Archive for April, 2010

Two Divas’ Piano Recital

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Piano diva IeSeul Yoen (R) with friends

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Two divas gave their final piano performance at Idyllwild Arts Academy yesterday evening, April 12, amongst a backdrop of a late snow. The cherry blossoms, lilacs and daffodils were in full bloom, and by day’s end, there was snow all over the ground.

Those students, faculty and friends who braved the cold and attended the senior recital were treated to a warm and entertaining evening showcasing the talents of Georgina Bertheau and IeSeul Yoen.

Bertheau, who appeared in a long, silky, sleeveless burgundy gown and strappy silver pumps, began her five-song lineup with “Prelude and Fugue in D Major,” from “The Well Tempered Klavier,” Book II, by Johan Sebastian Bach.

For those who know, “The Well Tempered Klavier” was created by Bach in two books of keyboard preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys, starting with C major, then C minor, then C-sharp major, and so on. The rising chromatic pattern continues until every key has been represented, finishing with a B-minor fugue.

This piece was a nice warm-up for Bertheau.

Her next piece, “Sonata in G Major, Op. 31, No. 1” by Ludwig von Beethoven, was moody, and intense and the dark sound filled the room. At times, it appeared that Bertheau was angry because she wore a serious expression on her face, as she worked her way through this complex piece.

“Piano Sonata No. 1” by Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera, is not so unusual a selection, giving the fact that Bertheau comes from Costa Rica and Ginastera is considered one of the most important Latin American classical composers.

Like the others, this song was moody and complex, but Bertheau played it with more vitality, showcasing her talents across the keyboard, as the audience enjoyed it.

By the time she returned for her fourth piece, “Etude in G-flat, Op. 25, No. 9,” “Butterfly” by Frederic Chopin, Bertheau had her long hair tied back in a ponytail and her cheeks and chest were flushed crimson. Early on in the piece, she showed real emotion in her face, as she presented this piece known for its staccato and macchiato alterations (resembling the erratic flight of a butterfly.)

Her final piece, “Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23,” also by Chopin, was a perfect ending to a senior recital.

After Bertheau took her final bows, her boyfriend, Connor Merritt, gave her a bouquet of red roses.

Like her name suggests, IeSeul Yoen is a native of Seoul, South Korea. She’s attended Idyllwild Arts for four years, and plans to go to the prestigious Manhattan School of Music in the fall.

Yoen wore a strapless, long black gown with a black jacket. Braided in her hair was a sparkling pin.

Just like Bertheau, Yoen began her recital with “Prelude and Fugue in F Minor,” from “The Well-Tempered Klavier. However, Yoen’s book was created by Bach in 1722, 22 years before the one played by Bertheau. At first, Yoen was concentrating with her head down, and her eyes closed.

By the time Yoen played her second selection, “Sonata in D Major, Op. 10, No. 3,” by Beethoven, she was relaxed and confident, leaning back on the bench as she played. It was an intense and long piece, but Yoen played it with a delicate touch tempered by dramatic pauses.

Afterwards, Doug Ashcraft, her piano teacher at Idyllwild Arts, who also heads the Music department, clapped the loudest and longest. Perhaps he knew of the challenges she faced along the way?

For her third piece, “Alternating Current, Second Movement,” by the American composer Kevin Puts, Yoen relied on sheet music, and the help of the other diva, Bertheau, as page turner, who had changed into a black, knee-length dress.

According to Puts’ web site, the title refers to the alternating meter and flowing nature of the piece.

“It’s a slow dance in which contrasts descending triads with Beethovian pedal points,” Puts said. “My aim was a sense of quiet nobility.”

As an accomplished pianist, Puts knew how to entertain an audience with this piece, and Yoen played it beautifully.

For her fourth and final piece of her high school year, Yoen played “Polonaise in F Sharp Minor, Op. 44,” by Chopin. It was a jazzy, showoff piece, that was dramatic from its introduction. At times, it went round and round, sounding like carousel music. Yoen allowed herself a few confident head turns and smiles throughout the piece, clearly enjoying it.

Afterwards, by the time, she returned for her second bow, everyone was on their feet, hooting and hollering in appreciation. Camille Liu ran up and gave Yoen a colorful bouquet of paper flowers created by her good friend, A-Tao Liu.

