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August 29, 2009

Placido Domingo, Susan Graham, Yo-Yo Ma perform eloquently at Kennedy funeral

I didn't figure on watching the entire funeral Mass for Sen. Edward Kennedy, but I'm glad I got drawn in, for, in addition to all the fine oratory (especially by Ted Kennedy, Jr.) , there was music-making of great eloquence by three of the finest artists in today's classical world. The senator, a hearty music lover, would have loved every note of it.

During the Offertory, Yo-Yo Ma played the Sarabande from Bach's Suite No. 6 for Unaccompanied Cello, a piece of elegant, comforting beauty, with a hint of sadness in the descending melodic motive that recurs. Intonation could not have been easy to maintain in the un-airconditioned church, but Ma came through, as always, with his deeply poetic phrasing.

The cellist returned at Communion to accompany Placido Domingo in the Cesar Franck hymn, "Panis Angelicus," a work of great warmth that was much loved in the days of pre-guitar  Catholicism. It was intriguing to  

hear just a tenor and a solo cello perform this music, and I found the result quite touching, a very personal performance. Domingo hit a rough note or two, but sang with considerable expressive power to the counterpoint of Ma's eloquent counterpoint. (Update: I've added video of the Franck.)

After Communion, mezzo-soprano Susan Graham offered a sublime account of another work long a favorite at Catholic services, Schubert's "Ave Maria," accompanied by organ. Graham possesses one of the most intrinsically beautiful voices of our time, not to mention exceptional interpretive instincts, and this solemn occasion benefitted greatly from her art.

Posted by Tim Smith at 1:13 PM | | Comments (8)


Placido Domingo, and Panis Angelicus If I could hear it once more

I just added the Domingo/Ma video. TIM

Could somebody slap those old queens in the back who are SOOO disrespectful!

Incredible voice. Perfection! Where have I been all my life? I must find her CD's

Thanks Tim for the great summary and review. Add to the list the Tanglewood Festival Chorus from today's funeral. And last night, Brian Stokes Mitchell sang the Impossible Dream at the memorial service.

all three artists performed 'HEAVENLY!

Tim: Thank you for your coverage of the music at the Kennedy service. I agree with you 100%, adding only to mention the sensitive artistry of James David Christie at the organ. His improvisations between stanzas of the hymns - to make them come out just right with the activity underway - were nothing short of stunning. They reminded me of the extraordinary musicianship displayed in similar events by Washington's J. Reilly Lewis.

Plácido Domingo's performance
was brilliant, touching,and
He is the best tenor of all,
and I never get tired of
Thanks from the bottom of my

I'm glad you enjoyed this. Thanks for the comments. TIM

Where now is the Susan Graham video? It's been replaced by Placido. I would like to watch the Graham Ave Maria. The U-tube video is grainy and the audio is not good.

Someone here at the paper says it had to be removed because of copyright issues. Go figure. I hope to come up with an alternative. TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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