Frisbee in Wuhan

Getting 28 children and their 70 suitcases through and across the streets of Beijing on foot past very persistent beggars and then through security was quite an adventure today.  However, the bullet train from Beijing was worth the effort and energy.  The ride was smooth as silk and the train traveled at 305 kilometers and hour.  It was a great way to travel and see the countryside wiz by.  Unfortunately, when the train made it’s stop in Wuhan a voice came on and announced (in Chinese) that the train could not continue due to a flooded tunnel.  While we waited for a bus to take us the next 6 hours to Changsha, I took most of the boys out to play frisbee in front of the terminal.  We had a lot of fun throwing the frisbee around for a couple hours until the bus arrived.

 

 

My return to China

Ellie Lin at the Piano
My son, Max was a member of the Texas Boys choir for five years. His time with the TBC unlocked a world of musical artistry that very few people may ever know. I am deeply indebted to his directors, Mr. Bryan Priddy and Ms. Ellie Lin for teaching him to strive for an extremely high level of musicianship. Along the way he also learned a great deal about being a part of a community of musicians. These years are more precious to him than almost any other experience and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. It has shaped him into who he is.

On a couple of occasions during his time with the TBC, I was able to come and play piano for the ensemble which offered me a front row seat to observe how this very special ensemble operates. This also allowed me to become very close to both Mr. Priddy and Ms. Lin.

Max and his friends on a break.
A year ago, when his voice began to change, his time with the TBC concluded with an amazing tour to Germany. It is a huge understatement to say that this ending and transition into a different singing ensemble was an emotionally difficult one for the entire family. When Max aged out it also seemed that my time with the TBC had also come to a close.

Max and I were very sad to hear of Mr. Priddy’s resignation shortly after spring break this year. His hard work and dedication to the TBC provided countless memories for Max and his departure would surely be a huge blow to the boys.  Ellie stepped in to fill his shoes in the directors position which left the seat at the piano vacant for their upcoming month long tour to 16 venues in China.

When Ms. Lin contacted me and asked if I’d be available to join her, it was incredibly bittersweet for me. Of course the opportunity to tour China with a world class ensemble and with a musician of her caliber was a once in a lifetime chance and a huge honor for me. However, to go without Max is heartbreaking to say the least. However, Max was incredibly supportive as was my wife, Mary.  They encouraged me to say yes and find a way to make this happen. 

Although my duties as a high school choir director are minimal in July, I still have 4 services to sing and play for at First United Methodist church each Sunday as well as a summer musical to music direct at Brookhaven College in Dallas. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to sneak away from these commitments, but both institutions were overwhelmingly supportive in my seizing this opportunity to travel. Peggy Graff and Robert Stovall at the church were able to find pianists to cover for me there and wished me well on my journey. As for the summer musical – I was lucky enough to have a great friend and musical soulmate willing to take on the enormous task of playing and musical directing the show for me. I told director, Darise Error that my friend Debbie Pesnell and I share a musical brain and I truly believe she would do an amazing job picking up where I left off. It was a true act of faith and good will on her part to allow me to make this arrangement.

With all these loose ends tied up, I was finally able to say yes and sign on for this unforgettable opportunity to perform all over China.

I am incredibly excited and can not wait to see what unfolds.

Lord of the Rings Concert in Dallas

This past weekend my high school choir, North Side choir performed the entire film score to the Lord of the Rings for 6000 fans at Fair Park in Dallas.  Three performances and over 16 hours of rehearsal with a guest conductor from New York and a full orchestra paid off.  Every night the audience gave the choir a standing ovation as they shouted and cheered for the musicians on stage.  The choir would like to thank principal Martinez for his support with this event.  Ms. Cooper, Ms. Carr and Ms. Aradondo were equally helpful pushing through paper work and setting up snacks for the trip.

Chaperons Mr. and Mrs. Six, Mr. Short, Mrs. Martinez, Mrs. Jain and Mr. Manzanarez, Ms. Gibbons, Mr.Poulson and Miss Pina made the trips to Dallas both fun and safe.

This was an incredible experience for the choir and we celebrate their success on stage in front of so many thousand people.  Go North Side Choir!!!

