Three RufuSongs at UCLA

March 10, 2006


Last night (3.10.2006) Juliana Gondek and Neal Stulberg premiered three of my transcriptions of Rufus Wainwright songs: “Damned Ladies,” “In a Graveyard,” and “Memphis Skyline.” Many were hearing Rufus for the first time and spoke highly of the songs: “now I understand why you are so obsessed!”

Several people said “I just can’t take hearing those songs sung by a woman” which I can’t really do anything about, and others thought they worked great. Some said “it’s wonderful to hear his songs in this context so that they are treated like the art songs that they are.” I was thrilled to hear the opera-smart members of the audience cracking up during “Damned Ladies” understanding all the operatic references.
Juliana, not wanting to just clone Rufus’s style, made the songs her own. I loved everything she did, but didn’t quite understand her desire to make the opening of “Memphis Skyline” perky, or, not sure what to call it, swingy? The rest of the song was fabulous.

Juliana Gondek

Neal Stulberg, our new conductor at UCLA who will premiering a Frank Zappa piece next week, accompanied Juliana. Besides a little boo boo at the beginning of “Damned Ladies” he played like a god. Neal conducted the Long Beach premiere of Thomas Ades’ opera, “Powder Your Face.” We are lucky to have him.

She announced that Rufus doesn’t read music and that’s why I made the transcriptions. Well, I don’t think that’s entirely true, all I know, is that I have never seen a single picture of Rufus with sheet music in his hands. Being impatient, I began making my own (not for sale) transcriptions for my book.

I’ll post her performances as soon as I get copies.


Oh yeah, my “Four Xmas Songs” were premiered by the same duo. They did a respectable first performance and the audience seemed to love the songs. The concert also included excellent music by my colleagues David Lefkowitz, Ian Krouse, Paul Chihara, and Mark Carlson, all who contributed music to the concert. I am blessed to be in a department with such gifted colleagues. The fact that we all get along and like each other’s music makes it even better!


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