Recently at Cambridge

5 03 2012

Ready for a hodgepodge of information?  Ok, good.  I thought you readers might want to just know some of the stuff that’s been going on.

Recently, I bought the new Kutless album:  Believer.  I was previously unhappy with Kutless’s decision to release a worship album It Is Well in 2009, and boy was I right because it was just plain bad.  With their new release, I either expected another worship album or a full on return to their hard rock roots.  They did neither, and in doing so, showed a surprising amount of maturity.  Unlike many fans, I recognize that bands must change their sounds in order to thrive.  While I think some of the songwriting is subpar, I was pleasantly surprised in the end.  3.5/5 stars.

Nice cover, too.

So, the past weeks I have been planning for what will be a fantastically awesome break.  Why, you ask?  I’m going to awesome places in Europe, that’s why!  WHOOOOO!!!!!!  This opportunity doesn’t come again maybe ever, so I’m sure going to make the most of it.  Due to scheduling quirks, it will be a three-part trip.  The first part I will spend with Jeremy, who is currently studying at Oxford this semester.  The second part I will spend with Travis the studier of literature, and a fellow Oxbridger who is studying at Oxford this year.  The third part I get to spend with my dad, who as soon as I decided on the Oxbridge program at William Jewell decided he would come to Europe to visit me.  He has never been to Europe, and is very much looking forward to the adventure.  Here’s my schedule for the break:
March 20: Somewhere fun in England (Stonehenge?)
March 21-22: Fly to Vienna. Overnight Train to Venice on the 22nd.
March 23-24: Venice. High-Speed train to Rome.
March 25-26: Rome.
March 27: Rome to Florence to meet Travis, train to Pisa.
March 28: Pisa
March 29-30: Naples
March 31: Amalfi
April 1: Salerno
April 2: Reggio Calabria
April 3-4: Cantania
April 5-6: Palermo
April 7: Fly to London from Palermo.
April 8-9: London
April 10: VIP Tour of Cambridge (my dad being the VIP), chunnel train to Paris
April 11-12: Paris, possible side trip to Normandy
April 13: Bern
April 14: Interloken
April 15-16: Germany
April 17-18: Somewhere. Maybe Brussels/Amsterdam.
April 19: London

Whew.  I have a few days to myself before and after the grand trip in which I’ll do something.  Then I have to go back to Cambridge for Easter term.  It so happens that a hefty percentage of my travel will be in Italy, which just sort of happened that way.  That’s fine with me.  I’ve decided I’m going to eat at a pizzaria at every city to which we travel.  I LOVE ITALIAN FOOD.

Naples pizza here I come. And maybe some gained weight.

On Saturday, the ‘University’s flagship orchestra‘ of which I am the co-principal hornist performed.  We played Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1 and Shostakovich Symphony no. 7.  Now, nothing can quite beat the last concert, which was ridiculously fantastaliciously awesome (yes, fantastalicious–a made up word of mine; I’m obligated to keep using it because my girlfriend likes it so much).  But this was another great concert.  Dmitri Shostakovich composed under the iron fist of Joseph Stalin and was subject to a fascinatingly bipolar censorship.  Shostakovich composed his Seventh Symphony during the siege of Leningrad by the Nazi army.  Both the Soviets and the Allies championed it as a patriotic work of rousing intensity.  After the war, its popularity declined as the arts community shelved it under the ‘bombastic but shallow work of war patriotism’ section.  However, in the past couple decades, the symphony has rightfully risen in popularity and status, as Shostakovich’s genius has been recognized.  See, Shostakovich wasn’t a supporter of Stalin and the Soviet totalitarian regime–he was disgusted at the atrocities committed by Stalin.  But he was a composer who had to adhere to the censorship of the communist rule.  He was forced to relay his disgust and beliefs subtly in his music; the Seventh Symphony in particular can be seen not as a representation of the Nazi attack and the Russian victory, but as an ironic criticism of all totalitarian governments.  It really is quite brilliant, and is one of my favorite works.  You can listen here:

To close out this random post, I have news to announce to the world:  I now have a Twitter.  Yeah.  I succumbed to the Twitter revolution.  I did not do this to announce to the world what is in my sandwich (ham and cheese most likely), but instead to keep up with news, as Twitter is fantastic for this (especially in regards to sports).  For instance, I am now following Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Danny Duffy, and other Kansas City Royals athletes.  Crazy how the world works now huh?  However, since following people on Twitter necessitates having one, I’m going to make the most of it by putting up amusing one-liners, which is my specialty.  LaMar_Matt is my…Twittersign?  Twitterthing?  I honestly don’t know.

Well, I’ve gotta sign off.  However:  Go Royals, and I hope you have a great day.

 





England vs. America: Part I

29 02 2012

What’s better:  America or England?  Unfortunately for those of you who are wanting a definitive answer, there is none.  Both places are different, and personal preference and what exactly you are referring to makes a difference (as we all know, living and visiting places are quite different).  I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on the British culture.

Side note: I keep finding out about that are studying abroad this semester that I had no clue were going to be, and I’m a little put off by their seemingly intense enthusiasm.  This is somewhat hipster of me, because I am touting my “I’ve been here since September” over all these bright and bushy people who are like, “OOOOH EUROPE!!!! LOOK, LONDON!!!!” Does this make me a bad person?  Side note over.

1.  Food–Winner: America

This isn’t even close.  England has very little cuisine to speak of, apart from crumpets, tea, and fish and chips.  By the way, the Cambridge Wind Orchestra traveled to Oxford on Saturday and we had lunch at a pub.  It was in this pub, The King’s Arms, that I got my first fish and chips meal.  It looked like this:

Traditional English right here.

It was good, and I enjoyed it.  I really did.  However, England can’t hold a candle to the amazing (and fattening) American foods.  The Philly cheesesteak I had in Philadelphia beats anything I could possibly have here, and that is only one part of the country.  Also, America has a number of wonderful burger establishments, a fair amount of Mexican influence (which is awfuly good), and the correct kind of bacon.  In England, bacon is taken from the back of the pig.  It tastes and looks a lot more like ham.  In America, we take bacon from the belly, which is the fattiest and tastes the best.  No contest there.  Also:

Chik Fil A alone is enough to push America into the winning side.

 

2. Comedy–Winner:  England

I find English comedy funnier than American comedy.  I really do.  Not everyone likes British comedy–this is because it has particular quirks that some people just don’t enjoy.  The funniest book that I think has ever been written is by a British author–The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.  Add in Monty Python and Wallace and Grommit–we’re set.  England wins.

3. Public Transportation–Winner:  England

I can walk out of my room right now, go down to the train station, get on a train, and arrive in London all in a span of less than two hours at a cost of around $22.  This is fantastic.  In addition, this ticket is round trip and has tube travel included.  I can easily spend a day in one of the biggest and most influential cities in the world without owning any vehicle and without getting a taxi.  England, along with the rest of Europe, wins big in the public transportation category.  In the United States, you need to have a car to go anywhere, unless you live downtown in a big city.  If you lived in St. Joseph and wanted to get to Kansas City (a similar distance, about 60 miles) without a car of your own, you would be out of luck.  If you did find some sort of transportation, chances are it wouldn’t be round trip for $22, and even so, Kansas City has barely any public transport of its own.

This is an area in which the United States could improve.  Think about it:  we gripe about airfare, the TSA, and the ridiculous baggage requirements.  But, we could avoid this with a network of high-speed rail.  The United States is just too dependent on cars.  We can’t have our cake and eat it too; a solution is right in front of us but we don’t eve pay it any mind.

 

Total:  England 2, America 1.

Come on, America.  Step up your game.





England F.A.Q.s

16 02 2012

Hello, readers. My life hasn’t been all that interesting recently, hence my lack of posts for a couple weeks.  However, that wait ends now!

When I went back to the States over Christmas break, I got a number of questions about my experience so far.  So, in order to educate you without having to repeat these things, I thought I’d put the answers here.  Any of my British friends reading will probably get a kick out of this.

1.  “Hey, how was London?”