 

Middle Schooler’s go to College

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Members of college and middle school choirs stand together as Dr. Bierschenk talks about dynamics. — with Jayme Vaughn, Emily Maples Davis and Jerry Bierschenk at Texas Wesleyan Martin Hall.

Today, Texas Wesleyan’s Music department welcomed 37 middle school students from J. P. Elder. Our choirs and bands exchanged performances and then joined together to sing and play together. It was easily one of my favorite days this year. My kids were very inspired and are talking about ‘when they go to Wesleyan’. It could not have been a more positive experience. — at Texas Wesleyan Martin Hall.

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College student and middle school student play side by side in a combined band at Texas Wesleyan.

 

 

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The J.P.Elder choir gathered around the fountain after lunch.
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Mr. Abrego leads the Elder band through a warm up onstage in Texas Wesleyan Martin Hall

 

Light and Joy in Anna

20120506-004217.jpgTonight I played the last of three performances of Jason Robert Brown’s Parade in Anna, Texas. This is the fourth production of Parade I have played for and I always enjoy playing the show.

The first time I did this show it was a professional production at WaterTower theatre. That production was a lot of fun for all the wrong reasons, but that’s another story. One evening I was handed a note at intermission that a patron wanted to speak with me about possibly playing this show for her high school.

I, of course, went to find her after the show and that is when I met Janie Breor. She was the theatre instructor at Anna High School and she had a gaggle of her students with her to see our production. She told me she was working on Parade with her kids in Anna and she asked me if I would come and play for them.

Anna is 45 minutes from WaterTower, but more importantly it’s 90 minutes from my house. However, Janie was persistent and persuasive and I went and played the show in the Anna HS cafetorium (or auditoria).

They did an admirable job for pretty meager facilities and the kids were some of the sweetest high schoolers I think I’ve ever met.

That was six years ago and Janie asked me to come back out to play their second production of Parade this year. I graduate next week and Anna is still 90 minutes away, but how could I say no?

And I’m so glad I agreed to play…

When I arrived the first evening, a delegation of students was waiting outside prepared to carry all of my equipment into the theatre. They were just as courteous as they had been six years ago. Except this time they were housed in a brand new high school theatre which is really an incredible space and a stark contrast to the auditoria they used to perform from.

It was a pleasure to work with this new cast and several students really knocked it out. Perhaps the most touching memory I have came in the form of the Thank You card they all signed for me. There were tons of sweet compliments and thoughts, but one just knocked me over. It simply said, “You bring light and joy to the play.” – Liam

I can not think of a higher compliment. Thank you, Liam and Ms. Breor and all of the Anna HS theatre. You should be very proud of what you’ve accomplished and please know that you all made me feel so incredibly welcome that it was actually sad to drive away tonight.

There’s something very special going on in Anna, Tx. I hope you all know that.

Thanks again!
-Hans

Once in a lifetime Concert experience

IMG_2613(I’m posting this one out of sequence because I’m too excited about what just happened)

As we pulled into Guiyang’s Grand Theatre, “Jackie”, our guide, told us his mother would be watching tonight’s concert on television.  This was of course the first we had heard of this and were pretty excited.  We all entered the performance facility and went to a large dressing room in the basement to warm-up.  Dr.  Bierschenk put us throught our paces and reminded us to use our brains (which we needed).  IMG_2615 Stitch
Then he took a brief moment to show us how deeply this experience was touching him and that shot of enthusiasm and praise was something we took straight onto the concert stage.  We shared the stage with a brass quintet, a string chamber orchestra and the chorus from the College of Arts at Guizhou University.

The audience was filled with university students and many other citizens as well as members of our delegation.  The level of energy and trust on each piece was more than I am used to with this group.  It’s a solid group, but often a little tentative.  However, there was no holding back tonight, we sang very well and confidently and seemed to b

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e well received by the audience.

It was my very special honor to conduct a piece called Water Night on this concert.  Dr. Bierschenk was gracious enough not only to allow me this amazing opportunity, but also allowed me to walk out after the choir and take a bow before beginning.  The amount of honor this was for me surpasses my ability to capture the experience.  However, I felt so supported by the members of the choir that there was no nervousness about the conducting.  It was a deeply moving experience and one that would be impossible to forget.

