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Stories by Garrett Harris

Summer of nothing

Beethoven sits us down by the stream and does... nothing

Our recent little thunderstorm reminded me of what is probably the best piece of summer music: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6. There are fives sections of the symphony, one of which is a thunderstorm which passes ...

Miss what most of us never had

James Agee and San Diego: Summer of 2015

Knoxville: Summer of 1915. Is there a more nostalgic title? It evokes a yearning for simpler times, a time when fathers watered their lawns by hose in the evening, after supper, while children played and ...

More complicated than you might think

A soprano isn't just a soprano

Let’s talk about soloists and concert music. I’ve yet to be impressed with any soloists at any of the orchestras in town. I’ve found them all to be serviceable at best and miscast at worst. ...

Are you free?

Singing for free is the norm, so why make it an issue?

Why don’t orchestras pay choruses for the concerts that require a chorus? Why would an institution with a $20 million budget not pay choristers? Here’s the deal. They do pay choruses, but they pay the ...

Racy conclusion

Beethoven contemplates but Mozart drives fast

As of June 20, the Mainly Mozart Festival is done for 2015. The final concert was a study in contrasting styles of music. Or perhaps I should say contrasting moods instead of style. The entire ...

Shining, happy people

Mainly Mozart musicians deliver a Biblical experience

“As he [Jesus] was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus...As the ...

Preaching to the choir

The bar is too low for choral vocal work in classical music

Warning: This article is critical of some current choral practices. If you’re a singer in a choir, you’ve been warned. Let’s talk about this explosive “k” at the top of every mass. The opening text ...

Top-notch Mozart by way of Bach

San Diegos request to classical music might just be "talk to us a little"

Saturday night’s Mainly Mozart concert was a wonderful experience of musicology. Conductor Michael Francis spoke before each piece instead of having a printed “Maestro’s Notes” in the program. This is the type of approach which ...

Sexy mountain climb

An esoteric pick of the week for the Richard Strauss, the birthday boy

Richard Strauss had a birthday this week so let’s make him our esoteric pick of the week as a birthday present. It’s the thought that counts. Strauss wrote six “great tone poems.” In all, there ...

Bring the healing

Michael Francis talks Mainly Mozart in Balboa Park

There is a unique event coming up on Sunday, June 14th, at 3 p.m. — a free concert at Balboa Park's Plaza de Panama. What is the event? I’ll let Maestro Michael Francis tell us ...

How to start with Mozart and end up with nihilism

The arbitrary fame of the Haffners leads Garrett to wonder what really matters

Mozart’s Haffner Symphony is a fairly famous piece of music, but who the hell was Haffner? Haffer got not just the symphony but also a 55-minute-long serenade. That’s about 90 minutes of music by Mozart ...

You need an epic to describe an epic

A Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra experience only Homer can describe

“No more words — he dashed toward the city, heart racing for some great exploit, rushing on like a champion stallion drawing a chariot full tilt, sweeping across the plain in easy, tearing strides — ...

Voice of understanding

Conductor Michael Francis talks Mozart, "the most fascinating of all musical lives"

The new music director of Mainly Mozart, Michael Francis, hits us with a firehose-stream of knowledge and understanding prior to the opening of the Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra concerts. The interview is so extensive that ...

Vaughn Williams's esoteric summer road trip

Slip on your Wayfarers and learn about the wanderers and their soundtrack

Songs of Travel by Vaughan Williams is the esoteric pick of the week. Now, if at any time in your life you’ve been a baritone undergraduate student, this is not an "esoteric" selection — this ...

Mainly better than sliced bread

The Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra starts this week!

I’ve been waiting for this moment for 49 weeks. I’m not even joking. The first of five Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra concerts is this Saturday, June 6, at 7:30 p.m. The venue is the Balboa ...

They're not going to come find you

Continued discourse on the problems of classical music attendance

It’s not a matter of people not liking classical music. I’ve been driving for Uber here and there for some extra income and I always have classical music playing via Spotify. What usually ensues is ...

One big cover band

Is the audience there for the performer or the music?

Can we finally agree that classical music is about the music? It is not my intention to diminish the brilliance of classical performances, but a classical music artist is really a member of a huge ...

Near to genius

Stephen Hough flirts with true brilliance

I’m not sure I’ve used the term genius in the past when describing a performer. I’m not sure it applies here either, but it’s pretty darn close. Stephen Hough was a candidate for genius while ...

Is it all about brand recognition?

Observations from last weekend’s fantastic, sparsely attended Spanish Rhapsody concert

The hall was about half full for the Spanish Rhapsody. Previously the hall had been 95% full for Carmina Burana. To my mind and heart, the Spanish concert had the greater merit musically and artistically ...

My name is Inigo Montoya, I play the violin, prepare to die

A Spanish lovefest at Symphony Hall

The San Diego Symphony concert on Saturday, May 9, was as hot as Seville in August — maybe hotter. (I’m not sure, since I’ve never been to Seville, but I can imagine.) Violinist Ray Chen ...

Spanish music by French guys comes to the Symphony

Sounds like they might punch you or make love to you — or both

I complained about a lack of variety in symphonic programming just in time for the San Diego Symphony to present an entire concert of hidden gems, built around a Spanish theme. Ravel is the most ...

Appeal of the new-old

Continued reflection on butts and seats

The esoteric pick of the week series is starting to piss me off. There is a buttload of amazing music out there that isn’t being performed. I understand why opera companies would want to stick ...

It's not you, it's me, Carmina

Garrett's sad breakup with what he was considered a masterpiece

As I listened to Carmina Burana it occurred to me that it wasn’t the greatest music in the world. In fact, it’s something of a one-hit-wonder. What else did Orff write? Think about it — ...

Show thief!

Conrad Tao runs away with the entire evening at San Diego Symphony

Conrad Tao stole the show twice on Saturday, May 2, at Symphony Hall. He tore the place apart with the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 1 and then upstaged that monster with the conclusion of Prokofiev’s ...

No marketing, sharing, or promotion, please!

What if the sparsely attended Symphony realized it was 2015?

Never, ever, record a symphony or opera concert. Ever. If you do, it will be a blatant and vile transgression against the very foundations of what your friends want you to share with them. (And ...

Celebration of sex and gambling

The Carmina Burana text may have been authored by clerics, but it has Vegas beat.

I thought I was the first guy to have a 10-hours-long sexual encounter with the goddess Venus herself. As it turns out, I’m 800 years late, since someone shared just such an experience in the ...

Spring has sprung

This week is blooming with classical music

Carmina Burana, American composer royalty, fairy tales, and Romeo and Juliet are all part of a jam packed classical music week in San Diego County. Carmina Burana features sweaty gambling followed by naked men leaving ...

History, culture, and the Dance of Death

An old story made new is the esoteric pick of the week

"You might be a king or a little street sweeper, but sooner or later you dance with the reaper." — Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey On February 14, 1942, the Royal Air Force received authorization ...

Context brings out the creep

Ignorance could not last forever as the melancholy story of Die Tote Stadt comes out.

In spite of my desire to remain mystically ignorant of Korngold’s context regarding Marietta’s Lied, a conversation thread on Facebook has not allowed it. The aria comes in the first act of Die Tote Stadt ...

Out of time and space

Garrett's experience of "Marietta’s Lied" from Die Tote Stadt is never to be bested

I have one observation from the back row of the chorus regarding the San Diego Opera 50th Anniversary Gala. So long as I live, I will never hear or experience anything more beautiful than Marietta’s ...

Greatest of the great

The 50th Anniversary Gala at San Diego Opera may be a monumental experience

The voice was bouncing off the back wall of the house and echoing back onto the stage. The goosebumps were making their rounds through the assembly. It was obvious that this was going to be ...

When Dido pulls the trigger — gasp!

Point Loma Opera Theater undergrads continue to put in work.

Point Loma Opera Theater is cranking out performances like mad these days. I caught their double bill of Trouble in Tahiti and Dido and Aeneas on Sunday evening. These were the fourth and fifth productions ...

More than a little self-congratulatory

Garrett's clout grows as the esoteric pick of the week influences the Brits

The BBC Music Magazine awards were held recently and a few of them are worthy of comment. The BBC Music Magazine Awards are similar to the Gramophone awards, which are similar to the Grammys. Of ...

Samples at the Symphony

The weekend is booked with classical music

The San Diego Symphony is offering a pay-what-you-want sampling of next year's season. The orchestra will be performing sections of the 2015-2016 season. There will be an open bar. I mean, the bar will be ...

Who wants to be the philosopher king?

