The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
May22Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Music, Norton Center for the Arts, Theater, UK; Tagged as: Arlene Hutton, As It Is in Heaven, Centre College, Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Claude Debussy, David Shifrin, Erin Keefe, Escher String Quartet, Fred Sherry, J.S. Bach, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Maurice Ravel, Meadow View Barn, Norton Center for the Arts, Robert Schumann, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, University of Kentucky Theatre, Wu Han
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill doesn’t necessarily need music.
The lush, green grounds of the community are a sustained pianissimo passage, frequently augmented by the songs of birds, whistling of the wind and rhythm of rippling water.
Leave your iPod behind.
But that does not mean that music cannot enhance the Pleasant Hill experience.
The Shakers, after all, are known for their songs – Simple Gifts, anyone? The University of Kentucky Theatre has been bringing some of those tunes to the stage of the Meadow View Barn the past two weekends with its production of Arlene Hutton’s As It Is In Heaven.
That production, which has its final performances today through Sunday afternoon, begins and ends with the women of the play strolling through the field adjacent to the barn raising songs to the tops of the trees.
The music does not stop there, though.
Next weekend brings the third annual Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass, and if you are trying to come up with a more perfect marriage of music and venue in Kentucky, you have some work to do.
We tend to think of classical music as something to seal in a perfectly quiet concert hall, supposing that one obscured note would obliterate an entire work. Of course, perfect silence is rarely achievable in a hall full of people, with walls that aren’t impervious to honking horns and sirens.
Yes, Meadow View Barn is susceptible to the sounds of its environment, but a violin mixes so much better with a bird or a breeze than a candy wrapper or screeching tires.
In the natural setting, at last year’s festival, the music seemed to open, with the instruments so close to their source materials.
And these are musicians to make the most of the environs.
All three years of the festival, the Norton Center for the Arts at Danville’s Centre College has engaged the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center to oversee its artistic direction. Pianist Wu Han has been the constant, and this year she brings violinist Erin Keefe, cellist Fred Sherry and clarinetist David Shifrin. If you pay attention to classical music, each is an internationally known practitioner of his or her instrument.
For the second year, the festival has engaged a second group, this time the Escher String Quartet, to play in its own right and mix with the Lincoln Center musicians in the festival’s four concerts.
Those combinations, like Robert Schumann’s Quintet in E Flat Major for Piano, Two Violins, Viola and Cello, scheduled for next Sunday night, are the real treats of the event.
The morning sessions, in the village’s Meetinghouse, focus on Ludwig van Beethoven on Saturday and J.S. Bach on Sunday. The evenings include music of Beethoven, Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy.
Debussy and nature? — makes sense.
As does trying to take the arts out to environments such as Pleasant Hill.
So often we try to hype the natural beauty of the Bluegrass, but then when it comes to presenting the beauty of the arts, we retreat to the city like everywhere else.
The Heaven performances, chamber music festival and other outdoor events show an arts community trying to get more in tune with our surroundings.
Well, it looks like it was well worth American Idol‘s time to come to Louisville last summer.
Kris Allen auditioned in the Derby City, and then much like this year’s Derby winner, Mine That Bird, worked his way through the field and finished first. Some Adam Lambert fans had to be like Jill Baffert, wife of Pioneer of the Nile trainer Bob Baffert, at the Derby saying “Who the (bleep) is that,” as Allen advanced through the competition. His audition barely registered on the Louisville audition episode, and early on, he seemed like one of those competitors who would probably be somewhat anonymously voted off in the winter.
But the dark horse kept his head down, worked on making some terrific music and wound up in the winner’s circle.
Give the man from Conway, Ark., a blanket of roses. He earned it.
Word came out early from the American Idol producers that Louisville had been a good city for the show. Simon Cowell dished out high praise, by his standards, telling Zap2it, “Louisville was good.”
Yes, it would have been nice to have had an actual Kentuckian who auditioned in Louisville in the final 13. That would have made the story of the Bluegrass State’s AI debut complete. But at least we can walk away from Season 8 saying Kentucky can pick a winner.
Some high notes:
- Heckuva a show for taking two hours-plus to tell us a few key words. I thought the return of Norman Gentle was great and the show kept getting better. It seemed Kiss had to be the highlight, and then Queen came out. Good Lord, Adam could front that band . . . As one who enjoys genuine surprise, Kris’ reaction to winning was delightful.
- Catch Adam Sandler’s University of Kentucky shirt in the Funny People commercial?
- Make sure to read Phil Stacey’s final Idol blog for LexGo.
- And take another look at our Louisville audition video, featuring Alexis Grace.
