The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
So, earlier last week, I started getting notes from University of Kentucky Opera Theatre director Everett McCorvey about the UK Singers, Muhammad Ali and England. They and other dignitaries hopped across the pond for the Alltech FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championship, and some other events. McCorvey sent along a pretty detailed account Saturday, so I thought I’d share:
Last evening the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the UK Opera Program and Muhammad Ali were the featured guests at the Windsor Castle Alltech FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championship Gala Celebration held on the grounds of Windsor Castle. It was an exciting event as the 8 disciplines that will be featured at the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games were presented to the European crowd. Governor Steve Beshear and his wife Jane Beshear along with Kentucky Horse Park officials, the city of Lexington officials, WEG Board Members and many others from Kentucky were present to celebrate the gala affair.
UK Opera students were the featured performers during the evening. Held in the main arena, the singers were positioned on a stage in the middle of the large arena. Thanks to fabulous arrangements and orchestrations prepared and taped by our own Johnie Dean, the singers sang several songs during the evening.
This is one of the most important trips that UKOT has ever taken. I think that the benefits from this trip will be huge in terms of exposure, opportunities for the students and exposure of the program to a European audience. The crowd was spectacular. I served as host for the evening as well as one of the singing performers. At the end of the evening, I introduced each one of our singers individually and the crowd gave each of them an amazing ovation. It was very clear that in addition to Ali, they were the stars of the evening. The high point certainly was the introduction of Muhammad Ali. As he made his way around the stadium in an open air Range Rover (which is the Queen’s personal car and was offered by her to Ali for the occasion), we sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” before an emotional and enthusiastically charged crowd. It was a spine-tingling moment in the evenings show. I was so proud of how professional the students were. Everyone here was amazed that they were students!
The singers have been presenting two shows a day at the Alltech Kentucky Village since Wednesday. They have 4 different programs prepared which they are rotating each day. After more shows on Saturday and Sunday we will leave for Dublin, Ireland on Monday to perform at a Gala Event in the evening and then on Tuesday we travel to Ennis, Ireland and then Dromoland Castle in the Southwest of Ireland to perform. These appearances are also with Muhammad Ali. The folks in Ennis, Ireland are comparing the visit of Ali with the visit of Gandhi! Quite amazing. It’s a pretty exciting trip for everyone and a huge Kentucky success!
Aug29Filed under: Classical Music, Music, Reviews, UBS Chamber Music Festival of Lexington; Tagged as: Akiko Tarumoto, Alessio Bax, Alfred Schnittke, Antonin Dvorak, ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, Book of Songs and Visions, Burchard Tang, Clancy Newman, Daniel Thomas Davis, Dream Sequence, Edward Elgar, Franz Joseph Haydn, George Enescu, Nathan Cole, Piano Quintet, Priscilla Lee, Quintet for piano and strings, Quintet for Piano and Strings in A, Sonata No. 3 in a minor for violin and piano, String Quartet in D, UBS Chamber Music Festival of Lexington
Clancy Newman’s Dream Sequence sounded like a nightmare.
The piece, which had its world premier Saturday night at the UBS Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, started with about as much racket as a piano quintet can make, the piano sounding like it had been tossed down the stairs and the string quartet sonically stabbing in the dark.
After the violent outburst, the piece settled into screeches, wails and trills, Alessio Bax’s piano often rumbling right under the surface. As the Dream went on and parts jumped among the four string players, violinist Nathan Cole’s eyes darted around the group seeming to search for a goon with a knife.
Dream Sequence may not have been melodic, but it was definitely evocative, seeming to live up to its name, taking the listener from the terrifying midnight and wee small hours to glimmers of the sunrise in its jazzy conclusion, anchored in Bax’s smooth piano and a groove by the lower strings — cellist Priscilla Lee and violist Burchard Tang.
This is the three-year old festival’s second world premier, an ambitious undertaking that also puts a lot of faith in the young audience to try an untested work.
Last year’s effort went pretty well, as Daniel Thomas Davis’ Book of Songs and Visions won the 2009 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award. Time will tell if Newman’s piece will get as good a ride. But the last two nights had to tell the young composer this: He couldn’t put his new work in better hands.
