The André Watts of the banjo!


Callum’s preview of the March 22, 2014 MasterWorks concert, featuring Béla Fleck (don’t miss the March 21 concert as well!) It was a school night, so he didn’t have much time to revise his notes for continuity.

My dad and I went to the Canton Symphony rehearsal on Wednesday night. First, I got to see, in real life, not through pictures, the outside of the Zimmermann Symphony Center, and it looks awesome. I wonder what it felt like for Mr. Zimmermann to see it for the first time. To see his name up there on a building dedicated to him would be awesome. I bet he felt great, and he deserves it. The building is amazing. I was hoping the words would light up when it got dark that night, but they didn’t yet. The building is really beautiful. I can’t wait until the inside is finished, because then we can see what it looks like on the inside, which will be awesome.

Note from Dad:
Here are some recent construction photos of the interior (mostly), and artist renderings of the completed project.

Béla Fleck didn’t rehearse on Wednesday night. The orchestra rehearsed Franck’s Symphony in D minor. There was a different concertmaster this time. He is probably just filling in. The Franck was really awesome. I love the theme which seems to get repeated a thousand times. There was a lot of pizzicato in the second movement, which is the first movement they rehearsed. In this second movement, Franck was able to make the symphony only in three movements by combining the slow movement and the scherzo together, making it one movement instead of the usual two. There was a part where no one was playing except for the bass clarinet, and he or she held onto a note for a couple seconds. It sounded really cool. At first I thought it was a bassoon, but it was the bass clarinet. Mr. Zimmermann said that the orchestra members need to drink more coffee because he was trying to get them to play a part the way Franck wrote it, which is agitato, which means agitated, just the way a lot of people get after drinking coffee or espresso. The contrary motion in the first movement comes back in the third movement. This piece is awesome. I also got to hear a bit of the surprise, but I’m not telling you what it is.

Then we went to the rehearsal on Thursday night and Béla Fleck was there. It was so awesome. There was a big screen, and Mr. Fleck was shown up there while he is playing, plus different sections of the orchestra. He wrote the piece that was being played, his banjo concerto. It’s awesome. He has fingerpicks, or picks that you somehow attach to your fingers, which must feel weird at first. It’s amazing how when he plays, he makes it look so easy when it really isn’t. This is a really cool piece. The banjo really does stand out from the orchestra because it’s definitely not every day that we hear a banjo with an orchestra, but I really like the combination. Some of this piece is very dissonant and minor. The beginning of the first movement reminds me a lot of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, Gates to Infinity music. Another part of it sounds like a march.

Mr. Fleck really gets into the music. I wonder what mode some of this is in. It almost sounds like a mode Debussy would use, but in a different style. He keeps changing the style he plays his banjo in. Sometimes he plays it like a guitar, and other times he switches to a classic, more known style of banjo playing. His playing is amazing. The banjo isn’t usually my favorite instrument. It’s okay, but the way Mr. Fleck plays it is awesome, and I love it. Some of the piece sounds very contemporary, but other times it doesn’t at all. There are some really complicated rhythms in this piece. Sometimes it seems like the banjo is against the orchestra, or vice versa, or even orchestra against orchestra. I bet it’s really hard for everyone to play. The piece changes time signatures so much, and it’s really obvious when it does. Since it’s changing literally all the time, then that makes it more difficult. But the orchestra sounds amazing as always, and of course so does Mr. Fleck.

Having the big screen at the back of the stage is awesome, and I love the zoom on the cameras they have built into the hall now. They have such great quality from such a distance away. You can see Mr. Fleck’s hands so well on the screen. The cameras zoom in on his hands, with such great quality, and you can see as if you were literally that close to the banjo, watching his hands. It will be so awesome in the concert. This piece uses a lot of bells, and whenever the percussionist started playing, the cameras made an awesome side angle zoom so you could see him play in detail. I thought about calling him a “bellist” as a joke.

Like I said before, Mr. Fleck sometimes plays his banjo almost as if it were a guitar (at least that’s what it sounds like to me). I love guitar, and now my nine year old sister Maggie is learning guitar, which is awesome, but more about that later. Anyway, all of the sudden, the music got really jazzy and had a kind of swing to it. I like that. There are about three parts in the piece that sound so much like Gershwin, it had to be on purpose. One of them is the slurred clarinet parts, like in Rhapsody in Blue. The orchestra is doing great. Mr. Fleck plays so fast, as fast as André Watts on the piano. I can’t get over how awesome he is on the banjo. I think he’s the André Watts of the banjo, which is saying something. There was a theme that I swear I have heard many times before. My dad told me it was just written by Mr. Fleck to sound like a familiar style, but I swear I have heard it many times before, I just can’t remember where.

