The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Click play to hear the Lexington Singers’ Hallelujah performance in the food court at Fayette Mall:
Reid Talley and his daughter Meg were in the Fayette Mall food court, taking a break from some Christmas shopping Friday evening, when a man near them broke into song.
“Hallelujah! Hallelujiah!” sang Johnnie Dean, who was soon joined by others near him, singing George Frideric Handel’s chorus from Messiah in four-part harmony.
“It took us a minute to figure out what was going on,” said Reid, who soon spotted one of the singers sporting a Lexington Singers shirt. “It sounded great in here.”
The Talleys and their fellow shoppers were in the midst of a Hallelujah chorus flash mob, a trend that’s been popping up around the country as choral groups stage surprise performances of the piece from Messiah, a popular Christmastime presentation.
The Singers have a Messiah performance scheduled for Sunday at the Singletary Center for the Arts, and joining in the flash mob fun seemed like a good way to promote the event.
In addition to a performance just after 6 p.m. at Fayette Mall, the Singers also sang the chorus at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at 7. Dean started the chorus as he rode down the escalator at the center of the store.
Lexington Singers music director Jefferson Johnson said the idea for the surprise performances started when friends started filling his e-mail inbox with YouTube videos of Hallelujah performances from around the nation in malls, subway stations and other locales.
“They’d write, ‘Hey, Dr. J. Long-time, no-see. Check this out! It would be perfect for the Lexington Singers,’” Johnson says. “And they were right. It is.”
The Singers have performed Messiah for decades, and the Hallelujah often at concerts outside Messiah, so most of the members know it pretty well. With 75 to 80 of their more than 100 members turning out Friday, it wasn’t hard for them to take over a store and a food court.
They did find challenges. Before the Joseph-Beth performance, singers were looking for similar voice types to be near, and while they’re used to singing Hallelujah, the store performances were a cappella. After the performance, singer Doug Martin joked that he might bring a trumpet next time to add the chorus’ famous trumpet part to the performance.
“These people love to sing,” Johnson said. “It’s just a matter of where and when.”
When it came time to write about Studio Players’ production of Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten‘s Christmas Belles, we decided it was time to stop talking to people about the ubiquitous playwrights and talk to them. Fortunately, the trio was amenable to a chat about their plays, including Dearly Beloved and Southern Hospitality, their lives running around the world seeing productions of their shows and the genesis if their iconic trio, the Futrelle Sisters of Fayro, Texas.
Click play to hear the chat.
Click here to read our story about the playwrights and Studio Players’ production.
Click the play button to hear our chat with Gustavo Dudamel backstage at the Norton Center for the Arts after the rehearsal of his concert with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The first question was posed by Chris Floyd of Centre College, who asked Dudamel about his favorite pieces to conduct.
Dudamel addressed the question of why he was coming to a small Kentucky town, posed most loudly by the Los Angeles Times, saying, “Music can go everywhere, and here is a beautiful place with very nice people, and it’s amazing to come here to give music and receive energy. Because today we were playing this rehearsal for young people, and for them, it was amazing to see the Vienna Philharmonic playing this amazing repertoire for them, and then they gave their energy to us. So, music is for everybody.”
He also recalled how much he enjoyed hearing some bluegrass music performed by Kentucky Blue at Taylor Made Farm Sunday night.
“You cannot imagine, they told me, ‘If you do not go, we will leave you here,’” Dudamel said, referring to the musicians in the Vienna Philharmonic, who were ready to get to their hotel Sunday night. “Even the bluegrass musicians were like, ‘OK Maestro, we have to go because we have to rest for a concert tomorrow, and I was saying, ‘One more! One more!’
“It’s the soul of the place. Music, art is the soul of the places that you visit.”
We got a chance to talk to Tim Foreman and Drew Shirley of Switchfoot before their set Thursday night at the Ichthus Festival. Click play to hear our chat. (Btw, the guy who walks through toward the end of the interview is Relient K’s Matt Thiessen.)
By the way, the line-up for Questapalooza was announced this morning, and Switchfoot tops the bill, which includes fellow Ichthus 2010 artists Newsboys, for their third Lexington-area show this year, and last year’s Questapalooza opener Group 1 Crew. The show is Sept. 5, and tickets go on sale July 4.
TD and Veronica Benton of White Collar Sideshow stopped by the press trailer Saturday afternoon to talk about their performance, which they presented Friday night on the Main Stage. They chatted about the genesis of the piece, a “live silent movie,” according to Veronica, about their own struggles with addiction, and about trying to get the piece out before people.
Click play to hear our chat.
Click play to hear our interview with Mike Hranica of The Devil Wears Prada.
Do a Google image search for “The Devil Wears Prada,” and you find yourself flipping between pictures of Meryl Streep, star of the 2006 fashion-industry movie by that name, and the metal-core band that is headlining the Ichthus Festival‘s Deep End stage Friday night.
“People hear the name and say, ‘Oh, that’s clever,’ or ‘That’s ironic,’” lead vocalist Mike Hranica says. “It was pretty much a joke name. We picked it when there were only three people in the band, and we didn’t take it seriously.”
So, Hranica admits that he is a little surprised that the band has now doubled in size, has released three albums and is touring the world, hitting Christian and mainstream festivals this summer.
The Devil Wears Prada tops a strong bill of alternative stage acts at this year’s Ichthus Festival. The lineup on the Deep End and Edge stages includes bands that have played the Main Stage before, including Day of Fire and Pillar, and fan favorite Anberlin, which headlines the Deep End on Saturday night.