- Yes, Joanne Brokaw, it was the year of the worship leader.
- I was right. Wish I’d done that well at the Derby.
I’m going to take a quick lunch break here to join my fellow entertainment scribes out on a limb and make an American Idol prediction. It is a bit of a limb, because apparently this race is just too close to call. The website Dial Idol even says that, saying only 1.1 percent separates Kris Allen from Adam Lambert in their survey of busy signals for both contestants — a first in the site’s history.
And these are two very different cats, Lambert the flashy SoCal guy with a voice made for Broadway or glam rock and laid-back Midwesterner Kris.
One thing I hate seeing is this being boiled down to a Red State-Blue State thing, the presumption being the more conservative “red staters” will like humble Christian Kris and “blue staters” will like flamboyant Adam. It’s superficial and not fair to either contestant or Americans in general. Need we remind you of Barack Obama’s 2004 Democratic Convention speech. The Red State-Blue State thing is getting old, and it’s a lazy way to think.
Anyway, a matter of musical taste does drive my prediction: Kris Allen will win.
I pick him subscribing to the logic that Danny Gokey voters will naturally gravitate toward Kris. Yes, Gokey was a bit more of a vocal acrobat in an Adam tradition. But his overall vibe tracked much closer to Allen.
And Allen has been building momentum while Lambert has had a fan base for a while. Allen just feels like something of a Mine That Bird of American Idol, coming from the outside to overtake the front-runner at the end. Using that anology, will this be a Kentucky Derby or a Preakness for Allen? Remember, my limb is in the Bluegrass State.
I’d like to see Lambert win, as I have said before. He’s an amazing artist both as a stage presence and a creative force. And in the current pop landscape, Lambert is a true individual. Allen’s growth and artistry — particularly last week’s re-imagining of Kanye West’s Heartless — have been wonderful to watch. Neither of them would be an embarassing winner, but Lambert’s overall talent is still several shades beyond the rest of this year’s competition.
In the grand scheme of things Allen may be better served with the Idol victory, where Adam may do best if he’s a bit more free to chart his own course. And really, considering the Idol will be stuck with that horrendous No Boundaries song Kara DioGuardi co-wrote, the loser may be the real winner.
- For a second opinion, check Phil Stacey’s blog.
May20Filed under: slide shows, Studio Players, Theater; Tagged as: Aubin Munn, Cherie Kiesler, Crystal King, Dearly Beloved, Debbie Sharp, Jamie Wooten, Jason Meenach, Jessie Jones, Jim Wilkeson, Kenny Riffe, Libby Adkins, Nicholas Hope, Robin Dickerson, Sam Moody, Shea Baker, Studio Players, Tonda-Leah Fields
Think your late spring wedding is getting kind of nutty? The Futrelle sisters might make you feel a whole lot better about your circumstances. Estranged sister Honey Raye is back stirring up old tensions, Twink is trying to turn the reception into a pig roast, and Frankie is juggling emotional crises that quickly multiply.
And we haven’t mentioned that Twink is trying to drag her drunk boyfriend to the nuptials because she thinks that’s the key to getting him to pop the question, the mother of the groom is trying to sabotage the ceremony and the bride and groom are MIA.
It could only happen in Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten’s fictional Fayro, Texas. Studio Players present the trio’s Dearly Beloved May 21-June 7 at the Carriage House Theatre on W. Bell Court., directed by Tonda-Leah Fields.
Review: Decyfer Down –Crash
You know that guitar riff, the one with a grinding force that makes you reach for the dial (button, lever, touch screen, whatever) and crank it up? There are a bunch of those on Decyfer Down’s latest, Crash, a healthy serving of bluesy power rock imbued with enough pathos to make it a really compelling listen.
At first blush, this sounds like it may be bordering on metalcore a la Underoath, but the disc really owes much more to the prototype metal of 1970s and ’80s AOR staples with just a little more grit and a little less sheen. In Christian rock, Decyfer’s latest falls somewhere between the glossy bombast of Skillet and denseness of Underoath. But this album will do a lot to draw the band out of comparison land and up to a star of its own. That’s an appropriate reward for years burning up the highways playing opening slots and small venues.
That experience has given the band a strong sense of purpose and vivid songcraft best shown on songs like Fading, an accelerating song about addiction and peer pressure. Over those years, vocalist TJ Harris and guitarists Brandon Mills and Chris Clonts have tuned into one another to give their precedented sound a distinctive vibe. When Decyfer Down is firmly established as a headliner, this will be seen as the album that made it happen.
