The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Violinist Benjamin Beilman, guitarist Jason Vieaux, and the Escher String Quartet will bring a youthful vibe to the seventh annual Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass, Memorial Day Weekend at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. Rounding out the lineup are pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel, who have served as the event’s artistic directors since its inception in 2007.
In that short period, the festival has seen a number of changes, including the departure of one of the original co-presenters, Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts, and a change in leadership at the Shaker Village. But the appeal of hearing musicians from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center perform in the pastoral beauty of the Shaker Village and the directors’ affection for the venue have sustained it.
“It’s the community; it’s the setting,” Wu said last year, in an interview with the Herald-Leader. “Management will come and go, from our experience, but art, if you have a community to support it, if you have the audience and, in the case of the Shaker Village, that particular setting, it’s irreplaceable.”
While the Escher will play several times together in the four concerts over two days, there will also be several chances for the group to mix with other musicians on pieces such as Johannes Brahms’ Sextet No. 2 in G major for Two Violins, Two Violas, and Two Cellos, which will close out the festival in the May 26 concert at the Meadow View Barn.
The event will open late on the morning of May 25 with Wu and Finckel, one of classical music’s celebrated couples, teaming up for Claude Debussy’s Sonata for Cello and Piano.
That concert will also give Beilman a solo turn performing Eugène Ysaÿe’s Sonata in E Minor for Violin and the Escher will play Benjamin Britten’s Three Divertimentos for String Quartet. The next morning, Vieaux will have the stage to himself with Isaac Albeniz’s “Sevilla” and “Asturias” from Suite española for Guitar. And then there will be plenty of mixing and matching over the four performances. The festival really is a chance to watch world-class musicians play, in several senses of the word.
Beilman’s star is rising quickly in the 2010s with appearances around the world, particularly in chamber settings, and an Avery Fisher career grant to his credit.
Vieaux has recordings of works by J.S. Bach and Astor Piazolla to his credit, serves as the head of the Guitar Department at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and he is a co-founder of The Curtis Institute of Music’s Classical Guitar Department.
The Escher String Quartet does take its name from the Dutch artist M.C. Escher, famous for works such as interweaving stair cases, and has racked up a distinguished list of venues and achievements over its eight years together, including being invited to perform at Itzhak Perlman’s summer festival. Its recorded catalog includes works by Alexander von Zemlinsky and Amy Beach.
Last year, when John Nardolillo scheduled the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra‘s presentation of Benjamin Britten’s massive War Requiem for Friday night, he had no way of knowing how appropriate its timing would be. And certainly he and the others involved in the performance would have preferred it wasn’t so timely, coming on the heels of a tragic week.
While Boston did not go to war this week, it certainly experienced some of its hallmarks, including improvised explosive devices, a suicide bomber, and shelter-in-place orders. And there were casualties: Officer Sean Collier Thursday night, and at the Marathon Lu Lingzi, Krystle Campbell, and 8-year-old Martin Richard, famously seen in a photo holding a sign that said, “No more hurting people.”
That was essentially what pacifist Britten was saying with Requiem, albeit with hundreds of musicians and in a composition that might be more appropriately called inspired than brilliant, though it is both.
Because of the 300-or-so musicians required to do the Requiem right, it is not presented often. Friday’s performance was at the very least the first Lexington rendition of the 1962 composition in recent memory, if ever.
It somewhat ironically requires the organizational skills of a general to pull the orchestra, massive choir, chamber orchestra, children’s choir, and soloists together in a performance of the Requiem. At the podium Friday was Nardolillo, who conducted the Boston Pops in December and has forged a relationship between his orchestra and the Boston group. Friday, he elicited an exceedingly sensitive performance from the powerful forces at his disposal.
The biggest evidence of how powerfully UK presented the work came in silence: the several “pin drop” moments, particularly at the end of the performance, where well over 1,000 people were left in near-perfect silence.
While Britten designated an overwhelming ensemble, some of the highlights of the Requiem are small moments or how all those musicians can be focused on an exquisite pianissimo moment.
The Requiem is a mix of the Latin requiem mass and war poetry by Wilfred Owen, a British soldier who died in World War I.
On stage, the large chorus — a combination of the Lexington Singers and the UK Chorale — and soprano Catherine Clarke Nardolillo, delivered the Latin text while a small chamber orchestra, conducted by Marcello Cormio, and tenor Justin Vickers and baritone Thomas Gunter sang. Located at the back of the Singletary Center for the Arts, Lori Hetzel conducted the Lexington Singers Children’s Choir in heavenly interactions with both stage ensembles.
