Banned Music in Old Russia is Featured Our Operetta. Wife Sharon and myself (David) wrote a musical. Once titled Elizabeth of Russia.Half Peasant – Half Royal is the new name. We had a marvelous costumed staged reading in Sarasota Florida at the Players Theater. Below are YouTube videos: The entire cast sings the Drinking Song (since,more universal lyrics have been penned). In 1740, ethnic Russian music was banned from court. As an act of rebellion against the ruling regime, Elizabeth brings in the following entertainment: The Dance of the Cossacks – performed by principle dancers from the Sarasota Ballet. And, Dance of The Russian Peasant played on a Stradivarius flown in from Houston. The link below has composer Rubinoff and his Violin playing that piece. Sharon wrote the book and lyrics. I wrote the music. It is copyrighted.
Lesley and Ohrenstein’s Elizabeth of Russia follows in the tradition of the great Broadway hits South Pacific …
But first, with regards to the featured medallion picture: This medallion is dated and signed on the back by Gregory Musikiiskii, the first Russian painter of portrait miniatures. It can be compared to an earlier enamel painting of Peter the Great with his family, now in the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, executed by the same artists in 1717. Here, the Russian emperor is depicted together with his wife Catherine, his three daughters Anna, Elizabeth (the future empress and subject of our musical. She is reclining on her mother.) and Natalia, and his grandson Peter (the future Peter II). Musikiiskii was transferred from the Moscow Kremlin Armory to St. Petersburg to work for the court of Peter the Great, the founder of modern Russia.
What About the Banned Music in Old Russia?
Our new title unravels and hopefully will solve the problems we had with our production. Elizabeth of Russia, in fact, was half peasant and half royal. She fell in love with a peasant. He was reputed to have one of the most magnificent singing voices in Russia at the time. Unfortunately, the combination of the two together made them 3/4 peasant and 1/4 royal. So what was the problem with Russian secular music?
Early czars considered secular music to be a highly suspicious activity. Weapons could easily be hidden in instrumental cases.
Thus, no musical instruments of any sort were allowed in church or at court.
They instructed peasants to stop singing folk songs. Common people, of course, are the source of folk songs.
Troubadours (travelling minstrel singers) were forbidden in old Russia. The czars worried that they would sing seditious songs.
Thus, for the ruling elite, the act of Elizabeth falling in love with “lowborn peasant singer” was unacceptable.
In violation of the above, a case enclosed an authentic Stradivarius violin is brought and is played on stage at a court party. It has the official crest of the Russian empire. It is set with diamonds and rubies. The theatrical audience went wild with excitement. How did we come by it? I worked with Rubinoff and His Violin. His widow, Dame Darlene Rubinoff, flew the violin from Houston. It was the Stradivarius that had previously belonged to Czar Nicholas II. Now for the first time, enjoy Rubinoff himself playing his featured violin solo, Dance of the Russian Peasant. Pictures in this youtube background highlight both his life and his friendship with Sharon and myself. Feel free to share this special post with with friends. We are looking to do a full production.
High Stepping on the Steinway Piano at World Class Gasparilla Inn. I feel like I have a special connection with Steinway grand pianos. My primary teacher on piano was Mischa Kottler. He kept two Steinway grands in his studio. For my lessons, I played on one. He accompanied and demonstrated on the other. What kind of teacher was Mischa? I quote Greg Philliganes in Keyboard Magazine.
High Stepping with Mischa Kottler
From work with Stevie Wonder while still in his teens, to tours and recordings with Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, and Toto, Phillinganes’ massive discography reads like a “Who’s Who” of pop music, encompassing four decades.
From Greg Philliganes’ interview in Keyboard Magazine
“Sensing that I needed discipline more than anything else, my Mom managed to hook me up with a wonderful teacher named Mischa Kottler. He was a no-nonsense Russian Jewish guy who could crack a pane of glass with one finger. He was a complete badass, and he cooled my attitude out immediately. I studied with him well into my teens.
What kinds of things were you studying with him?
