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It’s August, the month in which the reality of the new season calls for significant mental adjustments for many of us working at Powell Hall. The pace shifts. I begin to type faster. Next thing you know Shannon Wood will be starting off Brahms’ Piano No. 1 with that dramatic timpani part, the strings will shiver beneath, and Yefim Bronfman will muscle his way in on the solo piano. So it will begin.

Cellist Bjorn Ranheim took a moment during his summer days to send me his thoughts about opening weekend:

“Robertson/Bronfman is always a formidable pair and this program is going to be a barn burner! Anytime one can hear Yefim Bronfman perform Brahms is a treat. He has the power and musical insight to bring out all of the nuances from this great piano concerto. Plus, Erin Schreiber plays The Lark Ascending, ¬†one of the most hauntingly beautiful violin solo pieces around!”

Erin Schreiber plays Vaughan Williams' "The Lark Ascending" on Opening Weekend.
Erin Schreiber plays Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending” on Opening Weekend.

Thanks for the late-summer inspiration, Bjorn. The theme at Powell for August: Get ready.


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The baseball genius Branch Rickey used to say that you can learn a lot about baseball by just watching one position throughout a game. Watch the third basemen through nine innings, for example, and you see subtle changes in positioning, in timing the pitcher’s release, in decoying a runner, in the placement of the glove, etc.

Shannon Wood, Principal Timpani
Shannon Wood, Principal Timpani

I think much the same can be said for watching a symphony orchestra. Wednesday morning I spent a lot of time watching Principal Timpani Shannon Wood, who will be featured in the video blog this week. During rehearsal of Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, I saw a lot about preparation, of positioning of feet, body and hands, active listening, and periods of rest that were keenly attentive. His playing was a flurry of drum strokes that made me think of Muhammad Ali combinations.