The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Starting next fall, theater and music majors will be able to earn musical theater certificates while studying at UK. The certificate program will be available by audition and students in it will need to complete courses such as musical theatre, jazz dance, ballet, voice, vocal ensemble, and acting.
UK theater department chair Nancy Jones, who will oversee the certificate program, said the introduction of the certificate program was the culmination of a number of moves in the College of Fine Arts including the introduction of a dance minor under the direction of dance lecturer Susie Thiel and adjunct musical theater instructors Jeromy Smith and Lyndy Franklin Smith. The last several years, the theater department has presented musicals, including last year’s presentation of Thoroughly Modern Millie and this year’s production of Spring Awakening, which opens Thursday.
Auditions for the musical theater certificate program are in April and it will accept 10 to 12 students a year.
Everett McCorvey, the educator, performer and impresario who built the University of Kentucky’s voice program into one of the top opera programs in the country, is interviewing for the post of dean of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
According to an itinerary available online, McCorvey arrived in Greensboro on Tuesday morning for a day and a half of interviews at the public university, which has approximately 18,000 students. He is one of three finalists for the post, including Peter Alexander, recently retired dean of the Jordan College of Fine Arts at Butler University, and Sara Baird, chair of the department of music at Auburn University.
In his letter of application, McCorvey says, “I am very impressed with what the School of Music, Theatre and Dance has to offer. … I see tremendous potential for growth, collaboration and achieving new heights.”
Michael Tick, dean of the University of Kentucky College of Fine Arts, declined to be interviewed for this story because it’s a personnel matter. He said McCorvey is currently on sabbatical.
“I hope that UK doesn’t let Everett get away,” said Marlon Hurst, director of the Kentucky Bach Choir and director of music at First Presbyterian Church, where McCorvey has been active, including serving as interim and substitute music director. “It would be an astonishingly huge loss to the artistic life of our community.”
Since arriving at the University of Kentucky from Knoxville College in 1991, McCorvey has built the college’s opera program into a nationally recognized opera program and Lexington’s de facto opera company. This academic year, the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre staged a production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera that broke attendance records at the Lexington Opera House. It will open its production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro next week.
Under McCorvey’s watch, the UK voice program was named to a list of 20 recommended opera training programs in the United States by the Richard Tucker Foundation and has launched the careers of professional opera singers including Gregory Turay, Phumzile Sojola, Andrea Jones Sojola, Patricia Andress, Corey Crider and Reshma Shetty, who also is in the cast of USA’s Royal Pains.
In addition to making UK opera productions into major Lexington arts events, McCorvey established the It’s a Grand Night for Singing show-tune concerts as annual red-letter dates on the arts calendar. He also founded the Lexington-based American Spiritual Ensemble, which tours internationally presenting spiritual songs, and was executive producer of the opening ceremonies of the Alltech-FEI World Equestrian Games. McCorvey’s close relationship with Alltech founder Pearse Lyons has resulted in the Alltech Scholarships, one of the most attractive voice scholarships in the country.
According to the UNC-Greensboro website, McCorvey is the last candidate to interview for the job.
Fans of the Classic Arts Showcase on Insight Channel 219 will have to find another way to get their fix of classical music and ballet clips. The University of of Kentucky, which has presented the channel, will discontinue it as of March 1. (The video, above, is an Angel Records clip from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons featuring Fabio Biondi, conductor and violin soloist, from Classic Arts Showcase’s YouTube channel.)
A statement from the university said, “The University of Kentucky will discontinue satellite downlinking services … due to maintenance cost of under-utilized and aging equipment.”
Other services delivered through satellite downlink will be delivered through other avenues, the statement said, but the Classic Arts Showcase “is not available for UK to distribute in other ways.”
Classic Arts Showcase, founded by the late Lloyd Rigler, a businessman and philanthropist, is a Los Angeles-based free satellite TV service that provides 24-hour programming of classical music, opera, ballet and film. It’s available across the country on public, educational and government channels, and through some PBS stations. It is also shown on Dish Network channel 9406.
The Chamber Players of Central Kentucky’s concert on Sunday will pay tribute to a revered University of Kentucky music professor who died late last year.
Lucien Stark, who died Dec. 2 at the age of 83, joined the UK music faculty in 1976, after 15 years on the piano faculty at the George Peabody College in Nashville — now part of Vanderbilt University. He studied at numerous institutions including the Paris Conservatory, the Juilliard School of Music, and the University of Michigan, where he earned a Ph.D. in musical arts. After his retirement in 1994, he wrote two revered books on the music of Johannes Brahms that were published by Indiana University Press: A Guide to the Solo Songs of Johannes Brahms (1995) and Brahms’s Vocal Duets and Quartets with Piano: A Guide with Full Texts and Translations (1998).
