Classical Music News of the Week, March 17, 2013

Listen: Life With Classical Music Enters Its Fifth Year and Celebrates “The Voice” in Spring 2013 Issue

Listen: Life With Classical Music lures the spring crocuses out with an ode to the vast world of vocal music. Listen investigates the choral-music empire of composer Eric Whitacre, the sustained tenure of the  King’s Singers, the mysteries of contemporary diva and maestra Barbara Hannigan, and the operatic legacy of Verdi and Wagner. Plus, the bold violinist Hilary Hahn discusses jumping off the high dive into new music.

Eric Whitacre’s ethereal compositions in combination with a focused business acumen have made him one of the most beloved and more commercially successful American composers. Brian Wise investigates his choral-music dominance.

Violinist Hilary Hahn talks to Listen editor in chief Ben Finane about her forthcoming new-music commissioning project, her American identity and her experiences in improvisation. The King’s Singers are the most well-oiled of musical machines. Affable, British, with razor-sharp vocal talent, the group has been a mainstay of vocal music since 1968. Renegade soprano Barbara Hannigan is no darling of the opera houses. Maestra, performer, soprano, conductor and actress, Hannigan transgresses boundaries no matter where she goes. Plus, find out why Sir Simon Rattle is so obsessed with her. And on the verge of a professional singing career, a soprano grapples with the hearing loss that stole her identity. She tells her story of coming back to music.

It is the bicentenary of Verdi and Wagner. Polar opposites, yet eerily connected, these two composers changed opera forever. Verdi: widely beloved, liberal, from warm Italy, his operas were luscious emotional rubies; Wagner: cultish, proto-Facist, from the cold north, his operas were grandiose, transcendental and, well, long. Colin Eatock discusses their impact on opera productions in the 2013 season. Then, Paul Griffiths discusses the fallout of the most intense riot in all of music history--the premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Griffiths explores the legacy of Stravinsky’s controversial work and why it continues to revivify classical music.

Now entering its fifth year of publication, Listen delivers exclusive interviews with the world’s top musicians, feature articles, think pieces, festival coverage, insight into the masterworks and the unsung works of the classical canon, as well as recommendations on record, on screen, in print and online. No one covers the breadth and depth of classical music with greater elegance and zeal than Listen. The magazine is available at Barnes & Noble or by subscription at

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Merola Opera Program Announces Girls of the Golden West Annual Benefit and Silent Action Honoring Four Long-Time Merola Sponsors
The Merola Opera Program’s 2013 Spring Benefit will be held from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., Saturday, April 13 at The Fairmont San Francisco. Girls of the Golden West honors four of Merola’s long-time supporters: the late Mrs. Lonny J. Darwin, Mrs. A. Barlow Ferguson, Barbara K. Jackson and Miss Vivienne E. Miller. The event will feature a silent auction with an emphasis on fine wines and once-in-a-lifetime xperiences; cocktails and hors d'oeuvres; a formal three-course dinner; a concert featuring the 2013 San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows and after-dinner dancing and drinks. Proceeds from the evening will support the Merola Opera Program, one of the most respected young artist training programs in the world. A recognized leader in the opera community, Merola provides invaluable training and financial support to the next generation of opera talent.

The silent auction will have a special emphasis on wines again this year, in addition to featuring entertainment, dining and travel items. “We are incredibly fortunate that Merola’s wine auction continues to be a draw for wine lovers who will once again have a chance to bid on a wide variety of wines, including many rare and valuable vintages,” said Auction Co-Chair Dr. James Cross who worked with his Co-Chair Jane Burkhard to put together the remarkable auction. An extensive wine section will feature more than 50 bottles of fine wines and experts will be on hand to answer questions and assist guests in choosing the perfect bottle to bid on. Wine enthusiasts will also be tempted by a limited-entry raffle for two desirable bottles of Chateau Lafite-Rothchild from vintages nearly 30 years apart, 1962 and 1990 collectively valued at over $2,000.

Merola’s annual Spring Benefit is well-known for its unique “Signature Events” arranged by Board Members Tracy Grant, Patrick Wilken and Rusty Rolland. Highlights include recitals with renowned artists and Merola Alumni William Burden, Lucas Meachem, Alek Shrader and Daniela Mack as well as conversations with Dolora Zajick and Neil Shicoff.

“The real highlight of this year’s event is the chance to honor these four remarkable women,” said Spring Benefit Chair Robert Mison. “These women truly are Merola’s ‘Golden Girls’ and have provided consistent support and enthusiasm for years. We think that Merola supporters will jump at the chance to celebrate their lives and work at this year’s Spring Benefit.” 

