Tag Archives: Mark Twain

Ithaca Happenings and Tour Update

After a rather long silence since the last post, here’s an update. My first performance of the Concord, on October 4 at Ithaca College, was a fun night. It was really satisfying to be able to share both my thoughts about the music and to play the music itself for a community of musicians that have become close friends. Attendance was surprisingly high, and included visits from Dr. Timothy Johnson, a great mentor and Ives scholar (check out his book Baseball and the Music of Charles Ives), and Dana Wilson, my composition professor. I even saw some students from the music theory labs I teach! My friends and acquaintances seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the music, the lecture, or the whole package. That was encouraging to hear as I look ahead to future dates.


I’ve been a witness to some musical highlights since then. On Wednesday the 8th I heard a concert of faculty/student musical improvisation. It was the largest, most diverse improv program I had seen, and each ensemble, whether trumpet and piano, voice and jazz combo, solo viola, or other, offered a unique and thoughtful musical moment. The overriding feeling of the concert was a spirit of newness and freshness. Improvised music has the benefit of being developed on the spot, coming from intuition and gut reactions to other musicians. It is not overthought or overworked. It seemed to me that everyone left that concert happy and satisfied.

On Saturday the 18th I had the privilege of attending another significant musical event. My friend Lynn Craver has put together an opera company, Opera Ithaca, and their inaugural production is Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle. I enjoyed experiencing this music live for the first time, in a production that made good use of limited resources, anchored by extremely strong singers, and appropriately full of dread.

Then on Sunday I drove to Elmira to see Hal Holbrook’s legendary one-man show Mark Twain Tonight! The script is comprised solely of quotations from Twain’s writing, but I was amazed at the scope and consistent brilliance of the man’s thoughts. Some of his statements on politics, religion, and human behavior seem totally fresh and hilarious. I found myself wondering if Twain’s work had the same effect on Charles Ives as the Transcendentalists referenced in the Concord Sonata. Apparently Mark Twain was a close friend of Ives’ wife, to the point that she even called him “Uncle Mark”. With that in mind, I can imagine a few interactions between Charles Ives and Mark Twain, with those two bold, independent men cracking jokes and talking about America.

Speaking of Elmira, I’ve added a new tour date:

Thursday, October 30, 7:30 pm
Lake Street Presbyterian Church
300 Lake Street
Elmira, NY