Press inquiries should be directed to Valerie Szkodny, media relations: firstname.lastname@example.org or 973.339.7719 x.4
Star Ledger, 10.27.12
To quote the French organist and composer Charles-Marie Widor, “To play the organ properly, one should have a vision of eternity.” Widor died in 1937, so he was spared the transformation of the pipe organ in the public imagination from majestic spiritual consort to a shortcut for creepiness.
Despite its centuries-long association with church, the pipe organ’s pop cultural holy day is now Halloween. English concert organist Anthony Hammond will accompany the 1925 Lon Chaney version of “Phantom of the Opera” at the Central Presbyterian Church in Montclair tomorrow at 6 p.m., and Brian Harlow, organist for St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Gladstone, will perform “atmospheric” pieces, including Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D-Minor, in the “Organ Spooktacular,” part of the Music in the Somerset Hills series, at 4 p.m. tomorrow.
Those thunderous opening notes of the Toccata will immediately conjure Chaney’s gruesome visage, although it wasn’t until the 1962 version by Britain’s Hammer Films that the piece became defined as a horror trope.
The D-Minor Toccata was a bold, youthful experiment, believed to have been composed by Bach when he was no older than 17, says George B. Stauffer, the dean of Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts and a past president of American Bach Society. “It was over the top in his day, and it remains over the top in ours.”
But many Bach scholars argue about the authorship of the piece. Jonathan B. Hall, music director of the Central Presbyterian Church, believes the Toccata is not the early work of a great composer, but the mature work of a very good composer, Cornelius Heinrich Dretzel (1697-1775) of Nuremberg.
“It’s a piece built on simple and dramatic and arresting gestures,” Hall says, but in all of Bach’s work, the composer never repeats an opening gesture so fully as in the Toccata. Dretzel, Hall says, was “very much willing to repeat himself over and over and over again.”
Hall will play part of the Toccata in a free, kid-oriented organ concert at 3 p.m. tomorrow in the church’s organ loft. “I always feel I have to quote a little bit of it just for Halloween’s sake,” he says.
The Toccata makes effective use of chromaticism, or dissonant harmonies, Stauffer says. “One longs for the resolution of those harmonies, and Bach plays on that in the piece to create this feeling of unrest in the listener that must be resolved in a forceful way.”
There is also an orchestral version popularized in Walt Disney’s “Fantasia,” but the organ gives it special propulsion, Stauffer says. The large organ pipes produce those extremely low, window-rattling sounds, while the small pipes create irritating sounds — again, dissonance.
In addition to Hammer’s “Phantom,” the Toccata also has been used in the 1934 horror film “The Black Cat” (the first to pair Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff); Disney’s 1954 sci fi film “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (Captain Nemo plays it on the Nautilus organ); and over the opening credits to the 1975 dystopian thriller “Rollerball.” “Boardwalk Empire” featured the opening notes after sharpshooter Richard Harrow kills a gangster for pal Jimmy Darmody.
“There’s a traditional view of Bach as a pious Lutheran organist and musical director, but his pieces are saying something quite else,” Stauffer says. “It works in all these contexts, which is what makes him such a marvelous universal composer.”
Tickets to the “Organ Spooktacular” are $10 for students, $15 for seniors and $20 for adults, and are available at musicSH.org or at the door. St. Luke’s is at 182 Main St., Gladstone. Call (973) 339-7719 for more information.
Bernardsville News 11.18.11
BERNARDSVILLE – Liesl Odenweller has performed in some pretty impressive venues around the world.
The former Bernardsville resident, a professional opera singer who has lived in Venice, Italy, for the past 13 years, has appeared at Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall in New York City as well as the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, where she has performed five operas, and the Auditorium di Milano and the Teatro Piccolo, both in Milan.
Now the Bernards High School graduate can add the school’s Performing Arts Center (PAC) to that list.
Odenweller will take the stage there at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, to headline “Home to the Hills,” a gala concert that will jointly benefit PACParents, a local theater support group, and Music in the Somerset Hills, an organization overseen by Stephen Sands, director of choral music at Bernards High, that provides cultural enrichment to the community.
“I was thrilled (to be asked to perform),” said Odenweller, adding that she was “sort of surprised and flattered” when she realized she was to be the concert’s headliner.
The timing also couldn’t have been better. “It just worked out” scheduling-wise, she noted, because she is headed to Santa Fe, N.M., next month to perform.
Odenweller will be joined on a couple of numbers by classmate J. August Hoppe, a tenor whom she sang with in high school.
Also performing will be fellow alumni Leslie Parker, Samantha Ferrara and Meghan Glynn, the high school’s orchestra, jazz band and Madrigal Ensemble as well as the Somerset Hills Community Chorus and the Antioch Chamber Ensemble, which includes Sands, his wife, alumna Kristin Zdepski Sands, and Josh Copeland, musical director at the Bedminster School.
In fact, Odenweller’s appearance – and the idea for the concert itself – was inspired by a 2009 article in the Out and About section of The Bernardsville News in which Odenweller expressed a desire to perform in the PAC, a state-of-the-art auditorium that opened in 2007, according to Cathy Ferrara, president of the PACParents.
