Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

John enrolled for his Master’s program at Manhattan School of Music today. It’s in a great location, off 120th Street in the Upper West Side, between Riverside Drive and Broadway. We’re very excited for him (and he’s excited already). You can see a slideshow here.

Jenny and I drove him up and spent the night Tuesday night with our friends Janet and Gary at their farm in Bucks County, PA. We were lucky for a move-in day: great weather, some traffic inbound but not bad, and I even managed to find a parking spot about 50 yards from his residence, the International House.

We were not far from the epicenter of the great (?) Virginia earthquake on Tuesday the 23rd, but never felt a thing. On Thursday we head back to Wilmington to see about Hurricane Irene.


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We’re in Columbia, SC, and staying at our usual place, the Riverside Inn. Talk about a throwback. Stay here and you’re instantly transported back to the motels you used to go to with your parents in the 50’s and 60’s. Straight shower rods — can you believe it?

Still, we like it. It’s modest (of course), clean, cheap, peaceful, AAA-approved and friendly. One of the clerks went to high school with some of my Callison cousins. You can walk to campus over the Broad River bridge or hike a trail along the river. I couldn’t find a vintage postcard of the Riverside and they don’t even appear to have a website, but here’s a nice one from Guy Clinch’s photostream of old motel cards on Flickr. It’s the Bon-Air motel in Allendale, SC, from about 1970, so same vintage.

We’re here to see our son John in the University of South Carolina opera’s production of Mr. Scrooge. It’s a small piece, about 35 minutes long. Composer Samuel O. Douglas is on the faculty at the USC School of Music. It was composed in the 1970’s and was featured on a national PBS broadcast at the time.

Opera at USC is presenting it with another 1-act of very different tone, Miss Havisham’s Wedding Day by Dominick Argento, as a Dickens double bill. John was great as Marley, who is of course a ghost. An interesting challenge to sing with linen winding sheets wrapped around your head. I had never thought of this before, but apparently the purpose of such things was to keep the jaw attached to the skull after burial. Have a nice day.

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Our son John the opera singer sent us three recordings he made recently at the University of South Carolina. I think they’re the best he’s ever recorded.

They are:

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Here’s a photo of our night-blooming primroses, aka evening primroses. I tried to make this a video but couldn’t get my BlackBerry to record it. (I’ll try again).

If you’ve never seen one pop, it’s pretty amazing. Just like a time-lapse movie, except that once the quivering starts it only takes about 30 seconds for the sepals to peal back and the blossom to emerge.

We think the mild weather and frequent rain in Cincinnati this spring have finally done the trick. We were inspired to do this by evenings spent on the patio of our friends the Davises in Winston-Salem, who seemed to have dozens of them going.

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Off to Opera Camp

Our son John took off for Wooster, OH today. He’s a Young Artist Scholarship winner at the Ohio Light Opera summer festival.

OLO is a remarkable institution, focusing exclusively on light opera (duh!), Gilbert and Sullivan, and 1 or 2 musicals each year. John has small roles (some speaking, some singing) in about several of them, and is in the chorus for a couple more. We’ll see him in at least Kismet, Gypsy, The Count of Luxembourg, and Iolanthe.

It’s actually quite an honor for him, and he’s excited about it. His older sister keeps things in perspective by calling it ‘Opera Camp.’ Actually, seeing him drive off this morning was a little bit like seeing him off to camp.

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At least, according to HowManyofMe.com. Supposedly their conclusions are based on census data.

The good news is I’m unique. The bad news is I can’t claim those bills belong to someone else. At least it makes my LinkedIn profile easy to figure out.

Actually, I’m the 3rd of 4 people with my full name, Tolliver Cleveland Callison. My grandfather was Papa to his grandkids and Mr. Callison to just about every else, including my grandmother. My father was T.C., Jr. (known as T.C., aka Top Cat, aka Yip). They’re both deceased now, and greatly missed. My son Todd is actually T.C. the IV, but he lives in Mexico so the qualification “in the U.S.” still applies.

I don’t know what they mean by “1 or fewer” people with my name. How can there be fewer than 1 of me? Oh no! It’s like that Twilight Zone episode with Rod Taylor as the astronaut who knows he’s about to disap . . .

For my wife Jenny they’re emphatic: “There is 1 person in the U.S. named Jenny Callison.” The 1 and only. They got that right.

–Thanks to the J-Walk Blog

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On March 7th we attended a performance of this work by William Averitt:

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to St. Matthew
In Twelve Scenes
Incorporating American Shape Note Hymns

Averitt is on the music faculty of Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia. This performance was in Columbia, SC, with orchestra and the University of South Carolina Concert Choir and the Cantus choir of Shenandoah, directed by USC’s Larry Wyatt. It will be performed again at the southeastern conference of the American Choral Directors Association in Memphis. The conference is March 10-12 and the Averitt performance is on the 11th.

I wanted to see this work not only because of my long interest in Sacred Harp/shape-note music, but also because our son John is a senior vocal performance major at USC. He sang the role of Judas on Sunday and will do so again in Memphis.

The work was commissioned by a group of southeastern music departments and premiered in 2000. Very much in the spirit of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, it presents Matthew’s narrative in 12 scenes with an Evangelist and Jesus in the prominent roles. Just as Bach drew from Lutheran chorales, each scene in Averitt is followed by a hymn taken from the shape-note tradition, concluding with the moving Deal Gently with Thy Servants, Lord (‘Gently Lord, O Gently Lead Us’) from  The American Vocalist of 1849.

I spoke briefly with Averitt after the performance. He first encountered shape-note music from recordings by the Boston Camerata. But only Deal Gently is presented in a straightforward shape-note style. Others use the words and the tunes, but are set in complex harmonies reflecting a contemporary classical idiom. The other ones Averitt used are:

  • from Harmonia Sacra: 68 Supplication, 302 Resignation, 389 Limehouse, 114 Liberty Hall, 232 Voice of Warning, 213 Salisbury
  • from The Sacred Harp: 39 Detroit, 95 Vernon, 312 Restoration, 102 Fulfillment, 38 Windham, 159 Wondrous Love, 48 Kedron

It’s not always easy music. Some in our party found it difficult going. Others were fascinated. All of us found the final chorale, Deal Gently, deeply moving. To me it’s a worthy successor to Bach’s use of the Passion Chorale ‘O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded.’ I want it sung at my funeral.

By the way, John did great.

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