Mid-Peninsula Recorder Orchestra Newsletter



Grace and Liz ‘Tis the season...as we gather together...in hopes that PEACE will soon be here...bearing gifts...our peripatetic wanderer once again brings joy to the world wrapped in the form of another fine review.

Thank you Keith. And to all: FELIZ NAVIDAD!

Grace and Liz (Co-Presidents)

Music and the Brain

Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist and cognitive psychologist at McGill University in Canada, is working to learn why we all inherently know music. His research has led to a popular new book entitled This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession (Dutton). In the book’s Introduction he writes, “This is the story of how brains and music coevolved, what music can teach us about the brain, what the brain can teach us about music, and what both can teach us about ourselves.”

Levitin points out that one of the problems with research into how the brain processes music is that it hasn’t dealt with real music, particularly with the way people experience it. In his earliest experiments, he tested musical memory not by playing little experimental tunes, but by stopping people in the street and asking them to sing a favorite hit song, which they did with surprising accuracy. They know the melody and got things like tempo and pitch right—even though few would have been able to define those concepts. Thus, they demonstrated what may be Levitin’s most intriguing theory—that music, like language is innate. We are all born experts, but we don’t know it!

Using MRI to image the brain, Levitin has shown that what we hear is directly linked to the amygdala, the place in the brain that is “the heart of emotional processing.” He seeks to find the genetic underpinnings of musicality, and he now believes that there may be a cluster of genes that influences both musicality and outgoingness. This is Your Brain on Music demystifies music without denying its inherent infinite mystery. The author’s stated purpose is to bridge the “widening gap between those who love music (and love to talk about it) and those who are discovering new things about how it works.”

Levitin is not only an academician but also an accomplished musician. What makes This Is Your Brain on Music such a compelling read is that it is peppered with some of his extraordinary personal musical encounters: in one chapter he is discussing “the evolutionary basis for emotions” with Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA’s structure, whereas in the next chapter he and Joni Mitchell are analyzing the unique way she tunes her guitar for songs like “Chelsea Morning.” For Levitin, who has carved out a “wildly interdisciplinary” career, everything is connected—and everything connects.

The book has become a best seller and been named a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Science and Technology by providing both scientific and emotional reasons for why music means so much to us—why, among other complex things, it makes us feel good!

(Excerpted from J. Yanofsky, Stanford Magazine, May/June 2007, p. 70-71.)

Keith A. Kvenvolden


Dear members of the Mid-Peninsula Recorder Orchestra,

I want to thank the members of the orchestra for all of the time and effort they put into working on the music for the holiday concert on December 8. This was a long and demanding program, and everyone rose to the challenge. Please keep up the good work.

And now, here are some of the highlights for the second half of the orchestra's 2007-2008 season: On, Saturday, January 12, Patrick O’Malley will be directing a workshop for MPRO entitled, “Tour de France.” For further information about this workshop please see the registration announcement which appear in this issue of Upbeat. The spring concert, scheduled for May 31, will feature a collaboration involving MPRO and the California State University, East Bay Singers directed by Dr. Buddy James in a performance of the complete Missa Ego flos campi composed for two antiphonal choirs by the 17th-century Spanish composer, Juan Gutierrez de Padilla (c.1590-1664). This Mass was written in Puebla, Mexico during the mid-1600s and exhibits the exuberance and lively rhythms characteristic of Spanish music during this period. The orchestration will call for the orchestra’s full instrumental resources: recorders from sopranino to contrabass, krummhorns, viola da gamba, dulcien and organ. Following MPRO’s afternoon concert the orchestra will repeat the Missa Ego flos campi that evening at the California State University, East Bay Hayward Hills campus. I hope all of you will be able to take advantage of this unique opportunity to perform a truly remarkable example of late-renaissance/early-baroque music from the Americas. Other music for the spring concert will include two choral works by Tchaikovsky arranged for recorders, a highly expressive villancico by the 16th-century Spanish composer, Juan Vasquéz, and a 15th-century Polish motet honoring St. Stanislaus. The orchestra will also be doing encore performances of the Schmelzer Sonata con arie as well as the klezmer melody, Dos Pintele Yid, arranged for recorders

