Monday, August 31, 2009

The Funerals of Maneri & Kennedy

Organists and Catholic clergy have a stereotype of each other. Priests feel that organists are "in it just for the organ," and organists feel that priests are "enemies of good music." The stereotype is much more often true for clergy than for organists; I can't think of one organist colleague of mine that does not have a great liturgical sensitivity and knowledge, while a large majority of the priests I have known seem to be allergic to the arts.

However, as I read a popular organist Listserv, I see comments of such a fanatical nature that I begin to understand that, in many cases, priests' complaints about organists are entirely justified. One Lister wrote:

> I was shocked at the lack of organ used during [Sen. Kennedy's] funeral broadcast live

That is precisely the trait that priests complain about -- and they're RIGHT. What kind of fanatic listens to those eulogies by EMK Jr. and President Obama and laments the lack of organ music? Should they have eliminated one of those two speeches and replaced it with the Muffat Passacaglia?

Another Lister observed:

> It seems clear to me that all the competing priests from various
> institutions overwhelmed any proper liturgical preparation, resulting
> in bizarre absence of basic liturgical music,

As for "liturgical preparation," I'm guessing there was none whatsoever. To wit: I'm guessing there were Washingtonians organizing the thing, and the clergy simply took it upon themselves to say, "Let us pray" and "Amen" at the proper times.

As for the "bizarre absence of basic liturgical music:" Yes, it would have been nice to hear Jack Nicholson singing "Holy, Holy." But should the Mass have lasted three hours? What are these organists advocating, fewer eulogies and more Haugen?

The organists of the List missed a very crucial point. Had the Mass been more "normal" musico-liturgically, there would have been even MORE of an outcry that Sen. Kennedy didn't deserve such. (Murder is generally frowned upon in the Catholic Church. Unless you're talking about the Crusades, but "that was different.")

Though I agree that the Mass could have been trimmed down -- Domingo subtracted more than he added, and maybe we didn't need a whole cadre of eulogists -- I suggest that, overall all, it was "the way it should have been."

An interesting contrast was the funeral for Joe Maneri. It occurred last Friday at a Nazarene Church in Framingham. Sonja wanted a church service that was just that: a church service. Not a concert, not a musical marathon, just a church service. And it was, with simple hymns, a wonderful sermon, and an unforgettable eulogy (only one). The only "luxury" was to have Joe's piano fugues played for the prelude and postlude. (I'm not saying my playing of them was "luxurious" -- I simply did my best under the circumstances. They are great music).

The interesting thing about this "church service that really was a church service" is that, with Joe's hundreds of colleagues, former students, etc. that would have been happy to lend their talents at a moment's notice, it could have turned into a circus very easily.

My point is: I agree that a church service should never be made a mockery of. And there were, indeed, aspects of Sen. Kennedy's funeral that were "not like a regular Funeral Mass." But I thank God that this complicated Catholic did not receive a regular one, because that would have been a much graver mockery.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Maneri in the Blogosphere

It has been a pleasure to see obits for Joe Maneri pop up on so many different blogs from around the world.

A few writers really "got it," capturing the Joe that I loved.

"It would be hard to overstate how beloved Joe was by the students who took his microtonal improv class at NEC. It seemed he lit a fire in everyone who'd enrolled, through the sheer force of his outsized personality. ... [He was] an inspirational -- practically evangelical -- educator."
Darcy James Argue

"I have fond memories of the half dozen times I was fortunate to catch him in performance. The best was the first at the Chicago Cultural Center and a post-show hang at a downtown hotel with Bhob Rainey as our impromptu sponsor. In the bar, over a bowl of peanuts, Joe regaled us with tales of his past, present and future for hours, finally taking down my address and promising to write when it came time to count sheep. A month went by, two, and I forgot all about the pledge. Then, out of the blue, I found an envelope in my mailbox festooned with glitter and gold star stickers & post-marked from Massachusetts. Inside was a hand-written letter from Joe with an apology for his delay in reply and an effusive, stream-of-consciousness reflection on that magical Chicago night. I still have the letter and treasure it."

"[F]or all the saxists whose sounds have been compared to crying, Maneri was the one who sounded most like he was sobbing when he played. His lines were like hoarse, slow-motion laments. It was a devastating soundworld that his band created[.]"
Hank Shteamer

"Utter greatness. Pretty rare in these modern times for a guy to have a completely (and I mean completely as in NOBODY) unique sound. I've heard his sound on the saxophone compared to a cry but to me it always sounded like some strange language that only he knew how to speak but was easy to understand emotionally."
"me wag"

"I heard yesterday of the passing of my teacher Joe Maneri.
He was by far the most influential teacher I’ve ever had. ... [T]he most profound impact on me was his spirit. Joe so lived music it was part of everything he did, the way he talked, the way he walked, the way he drove a car, everything. And he wanted to share it with you because he dug it so, so much. I’ve never seen a teacher give so much of himself to a student, ever. [...]
He was a father figure for me and many other students. He gave us all permission to find our own music, and I will forever be profoundly grateful to him."

Greg Sinibaldi

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Joe Maneri

I am still feeling too devastated to write at length about Joe Maneri. It would be difficult to exaggerate how much his death has impoverished our world. He was the greatest musician I ever knew, and he was the most loving man I ever knew -- and maybe that is no coincidence.

