Wednesday 30 December 2009

Venezuela, December 2009

I arrived in Venezuela at around 3am on November 30, and the next day was at work rehearsing as an accompanist for the Coral Infantil Empresas Polar (Children's Choir of Polar Companies.) During December, there were a bunch of performances at Polar, which is the main distributor for beer and soft drinks in Venezuela. Polar supports the arts wholeheartedly, particularly choral groups from around Venezuela. This was the 18th year of the Festival Coral.

The performances went well, and I was able to hear a lot of music performed by different choral groups who came from all over Venezuela. They performed mostly Venezuelan Christmas music, which is called aguinaldos. The music is infused with rhythm, melody and joy.

In between all of the choral concerts I wound up playing with a wedding band. I had no idea what I would be playing and totally flew by the seat of my pants. I haven't done a gig like this in a while. I enjoyed it very much, and was able to experience a lot of Venezuelan wedding traditions, such as the "crazy hour." This happens late into the festivities when stilt walkers, dancers, clowns, etc come out onto the dance floor and all pandemonium breaks loose.

We were up very early the next morning as there was a choral performance at a shrine out in the country. We drove about two hours in a bus with all of the children. We arrived at a small village called Betania, which I had never heard of. We were there a bit early so I was able to look around. There were a lot of messages of thanks along all of the rock walls surrounding the outdoor chapel. Some people also left photos, id cards, flowers, candles, hair (!) etc. I soon started to realize that this was no ordinary shrine, as more and more people were showing up with huge bouquets and cradling statues of the saints of all sizes. The mass was soon underway, and the kids performed a few songs. Then we were back on the bus to Caracas. (We broke down on the way back, but it was still fun!) Here are some pics from the shrine:
Our Lady of Betania
When I had some down time I looked into Betania and learned that it was one of only four sites in the world where apparitions of the Virgin Mary have been officially approved by the Catholic Church in the 20th Century. People from all over the world travel to Betania hoping to catch a glimpse of the Virgin. All of this started with a woman by the name of Maria Esperanza.

My research led me to this outstanding video, which is narrated by none other than Fantasy Island's Ricardo Montalbán!!!

A few days after Christmas I ran into a decoration of Santa Claus playing an accordion at a travel agency. After I left, I stumbled upon the graffiti in the photos below right around the corner. A lot of the graffiti in Caracas is beautifully rendered. This one is my absolute favourite. I mean how often do you encounter a Santa Claus playing accordion followed by an incredible work of graffiti featuring a dazed monkey and another old man playing accordion??? Venezuela! I love you!

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Treny Rehearsal at Jordan Hall : XI Zal Ojcowski

MJWB's Treny, movement XI Zal Ojcowski from May 2009 rehearsal at NEC's Jordan Hall, Boston, MA

Dawn Upshaw - soprano
Gilbert Kalish - piano
Guy Fishman - cello
Laura Heinrichs - flutes
MJWB - hyper-accordion

Text : Tren VI of Jan Kochanowski's Treny
A translation of Tren 6 by Adam Czerniawski

Audio Recording by Joel Gordon
was commissioned by the Terezin Chamber Music Foundation

Thursday 3 December 2009

Pics from Severance Hall

Pics from Alisa Weilerstein, Jamey Haddad and friends November 20th performance at the CSO's Severance Hall posted on flickr.

Friday 27 November 2009

Trenzinho do Caipira

A performance of Trenzinho do Caipira by Heitor Villa Lobos.

Alisa Weilerstein - cello
Jamey Haddad - percussion
Keita Ogawa - percussion
Dylan Moffit - percussion (out of frame)
MJWB - accordion

From a live performance on Cleveland's WCPN Around Noon Program.

Wednesday 30 September 2009

Treny Rehearsal at Jordan Hall : IX Swymi Piosnkami

MJWB's Treny, movement IX Swymi Piosnkami from May 2009 rehearsal at NEC's Jordan Hall, Boston, MA

Dawn Upshaw - soprano
Gilbert Kalish - piano
Guy Fishman - cello
Laura Heinrichs - flutes
MJWB - hyper-accordion

Text : Tren VI of Jan Kochanowski's Treny
A translation of Tren 6 by Adam Czerniawski

Audio Recording by Joel Gordon
was commissioned by the Terezin Chamber Music Foundation

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Saturday 18 July 2009

Candy from Strangers

Candy from Strangers performed by MJWB on street pianos throughout London, UK. July, 2009.

