Monday, January 15, 2018

January Jubilee

This week is already upon us, it seems. After last week's Chamber Classics concert and the Indiana Jones production, there are at least three concerts to look forward to. At the Tennessee Theatre TONIGHT will be the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Concert at 6:00 pm. Aaron Staple and alto Doris Talley will grace the stage once again for a stirring offering under the direction of Maestro Demirjian. The Carpetbag Theatre under the direction of Linda Parris-Bailey will perform- Black Atticus and Rhea Sunshine (pictured below) are featured. You may remember Rhea's dynamic poetry at the inaugural KSO Unstaged event at The Standard in November. The concert is free, as is parking at the State Street Parking Garage. So, with an eye to post-concert victuals, take advantage of your free spot (and the early show time) to make it Not Just Another Monday Night.



That same parking spot, or one just like it, would serve you well this coming Thursday or Friday when we shall offer a treasure of a symphony, Dvorak's 8th. I don't know where to start to describe the effect of this, the final work by Dvorak to be published before his move to America in 1892. One very important thing to note is that the cellos are heavily featured, bearing as they do the themes of the outer movements. (Not that I'm biased or anything...) Dvorak's musical palette was about to take on American affectations, but this Symphony is ground-breaking even in advance of that. The delicious dissonances that pepper the work are stock-in-trade for present-day pop composers and songwriting teams (cough cough The Beatles). The waltzy third movement is just one big, giant face-melting opportunity; look for two appearances of the “chord of life” just before a fermata in the trio section of that movement. The work as a whole is performed just once for every two or three times that Dvorak's “New World” is played, and in my book, that is just wrong.


Also on the program will be works of Brahms, Smetana, Adam Schoenberg and Queen, in partnership with Project Trio. This ensemble of flute, cello and bass brings a new vitality to the genre of soloing ensembles, and who can resist a work that is entitled Bohemian Rhapsody for Solo Viola and Symphonic Orchestra? Thursday and Friday night's concerts start at 7:30. 

Stay warm, y'all!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Midwinter Night's Theme

Okay, my fingers have thawed out enough to type a bit here.

2018 will start with a bang! January's schedule promises to create its own body heat with SEVEN different programs. Just over the horizon lay the Chamber Classics concert, a gathering of lively friends which will take place Sunday, January 7 at 2:30 at the beautiful Powell Recital Hall on the UT campus. The Principal Woodwind Quintet will begin with Samuel Barber's hearty Summer Music, Barber's only chamber work for winds. Principal flutist Hannah Hammel will then join the Principal String Quartet for music of Arthur Foote; his Scherzo and Night Piece from 1923. Foote was a member of the “Second New England School,” a Boston-centric squad of composers which included Amy Beach and Edward MacDowell, and his music is strongly reminiscent of Puccini and Debussy.

The closing work will be Beethoven's op. 20 Septet in E-flat. A septet is a rarely found array of forces, and instrumentation is not standardized. Only Ludwig Spohr, Saint-Saens and Stravinsky have attempted that combo with any success (and I use the term “success” loosely). Beethoven's band is clarinet, horn, bassoon, bass, and string quartet. He somehow managed to find the time between composing his first SIX quartets (op. 18) and his First Symphony (op. 21) to squeeze out this gem. Its six short movements identify it as a Serenade, reminiscent of his own op. 8 string trio and of many such works by Mozart. Tickets here.

The chamber music will continue to shine on Wednesday and Thursday nights, January 10 and 11 with the Concertmaster and Friends at the KMA. These 7:00 p.m. shows will feature music by Kendall Briggs, Mozart and J.S. Bach in a program of duets, with Katy Gawne, viola and Gordon Tsai and Zofia Glashauser, violins. Tickets here or $25 general admission at the door.



Wow, that's just the first 11 days of the year. We aim to start your year off right, and the hits just keep coming. HAPPY NEW YEAR, Y'ALL!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Put the KSO Under Your Tree!

It's six days before Christmas. Oops, wait, make that four. You haven't bought anything for anyone yet. If you do order something today, it's going to arrive sometime in January. Unless, of course, you order them KSO tickets! There's bound to be something coming up soon on our calendar that your giftees will appreciate. I will save you the trouble of Googling it all by listing some of them here.

