The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
The Singletary Center for the Arts concert hall will be getting new seats over the holiday break, thanks to a $200,000 allocation from the University of Kentucky Provost’s Office.
According to Center director Michael Grice, it will be the first seating upgrade at the concert hall since it opened in 1979.
“Our patrons have certainly been patient with us the past few years as more and more seats deteriorated,” Grice said in an email. “We have the UK Provost’s Office to thank for allocating these funds and for recognizing how important it is for the Singletary Center to be maintained for the sake of the campus and community. In fact, a lot of people on campus are to be thanked and appreciated for their support in getting this job done.”
Grice said the new seats will be port, a light burgundy color. The number of seats in the hall will remain the same, 1,574. The Singletary Center is the primary home for the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, many UK School of Music events and a regular schedule of national touring artists.
Anthony Clark Evans looks around Clifton and Renee Smith’s Lexington home. “This is the nicest house I’ve ever been in,” he says matter-of-factly. A few minutes later, the house is his performance venue.
Evans entertains the small crowd of musicians and arts supporters at the Smiths with a rendition of Hai già vinta la causa!, a plotting aria from Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro sung by the Count, whom Evans privately describes with a colorful, contemporary term for jerk.
His baritone voice is full and commanding, and in the performance you get the idea the guy he’s playing is up to something, even if you don’t understand the Italian. Minutes later, Evans, 27, grabs a beer and sits down with his wife, Kim, and some guests thrilled to be in the company of a man who is one of the opera world’s stories of the year.
Evans was selling cars at Swope Toyota in Elizabethtown when he took part in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. He advanced to the Mid-South Regional round in Memphis in March, and attracted widespread attention when he moved on to the national semifinals on the Metropolitan Opera’s stage in New York. In March, he was named one of five winners in the prestigious competition.
“I just expected to go out and do what it is I thought I could do,” Evans says. “I never got nervous, because I had nothing to lose. I was a car salesman trying to win an opera competition. What did I have to lose?”
It’s not as if Evans came completely out of nowhere. He studied voice at Murray State University and worked with programs including Opera in the Ozarks in Eureka Springs, Ark., where he had major roles in Puccini’s La bohème and Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado.But then he got married and left school to get a job to support himself and his wife, who is now a middle school music teacher.
While many of his competitors were still in school, drilling daily with teachers and coaches to prepare for the Met auditions, Evans was selling Corollas and Camrys, and was several years removed from his voice lessons.
“Obviously, I had this fantasy of, ‘This will be so cool if I win the whole thing,’” Evans says. “But I was more wondering, ‘Are they going to take me seriously?’ I don’t have my college degree. Nobody’s ever heard of me in any other facet of singing. Are they really going to take me seriously? And to tell you the truth, none of that stuff really matters when you can put something on the stage that people enjoy.”
Evans recalls that he met some singers during the competition who joked that they must have wasted their time and money going to college.
But he wasn’t rattled taking the stage for the Grand Finals Concert of the Met competition.
“He went first, which is a really intimidating place to be,” says Henno Lohmeyer, who has seen many Met competitions as a producer and the husband of Gail Robinson, the late University of Kentucky voice professor who for decades directed the Met auditions. “You worry that people will forget you going first. But he came out and let everyone know he was the one to beat.”
By that time, he had a little help from Lexington.
Rootsy, retro, progressive … OK, hard to describe violinist Andrew Bird is coming to Singletary at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29 – that would be a Saturday. Those who don’t know Bird’s work should, and his latest effort, Break it Yourself, is a great place to start. The album is a stylistic journey with meditations on topics past and present against an echoing backdrop and punctuated with Bird’s trademark whistling.
Reviewing the album, Bird’s seventh, Paste magazine’s Lindsay Eanet wrote, ”Break It Yourself will likely leave its listeners divided: some will call it boring; others will call it beautiful. There is a bit of longing for the dynamic sounds of which he is capable, but what the album does remind us is that above all, Andrew Bird is a highly skilled musician capable of crafting an album full of delightful little moments that make the album worth a fair listen, and more.”
Tickets to the Sept. 29 show are $25-$35 and go on presale at 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 26, at the Singletary Center ticket site. Use the password SCFA, which is case-sensitive and all upper case. Tickets go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. Friday, June 29.
We barely have 2012 out of the gate and Singletary Center for the Arts director Michael Grice has already announced what very well may be the classical music event of 2013: Pianist Lang Lang will perform with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra on Feb. 9, 2013.
This is the latest in a line of classical music superstars the Singletary Center has booked and paired with UK’s student orchestra, including last March’s performance by violin legend Itzhak Perlman.
“This is a major effort of ours to bring to audiences of Central Kentucky the best talent we can possibly bring them,” Grice said Monday afternoon. “Putting this talent with the UK Symphony Orchestra is an added bonus.”
Called “the hottest artist on the classical music planet” by The New York Times and known for his flamboyant style, Lang Lang, 29, started studying piano at age 3 and had his first public recital at 5. The Shenyang, China, native went on to elite piano study and won numerous competitions including the International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians at age 13.
