Monday, April 2, 2012

Paranov Performance Hour Report                                  Posted by Aaron Flagg on March 30, 2012

Yesterday, as part of Hartt’s revamped “Paranov Performance Hour,” we hosted a panel in Milliard Auditorium called “Here to Serve Artists.” This session featured representatives of the Theater Communications Group (, League of American Orchestras (, The Field (, and Local 802 Musician’s Union ( The purpose was to introduce students (more than 120 in attendance) to the many organizations whose missions are to serve artists in various ways. One of our guests was Tino Gagliardi '82, a Hartt alumnus and current President of Local 802 in New York City. It was a lively discussion for approximiately 150 students, faculty, and visitors. For our panelists, the session was followed by lunch, a tour of the Mort and Irma Handel Performing Arts Center, and visits to Theatre and Dance classes. This session demonstrates our core educational value of Hartt being connected to the professional world and the evolution of the performing arts field.

It was Tino’s first time back to The Hartt School since he graduated and we were thrilled to invited his former trumpet teacher, the legendary Roger Murtha, to the discussion and a lunch with the panelists. Many thanks go to Stephen Pier, Dance Division Director, and Kevin Gray, Theater Division faculty member, for opening up their classes and to our guest panelists Emilya Cachapero, Polly Kahn, Jennifer Wright Cook, and Tino Gagliardi. Here is a picture of the panelists and me listening to a student question during the session.

Panelists from the left are:

Tino Gagliardi, Hartt Alum and President of Local 802, AFM
Polly Kahn, VP, Learning & Leadership Development, League of American Orchestras
Jennifer Wright Cook, Executive Director, The Field
Emilya Cachapero, Director of Artistic Programs, Managing Dir, Theater Communications Group
Aaron Flagg. Dean of the Hartt School, University of Hartford

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Messa da Requiem of Giuseppe Verdi, first performed in Milan’s San Marco Cathedral on May 22, 1874 under the direction of Maestro Verdi himself was performed again on Friday, March 16, 2012 in the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, CT. I say “again” not to imply that it has laid dormant and unperformed in the one hundred thirty-eight years since its premier but to note that it has been performed at least once before in the same Hartford venue with performers from the Hartt School. The previous time was in 1973, I believe, when it was conducted by Moshe Paranov, the co-founder of Hartt, with an all Hartt School cast except for a soloist or two. Those who remember Moshe will also remember that he was constantly pulling together performances whose quality surprised even his biggest fans. The one he pulled off in the spring of 1973 was one of his most successful.

But even that one has to bow before the performance conducted by Ed Bolkovac, the Primrose Fuller Professor and Division Director of Choral Music at Hartt, two evenings ago. The performers included the Hartford Symphony, the Hartford Chorale, the New Haven Chorale, several of the Hartt Choruses and the Choir of the Cathedral of St. Joseph plus four distinguished soloists, all of them totaling, I am informed, well over five hundred singers plus the full complement of the HSO. The cathedral itself was packed with a most appreciative audience of approximately two thousand attentive music lovers.

And here’s the point of this blog: a funny thing happened on the way to this dynamic performance. The total number of performers, their disposition from the rear of the sanctuary to beyond the altar rail at the front of the church, especially the soloists who were way out front, plus the presence of all the members of the audience actually calmed and quieted way down the over-echoing effect of this huge, gorgeous stone and glass building and allowed everyone to hear the singers, even and especially the soloists, who in the grand tradition of opera, cantata and requiem performances, sang totally without electronic amplification. (Wow! That’s a long sentence) This is probably close to a first in that magnificent but often acoustically troubling concert site.

I’ve always believed that St. Joe’s, like many of its sister cathedrals in Europe, is a consummate choice for performing a Gregorian Chant Mass with a choir approaching seventy or eighty members; or, any single voiced choir, female, male or children provided they all sing the same part and don’t add a second one. As soon as a second part is added, musical chaos often follows. But not on Friday last.

Bravi to all the maestros who prepared the orchestra and the singers! Bravi also to all the performers as well as the institutions which so carefully the calculated the performance and auditory risks and prevailed. Well done, folks. Hip-hip! Here’s hoping there will be more of these concerts.

P.S. More on the terrific soloists in another post soon.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 15, 2012

Welcome to Dr. Aaron Flagg, Dean of the Hartt School, with his first posting. Thanks, Aaron for this.

Citadels of culture often seem "owned" by certain arts disciplines. In the world of music, it's Carnegie Hall; in theatre, it's the Great White Way; and for dance it is the Joyce Theatre on 8th Avenue and 17th St in Manhattan. 

Last night, The Hartt School's Dance Division, under the leadership of Division Director Stephen Pier, performed at "the Joyce" for the Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance's first University Partners Showcase. Our 12 dancers (Luke Bermingham, Jane Cracovaner, Erin Dillon, Tehran Dixon, Sean Hatch, Christopher LaFleche, Michele Lee, Matthew Melendez, Amy Motson, Nolan Peltier, Abby Price and Haruka Tamura) performed a suite of dances from Martha Graham's epic work "Dark Meadow" choreographed in 1946 and set to music by Carlos Chavez. A string quartet from Hartt's 20/20 program recorded the work beautifully. Hartt opened the showcase which included Martha Graham II (the performing arm of the Graham School in NYC), New World School of the Arts, Point Park University, Skidmore College, University of Arizona and one pre-college program, the Interlochen Arts Academy.