UK alum Vickers made the most of his return to campus, with moments like his portrayal of Isaac in the story of Abraham and Isaac where you could see the child in his face as he asked, “where is the lamb?” He and current UK voice student Gunter created a haunting, “strange meeting” between enemy soldiers in the final movement, and throughout they were accompanied by the baker’s dozen chamber group, something of a UK orchestra all-star team. There never seemed to be a diminishing of forces when the focus shifted to them, though the larger ensemble had plenty of moments of its own. The fourth movement, Sanctus, was particularly stunning in its interplay between the soprano and the percussion, UK’s nationally revered percussionists shining all night.
Catherine Nardolillo was a strong vocal star through the evening, in part because she carried an appropriately serious demeanor at center stage.
As the forces combined for the finale, powerfully-gently singing, “Into paradise may the angels lead thee,” it seemed that after several turbulent and deadly days, including the tragedy in West, Texas, there could be no more appropriate end to the week — except, of course, walking out of the Singletary Center and reading the second bombing suspect had been captured.
Where can you find the comedy of Arthur Sullivan (half of Gilbert and Sullivan) and the pathos of Giacomo Puccini on one stage this weekend?
First Presbyterian Church is where the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s Undergraduate Studio is presenting two one-act operas: the Sullivan comedy Cox and Box and Puccini’s convent drama Suor Angelica.
Yes, there will be nuns filling the Presbyterian church’s dias.
Suor Angelica is the directorial debut for UK distinguished professor of voice Cynthia Lawrence, and it tells the story of a sister who was sent to a convent as punishment and seeks redemption.
Cox and Box is, as Monty Python might say, “something completely different” — credit to UK Opera photographer Sally Horowitz for planting that quip in my noggin. Sullivan’s opera is the story of two men who unwittingly share an apartment. One works at night, the other in the day. But when one gets the day off, the landlord’s ruse is discovered.
This opera also has an aria about bacon. (See video, below.) An operatic aria about bacon?! Oddly, appropriate.
Cox and Box is directed by Patrick Joel Martin and Gregory Turay, UK Opera’s most celebrated graduate.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 12, and Saturday, April 13. Tickets are available through the Singletary Center ticket office (use the links in the last sentence) and at the door starting at 6:30 each night. Prepare to laugh … and cry.
Trumpeter Caleb Hudson, a Lexington native who first turned heads in the Bluegrass before heading off to the Interlochen Academy and the Julliard School, has officially joined the Canadian Brass, arguably the world’s best-known brass ensemble.
Hudson’s appointment came in a surprise announcement at a March 15 concert at Goucher College in Baltimore that was played on SiriusXM Pops. Hudson, 25, had been billed as a guest artist, but then was announced as the Brass’ newest member. He will be joining the Brass for an eight-month tour of North America, Europe, Asia and South America.
Before last Friday, Hudson had already been making headlines with appearances such as his solo debut with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center performing J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 and at the Aspen Music Festival, where he was soloist with pianist Vladimir Feltsman in a performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano, Trumpet and Orchestra. Last year he graduated from Julliard with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He is a performing and teaching artist with The Academy, a program of Carnegie Hall.
Hudson attended Paul Laurence Dunbar High School for his freshman and sophmore years, was a member of the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras, and went to the Governor’s School for the Arts in the Summer of 2005. Later that year, he returned from Michigan as a soloist with the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra.
At the pre-concert lecture for that performance, Hudson’s trumpet teacher Rich Byrd said the first thing that struck him about Hudson was his work ethic.
“Never in my 20 years of private teaching have I ever had a student as serious and hard working as Caleb Hudson,” Byrd, an Eastern Kentucky University trumpet professor, said. “No matter what I assigned Caleb, he always returned to me with his lesson completed exactly as I asked, and often would prepare more than I asked.”
Hudson, at Byrd’s urging went on to enter and win at the National Trumpet Competition multiple times.
Five singers won cash prizes and full scholarships to the University of Kentucky in the Alltech Vocal Scholarship Competition on March 3 at the Singletary Center for the Arts. The annual competition has become one of the premier vocal scholarship programs in the United States and has brought some of the top singers in UK Opera Theatre productions to Lexington.
Here’s a list of the scholarship winners, plus winners of other cash prizes:
1st Place Alltech Undergraduate Award, $6,000 plus tuition waiver: Willnard E. Anderson, Florissant, Mo.
2nd Place Bryant’s Rent-All and Kentucky Eagle Undergraduate Award, $4, 000 plus tuition waiver: Samantha Williams, Alexandria, Va.
