Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Meditate with Music

Photo by Max on Unsplash

Meditation doesn’t have to be done in silence. It’s nice to sit there quietly, watching the fluffy white clouds of your thoughts float silently away until your mind turns into one big void of nothingness. But, if your goal is simply to relax, clear away your negative thoughts, and ease your tense muscles, there are scores and scores of musical recordings out there that can meet your goal: New Age, Celtic, East Indian, Native American, Chinese, Japanese, Easy Listening, Jazz, Classical, and more.

Music can alter our mood and our consciousness and take us away into a magical world of peace, harmony, and complete relaxation.

Here’s a classical piece that is just heavenly, written by Jules Massenet, and performed by the renowned violinist, Itzhak Perlman. Give it a try!

May you be blessed with a peaceful, relaxing day today!

Dawn Pisturino

April 7, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Guest Blog: Culture of Pub Music/Ariel Pisturino

(Dublin pub musicians. Photo by Jeremy King, Flickr.)
Culture of Pub Music

by Ariel Pisturino

In 2019, I spent a few days in Dublin, Ireland, exploring the city with my partner. Ireland is a magical place, full of history and folklore. One night, we were out and about and it started to drizzle, as it does in that part of the world. Looking around for a place to duck into, we started to hear some raucous music. We stuffed ourselves into this little pub. It was PACKED with wall-to-wall people, and everyone’s attention was on the group of musicians playing traditional Irish music on traditional instruments. It was such fun and a different experience from being in America. It got me wondering about the culture of Irish music.

Traditional Irish music began as an oral tradition, with generations learning by ear and passing it down. It’s a tradition that still exists today. Irish music originated with the Celts about 2,000 years ago. The Celts were influenced by music from the East. It is even thought that the traditional Irish harp originated in Egypt. The harp was the most popular instrument and harpists were employed to compose music for noble people. When invaders came to Ireland in the early 1600’s, that forced people to flee the country. Harpists roamed through Europe, playing music wherever they could.

The most famous composer/harpist was Turlough O’Carolan (b.1670-d.1738). He was a blind harpist, composer, and singer. He traveled all over Ireland for 50 years, playing his music. He is considered Ireland’s national composer.

The main traditional instruments are fiddle, Celtic harp, Irish flute, penny whistle, uilleann pipes and bodhrán. More recently the Irish bouzouki, acoustic guitar, mandolin and tenor banjo have found their way into the playing of traditional music.

Irish pub songs are part of a tradition of storytelling by the fireside. People used to visit their neighbours, friends and relatives in the evenings after work or on a Sunday after mass, sit with them by the fireside, and share stories. In between the stories there would be songs, usually unaccompanied.

There was a big revival of pub music during the 1960’s with popular bands singing traditional Irish music, usually accompanied by guitar. (Think: The Chieftains.) In the 1970’s, local singers started forming singing clubs to focus on the traditional songs. One of the first singing sessions was hosted in Dublin during the 1980’s. These sessions became more regular and popular amongst pubs to host these groups, and that’s how pub music evolved into what we experience today.

Previously published in the unSUNg Concerts Newsletter, March 17, 2022

Ariel Pisturino graduated from the Thornton School of Music at USC with a Masters in Vocal Music. She teaches part-time at three different colleges and universities, privately in her own music studio, and performs with various opera companies and vocal groups in the Los Angeles area. She is the Curator and Artistic Director of the unSUNg Concert Series, which is dedicated to reviving previously-composed, forgotten vocal music and sponsoring new composers and young vocal artists.

Ariel Pisturino as Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore:

Ariel also does a lot of church singing and concerts:

unSUNg Concert Series: http://www.unsungconcerts.com

Ariel’s current project: Musical Director for the student production of Working!:

Find Ariel on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and SoundCloud.

Ariel Pisturino: http://www.arielpisturino.com

~

Dawn Pisturino

March 23, 2022

Copyright 2022 Ariel Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

16 Comments »

“He Shall Feed His Flock” – Handel’s Messiah

I like to start out the holiday season by listening to Handel’s Messiah. Not only is the music powerful and majestic, with a wide variety of vocal ranges, but the lyrics and the music capture the essence of Jesus’ life and teachings. One of my favorite pieces is “He Shall Feed His Flock,” which is straight out of Matthew 11:28-29 and Isaiah 40:11 in the Bible. This Oratorio is a fine example of Baroque music that has endured for 280 years.

Performed by Swiss soprano Regula Muhlemann. From Handel’s Messiah.

