MOVIE: Yesterday (2019)

Yesterday Year: 2019 Rating: PG-13 Length: 116 minutes / 1.93 hours When I saw the first trailers for Yesterday (2019), I had some high hopes for this movie. The premise of only one person remembering The Beatles in a world where this famous band didn’t exist was intriguing enough by itself to warrant a watch. Plus, with Danny Boyle directing, I had perhaps anticipated more than what I actually got. It’s hard to hate a movie with such a great soundtrack full of Beatles songs, but the execution of the entire idea left me wanting a bit more and breaking my suspension of disbelief on more than one occasion. Back in high school, I had a history assignment to perform a thought experiment similar to Yesterday: what happens if The Beatles didn’t exist? Instead of just being a weird gap in the cultural zeitgeist, I think this movie would have done better to see the amount of influence the band had throughout the music industry. Sure, some moments...
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MUSIC: Modern Suspects

Modern Suspects Date: July 3, 2018 Back in 2014, I had the opportunity to see the band formerly known as “Claymore Disco” perform at the Black Sheep in Colorado Springs. Now four years later, this band has reorganized a little and re-branded themselves as “Modern Suspects” shortly after I saw them perform as Claymore Disco. In that time, they have released two EPs and have had moderate success in the Colorado music scene, having even recently headlined a show at the Bluebird in Denver. With four years of experience under their belts, Modern Suspects has evolved and matured their sound from their Claymore Disco days and are now a musical force awaiting to be discovered by wider audiences. For their 2015 self-titled debut, Modern Suspects have a solid five tracks that show off their musical style and potential. The vocals are distinctly similar to Claymore Disco, mostly because Garrett Myers, the lead vocalist, was the same for both bands. In terms of production...
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MOVIE: Baby Driver (2017)

Baby Driver Year: 2017 Rating: R Length: 112 minutes / 1.87 hours There are so many “heist” films nowadays that it’s practically its own genre, with all the tropes and clichés that go with it. Consequently, when I learned that Edgar Wright had directed a heist film, my interest was piqued. Best known for his parody comedies, Shaun of the Dead(2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), and The World’s End (2013), the film of his I have enjoyed the most is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010). His style is distinct throughout these films, which is what I was hoping for in Baby Driver (2017). While Wright’s visual style is present in Baby Driver, it is muted, almost in the background of the standard heist framework. With an almost 1980’s undertone, Baby Driver takes many cues from its predecessor, Drive (2011). Both feature an almost silent heist driver as the main character and plenty of entertaining driving sequences that are practically ballet on the boulevards. Fortunately, both films also focus on the characters, and not so much on the heist, giving...
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MUSIC: CSPhil – Carmina Burana

Colorado Springs Philharmonic Conductor: Josep Caballé Domenech Date: May 21, 2017 Zones Pierre Jalbert In the final commissioned piece of this 90th Philharmonic season, Pierre Jalbert takes the term "from sea to shining sea" quite literally with his piece, Zones. With the majority of the music conveying the depths of the ocean, it was interesting to hear the various deep-sea creatures as they passed by (most of which seemed to be quite large and dangerous). Eventually, the listener arrives near the surface of the ocean and can hear the rays of light penetrating down into the water. During the last moments of the piece, the listener emerges on dry land and quickly finds themselves in the alpine "zone" of the top of Pike's Peak. Martern Aller Arten (from The Abduction from the Seraglio) / Verdrai, carino (from Don Giovanni) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart These selected arias from Mozart's repertoire weren't that recognizable, but they certainly gave soprano Celena Shafer the chance to show off. Having been in a choir before, I know I...
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MUSIC: Aladdin (2011)

Aladdin New Amsterdam Theatre May 10, 2017 Anyone who knows me will know that Aladdin (1992) is easily one of my top three favorite Disney movies. Not only is the focus of the narrative more on the male lead than the "princess," but the songs were catchy, and the Genie was hilarious. You can then imagine my surprise to learn that this movie was now a Broadway musical (much in the same way Beauty and the Beast (1991) and The Lion King (1994) before it). Since I was in New York City on vacation, I had to take in a Broadway show and was glad that this was the one I saw. Knowing that a ~90 minute animated film would need to be padded out to a full, 2-act stage musical, the additions to the plot made sense. Many of the animal companions (if not all of them) were replaced with friends, handmaids, or lackeys in this production. The sub-plot of Aladdin wanting to...
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MUSIC: CSPhil – The Texas Tenors

The Texas Tenors Conductor: Thomas Wilson Date: May 06, 2017 In another night of not precisely knowing what to expect from the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, I was pleasantly surprised. Before seeing them perform this weekend, I had never heard of the Texas Tenors before. Part of me was apprehensive for the performance, as I figured it would be a lot of well-sung country and western songs. Part of it was, but that was OK because the country just happened to be Italy. I think the more accurate assessment of this group is three tenors from Texas, since the primary focus is really on their singing, not necessarily on their southern origins. Their repertoire is quite admirable. From Amazing Grace to Sinatra to The Phantom of the Opera to Bruno Mars, this trio of singers aren't just great at singing; they're also excellent at engaging with the audience. Of course, that makes sense considering they've had many live performances, not the least of which was a stint in...
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MUSIC: CSPhil – Mahler 6

Symphony No. 6 in A minor Composer: Gustav Mahler Conductor: Josep Caballé-Domenech Date: April 22, 2017 Before going to see this performance, I knew very little about Gustav Mahler. Because of a Tom Lehrer song (see video below), I knew he was married to a woman named Alma, and I knew he composed a piece called "Das Lied von der Erde." And while I still know little about Gustav Mahler, I can make some interesting assumptions based on how he composed. After all, when a piece requires over 100 instruments, including two harps, two timpani, a celesta, and an instrument specially made for this singular symphony, you can tell Mahler didn't conform to traditional standards. I can practically hear him instructing his orchestra. I can hear him saying he wants more cowbell, because dang if there isn't plenty of cowbell in his 6th symphony. The richness and diversity of sound produced by this large orchestra leaves the listener with many instruments on which to focus. I'm sure repeated...
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MUSIC: CSPhil – Hindemith: Mathis der Maler

Symphony Mathis der Maler Composer: Paul Hindemith Conductor: Thomas Wilson Date: April 15, 2017 Contrary to what I initially thought, this piece was not by Gustav Mahler or even about Mahler (notice the absence of the "h" in the title). Instead, this symphony was an effective musical representation of an artist's work which itself had a hermit saint as its inspiration. Through the "behind the scenes" provided by the Philharmonic before playing the entire piece, I learned that Hindemith paid a lot of attention to the symmetry and mathematical balances in his music. From utilizing the golden ratio to palindromes to balanced and unbalanced movements, there was more to Hindemith symphony than met the ear. What was also interesting was the artist whose works were inspirations for this symphony (itself being part of a larger opera). Mathis Grunewald didn't have many works to his name, but the ones we do know about are certainly impactful. Just as an example, the piece included in this post was just one...
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MUSIC: CSPhil – Swing, Swing, Swing!

Colorado Springs Philharmonic Conductor: Thomas Wilson Date: April 1, 2017 Much like the Divas of the 60's performance, I had very limited prior knowledge of the music played during this week's Philharmonic pops. I was aware of the basic swing style of music but had little to no exposure to it's complete musical reach. My initial thoughts were that this performance would be very high-energy since swing music is often accompanied by the high-energy dance style of the same name. I was somewhat surprised to find a fair number of the songs were a little slower. Granted, you could still dance to them, but they would have been slow dances instead of swing dances. Perhaps the title of "Swing, Swing, Swing!" was a little misleading. Much of the music was of the "big band" style, which isn't always of the "swing" genre. With the focus on brass and percussion, the addition of strings to the arrangements made for quite the impressive sound, especially on the songs I...
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MUSIC: CSPhil – Dvořák: New World Symphony

New World Symphony (No. 9) Composer: Antonin Dvořák Conductor: Josep Caballé-Domenech Date: March 11, 2017 This piece. THIS PIECE! I'll be honest; it's probably my favorite piece of classical music ever. Now that I know a bit more about it through the Colorado Springs Philharmonic's Masterworks series, I feel I can appreciate it even more. Although even if I now know the Native American, African American, Czech, Beethoven, and Wagner influences that made this piece what it is, I've loved it for so long I have trouble picking out the references. Nevertheless, being able to identify the small segments that added to the spectacular whole that is this piece just added to my love of it. If anything, the melting pot of musical motifs and themes that help to create a sound that is distinctly American, even from a Czech composer like Dvorak, is what the New World Symphony is all about. The ability for Dvorak to recognize the heritage of the Native Americans and the struggle of the African-Americans...
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MUSIC: CSPhil – 007: The Music of James Bond

Colorado Springs Philharmonic Conductor: Thomas Wilson Date: March 4, 2017 Very few film franchises have been able to stand the test of time. Of course, with the resurgence of reboots and remakes, some long-gone franchises are starting to find themselves once again. The James Bond franchise has had a few bumps over the years, but it continues to maintain its presence in the popular culture landscape. One of the most recognizable aspects of this franchise has certainly been its music. There's a tension in it that oozes action and masculinity. With films spanning half a century, the music has done its best to keep up with the changing styles of our culture. Similar musical styles gave many of the early Bond films' title songs a very consistent sound. I was a little disappointed that the Philharmonic chose to do "The Look of Love" from the 1960's spoof, Casino Royale, instead of the Herb Alpert opening track, but at least it matched the tone with the rest of...
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MUSIC: CSPhil – Divas of the 60’s

