The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
No sooner do you arrive and sit down at the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington than you are reminded by the program of some major losses to the Festival and Lexington arts in general this year. The seventh page of the program contains a tribute to Franklin and Marilyn Moosnick, the original chairs of the six-year-old festival, and Teresa Garbulinska, who provided the funds to establish the composer-in-residence program with her husband Dr. Ronald Saykaly. The Moosnicks and Garbulinska passed away in the year since the last festival.
“Think of them this weekend and know that the Festival would not be where it is today were it not for their early contributions,” Festival President Charles H. Stone says in an address before the first notes were played.
Then the evening opens, appropriately, with quite a bit of new and relatively-recent music (we say relatively recent, because in the classical world, the mid-20th Century qualifies as modern, to many). It is not the world premiere by this year’s composer-in-residence Chris Rogerson, which is slated for Saturday night, but the 2007 Horn Quintet by Philip Jeremy Hall. (Click here for video from that performance.) Hall is a former colleague of this year’s guest artist, Andrew Bain, principal horn of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. A horn player himself, Hall created a work that played on all of the horn’s haunting glory, with sumptuous, enthralling passages. (In the photo above, Bain and violists Nathan Cole and Burchard Tang perform the piece.)
In the programming, the Horn Quintet is echoing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Horn Quintet in E-Flat Major that is slated to close the festival, Sunday, and uses the same two-viola format of Hall’s piece. But Hall’s work also proves an apt lead-in to the rest of the first half of Friday’s concert filled with slightly off kilter 20th Century music.
The evening continues with two idiosyncratic violin duos by Alfred Schnittke, tributes to Mozart and Dmitri Shostakovich. Moz-Art is a mind-bender, taking us through tunes and signatures that flow and then twist with the re-tuning of an instrument. It is followed by a piece that puts guest violinist Jasmine Lin (above) alone on stage while Cole, now back to his regular instrument, plays in the upstairs lobby of the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion over a microphone. Some in the audience find a few moments of the piece funny, particularly as Lin stands on stage while Cole’s part swirls above her. At times, it seems maybe Lin’s part is being looped. But the performance is a not-simple, masterful triumph for the duo, beautiful in in a gothic sense.
Lin, in particular, is well suited to this stuff as she shows in the next work, Shostakovich’s Trio No. 2 for Violin, Cello and Piano.
Frequently moving like a faltering dance, the trio of Lin, pianist Alessio Bax and cellist Priscilla Lee (above) demonstrate the kind of teamwork that can make chamber music such a thrill.
But there are those who prefer their chamber music to be a delight, and for that, we have some Mozart in the second half.
Part two of Friday’s concert is devoted entirely to Mozart’s Divertimento for String Trio, performed by the three of the Festival’s original core quintet players: Cole, Lee and Tang (below). This may sound like a recipe for classical comfort food, and it is aurally soothing, though certainly demanding a similar teamwork to the Shostakovich — the sound is just players working with as opposed to against each other.
The Mozart feels like a bit of a look back to when the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington was young. But part one of the event was a huge reaffirmation that, as Cole said at Thursday’s preview concert, the festival musicians believe new and relatively recent music is important, and it won’t be isolated in their programming to just the annual world premiere, as sweet as that is.
And that’s what we have to look forward to tomorrow night.
One of the things that I will miss at Sunday’s casual concert at the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington is the presence of The Apples in stereo frontman Robert Schneider and his family front and center. It was a presence that reaffirmed a genuine interest in music and music making, particularly as the Sunday concert usually provides a forum for the guest composer to talk about his craft. But perpetual curiosity, it seems, has led Schneider to move South.
The indie musician, also a co-founder of The Elephant 6 Recording Company and a highly-regarded producer, has relocated from Lexington to Georgia to pursue a PhD in mathematics at Emory University in Atlanta. This comes as little surprise to people who have followed the career of Schneider, whose mathematical studies included developing a “Non’Pythagorean” musical scale for the 2007 album New Magnetic Wonder and 2010′s Travellers in Space and Time, composed a score based on prime numbers for a play by mathematician Andrew Granville and has experimented with a mind-controlled synthesizer and a mathematical board game. He has also been a sought-after speaker at mathematical conferences.
