The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Gregory Turay and Angelique Clay know this stage well.
“For me, it would have to be Magic Flute and Elixir, when we used to do the operas in here,” Turay says when asked about his favorite memories of performing in the Singletary Center for the Arts Concert Hall.
Clay, who is seated with Turay near the back of the hall, remembers numerous Grand Night for Singing performances and preparing for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions on the Singletary Center’s main stage.
Turay and Clay were part of the University of Kentucky’s voice program in the 1990s, the early years of Everett McCorvey’s current tenure at the top. Now, they are both back in the program, Turay as an artist-in-residence and master’s student, and Clay as an assistant professor of voice. And they both will be back on the Singletary Center stage Sunday afternoon as the tenor and soprano soloists, respectively, in the Lexington Singers’ presentation of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah.
They will be joined by two of UK Opera’s current stars, baritone Reginald Smith Jr. and mezzo-soprano LaShelle Allen.
“I’m going to feel like the small voice in that group,” Turay says with a laugh.
He has been the big star of the UK Opera program, having helped put it on the map with his win in the final round of the 1995 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Since then, he has performed at the Met and on stages around the world.
But he and his family have decided that Lexington is where they want to put down roots, as has Clay, who was surprised to be able to land a professorship at UK less than a decade after graduating.
Having been in the school before, Clay and Turay say they think a lot about the experience for students in a program that now bears little resemblance to the one they were in.
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.”
Dec11Filed under: Christmas music, Classical Music, Lexington Philharmonic, Music, Reviews, Singletary Center for the Arts; Tagged as: A Holly & Jolly Sing-Along, Alluring Handbell Choir, Bill Meck, Candy Cane Concert, Collage, Diana Evans Dancers, George Frideric Handel, Home for the Holidays, Kentucky Christmas Chorus, Lexington Catholic High School Choir, Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, Lexington Singers, Messiah, Randol Bass, Rene Clausen, s Hershy Kay, School for Creative and Performing Arts, Scott County High School, Twas the Night Before Christmas, University of Kentucky choirs, Variations on Joy to the World
Friday night the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra launched its new Christmastime show, Home for the Holidays, which falls somewhere between the University of Kentucky Choirs’ holiday Collage, the Kentucky Christmas Chorus and the Philharmonic’s own Candy Cane Concert.
Where exactly it falls was still something of an open question after Friday’s performance.
It was a concert that certainly had its moments featuring some cool arrangements of familiar songs and local school and community groups well worth hearing. What the night lacked was cohesion, a real sense of purpose beyond throwing a lot at the stage for a holiday extravaganza.
Candy Cane, part of the Phil’s family series, is where the orchestra used to put on its holiday extravaganza. And there were actually several elements in Friday night’s event that will be included in Sunday afternoon’s Candy Cane performance – including several appearances by Diana Evans Dancers, WLEX meteorologist Bill Meck reading Twas the Night Before Christmas and the concert-closing A Holly & Jolly Sing-Along.
Home for the Holidays supplemented that material with some highlights like great arrangements of Once in Royal David’s City and I Saw Three Ships featuring the Alluring Handbell Choir and a René Clausen choral version of O Holy Night that the Lexington Singers and Philharmonic navigated with beautiful subtlety – something of a refreshing change from the soloist spectacular, which is how the number is often presented.
Less successful uses of the singers were in a few humorous numbers: You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch and PDQ Bach’s Good King Kong Looked Out. They were delivered with enthusiasm, but quite hard to understand, so the laughs were mostly lost. A lot of the fun of the evening came from Rockettes-like performances from the Diana Evans Dancers, including a high-kicking line on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
The baffling thing about the dancers’ performance was the lighting. For much of their time on stage, Evans’ crew was stuck in shadows at the front of the stage. It was a shame we had to strain our eyes a bit to see their bright performances.
Other guests acquitting themselves nicely were the Lexington Catholic High School Choir, vocal majors from the School for Creative and Performing Arts and brass musicians from Scott County High School. The Lexington Catholic singers, in particular, presented a very mature performance.
After a weekend of small, baroque renditions of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, the Philharmonic itself delivered some big, cinematic performances through the evening, including Randol Bass’ setting of Twas the Night Before Christmas.
