Friday, February 25, 2011

Things That Are Awesome: NPR's First Listen

One of the great things about working for a performing arts company is that everyone, to a person, loves music.  And not just loves it, but has definite opinions about it, has their own preferences.  We're all reformed band and chorus nerds, vocal performance majors or conservatory graduates, who now work in arts administration.  Our executive assistant is an honest to goodness opera singer who also conducts her church gospel choir.  The production manager is a fan of classic rock, but has, since he began working here, been developing a deep appreciation for great classical music.  (A vocal recital by a famous mezzo-soprano last week utterly floored him.)  You're as likely to hear Strauss symphonies coming from the office of the director of classical programming as The Decemberists.

I spend my days alternating between Pandora, Grooveshark, and D.C.'s local classical station.  But recently, I've become obsessed with the music offerings on NPR's website, notably the Tiny Desk Concerts (best name ever) and First Listen. 

First Listen, for instance, is entirely responsible for my new obsession with Adele and her new album 21, which I listen to daily.  As I type this, I'm streaming the new album by a group called The Low Anthem, who I'd never heard of until this morning.  They played in DC last night and caused my Facebook feed to explode with rapturous posts. And, if you're a regular Tiny Desk Concert watcher/listener, you probably weren't at all surprised at jazz bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding's recent Best New Artist win at the Grammys. The music editors over there in the NPR music department clearly have their fingers on the pulse of music scene today--from soul to jazz to punk rock to classical. The program archives are brimming with amazing artists, some you've heard of, some you haven't yet but will soon.

So. Need to bring a little joy to your workday? Check out Tiny Desk Concerts and First Listen series.  There's something for everyone! 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Impulse buys

Picture it: it's late on a Saturday night, and two 20-something women are sitting at home, 900 miles away from each other, each peering anxiously at their respective computer screens and closely monitoring the text messages on their phones.

Some background: in perusing the theater and concert options for a possible trip to New York this spring, I stumbled across this.  I had heard that NPH was doing Company with the New York Philharmonic, but I had not yet seen the rest of the cast listing: Anika Noni Rose, Martha Plimpton, and... the amazing Patti LuPone.

I sent Ashley an email: "Ha ha, we should go to this! You're obsessed with Sondheim, I adore Neil Patrick Harris. Let's do it!" I was mostly kidding, as Ash lives in Missour-ah, and I live in D.C.  And really, who randomly buys concert tickets--to a nearly sold-out show in another part of the country--on a Saturday night with no advance planning?  That's just crazy talk.

Then I left to meet friends for dinner.  But little did I know, somewhere between the crusty bread and the tiramisu, Jason (Ash's husband) caught wind of my hairbrained idea, handed her a credit card, and said, "Go buy the tickets."  Because among Jason's many excellent qualities is that he is an enabler. 

But! Problem: what about Jules? Let's call Jules! No answer. Let's text Jules! No answer. Let's text Jules' HUSBAND, Michael, and have him tell her to call us.  Which is how, by 11pm East Coast time, we wound up staring at our computers, desperately hoping that the handful of remaining tickets remaining in our price category didn't disappear before we had a chance to buy them. Luckily, Jules got our frantic message and called, wondering why we were wigging out at nearly midnight on a weekend.

By midnight, we had the tickets and an inability to sleep due to the excitement. 

So. Yesterday I bought a pair of shoes I don't really need and ungodly expensive tickets to a show in New York. How was YOUR Saturday?