Review: Joshua Bell and the UK Symphony

Violinist Joshua Bell performed Max Bruch's "Violin Concerto No. 1" with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John Nardolillo, on April 3, 2015, in the Singletary Center for the Arts concert hall on the university campus in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Andrew Brinkhorst for the Singletary Center for the Arts.

Violinist Joshua Bell performed Max Bruch’s “Violin Concerto No. 1″ with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John Nardolillo, on April 3, 2015, in the Singletary Center for the Arts concert hall on the university campus in Lexington, Ky. Photos by Andrew Brinkhorst for the Singletary Center for the Arts.

The night before the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team was set to take the court in Indianapolis in pursuit of a historic 39th win and berth in the national championship game, the UK Symphony Orchestra put a W in its record book with its concert featuring superstar violinist Joshua Bell.

To put this in basketball context — which is what everything around here seems to be in, this week — this was like LeBron James coming and playing with Wildcats. Bell is arguably the most famous person playing violin today not named Itzhak, and some would say the Hoosier (we complete our circles here) has even eclipsed the instrument’s elder statesman (who has played with the UK Symphony twice).

Joshua Bell rehearsed with the UK Symphony a few hours before the concert.

Joshua Bell rehearsed with the UK Symphony a few hours before the concert.

But anyone, even LeBron, can tell you a superstar can only do so much on his or her own. Winning, in basketball or orchestras takes a total team effort, and that’s what the audience in the Singletary Center concert hall got on Friday night.

UK has participated in these marquee soloist concerts since 2008, with the Singletary Center booking the star and then pairing him or her with the student orchestra. The guest list has included Itzhak Perlman, violinist Sarah Chang and, last year, pianist Lang Lang. All have been dazzling nights, but this may have been the most complete concert of the bunch.

The first half was devoted to the student orchestra playing Dmitri Shostakovich’s Festive Overture and Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird Suite. In these concerts, there has often been an untidy orchestral work it seemed didn’t get proper attention in the midst of preparation for the soloist.

But nobody wants to hear a ragged Firebird, and they didn’t Friday. After the tone-setting overture, the orchestra lit up Stravinsky’s masterwork with a sharp, fully nuanced performance from that haunting rumble of low strings to the dazzling woodwind work that gives Firebird its life.

Far from distracted by the star, this UK Symphony sounded refined by months of working on everything from Stephen Sondheim to György Ligeti, the most vexing composer the orchestra encountered in its performance of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

150403JoshuaBell-blog15241Director John Nardolillo wisely programmed Bell’s appearance for the second half, as some previous concerts have seen the audience diminish in part two when the soloist played only in the first half. When Bell took the stage for Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in g minor, he found a more than capable partner in the orchestra. Concertos can be like theater, where one actor’s performance elevates the other’s, and the UK musicians seemed to give Bell plenty to play off of Friday night in fiery exchanges of passages. That’s not to say that Bell did not provide a veritable violin clinic with his fleet fingers and tight bow technique. It was one of those performances we have to thank Singletary Center for the Arts director Michael Grice for providing.

Bell seemed to enjoy the collaboration with the students in his exceedingly physical performance. After the concerto, Camille Saint-Saëns’ Introduction and Capriccioso in a minor  served as a sort of scheduled encore for Bell, and more of a playground for the visiting artist to dazzle the audience (and all in the hall) with a show of passion and prestidigitation.

The audience, which appeared to fill about two-thirds of the 1502-seat Singletary Center concert hall, was a bit smaller than you might expect for an artist of Bell’s stature. The culprits likely included a $65 to $85 ticket price, Fayette County Schools’ spring break, Good Friday observances, a record rainfall that turned navigating some sections of town into a maze-like exercise and a certain basketball team preparing to play a historic game a mere four hours away (I have covered arts in this town long enough to know there is a strong crossover audience of arts and Cats fans). Given that promoter’s nightmare of conflicts, it may be a testament to Bell’s stature that as many people showed up as did.

Folks that were there saw an orchestra worthy of the superstars it gets to play with and that at UK, elite isn’t a status just enjoyed by basketball.

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Follow up: Lexington filmmaker wins in ‘Twilight’ competition

Lindsey Hancock Williamson in the pitch video for "Turncoats," the "Twilight"-based short film she will direct in the Lexington area later this month. Photo courtesy of Suburban Tallyhoo Productions.