So there was a bunch to like Friday night. But it just never came together.
There were moments it seemed the idea was taking a fresh look at familiar songs such as Hershy Kay’s Variations on Joy to the World, times it seemed the idea was showcasing local talent like Alluring, times it seemed like a community sing along and times it just seemed like a glorified Candy Cane Concert.
Since coming to Lexington in 2009, Philharmonic music director Scott Terrell has made a lot of changes with the orchestra. Most, like the downsized Messiah last weekend, have come across as a well-articulated artistic vision.
If there are future editions of Home for the Holidays, maybe they will gain focus and cohesion and become a compelling articulation of the orchestra’s take on the holiday spectacular. But this was the rare time in Terrell’s tenure a show has just felt like change for change’s sake.
Dec3Filed under: Christmas music, Classical Music, Lexington Philharmonic, Lexington Singers, Music, Reviews, Singletary Center for the Arts; Tagged as: Angela Gilbert, Baroque, Berea College Concert Choir, Cathedral of Christ the King, Chamber Singers, Christ Church Cathedral, George Frideric Handel, Jamie Van Eyck, Javier Abreu, Joseph Van Fleet, Lexington Chamber Chorale, Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, Lexington Singers, Messiah, Ryan Taylor, Scott Terrell, Union Church
Before Thursday night it was already obvious there were big changes to the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra‘s annual rendition of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah.
Instead of driving to the University of Kentucky’s Singletary Center for the Arts, we were directed to the Cathedral of Christ the King in Chevy Chase. And on stage – or, um, the chancel? – the orchestra was all of 27 players, backed by the 37 voices of the Lexington Chamber Chorale instead of the 100-plus Lexington Singers.
But the biggest transformation came in the performance, in which Handel’s classic oratorio went from a grandiose set of timeless tunes to a story.
In slightly less than 90 minutes, maestro Scott Terrell and his collaborators, including a sterling quartet of vocal soloists, took us through the three distinct acts of Messiah: the prophecy of Christ, his birth and life, and his death and resurrection.
Not only did the scaled-down size of the orchestra and no-intermission format accent the drama of the piece, but the setting of the Cathedral, where the presentation was delivered beneath a large crucifix, made the whole gist of the program pretty hard to miss.
This is what Terrell, in his second season with the Phil, wanted to do with the work: make it closer to its original Baroque-era form where the dancing rhythms and nuances of the story could be illuminated.
This is not completely new to Lexington. Christ Church Cathedral has delivered a Baroque-era Messiah nearly as long as the Philharmonic has presented the large-scale modern version at the Singletary Center. (Christ Church will do so again Friday night, at almost the same time the second performance of the Philharmonic’s production is presented.) And over the years, area churches and colleges have produced smaller-scale versions.
But the Philharmonic’s Messiah easily attracts the largest Central Kentucky audiences for the work. So the orchestra’s radical change means a change in how most area music lovers experience Messiah.
Sep12Filed under: Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Lexington Art League, Lexington Opera House, Lexington Philharmonic, Musicals, Norton Center for the Arts, Opera, Singletary Center for the Arts, Studio Players, Theater, UK, Visual arts; Tagged as: 2010-11 Arts Preview, Cathedral of Christ the King, Chamber Music Society of Central Kentucky, Cliff Jackson, Edward Gorey, Garden District, Gorey Stories, Gustavo Dudamel, Itzhak Perlman, KY.7 Biennial, Legally Blonde -- The Musical, Lexington Art League, Lexington Opera House, Lexington Philharmonic, Messiah, Norton Center for the Arts, Porgy & Bess, Singletary Center for the Arts, Stephen Currens, Studio Players, Tennessee Williams, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Woodford Theatre, UK Opera Theatre, University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, University of Kentucky Theatre, Vienna Philharmonic
The 2010-11Central Kentucky arts calendar is bolstered by an unprecedented slew of performances during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. But outside of that, it is a really strong and interesting year with marquee touring artists coming into town and local groups programming interesting and, in some cases, organization re-defining seasons.
It is, quite frankly, a hard year to pick a short list of intriguing programs, but I’ll give it a shot.
Make sure to check out our entire 2010-11arts preview in today’s Lexington Herald-Leader. Our arts and entertainment editor Scott Shive and staff news assistants have put many, many hours into assembling this comprehensive list of events, and while yes, it is available online, the arts preview is one of those things that is really best experienced in the print format.
KY.7 Biennial at the Lexington Art League at the Loudon House, through Oct. 23 – The Loudon House’s second exhibit of contemporary work by artists from Kentucky and its contiguous states has the potential to be one of our international visitors’ best looks at the art of our region.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at The Woodford Theatre, Sept. 17-Oct. 3 - Woodford Theatre has emerged as a premier community theatre in Central Kentucky, and this show is their chance to stage the regional premier of a recent Broadway hit.
Vienna Philharmonic with conductor Gustavo Dudamel at Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts, Sept. 25 - This is an extremely rare chance to see the Vienna Philharmonic anywhere in North America outside of New York, and along with that, we get to see the hottest star in classical music today. They call him “The Dude” for a reason.
Gorey Stories at the University of Kentucky Theatre, Oct. 7-17 – If there is another play that has made the journey from the Guignol Theatre stage to Broadway, I am not aware of it. This production of Stephen Currens’ take on cartoons of Edward Gorey, which premiered at UK in 1974 when Currens was a UK student, is part of UK’s celebration of 100 years of theater on campus.
Lexington Philharmonic‘s Messiah, Dec. 2 and 3 at the Cathedral of Christ the King - This minimalist performance with the Lexington Chamber Chorale is one of several intriguing things the Phil is doing in the first full-Scott Terrell season.
UK Opera Theatre‘s Porgy & Bess, Jan. 28-Feb. 6 at the Singletary Center for the Arts – Not only will you have a lovingly crafted rendition of an American icon, you will also see some brand new theater technology as UK Opera and UK’s VIS Center unveil new video backdrops for the show.
Itzhak Perlman with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra at the Singletary Center for the Arts, March 5 - Perlamn is the latest – and probably greatest – marquee soloist to come in and perform with the UK Symphony. Oh, BTW, they’re also playing with Marvin Hamlisch conducting, working with the National Symphony and going back to Carnegie Hall this season.
Tennessee Williams’ Garden District at Studio Players, March 17-April 3 – Two Williams classic short plays, Suddenly Last Summer and Something Unspoken are one of several Studio highlights.
Legally Blonde – The Musical at the Lexington Opera House, April 15-17 – It’s really hard to pick a favorite in the Broadway Live season that includes The Color Purple, Spring Awakening and Spamalot! But this is the show that launched Lexington’s Laura Bell Bundy to Broadway stardom. Laura’s not in this show, and it is not the next great American musical, but it will give you a good idea what she accomplished.
Cliff Jackson with the Chamber Music Society of Central Kentucky, May 1 - A big retirement event for UK’s iron man pianist who is a consummate artist and routinely pulls off feats such as playing around 50 arias in one afternoon at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Jun6Filed under: Music, Opera, UK; Tagged as: Alltech Vocal Scholarship Competition, American Institute of Musical Studies, David Baker, Elizabeth Colson, Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Eric Brown, Everett McCorvey, George Frideric Handel, George Zack, Hansel and Gretel, Honor and Arms, J.R. Cassidy, Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, Lee Todd, Messiah, Reginald Smith Jr., University of Kentucky
Reginald Smith Jr. had no other option.
He was at home in Atlanta. He had an audition for the voice department at the University of Kentucky the next morning. The family car had broken down.
So at 11 p.m., he boarded a Greyhound bus bound for Lexington. He rode north through the night, arriving about 8 a.m. with nothing but a toothbrush in his pocket, the suit he had to wear for the audition and a few hours of sleep.
He changed into his suit in a bathroom and hustled to get ready to sing his audition piece, George Frideric Handel’s Honor and Arms.
“They said, ‘We don’t need to hear anything else,’” Smith says. “Then they said they had this thing called the Alltech competition Sunday, and would I sing in it.”