More later.

Exactly five years and two days before Joe's death,
this photo was taken at my older son's Christening
Brookline, MA, 22 August 2004
(Photo: Paul Raila)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

RIP Joe Maneri (1927-2009)

Yesterday at 4:40 p.m., Utah time, I received the devastating phone call that I was dreading. About 40 minutes prior (6 p.m., Boston time), Joe Maneri passed away.

I feel no fear of contradiction when I say that he was one of the great musicians of the world. He was more than one of the leading microtonal composers and theorists. He was more than one of the most celebrated jazz improvisers (more famous in Europe than America, ironically). He was someone with the truest understanding of and sensitivity towards music of all periods, be it Palestrina or Elliott Carter. He may very well have been one of the most underappreciated classical musicians of his time.

He and his wife, the outstanding artist Sonja Holzwarth Maneri (who did the painting pictured here), were like parents to me. And so I am too speechless to write anymore at this time.

Portrait by Sonja Holzwarth Maneri (image from

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Poem by Michelangelo

A poem by none other than Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564):

A Vittoria Colonna

Un uomo in una donna, anzi uno dio,
per la sua bocca parla,
ond'io per ascoltarla
son fatto tal, che ma' più sarò mio.
I' credo ben, po' ch'io
a me da lei fu' tolto,
fuor di me stesso aver di me pietate;
sì sopra 'l van desìo
mi sprona il suo bel volto,
ch'io veggio morte in ogni altra beltate.
O donna che passate
per acque e foco l'alme a' liei giorni,
deh, fate c'a me stesso più non torni.

To Vittoria Colonna

When the prime mover of many sighs
Heaven took through death from out her earthly place,
Nature, that never made so fair a face,
Remained ashamed, and tears were in all eyes.
O fate, unheeding my impassioned cries!
O hopes fallacious! O thou spirit of grace,
Where art thou now? Earth holds in its embrace
Thy lovely limbs, thy holy thoughts the skies.
Vainly did cruel death attempt to stay
The rumor of thy virtuous renown,
That Lethe's waters could not wash away!
A thousand leaves, since he hath stricken thee down,
Speak of thee, not to thee could Heaven convey,
Except through death, a refuge and a crown.

(Translated by Longfellow)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wiki judgment


The verdict is in: I am no longer notable! At least according to Wikipedia.

To me the saga had a humorous element. Unfortunately, while I was sitting on the sidelines, half enjoying the silliness of it all, my fans took it much more seriously, some feeling quite upset. Though I appreciate your having rallied to my defense, I must ask you now to exercise restraint. There are musicians far greater than I who do not yet have a page on English Wiki. It is a very understandable symptom of having concertized more in Europe than in my own country (thus the lack of debate over the "Leonardo Ciampa" entry on Italian Wiki, German Wiki, et al.).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Wiki update

Here is the webpage where you can comment pro or con the deletion of the Leonardo Ciampa wikipedia entry:

Chopin & Wiki vandalism

Friends: next year is the Chopin Year, the great composer's 200th birthday. It's true: I am commemorating the event with nine concerts, three each at three different locations, between April and October, 2010, at approximately three-week intervals, and yes, all the proceeds from all nine concerts will go to charity.

It was brought to my attention that my page on Wikipedia has been vandalized. Someone going by "Grover Cleveland" added a {{citation needed}} tag after almost every sentence. He also recommended the page for deletion. I will look into how to deal with Wiki vandalism. In the meantime, here you have it: my personal declaration, on my official blog, that I am indeed planning this Chopin celebration.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mark Twain IV (subtitled, "This is Where Twain was Wrong")

In his "unauthorized autobiography" which, as you by now know, is very dear to me, Twain complains of inexperienced writers who want to be published immediately, without paying the proper dues.

Not even the most confident untrained soldier offers himself as a candidate for a brigadier-generalship, yet this is what the amateur author does. With his untrained pen he puts together his crudities and offers them to all the magazines one after the other -- that is to say, he proposes them for posts restricted to literary generals who have earned their rank and place by years and even decades of hard and honest training in the lower grades of the service.

However, I respectfully poing out that Twain's next sentence is completely wrong.

I am sure that this affront is offered to no trade but ours.

Twain gives an imaginary example of a singer with no experience, wishing to sing second tenor in a Metropolitan production of Lohengrin.

[The manager asks the singer,] "Have you ever studied music?"

"A little -- yes, by myself, at odd times, for amusement."

"You have never gone into regular and laborious training, then, for the opera, under the masters of the art?"


"Then what made you think you could do second tenor in Lohengrin?"

"I thought I could. I wanted to try. I seemed to have a voice."

"Yes, you have a voice, and with five years of diligent training under competent masters you could be successful, perhaps, but I assure you you are not ready for second tenor yet. You have a voice; you have presence; you have a noble and childlike confidence; you have a courage that is stupendous and even superhuman. These are all essentials and they are in your favor but there are other essentials in this great trade which you still lack. If you can't afford the time and labor necessary to acquire them leave opera alone and try something which does not reqauire training and experience. Go away now and try for a job in surgery."

This is where Twain was wrong. This happens every single day at the Metropolitan. Not the last paragraph -- no one at the Met, or in New York City -- has the time to give that sort of advice.