“I realized the beauty of mathematics in my studio while repairing a 16-track tape machine, with schematic diagrams spread around me on the floor,” Schneider said in a news release. “I came across Ohm’s Law in a book on electronics, the equation that describes the flow of electricity in circuits, and it blew my mind. Somehow, this simple equation was responsible for the things I found most magical in life — electric guitars, analog synthesizers, stereophonic sound and the joy of making music with my friends.
“To me, my interest in mathematics feels similar to my interest in music: exploring beautiful patterns and ideas beyond the reach of words.”
At Emory, Schneider will be studying under revered number theorist Ken Ono. In the release, Schneider said he will continue to write and make music while pursuing his doctorate. But his presence in the Lexington music scene will be missed.
So, if you were wondering where in Portofino Restaurant the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington would stage its preview concert, it wasn’t in the restaurant proper. Rather it was in a meeting and event room whose front door empties out onto Main Street — the one you’ve walked by and thought, “I didn’t know Portofino is that big.”
Groups gathered around tables, swirling wine in their glasses while a few rows of chairs were set for those of us traveling solo, or in insufficient numbers to justify grabbing a table. The musicians, save for pianist Alessio Bax (not Baxter, AutoCorrect), who had no instrument to play, backpacked in shortly after 6.
The concert steps in for the open rehearsals that the chamber festival musicians had presented previous years. Artistic director Nathan Cole said earlier this week the change was in part because they found the musicians had been practicing all day and we a little tired of practicing. It also seemed they were interested in a little Portofino dinner and wine.
And as it turned out, this was a real preview of what the weekend will be like. First message: arrive on time Friday night because the formal concerts at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion will start off with a sumptuous piece of music in Phillip Hall’s Quintet for Horn and Strings. It was inspired by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s own horn quintet, both of which were written for two violas. That gave guest artist Andrew Bain a chance to rib Cole for being able to play anything, because he pulled out the viola and joined Burchard Tang on the deeper strings for both pieces.
Here’s the cool thing we learned about Cole when he is playing his chosen instrument, the violin. As associate concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he is playing Jack Benny’s old Stradivarius.
According to Cole, the L.A. Phil has three Stradivari, and he has second refusal after concertmaster Martin Chalifour. Making the Jack Benny connection sweeter for Cole is his grandfather Robert Cole, who played with Benny when he was a flutist with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
The other big preview of the evening was a taste of the music of Chris Rogerson, this year’s composer-in-residence whose Summer Night Music will have its world premiere Saturday night. We didn’t get to hear that because it is a piano quartet and, as we established earlier, no piano. But we did get a taste of his String Quartet No. 1. Now, while this was a concert as opposed to an open rehearsal, violinist Jasmine Lin and Tang noted to the audience that they had just read through the piece once. Still, they seemed to have little trouble negotiating the dangerous curves of Rogerson’s raucous dance.
After all, in rehearsal or performance, they are professionals, eh?
For more on the festival, visit it’s website.
The Chamber Music Festival of Lexington ended its Wednesday night master classes with a performance of ‘Spring’ from Antonio Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’ with musicians from the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras. CKYO alum and Chamber Fest artistic director Nathan Cole was the conductor and soloist. This is the final portion of ‘Spring,’ ‘Allegro Pastorale.’ The festival runs through Sunday, Sept. 2. Visit chambermusiclex.com for more information.
Nathan Cole doesn’t waste a lot of time after master class students finish playing their pieces at Central Christian Church.
Right away, he is telling Jessie Li (photo above) that as a soloist, she needs to work to sound “more exciting than the musicians you’re playing in front of in the orchestra.” A lot of his advice lay in the bow and drawing out longer, more fluid notes.
The Paul Laurence Dunbar High School student had an idea what to expect as she has participated in two previous master classes with Cole, the Chamber Festival’s artistic director.
“He always helps me with my sound quality and my tone,” Li, 17, said after the class.