I was studying technique and classical repertoire. He taught me a certain way of playing that I still use to this day: a sense of evenness where your wrists aren’t loose or moving up and down. It’s a totally linear way of playing, where there’s even movement in both hands so your wrists stay perfectly still. Mischa would take two fingers and weigh them down on my wrists to keep them from moving. He instilled a sense of dexterity and definition in my playing. If I’m known for my speed and precision, it’s probably due to Mischa more than anything else.
I also have Mischa to thank for instilling in me speed and precision. He also instilled in me the desired to look for the “truth” in music. What is the music really about? How do you convey it? Again, thanks to Mischa, I have year round employment. . Until Dec 18, I will be at the Crab and Fin in Sarasota. See events on DSOworks.com. Then, Gasparilla from Dec. 19- April 1 2018 for six nights weekly. I play on a newly rebuilt Steinway Grand. The parts were special ordered from Germany. In between, my wonderful agent Fitz Otis at Jay Goodley Entertainment Group books me any other time I am available. My advice to students: Work hard. Be serious. And yes, I have a couple of openings for piano lessons in Sarasota.
Music Transforms Especially in Difficult Times. This blog is about a great man that I worked with: David Rubinoff. To the public he was known as Rubinoff and his Violin. Rubinoff had the Midas Touch on the violin. The most famous King Midas is popularly remembered in Greek mythology for his ability to turn everything he touched into gold. The Maestro made as much as $500,000.00 a year in the 1930’s. That is a lot of money, even now. He played concerts. Also he conducted the orchestra at the Paramount Theater in New York and for Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. David autographed his picture for my wife Sharon, and myself.
This letter, written during the height of the Vietnam war, is quoted here. The Dance of the Russian Peasant was written about him by his wife, Darlene. She interviewed and recorded Rubinoff’s words for this book. Darlene was a true friend. I think this letter amply illustrates the keywords: Music Transforms.
A Testimony to How Music Transforms
Dear Maestro Rubinoff: “Mother told me you were a Prophet of Music. You were blessed directly by God to carry out a special purpose. She said you were commissioned to bring down divine harmony to earth and give it to the common man…No more would music be for royalty and the very rich. Thus, the wonderful music you took into the battlefield after your allotted threescore and ten years. Knowing you has made me a better wife, a better mother and better citizen of the world. I cannot willingly drop below the height to which your heavenly music has taken me.”
Now you too can enjoy the Heavenly Music of Rubinoff. I, David Ohrenstein, am the pianist on this Oquaga Lake concert. Enjoy his stories. They date all the way back to the year 1911. Victor Herbert brought him to America. He lived with Herbert and met Caruso, John Phillip Sousa… At the time he was age 86.
Proper Piano Practice Means Precision. I began my piano studies at age 11. The date was August 24, 1958. This was exactly two months before my October 24th birthday. I would turn twelve. At my first year piano recital, I played the entire Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven from memory. The teacher I studied it with was a Mrs. Foster. I forgot her 1st name. My apologies. In retrospect, I played it terribly. The reason for this shortcoming will became apparent. in the blog. My apologies. The way to Proper Piano Practice was later shown to me by my nest teacher, Mischa Kottler, but:
I didn’t listen to his most basic advice. I thought I was quite advanced at age 15. He told me to (1) practice slowly and (2) hands separately. My adolescent mind told me, “that’s for babies.” Of course, I never told him that. But as it turned out, I was wrong. When slow practice and intense concentration unite, the results are outstanding. First, here is a taste of this great virtuoso-pianist, teacher. Kottler would play it for an encore. Even when he was in his nineties he could finesse his special arrangement of Chopin’s “Minute Waltz.”
Minute Waltz (Mischa Kottler Version)
Kottler had the ability to see the future when it came to his piano students. I studied with him for years. When I was 25, he looked straight at me and said: “You’ll get good when you’re in your sixties.” He was serious. Naturally, that comment did not sit well with a 25 year old. I’m well into my sixties, Finally, I have seen the “proper piano practice” light. Here’s the core of the method I now started to use. It’s never too late.
Play any two fingers on either hand. With one finger play a white key. With another pick a black. Play the two notes at the same time.
Unless you intensely concentrate on what you just did, the notes are likely to be perhaps 1/10th of a second apart!