3rd Place Cavalier Distributing Undergraduate Award, $2,000: Matthew Pearce, Union.
The Barbara Rouse Kentucky Prize, $5,000: Sydney Jahnigan, Lexington.
Kentucky Eagle Undergraduate Enthusiasm Award, $1,000: Sarah Rice, Hager Hill.
Bio-Cat Undergraduate Encouragement Award, $1,000: Meredith Ernstberger, Louisville.
Barlow and E.A. Ackerman Dairy Products Inc. Undergraduate Musicianship Award, $1,000: Taylor Harr, Pikeville.
Undergraduate Encouragement Award, $500: Irene Kelly, La Crosse, Wis.
Kentucky Eagle Transfer Student Award, $4,000: Beatriz Paroni, Sao Paolo, Brazil.
1st Place Alltech Graduate Award, $12,000 plus tuition waiver and graduate assistantship: Ryan Traub, Nashville, Tenn.
2nd Place Alltech Graduate Award, $8,000 plus tuition waiver and graduate assistantship: Iris Fordjour-Hankins, Detroit, Mich.
3rd Place Alltech Graduate Award, $5,000 plus tuition waiver and graduate assistantship: Shareese Johnson Arnold, Sheffield, Ala.
Cavalier Distributing and The Gail Robinson Musicianship Award, $2,000: André Campelo, Lexington.
Kentucky Eagle and Jon Carloftis Fine Gardens Graduate Musicianship Award, $1,000: Holly Nicole Dodson, Houston, Texas.
Kentucky Eagle Graduate Enthusiasm Award, $1,000: Jonathan Macarthur Parham, Cordele, Ga.
Kentucky Eagle Graduate Encouragement Award, $1,000: Nicole Sonbert, Durham, N.C.
Graduate Encouragement Award, $500: Marcus Simmons, Philadelphia, Pa.
The Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra has announced its 2013-14 season, which will continue its efforts to bring new music and emerging artists to Lexington.
The season will start Sept. 20 with a concert including Adam Schoenberg’s American Symphony and include the world premier of a new work by Schoenberg April 11. Schoenberg is the second composer in the Philharmonic’s Saykaly-Garbulinska composer-in-residence program with the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington. He is also composing a new work for the festival, Aug. 20-25.
The Philharmonic season will also include a screening of the 1925 silent classic The Gold Rush with the musical score by Charlie Chaplin and, for the traditionalists out there, a season-ending performance of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s iconic Symphony No. 9.
Guest soloists will start with violin phenom Caroline Goulding playing the Violin Concerto by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky in September and a return visit by classical guitarist Pablo Sainz Villegas, whose last performance with the Philharmonic was the very first concert in the orchestra’s search for a new music music director that resulted in the hiring of Scott Terrell. His October 2007 performance was with then-Philharmonic candidate Kayoko Dan who ended up being hired by the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras and served two seasons as their music director before going on to lead the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra.
Terrell is entering his fifth season as the Philharmonic’s music director. Here’s the lineup of works and soloists.
Sept. 20, Revolution: Dmitri Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto featuring Caroline Goulding, Adam Schoenberg’s American Symphony, and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
Nov. 15, Fantasy: Engelbert Humperdinck’s excerpts from Hansel and Gretel; Camille Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals featuring piano soloists Sonya and Elizabeth Schumann, and Igor Stravinsky’s Petrushka.
Dec. 7: George Frideric Handel’s Messiah at the Cathedral of Christ the King featuring guest soloists and the Lexington Chamber Chorale.
Feb. 14, Tainted Love: Dominick Argento’s Valentino Dances, Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez featuring guitar soloist Pablo Sáinz Villegas, Felix Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream featuring soloists and a combined womens’ choir from Asbury University and the University of Kentucky.
March 14, The Gold Rush. Full-length silent film featuring music score by Charles Chaplin.
April 11: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 35, world premiere by Adam Schoenberg, and Antonin Dvorak’s Cello Concerto featuring cello soloist Narek Hakhnazaryan.
May 16: Claude Debussy’s Claire de Lune, Osvaldo Golijov’s Three Songs for Soprano and Orchestra (soloist to be announced), Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 featuring soloists to be announced and a combined chorus from the Kentucky Bach Choir, Lexington Chamber Chorale and the Lexington Singers.
The season was announced at the Philharmonic’s March 1 concert featuring the contemporary ensemble Eighth Blackbird.
All performances are at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Kentucky’s Singletary Center for the Arts, except Messiah.