Mrs. Lonny J. Darwin, Mrs. A. Barlow Ferguson, Barbara K. Jackson and Miss Vivienne E. Miller each have given to the Merola Opera Program and the Merolini in their own way for most of Merola’s more than 50 years. Merola is proud to honor these “Golden Girls” at this year’s Spring Benefit.

The late Mrs. Lonny J. Darwin joined the Merola Board of Directors in 1993 and became an Emeritus Board member in 2009. A Merola sponsor year after year, Lonny charmed Merolini with her kindness, intelligence and elegance. Lonny was also on the Board of Directors of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation and the Holocaust Center of Northern California.

Mrs. A Barlow Ferguson became a member of the Merola Board of Directors shortly after the organization’s founding. For more than 30 years she served as an enthusiastic Merola Board member from 1960 to 1990 and is currently an Emeritus Board member. She has sponsored a Merolini since 1978. She is also a generous supporter of numerous arts and education organizations including being a Life Governor of the San Francisco Symphony and a trustee of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Barbara Jackson is known for introducing the Davis community to Merola by arranging bus rides to bring her Davis neighbors to Merola performances. Barbara has sponsored a Merola tenor every summer for almost 20 years. She travels far and wide to hear “her tenors” perform. Barbara also is well known as an award-winning costume designer for the Davis Comic Opera Company, Davis Players, Davis High School and Sacramento Opera Company. In 2009, Barbara received the Spirit of Opera Award, San Francisco Opera’s highest honor.

For many years, Miss Vivienne E. Miller has been a generous and active Merola and Amici di Merola member.  For more than 15 summers, Vivienne has sponsored a Merola singer. She attended her first opera backstage at the Metropolitan Opera in New York when she was three years old and she has loved opera ever since. Vivienne is also a Parliamentarian of the Friends of the Mill Valley Library Board of Directors. Her smiles and hugs at Merola events are appreciated by all.

Each of these “Golden Girls” is a member of the Merola Legacy Society. The Merola Legacy Society honors those who have included the Merola Opera Program in their will, trust or other estate plans. Legacy gifts provide the financial resources that create extraordinary opportunities to ensure and enhance the future of the Merola Opera Program.

The Merola Opera Program is dedicated to the continuing education and training of the finest young operatic talent and to the development of this talent into professional opera singers, coaches and stage directors of the highest artistic caliber. Merola operates in close artistic collaboration with San Francisco Opera, but is an independent nonprofit organization. Governed by a separate board of directors, Merola is responsible for its own long-term financial stability and fundraising and is grateful to the hundreds of loyal members, donors and foundations who support the Program.

Tickets for the Girls of the Golden West are $300, $600, $1,200 and $2,500. All tickets are available through the Merola Opera Program and can be purchased by emailing, calling (415) 551-6299 or online at

Also, Merola Opera Program Presents Girls of the Golden West Annual Benefit Gala & Silent Auction:
Join the Merola Opera Program for its annual Spring Benefit. This year Merola honors four of its long-time supporters: the late Mrs. Lonny J. Darwin, Mrs. A. Barlow Ferguson, Barbara K. Jackson and Miss Vivienne E. Miller. The event will feature a silent auction with an emphasis on fine wines and once-in-a-lifetime experiences; cocktails and hors d'oeuvres; a formal three-course dinner; a concert featuring the 2013 San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows and after-dinner dancing and drinks.

Time: 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. Saturday, April 13.
Place: The Fairmont San Francisco, 950 Mason Street, San Francisco, California 94108.
Tickets: $300, $600, $1,200 and $2,500; proceeds benefit Merola Opera Program.

Merola is accepting donations in honor of the four “Golden Girls.” To make a donation, please contact Miriam Rosenfeld at or call (415) 565-3235.

For more information about Merola, please visit or call (415) 551-6299.

--Karen Ames Communications

Cal Performances Presents Two World Premieres from Choreographer Mark Morris
Cal Performances’ third annual Ojai North! features a June 2013 world premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and an April 2014 bow of a new, fully staged opera production of Handel’s Acis and Galatea.

Cal Performances will present two world premieres by renowned choreographer Mark Morris within the span of less than one year featuring musical works by radically different composers both recognized as geniuses in their own time: Stravinsky, one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, and Händel, one of the most prolific and admired of all baroque composers.

This coming June, Cal Performances will present the world premiere of Mark Morris’s new choreography to Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring  June 12 and 13 at Hertz Hall, Berkeley, California. The two performances will open the third annual Ojai North!, a multi-year partnership with the esteemed Ojai Music Festival. The Rite of Spring will be performed by Mark Morris Dance Group and jazz trio The Bad Plus (“about as badass as highbrow can get” according to Rolling Stone Magazine), who has rescored the explosive masterpiece for piano, bass, and drums. The collaborative effort between the Ojai Festival and Cal Performances makes possible annual reprises of Ojai concerts in Berkeley, as well as co-commissions and co-productions. More than just a sharing of resources, Ojai North! represents a joining of artistic ideals and aspirations. The combined efforts of Ojai’s legacy of artistic innovation and Cal Performances’ tradition of groundbreaking productions create a joint force that allows artists to achieve more than would be possible by each organization separately.