After Li, Boston University student Michael Hustedde played, getting in a little advice from a fellow Lexingtonian before heading back to school. As a violin student, Hustedde said he found it inspiring playing for Cole, who has gone on to be the associate concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
Waiting in the wings were Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra musicians who will play with the Chamber Festival’s string musicians later this evening. Seeming to recall his CKYO days, Cole said, “They’ve had pizza, so they should be in good shape.”
Several times during his chat with his first student, pianist Alessio Bax tells her that her piece by Alberto Ginastera is “so beautiful, it sounds great no matter how you play it.”
That piece was “Danza de la moza donosa,” played by Yuri Kim (above) a master’s student of Irina Voro at the University of Kentucky.
“He had different ideas than Dr. Voro,” said Kim, who noted Bax was encouraging her to play longer phrases and connect them more.
“I don’t know if I did that,” she said. “He made me play as easy as I can.”
Bax thanked his next student, Ethan James McCollum, for choosing C.V. Alkan’s “Premier Nocturne.”
“It does not get played that often,” Bax told him, before going through an extensive talk about separating the left hand and right hand to bring more focus in playing with each. And he encouraged the University of Louisville student to slow down.
“What you don’t want is for it to sound hurried, it’s such gentle music,” Bax said.
Like Li with Cole, McCollum had been in master classes with Bax before.
“I’m Facebook friends with him,” he said. “he’s great.”
After Bax’s class, the piano was moved back and festival musicians Jasmine Lin, violin; Priscilla Lee, cello; and Burchard Tang, viola; took the stage to rehearse “Spring” from Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” with students from the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras symphony orchestra.
At one point in the second movement, Cole, serving as conductor and violin soloist, asked if anyone knew what animal the viola solo was supposed to represent.
A dog, was the answer. “Kind of an angry dog,” Tang said. “He wrote him loud.”
Cole added, “And a surprisingly rhythmic dog.”
Some of Cole’s direction did concentrate on setting up the soloist, though he also dropped some orchestral secrets like, “if you get lost, just drop out and look for a place where you can come back in. That’s what we do all the time in orchestra.”
At another point, Cole looked at the assembled strings and said, “I’m going to trust you here.”
Then, with little fanfare, the brisk performance of “Spring” began, shortly before 8.
The 2012 Chamber Music Festival of Lexington opens tonight (Aug. 29, 2012) with a reunion of sorts: artistic director Nathan Cole and the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras, which Cole played in for several years.
In an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader last year, Lexington native and nationally revered jazz violinist Zach Brock recalled his days in CKYO joking fondly, “and then there was this guy, Nathan Cole, kicking everyone’s butt.”
It was a sign of things to come, as Cole went on to a career with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and now the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he is the associate concertmaster. But, in running his own festival, Cole says he has always wanted to reconnect with the youth orchestra.
“We haven’t been a teaching festival,” Cole said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “That brings a whole other layer of complexity and would probably require expanding the festival to two weeks. We haven’t wanted to do it unless we could do it well — have students here, really, full time.
“So this was a great way to work with the CSO [sic] on a shorter piece, one that’s not tremendously difficult in itself, so that a lot of people could participate and the public could see as well. So it’s a real pleasure for me to work with CS … sorry … CKYO, since I did play in there so many years.”
Years in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra put the CSO acronym a bit closer to the tip of Cole’s tongue. But his affection the CKYO and excitement for working with it are also palpable.
As part of the festival’s traditional master classes, the CMFL string players will work with students from the CKYO Symphony Orchestra. Then they will join them for an 8 p.m. performance of Spring Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons featuring Cole as the violin soloist.
Prior to the performance, Cole will conduct a violin master class and guest artist Andrew Bain will lead a horn class, both at 5 p.m. Pianist Alessio Bax will lead a master class at 6 and the orchestral master class with the festival string players will be at 7.
“Hopefully it will be fun for them to work with us and see us as well,” Cole said.
All events will be at Central Christian Church, 205 East Short Street.
Full disclosure: Rich Copley does have a child in the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras, but he is not involved in this performance.
Anthony Clark Evans’ story of going from car salesman to opera sensation in less than a year has been one of the funnest arts stories of the year.