Friday night’s insightful, skilled playing endured Saturday in two demanding works that bookended the evening and a performance of George Enescu’s Sonata No. 3 in a minor for violin and piano. Last night, we were talking about Cole’s selfless artistic direction of the festival. But this piece certainly gave him and Bax a a showcase for their skills from a very sensitive reading of the first movement, with its wild mood swings to the athletic second.
Enescu created serious suspense in this piece putting demands on the violinist you had to wonder if he’d be able to meet. But Cole did, and he and Bax repeated what made Friday’s performance of Alfred Schnittke’s Piano Quintet so awesome: they cut to the emotional core of music many would consider difficult.
Taking the first violinist chair for the concert opener, Franz Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet in D, Akiko Tarumoto certainly didn’t have an easy time, but navigated it flawlessly. And anyone who did think Dream Sequence was a nightmare had to be comforted by the concert closing performance of Antonin Dvorak’s Quintet for Piano and Strings in A.
It was a energetic closer that exemplified this festival’s strength: Though these five musicians only get together once a year, they play like they’re on stage night after night.
Now that might be a dream come true for music fans. In Lexington, people are responding as the festival’s audience is growing. Fest president Charlie Stone said Friday’s concert attracted a record 359 paying customers, and Saturday’s crowd appeared to be bigger.
The festival concludes Sunday with a live and multimedia program in the first half that will put Sir Edward Elgar’s Quintet for piano and strings in a minor in musical and historical context. The festival’s musicians will perform the piece in the second half of the show.
Aug28Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Music, Reviews, UBS Chamber Music Festival of Lexington; Tagged as: Akiko Tarumoto, Alessio Bax, Alfred Schnittke, Burchard Tang, Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Clancy Newman, Dream Sequence, Fasig-Tipton Pavilion, Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, Nathan Cole, Pizzicato Piece, Priscilla Lee
This could have easily been the Nathan Cole Show.
That was what the UBS Chamber Music Festival of Lexington hung its first edition in 2007: Hometown guy made good Nathan Cole, a violinist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, came back to Lexington to launch the chamber fest in the tres horsey venue of the Fasig-Tipton Pavilion, which usually hosts horse auctions.
But from the beginning, Cole, the festival’s artistic director, has made the event an ensemble effort, and that’s why it’s great.
Friday’s opening night concert gave the quintet of Cole, violinist Akiko Tarumoto, cellist Priscilla Lee, violist Burchard Tang and pianist Alessio Bax its best chance yet to show the depth of their skills with Alfred Schnittke’s Piano Quintet.
Bax opened the piece with great use of a verbal introduction, talking about the quintet’s painful origins. It was inspired by the tragic death of Schnittke’s mother who fell and froze to death in the streets of Moscow. Knowing the story gave the audience an on ramp to the quintet which challenged listeners with its quiet, menacing tones that provide lots of emotion but little conventional beauty. This is tough music to play, throwing the musicians little they are used to with abrupt starts and stops and challenging blends.
But, led by Bax, the group executed it flawlessly, allowing the listener to focus on the music’s mysterious allure.
The first half of Friday’s concert was bookended by smaller efforts, Bax and Tarumoto teaming to open the show with a spirited rendition of Johannes Brahms’ Sonatensatz: Scherzo in c minor, and guest composer and cellist Clancy Newman closing the first half with his solo composition Pizzicato Piece.
The cello work was a fun little jam, seeming to have roots in Newman’s rock band days. Saturday night, the festival’s core group will present the world premier of Newman’s new piano quintet Dream Sequence.
The funny thing watching the musicians play the distinctly modern Schnittke and Newman was knowing they would turn around and play Franz Schubert after intermission. Newman joined the string quartet for Schubert’s Quintet for Strings in D. While it was a return to traditional melodies and harmonies, the piece tapped some of the same emotions of the Schnittke and even gave Newman more pizzicato to play.
Though this group only assembles once a year, they are stunningly unified, and you have to think the next time they come town they ought to get into a recording studio.
The Chamber Music Festival of Lexington started on the strength of Cole’s talent as a violinist. It has become a testament to his humble skill as an artistic director.