Subscriptions are currently available to only current subscribers. Subscriptions will ne available to the general public beginning May 1, ranging in price from $130-$350. Single concert tickets will go on sale at a later date.
For more information, visit lexphil.org or call (859) 2334226.
Last Fall’s record-breaking, eye-popping production of The Phantom of the Opera put the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre in the spotlight as an organization capable of putting on a really big show.
This semester’s production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro puts the focus on the University of Kentucky’s singers, and it proves to be as satisfying a night, even without the chandelier and the boat.
To be sure, Richard Kagey’s production is a much simpler affair than his Phantom. But it is also what Marriage or many other Mozart operas need to be: charming.
For all its vaunted status as one of the most performed operas in the world – some surveys put it at No. 1 – and a musical masterpiece, Figaro is at its core a silly little love story led by opera’s merry prankster, Figaro.
In the opening night performance of the opera, which is double cast, Daniel Koehn made the role look as easy as it needs to be with his smooth baritone buoyantly romping through some palace intrigue.
As the title suggests, it is Figaro’s wedding day, but before he marries to his beloved Susanna, plays will be made for both of their affections, and there will be other mixing and matching of couples.
Mozart’s music is considered great for young singers as it develops key parts of the voice without stretching it to places it is not ready to go. UK has presented Mozart’s work in its undergraduate studio shows to great success, but here it seems to have opened up the main stage to more undergrads than usual.
Between this and Phantom, 2012-13 seems to be the year of the undergrad at UK Opera, no one benefiting more than Elizabeth Maurey as Susanna, fresh off a turn as one of the three Christines in Phantom. Here, the threats are far less ominous and the music is more sprite, giving Maurey a chance to play and show a very natural comic style. Through three hours and 15 minutes, we get to really enjoy her and Figaro (who in the other cast is played by undergrad Phillip Bullock) as a happy couple we know will come out on top.
Their main challenge is the Count, who we were actually ro0ting for in Giacomo Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, to which Figaro is a sequel (though it was actually written 30 years earlier). Then, Figaro was helping the Count was pursue the lovely Rosina. Now, he has grown tired of Rosina and has set his sights on Susanna, and apparently any other female in his home.
This is not necessarily a show-stealing role, but Thomas Gunther comes close as he is constantly schemes and gets thwarted like Wile E. Coyote. Though he’s creepy, it’s hard to hate him as he brilliantly sings his Act II-opening aria, Hai già vinta la causa … Vedrò mentr’io sospiro.
This production also confirms that mezzo-soprano Ellen Graham can sing pants roles brilliantly, as she also did as Prince Orlofsky in the 2010 production of Die Fledermaus. Here, she is every bit the lovestruck teenage boy Cherubino, and with her gorgeous Act II rendition of Voi che sapete che cosa è amor to the countess, it’s a wonder this does not become a bit of an 18th century Cougar Town.
Kagey’s production makes this opera seem that contemporary, despite its 227 years, as there seems to have been a broad mandate to have fun with it. He aids his own cause with a stage design that is in stark contrast to the complexity of his Phantom set. But it works brilliantly as a variety of locales on a pink and blue checkerboard raked platform and two doors, with several quick changes of backdrop and furniture.
And under John Nardolillo’s baton, the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, fresh off playing Wagner with Christine Brewer, is as crisp as ever, giving this show another dash of exactly what it needs.
The evening was buoyed with the pre-show announcement that UK Opera director Everett McCorvey has withdrawn his name from consideration for dean of the College of Music Theatre, and Dance at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and will stay at UK.
UK’s Marriage is not the behemoth of last fall’s blockbuster. But it shows how the program got to the point it could produce shows like Phantom, by consistently staging solid productions like this.
This production continues at 2 and 7 p.m. March 2 and 7 p.m. March 3. Several stars of this production are winners of the Alltech Vocal Scholarship Auditions. This year’s auditions are at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Singletary Center for the Arts.
Everett McCorvey, the educator, performer and impresario who built the University of Kentucky’s voice program into one of the top opera programs in the country, is interviewing for the post of dean of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
According to an itinerary available online, McCorvey arrived in Greensboro on Tuesday morning for a day and a half of interviews at the public university, which has approximately 18,000 students. He is one of three finalists for the post, including Peter Alexander, recently retired dean of the Jordan College of Fine Arts at Butler University, and Sara Baird, chair of the department of music at Auburn University.
In his letter of application, McCorvey says, “I am very impressed with what the School of Music, Theatre and Dance has to offer. … I see tremendous potential for growth, collaboration and achieving new heights.”
