Fred Ho’s Last Year = Fred Ho’s Most Prominent Time Alive And In The Hereafter

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[a film review]
Fred Ho’s Last Year
Featuring interviews with Fred Ho,
Marie Incontrera, Ben Barson,
Ruth Margraff, Anne T. Greene,
Youn Jung Kim,
Royal Hartigan, and many more
Directed by Steven De Castro
uncool films, inc
58 minutes
Rating: Not rated

It is simply not enough for me to tell you this is a great film or that it features great music. Sometimes I feel like I write quickie pieces about things that are far bigger than I can possibly interpret (I once had a teacher that wrote on my paper that I turned in that was meant to be a written review of a play “This was not supposed to be a quickie review for a weekend newspaper”–I really understand this in much clearer perspective now).

The film Fred Ho’s Last Year, an almost too-brief filmed account of what’s really the last several years of composer/saxophonist/bandleader Fred Ho’s life, is so telling of a man who has so much to say, the film almost can’t compete with his outspokenness, and somehow, one wonders if people are still left feeling like they have no chance in this world when they previously knew absolutely nothing of the things Fred Ho knew and shared with the world, and he still lost his battle with colorectal cancer on April 12, 2014.

But I would suggest that despite the grim reality of the outcome, you should take away from this film several things:
A) Fred Ho’s Resilience: Despite the fact that he was diagnosed 8 years before his death, and had undergone all kinds of possible treatments for his condition (some of which were medical and some much more in the progressive homeopathic vein) and the fact that this sometimes left him physically weak, and even after accepting that his fate was certain, he considered himself a newly reborn individual and christened himself so, and continued on with his music career and public life with both style and tenacity.

He basically educates you throughout this documentary, and among these things is the message that this cancer and anything related to it that left him to struggle, in turn simply made him a much stronger person. The Friedrich Nietzsche quote that has been in popular culture now for quite some time certainly comes to mind here: “That which does not kill me makes me stronger”. I also think of Obi Wan Kenobi becoming more powerful after being struck by Darth Vader.

He also denounces the doctors that treated him very improperly after a particular operation where Fred wasn’t sewn back up–they said it was scar tissue that somehow couldn’t be closed up, but he said this doctor had to make an special public appearance, therefore foregoing the closure. I can’t say I blame him for speaking out against such malpractice. And yet I’m sure this guy probably had a bunch of framed awards covering his office wall like so many in the profession that feel a need to prove their credibility.

B) Fred Ho’s Message: In a world where we are finding out very disturbing things about the stuff we eat or use on ourselves, it is quite astonishing to hear about things like “the Matrix” and what it really is. Fred believes that this Matrix is something that physically keeps everyone from acquiring a self-sufficient lifestyle, and instead forces everyone to continue to make concessions to the capitalist corporate world by buying and consuming food, food that in some cases is processed and unhealthy, and has us all living in an environment immersing everyone with it. Being the out-of-shape person that I am, I feel that this speaks directly to me, and I simply can’t ignore such a message. I would feel like this is an important film even if this was all he had to say.

Fred Ho’s Last Year – Documentary Feature Trailer: “Rain” from Steven De Castro on Vimeo.

C) Fred Ho, the artist: Even though the film doesn’t ever quite get to the subject of Fred’s music in full discussion, the music itself functions as an alternate narrative to the film. Fred does get quite vocal about the way the public is “colonized” to the point that they only understand music when it’s in the popularized 4/4 time signature as opposed to much more complex times heard in his music.

And seriously, if you are a fan of the saxophone, Fred Ho the saxophonist–Let’s just say he made the saxophone speak even louder than he ever did. A stunningly dynamic solo is featured within the first 10 minutes of the film that ends with the shrillest wail that recalls the opening whistles in West Side Story, and the solo in general rivals Lou Reed’s heaviest guitar solos.

The selection of Fred’s pieces for the film were all quite fitting, but I have to say, please look out for “Iron Man Meets The Black Dog Meets Dave Taylor”, a splendid work (by Fred Ho and Marie Incontrera; performed by Youn Jung Kim and the Green Monster Big Band) that combines Black Sabbath with Led Zeppelin and brings them into a satirical big band world.