“He wrote the books on Brahms’ vocal music with piano and, in retirement, added more than 60 transcriptions to the repertoire for two pianos, eight hands,” UK violin professor and Chamber Players member Daniel Mason wrote. “Lexington will have a chance to hear some of these Sunday.”
Mason and most of the musicians on Sunday’s concert were professional colleagues of Stark.
“I played with him in the Concord Trio for the first fifteen years I was here and it was my ‘finishing school,’” Mason wrote. “Impeccable musicianship, formidable intellect, and elegant taste are the descriptors that come to mind with Lucien.”
Musicians slated for Sunday’s concert, presented by the Chamber Music Society of Central Kentucky, include Mason, pianists Cliff Jackson and Irina Voro, cellist Benjamin Karp, soprano Catherine Clarke Nardolillo, and tenor Gregory Turay.
Also performing will be the Alabama-based Davis Piano Quartet, with which Stark collaborated to create transcriptions of dozens of works for two pianos and eight hands.
Quartet member Sandra Nelson is quoted in the concert program as writing that the group had difficulty finding repertoire to play until Stark, “turned his impeccable musicianship, formidable intellect, and elegant taste to arranging orchestral works for piano eight hands. We are now indebted to him for more than 60 arrangements of the great masters.” The Quartet will play six pieces at the 3 p.m. concert Sunday in the Singletary Center for the Arts Recital Hall.
At the end of this post, see video of Vince DiMartino demonstrating historic horns that will be played at this year’s Great American Brass Band Festival.
DANVILLE — It was trumpet virtuoso Vince DiMartino’s first official day of retirement.
“The Monday after commencement, I drove down to Tennessee and I went to hear a friend’s brass quintet, … the Stiletto Brass Quintet,” DiMartino, 63, says. “I sat in the audience, didn’t have a note to play. I had dinner with Doc Severinsen, who was there, and we just sat there talking about stuff, and it was so great. I drove back to Danville, and the next day I practiced.
“That was my first day of retirement, and it felt really good. There’s always work to do. It’s the perspective that’s changing, not the work.”
After 40 years of teaching, 21 at the University of Kentucky and 19 at Centre College, DiMartino is no longer keeping office hours at a school of music. But he has plenty to keep him busy, including a couple of books about trumpet playing, a few new recordings, music and trumpet organizations he’s involved with, workshops and conferences. Already, friends are calling him about giving master classes and artist residencies at their institutions.
DiMartino hopes to spend a lot of time basking in the sun on his enclosed back porch, but it will have to share him with the rest of the trumpeting world.
This week, one of the events DiMartino helped found, Danville’s Great American Brass Band Festival, will be a big retirement party for the trumpet master.
The 23rd annual event will feature his hero, Severinsen, plus colleagues, many students and his son, Gabriel DiMartino, who has established his own career teaching trumpet at Syracuse University in New York.
“That’s why I’m practicing, so I can keep up with him,” DiMartino says of his son. “It means a lot to have them all here at once and have sort of a celebration of the retirement from this aspect” of his work.
DiMartino came to Kentucky from the prestigious Eastman School of Music in 1972 to teach at UK.
“I was only 23,” he says. “I wasn’t much older than my students. I’m sure some of them came in and said, ‘What’s he doing teaching me?’”
Who knows if it was the basketball gods, music gods or, oh, fortune that led the Eastern Kentucky University Center for the Arts to schedule a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana by the University of Kentucky Symphony and the Lexington Singers for Friday night. But it’s hard to think of a more perfect lead in to the titanic clash will take place Saturday in New Orleans when the University of Kentucky plays the University of Louisville in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Final Four.
If you are thinking, “Huh?,” trust me, you probably know more about this than you assume.
Carmina Burana is a cantata by Carl Orff based on 24 poems and songs from a medieval collection of the same name. The principal way most everyone knows the piece is by the chorus O Fortuna, which has to be a contender for most appropriated classical work in pop culture, particularly if someone wants to illustrate something like, oh, mortal conflict.
As Time magazine described it (with our locally-relevant thoughts in the parenthesis): “It’s the go-to piece for any director or editor who wants to ramp up the drama (if that is possible, in this case) or conflict (intrastate basketball rivals in the basketball state; one team coached by the turncoat coach who once led the other team to a championship) or doom (what Louisville faces Saturday evening).
The piece begins with a shout, then a slow, ominous ramp up by the chorus, culminating in a thunderous crash of percussion and a vocal gale that brings to mind images such as hordes of enemy soldiers spilling over a mountainside — for our purposes, we’ll imagine them wearing a certain shade of blue.
University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra director John Nardolillo says the piece should be well known to UK sports fans because, “The UK football team uses it for their player introductions. So UK fans already have that big piece from Carmina Burana in their ear as being connected with the excitement of UK athletics.”
The piece has also been appropriated by movies from The Hunt for Red October to the opening-credit sequence for Jackass: The Movie (click the Time link to see that), on the Fox series Glee to set up the conflict between Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) and Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), by numerous wrestling and ultimate fighting programs and participants, and commercial campaigns for products such as Gatorade.
Nardolillo says that part of O Fortuna’s greatness is that it is so easily appropriated.
“You hear it over an over again in every different context, and it has resonance and meaning over and over again in all different situations for all different people in all different circumstances,” Nardolillo says. “That’s what makes it a universally great piece of music.”
Most people don’t know and really don’t care what the Latin text says. But Nardolillo points out it has relevance to a sporting event.
“The text talks about the wheel of fortune going around, first you’re up and then you’re down and you’re hoping to come back up again,” Nardolillo says. “It has all that going on, and somehow, if you listen to it, you sort of hear that going on even if you don’t know what the words are. You still get the sensation of the excitement of what could happen.
“With an athletic competition, you have that element of you’re hoping for good fortune, but it could turn out to be a disaster at the last second.”
Nardolillo confirms the scheduling of the performance and the Final Four are total coincidences, saying he and Lexington Singers director Jefferson Johnson and EKU Center director Deb Hoskins were simply working to select a piece that would show off the new concert hall that opened in September.
But Nardolillo says the looming competition may add a little spice to Friday’s performance. The symphony shares a number of performers who also play with the UK Pep Band.
“Our kids are basketball fans and Kentucky fans,” Narolillo says. “All the kids that are playing the piece that are fans of the team will have the same association fans have.”
Well the NCAA presented the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team’s No. 1 fan, Ashley Judd, with a bit of a quandary Thursday night: Watch her new show, Missing, at 8 p.m. on ABC or her beloved Cats in their first game in the NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky is supposed to tip off at 6:50 p.m. against the winner of Tuesday night’s game between Western Kentucky University and Mississippi Valley State. So, the choice is the Cats or watch Judd kick some butt as an ex-CIA agent on a desperate search for her son.
“What a pickle,” Judd replied. “Are you kidding? I’m going to watch Kentucky Wildcats.”
Bambury pointed out that Judd has already seen the show.
Before the Cat quandary came up, Judd talked about the physical task of filming the action drama, which has her doing stunts such as jumping into the Seine River for a swim and running a lot.
Judd said her husband, Indy race car driver Dario Franchitti, teased her about the running, which she apparently does not do much.
“My husband, when he saw the show, said, ‘Look doll, evidence. You were filmed running. It has happened before,’” Judd recalled.
Correction: The original version of this post misstated the time of the Missing premiere.
Alltech gave more than half-a-million dollars in scholarships to potential students in the University of Kentucky’s voice program on Sunday in the seventh annual Alltech Vocal Scholarship Competition.
The competition is sort of like if prospective UK basketball players came to campus and engaged in a public competition for spots on the team. Prospective UK opera students sang for a panel of judges and an opera-loving audience in the Singletary Center for the Arts concert hall, the top winners in the graduate and undergraduate divisions collecting full-ride scholarships and cash stipends, contingent on their attending the University of Kentucky.
In something of a transitional year for UK Opera, the competition is bringing some new faces to campus such as graduate winner Thomas Gunther who hails from the highly regarded University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He earned a full ride, $12,000 and a graduate assistantship. The second place winner was Kathrin M. Thawley from Salisbury University in Maryland who won a full scholarship, $8,000 and a graduate assistantship. Rounding out the graduate division was Andrea Pearson of Oberlin Conservatory, who won $5,000.
In the undergraduate division, the winner was Catherine Wright of Lexington Catholic High School who won $6,000 and a tuition waiver. Second place Alyssa- Marie Detterich of Orange County High School of the Arts, Santa Ana, Calif., won $3,000 and a tuition waiver, and third place winner Austin Vitaliano of Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire, Ill., won $2,000.
Rounding out the winners list was a variety of awards:
Outstanding Transfer Award, $3,000 plus tuition waiver: Brittany Jones of Louisville’s Bellarmine University
Mr. William L. Rouse III “The Barbara Rouse Kentucky Prize,” for a student born or educated in Kentucky, $5,000 – Hyeonjeong Kim
The Gail Robinson Musicianship Award, $2,000 – Whitney Myers
Undergraduate Enthusiasm Award, $1,000 – Tanner Hoertz
Undergraduate Musicianship Award, $1,000 – Tomer Eres
Graduate Musicianship Award, $1,000- Wanessa Rodrigues
Undergraduate Encouragement Award, $1,000 – Laura Powell
Graduate Encouragement Award, $1,000 – Aline Araújo
Transfer Student Encouragement Award, $1,000 – Marvin Myer McCoy of Bowie State University, Bowie, Md.
If history holds true to form, these are likely to be names we will see in upcoming University of Kentucky Opera Theatre productions. Previous Alltech scholarship winners include Julie LaDouceur, who emceed the competition, Reginald Smith Jr. and Amanda Balltrip.
Seth Meyers reads the faux news every week on the biggest stage for American comedy, NBC’s Saturday Night Live, and he’s performed for President Barack Obama and other prestigious audiences. But really, as we learned at the Singletary Center for the Arts on Monday night, he’s just a slob like all of us, prone to making an idiot of himself when he meets the president.
“I said to myself, ‘Be cool,’ and you know you’re about to not be cool when you’re telling yourself to be cool,” Meyers told the audience that packed the 1,500-seat concert hall at the University of Kentucky. “George Clooney doesn’t go around telling himself to be cool all the time.”
Meyers went on to describe the ways he embarrassed himself when he met Obama. The first time, when the then-presidential candidate appeared in an SNL skit, Meyers, who is the show’s head writer, instructed the president on how to take off a Halloween mask, “something most children do every year,” Meyers noted. The second time, he managed to slap his girlfriend’s hand away when the president was about to greet her before Meyers’ appearance at the 2011 White House Correspondent’s Dinner.
Meyers’ appearance at UK, one of several stand-up shows he’s doing on his week off from SNL, was a mix of topical humor, similar to his Weekend Update segments, and self-deprecating slices of his life, like the time he got into a bar fight after unleashing his sarcasm on the wrong fellow drunk (it did not end well for Meyers).
The 75-minute set didn’t break any new ground in comedy, but it did keep the audience in stitches for much of the show and proved Meyers to be adept at a number of comic forms: jokes, stories, spontaneous humor. The strength of his act is riffing on shared experiences with the audience, such as a hilarious bit about the minuscule amount of French he retained from middle school and college.
Meyers had some jokes specific to the UK student crowd, like informing the freshman in the audience that not everyone gets to leave after a year for a job making millions of dollars.
“The NBA is the only place where they like it if you went to Kentucky for just one year,” Meyers said, noting a student could not go to a bank after a year of college and have them say, “Welcome to the management team.”
Though the 38-year-old is well-removed from his college years, Meyers was still in touch with his youth with stories like his and his friends efforts to catch a glimpse of nudity on late-night Cinemax movies when they were 13. “We celebrated like technicians at Mission Control, if Mission Control was worried about waking up their parents,” he said, and then mimed high fives and touchdown signals.
Monday night, Meyers proved that as entertaining as he can be live from New York, he was even funnier live in Lexington.
Before Thanksgiving break, University of Kentucky choirs director Jefferson Johnson told his fellow musicians in the GrassKats, “If UK beats Tennessee, I’m going to rewrite Rocky Top.”
The GrassKats are a Bluegrass ensemble featuring Johnson on fiddle and vocals that plays at the UK choirs annual Collage: A Holiday Spectacular. Sure enough, the Cats did beat the Volunteers for the first time in 26 years, and the audience at the Collage concerts Saturday and Sunday got to hear Johnson make good on his promise to mess with the Tennessee song.
“I know when we started playing it there were people wondering, ‘What are they doing? You don’t play Rocky Top in Kentucky,’” Johnson said Monday.
It soon became clear that this version, Santy Claus, was going in a different direction.
The choice lyric, “Now I’ve got my gift from Santy Claus, it’s been 26 years!” brought a big cheer from the near-sold out crowd in the Singletary Center for the Arts Concert Hall.
Here are the complete lyrics from the song, sung of course to the tune of Rocky Top – surely you’ve heard it.
Rocky Top (Santy Claus)
New words by Jefferson Johnson
Vs. 1: Wish that I was with Ol Santy Claus, High in the North Pole hills.
Most folks never seen Ol Santy Claus, Reckon they never will.
Vs. 2: Once I wrote a letter to Santy Claus, Askin for a special thang.
Wrote me back and said “Son you’re crazy cause, That’ll take YEARS to brang.
Santy Claus, you’ll always be, a special friend to me.
Good Ol’ Santy Claus.
Santy Claus don’t forget me, Santy Claus don’t forget me.
Break: (verse and chorus) banjo, guitar, fiddle
Vs. 3: Its been years since I wrote Santy Claus, I’ve been cryin real tears.
Now I’ve got my gift from Santy Claus, ITS BEEN 26 YEARS!.
Santy Claus, you’ll always be, A special friend to me
THANK YOU Santy Claus.
For bringin my gift to me, Santy Claus remembered me.
TAG: WE BEAT TENNESSEE
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