Michael Tick, dean of the University of Kentucky College of Fine Arts, declined to be interviewed for this story because it’s a personnel matter. He said McCorvey is currently on sabbatical.
“I hope that UK doesn’t let Everett get away,” said Marlon Hurst, director of the Kentucky Bach Choir and director of music at First Presbyterian Church, where McCorvey has been active, including serving as interim and substitute music director. “It would be an astonishingly huge loss to the artistic life of our community.”
Since arriving at the University of Kentucky from Knoxville College in 1991, McCorvey has built the college’s opera program into a nationally recognized opera program and Lexington’s de facto opera company. This academic year, the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre staged a production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera that broke attendance records at the Lexington Opera House. It will open its production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro next week.
Under McCorvey’s watch, the UK voice program was named to a list of 20 recommended opera training programs in the United States by the Richard Tucker Foundation and has launched the careers of professional opera singers including Gregory Turay, Phumzile Sojola, Andrea Jones Sojola, Patricia Andress, Corey Crider and Reshma Shetty, who also is in the cast of USA’s Royal Pains.
In addition to making UK opera productions into major Lexington arts events, McCorvey established the It’s a Grand Night for Singing show-tune concerts as annual red-letter dates on the arts calendar. He also founded the Lexington-based American Spiritual Ensemble, which tours internationally presenting spiritual songs, and was executive producer of the opening ceremonies of the Alltech-FEI World Equestrian Games. McCorvey’s close relationship with Alltech founder Pearse Lyons has resulted in the Alltech Scholarships, one of the most attractive voice scholarships in the country.
According to the UNC-Greensboro website, McCorvey is the last candidate to interview for the job.
Fans of the Classic Arts Showcase on Insight Channel 219 will have to find another way to get their fix of classical music and ballet clips. The University of of Kentucky, which has presented the channel, will discontinue it as of March 1. (The video, above, is an Angel Records clip from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons featuring Fabio Biondi, conductor and violin soloist, from Classic Arts Showcase’s YouTube channel.)
A statement from the university said, “The University of Kentucky will discontinue satellite downlinking services … due to maintenance cost of under-utilized and aging equipment.”
Other services delivered through satellite downlink will be delivered through other avenues, the statement said, but the Classic Arts Showcase “is not available for UK to distribute in other ways.”
Classic Arts Showcase, founded by the late Lloyd Rigler, a businessman and philanthropist, is a Los Angeles-based free satellite TV service that provides 24-hour programming of classical music, opera, ballet and film. It’s available across the country on public, educational and government channels, and through some PBS stations. It is also shown on Dish Network channel 9406.
With Sunday night’s performance at Natasha’s Bistro and Bar, J String completed the journey from hot summer night lark to a winter night performance that attracted a good, enthusiastic crowd, despite a cold rain.
The conceit of the duo of Lexington cellist Jacob Yates, now a sophomore at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and Cincinnati-based Broadway actress Jessica Hendy, is that they take big pop songs by artists like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and reset them for voice and cello. It has worked well for J String over a quintet of web videos that have been modest viral successes, particularly the sleek production of David Guetta’s Titanium.
J String has a lot going for it, primarily a pair of extremely talented musicians and a unique concept: voice and cello pop duo. Add to that, they have tossed artsy snobbery to the wind and taken songs often dismissed as Top 40 confections seriously.
That may have worked best in their take on Britney Spears’ debut hit … Baby One More Time, in which Hendy really accessed the emotion of a girl pleading to get a guy to give her another chance. The duo’s take also accented one of the controversial aspects of the song, the lyric “Hit me baby one more time,” which Spears has maintained is not a reference to violence. But Hendy’s performance did convey a note of unhealthy desperation.
Throughout the 16-song set, she and Yates, to an extent, embodied their songs like a Broadway performer embodies a character. On three songs, they were joined by Cincinnati Conservatory senior Josh Tolle, from a piano-bar style rendition of Alicia Keys’ If I Ain’t Got You to a pointed interpretation of Radiohead’s Creep.
Yates was clearly on a cellist’s holiday ripping intricate solos in songs like Titanium and using a looping pedal for some very cool overlays.
There is no clear path for what is next for J String. They are hoping to book a New York gig later this year that could get them in front of some influential ears. Hendy and Yates have no designs on creating original material, though Tolle is a songwriter and clearly finds the combo inspiring. Maybe they will know they have arrived if someone takes a J String original and sets it to guitar, bass, and drums.
For now, it’s fun watching the group put on the hits.
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