I’ll go ahead and say the obvious, which is that England is more than just London.  I’m at Cambridge.  However, I guess the idea of a multiple cities in England is too hard to comprehend, apparently.  That or you don’t know I’m at Cambridge.  So, if you don’t know, I study at Cambridge!  Yay!

Now, if you know this, and still insist on me being in London, let me give this analogy to you.  In this metaphor, London = Kansas City.  England is a bit smaller than the state of Missouri.  Cambridge is equivalent to St. Joseph in terms of distance from the big city.  You don’t say to someone, “Hey, how was studying in Kansas City?” when they study at St. Joe.  You don’t assume they live in Kansas City either.  So, my fellow Americans, I am not in London.  I’m at Cambridge.

2.  “So, where’s your accent?”

I was frankly surprised at the number of people who asked me that when I got back.  I’m pretty sure 95% of the people who I talked to who knew where I was asked me that question.  Now, I know Americans like British accents.  But to expect me to have developed a spot-on British accent from two months of being there is unrealistic.  In fact, it’s unrealistic to expect me to have any semblance of a British accent when I come back in June either.

While I haven’t developed an accent, I have taken on some mannerisms of the Brits.  The cadence of my voice changes when I say things to match how the British say them–they stress syllables a bit differently.  I also have adopted the exclamation “Brilliant” as my own.  It’s an English thing.  I’ve also become more attuned to accents as a whole since I’ve been here, though I can’t really sort out the difference between English accents yet–I know they’re different, but I don’t know where they’re from.

3.  “Oh man, I’m SO jealous!”

As well you should be.

…jk.  It’s been a fantastic journey so far, and I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.  Getting the opportunity to travel and see different places is great; over break I’ll hopefully get to go to Ireland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and Belgium, and will go to Scotland in May.  Most people don’t get to do this, and I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to Europe in my lifetime.

That being said, it is easy to go overboard on the jealousy.  But don’t.  England is a cool place to live.  But so is New York.  Seattle.  Chicago.  Not so much Iowa.  My point is, there’s nothing inherently better about England–it’s a place.  I love being here now, but I love living in Kansas City and, more broadly, America as a whole.  It’s a treat to be able to have the opportunity to do this–but not because England is inherently better, rather because the study abroad experience is what’s special.  Remember, people study abroad in the U.S. all the time and love it.  My American friends, we live in an amazing country every day.  That’s something to be thankful for.

So, that’s that.  Maybe I’ll have another F.A.Q.  in the future.  Cheers!





The Elder Concert

1 02 2012

There are quite a few good things about the opportunity of studying at the University of Cambridge.  One might assume that the greatest boon from being at Cambridge is the quality of education.  This might be true for others, but not for me.  I feel that, at a certain level, great institutions of learning are great institutions of learning–the education you receive at Cambridge, Oxford, Yale, Harvard, and even more average schools with good programs in your area is all roughly the same.  I had a good education at Jewell; so I wasn’t gaining hugely more amounts of knowledge by studying at Cambridge.

Instead, the most important thing about study abroad is the experience.  For me, the largest part of this experience is the opportunities I’ve had to perform.  At Jewell, I was the only horn player.  One out of 1200 students.  I was alone for two years, and looking back on it, those years were two of the most stagnant, boring years of my playing career.  Here, however, everything’s different.  While not a music school in purpose, Cambridge (both the university and town) is fantastically musical; there are opportunities to play everywhere.  Each college has its own musical society, along with the overarching Cambridge University Musical Society and a bevy of other independent student-run groups.

By the end of this year, I will have had the opportunity to play these grand works, works which I had never performed before.

  • Stravinsky–Firebird Suite
  • Elgar–Cello Concerto
  • Copland–Fanfare for the Common Man
  • Tchaikovsky–Symphony no. 6 “Pathethique” (rehearsed)
  • Beethoven–Symphony no. 1
  • Tchaikovsky–Swan Lake
  • Sibelius–Finlandia
  • Haydn–Symphony no. 94 “Surprise”
  • Debussy–La Damoiselle Elue
  • Wagner–Parsifal, Act 3
  • Prokofiev–Violin Concerto No. 1
  • Shostakovich–Symphony no. 7 “Leningrad”
  • Debussy–La Mer
  • Berlioz–Te Deum

I have yet to play the last 4 on that list; they are works to be done in the coming months.  In addition to that list are other pieces like Vaughan Williams’ Folk Song Suite and Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, of which I have played before, and other pieces here or there.  Furthermore, that list does not include the pieces that I will inevitably play with whomever asks me to play for them.

Last Saturday, I performed Wagner’s Parsifal, Act 3 and Debussy’s La Damoiselle Elue in an extravagant concert at King’s College Chapel.  The orchestra that performed was comprised of members from both the Chamber Orchestra and the Symphony Orchestra.  Essentially, it was made up of the very best undergraduate players in the whole University.  Three years ago, I took part in the Missouri All-State band.  It was a blast, and for three years it remained the best ensemble I had been a part of (yes, that includes the Liberty Symphony).  No longer.  This CUCO/CUMS I combination will probably be the best orchestra I will ever play in lest I pursue a career in performance (not likely).  In addition to the orchestra, professional soloists and a men’s and women’s choir made up of an amalgam of college choirs constituted the vocal power of the concert.  All in all, 192 performers if my counting of the program was correct.

This was a particularly big event because the man in charge of  this joint awesomeness was (apparently famous) British conductor Sir Mark Elder.

Intensity.

Go ahead and make your jokes about “The Elder Wand” and his conducting baton or whatever.  I’ll wait.

Done?  Good.

Frankly, Sir Mark was not the best conductor I’ve ever had, but sure wins the title of most intense/scary conductor.  He walked in to the first rehearsal knowing every single wind player’s name, along with the principal strings.  This is terrifying, because if you mess up, Sir Mark can call out, “Dave, that part was important, why didn’t you enter correctly?”  This is much worse than, “2nd horn, you missed your cue.”  In addition to the scariness, at times Sir Mark demonstrated a lack of empathy towards the orchestra, having little patience for us if we miscounted rests or rehearsing us past our much-needed break times.  Despite this, he was extremely efficient, clear, and faithful to the works.  His constant insistence on quality rubbed off on us, producing a phenomenal final result.  I am of the opinion that a conductor can be patient, kind, understanding, and still possess an infectious passion.  Mr. Anthony Maiello, conductor of the 2009 Missouri All-State Band, was like this, as is current Jewell choral director Dr. Anthony Maglione.  I guess you have to be an Anthony/of Italian descent in order to do it right.

We played, as stated before, in King’s College Chapel.  Which looks like this, if you forgot:

We were seated in front of the organ, facing the camera (I did not take this though)

Big, luscious, and very reverberant.  We had an intense rehearsal schedule due to a combination of factors which led us to 17 hours of rehearsals in 6 days.  This was in addition to the couple of rehearsals before.  Combined with the concert itself, this little thing took up 20 hours of my week.  No wonder I didn’t get anything done.

The concert itself went fabulously.  I had a very pronounced solo in the Wagner and it went off without a hitch.  Fellow horn players Misha, Stephen, and Katie were fantastic.  I will remember this concert for the rest of my life. Here are links to the first part of both pieces so you can experience them if you wish:

Debussy (beautiful piece; French music from the Romantic period on is great)

Wagner (note that we did it without the stagings/costumes; we performed it is a concert piece)

Thank you for reading.





I Promise Something New Soon

31 01 2012

Readers,

Last week was fantastically hectic for me, and it still is (I am in the process of writing an essay right now).  However, I promise that I will give you a new post detailing both my most recent trip to London and last week’s concert, in addition to another LaMar’s List, by Friday.

However, I will leave you with a sneak peak of my endeavor’s.  Here is the review of our concert by the main University of Cambridge’s newspaper, Varsity:

 

“As you would imagine, with star Sir Mark Elder gracing King’s Chapel with his presence, this concert was packed. Conducting the Berlin Phil. and working with the Bayreuth Festival are just two of his many accomplishments. An extremely talented conductor, the audience were not disappointed by his interpretation of the works of these two composers.