Although “diva” is generally attributed to a celebrated female singer, it is also given to women with outstanding musical talent. Such is the case of the two divas, Yoen and Bertheau, in their final performance at Idyllwild Arts. Brava!

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Marni Nixon’s Master Class

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Marni Nixon (4th from L) & Master Class students

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By Marcia E. Gawecki

She was the singing voice of Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady,” and Natalie Wood in “West Side Story,” and Deborah Kerr in both “The King and I” and “An Affair to Remember.” She sang Opera, performed on Broadway and won two Emmys along the way. At age 80, one would think that Marni Nixon would rest on her laurels and retire like many legends. However, recently, she performed with other Broadway singers at a “One Night Only” concert in Palm Springs, and then gave a two-hour Master Class at the Idyllwild Arts Academy (IA).

“We were so lucky to get her,” said Doug Ashcraft, head of the Music Department at Idyllwild Arts. “Darren (Schilling, PR) saw that she was appearing nearby, and e-mailed her to see if she’d do a Master Class for us.”

Ashcroft added that Nixon had hosted a Master Class at IA about six years ago.

“I love what I do,” Marni Nixon said when asked why she is still performing. “And I still have to set a good example for my grown children.”

Her son, Andrew Gold, followed Nixon into the music business. She said he is best known for creating the theme song for the TV sitcom, “The Golden Girls.” Her daughters, Martha Carr, became a psychologist and Melanie Gold is a massage therapist. All three live in LA, and Nixon planned on visiting them that weekend.

On April 9, Stephens Recital Hall was packed to capacity with students, faculty and even some Nixon fans who live in Idyllwild.

“I’ve been following you throughout your career,” one woman said later as Nixon was autographing her CD.

Each of the students took turns performing a song of their choosing (with special meaning to them). They included: Everett Ford, Samuel Chan, Preston Pounds, Ruby Day, Joey Jennings, Paulina Kurtz, Becca Goldberg, and Melissa Haygood

“I wasn’t as nervous as I am performing,” said Samuel Chan, a classical voice major, who performed “Loveliest of Trees.” “I knew that she was there to help me.”

For Chan, Nixon suggested that he enunciate his consonants more, and then visualize while he was singing.

“Try and visualize that tree,” Nixon suggested. “Is it old? Is there snow on the branches?” She also said to put emotion behind the discovery of the tree. “Imagine that your rooomate has just died, or something just as traumatic, then you go to the woods to get away, and you come upon this tree.”

Chan performed the song for Nixon again, visualizing the tree.

“I can see you smelling the branches,” Nixon exclaimed, as Chan blushed.

“Can you see the difference?” Nixon asked everyone in the audience and they clapped in response. She added that it was good for classical voice majors to take some acting classes to help them visualize, and for musical theater students to take classical voice for the discipline.

Everett Ford sang a song in German, and Nixon asked him to translate the first and second verses. He said that it was about death and passing away freely.

“Just because the song is sung in German, doesn’t mean you don’t have to enunciate,” she said. “Be Italian, without being ‘fake.’ It will feel strange at first, but then it’ll become more natural. We need to hear the distinction of the words.”

As he performed the song over again, Nixon announced that she was going to “poke” and “pry” at him. She prodded him to stand up straight, and came up behind him, and held onto his rib cage.

“That’s where your voice needs to come from,” she said.

With other students, she mentioned posture, confidence, and the Tai Chi way of  firmly planting your feet on the ground.

After Becca Goldberg sang, “I Never Knew His Name,” about a young girl who didn’t know her father, Nixon was complimentary in her delivery, but critical of her posture.

“This might sound a bit cruel, but the way you’re standing up here says, “Oh poor me, pity me,'” Nixon said. Immediately, she went over to Goldberg and straightened out her spine.

As Goldberg was singing it again, Nixon commanded her  to push against her with all her strength. “You need to get that strength and emotion into your song,” she said. Goldberg sang another song for Nixon, a sassier, jazzier one, and her posture greatly improved.

Throughout her critique, Nixon would always ask the title and composer of the songs. Most of the students didn’t know, and referred to their sheet music at the piano. When Joey Jennings announced his second song, “Bring Home My Youth,” by Oscar Levant and Edward Heyman, Nixon asked Jennings what he knew about them.

“These are famous people,” she said. “Oscar Levant was bitter and funny and honest about his putdowns of people. This is kind of his signature song.”

When Jennings finished the song, he wiped away tears and “flipped the bird.”

“That was a good exercise,” Nixon responded. “Now, next time, instead of being angry underneath, try another emotion.”

When Paulina Kurtz sang, “My Brother Lives in San Francisco,” Nixon said that she wasn’t familiar with it.

“It’s new, and never been performed on Broadway or anything,” Kurtz said. She explained that it was about a girl recollecting her gay brother who moved to San Francisco, and the effects of AIDS.

Afterwards, some of the students in the audience were brought to tears.

“Can you give me a copy of that song?” Nixon asked. “I’d like to share it with some of my students.”

Nixon answered questions from the audience

“These Master Classes are a great way for me to stay in touch with modern music,” Nixon said later.

“Just perfect,” Nixon told Melissa Heygood, the last one to perform.

“I don’t think I say it perfectly,” Melissa said later. “I think she was just a little tired.”

After the last performance, Nixon told a little bit about her career, and answered questions from the audience.

“What advice would you give to young people who are just starting their careers, knowing what you know now?” asked Ella Walker, a dance major.

“Have lots of money,” Nixon quipped, as everyone laughed. “You need to have a job at night like computer programming or something, because you need to be up and ready for auditions during the day.”

Others asked if she had travelled to Europe or Asia (because of her Suzuki teaching method) and what type of music genre she preferred.

Nixon talked about her youth, when she and her sisters would sing at local events to make money for their voice lessons.

“Sometimes the teachers would feel sorry for us and give us a break on their rates,” she said.

She said she began singing seriously, with regular performances, at age 10 or 11. Remarkably, at age 17, she performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

“She seems like one of those rare individuals who came out of the womb singing,” said Jessica Scales, a theater major, later.

“I wish we could have heard her sing,” added Andie Hubsch, another musical theater major. “But was nice just being in the presence of a legend.”

Afterwards, Nixon posed for pictures, signed autographs, and sold copies of her CDs and new book, “I Could Have Sung All Night.”

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Earthquake 114 Miles Away

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Ontario Airport didn't receive any damage

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After a series of large earthquakes had occurred around the world, namely Haiti and Chile, California experienced a 7.2 on Easter Sunday, April 4, without much incident. The epicenter was in Colexico, California about 114 miles from Idyllwild.

Twenty six Idyllwild Arts students were scheduled to arrive at Ontario Airport that day, with more expected at LAX and Palm Springs Airports.

When the earthquake hit at 2:40 p.m. at Ontario, people waiting on passengers noticed something unusual.

“Did you feel that?” those standing near the information booth said to strangers nearby. Everyone smiled and appeared to be relieved when the tremor stopped.

“My seat started shaking, and I could feel a rumbling on the floor, but thought it was just a plane taking off,” said a college student from LA who was waiting on her sister to arrive. “It seemed to go on for eternity.”

The actual tremor lasted for several seconds, but was longer than most earthquakes that are felt in the Idyllwild area.

“This one was different,” said JoAnn Johnson, who owns Manzanita Cabins in Idyllwild. “Normally, I hear a rumble down Pinecrest, then a ‘boom,’ and that’s it. But this one kept on going.”

She said that there was no damage to her business, and nothing fell from the shelves, but it was more intense than most earthquakes lately.

“If you were close to the epicenter, you wouldn’t be able to stand up,” said Jeffrey Taylor, who owns Green Cafe, an internet business in Idyllwild. On his web site,, Taylor has programmed information from U.S. government web sites that will automatically register any earthquakes and tsunamis from around the world. Immediately, the earthquake registered on his web site, along with 10 aftershocks in the days following.

“It’s as large as the Northridge earthquake,” Taylor said somberly. He was living in Los Angeles at the time, and had run outside to safety, only to be bit on the forearm by a strange dog. The large scar still is evident. Afterwards, he came to Idyllwild to relax, and realized that he could start an internet business here.