Now think of how difficult it is to play even more tones at the same time. Add to the formula, using the fingers on both hands.
Multiply this spread out sound by an entire piece of music. You have a mess.
How has Proper Piano Practice Helped Me?
In one word, employment. This December 20th, I’ll begin my 9th winter-spring season at the Gasparilla Inn. On Boca Grande it is favored place for VIP’s. Off-Florida season, there are also no shortage of jobs. Currently I play at the Crab and Fin Restaurant . It is on St, Armand’s Circle in Sarasota. Of course, a lot more goes into successful piano playing. If you wish to know more elements, I’m also available for piano lessons in Sarasota.
Keyboard Touches Vary Greatly Depending on Instrument. My piano instructor was Mischa Kottler. I was offered a position playing the organ. Kottler told me not to accept it. He said, playing organ would ruin my piano technique. Of course, I wondered how and why? I think the answer comes from Karl Philipp Emanuel Bach. In the quote below, C.P. E. had the harpsichord in mind. The piano wasn’t yet invented. But what he said about the contrast applies to the piano. In the interest of keeping posts short, there will be more blogs. A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. The player presses a row of levers. This triggers a mechanism. One or more strings are then plucked with a quill.
The above harpsichord is the work of two celebrated makers: originally constructed by Andreas Ruckers in Antwerp (1646). It was remodeled by Pascal Taskin in Paris (1780). The prototype of the pianoforte was invented in 1710. Bartolomeo Cristofori di Francesco (Italian pronunciation: [bartoloˈmɛːo kriˈstɔːfori di franˈtʃesko]; May 4, 1655 – January 27, 1731). He was an Italian maker of musical instruments.
The 1720 Cristofori piano in the Metropolitan Museum in New York is the picture on the right. The total number of pianos built by Cristofori is unknown. Only three survive today, all dating from the 1720s.
Keyboard Touches and Keyboard Styles
Here is a primary difference between the organ and the harpsichord/piano. According to C.P. E. Bach: “The organ is indispensable in church. It bestows splendor and maintains order. However, for sacred recitatives, and arias… one must resort to the harpsichord. It gives the singing voice freedom of variation. Too often, one discovers how bare a performance can be without harpsichord accompaniment. Moreover, this instrument is indispensable in the theater and at concerts.”
Will Rogers Plays Had a Place in My Life Through Rubinoff. For years I worked with “Rubinoff and His Violin.” He always would praise Will Rogers. Rubinoff stated in his autbiography: “Will used to give me advice. He was a happy fellow and a pleasure to be near. Will advised me on timing, how to time my gestures, how to get the audience to do my bidding, and how to talk to provoke the appropriate responses.” This quote is from Rubinoff’s book, Dance of the Russian Peasant. His wife, Dame Darlene Rubinoff, co-authored the book with her husband. Maestro Rubinoff always paid homage to Will Rogers at his concerts.
Will Rogers Plays:
William Penn Adair Rogers was born on November 4, 1879, in present-day Oologah, Oklahoma—then part of Indian territory. … Himself part Cherokee, Rogers socialized with both indigenous people. Interest in Will Rogers plays found its way into a hit Broadway show: The Will Rogers Follies is a musical with a book by Peter Stone, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and music by Cy Coleman.
It focuses on the life and career of famed humorist and performer Will Rogers, using as a backdrop the Ziegfeld Follies, which he often headlined, and describes every episode in his life in the form of a big production number.
He gave Rubinoff a gigantic pocket watch. Will had the poem below engraved on its back. Will also included his picture with Dave with the following inscription: “To the greatest fiddler in the world. Your Pal, Will Rogers 1932.” Rubinoff recited it at every single concert. Audiences loved it. Here are some paraphrases::
The clock of life is wound but once,
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop
At late or early hour.
Now is the only time we own,
So live, love, toil with a will,
Place no faith in “Tomorrow,”
For the Clock may then be still.
Conclusion: So many were jealous of Rubinoff. Musicians frequently were contemptuous about how he pandered to the public. However, they were really jealous of his income. In the 1930’s he made as much as $500,000/year. Now I offer a present to all my readers. Here is a free youtube link to Rubinoff and I, performing at our last concert in 1984. And yes, he’ll show off his Will Rogers pocket watch. You can hear the thunderstorm at Scott’s Oquaga Lake House during the concert. Oh yes, please share. This is happy and entertaining!