- Beliefnet’s Joanne Brokaw reports Decyfer drummer Josh Oliver’s wife has been diagnosed with lymphoma and is undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
Where’s the new Derek Webb album?
New Derek Webb albums don’t exactly fire up the charts the way, say, something from Michael W. Smith or TobyMac does. But Webb has a following — this blog included — that has enjoyed his thoughtful and challenging music. And we were supposed to be hearing a new album from Webb today. But Stockholm Syndrome has not appeared yet due to a disagreement between Webb and his distribution label, INO Records — or has it? Read on.
In an e-mail to fans, May 12, Webb wrote:
. . . we’re in a situation that has gotten a little out of control and it’s time to fill you in. as some of you may know, i’ve been working for months on my new record, ‘stockholm syndrome’, which i’ve recently finished and turned in to the record label. they’ve been very supportive over the years, but this time we didn’t get the response we expected. it seems i’ve finally found the line beyond which my label can support me, and apparently i’ve crossed it.
i consider this my most important record and am adamant about all of you hearing it . . . but at this point we’re not sure when the record will come out and in what form. the majority of the controversy is surrounding one song, which i consider to be among the most important songs on the record. so we’ve decided it’s an appropriate time to break the rules.
but because of various legal/publishing issues we’re having to be rather careful with how we do what we’re going to do next. that’s really all i can say for now and i’ve probably said too much.
Further coverage suggests Webb’s content has gotten a bit too challenging and/or a four-letter word starting with “s” are at issue. Patrolmag’s CCM patrol reports that there is one song in particular on the album in which Webb addresses Christians’ treatment of homosexuals, and he uses the word, a euphemism for excrement. Webb has been open about using that specific word in the campaign for his new cause, digging latrines in Africa to help stem the spread of waterborne disease. Sojourner’s magazine has a real interesting article on this. (ADVISORY: Both the Patrolmag and Sojourner’s links contain the word in question.)
On his Twitter feed, Webb has written, “the record has a lot to do with race and sexuality,” and an e-mail dated today says, “our trouble with the label over content is very real, and not as simple as one word.”
The note, posted at Webb’s website, contains a coded message: you enter the letters after each “_” and get a phrase. Enter that phrase as a .com web address, and you will get instructions on what to do next. Unfortunately, it looks like something you can only do in Nashville.
Fight? Saavy marketing? Both? Don’t know. Wish I didn’t live three hours from Nashville. I want a latte.
May18Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Lexington Philharmonic, Music, UK; Tagged as: deborah lander, Joanna Binford, Kentucky Viola Society, L.O.V.E. (Lexington's Original Viola Ensemble), Lexington Philharmonic, Melissa Gross, Nancy Campbell, Paul Engelbrecht, University of Kentucky, viola
Deborah Lander, the University of Kentucky’s first full-time viola faculty member, is trying to foster some unity in the Lexington-area viola community.
The Kentucky Viola Society held its first meeting over the weekend at Lander’s apartment and is aiming to meet further and plan events. Lander is serving as president of the club, Paul Engelbrecht is president elect (meaning he takes over in two years), and Melissa Gross is secretary treasurer.
Talking to the Herald-Leader earlier this year Lander noted that the viola is often marginalized as second banana to the higher, flashier violin. In her native Australia and here, she has been working to raise the profile of the deep, mellow instrument, including performing as a soloist on the Lexington Philharmonic’s January MasterClassics concert.
Lexington has a pretty active viola community including L.O.V.E. (Lexington’s Original Viola Ensemble), directed by Nancy Campbell and Joanna Binford, which performs at area events including a set prior to the January’s Philharmonic concert.
If you are interested in becoming involved with the viola group, contact Lander at email@example.com.
Click the play button to hear our interview with Roger Leasor:
Also, see our slide show from Another Part of the Forest.
“When I started performing, it really was as a storyteller in high school, reading to the kids at the public library,” says Leasor, 58.
In subsequent years, he became an actor and a singer at the University of Kentucky, focusing on those crafts.
“But now it comes back full circle,” Leasor says. “What I really want to do is tell the story, and I have all these tools to do it with. I just don’t have the youthful energy to do it or the free time.”
Leasor is chatting in one of the offices of his day job, at the Harrodsburg Road Liquor Barn. As president of the expanding party and spirits business, Leasor has found he spends much of his time overseeing operations in Lexington and Louisville.
He jokes that after Another Part of the Forest, he will enter his 19th and last retirement from the stage. But despite his schedule, some roles are too good to pass up.
“These are opportunities that just don’t come along, Leasor says. “I’ve just been so lucky all my life to be given these amazing roles. It takes that anymore to justify the time, and it takes someone like Ave that wants you to work with them.”