Lindsey Hancock Williamson in the pitch video for “Turncoats,” the “Twilight”-based short film she will direct in the Lexington area later this month. Photo courtesy of Suburban Tallyhoo Productions.

Lexington director Lindsey Hancock Williamson has won (again) in the Twilight Storytellers competition, and will film her short movie based on characters from the Twilight series later this month.

The Storytellers — New Voices of the Twilight Saga competition was launched by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer to make six new Twilight mini-movies by female directors. Williamson initially won the story idea and screenplay portions of the competition with Turncoats, her tale of the Revolutionary War meeting of Carlisle Cullen, father of series hero Edward Cullen, and Garrett, a vampire introduced at the end of the final book in the series, Breaking Dawn.

In the last round, she faced off against a Boston-based director for the chance to film her script. The outcome was determined by a combination of judges’ decisions and public voting. She was one of six winning directors.

Williamson is a Lexington native who went to film school in Nashville and then worked in film production in New York. She and her husband, Sam Williamson, founded Suburban Tallyho Productions and moved back to Lexington to be near family.

Williamson said she plans to film later this month in Central Kentucky.

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‘Justified’ finale previewing in Harlan

Erica Tazel as Deputy U.S. Marshal Rachel Brooks in 'Justified.' FX photo by James Minchin.

Erica Tazel as Deputy U.S. Marshal Rachel Brooks in ‘Justified.’ FX photo by James Minchin.

UPDATE: The event in Harlan is sold out.

The FX crime drama Justified has been set in Harlan and Lexington for all of its six seasons. But while writers and producers have made research trips to Eastern and Central Kentucky, the series has never filmed in the Commonwealth.

But a group of the series’ stars and executive producer and showrunner Graham Yost will be in Harlan county next Saturday, April 11, for a screening of the series finale and a question and answer session at Harlan County High School. The actors include Joelle Carter who plays Ava Crowder, the woman at the center of the conflict, this season, between Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and Harlan crime boss, and her beau, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). Joining her will be Erica Tazel who plays Rachel Brooks, the acting chief of the Marshals’ Lexington office, and Jacob Pitts who plays Deputy U.S. Marshal Tim Gutterson.

According to a press release from FX, the screening will be at 4 p.m. at the Harlan County High School Auditorium, 4000 North U.S. Highway 119 in Baxter. It will be followed at 5 with a panel discussion with the actors, Yost and other executive producers.

There are two ways to get tickets: Listen to Crow in the Morning on WTUK-FM 105.1 FM starting at 7 a.m. Thursday (April 2) for chances to win tickets or enter for a chance to win on the Facebook page of the Harlan Daily Enterprise.

There are two episodes left in the series, based on the late Elmore Leonard’s short story Fire in the Hole, that airs at 10 p.m. Tuesdays on FX (TWC Ch. 55). The series finale is April 14.

BTW, we are scheduled to talk to Joelle Carter this week. If you want to suggest a question, head over to my Facebook page.

 

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Lexington Children’s Theatre casts Jim Gray as …

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray delivered his annual State of the City Address in the Patterson Ballroom of the downtown Hyatt Regency hotel in Lexington, Ky.,Tuesday, January 20, 2015. Hosted by the Lexington Forum, the event was free and open to the public. Herald-Leader staff photo by Charles Bertram.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray delivered his annual State of the City Address in the Patterson Ballroom of the downtown Hyatt Regency hotel in Lexington, Ky.,Tuesday, January 20, 2015. Hosted by the Lexington Forum, the event was free and open to the public. Herald-Leader staff photo by Charles Bertram.

So, you have probably played this game where you take a favorite film or play or novel and pick who among your friends or family would be which characters. Well, that’s what the Lexington Children’s Theatre has done for its seventh annual Celebrity Curtain Call fundraiser, this year titled Celebrity Curtain Call in Oz.

Ramsey Carpenter, Miss My Old Kentucky Home, waves to the crowd after being crowned Miss Kentucky 2014 during the pageant at Singletary Center For the Arts in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, July 12, 2014. Herald-Leader staff photo by Matt Goins.

Ramsey Carpenter, Miss My Old Kentucky Home, waves to the crowd after being crowned Miss Kentucky 2014 during the pageant at Singletary Center For the Arts in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, July 12, 2014. Photo by Matt Goins for the Herald-Leader.

The April 11 event will feature attractions such as hors d’oeuvres from Azur and other local eateries, a Blanton’s bourbon tasting and live and silent auctions. But the major attraction is seeing local celebrities and notables acting familiar roles, such as WKYT anchor Sam Dick as Toto, Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron as the Cowardly Lion and Miss Kentucky, Ramsey Carpenter, as the Queen Mouse and Munchkin. And then people will certainly be paying attention to the man behind the curtain, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray as The Wizard.

Here’s the complete cast list:

  • Amelia Martin Adams (Attorney, DelCotto Law Group), Glinda
  • Jay Alexander (Program/Music Director, WBTF-FM), Munchkin 2/Winkie Extra
  • Marcey Ansley (Executive Director, Lexington Hearing and Speech Center), Winkie 1/Munchkin Extra
  • Soreyda Benedit Begley (Fashion Designer), Wicked Witch
  • Lynn Braker (Franchise Owner, Remedy Intelligent Staffing), Queen Mouse, Act 1/Winkie Extra
  • Renee Brewer (Owner, Wine & Market, Enoteca), Dorothy, Act 1
  • Seth Brewer (Owner, Wine & Market, Enoteca), Scarecrow, Act 2
  • Ramsey Carpenter (Miss Kentucky 2014), Queen Mouse, Act 2/Munchkin Extra
  • Danielle Clore (Executive Director, Kentucky Nonprofit Network), Lion, Act 2
  • Chauncey Curtz (Partner, Dinsmore), Uncle Henry
  • Sam Dick (Anchor, WKYT), Toto, Act 1
  • Colmon Elridge (Executive Assistant to the Governor), Scarecrow, Act 1
  • Luann Franklin (Director of Peforming Arts, Lexington Opera House), Aunt Em
  • Jim Gray (Mayor of Lexington), Wizard
  • Elias Gross (PR and Marketing Director, Lexington Art League), Toto, Act 2
  • Kate Horning (Chef, Author of Healthy Living Redefined), Mouse 1/Munchkin Extra/Winkie Extra
  • Lori Houlihan (Director of Arts & Cultural Affairs, Office of the Mayor), Gatekeeper
  • Keith Jackson (Fire Chief, City of Lexington), Tin Man, Act 2
  • Ann Phillips Mayfield (Realtor, Commonwealth Realty Group), Mouse 2/Winkie Extra/Munchkin Extra
  • Chris McCarron (Retired Hall of Fame Jockey), Lion, Act 1
  • Will Pieratt (Owner, Bourbon and Toulouse), Tin Man, Act 1
  • Nan Plummer (President and CEO, LexArts), Dorothy, Act 2
  • Todd Svoboda (Industry Consultant – Manufacturing and Distribution, former UK basketball player), Munchkin 1/Monkey 1/Winkie Extra
  • James Vermillion (International Logistics Manager, Age International, Inc.), Witch’s Guard
  • Gary Wortz (Chief Medical Officer, Omega Opthalmics), Monkey 2/Winkie 2/Munchkin Extra

The event is at 7 p.m. April 11 at the Children’s Theatre, 416 West Short Street, and tickets are $75.

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Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra announces 2015-16 season

Soprano Karen Slack will be featured in the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra's season-opening performance of Gustav Mahler's "Symphony No. 2, 'Resurrection.'" © LexGo.com photo by Mark Cornelison.

Soprano Karen Slack will be featured in the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra’s season-opening performance of Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No. 2, ‘Resurrection.'” © LexGo.com photo by Mark Cornelison.

The Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra unveiled a 2015-16 lineup Thursday night that continues music director Scott Terrell‘s adventurous programming and features a monumental opening bow.

Avner Dorman will be the Saykaly Garbulinska Composer-in-Residence, continuing the Philharmonic’s joint program with the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington. His world premiere composition will be featured in the April 2016 concert along with his percussion and orchestra work Frozen in Time. Other contemporary composers in the lineup include John Adams, John Corigliano and Eric Whiteacre.

Unlike the season in progress, the coming season’s subscription series of concerts will all take place at the Singletary Center for the Arts for one night only. This season, the orchestra has tried some multi-night stands at the Lexington Opera House.

The highest profile change is the annual December Messiah performance will be replaced by a concert featuring selections from Handel’s Messiah, Vivaldi’s Gloria and works by John Taverner and Whiteacre with guest artists the Lexington Chamber Chorale at the Cathedral of Christ the King. That will be a special concert outside of the subscription series along with another New Year’s Eve concert at the Lexington Opera House, this time with the Brubeck Brothers Quartet.  Last year saw a successful first attempt at a New Year’s Eve show with soloist Ute Lemper.

The subscription season will open Sept 12 with a massive work, Gustav Mahler’s Resurrection symphony, and close with one of the most iconic works in history, Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.

Here’s the complete 2015-16 lineup:

Sept. 18: 7:30 pm, Singletary Center for the Arts

Mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges. Photo by Devan Cass.

Mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges. Photo by Devan Cass.

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”

Guest artists: Karen Slack, soprano; J’nai Bridges, mezzo soprano; college choruses of Transylvania University, Eastern Kentucky University, Asbury University, and Berea College.

Oct. 23: 7:30 pm, Singletary Center for the Arts

Aaron Copland: Our Town

George Gershwin: Catfish Row, symphonic suite from Porgy and Bess

Chris Brubeck: Travels in Time for Three
Guest artists: Time for Three: Zach De Pue, violin; Nick Kendall, violin; Ranaan Meyer, double bass

Fei Fei Dong. Photo by Ellen Appel-Mike Moreland.

Fei Fei Dong. Photo by Ellen Appel-Mike Moreland.

Nov. 13: 7:30 pm, Singletary Center for the Arts

Felix Mendelssohn: Hebrides Overture

Dmitri Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 1
Guest artists: Fei-Fei Dong, piano; Stephen Campbell, trumpet

John Corigliano: Voyage
Soloist: Pei-San Chiu, flute

W.A. Mozart: Symphony No. 40

Feb. 5: 7:30 p.m., Singletary Center for the Arts

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade

Beyond the Score multi-media program featuring projected images, live-acting, and narration, produced by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Composer Avner Dorman. Photo from avnerdormanmusic.com.

Composer Avner Dorman. Photo from avnerdormanmusic.com.

April 15: 7:30 pm, Singletary Center for the Arts

Avner Dorman: world premiere

Avner Dorman: Frozen in Time
Guest artist: Simone Rubino, percussion

Antonin Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 “New World”

May 13: 7:30 p.m., Singletary Center for the Arts

John Adams: Lollapalooza

Félix Alexandre Guilmant: Organ Symphony No. 1
Guest artist: Paul Jacobs, organ

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5

Special Concerts

Dec. 12: 8 p.m., Cathedral of Christ the King

Gloria! Concert featuring the music of George Frideric Handel (Messiah) and Antonio Vivaldi (Gloria) paired with modern masters John Taverner and Eric Whitacre

Guest artists: Lexington Chamber Chorale

Dec. 31: 7:30 p.m., Lexington Opera House

Take Five at New Year’s Eve! featuring the Brubeck Brothers Quartet

Tickets are available now for current subscribers and go on sale to the general public May 1. Call (859) 233-4226, or visit the Philharmonic website.

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Former UK singer wins in Metropolitan Opera Auditions

National Council Grand Finals winners (L-R) Reginald Smith Jr., Virginie Verrez, Joseph Dennis,  Marina Costa-Jackson and Nicholas Brownlee. Photo by Marty Sohl | Metropolitan Opera.

National Council Grand Finals winners (L-R) Reginald Smith Jr., Virginie Verrez, Joseph Dennis, Marina Costa-Jackson and Nicholas Brownlee. Photo by Marty Sohl | Metropolitan Opera.

University of Kentucky graduate Reginald Smith Jr. was one of five winners Sunday afternoon in the final round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Reginald Smith Jr. Photo via Facebook.com/reginaldsmithjrbaritone

Reginald Smith Jr. Photo via Facebook.com/reginaldsmithjrbaritone

He is only the second UK winner in the auditions, widely considered to be the most prestigious opera competition in the nation. The first was Gregory Turay, who won in 1995.

“It’s still surreal,” Smith said late Sunday evening. “It will probably hit me in the middle of the shower or something, what has happened.”

Asked about being the first singer from UK in 20 years to win, he said, “It shows UK has a lasting tradition of producing good singers capable of winning the Met competition,” and added that a two-decade gulf speaks to what a difficult competition it is to win.

“There have been loads of singers from UK who have gone on to wonderful careers without winning the Met competition,” Smith noted.

But now Smith will be known as a Met auditions winner, which he says comes with some pressure. “People look at you in a different way and expect more from you,” he said.

“I am so excited and happy for him!” Everett McCorvey, voice teacher of both Smith and Turay, texted after Smith’s win. “I told him yesterday that he had worked very hard to be where he was and that the mountain that he climbed was very high, but he climbed it, and he made it.

“I also told him that all he needed to do was go out and just  ‘do what you normally do!’  I also told him to enjoy the experience and have fun!   This is an incredible moment for our University, for the College of Fine Arts, the UK Opera program and for the process that we have put in place to train students in the School of Music.  I couldn’t be prouder!”

Smith, an Atlanta native, came to UK in 2007 on a full-tuition scholarship through the Alltech Vocal Scholarship Auditions. During his time at UK, he was a popular and busy performer singing numerous roles in UK Opera Theatre productions, as well as soloing with groups such as the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra.

Since graduating in 2012, Smith has gone on to join the Houston Grand Opera’s studio program and sang numerous roles in Houston Grand Opera productions. At Houston, Smith’s voice teacher is former UK voice professor Stephen King, whose UK student Mark Whatley went to the Met finals in 2002.

There were five winners in the final round of the 2014-15 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, which featured the nine finalists singing two arias each on the Metropolitan Opera stage with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, conducted by Fabio Luisi, in front of a live audience. Joining Smith were soprano Marina Costa-Jackson of Salt Lake City; bass-baritone Nicholas Brownlee of Mobile, Ala.; mezzo-soprano Virginie Verrez of Brive La Gaillarde, France; and tenor Joseph Dennis of McKinney, Texas.

Smith closed both halves of the concert, the first singing Ford’s monologue from Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff and the second with Lord Jesus Hear My Prayer from Louis Gruenberg’s The Emperor Jones. Asked if had seen it as a good sign that concert organizers wanted him to close both halves, he said, “I just thought it was part of putting together a good concert. Both my arias are dramatic and climactic.”

Each winning competitor received $15,000 and the prestige of winning the internationally recognized competition. Some of the world’s most famous current and former opera stars have won at the Met Auditions, including  Renée Fleming, Thomas Hampson,  Frederica von Stade and Deborah Voigt. The Met’s current roster of singers includes 126 Met Audition winners.

Competitors went through four rounds, starting with district and regional rounds across the country. Smith, 26, initially auditioned in his hometown Georgia District and advanced through the southeast regional round to the national semi-finals, last Sunday in New York. Recent University of Kentucky graduate Matthew Turner won in the Kentucky District and Mid-South Regional rounds to advance to New York, but did not advance to the finals. There were 17 singers in last Sunday’s national semi-finals.

Smith said he planned to celebrate by having a good drink and sleeping in, adding that he’s excited to have nothing to do Monday. Then it’s back to work preparing for another competition in New York Wednesday. He will finish up in Houston in May and then heads to Wolftrap in the Washington D.C. suburbs in the summer. He said his long term plans are to move back to Atlanta and be based out of there. He noted that would make it fairly easy to get back up to Lexington to work with McCorvey and other UK coaches.

Smith’s next performance in Lexington is currently slated to be the annual Messiah performance at Christ Church Cathedral on Dec. 4.

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The second annual Moonshiner’s Ball lineup

New York-based jazz trio Moon Hooch will headline May 16 at the 2nd Annual Moonshiner's Ball. Photo via Facebook.com/moonhoochmusic.

New York-based jazz trio Moon Hooch will headline May 16 at the 2nd Annual Moonshiner’s Ball. Photo via Facebook.com/moonhoochmusic.

We can now declare the Blind Corn Liquor PickersMoonshiner’s Ball an annual event as it has unveiled the lineup for its second annual edition.

Lexington’s-own Ben Sollee will headline opening night, May 15, with Canadian folk artists The Duhks also playing. New York-based jazz-house ensemble Moon Hooch will headline a May 16 lineup that includes Lexingtonian Mark Charles Heidinger’s alt-folk project Vandaveer. The event, at Berea’s Homegrown Hideaways, will also include a short May 17 lineup and a slate of spoken word artists selected by Eric Scott Sutherland, creator of Holler Poets. They include Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker, his fellow Affrilachian poet Bianca Spriggs and  and Scuffletown author Chris Mattingly.

Here’s a glance at the rest of the Moonshiner’s lineup.

May 15

In addition to Ben Sollee and The Duhks:

May 16

In addition to Moon Hooch and Vandaveer:

May 17

Tickets are $60 for the weekend and on sale now.

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Reginald Smith Jr. takes UK experience to Met finals

University of Kentucky Baritone Reginald Smith Jr. has a lesson with his voice teacher, Everett McCorvey, in the Schmidt Vocal Arts Center on the University of Kentucky campus in Lexington, Ky., on June 2, 2010. Photo by Rich Copley | staff.

University of Kentucky Baritone Reginald Smith Jr. has a lesson with his voice teacher, Everett McCorvey, in the Schmidt Vocal Arts Center on the University of Kentucky campus in Lexington, Ky., on June 2, 2010. Photo by Rich Copley | staff.

The first time Reginald Smith Jr. stepped on the stage at the Lexington Opera House, he looked down into the orchestra pit and then up at the second balcony.

“I was thinking, how do I look down at the conductor and get my voice up there,” says Smith, left, who was one of the University of Kentucky’s most popular singers from 2007 to 2012.

Smith credits experiences such as learning how to sing on the stage of the Opera House with getting him where he is now: In the final round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

He is one of only three singers from the University of Kentucky to make it to the finals of the Met Auditions, one of the world’s most prestigious opera competitions. And if he is among the winners, he will join Gregory Turay as the only two winners from UK.

At 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon, he joins eight other singers on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera to sing two arias each accompanied by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, conducted by Fabio Luisi.

Of course, he has been practicing this week. But Tuesday evening, he was recounting other thrills like watching a rehearsal for the Met’s production of Ernani with Plácido Domingo and Angela Meade, conducted by James Levine.

“There are so many aspects of the competition that make it much more than singing on Sunday,” Smith says, pointing to coachings with Luisi and other Met directors, career consultations with Met personnel, meeting the other competitors and past winners and experiencing life in New York City.

The metropolis didn’t catch Smith off guard as much as some other competitors from small towns as he grew up in Atlanta and now resides in Houston, where he is part of the Houston Grand Opera’s studio program and has sung on the Houston Grand Opera stage.
“These things don’t happen by chance,” Smith says of his career path.

Yes, he believes in divine intervention, but he also believes his voice teacher in Atlanta, Elizabeth Colson, and UK Opera Theatre director Everett McCorvey conspired to create the path that led him to New York.

Away from Atlanta and Lexington, Smith says he carries advice and wisdom from McCorvey that can be as simple as be nice and concentrate on what you can control.

“He would tell us you can control how well you sing, and things like your diction,” Smith says. “Other things you can’t control, so don’t worry about them. Go out and give it your all, and things will sort themselves out.”

One other aspect of this honor Smith could control was which aria he sang first in the national semifinals. He came with five prepared, could choose one, and the judges chose the others. His choice was Lord Jesus Hear My Prayer from the largely forgotten 1933 Louis Gruenberg opera The Emperor Jones. If you Google the aria and opera title, the first thing you’ll see is a YouTube video of Smith’s performance for a Dallas Opera competition.

“It was not a conventional choice,” Smith says. “But I really like the aria. It has a great message, and the rest of my repertoire could answer any other questions they had about me.”

Smith also chose it realizing it could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience singing on the Met stage.

“I’m very fortunate I stuck with my gut, and even if it didn’t work out for me, at least I got to sing that aria on that stage.”

Thus far it’s working out fine.

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Lexington filmmaker competing to direct ‘Twilight’ short film

An image from Lindsey Hancock Williamson's pitch video to direct "Turncoats," her winning script in the "Twilight" Storytellers competition. Images courtesy of Lindsey Hancock Williamson.

An image from Lindsey Hancock Williamson’s pitch video to direct “Turncoats,” her winning script in the “Twilight” Storytellers competition. Images courtesy of Lindsey Hancock Williamson.