It is certainly clear in this film that the people that worked closely with Fred Ho as a musician and composer are the ones that will carry his music through to further generations of keyed-in music aficionados. Particularly people like Marie Incontrera, whom I have known for quite some time, and besides being one of Fred’s biggest champions is a great composer and conductor in her own right (You even see her in action in this film besides hearing what she has to say), drummer Royal Hartigan, and Ben Barson, Fred’s saxophone protégé, who will actually be performing on Fred’s saxophone at one of the premieres of this film in New York coming up soon.

Long live Fred Ho.

~~~

Listen to my interview with Steven De Castro about Fred Ho and the film on The Glass Sho

NOTE: The 2 New York City premieres of Fred Ho’s Last Year will be held on July 31st and August 2nd.

First Screening:

FRED HO’S LAST YEAR SNEAK PREVIEW & PANEL
MUSEUM OF CHINESE IN AMERICA (MOCA)
215 Centre Street New York, NY 10013
July 31, 2014, 7 pm
On the Panel: Anne Greene and Ruth Margraff

Second Screening:

FRED HO’S LAST YEAR & MUSIC TRIBUTE
City Cinema Village East
189 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003
August 2, 2014, 5:30 pm
Music Tribute: Ben Barson playing Fred’s saxophone

And August 10th there will be a public birthday celebration for Fred:

Scientific Soul Sessions presents:
To Sing You Down
a celebration of Fred Ho on his first birthday in the sky
featuring Marie Incontrera conducting the Eco-Music Big Band

ShapeShifter Lab
18 Whitwell Place
Brooklyn, NY 11215
August 10, 2014, 7 pm
$20 admission

Discover Fred Ho (discoverfredho.org)

THE GLASS SHŌ ~ Armando Bayolo Talks GNE and Bang On a Can

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Composer-conductor Armando Bayolo had a few minutes to talk to The Glass Shō about his ensemble Great Noise Ensemble and their first time ever performing at the annual Bang On a Can Marathon in NYC, which will be happening this Sunday, June 22nd at 2 PM, running until 10 PM. Info can be found right here.
The full podcast can be heard on the link below as well as the one on the top right of this page.

The Glass Shō: Episode 10 (Armando Bayolo and Great Noise Ensemble)

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THE GLASS SHŌ ~ Preview of Potential Energies from Nouveau Classical Project

On Thursday, May 29 (8 pm EST), the Nouveau Classical Project and TrioDance Collective present the world premiere of a new modern ballet titled Potential Energies at BAM Fisher’s Fishman Space. The 50-minute piece, choreographed by Barbie Diewald to music by rising composer Trevor Gureckis, will be seen in a single performance. NCP’s Artistic Director Sugar Vendil also directed the production.

Potential Energies Trailer from The Nouveau Classical Project on Vimeo.

Composer Trevor Gureckis did an interview for the latest episode of The Glass Shō and spoke about the piece. The interview appears in the first half of this episode.

The Glass Shō: Episode 9 (Remembering Fred Ho with Marie Incontrera/Nouveau Classical Project)

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Click here for tickets/info for Potential Energies

Nouveau Classical Project (nouveauclassical.org)

Sybarite5 Joining Frank Salomon Associates

 

From Frank Salomon Associates:

SYBARITE5 is joining Frank Salomon Associates’ roster as of June 1, 2014.

‘Their rock star status…is well deserved. Their classically honed technique mixed with grit and all out passionate attack transfixes the audience…’ Sarasota Herald Tribune

Comprised of Sami Merdinian and Sarah Whitney, violins; Angela Pickett, viola; Laura Metcalf, cello; and Louis Levitt, bass, this groundbreaking quintet redefines audiences’ perception of chamber music across the country with captivating performances of new commissions, Radiohead, Piazzolla and classical music. That’s why major presenters like Washington Performing Arts have re-engaged them and The Washington Post raved,

‘What was all that impassioned playing, those hard-driving rhythms, the
blissed-out faces of the mostly young audience? And what about the cheering -
the actual cheering – that filled the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue when the
group returned onstage after intermission? Is this what modern music has
come to? Genuine, spontaneous…excitement? We can only hope.’

SYBARITE5 is the first string quintet ever selected as a winner of the Concert Artists Guild International Competition in its 60-year history. They captivate audiences with their fresh approach to programming and with virtuosity and enthusiasm in their performance.