Aug27Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Music, UBS Chamber Music Festival of Lexington; Tagged as: Alessio Bax, Burchard Tang, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion, Franklin County High School, Geoffrey Britton, Lafayette High School, Maria Wu, master class, Nathan Cole, Priscilla Lee, Sadie Meyer, UBS Chamber Music Festival of Lexington
Before the musicians in the UBS Chamber Music Festival of Lexington take the stage at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion this weekend, they held class.
In addition to rehearsals and other events surrounding the third annual festival, four of the players took time to give master classes on their instruments Wednesday night in Downtown Lexington. Lexington native and Chicago Symphony Orchestra violinist Nathan Cole led off with a 6 p.m. class in the chapel at First Presbyterian Church, and at 7:30, violist Burchard Tang, cellist Priscilla Lee, and pianist Alessio Bax held classes within a few blocks of one another.
“We all have fun playing together in the chamber group,” Cole said, after his class. “But we each have our own way of doing things, so this is a chance for us to be seen as individuals, talk about our own approaches to the instruments, and share some of that with other musicians and the audience.”
For the instrumentalists who signed up for the master classes, the sessions were a chance to get another perspective on their playing, in addition to the private teachers, orchestra directors and other directors they already study under.
“”I felt like I learned a lot,” violinist Maria Wu, 15, said after her session with Cole, which focused on bow strokes.
Sadie Meyer, 15, said she didn’t expect to spend so much time talking about trills when she worked with Cole.
“I thought, what an opportunity,” said Meyer, who even plays violin in the marching band at Franklin County High School. “I was really nervous, but it was a lot of fun.”
Each student came in with a piece prepared, which they played for the Chamber Festival musician and an audience, and then the teacher stepped in and started working through it.
Cole said one of the challenges was making sure he had different things to say to each student, and that he said them in ways the student and the audience could understand. If he had an inner Simon Cowell, he kept it in check, saying he would only reprimand someone, “If I could tell they were really good but they hadn’t put in the work.”
A common theme running through Cole, Tang, and Lee’s lessons was the physicality of holding the instrument.
“You have the most amazing posture I’ve ever seen!” Tang exclaimed after Geoffrey Britton, 17, finished playing in the viola master class. Tang said Britton’s style of holding the instrument up and out was, “like Heifetz.”
He proceeded to work with the Lafayette High School student, breaking down the piece to draw a stronger interpretation from him.
At one point, Tang advised Britton to try singing through the piece to help get a deeper sense of it, which was something his wife, Lee, also advised one of her cello students to do.
“My teachers have always made me to sing,” Lee said. “People normally phrase things more distinctly when they are singing.”
Like the others, she also talked about physical aspects of playing, pointing out, “It’s very important to focus on your technique, because if you develop bad habits, they can really keep you from playing well.”
For Tang and Lee, it was their first time offering master classes. The first year of the festival, 2007, Cole offered a master class, and last year, Bax joined the fun.
For a first time around, Lee said she was really impressed with Lexington’s student players.
“They all came in with challenging concertos and played them really well,” Lee said.
Cole, a former Lexington music student himself, was also pleased with what was happening back home.
“I’m always impressed with students here,” Cole said. “I’m impressed with the talent and the enthusiasm.”
With that kind of enthusiam, a few of the festival musicians’ students may be giving the master classes someday.
I got a lot of sympathy yesterday.
It was all in good fun, as I posted on my Facebook page and Twitter that I was reviewing the Jonas Brothers show at Rupp Arena last night.
“Ummm…sorry?” one local musician wrote, and my sister concurred.
Another friend wrote, “Some people will do ANYTHING for a buck…..hahaha ;-}”
Oh, when it comes to doing things for a buck, I have to say this is a pretty good gig. And if you have this gig, being the critic covering the biggest concert of the summer is where you want to be, so you will never hear me complain about having to go to see the Jonas Brothers or any other act.
Of course, it is usually Walter Tunis covering the big Rupp concerts with a sharp critical eye and years of experience. This one happened to fall to me because I have a daughter who just passed out of the the Jonas generation, so the Disney Channel tween culture is very familiar to me. I’ve watched the Jonas Brothers grow from guests on Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus’ show and tour to a marquee act in their own right, and was even vaguely familiar with their initial foray into Christian rock.