For Odenweller, music, particularly singing, has always been a part of life.
“I don’t ever remember not singing,” she said.
She sang in her church choir before she could read either words or music, learning the music by ear and memorizing lyrics as she went along.
Even then, her vocal talent was apparent.
“I remember people commenting on my voice, saying it’s a voice that should be trained,” Odenweller said.
Thanks to her parents, Bob and Jane Odenweller, whom she described as “huge classical music and opera fans,” she discovered what would become a lifelong passion for opera music at a very young age.
“I got sort of caught up in opera when I was 5 or 6 years old,” she said. “I remember Dad bringing home Wagner’s ‘Ring’ cycle.”
She would sit with her father, an airline pilot, in their home on Bermuda and listen to “stories of mythical gods and goddesses and heroes,” she said
“I remember sitting with my dad (who speaks German) and he explaining in little detail what was going on in the operas. I was really hooked.”
Except for a brief period when she thought she wanted to be a ballet dancer, Odenweller said she knew she always wanted to be an opera singer.
At 8, Odenweller moved to Bernardsville with her family and attended Bedwell Elementary, Bernardsville Middle and Bernards High schools.
She also attended St. Bernard’s Episcopal Church on Claremont Avenue, where she sang her first solo at age 14.
“I was so nervous,” she recalled. “I was surprised I squeaked out any of the notes.”
In high school, Odenweller was involved in anything having to do with singing, including the concert choir, Madrigals and school plays – no matter whether they were dramas, comedies or musicals.
She especially remembered drama instructors Dick Everhart, whom she kept up with until his death in 1990, and Dolores Dellisanti, with whom she still keeps in touch.
Odenweller graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. – “I wanted a proper liberal arts education and they had a very strong music and arts program” – but at the same time she also studied at the Hartt School, a comprehensive performing arts conservatory at the University of Hartford.
In preparation for singing opera, she also kept up with her languages, having taken Latin, French and Italian in high school.
“At Trinity, I took at least one semester each year of Italian as well as some German and French,” she said.
She said she can recognize right away if someone can actually understand what they are singing or if they are just parroting memorized words.
“(I can tell) by their inflection – how connected they are to what they are singing,” she said.
Odenweller set off for Italy right after college to study with a famous voice teacher there.
“He wasn’t the right teacher for me,” she said. “I came back to New York and sort of had to relearn a lot, start from scratch.”
It was then that she met Valerie Sorel, a teacher “who really changed my life” and with whom she has studied for the last 15 years, Odenweller said.
“She’s in New York (City), which was a problem before technology,” Odenweller said. “If I experienced a little glitch I had to figure out a reason to come back (to the United States). Now I book lessons with her on Skype.”
She returned to Europe because it was easier to get work there, she said, noting that her first professional engagement as an opera singer was in Rome.
“I got a lot of work and did well there,” she said, adding that she also traveled to Germany, Austria and Switzerland to perform.
A soprano, Odenweller has quite a range.
“I can hit G below middle C and can hit a high F sharp and vocalize a whole step above that,” she said.
Her operatic roles have included Cleopatra in Handel’s “Giulio Cesare,” Queen of the Night in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” and Violetta in Verdi’s “La Traviata.”
There are no favorites, though, she said.
“I really love everything I sing,” she said.
Besides opera, Odenweller performs concert oratorias and symphonic music.
“It’s quite something, really overwhelming to sing with a full orchestra,” she said.
For the past three years, she also has sung with Baroque ensembles MusicaVenezia and Baroccanalia.
Odenweller has been married for the past 15 years to Frank O’Halloran, a Scranton, Pa., native who works as a freelance communications consultant. They met, naturally, in a theater in Rome, during a dress rehearsal for a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Princess Ida.” He was in the audience, she was on the stage.
The couple has an 8-year-old daughter, Anna.
Tickets for “Home to the Hills” are $10 for students and senior citizens and $15 for adults.
To purchase in advance, contact Cathy Ferrara at (908) 766-5738, or email email@example.com. Tickets also will be sold at the door the night of the event.
Bernardsville News 11.11.11
BERNARDSVILLE – Liesl Odenweller, a Bernards High School graduate now living in Italy and singing opera around the world, will be returning to Bernardsville this month to participate in a special benefit concert.
“Home To The Hills,’’ a joint fund-raiser by the PACParents and Music in the Somerset Hills, will be presented at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at the Bernards High School (BHS) Performing Arts Center (PAC) in Bernardsville.
It will feature Odenweller, a native of Bernardsville, The Antioch Chamber Ensemble featuring Stephen Sands, the BHS choral music director, Josh Copeland, the Bedminster Elementary School music director, the BHS Madrigal Ensemble, the Somerset Hills Community Chorus and more distinguished alumni.
Drawing from professional artists who have called the Somerset Hills their home, the concert will take residents through the ages of opera, jazz, choral and theater, including a dramatic performance by BHS students.
