On Sunday afternoon, the iO String Quartet — a New York City-based ensemble whose self-proclaimed interest is in “finding a common aesthetic vision between the works of the past and the works of today” — played to a near-capacity crowd in Barnes Hall, following their week-long residency here at Cornell. The iO Quartet was formed in 2005, and is comprised of four enterprising musicians with degrees from prestigious music schools — Christina McGann, violin, Stephen Miahky, violin, Elizabeth Weisser, viola and Christopher Gross, cello. Since its inception, the group has played around the world, presided as the 2006-08 Billy Joel Graduate String Quartet in Residence at SUNY Purchase, won several awards and undertaken the “iO: inside Out Chamber Music” concert series.
Friday night, Cornell’s Southeast Asia and Music departments came together, sponsored by the Breaking Bread initiative, to put on Songs from 24,615 Islands, a night of Indonesian and Filipino music. The Breaking Bread initiative at Cornell focuses on bringing diverse peoples together to share culture and establish common ground. The Philippines and Indonesia are two incredibly ethnically diverse countries, and in the spirit of coming together, two musical groups – one Filipino/Western and one Indonesian Muslim – applied to Breaking Bread.
I’m sitting in Libe Café, my column is due in two hours and, to be totally honest, I have absolutely no idea what to write about. There’s a new Andrew Bird album out that’s most definitely worth a listen or three, and a soon-to-be released Neko Case recording that my sources tell me is quite stupendous. (Does talking about “my sources” make me seem mysterious and “in-the-know?”) But in general, I try to leave new albums to those who write the handy-dandy Arts “Test Spins.” Someone pick those up, eh?
The Banff Mountain Film Festival, a collection of outdoor adventure, environmental, and mountain culture films, rolled into town once again last Friday to dazzle a filled-to-capacity Kennedy Auditorium. This year’s festival, which ran from Oct. 31 through Nov. 9, received some 300 submissions from 37 countries. After the festival, the Banff Mountain Film World Tour hits the road, visiting 200 locations in North America and 28 other countries in a span of six months. Ithaca residents get to vote ahead of time on the eight to ten films they wish to see from the selection of 50 finalists, totalling about two and half hours worth of footage.
So, this week, let’s talk about musicals. Woohoo, musicals! OK, seriously, though, who doesn’t love musicals? I can name at least 10 that I adore. But first, I’d like to consider the particular musical that has inspired me to write this column. This weekend, I saw Mamma Mia for the first time, and I will say, I did so reluctantly. (Come on, admit you thought it looked cheesy. I did. Mamma Mia con queso. Extra queso. And Abba.)
The Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts premiered Alan Bennett’s The History Boys in its Flex Theatre yesterday. The play debuted at the Lyttelton Theatre in London in 2004, and has since become a Broadway show, a Tony Award-winner and a movie. At Cornell, it is directed by Melanie Dryer-Lude and put on by eight students and four professional actors associated with the Actors’ Equity Association.
Sunday afternoon, several Brazilian-influenced ensembles regaled Barnes Hall with the sounds of the Brazilian night in the Music Department’s Noite Brasileira. The audience, out perilously close to Superbowl kickoff, filled the whole of Barnes Hall, and by general consensus, I’d say they got their money’s worth (more than, actually, since the concert cost a wallet-breaking zero dollars).
Welcome back chicklets! I assume you are all enjoying the lovely Ithaca weather and the recommencement of death by Cornell University. I was going to start off this column with a list of complaints about how the weather sucks, going back to school sucks, being in Ithaca when I was supposed to be abroad this semester sucks, already being behind on work sucks and how my computer sucks. Just a right little bundle of joy, all laid down on paper for you to commiserate with. But I changed my mind. My attitude coming into this semester has been to make the best of it (weather’s cold — go snowboarding; stuck in Ithaca — make new friends; school’s tough — take fun classes) and I want this column, which is about music after all, and therefore joyful by definition, to reflect that.
In the interest of summing up the semester — this being my final column of 2008 — and because I’m at a loss for things to write about, I’m going to supply loyal readers (that means you, Dad) with a Weiss-a-roni-style list of my favorite musical things. The underlying message here being that because I love these things, you should love them too.
Number One. Les Choristes. Les Choristes is a French film, directed by Christophe Barratier, about a failed composer who goes to teach music at a dreary boarding school for “troublesome” boys. Rebellion and learning ensue, and the movie ends up making me so happy every time I watch it. If you are feeling sad, you must watch this movie. You will grin by the end.
Saturday night, the Fanclub Collective put on a rather unprecedented four-act show in North Campus’ own Just About Music dorm. Now, through my three years at Cornell, and despite the fact that I have several JAM-resident friends, I have never actually been to one of their coffee-house shows (I am infinitely excited to cross it off of my list of things to do at Cornell).
The space was neat, inviting and just the right size to make a Fanclub show seem full to the brim, though I felt bad for the people who actually live there. Anyone trying to sleep at 11pm was undoubtedly having a terrible time doing so — the last band was particularly gut-bustingingly loud.