One fascinating aspect of this type of showcase is the opportunity for students from different programs to meet each other, see each other's work and be introduced to a breadth of Martha Graham choreography. This showcase has the promise of building community amongst serious dancers and strengthening the Graham tradition. As an audience member, one saw favorite masterworks of Martha Graham such as "Heretic" (1929), "Panorama" (1935), "Diversion of Angels" (1948), and from "Chronicle" the sections called "Steps in the Street" (1936), and "Prelude to Action" (1936). I was introduced to Charles Weidman's choreography through his 1939 piece "On My Mother's Side".

 Although all the dancers performed well, one can easily see the different types and levels of training they receive at their institutions. Graham II clearly set the high bar for what a professional-level company looks like. I was extremely proud (of course) of the discipline, conditioning, clear knowledge of style and commitment to the emotional underpinning of the work demonstrated by the Hartt dancers. We can rest assured that at Hartt, our dancers are learning the authentic Graham style with its precision movement, strength and unwavering intensity. 

 New World, Point Park and Interlochen were stylistically strong and the University of Arizona has an impressive number of male dancers (also a high value in dance) who are quite gifted and well trained. Some programs focus less on modern dance technique in favor of jazz or musical theatre movement or are not professional programs bynature. Nevertheless, it was wonderful to see such diversity embrace the legacy of the "Picasso of Dance" Martha Graham.

 A proud Hartt alum Jeffrey S. Hodgson was on hand for the event and serves as Interim Provost of the New World School of the Arts. Jeffrey studied piano with Luiz deMoura Castro and was with us in the fall for the celebration of Luiz's 70th birthday. The world is indeed small. 

Hartt's participation was generously supported in part by Larry and Naomi Rothfield, Mort and Irma Handel, Provost Sharon Vasquez.

 The next series of performances for Hartt Dances run April 27-29, 2012 at Lincoln Theatre and features works by José Limón, Marius Petipa, and two World Premieres.

Aaron Flagg, Dean
The Hartt School

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Whoops! First post and first mistake. The Hartt Orchestra is not performing in the Verdi on Friday Evening at St. Joseph's Cathedral. The choruses are. My Bad!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Latest Wow Moment at Hartt - Hamlet

Two weeks ago I had my latest "wow" moment at the Hartt School (and mine go all the way back to the 1960's). It was at a performance of Hamlet at the Handel Center for the Performing Arts, wondrously staged in one of the black box theaters which seat just under 100 people. It had no constant or consistent stage furnishings, just a few chairs and other small props, hand carried in and out by the actors, to depict the court of King Claudius where he would be holding court... or, as it turns out, the court would be withholding the deference that this murderous villian so clearly thought should be his and holding onto him so that he could be present for the later-in-the-play skulduggery that would end his brief reign.

What it had in abundance was the genius of Shakespeare, the brilliance of Director Malcolm Morrison in this brisk, fast-moving, spirited, yet subtle production and the magnificent enthusiasm of a cast of dozens of gifted student performers, stagehands and even a student composer all dedicated to capturing the elusive spirit of this timeless, complex masterwork.

Some sections had to be cut by Director Morrison to keep each of these four days of performances under three hours in length. One such cut was the suck up speech -- pardon my street language; all the other synonyms that come to mind were worse -- of Rosencrantz, that minor, nefarious enforcer for Claudius, in Act III, Scene iii.

"Rosie" is preparing to accompany Hamlet to England at the instigation of Claudius to make sure that Hamlet quietly disappears to ensure a degree of permanence to the reign of  Hamlet's uncle. In what amounts to a few otherwise forgettable lines Rosencrantz delivers the most beautiful description of the chaos that surrounds the death of a majestic and noble figure (sic) like Claudius. (It's a good thing he wasn't majestic or noble. What would Hamlet be like if he were? A very short, one act play, methinks.)

Rosencrantz says: "The cease of majesty dies not alone but like a gulf doth draw what's near it with it; or it is a massy wheel fixed on the summit of the highest mount to whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things are mortised and adjoined, which, when it falls, each small annexment, petty consequence, attends the boisterous ruin."

For anyone else but Shakespeare this would resemble a Woody Allen throw away line but Good Old Will in some instances inserts his most beautiful lines into the mouths of his hanger-on characters. Even with this speech missing, the performance on a cool Sunday afternoon once again reminded me of all that is special about the Hartt School; its standards, its teaching and its terrific students.

One short request: Malcolm, if you do Hamlet again, please include Rosie's speech.

BTW, there is another big performance coming up later this week at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Hartford when a cast of thousands -- well, at least a few hundred -- including the Hartt Choruses supplemented by the New Haven Chorale and the Hartford Symphony will be performing the Verdi Requiem on Friday night. The last time this piece was performed there was in the 1970's when Moshe Paranov conducted the work. It too was a Hartt "wow" moment... only slightly diminished by Uncle Moshe's 90 minute illustrious, personal appraisal of the performance immediately following it. More on that another time. I'm going. Hope you can too. Suggest you go to and look up the time of the performance and other details. No fixed ticket prices, just suggested contributions at the door.