Whilst not religious works, both Debussy’s cantata La Damoiselle Élue, and the third act from Wagner’s Parsifal use religious imagery, and so the grandiose setting of King’s Chapel could not have been more apt. One might think the pairing of these two composers unusual, given Debussy’s hatred of his fellow composer, and the vast differences in their compositional styles. However, the two carefully chosen pieces perfectly complemented each other to create an evening of breathtaking music-making.

The first thing the audience heard was the magical string opening which managed to be both still and warm at the same time, allowing Debussy’s colourful harmonies to shimmer throughout the chapel, and the female-voice choir matched this sound perfectly. Whilst I was impressed by both Joan Rodgers and Victoria Simmons, the two soloists, I must admit that there were moments where I thought that Simmonds’s vibrato became a little overbearing.

The Wagner began with an immediate intensity that grew to immense proportions with especially beautiful playing from the lower strings. Each of the three male characters, Parsifal, Gurnemanz and Amfortas were ably sung by Simon O’Neill, Robert Lloyd and Robert Hayward; each added an admirable depth of emotion to their characters that was easily perceivable despite the lack of the staging and movement that would be present had it been an actual staging of the opera.

The moment of the Knights’ entry was well executed, with the choir marching solemnly through the rude screen to take the stage whilst singing, as Amfortas ominously strode down the aisle. This was all to the accompaniment of truly awesome brass and immense bells that created real drama, eventually giving way to the magical, yearning ending in which a solo flute takes centre stage.

This talented orchestra was brought to even higher levels by the great Mark Elder; they sounded perfectly polished and professional, making the evening a great experience.” — Alice Rudge, Varsity

 

Well, back to Beethoven.  Adios, friends.





The Charles Incident

20 01 2012

This is the chronicle of what we now call The Charles Incident.  It was a major event in the lives of Charles, Chris, Michael, and myself.  Thanks to the Incident, we have accomplished the first 50% of college.  Contrary to popular belief, you do not actually need to do classwork to graduate.  You need two things:  a trip to the ER, and a road trip.  This accomplished the former.  The latter 50% was accomplished this past May on our roller-coaster riding road trip.

I’ll start this by saying that if you don’t like meat, then stop reading this.  Ok, that’s a lie.  Keep reading.  But if you don’t like meat you won’t get the full context of this.  Why would you not like meat anyway—you guys are weirdos.

There is a restaurant in the Gladstone area (suburb of KC) called Em Chamas.

Em Chamas is a Brazillian steakhouse, so they call it, but in reality is actually an entrance into heaven.  A heaven of meat.  During KC Restaurant Week (a week in which area restaurants give out good deals) during February 2010, Scott Bennett took us to this wonderful place.  Here’s what they do:  they bring you meat.  15 different cuts of the most wonderful steak, ham and chicken, I assume made by angels in the back.  The dudes come around with swords of meat saying “Would you grab for me please?” and then “You’re welcome.”  Well, only one guy.  Those were the two phrases he knew in English, we think.  But anyway, what he meant was for us to take our tongs and take the fresh, hot meat off of the slab as he was cutting it.  It was beautiful.

A selection of meats--ham, sausage, top sirloin, chicken, and a few others

Along with the meats, there is a fantastic salad bar with delicious mashed potatoes, cheese, salad, and various fruits/other things.  This combines to make a Mozart symphony in meat form, and the coda is decadent mango cheesecake.  We all went home on a meat high.  It is one of the most content moods of my entire life.

After round one of heaven, we couldn’t wait to go back.  Of course, this place is expensive, as unlimited meat of this quality dictates.  So, on Mothers’ Day, we went for round two, for an end of school night-of-deliciousness celebration.  Michael and I took Charles and Chris, who weren’t there the first time.  We had high expectations.

When we get there, we were seated, as we had a reservation.  Once we were seated, we partook in the great salad bar, and then proceeded to receive our meat.  It was wonderful for, oh, half an hour.  Charles even sent a picture of beef wrapped in bacon to his dad to taunt him.  Then, all of a sudden, Charles spit his meat out onto the plate.  Some more stuff kept coming.  Michael, Chris and I had no clue what to do.  I thought he was spitting out his water that he had just drunk, but it kept coming.  He played it unusually cool, excused himself, and went to the bathroom.  The rest of us just shrugged and kept eating.  What were we supposed to do?  It was expensive (and good) meat.  We kept thinking he would come back out and eat with us.