Fun: It ‘s not a word you often hear associated with opera, even in its best of times. Yes, the artists and participants may have a lot of fun at their craft, but the public demeanor of the discipline is often dramatic, tragic, academic and steeped in deep, deep tradition.
Evans took another step into this world on Saturday night with his premiere professional recital at the Singletary Center for the Arts.
The message seemed to be, I’m going to dazzle you and have a good time doing it as he launched the performance with the count’s mischievous aria from Le nozze di Figaro and concluding with Billy’s Soliloquy from Carousel – plus a two song encore, including a duet of Some Enchanted Evening with soprano Julie LaDouceur, who shared a couple duets with Evans and sang two arias of her own in the recital, all accompanied by Cliff Jackson.
For those who have not kept up with the fun stories of opera this year, it was less than a year ago that Evans was a car salesman at Swope Toyota in Elizabethtown. A few years earlier, the baritone had been studying voice at Murray State with revered professor Randall Black. But he got married and needed to support his household. So in 2008, he left school, moved to E-town and started selling Toyotas.
But he didn’t forget opera. He decided to take a swing at the district round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in Memphis, and he won.
And he won …
And won …
And won at the national finals of the competition, on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
It’s a Cinderella story that restarted Evans’ dreams of a singing career, which he has been pursuing singing in other competitions around the country and with Saturday’s recital. It took place in the Singletary Center’s recital hall in front of a who’s who of music professionals, academics and students.
If the bachelor degree-less star of the evening was at all intimidated by performing in front of the expert crowd, he didn’t portray it, save maybe for a relieved smile after the opener, Hai già vinta la causa! from Figaro. Donizetti’s Bella siccome un angelo from L’ elisir d’ amore was his first big shot at vocal theatrics, which continued through his first duet with LaDouceur, Malatesta and Norina’s plotting number from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, which turned into a comic showcase for Evans and LaDouceur, who shares the baritone’s theatrical flare.
It wasn’t all comic, including a trio of numbers from Leoncavallo’s sad clown tragedy Pagliacci to start the second half.
In any form, the Singletary Center audience saw, as much as any audience so far, Evans a singer with a personality as big as his voice.
Since the Met wins, Evans has left the Toyota dealership, but when he is on stage, the good times roll.
Chris Rogerson was a musically precocious child, playing church hymns by ear on the piano when he got home from church. His parents got him piano lessons, but they didn’t quite go as planned.
It’s not that they went badly but, “I was not really playing what was on the page,” Rogerson says. “I was just making up my own stuff, so, my teacher suggested composition lessons.”
Rogerson continued taking piano and later took up the cello. But he is now an award-winning composer set to become the sixth composer-in-residence for the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, if you include Danny Clay as the composer for the festival’s July series this year.
The festival’s core piano quintet will give the world premiere performance of Rogerson’s Summer Night Music in its concert Saturday night at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion. Rogerson will participate in activities through the week, including Sunday’s casual concert, which will feature his String Quartet No. 1.
“Whenever I hear from someone that wants me to write a piece for them, my first reaction is certainly I want to do it,” Rogerson says.
Outside of academic posts, composers don’t have the promise of steady work an instrumentalist or vocalist might have through performance engagements, ensembles and teaching. It’s not necessarily a career with a clear path, particularly because many classical ensembles are content to play the hits of past centuries.
“It’s different for every composer,” Rogerson says, “as it is for every instrumentalist, though I think they may have a more defined track.
“Composers do different things. I have friends that are doing really well writing for orchestras and traditional kind of venues. The I have friends that are doing really well in avant-garde settings, and then there are people that are doing really well in the avant-pop section of the composition world, genre-bending kinds of things.”
Rogerson says he has not necessarily pursued any one style of music. His website (Chrisrogerson.com) features works for everything from orchestras to instrumental soloists. It’s a lot of work, considering the man is only 23.
Then again, one of his defining compositional experiences came when he was 10.
Anthony Clark Evans looks around Clifton and Renee Smith’s Lexington home. “This is the nicest house I’ve ever been in,” he says matter-of-factly. A few minutes later, the house is his performance venue.