A cultural meandering

I think we're stuck with Shostakovich as the last composer to write a great symphony. Michael Tippett is also a candidate, but he doesn't have Shostakovich's stature. I hate to play the blame game but ...

But would audiences love him?

The esoteric pick of the week may suffer from a branding problem

I'm starting to wonder if a composer's name helps maintain their status? Think about that for a moment. How many composers have names that are difficult? There are a few, mainly Russian, but by and ...

Immediate masterpiece at San Diego Symphony

Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony was an instant classic at release

"There is no curse in Elvish, Entish, or the tongues of Men for this treachery." I'm going to switch up that Tolkien quote and say, "There is no sufficient honor in Elvish, Entish, or the ...

I am the very model of modern major composer

Arthur Sullivan gets all serious on us

What if Gilbert and Sullivan wrote a symphony? What would it be like? First off, I suppose Gilbert wouldn’t have much to do, so I should say, “What if Sullivan wrote a symphony”? We’re in ...

Mainly Mozart starts its engine

Two chamber concerts and a big ol' symphony this weekend.

Mainly Mozart is giving two Spotlight Series concerts this weekend in two enticing locations. The music is a transcription of Bach's Goldberg Variations for string trio. The concert is at the Scripps Research Institute on ...

Difficult man, difficult plot, masterful work

The esoteric, and acerbic, pick of the week.

The esoteric pick of the week is Palestrina. Not the composer, Palestrina, himself, but the opera based on events late in his life by German anti-modernist Hans Pfitzner. Hans Pfitzner was born in Russia to ...

The maturity we need

An exegesis: understanding the ballet in Nixon in China

People I’ve talked to about the ballet scene from the end of Act II of Nixon in China have been a little confused. Why is Henry Kissinger writhing on stage and whipping peasant girls to ...

The fist of God

Only the locals do work on the Berlioz Requiem at La Jolla Symphony

We could say, for comparison's sake, that Mozart's Dies Irae is something like an 18th Century cavalry charge and Verdi's Dies Irae is like a choreographed shock and awe campaign. Berlioz's Dies Irae? Berlioz is ...

People must hate the Swiss

Joachim Raff, esotericist

Joachim Raff was one of the most popular and influential composers of the Romantic era. Sadly, he is also the esoteric pick of the week. Raff "balled out" during the 19th Century with eleven symphonies, ...

Not quite Don Pasquale, but certainly not Iago

The conclusion of our interview with Nixon in China's Kissinger, baritone Patrick Carfizzi

Nixon in China opens on Saturday, March 14 at the Civic Theater. We continue with our interview of big-bad-Kissinger, Patrick Carfizzi. Part 1 and part 2 of this interview are also available. San Diego Reader: ...

"Kissinger" keeps it to a low rumble

The Reader's interview with Patrick Carfizzi continues in part 2 of 3

Nixon in China opens on Saturday March 14th at the Civic Theater. The showtime is 7 p.m. We continue with our interview of big-bad-Kissinger, Patrick Carfizzi. Part 1 of this interview is also available. San ...

Backroom operator

Patrick Carfizzi, Nixon in China's man behind the "Secretary of State," grants an interview

I got the rare chance to interview Henry Kissinger. Henry doesn’t do many interviews these days, but since he’s in San Diego for a few weeks, he relented. Okay, in truth, Patrick Carfizzi, who is ...

Schubeeeeeert!

After a week of listening to Schubert, it's time to vent

My colleague in the opera chorus was aghast when I mentioned that I think Schubert is a third- or fourth-rate composer. In the past this type of encounter was full of loud talking/shouting and expletives. ...

Three Bs in the Jewel

March 6 is a busy night for classical music in La Jolla

La Jolla is keeping the classical music going on Friday, March 6, with three quality concerts covering all of “The Three Bs”. Of course, “The Three Bs” are Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, but we’re also ...

The Great? Not at all!

Schubert's Ninth is bad, bad music and the San Diego Symphony is in a slump.

I'm renaming Schubert's Symphony No. 9, known as The Great Symphony. I'm going to call it The Great Tediousness. This symphony goes nowhere, and for what feels like an eternity. I must admit that when ...

The Dream of... who?

The esoteric pick of the week is a scrappy poem about the afterlife.

I present Edward Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius as the esoteric pick of the week. The Dream of Gerontius is a "Divine Comedy-esque" poem by John Henry Newman. Newman was a complex and controversial figure. ...

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