Where is he? At least we have meat...

We were wrong.  An hour and a half later, he was still in the bathroom.  Throwing up.  And…the other end too.  I believe the euphemism would be “releasing the wookies…vibrantly.”  Throughout his pain and discomfortcomfort the rest of us were still eating, hoping he would come back out.  Now, you can stop your self-righteous thoughts.  We were not jerks.  In that situation there is nothing, really, to do.  Delicious steak, or go in the bathroom with your extremely sick friend and be powerless to do anything?   Easy choice.

So, eventually Em Chamas closes.  This is 9:00 p.m., and we had been there since 7.  Charles is STILL in the bathroom.  Eventually I call my parents and was all like, “WHAT SHOULD I DO CHARLES IS DYING???” and stuff.  We decide the best thing to do was to get him to the hospital, if he was able to be moved without an eruption happening.  About 20 minutes after the place closed, we take him to the hospital on Barry Road, a short 10ish minutes drive.

By this point, Charles had managed to keep everything inside of him for a fair bit.  But he was not doing well.  He was shaking like we suddenly transported to the arctic, and almost puked in my car a few times.  But we (and by we I mean I) drove very quickly to the hospital, hoping someone could help him.  I cut someone off while merging onto the highway, speed a little, and apparently went the wrong direction into the hospital.  But I didn’t care.  I was transporting my friend to help.

The person who took this deserves a medal

MOVE OVER PEOPLE

We get to the hospital, and they ask Charles to explain his situation and sign a form or two.  This is a lot harder when you are shaking like your very own self-contained earthquake during a rave party.  The rest of us wait.  After a short while he is admitted into the ER and he kindly invites us to come back to the room with him.  Why he did this I’m not entirely sure, as by this point it’s looking like a botched attempt on his life and I personally don’t like people who try to murder me; I certainly wouldn’t invite the prime suspects into my hospital room.

They decide to give Charles an IV of fluids because he was extremely dehydrated.  He was at dangerously low levels, which is what happens when liquids come out of one’s body for a lengthy period of time.  Not knowing how long he would stay there, but determined to support our friend, Chris and I went to Liberty to get study materials while Charles slept, waking up randomly and then falling asleep again (as per Michael’s description).  Eventually, after becoming rehydrated, they required a urine sample.  Charles prepared to excuse himself to go to the bathroom when the nurse told him, “Oh, that’s not necessary” and then promptly pulled a toilet out of the cabinet.

I don't know about you, but this is pretty awesome.

Thankfully, Charles was devoid of nausea these past few hours, thankfully.  Eventually the health dudes in the ER said that Charles was clear to leave.  We were somewhat confused by this, as they had yet to figure out why the sickness had begun.  Clearly it wasn’t food poisoning—the rest of us ate the exact same cuts of meat and were fine.  Charles, feeling mostly in good health at this point, said he didn’t care.  So, after midnight, we went back to Jewell, stopping to acquire a prescription that had been given to Charles.

Thus, the story comes to a close.  In the car on the way back, Charles again reiterated how strange it was that he had not vomited any meat.  We posited that it went to ‘hammer space’, or the place available to all cartoon characters in which all sorts of random things are stored but take up no room.

At 1:30, I was going to bed in my room in the 4th floor.  I got a text message from Charles.  Wondering what could possibly have been said that hadn’t already been thought that night, I opened it.  It read it with disgust yet relief because it signified the finality of the ordeal; it said:

“The meat came up”





THE RETURN

19 01 2012

Hello, dear readers of my blog.  I have not posted in a while because I was enjoying my break in the U.S. of A.  But now, I am back to jolly old England and am in my room at the University of Cambridge.  In the coming days I will have post an old story about freshman year and possibly some of my newest trip to London (occurring Saturday).  In addition, I am adding another person to my blog links.  Cynthia, Spanish-studier and trumpeter extraordinaire has come to Spain.  Check her blog out.  Stay tuned, folks.  Or whatever you do on the internet.

Image

*I’m back guys!!!!*