Piccadilly Circus Panorama, Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
With all this media attention on London for the 2012 Olympic Games, it’s fitting to take a closer look at the music scene in London’s West End. Located conveniently at the core of the city, the West End features some of the finest theater productions in the world.
You’ll find a good mix of classic and modern entertainment in the West End—from Shakespeare to nightclubs, cinemas to musical theater productions and more. Many theaters are located in Leicester Square and the Piccadilly Circus, though many others are speckled throughout the city. (This makes the term “West End” a little deceiving, since many productions associated with the term aren’t actually located in the geographic region of London.)
You can find classic shows as well as new productions. The musical We Will Rock You, featuring music by Queen, opened in 2002.
The West End is on par with Broadway in New York in terms of the quality of musical theater shows. Which is “better” depends greatly on the show and the cast. (I tend to prefer the singing in New York shows and the acting in London shows, though again, this depends greatly on the show and the cast.) For the price-conscious theater goers, there are many ways to get cheaper tickets to West End shows.
For opera fans, The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden fits the bill, showcasing the classiest opera shows you’ll find anywhere. As one of the most coveted opera companies in the world, the Royal Opera Company sets itself apart with its year-round opera season: September through July, taking just one month off in August! The Royal Opera Company is appropriately titled because it’s partially subsidized by the British government.
Her Majesty’s Theater in Haymarket is one of the most famous theaters in the West End. The Phantom of the Opera has been playing in this venue since its debut in 1986. The modern theater is the third in its series, while the original Her Majesty’s Theater housed famous artists like Haydn before burning down in 1867.
London’s West End has something for everybody. Whether you’re more inclined toward classical music or modern, you will likely find a superb performance to satisfy your personal tastes.
Classical 89 is the professional classical music radio station Brigham Young University produces. Since we moved to Utah, Classical 89 has become our family’s favorite radio station. Today My Dream Teacher presents this special interview with three individuals who have worked with this outstanding radio station. They offer great advice for students on how to collaborate with college radio programs.
Stephen Tanner, former news anchor at Classical 89 who has since won fourth place in the Hearst Journalism Foundation awards competition, the college radio equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.
What he did at Classical 89: I reported news, traffic, and sometimes weather. I put together a 2 to 4 minute newscast that focuses on local and sometimes national news. Every morning I would put 3 newscasts together and in the afternoon shifts I would put together two newscasts. The newsroom at Classical 89 emphasized local news stories because we have BBC News at the top of the hour.
Training this job required: Before working at Classical 89, I was able to learn the basics of radio production in my broadcasting class at BYU. I learned how to tell a story in a newscast instead of spouting out facts. I also learned the basic of the audio editing systems we use at Classical 89 (Adobe Audition).
Hearst Journalist Foundation Award: With help and support from Classical 89 news director Bruce Seeley and my broadcasting professor Chad Curtis, I put together a couple of news stories. One was on John Kavenaugh and his invention, the Kavanjo, which is a banjo pick up system that helps amplify the banjo. The other was on the Provo Airport opening up for commercial business for the first time in 50 years. Both stories focused on local people and organizations. I submitted my work to the Hearst Journalism Foundation. My work was judged by many professionals in the news industry including; Edward Esposito, Vice President, Information Media, Rubber City Radio Group, Akron, OH; Kate O’Brian, Senior Vice President, ABC News, New York, NY; and Fred Young, Former Senior Vice President of News, Hearst-Argyle Television, Yardley, PA. I was applauded as having some of the best work out of hundreds of entries from across the country. In early June, I flew to San Francisco to compete in the finals for the Hearst Journalism awards and placed fourth for radio news. I believe that because of the encouragement and great mentoring from colleagues of mine at Classical 89, I was able to stretch myself and thrive as a radio news journalist.
How he got started: I had always wanted to be involved in the news industry when I was a little kid. When I was 7 years old my brothers would ask me what I wanted to watch on TV, instead of saying cartoons or sports, I would say I wanted to watch the news. I thought I wanted to be involved with television news, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2010 I took a comprehensive career aptitude test, that I learned I worked really well with noises and sound. In September of 2010, I was offered a 4 month internship at Classical 89 to work with their news team. By October of 2010, Classical 89 offered me a job to work as an anchor and reporter in the newsroom. I hadn’t really thought as myself as a radio guy, but the more I worked at Classical 89, the more I realized how much I loved radio.
Monica Rasmussen, current on-air music host at Classical 89. She has sung with the elite singing groups Concert Choir and BYU Singers. Additionally, as a pianist she has accompanied these groups as well as several award-winning singers.
