The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
The Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra announced today that it has extended music director Scott Terrell’s contract five years, through 2018-19 season.
“Scott has ushered in a new era for LexPhil which has raised the bar for all of us who love music,” Gregory Jenkins, president of the Philharmonic’s board of directors, said in a statement. “This will provide the opportunity for Scott to further hone the core values of artistic excellence, innovation, collaboration and accessibility for our orchestra and will provide the time horizon to solidify the improvements made in Scott’s first several years.”
Terrell is currently in the midst of his fourth season as the Philharmonic’s music director. He was selected after a two-year, 10-candidate search for a successor to George Zack, who wielded the baton for the Philharmonic for 37 years.
During his tenure, Terrell led the Philharmonic through its 50th anniversary season and has introduced programming innovations including presenting the annual holiday season performances of Handel’s Messiah at area churches, initiating a commissioning partnership with the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington and bringing numerous works never previously heard in Lexington to the stage. He has also broadened the auditioning pool for Philharmonic musicians to include more regional and national candidates and initiated new partnerships with a variety of area arts groups. Reviews of concerts have cited a steady improvement in the orchestra’s playing.
Announcing the current season, Philharmonic executive director Allison Kaiser said the Philharmonic had seen a 43 percent growth in its subscription base over the previous two years.
“My mission since arriving in Lexington has been to create a culture of curiosity surrounding music,” Terrell said in a statement. “I want people to be excited about what LexPhil is doing, and eagerly look forward to each of our musical adventures – because that is what the arts are at their best, an inspiring process of learning something new about our world, ourselves and each other.”
The Philharmonic’s current season continues in December with its annual Candy Cane Concert Dec. 9 at the Singletary Center for the Arts and Messiah Dec. 15 at the Cathedral of Christ the King.
In the pre-concert talk (photo, above) pianist Alessio Bax has to caution himself against talking about Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini too much lest “I make myself nervous,” he said. “There are a lot of challenges.”
Philharmonic music director Scott Terrell says the orchestra had the man for the job.
“A lot of artists try to put their stamp on the music,” Terrell says to the audience gathered in the Singletary Center for the Arts’ President’s Room. “This requires the pianist to take the music that’s there and bring out the colors in it. That takes a seasoned artist, and we have one tonight.”
Noting that Bax plays every summer in Lexington with the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, Terrell said, “He’s a world-class pianist, we’ve wanted to have here a long time. It’s only taken three years.”
After playing the Star-Spangled Banner, the orchestra starts with Roberto Sierra’s Fandangos, a piece that sounds much like its name, clattering and blaring. At the pre-show, Terrell notes it was written for Leonard Slatikin and the National Symphony Orchestra and says the beauty of it is it uses a repeating pattern to create its world of growing energy. “It has three big arcs that lead you to the end” Terrell said. “It was a lot of fun to learn and play.”
That was America. It’s all Russian from here.
Bax and Terrell brought the mutual admiration society onto the stage, Terrell pointing out that the concert was the first of the Teresa Garbulinska initiative for new programs and emerging artists and noting the that Garbulinska’s widower, Ron Saykaly specified Bax be the first artist in the initiative.
Bax gives a crowd pleaser of a performance appropriately followed by the sounds of fireworks from Festival Latino a few blocks away during intermission.
Following the performance, Bax was in the lobby signing copies of his new Rachmaninoff CD, meeting old friends and getting a few serious offers to come back soon.
In his dressing room, he said, “It felt very good on the stage. We did a number of things different and everyone played right along. No one was on autopilot. We worked as a group well.”
When things are going that well, “we can make sounds and not just play notes.”
Having now experienced two Lexington area music groups, Bax said he thought the people and audience were the common thread.
“I feel very welcome here,” he said. “I imagine everyone does.”
After departing Lexington Saturday morning, Bax is off to travel the world with engagements in Denmark, Japan, Korea, Washington D.C., Dallas, Columbia and other locales.
(above: Bax is greeted after the concert by Dr. Ron Saykaly, whose new initiative in honor of his late wife supported Bax’s appearance.)
Heading backstage after intermission, Bax accidentally steered toward the stage. When told no one would mind if he went back out, he joked, “they would if I went to conduct Firebird.” Closing out the evening is Igor Stravinsky’s game-changing work.
Terrell recalled his first time conducting Firebird, when he was a student.
“As a student, you’re just trying to figure out the floor, the door, the window, the ceiling — how do we do this? You’re just trying not to mess up the orchestra.”
Terrell pointed out some of the challenges of the work and said, “It’s really a great way to show off the orchestra for the first concert of the season.”
He also recalled the 1910 premiere of of Firebird, which was met with jeers and hurled fruit.
“I would have loved to have been there,” Terrell said, “to hear those sounds for the first time.”
Judging by the enthusiastic audience response at this show, Terrell and the orchestra had a pretty good night.
