There was a rarely heard instrument on display at the November 10 concert of The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey during its opening season’s presentation. That instrument is called a cimbasso, which was basically an extension of the trombone. It was probably invented in the 19th century at the behest of Giuseppe Verdi.
Maestro Butts told the audience that no one else in the hall, either on stage or in the audience, had ever seen a cimbasso. Playing the instrument at the concert was Larry Zaidan, of Nanuet, NY, who runs a music school there. He reports that he has been a life-long player of the tuba, an instrument he loves.
If you have seen or heard a cimbasso, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org about your experience. Deadline for entries is Saturday, December 14.
The first five people to respond to this offering will receive two FREE tickets to the January 12 Wassail Concert, titled Mozart’s World, beginning at 3 p.m. at Grace Church, 4 Madison Avenue, Madison.
Bob added the following comments:
For those who weren't aware, we had a player play on an instrument called the cimbasso. It's a contrabass-trombone invented sometime in the early 19th century and used extensively and exclusively by Italian composers and discarded sometime around 1900. Even the Met uses a tuba now when performing Verdi and other operas that call for it, even though Verdi wrote for it quite a bit. Larry recently purchased one just for concerts such as ours and so played his tuba for the Wagner and actually played a cimbasso for the Verdi. Below is a photo of him with the cimbasso - a major treat at the concert. Not one person I know of that was at the concert (on stage or in the audience) had ever actually seen/heard a cimbasso before!
And this is what it looks like:
An hour of musical theater selections, composed by Robert W. Butts, founder and artistic director of The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey, will be featured at MACA DAY (Madison Area Council on the Arts) when the Orchestra performs from 12:30-1:30 p.m., on Friday, November 29, at Poor Herbie’s, Waverly Place, Madison.
Dr. Butts will play the piano and Emily Thompson-Schweer and Brian Jamieson will be the vocalists. Among the selections to be featured, all composed by Maestro Butts, are A Night in the Wilde, Wild West; Mark Twain and the General; and Gesualdo.
The day after Thanksgiving, commonly known as Black Friday, is the day when many area residents begin their holiday shopping. BONJ suggests you shop locally and then stop by Poor Herbie’s to be entertained by these charming, historical and provocative selections, composed by Dr. Butts.
Dr. Robert W. Butts, conductor and artistic director of The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey, has been selected to participate in a special panel discussing Shakespeare and Music as part of a symposium sponsored by the Greater New York Chapter of The American Musicological Society at noon, Saturday, October 26, at the Metropolitan Opera Guild Education Center, Lincoln Center.
Maestro Butts has participated in other sessions of the Society, most recently last winter when the topic was Verdi’s Otello. The Maestro, who is well known for his lectures and classes on many aspects of opera, conducted Otello in August as part of the Orchestra’s annual Summer Music Festival. The opera was presented in conjunction with the newly-formed Eastern Opera Company of New Jersey.
For the second year in a row, Dr. Butts has been named a finalist for opera conducting in competition sponsored by The American Prize. He received the award for his conducting of The Magic Flute, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Last year, he received the award for his conducting of Don Giovanni, also by Mozart.
This year marks the bicentennial of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner. The Orchestra’s opening concert on Sunday, November 10, at Dolan Hall, College of Saint Elizabeth, will feature arias and works by these two composers. An international opera performer, Boiko Zvetanov of the Zurich Opera, along with several other vocalists, will be the headliners at the concert.
For the second year in a row, Dr. Robert W. Butts, conductor and artistic director of The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey, has been named a finalist for opera conducting in competition sponsored by The American Prize.
Dr. Butts received the award this year for his conducting of The Magic Flute, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Last year, he received the award for his conducting of Don Giovanni, also by Mozart.
“I am thrilled to be a winner, in American Prize competition, with The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey, for the second year in a row. I have recently added conducting operas to my repertoire and it is a medium that I love. It is a compelling art form, for sure, but it gives me a chance to combine so many of my creative energies—conducting an Orchestra, working with singers, making exciting things happen.
“I hope to be able to conduct many more operas in the future, especially since we have collaborated with The Eastern Opera Company of New Jersey, founded recently by an energetic and creative impresario, Karole Lewis, of Warren.”
Maestro Butts is the only conductor nominated twice for opera conducting—for his performances of Donizetti’s magical L’Elisir d’amore and Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Sheila Abrams, writing in njartsmaven.com of the 2012 BONJ Music Festival performance of Mozart’s masterpiece, said: “I’ve seen other versions including one at the Metropolitan Opera. But none of these versions were as much fun as this one. Kudos, BONJ!”
In addition, he was a finalist in competition offered by the Prize in 2011 for orchestral conducting and he won a special citation for educational work, also in 2011.
A popular and frequent lecturer and educator, Dr. Butts has a loyal following in the Greater New Jersey area, including Drew University, Basking Ridge Lifelong Learning, Montclair State University and College of Saint Elizabeth.
