[image-1]I’m beginning things this afternoon with a shameless plug alert: We’re up to our eyeballs over here with getting our first big Spoleto paper out tomorrow, 160+ pages strong. (You’re not gonna want to drop this one on your foot.) It’s our annual Buzz-o-Meter issue, which we always crank out the Wednesday before the festival starts. It’ll have capsule synposes of all the highlights in both festivals, as well as lengthier preview features of some of the most anticipated shows opening in the next week (like Kneehigh Theatre’s Tristan & Yseult, left). There’s also a calendar with every event in both Piccolo and Spoleto, all cross-referenced to within an inch of its life with a handy-dandy map of the city and all the two festivals’ performance venues. To get any more useful, it’d have to come bundled with a multitool. There’s the blood, sweat, and tears of an exhausted staff of 25 in there, as well as a hell of a lot of coffee, so I encourage you to make the most of it — our work over the past two weeks demands justification.

With tomorrow’s issue on its way to the printer and the possibility of office-wide bloodshed diminishing by the hour, I can finally start to focus on what’s happening outside my little 10-by-10 cell here. The festival’s official start is still three days away, and although things may seem calm out there, the activity level is off the map. Much of it is simply prep work: furious rehearsals, tech crew getting sets and lights in place, retailers polishing the windows one more time before the weekend rush. But there’s also plenty of pre-festival artistic activity going on.

Last night, for example, a pair of veteran Spoleto Festival Orchestra players who’ve formed a new music duo called In Freundschaft, offered an early, unofficial performance at St. Michael’s Cathedral downtown. Cellist Jason Calloway and trombonist Steve Parker are both longtime members of the SFO, with major chops, who’ve performed as soloists throughout the world. Both also have been featured soloists in Spoleto’s Music in Time series, which I have an admitted soft spot for.

On the program were several new works the pair discovered or commissioned during recent stays in Germany: Hidden Melody, a duo by Israeli-American Yehuda Yannay; Mississippi Lehm am Schuh, a jazz multiphonic (which had Parker singing and playing simultaneously); and an arrangement of Tierkries: Melodies for the Zodiac Signs, by German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Marcus Overton’s weekday radio program Spoleto Today also started running yesterday morning on WSCI (89.3 FM). This morning he spoke with Spoleto general director Nigel Redden, who said ticket sales across the board are on fire — stronger than they’ve ever been, in fact. Apparently, if you want to have any chance of getting into Geisha, this year’s encore of Don Giovanni, or Tristan & Yseult, you’d better get on the stick.

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