A note after reading the review: I ran into percussionist James Campbell before Wednesday night’s rehearsal, and he said, “Any night you’re playing Stravinsky is a good night.” I guess it is.
Program notes at orchestra concerts almost always tell you where a work was premiered, usually well over a century ago, and we can only imagine what it was like to be there and here a work by, say, Ludwig Van Beethoven or Franz Schubert for the first time.
For the classical music fan, the experience of hearing a fresh new work can seem like something for generations past as we now just take in museum pieces.
That is changing though in Lexington, and Friday night’s Lexington Philharmonic concert was the biggest evidence yet that this is becoming a community interested in hearing new classical works by composers who are still with us, sometimes even in the same room. Commissions and world premieres have been rolled out by other organizations in Lexington, notably by the University of Kentucky’s ensembles and the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington.
But it is a powerful statement when the area’s flagship arts organization says it is going to prioritize new music and perform it on its major concert series.
Friday night we were treated to the world premiere of Daniel Kellogg‘s How Radiant the Dawn, and the operative word there is treat. The piece, the first in the Philharmonic’s Saykaly Garbulinska Composer-in-Residence program, is Kellogg’s musical interpretation of the sunrise. He said in Thursday night’s Kicked Back Classics event, a prelude to Friday’s concert, that it wasn’t a programatic piece, but it was easy to see it that way.
Dawn opened with fluttering flutes that recessed into a steady tone before resuming flight. Soon, other colors were streaking across a developing meoldy, somewhat discordant but working toward a blazing unity. Among the many pieces of Kellogg’s sunrise were moments like a glissando in the lower strings, like birds crossing the horizon, and a short violin solo by Daniel Mason that was reminiscent of the orange shaft of sunlight that fired across pink clouds Wednesday morning.
Soon the sun was up, and we were in Gershwin’s bustling city or Copland’s west, Kellogg’s marriage of lush strings and proud brass giving this a distinctly American feel.
About a third of the way into Daniel Kellogg‘s Mozart’s Hymn the Lexington Philharmonic’s strings swelled and then burst, a luscious melody flowing under sparkling trills and tweets that carried the listener along.
It was enchanting, though the audience at the Philharmonic’s first Kicked Back Classics program of the season was somewhat prepared as Kellogg had just described for the audience how there were more than a dozen parts at work in that one moment of music.
“I love texture and I love color,” Kellogg told the audience. “And there’s no better way to do that than dividing the strings into 16 parts.”
In an interview last week, Kellogg told me that he likes to go places that let him talk to the audience about his music. In Kicked Back Classics, a program Philharmonic music director Scott Terrell developed to take the audience inside the music before classics concerts, Kellogg had an ideal format. Thurdsay’s program was a prelude to Friday’s Classics concert which will feature the world premiere of Kellogg’s How Radiant the Dawn, which the Philharmonic commissioned as part of the Saykaly Garbulinska Composer-in-Residence program.
The audience at the Downtown Arts Center was treated a complete performance of Mozart’s Hymn, which the Philharmonic will play in its April 26 Classics concert, as well as excerpts from How Radiant the Sky which depicts the sunrise Kellogg often watches from his studio outside Boulder, Colo. We were introduced to an opening flutter of flutes, chamber-like sections that lean on the principal players and a “seagull effect” produced by viola and cello players sliding their finger along the strings. The preview raised the curtain on a piece that seems to have a variety of colors in a brief window of time, sort of like a sunrise.
But we did not, of course, hear the whole thing. That’s for Friday night’s concert.
Kellogg said, “The piece is not complete until it is played by these people,” referring to the orchestra, “for an audience.”
Ronald Saykaly didn’t know exactly what he was paying for.
The Lexington physician and his wife, former concert pianist Teresa Garbulinska, attended the inaugural Chamber Music Festival of Lexington in 2007 at the invitation of some friends.
At the first event, they met festival president Charles H. Stone. Saykaly says, “I was so impressed with what they did, the tremendous volunteerism and high quality of the performance, I told Charlie, ‘Look, if you ever need help, I’d be happy to help you with something.’”
Less than a year later, Stone came calling. He had met a young composer, Daniel Thomas Davis, and wanted to commission him to write a new work to be premiered at the second edition of the festival. Saykaly thought it sounded like a great idea. He had no idea what Davis would write and whether it would have a life beyond the festival, but he bought in.
“It turned out to be rather successful,” Saykaly says.
He has supported a commission at the festival each year since then.
Davis’ Book of Songs and Visions ended up being played around the United States and Europe, and it won the 2009 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award. It came back around to the Bluegrass when Lexington Philharmonic music director Scott Terrell programmed a symphonic version of it for the orchestra’s 2010-11 season.
“I said, ‘Scott, you know, that’s my piece, and if you’re going to bring him here, I’d like to commission it,’” said Saykaly, who had joined the Philharmonic board about that time.
