contemporary composers than any other string quartet in history. But I left last Wednesday's concert at the Music Hall less than enthusiastic.

I've seen Kronos in concert before. And this time they played with the same precision, the same attention to detail, but something lacked. I don't know if they need to get back into the swing of things following a two month hiatus or if the group let their frustration over current events overshadow their performance (on more than one occaision violinist David Harrington shared his dismay over the Alito confirmation hearings that were happening in Washington). This is a group whose political leanings are an important factor in their sound and success, whether you agree with them or not. They are a group of musicians who play with the angst of young rockers, idolizing Jimi Hendrix in their encores, and championing the environment in their commissions. Thus the energy and enthusiasm of the politically fervent is expected in their performances.

On this occaision the spark was often missing. That is not to say the concert was poor - they know their music and bring out each detail and nuance. But the exploding energy you expect from Kronos was still on hiatus.

I don't want to be a cynic about the concert. The Music Hall's Executive Director Patricia Lynch and Programming Director Therese LaGamma have done a superb job of bringing world-class ensembles to Portsmouth and this concert will long be remembered as daring programming for this relatively quiet seacoast community. Programming that I want to continue. Last year's Turtle Island and Regina Carter concerts, and the upcoming Maria Schneider Orchestra and Nnenna Freelon "Blueprint of a Lady" are among the best of what they've accomplished in their short tenure. Add the Writers on a New England Stage Series (that brought Doris Kearns Goodwin and Alan Alda to Portsmouth) and the Ray Lamontaigne and Shawn Colvin/John Hiatt concerts and the Music Hall is doing more for our cultural scene than ever.

So I don't want to be negative about the Kronos concert. I just have to realize that when a group of this stature comes to town, I get my expectations up, way up. And those expectations can't always be met. But even if it wasn't the mind-blowing, life-changing, motivating, beautiful concert I had hoped for, I am glad they were here, I am glad I was there, and I hope that the Music Hall continues to bring such wonderful performers to town.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of year again - time to swear that once and for all you're going to do that thing you've been meaning to do...

I make resolutions every year. They vary from reasonable (switch to decaf coffee - #1995-6) to outrageous (I'll never go to Duncan Donuts again - #2001-17). This year I find my blog near the top of the list (#2006-12). Running a community arts school is pretty time-consuming. Yet it is the most fun I've ever had in my work life. And this will be the year that I find the time to do the things associated with my job that are the most fun - like writing in this blog.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, "But, Russ, seriously, you've had a tough go at keeping the blog entries consistent thus far." (My web guru Steve is chuckling aloud as he reads this.) I know, I know. But this time I have a PLAN. My new year's resolution #2006-1: use a computer day planning system (no, I will not reveal the planner of my choice). Now I have a repeat task each week to write in my blog. Wohoo! Now my computer can remember for me. Just as it will remind me to go to the gym (#2006-4), prepare extra-thoroughly for my April 1st recital (#2006-7), and to clean the fish tank on the last Sunday of each month (#2006-72). As you can see, the computer planner had to be #1 just because of the sheer number of resolutions I need to keep track of. (Oh, darn. Not ending sentences with the word "of" was #2006-46.)

So for the person who actually checks my blog from time to time, this resolution is for you. Thanks for being there. This year I'll be here once a week. At least until late January.