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How to Be a Classical Ravens Fan
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February 1, 2013
Many people probably think of classical musicians as sort of staid, serious types, who certainly wouldn’t get all excited about a football team. But with only a few days to go before Baltimore’s Ravens appear in the Super Bowl, WYPR’s Joel McCord says: think again.
Joel McCord: It seems you can’t get away from that chant; White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army. You hear it on TV if you’re watching a Ravens game. You heard it over and over and over again at the Ravens send-off rally at the Inner Harbor Monday. But have you ever heard it like this?
That’s Mark Janello, a professor of music theory at the Peabody Institute, improvising a fugue based on the White Stripes theme. It was something he just tossed off at the organ at Old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Charles Street. He was helping his friend, Doug Buchanan, the choir director there, put together a Ravens Anglican chant for a YouTube video.
Mark Janello: I joked with Doug when he asked me to come and help to sing in his Anglican chant choir that, like, hey, if you want me to improvise a fugue on that chant that they sing in the concerts that I would do it.
McCord: Concerts. Well, obviously he meant games, but he is a classical musician, you know. But, back up, here. Ravens Anglican chant? Buchanan says people have been setting various texts of varying levels of banality to Anglican chant for years; weather reports, cereal boxes, even what you had for breakfast this morning.
Buchanan: You know, I could say, “This morning I had for breakfast some egg with toast and cereal.
McCord: So why not take words from the Ravens fight song--or even the NFL rule book-- and set them to chant?
Buchanan: I just wanted to do it for fun. And sort of show support for the Ravens show support for our community and, like I say, have some fun while we were doing it.
McCord: Buchanan recruited members of his choir, choirs from other nearby churches and friends from the Baltimore Choral Arts Society. And one night last week after choir rehearsal they recorded a video of the Ravenlican Chant. Choir members are appropriately attired in black cassocks with purple stoles and some in Ravens jerseys. Buchanan conducts with a large, foam finger with a Ravens’ logo.
Buchanan: Which really adds a level of subtlety that I think more conductors should experiment with. There’s a sense of foaminess that you get that you can’t get with a baton.
McCord: It went online Monday and has registered somewhere in the neighborhood of 4000 hits by this morning. Granted, that’s paltry in comparison to, say, Lady Gaga. But this is a church of the Anglican Communion and they would be pretty happy with that. The fugue on 7 Nation Army was almost an after-thought that Buchanan’s brother, Benjamin, added to the chant video. Janello, who has a harpsichord jammed into his cramped office at the Peabody, says he thought of it in the car, on the way to the church.
Janello: I remember thinking you know what if you do this, (music) here’s the tune, you can do it twice on top of itself. Let’s see…(music) So that, when I thought of that I thought, oh, that’s gotta go in there.
McCord: It did, and became this…
Janello says classical musicians have a lot in common with football players. You train all your life to perform under the most difficult of circumstances and there’s no margin for error; except musicians don’t have guys the size of Halota Ngata bearing down on them. And that probably explains the latest video contribution to Ravens mania by an ensemble of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, along with some singing friends.
McCord: That, by the way, comes with apologies to Georges Bizet, that temptress Carmen and her lover, Escamillo. BSO spokeswoman Alyssa Porambo says the video stemmed from a challenge issued by members of the San Francisco Symphony. It all started with posting on social media and grew from there. After that, what can you say but Go Ravens.
I’m Joel McCord, reporting in Baltimore for 88.1, WYPR.
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