We’ve always prided ourselves on helping to introduce and guide artists who have something original and compelling to say, and are delighted to have SYBARITE5 join our family. They are a rare group whose voice speaks to all audiences. They’ll be on our roster as of June 1, 2014 (for 2015/16 engagements and beyond).

 

To learn more, visit:
franksalomon.com/SYBARITE5

Inhyun Kim and Luna Cholong Kang ~ On Luna’s Upcoming May Carnegie Hall Debut

Chris McGovern:

Reblogging this this week for Luna Cholong Kang’s concert date: This
Friday, May 2nd at Zankel Hall, Carnegie in NYC!

Originally posted on The Glass:

Composer and founder of Ear To MindInhyun Kim, and solo flutuist Luna Cholong Kang had a few minutes to discuss the upcoming Zankel at Carnegie Hall debut on May 2nd for the flutist and some of the pieces scheduled for the evening. Among them are 3 (technically 4) world premieres (one of them by Inhyun herself and an existing piece by Oliver Knussen with new choreography by Coco Karol). The program is as follows:

Reiko Fueting: New Work (US Premiere)
Jolivet: Chant de Linos
Oliver Knussen: Masks, Op. 3 (World premiere of this version choreographed by Coco Karol)
Inhyun Kim: Luna (World Premiere)
David Lang: Vent
Poulenc: Sonata for Flute and Piano
Telemann: 12 Fantasias for Flute without Bass
Julia Wolfe: New Work (World Premiere)

CM: Please talk about this upcoming concert debut at Zankel Hall and the special pieces…

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The Glass Shō ~ Jenny Q. Chai on Her Forthcoming CD of Nils Vigeland Piano Music

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Pianist Jenny Q. Chai (whom you might be familiar with from here because she has been on this blog several times interviewed and reviewed–if not, you must know her because she’s a respected figure in both classical and new music) had some time to sit and do another great interview with me, this time for The Glass Shō podcast, and I asked her to discuss her yet-to-be-released Naxos disc Life Sketches: Piano Music of Nils Vigeland, and some details about the composer and his music. Below is an excerpt from our chat, but you can hear the interview in its entirety on the Glass Sho link below and at the top right of this page.

 
nilsvigeland“I’ve known Dr. Vigeland since I was 21, I was studying my first year of masters at MSM, and I think I just took a theory class of his. Back then I was a normal pianist that came out of Curtis Institute of Music and wanted to do horse-race type piano competitions. So my focus wasn’t on anything other than traditional classical repertoire, and just practicing a lot. I liked new music, and I had started playing it already at Curtis, but I wasn’t so serious–I wasn’t so sure about doing it full-time or really becoming a contemporary performer, but I was asked as a favor by a friend, John Slover, who ended up writing “Mallet Dance”, the 2-prepared piano piece I premiered in China. He was living on the same floor as the dorm, and he asked me if I could play this student piece of his, and I was like ‘Sure!’, and it didn’t take that much from me to work. The concert was great, and then I was asked to play for Dr. Vigeland because John Slover had studied with him. So that’s how we met–Later I took his theory class, and I guess he remembered me as a player. He was very warm, and he’d run into me in the library and hand me scores of Ives and Cage. He would just talk to me about new music, and then he eventually gave me the score for his own piece ‘Life Studies’. and I realized this was the first serious piano cycle I’ve ever received from a living composer, and I took it very seriously! I was also nervous because I felt my knowledge of new music wasn’t substantial enough to play it. but I practiced and worked with him, and it was great! He even offered to rewrite some passages because my hands were too small to play one particular page of the music, and I thought ‘Wow! How is that possible??’ That was my first real experience working with a living composer–I was someone who was used to playing classical composers like Beethoven and Mozart, and he was offering to rewrite a page for me–It was overwhelming! So that was the start of my longtime collaboration with Dr. Vigeland.”

The Glass Shō: Episode 7 (Jenny Q. Chai/Kristin Lee)

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Jenny Q. Chai (jennychai.com)