When the earthquake hit Sunday, Idyllwild Arts student Jacob Gershel’s plane was circling over Ontario Airport.

“They wouldn’t let us land right away,” Gershel said. “They had to see if there was any structural damage to the runway before they cleared us.”

Other Idyllwild Arts students who arrived later from Alaska around 5 p.m. missed the excitement.

Others, like Rosario Flores from the Idyllwild Arts Finance Department, didn’t have a happy Easter.

“The earthquake was close to the Mexico border,” she said, of her family that still lives there. By Wednesday, April 7, they still didn’t have electricity or water.

For more information on the Colexico earthquake and its aftershocks, visit


Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Guerilla Art May Help Save Trees

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Trees in Idyllwild need our protection against motorists

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Guerilla art is unexpected, usually anonymous and sometimes illegal in its application. For instance, every year before St. Patrick’s Day, a gigantic green shamrock appears on the street in front of an Irish pub in Omaha. Coincidence or guerilla art?

It’s not legal to paint the streets with shamrocks on March 17th or any other day.

“But it’s fun and gets people celebrating,” said the owner, who swears she doesn’t know where the shamrock came from.

However, those guerilla artists had to spray paint the shamrock on a busy street late at night (when there was no traffic around), and hope that the cops didn’t show up. They also had to make sure that the green paint dried in time. Because if it smeared, it would be a mess, and not a shamrock.

Idyllwild Arts student Jacob G. remembers guerilla art appearing on a tree in his hometown in Alaska.

“One morning, in the middle of our town park, a wire was wrapped all the way up and around a large tree,” Jacob said. “Attached to the wire were hundreds of paper clips that glistened in the sun. And, at the bottom of the tree, there was a single poem attached to one clip.”

Soon, hundreds of poems appeared on that old tree, and it was a moving and beautiful sight, he said.

He thought the tree poem originator was a teenage girl at school.

“We all said that we were going over to the tree and add our poems,” Jacob said. “And she refused to go with us. I think hers was already up there.”

Guerilla red reflector appears on tree

That got me thinking about certain trees in Idyllwild, namely one large one on Tollgate Road. It appears close to the road, and at the base of the trunk, there’s a large section of bark that has been stripped away.

More than likely, cars have been hitting that tree. Either people can’t see very well because they’re old, inexperienced in mountain driving, or have imbibed in too much alcohol. Either way, the tree is getting the worst of it.

Yesterday, a blue dot was spray painted on the trunk at the base. Guerilla art? Nope. It’s likely Cal Trans has marked this tree for chopping. How is this possible? It’s a tall, healthy tree that could be 100 years old. It doesn’t deserve to die because of poor drivers.

It might be too little too late, but I put a red reflector on the tree next to the blue dot. I should have added the red reflector months ago. It costs about $2.50 at Forest Lumber, and the nails were already in my toolbox. So I put my mark on that tree too. Now, we can only hope those who drive too close to that tree will see the reflector and veer off.

Edison marks their poles well

Notice that Edison and other municipals mark their poles well—with red, blue and yellow dots, and even reflecting bands. They certainly don’t want anyone driving into their poles. And many of them are close to the road.

As homeowners and conservationists, we can learn from Edison and their reflector caution. No one should be running into our trees in Idyllwild– if there are red reflectors on them.

On another tree on Tollgate Road, someone had put three red reflectors. They were not put in a straight line, but are there to lovingly to save that tree. However, two more trees down the road are not as lucky. They have bark stripped away because cars couldn’t make the turn. Red reflectors are desperately needed there.

Three red reflectors protect this tree

Ralph Hoetcher on South Circle Drive has a large tree on his property that is also close to the road. He put a sign with three yellow reflectors in front of it, and no bark has been stripped away.

All around town are trees that have been damaged by cars bumping or running into them. Their bark has been stripped away, leaving the tree exposed to parasites and inclimate weather. These trees need our help. If Cal Trans deems them a nuisance for most drivers, then there will be one less tree in Idyllwild to give us shade and shelter.

Guerilla or not, I challenge you to buy some red reflectors and place them on these trees in jeopardy, especially if they’re on your property. After all, a tree stump is a sorry sight to behold.