Dr. Butts, with BONJ, is the only conductor to have conducted performances of three Wagner and three Handel operas, in addition to those of Mozart, Scarlatti and Pergolesi. He edited and orchestrated Monteverdi’s Poppea in 2010 and Scarlatti’s La Guiditta in 2008 from newly-discovered manuscripts, found in the national archives in Morristown.
Scenes from the BONJ production of Mozart's The Magic Flute, Robert W. Butts, Conductor
PERFORMING AT NJIT
The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey, since its inception in 1996 under the baton of Maestro Robert W. Butts, has been delighting and thrilling music audiences throughout the Greater New York-New Jersey area, in traditional and non-traditional venues.
The traditional venues have been in halls such as Dolan Hall, College of Saint Elizabeth, Morristown, and Grace Church, Madison, as well as earlier in its history at Darress Theater in Boonton.
For the past several years, however, according to Dr. Butts, “We are moving to wherever people are who want to hear beautiful, unusual and outstanding classical music.”
These venues include street fairs, such as well-established events—Morristown Green, Summit Arts Festival, Bottle Hill Day, and the fast-approaching Madison Arts & Culture Alliance (MACA) Holiday Festival the day after Thanksgiving. Recently, Dr. Butts and a trio composed of Orchestra members provided entertainment for the 25th anniversary celebration of The Art League of the Chathams. Dr. Butts said the MACA program will most likely include “compositions from my musical theater works, such as Mark Twain and the General, The Wild, Wilde West, and Gesualdo."
The Orchestra has a long history of “giving back to the community,” most notably in its appearances at area nursing homes and senior living units, such as Heath Village in Hackettstown and at Franciscan Oaks in Denville.
One of its most dramatic and exciting moments “out of place” came last winter with the presentation of Dr. Butt’s original composition, Mark Twain and the General, written with esteemed New Jersey playwright Jewel Seehaus-Fisher, at NJIT in Newark. A full house of 400 students in the Sigma Xi Honors program, along with many faculty members, was enthralled by this event. The Orchestra is slated to present a similar program at NJIT in February.
The Orchestra is currently the Orchestra in Residence for the Eastern Opera Company of New Jersey. The initial production for the newly-formed company was Madama Butterfly, by Giacomo Puccini, followed by Otello, by Giuseppe Verdi, presented in Bound Brook as well as at the Orchestra’s Summer Music Festival in August. Maestro Butts and the Orchestra are now into rehearsals for Die Fledermaus, by Johann Strauss, II which is scheduled for presentation next month in Bound Brook.
by Anne Plaut
Keely Schmerber, 17, of Tranquility, New Jersey, has been awarded the 2013 Cynthia Platt Scholarship, presented by The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey. The purpose of the award established last year in memory of Cynthia Platt, an area musician, is to further a student’s music education. This year’s award carried a $1,500 stipend. Keely studies piano with Paul Zeigler, an acclaimed pianist and composer, who maintains his studio in Madison.
“It was an honor and a privilege to receive this award from The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey,” said Keely. “The Orchestra is terrific and I am grateful to have this.”
The presentation to Keely was made by Jo Ann Bates, President, and Lisa Young, Esq., Vice President, of the Orchestra, in Mr. Zeigler’s Madison studio.
Although Keely has been studying with Mr. Zeigler for the past six years, she began piano studies at the age of three. She has been encouraged in her musical journey by her parents who, although not classical performers, were dancers. Her maternal grandfather is a jazz musician and has performed with some of that genre’s greats. Music was always present in her home in some form or other.
Mr. Zeigler, Keely’s teacher, was effusive in his praise of this young woman’s musical abilities, commenting: “Keely is the most natural musician I have ever encountered. She is intuitive and feels the music intensely.”
Recollecting how they first met, Mr. Zeigler said it was in Princeton as he was participating in a piano four-hand performance. After hearing him play, young Keely, age seven, approached him and asked him if he would like to hear her play a selection. When he assented, she approached a nearby Steinway and playing standing up, presented a performance that impressed him with her “absolutely flawless pitch. Her ear was and is unbelievable. She could give a simple phrase a mature understanding that was incredible.” The selection she played for him was Minuet 2 from Johann Sebastian’s Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, his second wife.
Keely, who was home schooled for most of her primary and early secondary years, is now attending Sussex County Community College where she is pursuing her high school degree while she is working for an associate’s degree. As an accomplished artist, success, in the form of prestigious awards and acceptance in outstanding musical programs, has been bestowed upon her from an early age.
For the past two summers, she won Merit Scholarships for the International Summer Academy at the renowned Jacob School of Music at Indiana University, Bloomington. Describing her time there as “an incredible experience,” it also whetted her desire to study there when she begins her collegiate career. Other institutions she is considering include the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York; the Mannes School of Music, New York, New York; and the University of Michigan.
Lest this talented, ambitious and accomplished young woman sound as if all she does is play the piano, she said she loves boogey boarding, travel, (she has visited 35 of the 50 states in the country), amusement parks and crazy rides. In addition, she and her mother, Diane, are known for the formal tea parties they give.
“Many of today’s young artists are technically accomplished. What is outstanding about Keely is that she is artistically expressive and I expect she will go very far,” said her proud teacher.
As if to emphasize that point, Keely sat at the Steinway piano in Mr. Zeigler’s studio, and played a selection by her favorite composer, Chopin’s Ballade #3, A flat major, for the small group at the presentation. It was gorgeous and left the audience enthralled.
Dr. Robert W. Butts, artistic director and conductor of the Orchestra, said Cynthia Platt was a valued friend and musician. She was an active member of the Somerset Hills Chapter of the American Recorder Society and an eager supporter of concerts in New Jersey, New York and elsewhere that promoted music as a vital part of everyone’s life.
We can’t all attend a Hollywood premiere or walk the Red Carpet. However, many area residents were able to simulate that feeling with the magnificent premiere of Piano Concerto, by the composer and pianist himself, Paul Zeigler, of Madison, this past Sunday afternoon, May 5.
The Concerto was the highlight of a concert presented to a full house by The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey, under the direction of Dr. Robert W. Butts, conductor and founder. The composition, which Mr. Zeigler said had been in formation since 1994, combined many exciting elements of the classical musical periods, as well as many from the modern era, including jazz. At the May, 2012 Concert, Mr. Zeigler premiered with the full Orchestra, George Gershwin’s beloved, Rhapsody in Blue.
Not that Mr. Zeigler is a copycat, but one could detect influences from Gershwin in Zeigler’s composition.
In a dinner/reception Gala, after the concert, also at Dolan Hall, Maestro Butts and Mr. Zeigler discussed the genesis of the composition. “I love melodies you can sing,” Mr. Zeigler commented. “I adore movies and greatly admire composers such as John Williams.” The Zeigler Piano Concerto is jazzily tuneful, yes, but it is also rhythmic in a dynamic modern style. The effect was overwhelming for the Orchestra and the audience alike.
In his comments, Maestro Butts said the composition is written in fast tempo times and beats and is one of the most challenging selections he has ever conducted. Dr. Butts indicated he had great trepidation during the early preparation period when he first studied Zeigler’s Concerto, but the passionate and exuberant outcome was a joy for the Maestro, the Orchestra and the audience.
The Piano Concerto was played with full Orchestra at the acoustically exceptional Dolan Hall at the College of Saint Elizabeth, and the Steinway piano used in the performance emitted a great clarity of tones and the rapidly-developing rhythms which enchanted this listener. There is no substitute for the exuberant perfection of this Zeigler Concerto, and it should reach an audience far and wide especially when performed by Mr. Zeigler with The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey.
Dr. Robert W. Butts, founder and music director of The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey, is keeping a mind-boggling pace of activities both within and outside his role as the Baroque Orchestra’s dynamic conductor.
In January, he was selected as one of five participants in an unusual musical event sponsored by the Atlanta Opera Company. He, along with four other contestants, was asked to compose a ten-minute original opera in 24 hours. Dr. Butts said this of the segment he composed: “My opera, written with librettist Ellen Frankel, was inspired by the Triangle Shirt Factory fire in 1911 in New York, which inspired me to start with some bluesy/jazz/ragtime-like sounds. The entire event was very exciting, particularly working with Ellen and such a talented group of musicians and support staff from the Atlanta Opera Company.”
His opera, entitled “The Triangle,” is based on the events of the Triangle Shirt Factory fire in 1911 in New York City. In that fire, hundreds of young immigrant women, mostly Jewish and Italian, were killed as they were trapped in the upper floors of a factory that had locked doors and no fire code regulations.
In addition to his conducting and artistic responsibilities, Dr. Butts has become known for his opera composing. One of his works, Mark Twain and the General, was premiered with a full orchestra at the Jim Wise Theatre of New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark early in February. The NJIT concert was presented as part of that institution’s Technology and Society Forum. The opera, with libretto by New Jersey playwright Jewel Seehaus-Fisher of Highland Park, had its premiere last August at the Orchestra’s annual Summer Music Festival. It was also performed recently at the Stockton (NJ) Opera Company.
Also in February, the energetic and creative musicologist presented a paper entitled “Rigoletto and Otello: The Anguish and Tragedy in the Self-Belief in Being Different.” at the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s Learning Center in New York City, under the auspices of the American Musicological Society. He also participated in a panel discussion on opera education.
Dr. Butts is Music Director for the New Jersey Concert Opera. He has also served as Music Director of Opera at Florham. In 2011, he received a special citation from The American Prize for excellence in music education, enrichment and outreach and received recognition from that organization for excellence in opera conducting. The Baroque Orchestra was named one of the top three U.S. community orchestras, also in 2011.