As a critic part of your job is to step back and see and appreciate things for what they are. The Jonas Brothers are the latest teen heartthrobs, backed by the entertainment empire of Disney, and they brought a show that pulled out all of the stops. I sat next to a 43-year-old musician and dad from Louisville and our jaws were dropped a few times by what the JoBros — or, to be acurate, their technical directors and designers — put on stage. I would have liked some more spontaneity and soul. There was little room here for the surprises or improvisations I have treasured in concerts by some of my favorite artists. But no doubt, many a teen and pre-teen girl walked out of Rupp last night thinking they had seen the greatest thing ever.
And there is the point here where the critic needs to remind cynical adults that every generation has its teen idols, and some of them were even the Chairman of the Board, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and the Fab Four. Am I saying the Jonas Brothers are going to be the next Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley or Beatles? Hardly. The jury is still very early in deliberations on that, and in the long run, the fraternal trio will do well to be as enduring as The Monkees or Duran Duran. Time and the Jonas Brothers talent and public taste will tell the tale of how far they go. I do think they have musical and songwriting talent, and fairly winning stage presences. But the stigma of being someone’s favorite when they were 10 can be a tough thing to overcome. The daughter who familiarized me with the Jonas Brothers world has already moved on, had no interest in last night’s show, but really wants tickets to the Kings of Leon in October.
This is why any artist that makes most of his or her cash off the delirious excitement of girls who are too young to drive would be well advised to invest that money wisely, because the trip from arena stages to the where-are-they now category can be as quick as fashions change and those shoes become so five minutes ago.
And adults will always look at the flavor of the moment with some disdain. As one friend wrote, “If you can’t poke a little fun at teenage millionaires, who can you pick on…? : )”
Yet another evening of kvetching about the health care debate was winding to a close Tuesday night on The Rachel Maddow Show when guest Bill Maher made a great point about President Barack Obama’s inability to get his message across.
“Where are all Obama’s people to help him with this, by the way?” Maher asked. “You know, I mean, he is Michael Jordan on a very, very, very bad team. Where are all the people who were so enthused during the campaign? You know, that was the fun part, the election.
“Now comes the hard part. You know, where’s Oprah? Where are all of the people who were out there on the campaign trail? We need them now. This is the actual hard work of government.”
It’s a valid point.
Could it be the Obama administration just hasn’t stayed in touch?
Remember the summer of 2008? That was the campaign summer, when candidate Obama was the king of all media, particularly new media.
One of his flashiest tricks, though, fizzled: the attempt to alert supporters and anyone else who was interested of his choice for running mate via text message, before traditional media broke the news.
It was surprising to get word through — egads! — this newspaper in my driveway. The traditional media broke the story right before it was time to put the papers to bed and about three hours before the text announcing the choice of Joe Biden.
But it soon became clear what that ploy was all about: mobilizing supporters.
The Obama campaign had succeeded in getting scores of text and e-mail addresses, and they were going to use them.
During the Democratic National Convention, there were messages to make sure to tune in for speeches by Obama’s wife Michelle; Biden; and the man himself speaking in a football stadium. As the campaign went into the fall, there were more text and e-mail appeals to watch, to campaign and, of course, for money. In the final weeks, there were even geographically targeted appeals to get to our neighboring swing states, Indiana and Ohio, to help on the ground.
If you had signed up, whenever your text chime went off, you almost expected it to be the Obama campaign, and it was a safe bet there was something in the in-box, too.
When the campaign was over and Obama won, we were told that the e-mail and text addresses would be kept to help relay information and mobilize people to help support the administration’s initiatives.
But Barack and Joe don’t seem to write anymore.
The campaign that was built on a mastery of new media has taken a traditional approach to getting the message out.
Richard St. Peter is no longer working as the artistic director of Actors Guild of Lexington.
Two weeks ago, St. Peter had announced he was resigning and would leave by the end of the forthcoming season to work on a doctorate in theater. But Friday afternoon, St. Peter said that the financial strain of working without pay and the prospect of being a lame-duck director prompted him to go ahead and leave the organization.
He also said he believed removing his approximately $45,000 annual salary from the theater’s financial picture might help it recover from a loss of funding from LexArts. In June, the united arts fund declined to give the theater an annual allocation for general operating funds, citing concerns about the theater’s ongoing financial difficulties.
