Sunday, January 13, 2013

concert review: *bing*

It isn't often these days that B. and I get dressed up nice and go out for dinner and a concert. But we did it on Friday as a special treat, because I was being sent to review the opening night gala of the Bing concert hall, the one I went to the press preview of some six weeks ago.

And, of course, everyone is going to want to know how the acoustics are in this rather daring-looking new hall. Well, here in the review I spill all the beans I was able to gather.

As a gala, it hardly needed reviewing. The Bing bling consisted of the intermission glasses of champagne, which I did note in the review, and the same array of uniformed staff members were lined up after the concert with the same trays, this time holding commemorative tins of peppermints as a souvenir. The buffet of fruit and desserts at the press preview had been more sumptuous, but there had been lots fewer people. On the other hand, this time the actual snack counter was open for sales.

To describe the contribution of emcee Anna Deavere Smith (a former drama prof at Stanford, which explains what she was doing there) as scripted blither was sufficient. Scheinen called it superfluous aggrandizing, and he was more blunt than I. Suffice that you're not going to impress an old UCB grad by boasting of the architectural and topographic variety of the Stanford campus. Further blither, mercifully brief, came from the eponymous Bing and the President of the University at the beginning. Musical blither came not from the choral piece setting chunks of Bing's previous speech, which was surprisingly good (the music, I mean), but in the form of showing off the hall's sound system with a so-called fanfare by the wankers up at the campus electronic music lab: a classic piece of 1950s-style musique concrète made out of recordings of traffic noise. Be thankful I considered it beneath my notice for the review.

I went back on Saturday for the choral half of the open house festival. The children's choirs were OK, including the teenage boys who did a Beach Boys medley with enthusiasm and amusing choreography but not quite the proper snap, but the Stanford Talisman was, as I noted in the review, really impressive. The more so in that a group performing African music was about 3/4 white, and that it had been originally founded, as they explained in introducing themselves, to fight apartheid, back in the day, with music. (I was all in favor of fighting apartheid, but I did rather feel, even at the time, that the tools available for the average American to fight it with were rather disconnected from the goal, and this is a good example.) They, or rather their successors, are still around and still singing; I guess the music speaks for itself and not just for its political purpose.

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