Remember how I said something about my sister learning guitar? Well here are the details. Maggie is now taking guitar with my piano teacher, Matt Riddle, who also is a great guitar teacher. Maggie has a nice pink guitar she got for Christmas. She loves it. She is doing very well already. I think she has a talent for it if she keeps it up and works hard. Maybe my dad will post some pictures sometime of her at her lesson. But my dad, mom, and I thought she would love the banjo, and seeing Béla Fleck play would inspire her, as much as the banjo can inspire a most-likely soon to be great guitarist. She is doing great, and I can’t wait to see what she becomes. Anyway, I hope everybody can come to this concert on Saturday, (and the one on Friday night, too!) because it will be so awesome. And I also can’t wait for everyone to hear the surprise!

Note from Dad:
Maggie took some notes at rehearsal as well, and they’re below (most of them at least), but here’s a picture of her first lesson with Matt, by Callum’s request: ;)


Maggie’s notes:
The new Zimmermann Symphony Center is amazing. It looks really cool. Béla Fleck wrote this piece, and the beginning sounds sort of spooky and calming at the same time. Part of it reminds me of the headless horseman. We just read that in school today, but I also remember seeing the Canton Symphony play it. The beginning also reminds me of Narnia – the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Béla Fleck is a really amazing banjo player. He can play really fast without missing a note. The flutes also sound great and really pretty, and they sound good with the banjo. Callum told me he thinks the white part of the banjo is sort of like a drum, so when someone plucks the strings, the sound bounces off the white part almost like a drum to make that banjo sound. The banjo doesn’t have a hole like the guitar does for the vibrations to come out. Instead it has the part that’s like a drum.

The person playing the bells played the same rhythm over and over in a pattern. Mr. Fleck played a little lower and then a little bit higher with the same tune each time. This piece sounds like a hard piece to play. There is a little bit of jazz in it. It’s amazing how Mr. Fleck can pluck the strings that fast without missing a single note in the piece. He has these things on his fingers to help him pluck the notes. He is an amazing banjo player. I’m really glad I got to see him play.

Happy Birthday, CSO Chorus!


Callum’s preview of the February 16, 2014 CSO MasterWorks concert:


The upcoming Canton Symphony Orchestra concert is going to be really awesome, and it’s also the Canton Symphony Chorus’s 30th anniversary. The Canton Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the Malone University Chorale, soprano Rachel Hall, and baritone (singer) Brian Keith Johnson are all going to be performing together in this concert. It’s going to be great. They are also going to announce next season, and I can’t wait to hear what they are going to play. I already know about the Beethoven Festival with André Watts, which is going to be so awesome. I cannot wait for that.

The first piece they are going to perform on Sunday is Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus. Mozart wrote this piece as a gift for Anton Stoll, who took care of Mozart’s wife and son for him while he was gone. His wife was pregnant and sick, so she went to another city hoping the hot springs would help her feel better. I was really surprised that the whole piece is only 48 measures. It’s very beautiful.

When I was getting ready to write this, my dad told me a really cool story about Mozart. There was a piece (Miserere, by Allegri) written specifically for the Vatican. It was not allowed to leave the Vatican, and if it did, whoever took it out would be excommunicated from the church. Mozart went to hear the piece once, and then came home and wrote it all down, just from hearing it once. Then he went again a couple days later and fixed a few things. I guess you can stop somebody from taking a score out of the Vatican, but you can’t keep a genius from taking it out in his head. After he finished writing it all down, he gave it to a British historian, who published it. Then the pope sent for Mozart to come see him, but instead of excommunicating him, he praised him for his musical abilities. It just goes to show that Mozart was an absolute musical genius. He was only 14 when he did that. I find that really amazing. Here’s a video all about it: The story of Allegri’s Miserere  Anyway, back to Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus. This piece is so beautiful. I can’t wait to hear it in concert. It’s sad to think that this piece was one of the last Mozart wrote before he died. He could have written so much more. What an awesome gift it would be to have this piece written for you. I wish it was longer because there would be more to enjoy.

The second piece they are going to perform is Brahms’ German Requiem. He got the idea to write the piece when two deaths occurred that greatly affected him. First, his friend Robert Schumann, and then later his mom. This piece is fairly long; it’s usually well over an hour. It’s all really beautiful. This is the piece where the soprano and baritone sing. At first I thought when it said baritone, that it meant the band instrument. That would be really cool if it was, because I love the baritone as an instrument, but I also like the vocal baritone. The partial premiere of the Requiem, when they performed the first three movements, was a little bit of a disappointment. The timpanist messed up because he, for some reason, just interpreted the dynamics incorrectly. During the fugue at the end of the third movement, he was supposed to be playing quietly, but instead he started playing really loudly, so that the only thing you could hear was the timpani. I bet that would be funny to see because you would see everybody else playing but you can’t really hear them, and then there’s the timpanist up there banging on his timpani completely unaware of his mistake, thinking that he’s doing the right thing.