What she does at Classical 89: I host the weekday music live and I pre-record weekend time-slots. My job is part-time, though I also fill in for the full-time hosts when they are on vacation. Recently I filled in for Mark Wait for several days, as well as a few days for Steven Kapp Perry. The other part of the job is preparing for these shifts, which involves some research into the music being played: the composer, the performers or conductor, the history of the piece itself, stuff like that. Another thing to research is current classical music news. On the national or international level that could be things like recently released recordings, new conductor appointments for big orchestras, festivals and tours. On the local level it could be anything that seems relevant to a classical music audience: what famous performers are coming to the area, concerts coming up (though these usually appear in our underwriting scripts, so I don’t often go out of my way to look for this), art exhibits. Just last week I talked a little about the exhibit going on at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art called “Play Me, I’m Yours!”—ten different pianos had been painted by local artists and placed out on the streets in Salt Lake City for the public to play. So basically, an on-air music host is the human connection. Anyone can get on the internet and listen to great classical music, but what (hopefully) makes this different is the insight the host gives into the music, the connection to the broader world of classical music, and the connection to local artists and events.
Training this job required: My training for my current job all happened when I was a student employee at Classical 89. One summer I got a job doing landscaping on campus: mowing lawns, weeding flower beds—hard, sweaty, hot work. But I had a friend who was a choral conducting graduate student, working at Classical 89, who told me they were hiring. So I applied, and was very grateful to get the job and get out of the sun! At the time, I was hired as a production assistant. My job was to take concerts and recitals recorded at BYU and turn them into hour-long radio shows. I generally tracked down the performers, usually students or professors, and recorded an interview with them about the experience of performing, about the music, about their background. Then I used bits of these interviews and interspersed them throughout the concert, along with my own explanatory bits, including an introduction and conclusion. It was really fun. So, of course, part of the process was “voicing,” recording my own voice reading the scripts I had written. After I’d done a few of these, and the management liked my voice, I started training to be an on-air host. The friend who helped me get the job did most of my training for on-air work: coaching me on how to do a good break (a break being the time filled by the announcer between pieces of music), how the on-air equipment and software worked, what buttons to push and when, that sort of thing.
Her favorite part of the job: I love being on the radio live. Absolutely love it. There’s a performance aspect to live radio—telling stories about the music in an engaging way—and as a musician, I love performing! In radio it’s even better, especially for naturally introverted people like myself, because even though you have a huge audience, you don’t have to see any of them! It’s like chilling in a room with a massive library of music, talking to myself about how awesome it all is! But I shouldn’t say talking to myself, because the teacher in me loves sharing what I know and love about music with others–that’s a big part of why I love radio. Second to just being on the radio, I love that my job requires me to constantly keep learning new things about all varieties of music. This definitely fits into my master plan of eventually knowing everything.
Willhelm Evans, former student producer at Classical 89. He currently resides in Omaha, where he studies English at Creighton University.
What he did at Classical 89: I produced shows and got the music ready for all of the day to day stuff. I also helped with the stations archives and audio library. I worked with the full time staff members to produce holiday programing, as well as a daily clip announcing various cultural events in the community.
Training this job required: I did get special training, but it was nothing very serious. I didn’t need to learn how to write computer programs, but I did learn the ins and outs of some computer programs that I hadn’t been familiar with.
How he got started: It actually was a surprise. I had a job that I really liked, and that paid me good money, but this was something that came out of nowhere, and it sounded like a fun opportunity. One of my friends worked at the station, and he was approaching graduation, so he brought me in to talk with Marcus Smith, and I was hired.
Biggest takeaway: One of the great lessons I learned from working at the radio station was the importance of finishing projects on time. It was my job to make sure that the on-air hosts had all the audio they needed for their shows. If I didn’t do my job then the hosts wouldn’t have music to play. I had to be prompt, and diligent to make sure that those projects got done first that needed to get done.
How to Get Involved with Radio Programs
We asked each of our interviewees to give us advice on how students can get involved in college radio programs. Here’s what they had to say:
Stephen Tanner: If you want to get involved in college radio programs, learn how to write. Whether you are reporting the news or writing poetry, writing plays an important role in radio. Also, just learn to listen. Listen to people, listen for stories and listen for sounds around you. If you can put interesting stories from interesting people and intermingle sounds into a piece, you will be far more prepared to get your foot in the door for a college radio station.
Monica Rasmussen: There are tons of ways to get into a radio: through communications internships, production internships, clerical jobs; it takes a lot of different kind of specialties to make public radio work. But to do it the way I did it, listen to public radio all the time—every chance you get. You have to have the sound of public radio in your ears. I grew up listening to public radio in Washington State, and it was practically the only station I listened to. Listen critically for things announcers say and do that’s successful and that works, what’s irritating and what doesn’t work, etc. Embrace your music history classes—know as much as you can about every possible style, genre, era of music. The broader your base of knowledge, the more you’ll sound like an authoritative voice, an insider, someone who really knows what they are talking about. Also, know what’s happening in classical music currently: who the big names are and why, how to pronounce their names! This was the sort of thing I think I had going for me that got me the job. I was hired as a production assistant who didn’t know anything about production! But I knew music and I knew the sound of good radio, so picking up on the technical aspects of production was just a matter of learning a few new computer programs, and having some good training.
Willhelm Evans: Just go and do it. The radio station has so many ways for students to get involved. From producing, to being a guest, and various things in between, there are lots of things that students can do to get involved.
Far from stuffy, Pops Orchestras appeal to a vast audience as they showcase light classics.
For many people, classical music is the gold standard for serious artistry. However, many non-musicians assume that all classical music is always serious. On the contrary, classical music is much more versatile than that! It is fun, humorous, witty, and even irreverent when it wants to be.
Pops orchestras keep the fun alive by playing lighter classics and popular songs. Their performances elicit laughter and produce memories for the whole family. There may be one or more in your state. Some popular orchestras include:
Arizona has the Tucson Pops Orchestra
California has the Golden State Pops Orchestra in LA, the Pasadena Pops and San Francisco Pops
Florida has two: the Palm Beach and the Panama City Pops Orchestras
Massachusetts has the Boston Pops Orchestra
Minnesota has the Minneapolis Pops Orchestra
New York’s got the New York Pops Orchestra
North Carolina has the Carolina Pops Orchestra
Ohio has two: the Cincinnati and the Cleveland Pops Orchestras
Pennsylvania has the Philly Pops Orchestra
Additionally, some universities have their own pops orchestras, such as the:
Harvard Pops Orchestra in Massachusetts
University of Michigan Pops Orchestra
Davenport Pops Orchestra at Yale University in Connecticut
International pops orchestras include the:
De La Salle Pops Orchestra in the Phillipines
Twilite Orchestra in Indonesia
Queensland Pops Orchestra in Australia
The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra in California
The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, which plays both serious and light classical music
It’s reassuring to know that one need not look outside the classical realm for a little light night music.
Some schools merely instruct, but Heritage inspires. This weekend I took my family and some friends to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Heritage Center Stage. It was charming, cute, and full of heart—but we didn’t just have a good time. It changed our entire outlook on the world.
Heritage is a residential treatment center for at-risk teens. Having heard about the school system through friends, I had been eager to check out their facilities for years. Yet I didn’t know how; you can’t just walk into treatment centers without an invitation. As soon as a friend offered me tickets to the musical, I invited as many friends as I could to go with me.
From the moment my group and I entered the theater, we knew we were in for a treat. Nothing excites me more than seeing kids involved in positive activities, and I knew this family-friendly show would be no exception. We came excited and we left gratified beyond our expectations.
What I didn’t anticipate was that I would cry as soon as the curtain opened. The narrators entered the stage with little kids, singing together about the story that was about to unfold. Joseph entered through a floor-born cloud, and as a parent, I just couldn’t restrain the tears. My teenage friends sitting next to me enjoyed mocking my sappiness.
Thankfully the sentimental tone changed quickly with the more light-hearted song Jacob & Sons. From then on we danced in our seats, laughing at antics and growing fond of each character. Since it was closing night, we got to see the master of ceremonies present gifts and publically thank those involved with the production.
After the show, we discussed our favorite aspects, and it quickly became clear that we loved everything about it. The kids did a fabulous job engaging the audience through singing, acting, and dancing. Most of the kids had little or no formal training, but the audience immediately latched on to their genuine, dynamic personalities. The moral support was unanimous.
Evidently, the adults involved in production infused love and expertise into everything. The costumes were brilliant, the scenery epic, the choreography inventive, and the lighting and sound precise and well-executed. I found the transitions between scene changes particularly clever. The orchestra blew me away, and even more so when I discovered it was just one person—Rosanne Abraham—on a keyboard.
On visiting the Heritage school, I knew I would learn something interesting, and maybe even meet some nice people. I’m pleased to say that I was moved beyond expectation by the production itself and by the warm spirit that resided there. My Heritage visit will forever stand as a case study of the power of the arts to change people for good.