Lyrics

He shall feed his flock like
A shepherd
And He shall gather
The lambs with his arm
With his arm

He shall feed his flock like
A shepherd
And He shall gather
The lambs with his arm
With his arm

And carry them in his bosom
And gently lead those
That are with young
And gently lead those
And gently lead those
That are with young

Come unto Him
All ye that labour
Come unto Him, ye
That are heavy laden
And He will give you rest

Come unto Him
All ye that labour
Come unto Him, ye
That are heavy laden
And He will give you rest

Take his yoke upon you
And learn of Him
For He is meek
And lowly of heart
And ye shall find rest
And ye shall find rest
Unto your souls

Take his yoke upon you
And learn of Him
For He is meek
And lowly of heart
And ye shall find rest
And ye shall find rest
Unto your souls

Source: Musixmatch

Scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens.

Music by G.F. Handel, 1741.

Dawn Pisturino

November 6, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


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A Tribute to Actor Michael York

Michael York as Pip in Great Expectations (1974)

Last night, I was thinking about the 1974 movie, Great Expectations, and wondering whatever happened to British actor Michael York. Was he still alive? An Internet search showed that he is 79 years old, living in West Hollywood, and still very much alive.

In 2011, my daughter, lyric soprano Ariel Pisturino, was a member of the cast in the Long Beach Opera production of Cherubini’s Medea. She had a singing role as one of Dirce’s handmaidens. One night, after the performance, an average looking elderly couple came up to her and expressed their admiration for her performance. The man was so sickly looking, he looked like he was in the last stages of cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, or cancer. His skin was yellow and dry, his hair limp and straw-like. He seemed very familiar to me, but I could not immediately place him. But the man had a very distinctive theatrical voice, and there it was — Michael York!

(Lyric soprano Ariel Pisturino in 2011 at the furniture warehouse converted to a theater for the LBO production, Medea. Photo by Dawn Pisturino. The production garnered a lot of media coverage because former director, Andreas Mitisek, had a reputation for staging innovative opera productions in unusual locations.)

Michael York and his long-time wife, American photographer Patricia McCallum, were so kind and gracious to my daughter! He encouraged her talent and career and wished her the best for all of her future endeavors. He did not come off as arrogant or condescending, but just a real, down-to-earth person. In other words, he is not one of those Hollywood snobs who thinks he’s better than everybody else. He is not an angry, loud, foul-mouthed creep like Alec Baldwin, who was forced to go to anger management therapy. He and his wife showed up in ordinary clothes. In fact, they were under-dressed. With his obvious health problems, it looked like he had fallen on hard times. But the reality is a little different.

In 2012, York was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a rare disease in which insoluble proteins invade parts of the body and internal organs, eventually causing the organs to shut down. It took three years to get the right diagnosis. He underwent autologous stem cell transplant therapy and has been doing well since. A classically trained Shakespearean actor, York now writes books, does voiceovers, and promotes fundraising and public awareness of amyloidosis.

It just goes to show that no matter how talented you are, how important you think you are, or how rich you are, bad things happen. And it’s how you handle those challenges which determines the kind of person you are.

(Ariel Pisturino [facing front] as one of Dirce’s handmaidens in the LBO production of Medea.)

I will always have the greatest respect for Michael York for encouraging my daughter in her career. His humility and graciousness touched both our hearts. And I wish him and his wife all the best. We never know how our lives are going to end up, but we can never go wrong with being kind to others, supporting others with positive affirmations, and encouraging their hopes and dreams.

Michael York’s website: http://www.michaelyork.net

Long Beach Opera website: http://www.longbeachopera.org

Ariel Pisturino website: http://www.arielpisturino.com

Dawn Pisturino

November 4, 2021

Copyright 2011-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Reprise: Concert for the Dead

Story by Dawn Pisturino.

Illustration by Job van Gelder.

Dedicated to my daughter, lyric soprano Ariel Pisturino.

Ariel knelt before the marble niche holding the remains of her dead older brother and placed a bouquet of roses in the stone vase. Six months had passed since the horrible night a drunk driver had taken Jonathan’s life. She would never forget.

“Coach Willis still talks about you, Jonathan,” Ariel said, tracing the carved letters of his name with trembling fingers. “Nobody’s beaten your track record. You were the best. You always will be.”

She pulled some sheet music from her backpack. “The opera club is doing Purcell this year. I got the lead role. I’m so excited!” She began to sing:

“When I am laid, am laid in earth, may my wrongs create

No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;

Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate . . .”*

The haunting elegy echoed through the halls of the Great Mausoleum, bringing tears to Ariel’s eyes. As the last melancholy note faded away, the mausoleum doors slammed shut. The lights flickered and dimmed.