In his 20s, he has become one of classical music’s biggest names, particularly after his performance in the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Other high-profile appearances include the 2008 Grammy Awards, at which he played George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with Herbie Hancock, and a 2011 White House state dinner in honor of Chinese President Hu Jintao.
His latest album, Liszt: My Piano Hero, was released by Sony Masterworks in October.
The February 2013 concert will be Lang Lang’s first performance in Central Kentucky, but he will play with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra on Jan. 27 and 28.
Grice said he is seeking concert sponsors in an effort to keep tickets prices as low as possible. Prices have not been announced.
The first tickets for the Lexington concert will be available to patrons at the Feb. 11 performance by pianist Natasha Paremski and the UK Symphony. Ticket holders to that show will be able to buy Lang Lang tickets that night, but only at the Singletary Center’s ticket office. There will also be a drawing at that concert for four prime tickets to see Lang Lang.
After the Feb. 11 event, the Lang Lang tickets will go off sale until the entire 2012-13 Singletary Center season is announced late this spring or in early summer.
For decades George Zack has been a big part of the Singletary Center for the Arts. That become somewhat literal Friday night as the Lexington Philharmonic Guild unveiled a bronze plaque in honor of the orchestra’s music director from 1972 to 2009.
“One person can make a difference, and George Zack is a prime example of that,” said former Lexington vice-mayor and longtime arts supporter Isabel Yates at an unveiling ceremony prior to Friday’s Philharmonic concert. “He is a cultural icon in the city of Lexington.”
Concertmaster Dan Mason, who celebrates his 30th anniversary in his post next year, jokingly thanked George for, “putting your trust in a 10-year-old concertmaster,” congratulating his longtime collaborator.
“This is a momentous occasion, not just for George and his family but also for this region,” Mason said. “Under George’s direction, the Lexington Philharmonic became a pillar of the city.”
Accepting the honor, Zack said the one thing missing from the plaque was his wife, Kerry, who he said was a critical part of his 37-year tenure at the Philharmonic. Zack’s wedding band is visible in the bronze that shows Zack in the midst of conducting. It was made by Amanda Matthews and Brad Connell of Prometheus Foundry in Lexington.
The plate below the plaque reads, in part, “The People’s Maestro … Beloved maestro who shared his knowledge, enthusiasm and great love of music in the Singletary Center concert hall and throughout the Lexington Community.”
Zack noted that when he arrived in Lexington, the Philharmonic had yet to play some signature works in the symphonic repertoire including symphonies by Franz Joseph Haydn and Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. They and many more pieces had their Lexington premieres under Zack’s baton, and Zack said, “It has been a privilege to plow that ground with you and for you.”
In 2009, Scott Terrell succeeded Zack as music director, and he said at the ceremony that it was immediately clear to him the rich legacy that Zack created with the Philharmonic.
Zack closed saying to the audience, “Into Scott’s hands I commend the spirit of this orchestra. May it live forever, and it will, because of you.”
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.”
Mar7Filed under: Arts administration, Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Country music, dance, Lexington Opera House, Music, Musicals, Rupp Arena, Singletary Center for the Arts, Theater; Tagged as: Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks, Itzhak Perlman, Jason Aldean, Lexington Opera House, Luanne Frankin, rain, Rascal Flatts, Rupp Arena, sellout, Singletary Center for the Arts, sold out, University of Kentucky basketball
Last week at le blog and in Sunday’s Herald-Leader, I wrote about the recent wave of sellouts at Lexington venues, including three shows over the weekend – Jason Aldean at Rupp Arena, Itzhak Perlman at the Singletary Center, and the Beatles show Rain at the Lexington Opera House.
That raised some questions in a couple different ways, in part because empty seats were spotted at some shows we mentioned, and because of disparities in the numbers of patrons at “sold out” shows, particularly in Rupp Arena.
So what constitutes a sell out, and does it necessarily mean absolutely no seats are left?
In the case of Perlman, it did mean all tickets were gone, but generally the answer depends on a number of things.
Obviously, the first reason why we sometimes see empty seats at sold out shows is people don’t show up. Yes, it seems bizarre that someone would pay significant money to see a show and then not attend, but it happens for a variety of reasons.
Second is that sellout does not necessarily mean every seat has been sold. Read the rest of this entry »
Mar3Filed under: Arts administration, Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Country music, Current Affairs, Lexington Opera House, Music, Musicals, Norton Center for the Arts, Opera, Rupp Arena, Singletary Center for the Arts, Theater; Tagged as: 42nd Street, Carl Hall, Cats, Chris Isaak, Emmylou Harris, Gustavo Dudamel, Itzhak Perlman, Jason Aldean, Kathy Griffin, Lexington Opera House, Luanne Franklin, Michael Grice, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Norton Center for the Arts, Porgy and Bess, Rascal Flatts, Rupp Arena, Singletary Center for the Arts, Steve Martin, University of Kentucky Opera Theatre, University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic
The afternoon of Feb. 6, I was standing in line at the Singletary Center for the Arts box office behind a handsomely dressed couple that looked like they had just come from church to see the final performance of the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s production of Porgy and Bess.