He had no idea what the Alltech competition, an annual scholarship contest for incoming undergraduate and graduate voice students, was. But Smith had a policy: sing whenever he had an opportunity. And fortunately, because he’d wanted to take a look around Lexington, he had bought his return bus ticket for Sunday night.
So he sang in the competition.
“When they said, ‘Audience favorite, Reginald Smith Jr.,’ I thought, ‘That’s nice; they like what I’m doing,’” he says. “When they said, ‘First place,’ that was even better. But when they said, ‘Tuition waived … ‘”
Smith’s fingers draw the tracks of tears rolling down his cheeks.
“When you come from a low-income family, and someone tells you that you can go to school for free … ”
For a moment, it seems that Smith might shed some tears again.
Since winning that Alltech Vocal Scholarship Competition in 2007, the baritone has continued to go above and beyond to make and take opportunities. This summer, he is scheduled to go to the Seagle Music Colony in upstate New York, the oldest vocal training program in the United States. But, he’s about $1,500 short of the money for airfare and tuition, so he is presenting a free concert at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. Donations are, of course, welcome.
He has done it before, using his voice to help develop his voice.
Before Lexington Philharmonic music director Scott Terrell announced his 2010-11 season to the audience at Friday’s MasterClassics concert, he sat down to talk with me about it for the Herald-Leader and WEKU-FM 88.9.
Click here to listen to the report for WEKU, and the transcript of the radio version is below:
When the Lexington Philharmonic takes the stage for 2010-11, it will be a notably different season from previous years. New Philharmonic music director Scott Terrell has put together a program that in many ways breaks the mold of the LPO and other orchestras.
Terrell:“…the board is very much on board with the idea of the LPO reaching out a little more into the community, and the real goal for next year, I’m going to be really honest, is putting more people into the seats, to engage the public more, to reach out to constituency groups that have maybe never interacted with the Philharmonic.”
The 2010-11 schedule includes six Classics concerts, two premium concerts, three family concerts and a season opener that will be part of the Alltech-FEI World Equestrian Games programming. Terrell says that after partnering with Alltech for a Ronan Tynan concert last October, they wanted to work with the Philharmonic again during the games …
“… they agreed to bring Big Bad Voodoo Daddy here, which is a seven-to-nine member, I would call them hot swing. They’re probably one of the best groups you can get your hands on. They play at the Hollywood Bowl, and they’re the real McCoy.”
After getting the season off to a swinging start, the Classics Series will start Oct. 22 with a Romeo & Juliet-themed program. In addition to music from Wagner and Tchaikovsky, the concert will feature selections from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story with the chorus from Lexington’s Lafayette High School.
Dec10Filed under: Christmas music, Classical Music, Lexington Philharmonic, Lexington Singers, Music, Rupp Arena, Singletary Center for the Arts; Tagged as: Daniel Anderson, Eric Brown, George Frideric Handel, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, Jefferson Johnson, Kentucky Christmas Chorus, Kentucky District, Lexington Philharmonic, Lexington Singers, Mary Joy Nelson, Messiah, Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Sarah Klopfenstein, Scott Terrell
Eric Brown has had at least one big thing to do between winning at the Kentucky District round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and heading to Tri-State regionals in Indianapolis next month: Get ready for Messiah.
Brown will be singing one of the iconic baritone parts for the Lexington Philharmonic and Lexington Singers’ annual presentation of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah.”
Joining him will be two other UK stars, soprano Mary Joy Nelson, mezzo-soprano Sarah Klopfenstein and Cincinnati tenor Daniel Anderson. All four were competitors in this year’s Kentucky Districts.
The performance will be conducted by Singers director Jefferson Johnson for the second straight year.
If you are wondering where new Philharmonic conductor Scott Terrell is, he was already engaged to conduct the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s holiday pop concerts Friday through Sunday when he was appointed to the Philharmonic post, and the “Messiah” date here had already been set. So 2010 will likely be the debut of Terrell’s take on “Messiah.”
Terrell will be on the podium at Rupp Arena Tuesday evening to make his debut conducting the Kentucky Christmas Chorus, which will be broadcast at 8 p.m. on WKYT and WYMT and rebroadcast at noon on Christmas Day.
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