Colorado Springs Philharmonic Conductor: Thomas Wilson Date: February 11, 2017 If there was one thing I learned about this performance by the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, it's that I really didn't start paying attention to music until the 1970's. Perhaps it was due to not understanding or appreciating the Motown style, but there were quite a few songs during the concert that I just straight didn't recognize. Even some famous songs just passed right by my recognition. This is all likely my own fault, but the experience was still nice, nonetheless. Of the pieces I did recognize, it was fun to sing along, especially with the enhanced music the philharmonic could provide to accompany it. There were times, though, that the music drowned out the singers and I couldn't tell what they were saying, but that also may have been due to my location in the uppermost part of the balcony of the Pike's Peak Center. Either way, the visuals provided by the lights and variety of dresses...
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MUSIC: CSPhil – Beethoven and Tchaikovsky

Colorado Springs Philharmonic Conductor: Josep Caballé Domenech Date: January 21, 2017 Halcyon Skies Daniel Kellogg Much like many of the other compositions commissioned to celebrate the anniversary of the writing of "America the Beautiful," this piece did an excellent job of capturing the size and majesty of the mountain known as Pike's Peak. It starts at sunrise, as the sun slowly illuminates the mountain in its purple pre-dawn light. As the alpenglow builds, the enormity of the mountain comes into view. The sunrise then rests on a lone hiker at the base of this prominent peak. We then follow this hiker as he climbs along the trail through the woods, occasionally taking a short break to look back on how far he's come. Continuing his climb, he arrives at the summit and is rewarded with the brilliance of the view afforded to his effort. Symphony No. 8 Ludwig van Beethoven It's interesting to me that this piece was chosen as one of the first to start off...
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MUSIC: CSPhil – The Great

Colorado Springs Philharmonic Conductor: Marcelo Lehninger Date: November 12, 2016 White Gleam of Our Bright Star Courtney Bryan OK, I'll admit it: I really didn't "get" this piece. Perhaps I'm not an astute listener for this type of musical arrangement, but it almost sounded to me like the band was still warming up during this tribute to "America the Beautiful." Maybe I'm biased. The first commissioned piece of the 90th season was fantastic, complex, and riveting while this one felt a little . . . wanting? Of course, again, I don't really consider myself to be of the most discerning of musical tastes, especially when it comes to the Philharmonic. My take is usually "older is better," so time will tell whether this piece stands up against the others. Violin Concerto No. 5 Henri Vieuxtemps Up until this Masterworks performance, I had never heard of Henri Vieuxtemps. Consequently, I wasn't sure what to expect in his fifth Violin Concerto. With the stage filled with the string section and not...
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MUSIC: CSPhil – Star Trek: The Final Frontier

Colorado Springs Philharmonic Conductor: Josep Caballé Domenech Date: October 29, 2016 As someone who has only seen a smattering of Star Trek episodes and movies, I wasn't sure what to expect for this night of orchestrated music. Up until about Deep Space 9, I could recognize the opening themes for the different series, but anything after that would be new to me. I am a fan of a few of the early Star Trek films, as well as a few of the reboot ones (not Beyond, though), but only the newer ones have captivated me musically. Of course, that's probably because I enjoy the musical stylings of Michael Giacchino. While I can understand the heavier reliance on the music from the Star Trek movies, due to their ease of orchestration, the music from some of the episodes was equally as moving. This consistency and range really drove home that Star Trek isn't about the action for which Star Wars is best known, but more...
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MUSIC: CSPhil – Francesca Da Rimini

Francesca Da Rimini Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Year: 1876 Back when I was in college, I would go to the Denver Philharmonic and attend the lectures given before the piece was played. This allowed me to get some background on the piece before I listened to it being played by the orchestra of musicians. It was in these lectures where I learned that Beethoven's 5th Symphony started with morse code for the letter "V", signifying "victory." Overall, these lectures gave me a greater understanding of the piece of music so that I could appreciate it on a deeper level. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of a history lesson to bring out the "aha" moments when listening to a piece of music. Through a multimedia production, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic has gone above and beyond in expanding my understanding of the Tchaikovsky piece Francesca Da Rimini. In their presentation, I realized that the composers of bygone eras were able to bring the stories...
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MUSIC: CSPhil – Symphonic Dances

Colorado Springs Philharmonic Conductor: Josep Caballé Domenech Date: September 17, 2016 This year, my wife and I decided to go to the symphony more. With this year being the 90th anniversary of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, they pulled out all the stops and have a great lineup. As a result, we ended up essentially getting season tickets. While it's difficult for me to really "review" pieces of music like these, since they've been around for a long time, I'll merely give my impressions on the following set from the first event of the 90th season of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic. Some of these impressions come in the form of stories, so if you get a chance to listen to these pieces, read along and hopefully you'll get what I'm trying to convey through the piece. For Spacious Skies Anthony DiLorenzo Having never been to a "World Premiere" of a song before, this was quite a treat. The Philharmonic commissioned a number of pieces based on "America the...
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