When it was their turn to be served, the man held out his credit card, and the ticket agent said, “I’m sorry. This performance is sold out.”Metropolitan Opera soprano Angela Brown as Bess in the sold-out Feb. 6 performance of the UK Opera Theatre production of “Porgy and Bess.” Photo by Tim Collins for UK Opera Theatre.
That’s become a more common occurrence at Lexington-area shows recently. Just this weekend, Rupp Arena presents a sold-out performance by country star Jason Aldean Friday night, the Lexington Opera House hosts two sold-out performances by theBeatles tribute show Rain and Saturday night’s concert by violin legend Itzhak Perlman and the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra is so sold out even people who know people couldn’t get tickets.
This follows recent sold-out or near sold-out shows at those venues by artists such as pop star Chris Isaak, comedian Kathy Griffin, the touring production of Spamalot! and country stars Rascal Flatts, Rupp’s first non-UK basketball sell-out of 2011.
So, is the sell out back? Is a recovering economy starting to show up at the box office?
Well yes and no, venue directors say.
Yes, things do seem to be better than they were in the depths of the great recession in 2008 and ‘09. They also see other factors from a string of very popular acts to a pure desire on consumers’ parts to go have fun to ticket prices coming back to earth.
Feb24Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Music, Reviews, Singletary Center for the Arts; Tagged as: Aaron Copland, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Daphnis et Chloe Suite No. 2, Hugh Wolff, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Marin Alsop, Maurice Ravel, Michael Daugherty, National Symphony Orchestra, Route 66, Singletary Center for the Arts, Suite from Appalachian Spring, Symphony No. 4, The Star-Spangled Banner
Hugh Wolff bounded onto the Singletary Center for the Arts’ stage Wednesday night and started the National Symphony Orchestra’s concert not so much with a downbeat, but a lightning strike of his baton toward the percussion, igniting a majestic rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner.
In case anyone missed it, the opening number declared this is the United States of America’s National Symphony Orchestra. Yes, we have some great orchestras across the land from New York to Los Angeles, San Francisco to Philadelphia, and don’t forget Chicago. But the Washington D.C.-based National Symphony is the orchestra that accepts the charge of being the American orchestra, and Kentucky has seen how the ensemble takes that charge for the past week.
The National Symphony’s Kentucky Residency, the 22nd state visit in its annual American Residency program, has largely been a micro story of small groups or individual orchestra musicians interacting with musicians and music lovers across the state. But there are also six macro events on the schedule: full orchestra concerts in each of Kentucky’s congressional districts.
Wednesday night was Lexington’s turn to hear the full – and we do mean full – orchestra in a performance that should reinforce the message to any musician that worked with these folks individually that they really know their stuff.
Feb19Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Music, Singletary Center for the Arts; Tagged as: Bryen Warfield, Center for Rural Development, Hugh Wolff, Kentucky Center for the Arts, National Symphony Orchestra, Paul DeNola, Rita Shapiro, Robert Oppelt, Sidney King, Singletary Center for the Arts, Somerset, Stephen Dumaine, Stephen Klein, University of Louisville
- Some of the material in this column which runs in the Feb. 20, 2011 edition of the Lexington Herald-Leader is taken from a live blog of the National Symphony Orchestra’s first day in Kentucky, Feb. 17.
LOUISVILLE — Late Thursday afternoon, the National Symphony Orchestra was a little bit lost on the University of Louisville campus.
It’s not hard to get lost there — it’s a big campus, the Bluegrass Tours bus driver advised the NSO leaders. But pretty soon, the big blue bus had sidled up to the curb in front of the U of L School of Music and the musicians were carrying — in a few instances, lugging would be the word — their instruments in for a couple of hours of master classes and clinics.
It was not the usual modus operandi for an orchestra on tour: fly in, go to a hotel, go to the concert hall for the show, go back to the hotel, and fly out the next day. But then again, the National Symphony Orchestra’s Kentucky Residency is not a typical tour.
The orchestra will be in the Bluegrass State until Friday. And while the agenda has big concerts — including at the Singletary Center for the Arts in Lexington on Wednesday night and the Center for Rural Development in Somerset on Thursday — last Thursday afternoon’s excursion to Louisville was more to the point.
“This orchestra is called the National Symphony for a reason,” Hugh Wolff, conductor for the Kentucky residency, said Thursday afternoon. “It’s based in Washington D.C., it performs concerts for the people of Washington and its environs. But it is the national symphony, and it has as part of its mission, taking symphonic music to people all over the country, particularly in rural areas and places where they don’t have access to it all the time and showing what a symphony orchestra is and how an orchestra can be involved in the community.
“This orchestra shows that the arts belong in every community, and working together, we can make it happen.”
The Kentucky stay is the 22nd annual stop in the residency program, which started in 1989 with a trip to Alaska. In an often-told story, several musicians even traveled past the Arctic Circle to Point Barrow, the northernmost point in the United States.
“They went and mingled with Eskimos,” said principal bassist Robert Oppelt, a native of Richmond who has been on all of the NSO residencies. “Those are the kinds of experiences musicians talk about their entire careers.”
They give local musicians something to talk about, too.
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