Poems written for Claus Ogerman
Consummate Conductor", a poem written for Claus Ogerman
by B.J. Major
You arrive on stage with your scores folded in half within your hands and calmly walk toward the podium.
Your arms go up and the music begins--what a delight and inspiration you are to watch.
Seeing you conduct makes me feel inside as if I am an active musician again;
only this time, playing under your direction.
Keeping my eyes on the sheet music in front of me but seeing everything you do in my peripheral vision.
You are the kind of conductor I always wanted to play under.
You don't just stand there and beat time.
The expressiveness, the cues, the nodding of your head is what it's all about.
The kind of conductor that inspires one to play their absolute best--
so as to not let the music or you down in any way.
Then there are those hands. Your hands.
So very few conductors have those hands, almost mesmerizing, always interesting in their finesse and movement.
They are capable of doing all the expression by themselves.
To put a baton in them is a crime.
In my lifetime I've seen only three conductors I deem worthy of calling "the best". . .
Bernstein was the first one I saw.
Back in the late 50s when he was on tv Sunday afternoons
I was made to watch him.
He certainly was expressive, put all of himself into the music--of this no one could deny.
I was always amused to see his hair go flying about no matter what it was he would conduct.
But he had the passion, the excitement, the commitment to the music, that much was clear.
Some years later when I saw "Fantasia" for the first time
I was introduced to Stokowski.
What command he had of the orchestra, such a pleasure to watch.
And his hands were likewise gifted, they needed no baton.
I was sorry that I was born too late to watch him conduct The Philadelphia Orchestra when he was its leader.
Then there is you.
Not last on the list because you are the least.
But third only because, unfortunately, I didn't see you conduct as long ago as I did the other two.
But you're in the same league as them - of this there is no doubt.
I am so very grateful for having the chance to see you conduct and learn about this side to your musicianship
which I thought I already knew so well.
But the picture was not complete until that Saturday, November 9, 2002.
That's the day it happened and I have not been the same since.
For all these reasons you will always be
The Consummate Conductor to me.
[Above: just a few of the albums Claus Ogerman has been involved with as either
composer, arranger, conductor, performer or producer.]
"Pieces of A Puzzle - Your Records", a poem for
by B.J. Major
Over three years ago now
someone sent me some early 60s LPs belonging to you
that I did not already own.
I looked forward to getting these
as I was still doing lots of initial work on your discography
and was anxious to get these album covers scanned in.
Some time went by before I actually had a chance
to hear these albums for myself; but once I did hear them, I was hooked.
Hooked on the sounds you created with these pop instrumental records
which also contained some of your original compositions.
I was really turned on by the sound of "Nancy's Theme"
but it was way too short at under two minutes.
Some people would say this kind of music sounds dated now,
that it belonged to an earlier time and has no place in today's listening.
But I disagree. I like it. It's fun for me to listen to it.
I would have loved to have been in a corner and watch you record tracks like this.
Before hearing these,
I thought I had "your sound" down pretty well;
after all, I already owned all the albums you did with the Brazilians, Sinatra & Kai Winding.
To me you were "king of the strings"; the only arranger
who could make me love the string section of an orchestra.
But all that was just the tip of the iceberg, and as I would very soon find out -
you were more versatile than even I was giving you credit for being.
So I began to explore more of what you've done.
And that meant more records.
So many of these were not reissued and if I was going to hear them at all,
I had to play the original albums.
During this same time, you also arranged at least two albums from Broadway shows
and these quickly became among my favorites.
Then there were the 45 rpms and EPs I found -
some of them promo, some of them rare;
some of them singles recorded all by themselves that were not tied to an album.
All Pieces of A Puzzle that is your recording career.
You worked with many more jazz artists than I had originally thought.
When George Benson's "Breezin'" was a hit on the radio,
I never knew the arrangement belonged to you.
I don't think Tjader, Evans or Getz
ever sounded finer than when playing your compositions.
Your boxed set gave me a taste of other jazz recordings with which I was unfamiliar.
Now they feel like old friends and their albums are alongside your earlier ones.
Going through your career is like being on a treasure hunt;
you never know what you are going to uncover, but it's sure to be good.
Now we come to your favorite area, the classical.
I started slowly in this area, first with your "Gate of Dreams".
I couldn't get enough of hearing it and played it over and over again.
Then I went to "Lyrical Works" and was further entranced.
I don't remember classical music being this enjoyable to me before!
I also loved what you did classically with Barbra and also the ballet;
hearing all this has provided me with yet another facet of your career.
Today it was nice out so I opened my upstairs bedroom window
then played your third album with Jobim;
I smiled as I knew the sound of the music was going downstairs below, weaving its way
through the very crowded, narrow street.
I hoped it would touch anyone going by who would hear it
and inspire something beautiful instead of the usual chaos
that is my busy suburb.
This is what one of the Pieces of A Puzzle
- that is your recording career - can do.
Why do I feel so restless right now?
I should be right at ease, listening to my iPod
with the thousands of tracks contained in its hard drive.
I know why.
I switched to a new playlist just yesterday for a bit of a change
and I forgot to set it back to your playlist.
I have your music selected most of the time.
Every bit of it that I have been able to get hold of so far.
Everything you have ever done, regardless of style
is on this miracle machine that can fit in my pocket.
Some day I hope to have all of your recorded music, every bit of it.
There is your pop, Broadway, jazz, Brazilian, & classical
- all represented and all listed
by artist (you), album, song title, and even style, on this device.
The player stays in its own wetsuit case that has a belt clip on it.
And most of the time I keep it on my belt when I'm out and about.
I don't go anywhere without it;
even when I take the shortest trip, it accompanies me.
Once in a while I change the playlist from yours to another one.
Just for a few hours or maybe a day -
but then I put it right back to yours.
If I don't, something strange happens.
I begin to crave your music.
I miss hearing it that much.
Like a hunger for something that won't quit until it's satisfied.
When I feel this way, I know what's wrong -
so with a few turns of the scrollwheel
and a few clicks of the center button
things are put right again.
Things are in synch again.
I'm in harmony again and I feel instantly better.
And breathing a deep sigh, I feel that I am home again -
where I belong, listening to your
"Mail Time", a poem written for Claus Ogerman
by B.J. Major
Tonight as I get ready to leave for work
I make sure I place something very important in my computer bag.
It's my weekly letter to you.
These letters have become the only way
I can connect with you, communicate with you.
When I get off the bus, I cross the busy highway and enter the small post office
which is very quiet at night.
As I drop the envelope in the slot,
I wish I could become very small
and follow the letter on its way to you until it reaches your hands.
I'd like to be there when you open it and watch your face as you read it.
I'm always anxious to tell you what's new
and what I've discovered to put on your site.
It was difficult to contain my excitement when I found two of your oldest records.
It was hard for me, waiting for the mail that week;
wondering when the packages would come.
I could not wait to hear the music
or to scan in the covers for your discography.
Finally, those parcels arrived.
I loved everything about what was inside
but most of all, that they were something of yours,
something you had a direct hand in making,
something that bears your name and is only from your career.
Then there is the other, very special mail I look forward to receiving.
Letters from you.
Letters that mean a great deal to me.
Always so very glad to hear from you
and what you think of things I've been telling you about.
I've kept all your letters very carefully;
they're in a file folder that has your name on it which is in a special file container.
I look at everything you send several times before I put it away for safekeeping.
What's that noise I hear outside, below my window?
It's the mailman!
I wonder what will arrive today . . . ?
"Change For a
a poem written for Claus Ogerman
by B.J. Major
It's cold out here, waiting for the bus tonight,
but it will come soon.
My breath is making a steady trail of smoke in this night air.
While I'm waiting, I listen to "A Sketch of Eden" -
one of my favorite compositions belonging to you.
There is some loose change in my right jeans' pocket.
More than the usual amount, as I stopped and got some coffee
on the way to the bus stop.
I improvise my drumming skills with what I have at hand
and tap my fingers on the coins to the steady beat,
pretending that I am a percussionist in your orchestra.
Performing the rhythm on the cymbal
and playing along with the music that is filling my ears.
In my mind I am standing there in the back of the orchestra,
counting the measures to come in.
Then you look my way and give me the cue
and the magic of the music begins.
Just when everything is in sync
and I am under the spell of your art
-- it's interrupted by the arrival of the
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