About Scott Chamberlain

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.

South Africa: Magic in Soweto

My recap of our electric concert in Soweto is up over at MinnPost. Click here to read why this concert was so remarkable.

For me, this was one of the most important performances of my life, and to my mind encapsulates the spirit this remarkable tour.

[For my complete list of blogposts and articles following the Minnesota Orchestra/Minnesota Chorale on their historic South Africa tour, click here.]

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South Africa Update: A True Exchange

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.

More soon!

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South Africa Update: Or, We Have to Go On After… THAT?!?

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.

But, let me give you a quick peek behind the curtain. Continue reading

South Africa: A Reading List

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.

If the Minnesota Orchestra/Minnesota Chorale tour has captured your attention, and sparked an interest in learning more about South Africa, read on!  Continue reading

Preparing for South Africa: This Is Why We Sing

It was one of those Moments…the kind of moments you are lucky to have every once in a rare while, in a career as a performing musician.

Funny enough, it came not at a performance, but at a rehearsal this week. And really, it didn’t involve me at all… I was just there to witness someone else’s Musical Moment.  No matter—it was a rare gift, and one that will stay with me a long, long time. Continue reading

Vive la France! A Classical Playlist for Bastille Day

Vive le France!

Today is Bastille Day for our good friends in France, and I thought I’d celebrate here on my blog with a collection of great French works.  But upon further reflection, I thought I’d take slightly different approach.  It is, of course, easy to assemble a collection of French favorites: slap together some Debussy and Ravel, throw in a dash of Berlioz, and tack on Fauré’s Requiem for good measure.  But ultimately I decided to focus the list more, and provide 10 of my favorite music that celebrates Paris itself—works that seek to depict its boulevards, cafés, architecture, its people… or simply life in the City of Lights.

Please note that I’ve deliberately sidestepped opera here, although Puccini’s La bohème, Verdi’s La traviata, and Massenet’s Manon certainly fit the bill!

Enjoy!

Continue reading