Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris


4/15/19 – 4:40pm EDT

I am watching with horror and sadness the incredible destruction by fire of Paris’ iconic Notre Dame cathedral.

In grief and helplessness I decided to go through the pictures I took when Ed and I visited Notre Dame last August.  I had been creating blog posts based on our Paris trip, and planned to eventually create one focusing on Notre Dame too.

But it wasn’t going to be my next blog post.  And I surely wish I didn’t post it under such distressing circumstances.

These photos will start outside the cathedral, enjoying its front facade as we enter the church, followed by a tour all around inside the cathedral, more details from the front of the church, then a walk around the south side, and a return approach from the north at night.

May these photos be a memory tour of what now, from the horrible reports coming in, appears to be greatly lost.













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alien spaceship


Another Year, Another Silly First Grade Opera!

Actually, another three first grade operas at the Brooklyn Children’s School, created, written, composed and performed by first graders themselves, under the direction of their teachers and their teaching artist Mister Danny.

The process started in October when three first grade classes each chose their opera themes: Halloween, You Tube, and Silliness.  After several months of creating characters and story outlines and lyrics and music and dialog, and rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing, this Monday class 1-3 performed the tale of Dark Magic turning Halloween decorations alive; and this Tuesday 1-1 performed a nearly through-composed opera about You Tube videos gone wrong; and this morning class 1-2 performs the very silly story of aliens riding a poor sap’s head, which I will now share here:

The opera begins with our space aliens Boogle and Dooey flying through space towards planet Earth:


You can listen to the piano play the chorus of the song (“Errr Errr We are riding on a space ship…”) via this quick and low-tech recording I made with my phone:


1-2’s space ship


These space aliens are out for a good time, which means riding people’s heads:


This song’s main musical motif (“I like to ride on people’s heads – yeah yeah I like to ride…”) is played on this track:


Meanwhile, on Earth, Charlie decides to buy his friend Alex a pet dog.  They go to the pet store and pick out a dog.

The aliens decide Alex has the head they want to ride.  Dooey uses his space ship controls to zap Boogle on top of Alex’s head.

This causes Alex some consternation:


This song’s melody is repeated three times, rising higher with each repeat:


alien on head

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As promised, pics and vids of the Versailles Once-in-a-Year Nighttime Spectacular



You can glance at the map of the park and see how it lovely it is during the day in my previous post, where you will also find daytime video of the musical Mirror Fountain show.

But we will start our night time lights and water and fire extravaganza with two video excerpts from the water show at the largest fountain in Versailles, The Neptune Fountain, also accompanied by baroque concert music:






Next, swathed in dry ice fog, the Three Fountains Grove, so (relatively) unassuming during the day, so mysteriously magnificent during this special night:








The view from just above the third grove:



The brightly lit Pyramid Fountain, with another fountain behind casting dramatic shadows onto the chateau:



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VERSAILLES – A Walk in the Park (and what a Park!)

VG 00

A detailed guided tour through the baroque mythological splendors and eye popping and head scratching extravagance of the park of Versailles.

The park grounds of Versailles are immense and splendid.

Below a map of the whole park:

Version 2

Only the bottom quadrant in the map above is now part of the Versailles Chateau tour.  The rest is now public park or areas for which there are separate entries.  We will get to some of these too.  But first let’s start with the chateau adjacent park grounds, which are immense in their own right, and certainly splendid.  Before his descendants got their heads chopped off for their ruinous profligacy, Louis XIV had park grounds designed that surely matched his palace (see here) for impressiveness.  This map below will guide us through the chateau park grounds:

Version 2


Let’s start at the Water Parterre just in front of the center of the palace:

VG 1

VG 1a

VG 1b

VG 1c

Version 3


Next head left to gaze over the Orangery Parterre and smell the flowers of the South Parterre.

VG 2

VG 3

VG 4

VG 5

VG 6


The centerpiece of the park is Latona’s Fountain & Parterre.

Wait, what’s that perched on Latona’s arm?

VG 7

VG 8

VG 9

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TELL-TALE PRATFALL – Tell-Tale Shoot Diary #2



One for the blooper reel, except…



It was one of the least difficult set-ups of the Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre shoot.  Just me coming down the stairs – a flash back to when the murderer, fresh from depositing the remains of his victim under the floor boards, goes to open the door for three officers of the police.


All I had to do was go down the stairs while putting on my jacket, hit my mark to pause on a certain step, and then exit out of frame.

Which I did every take.




But on this particular take I left the frame in a particularly dramatic, unintentionally funny fashion:



It helps to keep your eyes on the steps you are descending.  Otherwise your foot might overshoot.  But looking down at my feet would have not been as good a look for the character at that moment for the movie.