We continued the concert and came to the end and that’s when the Guizhou chorus members all came out with a gift for each of us.  They gave us a gift that is a combination of several Chinese customs.  The top is an example of elaborate Chinese knotting and below that is supported 3 necklaces typical of the Chinese Miao minority which is native to the Guizhou province.  Dangling from these three necklaces are a hundred or so little metal fish.

Each of their chorus members presented each of us with one of these inscribed with the words, “Guiyang– Fort Worth Youth”.  Then they proceeded to sing a piece written to the tune of Dvorak‘s 9th symphony.  Dr. Bierschenk conducted them as they sang the first time and we were to join them the second time.  As the Chinese chorus sang this beautiful hymn like tune with the words, “Goin Home” I completely lost my composure.  There was something so moving about the beauty of the piece sung by people who live half way around the world from me.  All the generosity and warmth that has been shown to us on this trip piled on top of the emotions of this moment and made it nearly impossible to sing with them.  IMG_2623

It was a completely overwhelming experience of emotion met with wild applause anIMG_2620d a standing ovation.  It was a complete success and a beautiful and touching moment for many of us in the choir.  Fort Worth city councilman Dennis Shingleton stopped us all as we were about to exit the concert hall to share a heartfelt and sincere thanks for representing the city so well.  It was completely obvious that the emotions many of experienced on stage were successfully transmitted to the audience, because Mr. Shingleton was visibly moved by the experience.  His thanks meant a great deal to us all.

Afterward, as we exited the concert hall we were met again by cheering faces of the audience as well as the choir, wishing us well and thanking us for our performance.   Dr. Biershenk shared his approval with our performance as we drove back to the hotel.  When we got out, every member of our delegation had formed a tunnel of applause and cheering for us to pass through on our way to the hotel.  AGAIN – this meant the world to each of us.  I’m sure they would have wanted to go up to their rooms, but they took the time to make us feel extremely special.

This whole trip we have been treated like absolute royalty and have been showered with gifts, affection and respect.  I don’t know that we deserve the treatment, but it has touched each one of us so very deeply that Guiyang feels like a part of us.  It will be so very difficult to say goodbye to our hosts here after tomorrow.

There are too many people to name, but YoYo, Livia, Jackie, and Erik from Guiyang have been a huge part of making us feel so welcome.  we will never forget the warmth shown by them and so many other of the Guiyang people.

Tonight was a great example of how of the power of music to unite cultures.  Dvorak’s piece with the words “Goin Home” will forever be tied to this evening for me.  What more beautiful experience could we have ever hoped for?IMG_2625

Thank you, Guiyang

xiexie ‘谢谢’

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UNT Show Promo

The University of North Texas Department of Theatre and Dance profiled me in a YouTube video this week which shows video from the band rehearsal featuring Kurt Shafer on Reeds, Sam Walker on Guitar, Peggy Honea on bass and the infamous Wes Griffin on drums.

Christmas in August

Last summer I was asked to direct a large children’s chorus as well as an adult chorus singing a track on a Holiday CD produced by DFW Actors Give Back.  The CD was a fund raiser for Jonathan’s Place, a “home-style” emergency shelter for abused, abandoned and neglected children and a Foster & Adoptive Family Program located in Dallas.

It was a pleasure and honor to work with so many talented adults and children from around the DFW area on such a worth cause.

Here’s a video interview with me and several of the other talent from the project…

1st Prize in the Sigma Alpha Iota American Music Scholarship Competition

I was hugely honored to hear today that I took first place in the Sigma Alpha Iota American Music Scholarship Competition held today.  The Fort Worth Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota (International Music Fraternity) will feature me along with second place winner Austin Snow on their 57th Annual American Music Concert  on February 18, 2012 at 3:00 pm at Arlington Heights United Methodist Church, 4200 Camp Bowie Boulevard.

I am more comfortable behind a piano so this is a really huge surprise and honor for me.  I am very much looking forward to the concert.