Dick Reichman's announcement that he was writing a new play about composer Anton Bruckner caught my attention earlier this year. Not only is Reichman a prolific playwright -- memorable plays include "The Big One" and "The Bells of Geneva" -- but he's a highly informed music enthusiast.
Bruckner (1824-1896), a country church organist in his youth, is known for the sprawling symphonies he wrote in later life. "Known" may be too strong a word. The symphonies, which can require a virtuoso brass section, are typically performed by only the largest orchestras and not that often.
He was ridiculed as a simpleton in his lifetime and used as an unwilling pawn in musical politics even after he was long gone. Keeping a whole audience in their seats until the last notes of one of his pieces remains a challenge for conductors. A lot of listeners wonder, after the first 30 minutes, whether anything is happening or not; pushing that point, a series of Cleveland Symphony concerts last year paired contemporary American John Adams with Bruckner, who was billed as "the first minimalist" (an assertion of considerable hyperbole, in my opinion). He could be the most recorded composer who never wrote a hit, meaning something that's percolated into popular culture like Brahms' "Lullaby," Beethoven's "Fur Elise" or the wedding marches of Wagner and Mendelssohn.
On the other hand, those of us in Bruckner's amen corner think he came as close as any mortal to conveying the sensation I would get should the Almighty Himself, on an otherwise uneventful morning, stride over the Chugach Mountains and through the Daily News parking lot in front of my office window.
As I understand it, Reichman addresses how a man dismissed by the world as an unlovable pushover of a peasant could create such ostensibly transcendental art. "Bruckner's Last Finale" appears to be the first theater piece about the composer. I can't even find a Bruckner documentary on the usual databases. The closest most of the public may have come to experiencing him is chunks of his music used in an old episode of the "Dr. Who" science fiction television franchise, "All About Eve" and a few other films.
The play opened at Cyrano's on Friday and continues at 3 p.m. Sundays and 7 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through Dec. 2. Reichman, who is currently performing in Perseverance Theatre's production of "Of Mice and Men," (which has its final Anchorage performance at 4 p.m. today) hasn't seen it yet. But he can read the penetrating, perspicacious and brilliant review now posted at adn.com/artsnob.
More good news for my fellow Brucknerds: The Anchorage Symphony will play Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 at its concert on Saturday, Nov. 10. That program will also feature the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with soloist Elmar Oliveira, the Tchaikovsky Competition gold medalist who collaborated in several stunning performances in the Autumn Classics chamber music series here in September.
DIY DIVA FROM DELTA
What I like about Ana White's new book, "The Handbuilt Home" (Potter Craft, $22.99), is the tips for woodworking boneheads like me.
"Paint can hide just about anything," she says. "Drill all pocket holes before beginning." "Clamp everything."
And this great piece of advice for life in general, "Take a break when you start making mistakes."
I've been building stuff out of wood all my life, but none of it is ready for a close-up; I can't cut a right angle with a mitre saw. On the other hand, White, a Delta Junction mom and housewife, not only has the knack for do-it-yourself projects but has parlayed them into a blog that gets millions of page views each month.
White, we've learned, got into project carpentry after she and her husband, Jason, built their house. That process accustomed her to power saws, hammers and squares. But when it was done -- or mostly done -- they were still sleeping on the floor.
She checked out catalogs and websites for affordable items. She wasn't always happy with the quality she saw and the cost of shipping to Alaska made her gasp.
So she started furnishing the home at her own workbench, starting with the bed.
White shared her plans and pointers online beginning in Oct., 2009. Within four month it had generated one million hits and turned into a "worldwide phenomenon" with readers sharing pictures of their own projects. Several are featured in the new book, which she's been promoting in places like Home Depots in the lower 48.
You might say Ana White has redefined what it means to be a "homemaker."
Back in Alaska, she'll have a talk and a book signing at Barnes and Noble, 200 East Northern Lights Blvd., starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10. Stop in and it may change your life. As soon as I read the book, I got the idea that talent, steady hands and a good eye had nothing to do with masterful woodworking. What one needs are the right tools. So I ran out and bought a speed square and a pocket hole jig.
I'm still trying to figure out how to use them.
'WILD COAST' RE-PREMIERES
More orchestral music is on tap. The Anchorage Civic Orchestra will perform on Nov. 16 at Sydney Laurence Theatre. The program will include Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 2, Haydn's Trumpet Concerto, with soloist Logan Bean, a member of the well-known Mat-Su Valley farming family, and "The Wild Coast" by the orchestra's new director, Philip Munger.
"The Wild Coast" is based on a recent trek/paddle by adventurous Alaskans from Washington State to the Alaska Peninsula. Ironically, Munger was busy rehearsing the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra for a separate concert when the Anchorage Youth Symphony debuted "The Wild Coast" in March, and thus missed the premiere.
The ACO is auditioning high school musicians for its solo competition. The winner will receive a $200 prize from The Music Man and get to perform at the orchestra's concert on March 29, 2013. The deadline for applications is Dec. 1 and auditions will take place on Dec. 8. Interested parties can get information at anchoragecivicorchestra.org or call 333-9034.
The orchestra is also looking for more string, woodwind and percussion players. If you have a hankering to perform symphonic literature with people from all walks of life who share your love of music call 248-8492 to make an appointment or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
'ALASKA COWBOY' GETS NATIONAL DISTRIBUTOR
Anchorage country musician Doug Briney, aka "Alaska Cowboy," has signed a worldwide digital distribution deal with Atlanta-based label, CBM Records. Briney's manager, Michael Stover, said the label will handle digital distribution and promotion of Briney's debut album, "It's All Country," which was originally distributed via CD Baby. You can still get physical copies of it there or at dougbriney.com
Briney was a 2012 Independent Country Music Association nominee for Most Promising New Artist and a 2013 Southern Star Network Indie Artist Of The Year nominee. He is also a pastor at the Cowboy Church Of Anchorage.
When "It's All Country" was first released in March, one of the singles, "More Than Just A Farm," reached the number 1 spot on the CMG Radio Network, an independent online music service, and got more than 25,000 Youtube plays. "It's All Country" has been in the Top 10 of the CMG chart for several months, while reaching #21 on the Roots Music Report and receiving more than 90,000 Youtube plays.
HUMANITIES FORUM MEMBERS ANNOUNCED
The Alaska Humanities Forum board of directors has elected a new executive committee to join its new CEO, Nina Kempple. Jonathon Lack, standing master with the Alaska Court System in Anchorage, was selected as the chairman. Other officers include Joan Braddock, director of the University of Alaska Press in Fairbanks; Ben Mohr, public affairs coordinator for the Pebble Partnership in Anchorage; Evan Rose, CEO of Alaska Permanent Capital Management in Anchorage; and Dave Kiffer, Mayor of Ketchikan. Mary K. Hughes, a member of the Univeristy of Alaska Board of Regents, will serve as past chair.
New members include Mike Chmielewski, COO at Radio Free Palmer; Pauline Morris, a teacher at Ket'acik Aap'alluk Memorial School in Kwethluk; and author Ernestine Hayes of Juneau.
Reach Mike Dunham at email@example.com or 257-4332.