Director Ave Lawyer is the most recent person to lure Leasor out of his umpteenth retirement with the opportunity to play the patriarch of the Hubbard family, playwright Lillian Hellman’s treacherous Southern clan, a group that demonstrates how much emotional terrorism can be inflicted while decked out in formal wear.
“With Ben Hubbard, I was consumed by the fact that he was always conniving, always planning,” Leasor says. “I got the feeling that before he took each breath he was trying to decide which side of the mouth it should come out on. … Well, this is his daddy. Who do you think he got it from?”
Indeed, Marcus is as treacherous as Ben, minus the subtlety.
Leasor says they are both roles that probably startle some who have followed his stage career, particularly recently.
His last few turns have been noble, warm characters – Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, the stage manager in Our Town – roles that seem like typecasting when you talk to Leasor.
Maybe his harshest role of recent vintage is Matthew Harrison Brady in Inherit the Wind, a character whom you had to admit had good intentions, even if you disagreed with his point of view.
There is nothing good or selfless about Marcus Hubbard or his son.
May15Filed under: American Idol, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture; Tagged as: Adam Lambert, American Idol, Anyerin Drury, Aretha Franklin, Chris Sligh, Christian, Christopher Cool, Danny Gokey, Elvis Presley, Eyesuponus, Joanne Brokaw, Justin McCarty, Kris Allen, Lil Rounds, Mandisa, Matt Giraud, Michael Sarver, Michael W. Smith, Mike Vandemark, Phil Stacey, Quest Community Church, Scott MacIntyre, Southland Christian Church, Whitney Houston, worship leader
This year’s American Idol finals offered the nation 13 singers from across the country with different strengths, looks, backgrounds and styles. But six of them had something in common, aside from wanting to be the next American Idol: They all had experience as church worship leaders.
That included two of the final three competitors in the eighth season of Idol, which wraps up Wednesday with a two-hour season finale.
Danny Gokey, 28, was praise and worship leader at two Faith Builders International locations in Wisconsin.
And Kris Allen, 23, has worked with praise and worship teams at two New Life churches in Arkansas.
Gokey was booted Wednesday night, so Allen is the one who is going on to compete in next week’s final against Adam Lambert, long considered the front runner in this year’s race. And that was fine by several Christian music observers.
“I see the worship leader in Danny, but Kris has more of the ability to be artistic,” said Joanne Brokaw, a Christian music writer who brought the preponderance of worship leaders in this year’s Idol field to light with a Feb. 27 post on her Beliefnet.com blog that asked, “Is this the season of the worship leader?”
Other artists in this year’s final group who have Christian music backgrounds were dueling pianist Matt Giraud, blind musician Scott MacIntyre, oil rigger Michael Sarver and Memphis mother Lil Rounds.
“The thing that really struck me was not just that they were Christians, but they were church worship leaders,” said Brokaw, who has since predicted Allen will win the finale, already being characterized by some as David vs. Goliath. “These are people who have actively been working within their churches as musicians.”
And that work can give a singer a leg up on the competition. Read the rest of this entry »
HARRODSBURG — For the second consecutive spring the University of Kentucky Theatre is presenting Arlene Hutton’s As It Is In Heaven at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. The play is set in the village in 1838, at a time known as the “Era of Manifestations,” when many Shakers were experiencing visions and receiving spiritual gifts. The play by Hutton, whose family hails from Corbin, examines jealousies that arise when members of the Pleasant Hill group start experiencing these visions and gifts.
This is director Rhoda-Gale Pollack’s third time directing Hutton’s play, which is being presented in a tobacco barn that was renovated for the Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass. The UK production runs May 15-24, 2009.
Click the play button to hear our interview with Silas House:
There’s just one weekend left in the world-premier production of Silas House’s new play, Long Time Travelling at Actors Guild of Lexington. It’s been an indisputable hit, with AGL having to add performances to accommodate the sell-out crowds.
We couldn’t let this production go without giving you a chance to hear some of our conversation with House — and simply a chance to hear that distinctive voice. In our podcast, House talks about Long Time Travelling‘s theme of change, and how it applies to the play, his life and some of the causes he’s taken up, such as his opposition to mountaintop removal coal mining.
In addition to his fiction, House recently published Something’s Rising: Appalachians Fight Mountaintop Removal, a non-fiction book about mountaintop removal with co-author Jason Howard.
Long Time Travelling has four more performances this weekend, and House will give a pre-show chat at 7 p.m. Saturday, prior to the 8 p.m. performance.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich