The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Last year, when John Nardolillo scheduled the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra‘s presentation of Benjamin Britten’s massive War Requiem for Friday night, he had no way of knowing how appropriate its timing would be. And certainly he and the others involved in the performance would have preferred it wasn’t so timely, coming on the heels of a tragic week.
While Boston did not go to war this week, it certainly experienced some of its hallmarks, including improvised explosive devices, a suicide bomber, and shelter-in-place orders. And there were casualties: Officer Sean Collier Thursday night, and at the Marathon Lu Lingzi, Krystle Campbell, and 8-year-old Martin Richard, famously seen in a photo holding a sign that said, “No more hurting people.”
That was essentially what pacifist Britten was saying with Requiem, albeit with hundreds of musicians and in a composition that might be more appropriately called inspired than brilliant, though it is both.
Because of the 300-or-so musicians required to do the Requiem right, it is not presented often. Friday’s performance was at the very least the first Lexington rendition of the 1962 composition in recent memory, if ever.
It somewhat ironically requires the organizational skills of a general to pull the orchestra, massive choir, chamber orchestra, children’s choir, and soloists together in a performance of the Requiem. At the podium Friday was Nardolillo, who conducted the Boston Pops in December and has forged a relationship between his orchestra and the Boston group. Friday, he elicited an exceedingly sensitive performance from the powerful forces at his disposal.
The biggest evidence of how powerfully UK presented the work came in silence: the several “pin drop” moments, particularly at the end of the performance, where well over 1,000 people were left in near-perfect silence.
While Britten designated an overwhelming ensemble, some of the highlights of the Requiem are small moments or how all those musicians can be focused on an exquisite pianissimo moment.
The Requiem is a mix of the Latin requiem mass and war poetry by Wilfred Owen, a British soldier who died in World War I.
On stage, the large chorus — a combination of the Lexington Singers and the UK Chorale — and soprano Catherine Clarke Nardolillo, delivered the Latin text while a small chamber orchestra, conducted by Marcello Cormio, and tenor Justin Vickers and baritone Thomas Gunter sang. Located at the back of the Singletary Center for the Arts, Lori Hetzel conducted the Lexington Singers Children’s Choir in heavenly interactions with both stage ensembles.
UK alum Vickers made the most of his return to campus, with moments like his portrayal of Isaac in the story of Abraham and Isaac where you could see the child in his face as he asked, “where is the lamb?” He and current UK voice student Gunter created a haunting, “strange meeting” between enemy soldiers in the final movement, and throughout they were accompanied by the baker’s dozen chamber group, something of a UK orchestra all-star team. There never seemed to be a diminishing of forces when the focus shifted to them, though the larger ensemble had plenty of moments of its own. The fourth movement, Sanctus, was particularly stunning in its interplay between the soprano and the percussion, UK’s nationally revered percussionists shining all night.
Catherine Nardolillo was a strong vocal star through the evening, in part because she carried an appropriately serious demeanor at center stage.
As the forces combined for the finale, powerfully-gently singing, “Into paradise may the angels lead thee,” it seemed that after several turbulent and deadly days, including the tragedy in West, Texas, there could be no more appropriate end to the week — except, of course, walking out of the Singletary Center and reading the second bombing suspect had been captured.
University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra conductor John Nardolillo was in Boston last weekend to conduct two performances of the Boston Pops Orchestra. He was filling in for Maestro Keith Lockhart, who was with the Pops Esplanade Orchestra at some run out dates in New England.
The Pops’ holiday shows are a Boston tradition playing dozens of dates for thousands of patrons. In addition to making beautiful music, Nardolillo’s duties included leading the audience in a sing-along portion of the show and welcoming Santa Claus to the stage. His engagement was the latest chapter in a growing relationship between UK and the Pops. Here are few photos from the weekend, courtesy of the Boston Pops.
University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra director John Nardolillo will conduct two of the Boston Pops Orchestra’s holiday concerts in Boston’s Symphony Hall next month.
Nardolillo will step in for the Pops’ superstar conductor Keith Lockhart, who will be conducting tour concerts in New England by the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra Dec. 15 and 16. The concerts are part of the Boston Pops’ regular holiday shows, which are a Boston tradition said Dennis Alves, director of artistic planning for the orchestra.
He said the engagement is part of the Pops’ enduring relationship with Nardolillo, which started when he was music director for folk music legend Arlo Guthrie, who has performed with the Pops. That relationship reached a high point when Lockhart and the Pops came to Lexington in October 2011 to present a concert in conjunction with the UK Symphony Orchestra to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Keeneland. During that performance, Nardolillo conducted the Pops in one number and Lockhart conducted the UK orchestra for a piece. Both conducted the combined orchestras for the evening’s grand finale.
“We’ve liked John so much over the years,” Alves said. “We really saw him work when the Pops were down in Lexington and thought he deserved a shot.”
Nardolillo is the only guest conductor scheduled to conduct the holiday shows.
Alves said in addition to conducting holiday favorites, Nardolillo will be chatting with the crowd and talking to Santa Claus, “the real Santa Claus,” he added.
“Lexington is really lucky to have John with all he has brought to the orchestra and the outreach programs in Appalachia,” Alves said. “And we’re lucky you’re loaning him to Boston.”
Prior to that, Nardolillo will be conducting the UK Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 29) in a free performance of Claude Debussy’s La Mer and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in the Singletary Center for the Arts Concert Hall. The UK Symphony opened its current season with a performance by violin legend Itzhak Perlman in September and will end with a tour of China in May.
Lightning has struck twice for the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra.
A couple years ago, when university representatives contacted violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman’s management to see about getting him to come play with the student orchestra, they were told it would never happen. On Sunday night, has happened for the second time in as many years.
After bringing a performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto to the Singletary Center and the UK Symphony in March 2011, Perlman returned Sunday night with a stunning performance of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, rivaling even his recordings of the work, which generally are the first to appear when you search the Internet for the concerto.
The man is an icon of his instrument, and that was lost on no one in Sunday night in the Singletary Center for the Arts. Graduate student concertmaster Jessica Miskelly and her stand partner, William Ronning, had smiles during Perlman’s solo passages that were visible all the way back to row W, and giddy student fans snapped curtain-call photos on their cellphones and iPads. The really impressive thing was how Perlman, 67, handled the adulation.
He took the stage on crutches, which he has had to use since contracting polio at age four, and received a whooping, hollering ovation. He turned first to the student musicians and then acknowledged the applause from the audience with a small nod and wave. He took his seat on a podium, laying a crutch on either side of him, accepted his violin and bow from conductor John Nardolillo, threw a cloth on his shoulder, tucked the instrument under his chin and went to work.
If you were going to hear Perlman play only one piece live, the Tchaikovsky concerto would be an excellent choice. Written in 1878 from both a state of depression over a failed marriage and zeal for the instrument, it offers the musician a chance to show a wide range of emotion, and it carries the legend of being declared unplayable by some of the finest violinists of Tchaikovsky’s day.
Perlman certainly had no problem offering the interpretation of an artist who mastered hitting the notes decades ago but approaches the piece as fresh each time he plays it. The solo passages at the end of the first movement were flurries of inspiration and technique that drew the first standing ovation between movements that I have ever seen. Despite what some traditionalists say, applause between movements is fine when it is earned, although generally it is best to keep your seat until the end. In this case, the impulse was hard to argue with. Perlman’s work was that stunning.
He then turned to the second movement, Canzonetta: Andante, offering a performance reminiscent of his aching work on the Schindler’s List score. This was the point where we could see that if the concerto is Tchaikovsky’s story, Perlman was telling it to us through his instrument.
Throughout the performance, he was supported by an enthusiastic, well-prepared orchestra.
And since Perlman was the soloist in an orchestra concert, the UK players did have other pieces to offer. The concert opened with Johannes Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture, which seemed to be driven by enthusiasm for the man waiting in the wings.
A pleasant surprise was that even though Perlman’s evening was done by intermission, most of the audience hung in for the second-half performance of Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World.” It seemed that a lot of the preparation for the evening went into the Tchaikovsky concerto, because the New World Symphony needed work. The performance stumbled hardest in the second movement, Largo, which demands nuance and succeeded in the most bombastic passages, including the cinematic final movement.
Ultimately, it was the unlikely story of a student orchestra in flyover country making beautiful music with a violin legend who carried the night, and it’s a story that the student musicians will tell their children and grandchildren for decades to come.
University of Kentucky violinist Megan Lineberry was chatting with a friend online Wednesday night when she signed off saying, “I’ve got to get some rest. I have a concert with Itzhak Perlman Sunday night.”
“Not many university orchestra musicians get to say that,” Lineberry said.
The 23-year-old graduate student also had gotten to say she’s had to rest up for concerts with Gil Shaham, Sarah Chang, Marvin Hamlisch and numerous other marquee stars of classical and contemporary music who have performed with the UK Symphony Orchestra.
Sunday’s performance by Perlman will be his second appearance in as many years with the UK Symphony. This one is a collaboration in part with the Henry Clay Foundation, which will award the violin legend its Henry Clay Medallion while he is here. Recipients of the medallion, awarded to those who exemplify Clay’s ideals of “statesmanship, compromise and peaceful resolution,” have included Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, media mogul Ted Turner and U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, who received it two months before his death in 2009.
“Obviously it is super exciting to have him coming again,” said graduate student Jessica Miskelly, 26, who was the concertmaster when Perlman played with the symphony in March 2011 and will occupy the same chair Sunday. “I never expected him to come back so soon. He must have enjoyed himself the first time.”
UK Symphony director John Nardolillo notes that Perlman has had a busy month, including performances with the Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and New York Philharmonic. The latter was broadcast Thursday on PBS. He also has been busy promoting his new album of traditional Jewish music, Eternal Echoes: Songs and Dances for the Soul, with Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot.
“He didn’t have to come here,” Nardolillo said. “He could have easily said, ‘I want to take Sunday night off.’ But he’s coming.”
Like many of the UK Symphony’s recent big gigs, including last year’s concert with jazz and pop ensemble Pink Martini, the Singletary Center for the Arts is the driving force behind pairing the orchestra with the major players.
The University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra will open its 2012-13 season the same way the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony will: with a performance by legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman,
The concert, on Sept. 30 at the Singletary Center for the Arts, will be a return engagement by Perlman, whose 2011 performance with the orchestra was one of its most successful concerts ever. Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday through the Singletary Center ticket office.
“People could not get tickets to that show,” UK Symphony director John Nardolillo said in reference to the sold-out concert in March of last year. “The amazing thing is that he’s coming back so soon. It’s rewarding to know that he thought this was something worth doing again.”
The concert with Perlman will kick off a season that will end with the symphony touring China and includes a performance by Wagnerian soprano Christine Brewer.
The orchestra’s trip to China in May will include performances at the National Center for the Performing Arts and Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing and visits to Shanghai University, the Shanghai Conservatory and the Central Conservatory in Beijing.
Perlman’s visit is sponsored by the Henry Clay Foundation, which will award Perlman the Henry Clay Medallion while he is in Lexington. The award, according to the foundation, is to people whose lives and work have exemplified 19th-century leader Clay’s ideals of “statesmanship, compromise and peaceful resolution.” Previous winners of the award, which was introduced in 1993, include Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, media mogul Ted Turner and late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy. This was the award that brought the high-profile visit last year of U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner and former speakers Nancy Pelosi and Dennis Hastert to Lexington.
“We have never awarded it to a musical ambassador before,” said Christina Bell, director of development for Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate. “I cannot think of a better musical statesman in the world, and Henry Clay did play the fiddle, though certainly not as well as Itzhak Perlman.”
Bell said the foundation contacted Nardolillo about a concert in conjunction with its activities marking the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Ashland during the Civil War.
Perlman will perform the iconic violin concerto by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky in a concert that will also include Antonín Dvorák’s Symphony No. 9 (From the New World). His visit will come on the heels of a season-opening engagements with the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Filling in the UK Symphony’s season will be:
Oct. 26: “American Modernists,” composers inspired by the rugged individualism of Teddy Roosevelt, Emerson, Thoreau and Hawthorne. The program includes Ruggles’ Men and Mountains, William Bolcom’s Prometheus, a Kentucky premiere and UK co-commission with the Detroit Symphony and the Pacific Symphony featuring piano soloist Jeffrey Biegel, the UK Choristers and Chorale; and Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 4.
Nov. 28: Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 5.
Feb. 15: An all Wagner program, commemorating the 200th anniversary of Wagner’s birth, featuring acclaimed Wagnerian soprano Christine Brewer. The program will include Wiesendonck Lieder, which was the source material for Tristan and Isolde, and the great final scene from Wagner’s Ring, the Immolation Scene from Gotterdammerung.
March 29: Concerto competition winners, Shostakovich Symphony No. 5.
April 19: In celebration of Benjamin Britten’s 100th birthday, his monumental War Requiem with the UK Choirs and the Lexington Singers.
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.
Mar8Filed under: Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, ballet, Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Country music, dance, Lexington Ballet, Music, Musicals, Opera; Tagged as: 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Alltech Haitian Harmony Children's Choir, American Spiritual Ensemble, California Cowgirls Equestrian Drill Team, Cherryholmes, Culver Academies Black Horse Troop and Equestriennes, Dan James, Dan Steers, Denyce Graves, Eitan Beth-Halachmy, Everett McCorvey, Friesian Train, Global Creative Connections, Mario Contreras, opening ceremonies, Riata Ranch Ropers, Ronan Tynan, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Stacey Westfall, the Lexington Ballet, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Tommie Turvey, University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, Vince Bruce, Wynonna Judd
If you want to relive the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, or you feel like you never really got to see it in the abbreviated TV broadcast of the ceremonies, the event is now out on a 2-hour DVD from Everett McCorvey’s production company, Global Creative Connections.
The DVD includes performances from guest artists Wynonna Judd, Denyce Graves, Ronan Tynan, Cherryholmes, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and Sarah Lee Guthrie – who just had her national TV debut with husband Johnny Irion on Last Call with Caron Daly – as well as the American Spiritual Ensemble, University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, the Lexington Ballet and the Alltech Haitian Harmony Children’s Choir. It also contains performances by the equine acts including Culver Academies’ Black Horse Troop and Equestriennes, Mario Contreras, Stacey Westfall, the California Cowgirls Equestrian Drill Team, roper Vince Bruce, the Riata Ranch Ropers, the Friesian Train, dressage cowboy Eitan Beth-Halachmy and extreme riders Tommie Turvey, Dan James and Dan Steers.
The DVD is $25, plus $4.50 shipping and handling, through the company website.
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.
Jan2Filed under: Actors Guild of Lexington, Balagula Theatre, Classical Music, Downtown Arts Center, Eastern Kentucky University, LexArts, Lexington Philharmonic, Music, Norton Center for the Arts, Opera, Singletary Center for the Arts, Theater, Transylvania University, UK; Tagged as: Actors Guild of Lexington, Aloha, Boston Pops Orchestra, Downtown Arts Center, Eastern Kentucky University performing arts center, Eric Seale, Everett McCorvey, Itzhak Perlman, Joe Cannon Artz, Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, Lyric Theatre, Naomi Iizuka, Norton Center for the Arts, Porgy and Bess, ProjectSEE Theatre, Rupp Arena, Say the Pretty Girls, Scott Terrell, Singletary Center for the Arts, Steven A. Hoffman, Transylvania University Theatre, UK Symphony Orchestra, University of Kentucky Opera Theatre, University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra
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