Cal Performances again partners with the legendary choreographer for the world premiere of a new, fully staged opera production of Mozart’s arrangement of Händel’s Acis and Galatea April 25-27, 2014. This new production features visual artist and scenic designer Adrianne Lobel, fashion and costume designer Isaac Mizrahi, and lighting designer Michael Chybowski. Four lead singers will perform the work in English: Thomas Cooley as Acis, Sherezade Panthaki as Galatea, Douglas Williams as Polyphemus, and Zach Finkelstein as Damon. Nicholas McGegan leads the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra for the three performances in Berkeley. The popular Händel opera Acis and Galatea is based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses with the libretto written by John Gay in 1739. Mozart’s arrangement, written in 1788, broadens Händel’s original orchestration through the addition of bassoon, clarinet, and horn which allows an expanded range of sound color. The two-act opera—a tale of great tenderness, rivalry, and eternal love—focuses on a triangle tragically tested by unrequited love between Acis, an Arcadian shepherd, Galatea, a sea nymph, and the cyclops Polyphemus, who jealously slays Acis. Acis and Galatea is a Mark Morris Dance Group/Cal Performances/ Celebrity Series of Boston production, in association with the Harriman-Jewell Series, Kansas City; Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York. After the premiere at Cal Performances, the production will tour the commissioning partners’ cities through 2015.

Morris, whom the New York Times called “the most successful and influential choreographer alive, and indisputably the most musical”  has long considered Cal Performances his West Coast home, having partnered with the organization since 1987. In recognition of his significant long-term collaborative relationship with the institution, Cal Performances recently honored him with its Award of Distinction in the Performing Arts.

“The Bay Area understands the genius of Mark Morris and his talents as a dancer, choreographer and musician, perhaps better than anywhere else in the world,” said Cal Performances’ Director Matías Tarnopolsky.  “We are fortunate to be able to bring Mark’s unique creative vision with two such remarkable works written hundreds of years apart to genius composers with radically different ideas.”

Cal Performances, located on the campus of the nation’s finest public university, is a beneficiary of UC Berkeley’s renowned intellectual and cultural environment. Under the leadership of Director Matías Tarnopolsky, Cal Performances offers one of the world’s finest performing arts seasons reaching nearly 200,000 people each year through its programming and community outreach.  Local, national and international collaborations and partnerships allow Cal Performances the opportunity to combine a significant local impact with global reach.

Ticket information:
Tickets for Ojai North! on Wednesday-Saturday, June 12-15, at Hertz Hall range from $20.00-$110.00 and are subject to change. Tickets for Mark Morris’s Acis and Galatea April 25-27, 2014, will go on sale April 29, 2013. Tickets are available through the Cal Performances’ Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall; at (510) 642-9988; at; and at the door. Half-price tickets are available for purchase by UC Berkeley students. UC faculty and staff, senior citizens, other students and UC Alumni Association members receive a $5.00 discount (Special Events excluded). For select performances, Cal Performances offers UCB student, faculty and staff, senior, and community rush tickets.  Rush tickets are announced three hours prior to a performance on Cal Performances’ Facebook page and at 510-642-9988 and are available in person only at the Ticket Office beginning one hour before the performance; one ticket per person; all sales are cash only. For more information, call Cal Performances at (510) 642-9988, or visit

--Joe Yang, Cal Performances

92nd Street Y April Performances
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Anne-Marie McDermott, the Parker Quartet
Saturday, April 13, 8 p.m.
92nd St. Y, New York City, NY

Violinist, chamber musician, and music director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg joins pianist Anne-Marie McDermott and the GRAMMY Award-winning Parker Quartet for an evening of expressly powerful and hypnotic chamber music spanning the late 19th - 20th centuries.

Part: Spiegel im Spiegel for Violin and Piano
Prokofiev: Sonata for Violin and Piano in F minor, Op. 80
Chausson: Concert for Violin, Piano and String Quartet in D major, Op. 21
Single tickets from $38


Contrasts: Christian Tetzlaff, Jorg Widmann, Alexander Lonquich & Friends
Tuesday, April 16, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 18, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 20, 8 p.m.

Christian Tetzlaff is internationally recognized as one of the most important violinists of his generation. He and pianist Alexander Lonquich return to 92Y after five seasons along with the prodigiously gifted composer-clarinetist Jörg Widmann, cellist Tanja Tetzlaff and pianist Cristina Barbuti for three nights of richly contrasting chamber music.