“I’ve got kids, and I need to find work,” said St. Peter, who said he has only received one partial paycheck since July 1.
Actors Guild board president Jennifer Miller said two weeks ago that theater employees had been working without pay so the theater could concentrate on settling accounts with outside vendors and other creditors.
In addition to St. Peter’s departure, which St. Peter said the board approved Monday, Actors Guild also lost Bo List as the director of its season-opening production, Beguiled Again, a show based on the music of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. List said in an e-mail, “the agreed-upon terms of my employment were changed dramatically after I began my work in a manner that was unsatisfactory.”
List has been replaced by Stephen Currens, a Lexingtonian who enjoyed Off-Broadway success with Gorey Stories, a musical based on the illustrations of Edward Gorey. He appeared in last season’s AGL production of The Fantasticks.
Beguiled Again has been moved back to Sept. 24-Oct. 11, and AGL associate artistic director Eric Ryan Seale said he is looking at how the date change will affect the remainder of AGL’s season. Seale said that the original dates had been set to accommodate an out-of-town director who had to bow out before List took on the show, and that the date change was partially responsible for List having to bow out.
List said, “I hope that Beguiled Again is the success that AGL needs right now and my best wishes are with the company.”
St. Peter is scheduled to direct Actors Guild’s second production, David Hare’s The Vertical Hour, and he said he still plans to do that.
St. Peter’s departure leaves Seale and AGL managing director Kim Shaw running the company. Despite the challenging nature of the theater, both said they were upbeat.
“Everybody has been picking up the slack,” Shaw said Friday afternoon. “Our first priority is to get Beguiled Again up.”
Seale said, “This is probably going to sound crazy, but I feel pretty good. I’m used to the catastrophe curve of theater, and I have a new office here on Manchester Street, and I like coming in to work every day.
“If people are willing to bear with this initial season postponement and any other season adjustments, we’re going to be fine.”
First Presbyterian Church will be combining its music and missions ministries in its new concert series, which starts in September. The concerts will be free, with expenses covered by individual donors. An offering will be taken at each performance to benefit a designated organization, and during the concert, the organization will make a presentation about its work.
Here’s the lineup:
Sept. 18: Soprano Angela Brown, a star at the Metropolitan Opera and other houses (beneficiary, Central Music Academy). 8:15 p.m.
Nov. 20: Tom Trenney, organist and silent film improviser (Living Waters for the World). 8:15 p.m.
Feb. 13: American Spiritual Ensemble, professional vocal group dedicated to preserving the negro spiritual (Step by Step). 7:30 p.m.
April 16: Bowl and Bunns, a Cincinnati-based jazz quintet (Baby Health of Lexington). 8:15 p.m.
For further information or to contribute, contact First Presbyterian director of music and arts Marlon Hurst at (859) 252-1919, ext. 110.
We didn’t get to hit a dress rehearsal of Bluegrass Opera‘s Saturday night show, but we did get a sneak preview Tuesday night of
The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority has approved an application for film incentives by Fast Track Productions for Secretariat, Tuesday.
That makes the story of the 1973 Triple Crown winner the first film to receive incentives under the new package approved by the General Assembly in June.
According to the application, Fast Track, a subsidiary of Disney Studios, estimates it will spend $4 million in Kentucky, making it eligible for up to $800,000 in tax credits. The bill extended a 20 percent credit on approved expenditures to feature films that spend more than $500,000 in the state. There were also provisions for other types of films and Broadway shows that are produced in Kentucky.
“This is a great way to kick off Kentucky’s new film incentive package,” Gov. Steve Beshear said in a news release. “I think it’s appropriate that a state known for thoroughbred racing be a part of a film about one of the most well-known horses in racing history.”
Leonard Lusky, president of Secretariat.com, said last week that incentives were a key to getting filmmakers to shoot part of the movie in Kentucky. In the past decade, tax incentives have increasingly become a key to luring film productions to shoot on location.
Secretariat, which will tell the story of the 1973 Triple Crown winner and his owner, Penny Chenery, is expected to begin filming in late September. Locations and details have yet to be announced. Diane Lane will star as Chenery and the film will be directed by Randall Wallace.
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