Na zdraví! Drinks in the Czech Republic

All photos by Linda A. Rapka


Rounding out my three-week vacation in Europe, I spent two glorious (and all-too-brief) days in Prague. This remarkably preserved ancient city in the Czech Republic left me breathless with its unparalleled beauty, history, architecture, people, culture, and — perhaps most importantly — incredible food and drink. In this entry, I will focus on the latter.

Beer flows more readily than water in this part of the world, and is the cheapest thing on every menu — literally costing less than bottled water. A typical half-pint of Czech brew costs about 20-25 CZK, less than 1 U.S. dollar. The Bohemians are credited with inventing the world’s first clear, golden beer. Prior to the development of Pilsner in 1842, beer was dark, cloudy, and quite thick. Says BeerAdvocate:

The birth of Pilsner beer can be traced back to its namesake, the ancient city of Plzen (or Pilsen) which is situated in the western half of the Czech Republic in what was once Czechoslovakia and previously part of the of Bohemian Kingdom. Pilsner beer was first brewed back in the 1840s when the citizens, brewers and maltsters of Plzen formed a brewer’s guild and called it the People’s Brewery of Pilsen.

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LA Loves Prince


A sea of purple descends upon City Hall for an epic live concert tribute

Los Angeles City Hall was awash in shades of purple the evening of May 6 when the city held a Memorial Tribute to Prince Rogers Nelson honoring the iconic artist’s legacy in music and philanthropy.

Thousands of fans wearing Prince’s signature color descended upon the grassy lawn in front of the City Hall steps to celebrate the artist, who died on April 21 at his Paisley Park estate in Minnesota. Continue reading

John Clayton: Playing it Cool

John Clayton 2015clr

John Clayton is a natural born multitasker. The multiple roles in which he excels – composer, arranger, conductor, producer, educator, and extraordinary bassist – garner him a number of challenging assignments and commissions. With a Grammy on his shelf and eight additional nominations, artists such as Diana Krall, Paul McCartney, Regina Carter, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gladys Knight, Queen Latifah, and Charles Aznavour vie for a spot on his crowded calendar. His many musical pursuits include the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, which he founded along with his brother Jeff in 1986, and the Clayton Brothers quintet, which includes his son Gerald on piano. As a teacher, in addition to presenting individual clinics, workshops, and private students as schedule permits, he directs the educational components associated with the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Centrum Festival, and Vail Jazz Party.

John’s many career highlights include arranging “The Star-Spangled Banner” for Whitney Houston’s performance at the 1990 Super Bowl (the recording went platinum), playing bass on Paul McCartney’s CD “Kisses On The Bottom,” arranging and playing bass with Yo-Yo Ma and Friends on “Songs of Joy and Peace,” and arranging playing and conducting the 2009 CD “Charles Aznavour With the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra,” and numerous recordings with Diana Krall, the Clayton Brothers, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz, Orchestra, Milt Jackson, Monty Alexander and many others. He will be honored by the California Jazz Society with the Nica Award at the organization’s annual Give the Band a Hand gala at the L.A. Hotel in downtown Los Angeles on April 2.

John took time out of his very busy schedule to speak with Overture’s Linda A. Rapka at his home studio in Altadena.

You are a man of many musical hats, as an accomplished jazz and classical musician as well as performer, composer and arranger. Musically speaking, who do you see yourself as?
It sounds a little cliché, but I identify myself as a music guy. There are kinds of music that I’m drawn to more than other kinds, but that range is pretty broad for me.

Judging from the volumes of music behind us, I don’t doubt that one bit.
I never want to feel like I’ve arrived. I never want to feel like OK, this is what I do. Period, the end. These are the styles of music I play or write. No, please. More. I think most artists are like that. Continue reading

STAR WARS: The Orchestra Awakens


by Linda A. Rapka


For the first time in the epic film saga’s history, the music for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was scored here in Los Angeles with AFM Local 47 musicians.


Composer John Williams with guest conductor Gustavo Dudamel during one of the scoring sessions for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at Sony Studios. Photo courtesy Don Foster

John Williams, a Life Member of the musicians union, composed the music once again for this seventh installment in the “Star Wars” franchise. He has written the music for every film in the series since its 1977 debut, but while previous films were scored at Abbey Road with the London Symphony Orchestra, “The Force Awakens” marks the first time a “Star Wars” score was recorded stateside.

“This experience of working on the latest ‘Star Wars’ in Los Angeles is probably the most momentous of scoring occasions in our long history of recording,” said Bruce Dukov, a violinist who has recorded on over 1,800 motion pictures over the past 30 years. “The main reason is that for 38 years of that franchise, all the music was recorded in London. For us to be involved in this venture now is nothing less than fantastic, and worthy of major historic notation.” Continue reading

Subhumans: It Just Makes Your Brian Larger


As the frontman of influential English anarcho-punk band Subhumans and punk/ska groups Citizen Fish and Culture Shock, Dick Lucas expounds against war, corruption, corporate greed, and systematic cultural oppression. Subhumans formed in Southwest England in 1980 and experimented with rock tempos, blues melodies and instrumentation not usually heard in traditional punk. Splitting in 1985, they entertained several brief reunions until reforming more permanently in 1998 with an extensive tour of the UK and U.S., and continue to perform regularly. Rotating among an incestuous mix of musical projects, Lucas has remained steadily active with Citizen Fish—which shares several Subhumans members—since 1990, and recently regrouped with Culture Shock, a short-lived band formed just after the initial Subs split (featuring several members who went on to form Citizen Fish). Subhumans plays Thurs., Oct. 29, and Fri., Oct. 30, at Los Globos with Blazing Eye, Generacion Suicida and more. Lucas spoke by phone just before performing a recent show in New York with interviewer Linda A. Rapka.

I was your pen pal when I was 12.
What? Really?

In the early 1990s, soon after I discovered punk and the Subhumans, I sent you a letter in the mail and you actually responded.
Wow. I think twice in my life … before email, it was only twice in my life when I had no letters left to reply to.

Do you still write back to fans?
Yeah, you know—I try to. Of course now it’s all by email.

At the first Subhumans show I went to, someone threw a shoe at your head, a crowd of people jumped onstage and unplugged your equipment, and we were all pepper-sprayed.
I remember one massive show we did in San Bernardino in 1998. Continue reading

Take Me Out to the Ballgame: Dodger organist Nancy Bea Hefley

nancy bea

Dodger organist Nancy Bea Hefley talks about her three decades with LA’s Boys in Blue

Named by some fans as their “favorite Dodger” of all time, stadium organist Nancy Bea Hefley has livened up the ballpark with her signature playing since 1988.

Though the last few years have seen her playtime steadily dwindle, public outcry has been strong enough to see her contract renew for the next baseball season.

And she couldn’t be happier. Continue reading

The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddess


Photos by Linda A. Rapka

Master Quest @ Disney Hall

The highly anticipated global tour of “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses – Master Quest” visited Walt Disney Concert Hall on June 14, regaling fans with a truly unique experience from one of the most beloved franchises in video game history. Continue reading