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April 15, 2011

Another little guide to weekend musical delights

Big surprise -- too many musical delights jammed into another weekend in Baltimore, especially on Sunday. Good luck choosing.

I'll say it again: Someone in this town should lead a can't-we-all-get-along-Kumbaya drive and develop a process that helps local musical organizations share scheduling ideas far in advance and help them avoid so many conflicts.

There aren't unlimited numbers of classical music fans out there. It makes no sense for everyone to compete so often for concert-goers on the same dates and at the same time slots. Sure, I'm being terribly unrealistic, but I'm entitled to kvetch, aren't I?

Anyway, back to this weekend. In case it helps, I thought I should point out a few items that seem particularly promising. (You may recall I'm still on an extended vacation. I'll be out of town part of the weekend, but may still try to catch some of the local musical action when I get back.)

If, like me, you love to experience silent films with live music, don't even hesitate about catching the Baltimore Symphony's presentation of Charlie Chaplin's "The Gold Rush," with Marin Alsop conducting Chaplin's own score. You can catch it Saturday night at Meyerhoff, or head to Strathmore Friday night so you have more time Saturday and Sunday to catch other concerts.

At 3 p.m. Saturday, the remarkable young cellist Hans Kristian Goldstein will give a free recital with pianist Clinton Adams, presented by Shriver Hall Concert Series at the Baltimore Museum of Art. The program offers works by Boccherini, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, as well as unaccompanied cello pieces by Bach and Ligeti.

At the same hour farther uptown ...

violinist Hahn-Bin, who has one of the most distinctive hairstyles in the classical biz, will give a recital with pianist John Blacklow at the Evergreen Museum. The program covers a wide range of composers, from Chopin and Saint-Saens to Lutoslawski and John Cage.

Moving to Sunday, first up, at 2:30 p.m., the Concert Artists of Baltimore will be at the Engineers Club with a chamber music event focusing on classical and folk music from Greece. Clarinetist David Drosinos will be joined by members of the Greek/American band Zephyros. There's a belly dancer on the program, too, so this concert has a leg, or at least a stomach, up on the competition.

The 3 o'clock hour finds the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium, where Markand Thakar conducts two great symphonies from very different worlds -- Haydn's 94th (the one known as "Surprise") and Charles Ives' Third (the one known as "Camp Meeting"). Also on the bill: Brahms' lush Double Concerto with violinist David Perry and cellist Michael Mermagen.

At 3:30 p.m. at Towson Center for the Arts, Pro Musica Rara welcomes one of the finest sopranos in the early music field, Julianne Baird. She'll be joined by Eva Mengelkoch at the fortepiano and others in an unusual program that explores the sort of music that could have been enjoyed by the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

Sunday at 7:30 p.m., it's time for Chamber Music by Candlelight at Second Presbyterian Church, where members of the BSO will offer a typically diverse program. Selections include a clarinet quintet by Weber, a string quartet by Mendelssohn and a violin sonata by William Bolcom.


Posted by Tim Smith at 10:08 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Clef Notes


I saw your page and I find it very interesting. I like that you included my blog under the heading of favorite blog is dedicated to collecting the best pianists in history, with links to live performances and links to his biography.
If you agree, just leave a comment in any of my posts, and I will include it to you.
My blog is:

Thank you very much for your time.

LOL on your dream of coordinating schedules. In some ways, it's a case of too many little fiefdoms; in others, it's an unwillingness to concede that the whole may be greater than the parts and we can, in fact, help each other.

It is going to require more than the cultural institutions to get together.

Sundays are not packed with events because everyone in town decided "Wouldn't it be nice to perform on Sunday?" Like it or not, the demographics of the classical music audience are highly skewed toward older age groups. As people advance in age, IN GENERAL, their eyesight deteriorates, especially night vision. Therefore, many older people will not drive at night at all, and some will drive but only to venues with which they are thoroughly familiar - such as the Meyerhoff or the Lyric.

So, given that a large portion of a potential audience works M-F, 9 to 5, there are two times one can accomodate these large demographic segments (workers and retirees) - Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

Based on my experience at MET HD broadcasts, Saturday afternoons will draw older audiences, but not the middle-aged or younger ones (in large numbers). I can only speculate, but I suppose it has something to do with Saturday Night being "date night"; Saturday afternoons are when people accomplish those chores that cannot be done during the week or go to scholastic sports events. Culturally, we are accustomed to using Saturday night for social activities. For the majority of the classical music audience, one performance a day is enough. And, of course, there are free MET broadcasts every Saturday afternoon from December to April - a potent attraction to compete against in the classical music arena. That pretty much kills Saturday afternoon. And even Friday evening can be problematic: a small company performing in Bolton Hill tried Friday Night performances last year - and many of their patrons were ticketed because of 2 hour parking limits Monday through Friday. A parking ticket adds ALOT to the cost of your admission.

So, Sunday afternoon becomes the default time when a group can have access to both a "working-years" clientele and a "retired" clientele, and when they can find parking.

When you look at a calendar, there are essentially 30 viable Sundays per year - many of the venues used by smaller organizations are not air-conditioned, so summer is difficult. Forget Thanksgiving weekend, and the weekends surrounding Christmas (unless you are doing a Christmas program). January and February are risky because one well-placed snowstorm (or threat of one) kills your audience. Nother's Day and Father's Day are risky. And the 600 pound gorilla in town - the Baltimore Symphony - has around 20 Sunday concerts a year.

So when do you schedule a concert? Preferably a Sunday afternoon when the symphony is not playing. It doesn't leave a lot of choices.

What is the solution? A clean, efficient, convenient public transportation system, or some other means that will enable the older demongraphic to attend performances safely and without having to drive. When will the Baltimore area get one ... who knows?

In the meantime, it's a good thing that enough organizations have survived to compete for Sunday business. The choice for many organizations is not performing Sunday afternoon or some other time - the choice is performing Sunday afternoon or NOT performing. Be glad you still have a choice!

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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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