The chorus is really awesome in this piece. Some of the chorus parts sound to me like a Russian theme in a movie, probably because of the basses. I don’t know if they will use the organ or not in this concert, since it’s optional. In the first movement, the chorus starts out very, very quiet. I wonder if they are going to use half the chorus to sing so softly. I love how in the middle of this movement, it goes back to how it was right at the very beginning when the chorus comes in, but it changes key instead of going on like it was the first time. The second movement is probably my favorite. I love this whole piece, but especially this movement. The basses are awesome, they’re so low and it’s so intense. It sounds like the theme for an evil character in a movie, like Sauron’s theme in the Lord of the Rings series. I don’t remember exactly what it sounds like, because I haven’t seen any of the three movies in such a long time, but it just sounds like it would be a theme for someone like that.

This piece is very intense. My dad played a recording for me of this piece with all the words translated into English, which sounded sort of weird. I don’t think the translation sounded very good because it just didn’t seem to fit. Since Brahms wrote the music to fit the German language, it didn’t flow as well in English and didn’t sound right. My dad has a lot of recordings of this piece, like one conducted by his teacher Robert Spano. The dynamic contrast is amazing in this piece, especially with the choir. I love the way the orchestra blends in and enhances the sound of the chorus. It wouldn’t sound nearly as good if it were just the orchestra, or if it were just the chorus. This piece is great for chorus because the chorus and orchestra fit perfectly well together.

The fourth movement is the most popular. The part of this movement that has pizzicato in the strings sounds to me a little bit like the second half of the Pokémon cave music from Pokémon Platinum, Pearl, and Diamond. The fifth movement is the one with the soprano. My dad played me this movement with an amazing singer, Kathleen Battle. She has amazing talent and an amazing voice, but he’s told me some stories before about her, and she is a piece of work. He told me that one time when she performed an opera somewhere, that after she left, they had shirts made that said “I Survived the Battle!” But her voice in the recording my dad played was absolutely amazing. The sixth movement has the baritone in it, as well as the third. The recording with Kathleen Battle has an amazing baritone, too.

My dad and I went to the rehearsal on Thursday night, and so did my sister Maggie. We didn’t think that the chorus was going to be in this rehearsal because we had an old schedule that had changed. Dr. Cooper, the Canton Symphony Chorus director and conductor, was standing in the aisle with a music stand with the score on it. One time during the rehearsal, he easily climbed and jumped onto the stage from the ground, and Mr. Zimmermann said “Ah, such a young man.” Since the chorus is there, they take up the whole back of the stage, so the timpanist is really close to the orchestra. For once I can’t see him very well at all. Mr. Zimmermann is conducting the orchestra, the Malone University Chorale, the Canton Symphony Chorus, and the soloists. I bet it’s pretty hard to conduct all of that, having everyone depending on you. Mr. Zimmermann knows exactly what kind of sound he wants to get out of the orchestra and chorus. He didn’t like the sound of the mallets that the timpanist was using during one part, so he had him switch to hard wood mallets. It’s amazing how much the timpani adds to the sound of the orchestra, and how all the different kinds of mallets make sounds so different from each other.

As soon as break was over, they got back to rehearsing right away, starting where they left off. They sounded really good. They were still on the third movement when it was 9:40, which is really late. They are supposed to end at 10:00. Mr. Zimmermann sang some of the part of the baritone because he was not there that night. The soloists won’t rehearse with the orchestra until Saturday. The rehearsal was great and I loved it. Maggie decided not to take any notes this time. She said she just wanted to enjoy the music.

I really am looking forward to this concert, which I know I say every time, but that’s true because I love every Canton Symphony Orchestra concert. The Canton Symphony Orchestra and Chorus are going to do a tremendous job, and so is the soprano, the baritone and the Malone University Chorale. I hope as many people as possible can come. It looks like the weather will be better, so hopefully no whiteouts like last time. I hope to see you there.

The Americans, Part 1 – The Concert

cold Callum (& Maggie)

cold Callum (and Maggie) pre-concert

Callum’s review of the January 25, 2014 CSO MasterWorks concert
(with notes at the end from Maggie, too)…

I have already written two blog posts about this concert and one of the rehearsals, but the concert was so awesome, I decided to write one more. The concert was amazing. I loved it. André Watts played like no other pianist I’ve ever seen, and all of it was awesome. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the pre-concert lecture because the roads were terrible. I wish we had, because Mr. Albacete did it. We took my sister Maggie to the concert, too. She was really excited to go, and she loved it. She took some more notes during the concert, and they’re at the bottom of this page. The concert hall had a lot of vacant seats, unfortunately, but that’s because the roads were so bad. Mr. Zimmermann thanked the audience for coming even in the bad weather, and the orchestra applauded the audience.