Evans entertains the small crowd of musicians and arts supporters at the Smiths with a rendition of Hai già vinta la causa!, a plotting aria from Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro sung by the Count, whom Evans privately describes with a colorful, contemporary term for jerk.
His baritone voice is full and commanding, and in the performance you get the idea the guy he’s playing is up to something, even if you don’t understand the Italian. Minutes later, Evans, 27, grabs a beer and sits down with his wife, Kim, and some guests thrilled to be in the company of a man who is one of the opera world’s stories of the year.
Evans was selling cars at Swope Toyota in Elizabethtown when he took part in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. He advanced to the Mid-South Regional round in Memphis in March, and attracted widespread attention when he moved on to the national semifinals on the Metropolitan Opera’s stage in New York. In March, he was named one of five winners in the prestigious competition.
“I just expected to go out and do what it is I thought I could do,” Evans says. “I never got nervous, because I had nothing to lose. I was a car salesman trying to win an opera competition. What did I have to lose?”
It’s not as if Evans came completely out of nowhere. He studied voice at Murray State University and worked with programs including Opera in the Ozarks in Eureka Springs, Ark., where he had major roles in Puccini’s La bohème and Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado.But then he got married and left school to get a job to support himself and his wife, who is now a middle school music teacher.
While many of his competitors were still in school, drilling daily with teachers and coaches to prepare for the Met auditions, Evans was selling Corollas and Camrys, and was several years removed from his voice lessons.
“Obviously, I had this fantasy of, ‘This will be so cool if I win the whole thing,’” Evans says. “But I was more wondering, ‘Are they going to take me seriously?’ I don’t have my college degree. Nobody’s ever heard of me in any other facet of singing. Are they really going to take me seriously? And to tell you the truth, none of that stuff really matters when you can put something on the stage that people enjoy.”
Evans recalls that he met some singers during the competition who joked that they must have wasted their time and money going to college.
But he wasn’t rattled taking the stage for the Grand Finals Concert of the Met competition.
“He went first, which is a really intimidating place to be,” says Henno Lohmeyer, who has seen many Met competitions as a producer and the husband of Gail Robinson, the late University of Kentucky voice professor who for decades directed the Met auditions. “You worry that people will forget you going first. But he came out and let everyone know he was the one to beat.”
By that time, he had a little help from Lexington.
Aug23Filed under: rc talk - Christian pop culture;
On several occasions during a week in Chicago this summer, some adults in our group said something like, “This is so cool. I remember when I was in youth group, we just went and had fun.”
Now this is not to degrade my youth group experience in Virginia Beach, Va., which I will always treasure. But while we did do some service projects, and I remember a trip to help flood victims in Western Virginia clean up, our trips tended to lean toward theme parks and youth conferences. But this summer, I went on my second urban mission trip in three years with my daughter and her youth group at Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church. And for both middle school and high school students at Maxwell, that is what they do in the summer: They go somewhere where there is a need, help and ultimately learn.
It is a wonderful thing to watch your child do.
No, our youth and youth leaders are far from killjoys — we have Sunday afternoon of Messy Games last weekend and plenty of skiing and Kings Island excursions to prove that. But the culture there is if we are going to organize a big caravan somewhere, it is generally going to be to serve and learn.
And it’s really heartening to see in the gallery of mission trip photos gathered for out Life + Faith section Saturday how many other other congregations do the same thing. Groups represented served as close as Kentucky communities including tornado stricken West Liberty and as far away as Kenya and Uganda.
Our group of Maxwell and Pisgah Presbyterian high schoolers went to the South Side of Chicago to serve with a group called DOOR, which stands for Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection. The organization works with faith-based and social service agencies around the city to provide workers to do everything from working in community gardens to making food for hungry people to simply listening to people living with AIDS and HIV tell their stories. Working on the insanely hot Fourth of July week, our students left behind a lot of sweat and consumed dozens, if not hundreds of Nalgene-size bottles of water. And they had nary a complaint. If anything, they said they didn’t feel like they had worked enough.
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