Hello and thanks for reading. I’m Scott Chamberlain, a resident of the fair city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Welcome to my blog. It came about primarily because I was commenting extensively on the labor dispute involving the musicians and management of the Minnesota Orchestra—long-standing professional and personal ties to the organization have led me to follow the situation closely. Over time I’ll try to reprint some of my commentaries here to give them a more public airing, but I’ll try to keep current with my posts and comment on developments as they unfold.
Although that’s the genesis of the blog, I like to comfort myself by believing I have other things to say. So a bit of background. For most of my life I’ve balanced two more or less equal passions: a deep fascination with the past and a love of music (mostly, but not entirely, of the classical kind). I’ve alternated between these two passions in terms of study, employment and recreation since my days as a very wee lad.
On the “past” side of the equation, I’ve been an ethnohistorian working on the pre-conquest cultures of Mexico and a traditional historian specializing in Central American urban and cultural history. (I’ve been known to do people’s astrological “chart” in the Aztec manner. It’s a great party trick.) Along the way, I’ve lived or spent much time in Spain, Costa Rica and Mexico.
On the “music” side of the equation, I’ve been an active classical singer (currently with the Minnesota Chorale), and an arts administrator with the Minnesota Chorale, Minnesota Orchestra, and One Voice Mixed Chorus. I’ve performed several operas, although my true calling as a performer is choral works.
The blog name and cover shot are a fusion of these two trends. It’s named for Xochipilli, the Aztec patron god of music and the arts, and specifically for his public visage that hides his inscrutable true nature beneath. The illustration comes from the Codex Becker, a pre-Colombian Mixtec manuscript, and shows an ancient Mexican orchestra composed of flutes, whistles, trumpets and various percussion.
One hundred years ago today, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, guns across Europe fell silent—an armistice had finally ended the Great War. Germany, Austria, France and England agreed to stop the killing, which had become untenable for all the great countries of Europe. In the aftermath, everyone began the difficult work of taking stock of what happened… and how much had changed.
Here in the United States, World War I doesn’t have the same resonance of World War II—the US only became involved toward the end of the conflict, and American soil had not come under direct attack. But on the other side of the pond, the war was an epochal event. Horrific casualties seemed to have wiped out an entire generation. Venerable cities lay in ruins. Several empires collapsed, and even those that survived intact were swept by profound social changes.
Many classical composers fought in the war, and their works were instrumental in describing the horrors of the war, reminding us what was lost, and facilitating the process by which the world sought to understand what happened and move on from the calamity.
In light of Armistice Day, I’d like to share a classical playlist highlighting composers who fought in the war, died in the war, and struggled to explain it to their audiences.
Halloween is once again here… and to celebrate, I wanted to put forth another playlist of appropriate classical music. In years past, I’ve presented classical playlists of music depicting vampires, works based on the writings of Edgar Allen Poe, or even a collection of horror operas.
This year, let me feature one of the most archetypal images of Halloween: the witch.
Witches have long been depicted in classical music, and they continue to fascinate composers today. Sometimes these powerful women spark terror, but in other times witches inspire sympathy, or even admiration.
I look somewhere around a billion photos during my stay in South Africa—let me share a collection of my 10 favorite nature shots. Enjoy! * * * [For my complete list of blogposts and articles following the Minnesota Orchestra/Minnesota Chorale … Continue reading →
Hi all, after a whirlwind of incredible tour performances, I’m getting ready to head out on Safari (it’s currently a bleary-eyed 6:30 AM local time). So blogging is on hold for a wee bit. But in the meantime, may I direct you to MinnPost to read my story on how the Minnesota Orchestra / Minnesota Chorale engagement activities are having a profound effect on folks here… as well as us? Read the story here.
First, apologies for not writing on my blog since arriving in South Africa. The reasons are both complicated and quite simple… it’s been an endless succession of crazy, wonderful days crammed full of events and activities that change, re-change, and re-re-change more than once per day. But in the end, the biggest reason for not writing has been my determination to… well, actually experience my experiences, and do to so fully and unabashedly, without detaching from them in order to chronicle them.
Back in 2015 when I traveled with the Minnesota Orchestra on its historic tour to Cuba, many readers expressed an interest in me putting together a Cuban-related reading list. I was happy to do so—having taught Latin American history for many years, it was easy to update the reading list I used to inflict on my students.
Some have wondered if I’m putting together a similar list for South Africa, as a set up for the tour to South Africa. I was hesitant to do so… South African history is not a particular area of expertise. In fact, since learning I’m going on this tour (both as a performer and a member of the media), I’ve been working overtime to dive into the country’s history, culture, politics and natural history. But this gave me an idea for a new post—sharing some recommendations from the South African reading list I essentially assigned to myself.
I don’t pretend the following list is comprehensive, exhaustive, or the final word on South Africa… but it does provide a list of books I found particularly interesting and/or useful, and came highly recommended to me.