The stronger secondary stage lineup comes due to a slightly shorter Main Stage lineup — no morning acts this year — and a stronger following for alternative styles like The Devil Wears Prada’s sound.
That sound — jackhammer guitars, crashing drums and Hranica’s monstrous howl — doesn’t always go over well with some Christian music listeners. When the band was announced for Ichthus, the event’s Facebook page was hit with several messages denouncing the band as — to put it mildly — not Christian.
“It’s ignorant,” Hranica says of the backlash against the band’s style. “There’s nothing biblical that says what your music should sound like, and if you think music has to be soft to be Christian, you are way behind the times.”
He points out, correctly, that his group is hardly the first faith-based band in that style. But when you get to be as big as The Devil Wears Prada, critics come along with your legions of fans.
May22Filed under: Classical Music, Norton Center for the Arts, Podcasts; Tagged as: Astor Piazolla, Centre College, Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, David Finkel, Escher String Quartet, Franz Schubert, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Jakor Koranyi, Joseph Silverstein, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Memorial Day weekend, Music@Menlo, Norton Center for the Arts, Orion String Quartet, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Stephen Collins Foster, Wu Han, Yura Lee
Click play to hear a podcast of our conversation with Wu Han and David Finkel.
The unplayed tune that has colored the Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass is a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic: Getting to Know You.
For the fourth consecutive Memorial Day weekend, the festival will bring together members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and Central Kentucky classical music fans at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.
“I could feel there’s a sense of trust that’s been building up on the reputation and the quality of the music,” says pianist Wu Han, who co-directs the festival with her husband, cellist David Finkel.
She points out that in the festival’s first years, she and Finkel brought along other brand-name classical stars such as violinist Joseph Silverstein and the Orion String Quartet. This year, like last year, leans more on new faces. Last year’s fresh entry was the Escher String Quartet. This year, it’s some hot young soloists, including violinist/violist Yura Lee and cellist Jakor Koranyi.
That duo will play Maurice Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello, which earned them flat-out raves when they played it in New York last month. In his review for the New York Daily News, Howard Kissel acknowledged it was not a piece he was familiar with, but he was completely taken with Lee and Koranyi’s performance.
Offering performances like that put the festival, presented by Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts, on a trajectory it should be on, Wu Han says.
Click play to hear a conversation with the cast of Blur in the Rear View.
Aleks Merilo saw a painting: Summer Evening by Edward Hopper.
In it, a man and a woman stand on a porch. He’s talking, she’s listening, “and you can tell something is not quite right,” Merilo says.
The playwright started wondering what was wrong, what the story was. That curiosity turned into a script that the University of Kentucky Theatre will present the next two weekends.
The story centers on three people who were affected by a horrible tragedy when they were in high school. It sent one of them to prison. We meet them eight years later and look back at their relationships before and after that tragedy.
“I wanted to look at how one moment can effect the course of an entire life,” Merilo says of his play, which beat about 30 other scripts from around the country and one from Australia.
“It really met all the criteria for the competition,” says UK theater department chair Nancy Jones. Those requirements included skilled writing, that it be an achievable production for the student ensemble and that it “celebrates the human spirit,” Jones says.
She says the competition’s namesake, a retired UK theater professor, “believed strongly in the last requirement, and this play fulfills that beautifully.”
She said she could not elaborate on that much because the play “is a mystery.”
For the students in the production, Jones said, it has been valuable to be able to work with a living playwright.
“It’s been very cool,” Merilo says, “though I wish I could be more involved.”
Merilo is based in California and is teaching theater at a middle school in Battleground, Wash.
Jones says, “In an ideal world, he wouldn’t be all the way across the country, but these days, there are ways to overcome that.”
Merilo says it has been good to work with the student company and get their thoughts and suggestions for the play.
“Writing, you can get really focused on your vision of what it is supposed to be,” Merilo says. “So it is good to hear other perspectives.”
Both Jones and Merilo mention the final scene, which was chopped in half after the cast said it was too long and repetitive, and Merilo agreed.
“What I appreciate is that you could be very direct,” Jones says. “Some people you have to approach it gently, but I could just call him up and say, ‘The final scene isn’t working.’”
Merilo says, “It’s been a great experience. What I love about universities is that they are willing to take risks.”
Click the play button to hear a podcast of our interview with Joshua Roman:
At 25, cellist Joshua Roman already has some big credits on his resume, including being the only soloist during the YouTube Symphony Orchestra presentation, becoming the Seattle Symphony’s principal cellist at age 22, and being named artist of the month by Musical America magazine in August.
We caught up with Roman back stage after a rehearsal to talk about things like being called a “classical rock star” for our story in today’s Weekender and the podcast, above.
Oct7Filed under: Classical Music, Lexington Opera House, Music, Musicals, Opera, Podcasts, slide shows, Theater, UK; Tagged as: Abraham Lincoln, Amanda Balltrip, Daniel Koehn, Dione Johnson, Ellen Graham, Hannah Fister, Henry Layton, Jim Rodgers, Joe Baber, Joseph Waterbury-Tieman, Julie La Douceur, Lexington Opera House, Mark Golson, Megan McCauley, Nicholas Provenzale, River of Time, Susan Rahmsdorff, University of Kentucky Opera Theatre, University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, William Arnold
Click the play button to hear a podcast of our River of Time report for WEKU-FM 88.9:
The University of Kentucky Opera Theatre presents the world premier production of composer Joe Baber and librettist Jim Rodgers’ River of Time Oct. 8-10 at the Lexington Opera House. The opera, commissioned by UK Opera, looks at Abraham Lincoln’s early years including his search for purpose in his life and the roots of his desire to fight slavery. Photos by Rich Copley | staff.
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