Tuesday, April 16, 7:30 p.m. - Widmann: 24 Duos for Violin and Cello, Book I, Mozart: Sonata for Piano Four Hands in F major, K. 497, Mozart: Piano Trio in E major, K. 542, Bartok: Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet and Piano

Thursday, April 18, 7:30 p.m. - Mozart: Fantasia for Piano in C minor, K. 475, Widmann: 24 Duos for Violin and Cello, Book II, Mozart: Sonata for Violin and Piano in G major, K. 379, Mozart: Variations for Piano Four Hands in G major, K. 501, Widmann: Nachtstück for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, Mozart: Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano in E-flat major, K. 498, “Kegelstatt”

Saturday, April 20, 8 p.m. - Mozart: Piano Trio in B-flat major, K. 502 Widmann: Fantasie for Solo Clarinet, Mozart: Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major, K. 526, Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time for Clarinet, Violin, Cello and Piano
Single tickets from $36


Tokyo String Quartet
Saturday, April 27, 8 p.m.

In its 43rd and final season and ninth season as string quartet in residence at 92Y, the Tokyo String Quartet is one of the supreme chamber ensembles of the world. The Quartet has collaborated with a remarkable array of artists and composers and built a comprehensive catalogue of over 40 landmark recordings earning such honors as the Grand Prix du Disque Montreux, “Best Chamber Music Recording of the Year" awards from both Stereo Review and Gramophone magazines, and seven Grammy-Award nominations.

Haydn: String Quartet in G major, Op. 77, No. 1
Kodaly: String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10
Bartok: String Quartet No. 5
Single tickets from $36


Lars Vogt, piano
Sunday, April 28, 3 p.m.

Lars Vogt is one of today's leading pianists. He was named the first-ever pianist in residence for Berlin Philharmonic and has since performed with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago, London, and NHK Symphonies, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. An EMI recording artist, Mr. Vogt has made 15 discs for the label.

Bartok: Excerpts from For Children
Schubert: Sonata in G major, D. 894
Larcher: Poems: 12 Pieces for Pianists and Other Children, New York premiere
Brahms: Three Intermezzi, Op. 117
Brahms: Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Book I, Op. 35
Single tickets from $36

Tickets are available at or 212-415-5500.

--Ashlyn Damm, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg Leads the New Century Chamber Orchestra in Performances with Pianist Anne-Marie McDermott, April 3-7
Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra return from their highly-successful eight-state national tour with five San Francisco Bay Area performances April 3-7, featuring acclaimed pianist Anne-Marie McDermott. Following her debut appearance with the ensemble in March 2009, Ms. McDermott returns to perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major, K. 414 and Chausson’s Concert for Piano, Violin and String Quartet, played by the full orchestra, and featuring Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg on the violin. Completing the program is Golijov’s Last Round for double string quartet and double bass.

In demand as a soloist and chamber musician, Anne-Marie McDermott has held a long-standing collaborative partnership with Nada Salerno-Sonnenberg and performed with New Century during Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg’s inaugural 2009-2010 season as Music Director. As a duo, they released the 2005 CD record Live on the NSS label featuring music by Beethoven, Schubert and Poulenc recorded at the Lincoln Center. Future recording projects include a release of the complete Brahms Violin and Piano Sonatas. Anne-Marie McDermott’s performances with New Century are sponsored in part by a grant from The Ross McKee Foundation.

A versatile performer of all musical genres, Anne-Marie McDermott has performed as guest soloist with many leading orchestras throughout the United States including the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, National Symphony and Baltimore Symphony. Since 1995, she has served as an artist member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, performing and touring with them extensively each season. In addition to her performing career, Ms. McDermott serves as Artistic Director for numerous festivals including the famed Vail Music Festival, Ocean Reef Chamber Music Festival and the Avila Chamber Music Celebration in Curacao. Most recently, she was appointed Curator for Chamber Music at the Mainly Mozart Festival in San Diego. As a recording artist, she has released solo and chamber records on the NSS label, Bridge Records and Image Recordings.

“Anne-Marie McDermott Returns” will be given on four evenings in different locations around the San Francisco Bay Area: Wednesday, April 3 at 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco; Thursday, April 4 at 8 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley; Friday, April 5 at 8 p.m., First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto; and Sunday, April 7 at 5 p.m., Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, San Rafael.

New Century also offers an Open Rehearsal Tuesday, April 2 at 10 a.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco for a price of only $8. The Open Rehearsal will offer a sneak preview of the concert repertoire, while allowing audiences to experience the musical democracy of a rehearsal without a conductor.

--Karen Ames Communications

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa