Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Dr. Ethan Sperry may not be a household name, but the music he helps bring to choirs around the world certainly is.
Chosen by A.R. Rahman, composer of the Oscar winning "Slumdog Millionaire" film score, to arrange choral music from selections of his film and other works, Sperry recently brought his expertise in person to the Chamber Singers of HRVHS on Feb. 7.
Mark Steighner, in preparation for the upcoming Chamber Singers U.K. performance tour, commissioned a new choral work from Sperry, based on an ancient Buddhist mantra. "Mantra" is the title of Sperry's newly minted piece.
As part of the commission, Sperry visited during the noon-hour class to hear his work performed for the first time, and to provide direction and critique of the group's progress in interpreting the work.
"This is an inspired and enthusiastic group of singers," said Sperry of the choir. "The energy in the room here is quite remarkable."
Sperry worked from a simple, meditative melody chosen by Steighner in creating the new arrangement for a four-voice mixed gender choir.
In addition to the newly learned piece, the Chamber Singers are also preparing two additional Sperry arrangements of Rahman's work for their tour.
One, "Zikr," was performed last year by the Chamber Singers and will be repeated for the tour this year. The second, "Balleilakka," is new to the group. Both pieces produce a high-intensity, percussive experience for the listening audience reminiscent of the "Slumdog" film score.
Along with the engaging, Indian instrumental-based strains of the music itself, Sperry's visit outlined a vision for choir members which places shared cultural music at the heart of developing worldwide mutual respect and understanding.
"What I find is that doing a piece of music from somewhere different leads us to understand how really very similar we all are," Sperry pointed out to the class.
"All religions teach us that we need to get beyond our little selves in order to experience a connection to a larger humanity," Sperry said. "Choral music is one of the ways I know of that allows me to do that. It helps me connect to something beyond my everyday worries."
"This is a great opportunity for our choir," said Steighner. "We are very lucky to have had the experience of working with such a great arranger."
Currently a professor of music at Portland State University, Sperry also leads the choir ensembles at that campus. Prior to his arrival at PSU this year, he was a choral director at Miami University of Ohio for 10 years.
Sperry's choirs have performed at major venues in the United States including the Kennedy Center, the Washington National Cathedral, St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, the Nassau Coliseum, Cincinnati's Music Hall and Boston's Symphony Hall.
Ensembles under Sperry's direction have also toured to Bermuda, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Guadeloupe, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Puerto Rico, Russia and Taiwan.
Born in New York City, Sperry began studying conducting at the age of 8, cello at the age of 12 and singing at the age of 18. He holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Harvard College and master's and doctoral degrees in choral conducting from the University of Southern California.
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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"
Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge