The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
University of Kentucky senior Rebecca Farley and Ph.D. candidate Thomas Gunther were winners in Saturday’s Kentucky District Round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and they are still in the running to sing on the Metropolitan Opera stage. Their next stop is Memphis, Tenn., for the Midsouth Regional round of the auditions on Jan. 26, where they will be joined by University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of music graduate student Edward Nelson, who rounded out the field of three winners, Saturday.
Traditionally, only one singer advances to the national semi-finals in New York from regional rounds.
The win rounds out a big fall for Farley, 22, who was one of three UK sopranos who sang the role of Christine in the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s blockbuster production of Phantom of the Opera. Gunther, 29, was one of three singers who played Raoul.
Also honored Saturday were two other stars of that production: baritone Jacob Brian Waid who played the Phantom and tenor Evan LeRoy Johnson who played Piangi, both 20. They received encouragement awards, which included cash prizes, though they did not advance to the next round.
All four honorees are students of UK voice professor Cynthia Lawrence.
The Met Auditions were held at the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Hall, and 24 singers competed Saturday.
Note: This post was update to correct the number of UK winners stated in the initial posting.
SummerFest is searching for canine talent for its upcoming production of Legally Blonde: The Musical, July 25 to 29 at The Arboretum, 500 Alumni Drive. Specifically, the theater is looking for a well-trained chihuahua to play Elle Woods’ beloved pup, Bruiser.
If you think you have a theatrical dog that’s up for this, send photos or videos to firstname.lastname@example.org . After an initial submission period, auditions will be held to see which dog will get to steal this show.
Legally Blonde will be directed and choreographed by Jenny Fitzpatrick and star Ellie Todd as Elle, the role originated on Broadway by Lexington’s Laura Bell Bundy. Go to Mykct.org for more about SummerFest.
After presenting the Star-Spangled Banner in a country and pop voice the past few years, the Kentucky Derby will take a soulful turn before this year’s Run for the Roses. Mary J. Blige will sing the national anthem around 5:10 p.m. May 5 in a performance that will be carried live on the national broadcast of the Derby on NBC.
The Derby only recently joined the trend of top national recording artists performing the anthem, previously relying on the University of Louisville band to play the piece on Derby Day. Previous performers of the Star-Spangled Banner have included country stars Leann Rimes in 2009, the first year of anthem singers, and Rascal Flatts the following year. Last year’s singer was 2007 American Idol winner Jordin Sparks.
Mary J. Blige, 41, has been a major force in hip hop and R&B in the 20 years since the release of her hit album What’s the 411? In addition, she has enjoyed an active film and TV
career including the upcoming Rock of Ages, a musical made up of 1980s hits, co-starring Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin. She also performed the national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game in February.
The past two years when Winter Jam rolled through Rupp Arena, it featured the new incarnation of the Newsboys with now-not-so-new frontman Michael Tait.
Furler famously stepped away from the Newsboys in 2009, with little word as to what was next for him.
“I didn’t leave them to go solo,” Furler says. “It wasn’t the usual story of the singer that wants to get his songs out and wants to make his own style of record. I was already producing the records, writing all the songs and playing a lot of the instruments. I was really fulfilled in my role and loved that time with the lads.”
His leaving was more about needing a break from extensive touring.
He describes it as part of a process of divesting himself of big things that were occupying his attention.
“We kept looking at all the stuff we had and how you had to work not only to get that thing, but to maintain it,” Furler says of himself and wife Summer Andrea LeFevre, daughter of iconic Christian musician Mylon LeFevre.
“It was kind of like getting off a missions trip. You know, people come off a mission trip and they kind of re-evaluate and see how fortunate they are and make a change. For us as Christians, we begin to see practical things in the Bible: ‘Don’t wear yourself out to get rich.’ ‘Have the wisdom to show restraint.’ ‘The borrower is slave to the lender.’ They’re in the Bible, so why do we, just because of the culture we’re in, live completely opposite of that?”
Furler said he and LeFevre had fun getting rid of things, and finding fewer expectations and obligations pulling at him.
But he was never going to lose music. He always would have iconic songs such as Shine, and an ability to write and perform more.
If the Ichthus Festival was going to go on, it had to go on.
Back in August, when we sat down with festival president and chief executive Mark Vermilion to talk about the financial difficulties that had put Ichthus in jeopardy, one of the possibilities he mentioned was Ichthus skipping its 2012 edition and coming back, “bigger and better in 2013.”
At the end of this year’s festival, Ichthus leaders announced the festival was in severe financial difficulties. They put the festival property, known as Ichthus Farm, up for sale with hopes to find a buyer who would lease it back to them for the annual Christian music event held each June but relieve Ichthus of the overhead costs of maintaining the 111-acre site in Wilmore.
If there was no sale, Vermilion said there was a good chance Ichthus 2012 wouldn’t happen.
Tuesday, Ichthus announced the festival would go on despite not selling the farm, citing positive momentum in fund-raising and belief that the property will be sold sometime soon. Vermilion had a much more frank view of that take-a-year off option.
“We were concerned that if we took a year off, some of those things that were moving in a positive direction might have to curtail, because there’s no fuel to drive them,” he said. “We were also concerned that if we took year 43 off that there would even be a year 44, because who knows if those folks who have been so loyal to the festival would take a year off and come back for year 44. Those are some unknowns that were concerns of ours.”
And he’s right. My colleagues and I struggled to conjure up any memories of entertainment organizations that closed down for significant periods of time and then actually came back “bigger and better than ever,” as is typically promised.
It can feel like a good thing to say, particularly if you’re looking at shutting down a major regional event that has been running more than four decades and was tremendous meaningful to a lot of people. It’s sort of like breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend and saying, “Oh, maybe we’ll get back together someday.” Actually, that probably has a better record of success than major arts and entertainment events trying to shut down and come back.
Closing down for a year is like putting a pin to the balloon of your event. It completely takes the air out of it, and try as you might, it is really hard to pump it back up.
Just think about this: Right now, the next Ichthus is nine months away. Not imminent, but close enough that die-hard fans can be a little excited and contributors can feel like they’ll see the results of their efforts soon.
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