How many opera singers does it take to change a light bulb? Twelve. One changes the light bulb while eleven others stand around and discuss how they could do it better.
Okay, classical singers, it’s confession time. We’ve all done it. While watching a world-famous opera singer perform, we take joy in tearing her technique to shreds. Though sometimes in jest, we usually express a sense of outrage. How can she get away with flaunting those lazy vowels? Have you seen the way her tongue moves with each oscillation of her vibrato? She’s only famous for taking her clothes off.
Why do we do this? Is it because we’ve been working so hard and getting no recognition for it? That’s called jealousy. Admit it. You wish you were famous just like she is.
Sadly, it’s not just “unseasoned” students who did this. In fact, voice teachers are the worst culprits. I’ve learned never to tell other teachers who my favorite singers are. I don’t care to hear unsolicited criticism of my idols, thank you very much.
Teachers often pretend that such criticisms are teaching moments. Don’t do what she does with her jaw! That’s wrong. That’s bad! Well, how bad can it be, considering how successful she is?
Despite what some teachers tell you, there is no single way to sing correctly. There are somewhat defined “schools” of thought, but disputes arise even within these allegedly unified methods. When somebody famous comes along, displaying virtuosity through some technique that isn’t the same as your teacher’s, you can anticipate heckling comments from that teacher.
Singing is such a personal thing, more so than playing an instrument. Since your body is your instrument, how can you not take everything personally? When someone criticizes your voice, you feel like they’re attacking you as a person. Singers feel threatened by the thought that what they’re doing is wrong. If some famous singer exhibits success in a technique that’s completely different from what you’ve learned, what does that say about you?
These fears, rational or otherwise, are what I take occasion to laugh at today. The next time your voice teacher pokes fun at a famous opera singer, just remember: she’s famous and you’re not.
It takes a bit of work to enjoy an opera, but doing so will change your life in great ways.
Opera going is not like movie going. Most movie-goers want to know just enough about the plot to be interested in seeing the film. They don’t want to know too much about how the story unfolds—or how it ends—because it spoils their fun. Surprise is what makes seeing a movie for the first time delightful.
With opera, quite the opposite is true: the more you know about the story, the more you enjoy the performance. If you go without knowing what’s going to happen beforehand, you will be too lost and frustrated to realize all the show has to offer.
And what does opera have to offer? Since its early years, opera has been regarded as the presentation of all the highest arts in one place. It features poetry, drama, acting, painting, sculpture, elaborate costumes, lavish upholstery, and these days, bleeding edge technology. Oh yes, and music, too!
Really, opera is nothing short of an artistic smorgasbord. So do your homework and don’t miss out on all the goodies.
Read the Synopses. Before attending the show, familiarize yourself with the complexities of the plot. Once informed, you can focus on the other elements of the show. Otherwise, your eyes will be fixed on the supertitles rather than the stage. If you already know what’s happening, you can actually listen to the music, admire the scenery, and bask in the holistic theater experience.
Get some historical background. While not essential to enjoying the opera on a basic level, you are guaranteed to appreciate the show much more with historical context. When does the opera take place? What is the historic backdrop of the plot? What was going on in the composer’s country of residence the year he wrote this opera? Verdi, Puccini, and Wagner were especially nationalistic composers. As such, their operas often have intriguing political undertones that were controversial at the time.
Listen to recordings. Figure out what famous songs you should listen for. Each opera has at least one classic aria or orchestra bit that made it so famous. Watch several versions on YouTube and you’ll be so thrilled when you hear it during the live performance. You’ll get swept up in the excitement of the opera experience. You’ll finally understand why those fanatics in the box seats scream “Brava!” at the end of each aria, clapping and nearly thrusting themselves off the balcony.
Learn something about this interpretation. If possible, read about the version you are going to see. What are the director’s dramatic choices? Is the show in a traditional or a modern setting? What was the most costly part about putting this show together? What technical difficulties did they have to get around? All these facts will sharpen your eyes and deepen your appreciation for what is being presented. They might even keep you from feelings of confusion or outrage at the interpretive decisions.
Watch another version. You really start to appreciate opera when you watch different versions of the same show. While exposing yourself to so many different interpretations of the same music and plots, you’ll even start to form your own opinions about how directors really “should” bring the story to life, and how each aria really “should” be sung. You’ll become an opera snob before you know it!
Seeing an opera is fun, but it’s even more enjoyable to bring friends to the show. I like to discuss the opera with my friends afterward. They often notice things I didn’t. When they share their thoughts with me, I really feel like I got my money’s worth. Once you convert your friends to this way of seeing an opera, you’ll all become fanatics in no time.