Lexington filmmaker Lindsey Hancock Williamson is in the running to direct a short film based on characters in the Twilight series through The Storytellers: New Voices of the Twilight Saga competition presented Lionsgate films, Facebook, Twilight series author Stephenie Meyer, and others.

Lexington filmmaker Lindsey Hancock Williamson.

Lexington filmmaker Lindsey Hancock Williamson.

Williamson is already a two-time winner in the competition.  She first won when her story idea, Turncoats, was selected as one of 20 finalists out of 1,200 submissions, and she was invited to write a screenplay for it. Then her script for Turncoats was selected as one of six winning screenplays in the writing portion of The Storytellers contest. Now, she is competing with a Boston-area director to direct the short film. She could win up to $50,000 to complete the film.

Turncoats tells how Carlisle Cullen, father of series hero Edward Cullen, met Garrett, a vampire introduced at the end of the final book in the series, Breaking Dawn, during the Revolutionary War.

The winners will be decided by a panel of judges including Meyer and Twilight film series star Kristen Stewart, plus a public vote that is open until midnight Monday (Sunday night into Monday morning). You do have to register or sign in through Facebook or Twitter to vote.

“I am a Twilight fan,” Williamson says. “What made me want to enter is it is for women and giving women in the film industry more exposure.”

Williamson is a Lexington native and went to Watkins College of Art, Design and Film in Nashville. She and her husband, Sam Williamson, moved to Brooklyn where they worked in television and film before parenthood brought them back to Lexington, to be near family. Together, they own Suburban Tallyho Productions.

Part of Williamson’s pitch, in a short video shot on the day of Snowpocalypse 1, is that the 10-minute film will be shot in Kentucky, use vintage lenses for a color-saturated look and be shot on an area Civil War battlefield. “It will look like this, minus 15-inches of snow,” she says in the video, standing in a field.

Williamson says she initially submitted five ideas, and they Revolutionary War-themed Turncoats was definitely the most challenging of her submissions to film. But she said writing the script gave her intriguing chances to dive into Revolutionary War history as well as the intricacies of the Twilight universe.

“It was sort of like writing ER 1781,” she says of her story that takes place in a battlefield hospital. “I was really appreciative of the feedback I received from people involved in the competition.”

Now, she is hoping for great feedback from voters and the judging panel.

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Listening too … Houndmouth, ‘Little Neon Limelight’

Houndmouth are drummer Shane Cody, bassist Zak Appleby, keyboardist Katie Toupin and guitarist Matt Myers. Photo by Dusdin Condren.

Houndmouth are drummer Shane Cody, bassist Zak Appleby, keyboardist Katie Toupin and guitarist Matt Myers. Photo by Dusdin Condren.

“Go and take the millions, and the Derby hats, and stick ’em up your —,” Houndmouth guitarist Matt Myers drawls on the acid-induced ballad For No Onethat is indicative of the band’s second album, Little Neon Limelight.

The band that hails from just over the border in New Albany, Ind., and rose out of the Louisville scene with its noir take on Americana, dropped a startling debut in 2013 with From the Hills Below the City. It was filled with beautiful harmonies, spare instrumentation and vivid stories you frequently hoped weren’t too autobiographical.

Houndmouth-albumLimelight finds all those strengths sharpened in 11 songs presenting a distinct cast of characters and images that are never sunny, even when the music sounds that way. Leadoff track Sedona presents us with a bright chorus out of the Southwest contrasted with images of blacklists, no credit and “this duct tape makes you hush.”

Enhancing the cinematic quality of Houndmouth’s tunes are four members that all know how to interpret a lyric, particularly Myers and keyboardist Katie Toupin. Hear Gasoline, with the opening line, “Oh, how you talk a big game,” and follow as Toupin wistfully glides into the story of a woman whose misery has at least a little something to do with herself.

To an extent, this is a producer’s album, with Dave Cobb giving all these songs ideal settings, be it the raucous and distorted 15 Years or the simmering album closer Darlin’.

But still, it is these songs and occasional slap-you-upside-the-head lyrics like the tune that starts, “My Cousin Greg is a greedy son of a b—-” (My Cousin Greg) that make this album great. And you gotta hear about Greg, though it’s probably better you don’t know him.

In the chorus, Houndmouth sings, “If you want to live the good life, you better stay away from the limelight.” If Houndmouth keeps putting out albums like this, they’d better watch out.

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