Sound by Oscar Cainer
Shot and edited by Adam Woods

Candy from Strangers written by Ward-Bergeman/Omar/Barrett
Copyright Voxumbilical Music 2009
All rights reserved


Sunday 14 June 2009

Saturday 13 June 2009

WNYC's Jerome L. Greene Inaugural Concert

John Schaefer and Osvaldo Golijov discuss the Golijov/Ward-Bergeman/Flower composition Radio before its premiere at the Inaugural Concert for WNYC's Jerome L. Greene performance space on April 28, 2009.

The premiere performance of Radio follows the brief discussion. Featuring Ward-Bergeman on hyper-acc, Flower on laptop, and ETHEL string quartet.

Click -here- for pics from the following days performance on WNYC's Soundcheck

Monday 20 April 2009

Kicking Up Dust

Kicking Up Dust from Metropolis Ensemble on Vimeo.
Performance of MJWB's Kicking Up Dust, performed on January 28, 2009 at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City. Featuring Paul Clifford on freedom boot and the Metropolis Ensemble led by conductor Andrew Cyr. Video by Gareth Paul Cox and Kyrié Cox; sound by Ryan Streber.

Pics from Tetro recording in Buenos Aires

Osvaldo Golijov
, MJWB, Walter Murch

Photos copyright Mihai Malaimare

Sunday 19 April 2009

Elsie, the Elevator Lady

I recently had the privilege of performing with the Cleveland Orchestra, one of the finest orchestras in the world. The performances were at Severance Hall, the orchestra's home in Cleveland.

When I first arrived at the concert hall I was shown to my dressing room. I was sure someone had made a mistake, as they put me in George Szell's private music library, which houses all of his personal scores and books, as well as his piano, his last baton, and dozens of incredible photographs.

The entire Severance Hall building is a marvel. I was particularly fascinated with the elevator.

Photos: Rehearsing with Alisa Weilerstein in Reinberger Chamber Hall.

photos copyright Osvaldo Golijov

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Fraudulent Gurus - Saku Rado

Fraudulent Gurus - Saku Rado from MJWB on Vimeo.

The ritual of Saku Rado is a blessing to all the peoples of Earth. The Fraudulent Gurus perform Saku Rado once every ten years in serene celebration of joyous being through infinite sustain.

Thursday 19 February 2009

La Pasión Según San Marcos Rehearsal

Excerpts from the La Pasión Según San Marcos rehearsal at the Auditorio Alfredo Kraus in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on January 3, 2009.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

This Way to the Art

A magical trip to the site of Flower laboratories where Jay Flower, Osvaldo Golijov, and MJWB work on cues for the new Francis Ford Coppola movie, Tetro.

Music composed and performed by Jay and MJWB.

Flower on Theremin

Ward-Bergeman on Golijov's uncle's old, beat up accordion from Argentina. (Taken out of storage for this exclusive peformance)

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Photos from Tenerife and La Gomera

Canary Islands: Tenerife and La Gomera
I am posting this blog from Tenerife on my last night here in the Canary Islands. I came to participate in two performances of Osvaldo Golijov's La Pasión Según San Marcos. I spent a couple days after the performances traveling around the islands with some friends from the company. I also started taking still pictures with my Canon HV20 digital camcorder for the first time. I was quite pleased with the results.

The islands are stunning.

A couple other choice pictures:

Me and my trusty Canon HV20. Photo: Dan Brantigan

Trying to get that wooden ass to move while Jessica Rivera prays for a miracle. Photo: Lennie Peterson

Thursday 5 February 2009

Feira de Mangaio

Rehearsing an arrangment of Sivuca's Feira de Mangaio with cellist Alisa Weilerstein and percussionists Jamey Haddad and Keita Ogawa backstage at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver, CO.

Saturday 17 January 2009


I have fallen in love with Chamamé, an accordion based folk music from the Argentine Northeast. I am particularly fond of the style as played by Raul Barboza, the "ambassador of Chamamé"

I have recently been working on the soundtrack to Francis Ford Coppola's latest movie, Tetro. The film is set in Buenos Aires, and the chamamé style is explored in the score written by Osvaldo Golijov.

I traveled down to Buenos Aires for a couple days of manic recording with Osvaldo, Walter Murch and some incredible musicians: Octavio Brunetti, Bernardo Monk, Guillermo Vadalá, and Claudio Ragazzi.

The video is from a rehearsal and a late night walk around San Telmo.

The music is a chamamé inspired tune I composed entitled Ozzy.