Gustav Mahler Conducts the Vienna Philharmonic, by by Max Oppenheimer, 1935
I was so moved the first time I saw Gustav Mahler Conducts the Vienna Philharmonic at the Belvedere in Vienna, Austria.It may not look extraordinary in a pixilated rendering, but its life-size original is breathtaking.
The mark of a great painting is its appeal to more senses than just sight.In this painting, not only can you see the wind blowing through everybody’s hair; you feel it.Though non-existent, you become convinced that there’s an actual breeze in the room.This effect blurs the separation between the artwork in front of you and your reality on the other side of it.You are transported from your world into Max Oppenheimer’s fantasy.It thrills and frightens you at the same time.
As you analyze the windy effect of this painting, a riddle emerges.The Golden Hall doesn’t have windows, so . . . aha!The epiphany appears.It’s not a literal gust of wind that Oppenheimer paints so eloquently.It’s the unearthly whirlwind of passion that sweeps up each orchestra member—and you, the viewer.It’s rather Pentecostal in nature.The solemnity of said passion is expressed in everybody’s prayer-like closed eyes and bowed heads.
One would think this painting has inspired so many orchestra members around the world to grow their hair out–as indeed, many have. What is more becoming of a musician than a swooshy, aerodynamic hairstyle?As a violinist sways with each bow stroke, his hair punctuates each movement.What a brilliant way to get the audience more visually involved in the performance!
Few paintings capture the dynamic movement of orchestral music as well as this masterpiece does.The wind effect is largely to credit for this.The brush strokes themselves are lively and add to the sense of mobility.The timpani player’s multiple mallet heads clearly illustrate a rapid drum roll.
Max’s decision to squish everybody together helps, too.Each player’s individuality becomes irrelevant as they perform, move and breathe as one musical organism.Mahler is the nucleus, the DNA code, the brain and heart, the mastermind.Every line in the painting points directly to him, as he’s placed conveniently at the center of all activity.
Despite the sheer amazingness of this aesthetic gem, hardly anyone has heard of it outside of Vienna.I couldn’t find any historical information on the painting online, and a search through print materials was equally hapless.Perhaps I was wise to forgo my original dissertation idea in college.I wanted to explore how artistic portrayals of Gustav Mahler reflected European ideologies of the time.Due to the lack of reliable information, I abandoned the project.I hope one of these days some more daring student will pick up where I left off.
The culture at classical concerts has been established for many years. Familiarize yourself with the rules everybody expects you to keep.
Angry tweets and Facebook posts abound amongst my friends who attend classical concerts. Hardly a month goes by in which I don’t read somebody’s rant against a rude person talking or texting during the performance.
You might have read a few rants yourself. The next time you do, please don’t think your classically-incline friend is snobby. She was simply taught the rules of classical concert etiquette that many people obviously miss out on.
The rules of concert etiquette make the music hall experience more enjoyable for everybody. If you violate them, your classical friends will want to rip their hair out—or worse, your hair. So let’s protect ourselves from premature baldness by respecting these simple guidelines.
The rules can be summarized in one word: respect. It’s important to be courteous to the performers and to your fellow audience members. If everybody obeys these simple rules, then we can all go home feeling respected and happy:
Rules of Concert Etiquette
1) Turn off your cell phone, or any other noise or light-making device.
2) No flash photography. There may be copyright issues involved with picture-taking, but the real hazard is distracting the performers and annoying others around you.
3) Clap at the end of sets, not between movements. The program will clarify where sets begin and end. If in doubt, don’t clap.
4) Don’t talk during the performance—or at least not audibly to others around you.
5) Keep noise-making in general to a minimum. Don’t fidget with jingly jewelry and accessories. Don’t be that person rustling noisy candy wrappers. Laughing may be appropriate, but try not to let it get out of hand.
6) Dressing up is preferred. You don’t have to spend lots of money on concert-going attire, but wearing something nicer than the movie theater shows some respect for the higher arts. Business casual, Sunday best or semi-formal are all appropriate choices.
7) Serious concert halls are not always child-friendly. If your child is able to sit quietly, by all means, bring him or her to the concert hall. However, some venues discourage children under certain ages (like 6, 8 or even 12 years of age) from attending simply because they can be distracting to others. Use your judgment on this one.
These rules take no time at all to master. All they require is an attitude of respect for the performers, the audience members, and the art being presented. If you can abide by these rules, the concert experience will be a sweet memory for all involved.