The pratfall brought me down to the floor, and as you can hear from the responses of the crew, it first looked alarming.  But after I got up and assured everyone I was OK, it quickly became a source of mirth.  Everyone looked forward to this clip being part of a future Tell-Tale bloopers reel.

Except there won’t be a Tell-Tale bloopers reel.

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I needed new head shots.  I also knew I’d be shaving my beard for the Tell-Tale Heart shoot.  So I scheduled a head shot photo shoot right before the Tell-Tale film shoot in order to schedule my shave in the middle of the photo shoot and get a bearded and a clean shaved 8X10 pic.

To show I am a versatile actor.  I can play bearded and smooth cheeked fellas.

The shoot went pretty well and I have lots of nice options to choose from.  But in a two hour session with hundreds of clicks of the camera, some unfortunate shots are about to happen.

So I thought it would be fun to share some of these photo blunders in a Head Shot Blooper Gallery.  Enjoy.






One cardinal rule of head shots is to look into the camera…






It also helps to keep your eyes open…



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Last week was production week for the short film “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre“.  One day of set-up, 6 days of shooting, 9-10 hour days that by the weekend became 11-15 hour days.  Everyone worked very hard and very well.  I am extremely grateful to Jason, Austin, Ja’Rel, Harry, Nick, Mara, Anthony, Bethany, Stephen, Martine, Mark, Mathew, Henry, Ed, the on set crew and cast.

I have tons of on-set pics and videos and stories to share, and hope to regale you with them on this blog over the next months.  All while busy in post-production and eventually bringing our little gothic musical short film to the world at large.

So, to start off the Tell-Tale Shoot Diary series here on Notes from a Composer, I thought I’d share this fun video shot by best boy/key grip Austin Nepri (who also took the photo at the top), giving you a good glimpse into the monitor showing what the camera is filming while watching the performance live in the same frame (you will note that the monitor is a smidge time delayed).

It’s a cool example of getting the on set experience simultaneously with the unedited take right as it is being shot:


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SUN GLARE, 46th Street, Early February



Specifically February 4, 8am, on 46th street between 7th and 6th avenues.




Do you too see animal faces in the steam?  A boar, a schnauzer, a fox?






… or maybe Fuchur AKA Falkor the Luckdragon from The Neverending Story?

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3rd Grade Choir Presents Love & Life with the Beatles



A fainting spell nearly derailed the whole concert. 

But it was still a rousing success.


3rd grade choir program.jpgWhen I plan choir concerts for elementary student performers, I hope to choose songs that will appeal to the age group but also to adults, since the kids’ parents will be our audience.  I also like to choose some musically exciting pieces that may seem unusual or difficult, but which I believe children can master and will enjoy.  It challenges me as a teacher and artist to push against the boundaries of what is expected from a grade school choir concert.

So it was also with an all-Beatles program for 3rd graders at a Tribeca public school in Manhattan, a few blocks from the World Trade Center.  Choosing only Beatles songs of course limited me to some extent, but the breadth of their output still allows for much stylistic variety.  And although I may not have been able to include as many foreign languages as last year (where a “Joy in the World” medley included Xhosa (“Pata Pata”), Portuguese (“Mas Que Nada”) and German (“Berliner Luft”), yet, as you will see and hear, even The Beatles dabbled in some foreign languages.

WTC pic

View of the new World Trade Center from the school

The whole 3rd grade of PS 234 performs.  Over a hundred children.  The only time I get to rehearse with them all together is once or twice during the week of the concert.  Otherwise I meet with each class individually once a week for 12 weeks. Every Tuesday, five classes in a row, without a break.  Me singing in a high tenor range to teach them their parts.  Yes, it’s exhausting.

Nine songs in 12 weeks.  It is all a bit ambitious, I admit, but it came together just fine.  The concert was proceeding well, until…  well, what I couldn’t have anticipated was the fainting spell that nearly derailed the whole performance…

Before that, before the children were even led into the auditorium stage risers by their teachers that morning, I had lamented to the arts coordinator that I couldn’t record the concert to share on my blog, because getting media releases from over hundred families is impossible.  She said to me, oh no, everybody signs a blanket release at the beginning of the year.  Ah, if only I had asked earlier.  I would have brought my portable professional recorder.  Instead I made due with my phone’s voice recorder.  Which does effect the sound quality of the following, I’m afraid, but hopefully not so much that it still can’t be enjoyed, albeit with technical caveats:


3rd grade choir performance: Love & Life with The Beatles


0 sec – The Principal welcomes the audience.

1:25 –  I introduce the concert.


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In “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” the music is scored for three cellos.  And Friday evening three cello players were sitting in my living room practicing their cello parts for the shoot.  Because for key scenes, you won’t just be hearing the cellos played, you will be seeing them played too.

That’s Mark Peters, Martine McKinney and Mathew Gnagy playing in my living room.  The 3 Ms, as I like to affectionately refer to them.  And you will see them on screen in “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre”.

But you won’t hear them play.  They actually will be play-syncing.  Acting as doubles for the three cellists who were recorded months ago performing the Tell-Tale score.

Remember when I posted this video?



Todd Maki, who is responsible for the sound of “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” made this video while in his engineering booth monitoring the three cello players being recorded in his living room.

In Ohio.

I was following this all live from my laptop in Brooklyn.  I could hear all perfectly well, yet my view of the players and Todd was via video monitoring screens sharing space with other elements on my MacBook.

I have yet to meet Todd in person, or the three cellists who beautifully played my score.


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Yesterday I met my Director of Photography Jason Chua at the film equipment rental place to do some camera tests in preparation for our upcoming “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” film shoot.



For me that mostly meant standing in front of the camera while Jason took various shots with various lenses and various filters.

So you can’t blame me for pulling out my phone and taking some shots of my own.




By now it may be appropriate to show you Jason’s friendly smile rather than keeping him obscured behind the camera…


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VERSAILLES – A Stroll Through the Gilded Chateau

Take a walk with me inside the opulent grandeur of Luis XIV’s showcase


We approach the palace, or chateau, from the municipality of Versailles.

An equestrian statue of Louis XIV greets the tourists at the first gate:






This is the line for those of us who had purchased timed tickets ahead of time.





Long enough, but not nearly as long as the line for those who arrived without timed tickets:








Some of the glories on view before security and ticket control:






Let’s get through security and all and start the tour proper, shall we?

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Pics with a Touch of Light

plus a complimentary light-hearted music quiz



Light Music Query #1: Which musical features this dance into the light?

(as ever, the answers are tucked into the tabs below)



Above, my gym’s basement path to the women’s locker room.

Below a votive candle to Frida Kahlo.



Holiday lights in Madison, WI:





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screen shot 2019-01-11 at 11.39.12 pm

That is the Poe Cottage in the Bronx.  The last home Poe resided in before he died.  We had hoped to make it our Tell-Tale musicabre movie murder home.

But alas, it is not to be!

screen shot 2019-01-11 at 11.38.22 pmMost of the short film adaptation of my chamber music theater horror show will be filmed on constructed movie sets.  But there is one half day of location shooting scheduled to shoot the entrance (and some interiors) of the home where the man who insists he is no madman kills the old man with the pale blue vulture eye, only to be driven to frenzied confession by the beating of the heart of the dismembered corpse under the bedroom floor boards.

When we heard about the Poe Cottage in the Bronx, run as a museum by the Bronx Historical Society, then learned it was available for film shoots, and perused pictures of it, we knew we had to shoot our location scenes there.

screen shot 2019-01-11 at 11.38.59 pm


According to the Poe Cottage website, “the historic house museum is famous as the final home of the writer. At the time that Poe, his ailing wife Virginia and mother-in-law, Mrs. Maria Clemm moved in during the spring of 1846, the house was owned by John Valentine. Poe rented it for $100 per year. Virginia died in the house in 1847 and after Poe’s death on October 7, 1849 while in Baltimore, Mrs. Clemm moved out.”




How cool would it be to put in the credits of a film of the Tell-Tale Heart: “filmed on location at the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage, Bronx”.

Alas, it is not to be!

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A HIGH-FLYING MUSIC QUIZ – while in sunset dappled skies



It’s time for another Notes from a Composer musical quiz!

All musical tracks and/or musical quiz queries will be somehow related to air travel, to tie in to these shots I took out the cabin window of our sunset flight west from New York City to Madison, Wisconsin.  We took off with the setting sun, and kept pace with it  – almost – for several hours, for what would be the slowest setting sun I remember experiencing.




High Flying Music Query #1 – Which fab rock band recorded this track called “Flying”?

(as always here at Notes from a Composer, answers to the quiz queries are embedded in the tags below)





m5At one point the phone camera turned its lense around for this unplanned selfie of me trying to make a shot avoiding the smudges on the cabin window pane…




High Flying Music Query #2 – Who is the High Flying Adored person being sung about here in what titular musical (and who are the two Broadway stars doing the singing?)





High Flying Musical Query #3 – In which new movie musical do we have Nowhere to Go But Up (if you listen to the track and still can’t guess, I despair for your inner child)?  And which icon is heard handing out the balloons?



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