Icy panic clawed at Ariel’s chest. She could hardly breathe. Then a long, agonizing scream tore from her throat.

She ran to the entrance and pushed against the heavy metal doors. Locked.  She searched for an intercom or emergency button. Nothing.

“Let me out!” she cried, pounding on the door. “It’s not closing time!”

Voices whispered all around her.

“No!” she howled, throwing her weight against the unyielding door.

The whispers grew louder. “We’ll let you out when the concert is over.”

“W-what c-concert?” Ariel stammered, searching the empty air.

“The Concert for the Dead.”

And then she saw them, gliding down the dark corridors, the eerie inhabitants of this condominium for the dead.

They crowded into the main hall, hundreds of them, the ghastly and the beautiful.

Men dressed in military uniforms soaked with blood, arms ripped away, legs shredded at the knees, and heads split open, eyeballs dangling from their sockets.

Women gowned in rustling silk, faded and torn, ringlets framing faces eaten away by worms. Pale young mothers with tragic eyes, carrying shriveled up babies in their arms.

Dead children glared at Ariel with menacing faces, their transparent fingers clutching moth-eaten ragdolls and time-worn teddy bears.

An orchestra appeared. Skeletons with shreds of rotting flesh hanging from their bones. The conductor raised his baton, and the slow, plaintive strains of a violin filled the air. He turned and looked at Ariel with one putrid eye, motioning her to begin.

I know this song. I can do it. Shaking with fear, she dug her fingernails into her palms and began to sing:

“None but the lonely heart can know my sadness

Alone and parted far from joy and gladness . . .”**

She sang until the sun disappeared and the stained glass windows lost their color. She sang until the moon ran its course and the stars began to fade. Finally, her throat too parched and raw to continue, she pleaded:

“The concert’s over. Please let me go.”

Hushed whispers rippled through the audience. Then a lone figure broke through the crowd.

“Jonathan!” Ariel cried, grateful to see a familiar face.

Smiling, he extended his arms to her. “We don’t want you to leave,” Jonathan said, drawing her close. “We want you to sing for us forever and ever and ever . . .”

Cold waxy fingers tightened around her throat. In the background, the orchestra played a quiet requiem.

* * *

When the groundskeeper found Ariel’s body the next morning, he noticed two peculiar things. Her throat was purple with finger marks, and her hair had turned completely white.

Copyright 2011-2021 Dawn Pisturino, Job van Gelder, and Asheka Troberg. All Rights Reserved.

This story is dedicated to my daughter, lyric soprano Ariel Pisturino.

Published in the November 2011 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree. Read it here.

Published on Brooklyn Voice, February 2012.

Artwork by Asheka Troberg.

*“Dido’s Lament,” from Dido & Aeneas by Henry Purcell

**“None but the Lonely Heart,” by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and J.W. Goethe

Artwork by Jason Smith. I commissioned this Concert for the Dead artwork for my daughter, Ariel Pisturino, as a gift.

Copyright 2011-2021 Jason Smith. All Rights Reserved.

Happy Halloween! Make it scary!

Photo by Dawn Pisturino.

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Ride of the Valkyries

The Ride of the Valkyries is one of Richard Wagner’s most popular pieces. The music has been used as part of the soundtrack in Francis Ford Coppola’s movie, Apocalypse Now, included in Halloween music collections, and hailed as an anthem for strong, courageous women. Everybody loves the iconic image of hefty, solid women dressed in armor, ready to wage battle. The music is rousing, active, and elevating. And the scene, which marks the beginning of Act Three in the opera Die Walkure, appeals to people who appreciate the enduring legacy of Nordic and Teutonic mythology. It is the second opera in the four operas which make up the Der Ring des Nibelungen cycle (The Ring). Many people believe J.R.R. Tolkien derived The Lord of the Rings from Wagner’s Ring, but Tolkien always denied that idea. Still, the similarities cannot be ignored. Wagner’s ring is a symbol of complete and total power that can be wielded against others. Cursed by Alberich, it becomes the cause of all the misery in the world. Sound familiar?

But who and what are the Valkyries?

In Norse mythology, the Valkyries were warrior goddesses associated with the god Odin. Their primary function was to bring back the bodies of slain heroes to Valhalla, where they would feast with Odin. They were called the Einherjar. Some were chosen to fight with Odin at the end of the world, during Ragnarok.