Listed below is the music for the orchestra's first three meetings of the new year. Please note that krummhorns as well as great bass and contrabass recorders will be needed at all three meetings, viola da gamba will be needed on January 9 and February 13 and dulcien will be needed on January 30.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008 MPRO Rehearsal
Tchaikovsky: The Crown of Roses
Pastor grigis egregius
Dos Pintele Yid
Padilla: Missa Ego flos campi, Kyrie
Wednesday, January 30 MPRO Rehearsal
Schmelzer: Sonata con arie
Vasquéz: Ojos morenos
Tchaikovsky: The Angels’ Hymn
Padilla: Missa Ego flos campi, Gloria
Wednesday, February 13 MPRO Rehearsal
Pastor grigis egregius
Vasquéz: Ojos morenos
Padilla: Missa Ego flos campi, Credo, Sanctus

I look forward to seeing you at these upcoming meetings and working on this wonderful music with you. Please let any of your friends who play early instruments know about the orchestra's varied activities and invite them to attend an MPRO meeting, workshop or concert.

Fred Palmer

MPRO Holiday Concert Great Success!

On Saturday, December 8th, MPRO performed its annual Holiday Concert before a large crowd at the Grace Lutheran Church in Palo Alto. The concert opened impressively with Jeffrey Bellamy playing the timpani in a Sonata by Johann Schmelzer. Nicholas Vigil played the oboe in a performance of the Adagio from Tomaso Albinoni’s Oboe Concerto Op.9, No.2. Several members of MPRO performed in small ensembles playing pieces by Byrd, Brade, and Telemann.

A DVD of the concert may be obtained for $5 by contacting Mary Ashley (650-494-1829 or meashley@pacbell.net). Public Access Channel 30 (Palo Alto – Menlo Park) will be broadcasting the concert on December 25th , 8 to 9 PM. (For other broadcasts see www.communitymediacenter.net)

We are already looking forward to our spring concert, on May 31st, when we will be performing with the California State University East Bay Singers.

Remember January 12th!

Just a reminder of an exciting Tour de France workshop being directed by Patrick O'Malley on January 12th. See the enclosed flyer for more information and to register.

Two Early Music Concerts in San Jose

Let’s encourage early music artists to perform in the South Bay area by attending their concerts.

Flauti Dolce & Amici, recorders & mixed ensembles
Sunday, February 17, 2008, 3:00 PM

This winter concert brings together some of the Bay’s Area’s most skilled and talented amateur and pre-professional groups – recorder consorts and mixed ensembles performing music from the Renaissance and Baroque eras, as well as recent compositions.

Clea Galhano, Judith Linsenberg, recorders & Katherine Heater, harpsichord
Sunday, Marach 30, 2008 3:00 PM

Spring is Baroque! Clea Galhano is a renowned soloist who brings the fire of her native Brazil to performances. Judith Linsenberg, director of Musica Pacifica baroque ensemble, has been hailed for her “virtuosity,” “expressivity,” and “fearless playing.” Katherine Heater trained at Oberlin (Ohio) and Sweelinck (Amsterdam) Conservatories, and has performed internationally.

All concerts are held at the Foothill Presbyterian Church at 5301 McKee Road in San Jose. Wheelchair accessible. Suggested donation for all concerts is $10 per person. For further information email FoothillPC@gmail.com or call 408-258-8133.

Miscellaneous Quotes

"Music, of all the arts, has the greatest influence over the passions, and the legislator ought to give it the greatest encouragement."


"Is Wagner a human being at all? Is he not rather a disease?"


"When Jack Benny plays the violin, it sounds as if the strings are still in the cat."

Fred Allen

"All music is folk music. I ain't never heard a horse sing a song.”

Louis Armstrong