Travel Golden Roads With Our New Musical. The featured picture is a reference to Sharon and myself. We are called “The Ohs.” This is short for Ohrenstein. Famed artist, Harold Weiner, drew this for us as a thank you for a charity event that we did for the Sarasota Music Archives.
Meir’s GOLDEN ROADS: A One Woman Musical About Golda Meir. This original musical was written by the performers: Sharon Lesley Ohrenstein, singer, actor, librettist; and David Ohrenstein, pianist- composer. Broadway director, Carlo Thomas, gave the one woman show a wonderful, big time, New York, aura. From Golda’s dream to its realization, Sharon plays multiple characters. Her characters include:
Blume (Golda’s mother).
Morris (her husband)
Her sister, Sheyna
Zion (a spirit character)
Numerous other male and female characters
OUR MUSICAL OFFERS THE FOLLOWING
The musical will work in any sized theater.
It can also be booked for a limited run or as a special event. For example, for a fund raiser, luncheon or after dinner show.
The musical has several length options
The set is simple and basic. L & O have both portable Yamaha piano and sound.
For more information or price quote: email – firstname.lastname@example.org
We are all on a pilgramage as we travel the Golden Roads. We all seek the precious jewels of happiness, peace and plenty found on this road. Learn about this one woman born into poverty and persecution. Through her own will power and hard work she overcame these hardships.
Travel Golden Roads With Golda Meir
Our Golden Roads symbolizes the journey some must take to find a better future. Golda’s was quite dramatic:
As a child, Golda was nearly trampled to death by stampeding Cossacks riding horses. Her passion became having a safe home.
Be entertained by the beautiful voice of Sharon Lesley and piano artistry of David. Enjoy the beautiful melodies that punctuate the show. Be enthralled about with the story how one woman’s courage and determination helped to rebuild a nation for millions.
Our New York veteran director is Carlo Thomas. He has received positive reviews from Hal Prince, Irving Lowens of the Washington Star, and Werner Vollmann of the Associated Press in Vienna. As a bass, he has appeared in many operas, including Rigoletto, La Traviata, and The Queen of Spades. He has sung on opera stages in Italy. He personally worked with Broadway composers Timothy Gray and Hugh Martin. Carlo has helped to shape our show and provided exciting projections.
Travel Golden Roads and Make Money
This one woman show, featuring Sharon, is a money maker. Call or contact DSOworks@gmail.com today to arrange for your special afternoon or evening with Golden Roads. It was SRO as Golda opened the 2017 Sarasolo Festival held at Sarasota’s Crocker Memorial Church. Don’t be shy! Please share with friends.
Angelic Media to paraphrase a Great Comedian. For years I was the piano player at Scott’s Oquaga Lake House. I had the privilege to accompany many comedians. Al Smith was one of my favorites. It was one of my busiest times: Seven days a week I performed the following afternoon and evening schedule:
3:30 I played on a showboat sing-a-long that went around Oquaga Lake. Fun,fun,fun!
4:30 I sometimes played the afternoon feature show.
6-7 Elegant music for the dinner hour.
7:30 -9:00 played with The Lake-Shore Four dance band
9-10:30 Played for feature shows. Al Smith was frequently called upon. Audiences loved him.
10:30 until closing: For dancing until everyone dropped.
So What is the Angelic Media All About?
When I worked with Al Smith, I was in awe of his timing of his excellent comic rhythm. During his show, Ray Scott, the owner, would be on the drums. Gary Holdridge, son in law, would play the organ. Al had funny stories and many one liners. He also would play banjo classics during his act. Included, of course, was Oh Susanna. One of his most memorable lines, in my opinion, is: “My wife is an angel….She’s always in the air harping about something.” Why was this so funny? Because of the double meaning of “harpy”. Its intended meaning had to do with the Greek concept of harpies. In Greek mythology and Roman mythology, a harpy (plural harpies, Greek: ἅρπυια,harpyia, pronounced [hárpyi̯a]; Latin: harpȳia) was a half-human and half-bird personification of storm winds, in Homeric poems.
Now, How does This Tie into the Angelic Media?
The news, in general, seems to continually harp on a few subjects. They have an obsession with statistics. Here is what the Oquaga Spirit has to say on this fixation. The poem which I quote is from the Oquaga Spirit Speaks. It is entitled: News. The entire book is available as a product on DSOworks.com
Mercury-Hermes ran past
Wearing wing-tipped shoes.
I asked him why he hurried?
He said he carried news.
And so it is with man
Who must be in the know;
News must travel quickly’
Or in the trash it goes.
He dashes to the station
Where it will be broadcast
At the speed of light
To regions remote and vast.
But I just take my time
Walking down the path.
Hermes carries statistics.
I enjoy nature’s math.
Disappearing Mailboxes Out- Dates a Work of Art. Famed cartoonist, Harold Winer, created a number of illustrations for us. They were a thank you present. At one time he was associated with the Sarasota Music Archives. My wife Sharon, and myself, do musical charity work. The Sarasota Music Archives was one of the beneficiaries. It has one of the finest collections of sheet music in the country. As a thank you, Harold Winer gave us a number of art works. The Ohs is short for our last name, Ohrenstein.
Mail boxes have pretty much disappeared; yet, Sharon and I are still performing. We have started to write our own. I have always been a composer. Sharon writes the lyrics and book. Most recently, we wrote Golden Roads. It was the opening show for the Sarasolo festival. Carlo Thomas is our director. We thank him for his help. He guided our rehearsals. Also, he provided about 2 dozen artistically made posters. During the course of the presentation, Sharon co-ordinates the dialogue with the pictures. Our show sold out, SRO. On the positive side, the mail is still there. Only, it is called e-mail. Speaking of which, please feel free to share this e-mail with friends. Let’s have many new shows of all typesthat can offer us rides on Golden Roads.
Forgiving Audience for Rubinoff and His Violin at the Tallahassee Governor’s Club. It was the early 1980’s. Rubinoff and I were invited to play at the Governor’s Club. The Governors Club was founded on certain principles. Chief among them were providing a comfortable and elegant environment for social gatherings, serving excellent food and offering outstanding service. Our private social club cultivates the finest membership….
Rubinoff was an honest man. He freely spoke his mind. If he liked something, you’d know. If he didn’t, he could be quite expressive. Fortunately, once he started to play his violin, my matter what he said was forgiven. People knew they were in a hands of a great master. So what happened?
First I must say that Dave liked delicatessen food: Corn beef, pastrami, potato salad…He lived in Detroit at the Leland House. I worked with him for many years as his arranger and accompanist. To me, he was like the grandfather I never got to know. When we went on a lunch break, we’d go to the closest deli. He also delighted in “cooking the greatest hamburger in the world.” He called it “Hamburger a la Rubinoff.” I got to eat plenty of the best hamburgers in the world. But that was David. He was excited about everything he did. He fell in love with every melody he worked on. He had passion for music and life. I felt honored to work with such a man, The bonus was he treated me like I was his grandson.
Forgiving Audience Springs Into Action
We walked in the capitol building for both the concert and dinner. Talk about eloquence. Each place was set with 4 or 5 glasses for wine. We had silverware galore and beautiful dishes. We entered slightly late. Everyone was already seated. Suddenly a scream issues forth: “This place is too damn fancy for me!”, yells Rubinoff.” The sentiment was projected with his heavy Russian accent. In all honesty, that is how to create a hostel audience. Luckily, they didn’t throw us out. After dinner he played his violin with me at the piano. By our second number, all were in his pocket. They loved him. The concert ended with bravos and a standing ovation. I thought our reception by the Florida legislators was magnanimous, appreciative and forgiving.
If you like this blog, feel free to share. I think it’s one of the greatest show biz stories ever. If you never heard Rubinoff and I give a concert, please enjoy our 45 minute 1984 New York Catskill Mountain performance at Scott’s Oquaga Lake House on this youtube link. It is free. He was in his mid-eighties. The man is an inspiration to all of us.