Wagner uses Teutonic mythology in his opera. The Valkyries were the daughters of Wotan who chose which heroes would be slain and then transported their bodies to the halls of Valhalla. Wotan’s daughter, Brunnhilde, embodies the qualities of courage, strength, wisdom, and precognition. It is her sacrifice which finally destroys the cruel, omnipotent power of the ring and saves the world.

The Ride of the Valkyries, from the Metropolitan Opera 2012 production. Enjoy!

Dawn Pisturino

October 4, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

17 Comments »

Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Opus 18

Exquisitely performed by Anna Fedorova, virtuoso concert pianist.

Sublime! Absolutely divine! The angelic nature of this piece brings me to tears.

Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Opus 18” is so beautiful and beyond the ordinary, it is hard to believe that he wrote this piece in the lowest point of his life. As lovely as this piece sounds, he suffered terribly from depression after his “First Symphony” was rejected by the public in 1897. Distraught, he could not compose another piece of music for three years.

In order to regain his self-esteem, Rachmaninoff began to work with Russian neurologist Dr. Nicolai Dahl. Through hypnosis and positive suggestion therapy, Rachmaninoff recovered, wrote his exquisite concerto, and dedicated it to Dr. Dahl in gratitude. We should all be eternally grateful to Dr. Dahl and the great gift of music that he inspired!

The concerto premiered in Moscow on November 9, 1901 to rave reviews. The composer won a Glinka Award in 1904. Rachmaninoff’s career as a pianist and composer was assured for the rest of his life.

Like composer Franz Liszt, Sergei Rachmaninoff had big hands which allowed him to compose and perform complicated pieces. Only experienced and accomplished pianists can easily perform “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Opus 18.”

Rachmaninoff, who was born in 1873, was heavily influenced in his music by the Russian Orthodox Church. The simulation of bells can often be heard in his work, including the beginning notes of “Piano Concerto No. 2.,” which almost sounds like a death knell.

After the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Rachmaninoff was forced to flee to the United States as a political refugee. His music was considered “too bourgeois” for Bolshevik tastes. He is considered the last composer/pianist from the Russian Romanticism Movement.

He died in Beverly Hills, California in 1943 after a successful career in America, where his musical talent was highly valued.

Dawn Pisturino

September 16, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

2 Comments »

Edvard Grieg – Piano Concerto in A Minor, Opus 16

Performed by Arthur Rubenstein, my favorite virtuoso pianist.

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) was a Norwegian virtuoso pianist and composer. During his lifetime, German composers were the ideal model for musical composition. But Grieg, inspired by the vast natural beauty of his own country, wanted to compose music that was uniquely Norwegian. From my perspective, he achieved his dream in “Piano Concerto in A Minor, Opus 16.”

The music is uplifting and sweeping. It is easy to see the green mountains and sparkling fjords of Norway in your own mind. Grieg’s passion for nature comes rippling through the notes, causing your mind and heart to drift away into another world. Whatever tensions you might be feeling just float away. Beauty and serenity fill your soul. This composition is a sensual experience that you don’t want to leave.

Rachmaninoff claimed to be entranced by Grieg’s concerto and used it as inspiration for his own “Piano Concerto No. 1.”

May Grieg’s music and Rubenstein’s performance inspire you!

Dawn Pisturino, BSNH,RN

September 14, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Liebestraum – Franz Liszt

Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was born in Raiding, Hungary. As a virtuoso concert pianist, he toured all over Europe. From 1835 to 1839, he lived with his lover and patroness, Comtesse d’Agoult. They had three children. In 1847, he met and fell in love with Princess Carolyne zu Sayne-Wittgenstein and lived with her until his death. Liszt was a contemporary of such illustrious composers as Richard Wagner and Edvard Grieg. His compositions are distinguished by a romantic, dreamy quality that evokes great feelings of passion and idealized Love. Liebestraum No. 3 (Dream of Love) is one of his most memorable favorites. I have personally loved this piece since I was a teenager.

Dawn Pisturino

September 1, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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unSUNg “Perceptual Mishmash” video benefit concert

My daughter, Ariel Pisturino, is the Artistic Director, as well as a performer, in the new unSUNg video benefit concert series. Click on the link to listen to this amazing group of musical artists, performing new and forgotten musical masterpieces.

(The link has expired.)

All donations benefit Water Warriors United, a group of dedicated Navajos who transport water supplies to the disabled and elderly on the Navajo reservation in Arizona and New Mexico. Visit their website at:

http://www.collectivemedicine.net

Enjoy!

Dawn Pisturino

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