For more information on Odenweller’s career visit www.lieslodenweller.com.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and senior citizens. For tickets, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with “Home to the Hills Tickets” in the subject line. Tickets will also be available at the door. For more information visitwww.PACParents.org. All the proceeds from this event will be shared equally between PACParents, the theater boosters in the Somerset Hills School District, and Music in the Somerset Hills, both to benefit the students in the regional school district and the cultural enrichment of the community.
Music in the Somerset Hills Announces 2011-2012 Season of
Concerts and Educational Opportunities
Gladstone, NJ – Building upon the success of its inaugural season last year, Music in the Somerset Hills will launch its second season with a brand new series of Community Concerts for all ages at venues throughout the area. Beginning on October 30 with a concert of cello and organ music at St. John on the Mountain in Bernardsville, the series will feature some of the New York Metropolitan Area’s finest professional vocalists, instrumentalists and ensembles, including The Antioch Chamber Ensemble, Solid Brass, soprano Jolle Greenleaf, and Allegiance Jazz Septet, to name just a few. Tickets for each performance may be purchased at the door for $15, and in some cases, for a modest suggested donation. A full list of series concerts may be found on the organization’s website, www.MusicSH.org, where interested parties may also request a season brochure or contact series directors Stephen Sands, Brian Harlow and Peter DiCarlo.
This year also marks the second season of The Somerset Hills Community Chorus, formed under the auspices of Music in the Somerset Hills to give less-experienced singers the opportunity to make music with seasoned professionals in a supportive and encouraging environment. The Chorus presented its well-received first concert, featuring the music of Bach and Vivaldi, on May 1, 2011 at Peapack Reformed Church. It can next be seen performing in the gala Home to the Hills benefit on November 19. The Chorus will also present Handel’s opera Semele with guest soloists on May 5, 2012 at the Somerset Hills Performing Arts Center.
Music in the Somerset Hills is also pleased to announce the commencement of its Community Concert Band, under the direction of Peter DiCarlo and Fred Trumpy. The Concert Band is open to amateur instrumentalists aged 14 years and older with an intermediate level of performing experience and sight-reading ability. Rehearsals are anticipated to begin in January, 2012, and continue until the Band’s inaugural concert on March 18.
Music in the Somerset Hills is committed to supporting a high level of music education within the community, particularly as these opportunities become scarcer in the public schools. The organization will continue to offer summer vocal and instrumental camps for emerging musicians in grades 3-12, and maintains a network of highly-qualified private music instructors in the area.
Overseen by Artistic Director Stephen Sands, a resident of Gladstone and a professional musician and music educator in the Somerset Hills School District for over 12 years, Music in the Somerset Hills was established to provide residents of the Somerset Hills and the surrounding region with an unparalleled variety of opportunities to hear, perform and learn about the world’s great classical music. The organization is committed to an exceptional level of historically-informed and masterful performance, as well as to expanding the scope and variety of performance opportunities for professional and amateur musicians who live and work in the Somerset Hills, and creating opportunities for all people to pursue excellent musical training and find fellowship with other music enthusiasts.
Support for the 2011-2012 season of Music in the Somerset Hills is provided, in part, by Millington Savings Bank. More information about Music in the Somerset Hills, the Somerset Hills Community Chorus and the Somerset Hills Community Concert Band may be found at the organization’s website: www.MusicSH.org, as well as on its Facebook page.
Music in the Somerset Hills Presents Inaugural Concert on May 1
Gladstone, NJ – The Somerset Hills Community Chorus and Orchestra will present its inaugural concert at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 1, 2011 at Peapack Reformed Church in Gladstone. The program will feature the Gloria of Antonio Vivaldi, as well as Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantata number 9, Es ist das Heil uns kommen her, under the direction of principal conductor Stephen Sands with professional soloists Elizabeth Baber, Luthien Brackett, Jeremiah Goldovitz, Tim Hodges, Matthew Knickman, Brian Neff and Kristin Sands. The Chorus will be joined by members of the acclaimed Bernards High School Madrigal Ensemble. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased in advance from chorus members or at the door on the evening of the concert.
The Chorus was established in March under the auspices of Music in the Somerset Hills, an organization established to provide cultural enrichment for the residents of New Jersey’s Somerset Hills and the surrounding region through superlative performances of classical masterworks. As part of its ongoing mission to provide amateur musicians with opportunities for fellowship, continued exploration and growth, MSH gives less-experienced musicians the opportunity to make music with seasoned professionals in a supportive and encouraging environment. In addition to the Somerset Hills Community Chorus, the organization is establishing a community band, as well as vocal and instrumental summer camps. In the coming year, MSH is also launching a community concert series that will bring world-class professional vocalists, instrumentalists and ensembles to a variety of different venues throughout the Somerset Hills.
Music in the Somerset Hills is overseen by its Artistic Director and principal conductor Stephen Sands, a resident of Gladstone and a professional musician and music educator in the Somerset Hills School District for over 12 years. He is currently the Director of Choral Music at Bernards High School in Bernardsville.
More information about Music in the Somerset Hills and all of its artistic and education programs may be found at the organization’s website: www.MusicSH.org.