That planted the seeds for the Saykaly Garbulinska composer-in-residence program between the Philharmonic and the Chamber Music Festival, which will bring one composer to both orchestras every other year.
Davis’ Philharmonic commission last February was an informal start to the program. The commissioning of Daniel Kellogg, who wrote a piece called Look Up at the Sky for last summer’s Chamber Music Festival and will have a new work on Friday night’s Philharmonic concert, is the first formal manifestation of the effort.
“We sat down with Ron and said, we have these two entities,” says Terrell, who chooses the composer with Chamber Music Festival director Nathan Cole, a Lexington native and associate concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. “We have the orchestral entity where I, as a conductor, know there are composers really hungry to have new works commissioned. Then you have an organization that already has several new compositions under its belt. We said, there has to be a way this can work to our mutual strengths.”
It also can put Lexington on the classical-music map.
The centerpiece of the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra’s 50th Anniversary is Saturday night’s (Jan. 14, 2012) concert of movie music at the Lexington Opera House. Leading up to the show, we have run two articles:
Click the play button, below, to hear our entire chat with Maestro Terrell about movie music:
Before Friday’s Human Spirit concert, the Lexington Philharmonic Guild will honor the spirit that guided the orchestra for 37 years: Maestro George Zack.
Zack, who led the orchestra from 1972 until his retirement in 2008, will be honored with bronze plaque by Amanda Mathhews and Brad Connell of Prometheus Foundry that will be hung in the Singletary Center for the Arts. It will be unveiled at a reception and ceremony beginning at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the Singletary Center.
The Ceremony will be followed at 7:30 p.m. with Zack’s successor Scott Terrell, now in his third season as music director, leading the orchestra, Lexington Singers and University of Kentucky Chorale in a performance of works that celebrate the human spirit. They will include Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations, op. 36, and Ralph Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem. The latter work will feature soloists Esther Heideman, soprano, and Chad Sloan, baritone.
When composer Dan Kellogg graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music, he assumed that he needed to move to New York City, the center of the musical universe.
There were challenges, particularly in finding a place to live. Both he and his wife, concert pianist Hsing-ay Hsu, have grand pianos.
“Try telling that to a Realtor,” Kellogg said Thursday morning during a panel discussion on building creative communities at ArtsPlace.
Eventually, he and Hsu found a home — 1,600 miles west of New York, in Boulder, Colo., where he is an assistant professor of music at the University of Colorado and, most important, where he has found a creative community.
“It’s important to find people you want to live among,” said Kellogg, right. “I love having that local, small community, and I actually prefer this to what I could have in Manhattan.”
The Thursday morning panel, presented by LexArts in conjunction with the Lexington Philharmonic and the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, which concludes Sunday, focused on how to make Lexington closer to what Kellogg has found in Boulder, where the real estate is affordable and the indigenous arts scene is thriving. And thriving doesn’t mean an orchestra that presents the standard repertoire, museums that display the established masters, dance and theater troupes presenting the classics and main stages populated with artists on the way from point A to point B.
The discussion centered on fostering a community that creates new work and encourages risk-taking.
“Lexington is in a position to shape its own creative future,” said Scott Terrell, Lexington Philharmonic’s music director.
Last year, Picnic with the Pops moved out of the Kentucky Horse Park and into Keenland’s Meadow at Keene Barn to allow for preparations for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, which began the next month at the Horse Park. The one-night program featured Cirque de la Symphonie, and the location and program change proved to be a hit with many people, including Pops chair Tom Minter.
In a statement from the Picnic with the Pops Commission, Minter said, “Our return to Keeneland and a Friday night performance back on the schedule are a direct result of last year’s success and valuable feedback from our patrons.”
In Tiempo Libre, the event gets a mostly conservatory trained group that has a reputation for high-energy performances.
“They are riveting to hear and watch,” Philharmonic music director Scott Terrell said. “It will be a challenge to sit still, so my advice is – don’t!”
Mar23Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Downtown Arts Center, Lexington Philharmonic, Singletary Center for the Arts; Tagged as: Awadagin Pratt, Downtown Arts Center, George Gershwin, Kevin Cole, Kicked-Back Classics, Lexington Philharmonic, Scott Terrell, Singletary Center for the Arts
The Lexington Philharmonic has announced that there will be a change in soloists for this week’s nearly sold-out concerts.
Awadagin Pratt, originally scheduled to perform music by George Gershwin at Thursday’s Kicked Back Classics concert at the Downtown Arts Center and Friday night’s Classics concert at the Singletary Center for the Arts, has had to bow out due to a family emergency. Taking his place at the keyboard and playing the same program will be Kevin Cole, a critically acclaimed pianist who specializes in 20th century American repertoire.
In a news release, Philharmonic music director Scott Terrell said, ”we are so fortunate to be able to engage Kevin Cole, especially at this late juncture. I have no doubt he will thrill our Gershwin fans and bring a contagious excitement to the performances.”
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