The first piece they played was Foote’s Suite for strings in E major, Op. 63Rachel Waddell conducted this piece and she did a great job. The piece is only for strings, but some of it sounded almost as if there were more than just strings, because they had such a full sound. The third movement is a fugue, and I love it. It sounds sort of baroque. This piece is really beautiful, and it was played very well, of course.


The second piece they performed was the Hanson (Symphony No. 2). The principal French hornist, Meghan Guegold, is a great musician, and she did so well in her solos. The whole orchestra did an amazing job. I really enjoy hearing and seeing the orchestra perform. When you’re watching the orchestra, the timpanist kind of stands out, because he sits higher than the rest of the orchestra. I wonder what it feels like to be the timpanist. You are the highest level on the stage, so I bet it feels like everybody is watching you, which is probably a bit nerve-racking. I said before how John Williams was inspired by Hanson, especially this piece, when it comes to E.T. It’s really cool how the beginning of the third movement sounds almost just like the beginning of the music for the bike chase scene in E.T. On the soundtrack, it’s called the “Adventures on Earth” theme. I don’t know if Hanson intentionally wrote it to sound like one or not, but there is also a part in the third movement that I think sounds like a Native American dance, and I love it.

The third piece they performed was the MacDowell (Piano Concerto No. 2). This is my favorite out of the four pieces. André Watts did an amazing job, as usual, and I really loved watching him play. He even kicked his feet in the air a few times, and it was funny. I wanted to clap after the first and second movements because they were so great. I’m sure that the orchestra sounded better than ever because Mr. Watts was on the stage. He makes playing this piece on the piano look easy, even though it’s the opposite. This piece went by too fast. I was watching him and wondering how he does any of it, and never misses a note. It looks like he’s just hitting random keys, but he’s actually hitting all the right notes perfectly. Kind of like in the movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, when Flint was typing, he was just flopping his hands on the keyboard, but still managing to hit all the right letters: video


The last piece they performed was the Piston (The Incredible Flutist Suite). To me, the oboes sounded like the first trickle of people coming into the circus. Usually there is just a dog bark at the end of the circus march episode, but this time, somebody added a cat screech after the dog, and it was done really well and was really funny. This piece is very high spirits, well, some of it at least. Anyway, I loved it, along with all the other pieces, and so did the rest of the audience.

I really loved this concert. André Watts did an amazing job, and so did the orchestra and Ms. Waddell and Mr. Zimmermann. And speaking of Mr. Zimmermann, while he was conducting the Hanson, he accidentally let go of his baton and it flew into the audience. We didn’t see it happen, but we saw a little girl go up to the stage right before intermission and give the baton to the concertmaster, and she put it back on Mr. Zimmermann’s music stand. Then he came out and took it off the stand and gave it to the girl to keep as a souvenir. I thought that was kind of him. Anyway, I wish the weather wasn’t so bad, because then more people would have been able to come. It was a great concert, and I can’t wait until the next one, with Brahms and Mozart, which is also the 30th anniversary of the Canton Symphony Chorus!

Here’s some of what Maggie wrote during the concert:

My brother ran back out to the car before the concert because he forgot his notebook, and he tripped over the curb twice on the way back. He couldn’t see the curb because of all the snow.

It’s a really beautiful piece. In the beginning of the second movement they are not using the bows to play the violins, they’re just plucking the strings. It gets really low in the middle of the movement. The violins are really pretty, and they can play really high. In this piece, Mr. Zimmermann isn’t conducting, Rachel Waddell is conducting.

It starts out soft and then gets louder and louder and then softer and softer with the same tune. It is a very beautiful piece. It reminds me a lot of the beginning and end of E.T. At one part it gets really high pitched and then it gets nice and soft and then louder and louder again with the same tune it started with in the beginning of the piece. Then it gets softer and softer with the same tune again and again. It’s so beautiful. You can really hear the tuba and violins. The violins were not playing for a minute and then they started playing again. You can really hear the flutes and violins with all the other instruments in the orchestra. At one part it gets a lot lower with the tuba and the double basses. Its so, so, so beautiful. At another part, only the flutes play, and then only the big drum plays. At another part, it gets really fast and super super loud as they speed up the piece, and then stops and gets softer again.

It’s the most beautiful piece yet. Mr. Watts is really good at playing the piano. He is the best piano player I have ever seen. It is so beautiful. It is amazing how they can all play together like that with some people playing different tunes and how they don’t get distracted by everyone else. Mr. Zimmermann is a really good conductor. Everyone in the orchestra is so good at playing music, especially Andre Watts the piano player. He is amazing. It’s amazing how he doesn’t get one note wrong. He can play so fast at exactly the right time. There is a part that sort of reminds me of the Nutcracker and another part of it reminds me of Toy Story 3. I don’t know why.