January 13th at 8:00, we will be going to Indiana. Indiana Jones, that is, as we present Raiders of the Lost Ark in Concert with a live orchestral soundtrack! We will convey another of composer John Williams' masterful enhancements of on-screen action in the Civic Auditorium for just one night.



Speaking of John Williams, who can resist the spellbinding music that accompanies the Harry Potter saga… If you missed it back in October (or even if you didn't), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is coming to a theatre near you. Specifically, the Civic Auditorium on January 27th at 7:30 and 28th at 1:30. Don't throw that old broom out, it might have something left in it...

What Vol fan does not recognize the opening bars of Carl Orff's scenic cantata Carmina Burana? The Pride of the Southland Band has been playing this for years as a rave-up for fans. Come to our production of this fascinating work on March 15th or 16th at the Tennessee Theatre at 7:30 and you'll discover that there is much more to this composition than the minute-and-a-half soundbite that echoes throughout Neyland Stadium on fall Saturdays. A combination of provocative rhythms, captivating vocals, vivid libretto, and sparkling orchestration is putty in Orff's hands. Our last production of this was in April '07 and it sold out, so order early to avoid disappointment! Plus Orff and I share the same birthday…

Looking ahead to next season, the tradition of collaborating with UT's Clarence Brown Theater continues with a production of Bernstein's Candide, running from August 29th to September 16th, 2018. The October 2012 production of the Candide Suite was a was a prophetic tease for this fully-equipped offrande from CBT & KSO. Bernstein's take on Voltaire's 1759 novella is full of both artists' wit and wisdom, and what better way to celebrate Bernstein's 100th birthday?


Anyways, it's probably going to be after Christmas 'til you hear from me again, so celebrate safe and well. Happy Holidays from all of the KSO family!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Faster and Faster

The Christmas season has us in its embrace! You may have noticed in your travels some people moving so fast that they are just blurs, with musical instruments in tow. There is a plethora-and-a-half of additional work for musicians this time of year. Some of it is contracted as early as July! I believe the record for one day is SIX engagements, although there are still lessons to teach and families to feed. Our schedules are finally sculpted masterpieces of precision that only the most lethal weather can alter. A time allowance is always made, however, for visiting the receptions at these gigs. Let me tell you, there are some great cooks out there! Sausage balls, pfeffernΓΌsse, Christmas bark, the list goes on and on. Savvy giggers bring empty leftover containers, and in the true spirit of the season, the locals encourage us to fill them! The amazing array of refreshments help us shun the Burger King drive-through, in addition to atoning for the occasional underprepared choir, cheesy arrangements or clueless choir director.

The KSO's focus this time of year is to bring classy, classic holiday tunes on a large scale. The annual Clayton Holiday Concerts have set a high standard in our community for quality seasonal music. This year, the 31st in the run, is no exception, with the theme of the concerts being Music from the Movies. A “heavenly host” of ensembles will join the KSO, including the Knoxville Choral Society, the Knoxville Handbell Festival Ringers, Go! Contemporary Danceworks and the Farragut High School Ensemble. A certain circumpolar resident will also bring his extensive, high-spirited retinue to the stage. These concerts will be presented at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium at 7:30 pm on December 15 and 16, and at 3:00 on December 16 and 17.  Tickets here.




The immediate focus of the orchestra is our continuing collaboration with the Appalachian Ballet Company's production of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker this Friday at 7:30 and Saturday at 3:00 at the Clayton Center for the Arts on the campus of Maryville College. A story that never gets old, this marks the ABC's 46th annual production of the ballet, accompanied by the KSO for the last 44 years. This is an amazing, durable partnership, the like of which is seldom seen in markets our size. Often when a recording of the Nutcracker Suite is heard, the tempi are so quick that you have to ask yourself how anyone could dance to something that fast. Still, I have noticed that the tempi in many of the faster dances have been bumped up; this can be seen as a subtle tribute to the steadily growing quality of the dance troop.


Hope to see you there!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Look at Tomorrow and a Look Back

With Black Friday behind us, (wait, black for whom!?) we can now turn our attention to the more spiritual aspects of the Holiday season.  I trust that none of you “took chips” in line at Best Buy or Kohl's, or rammed the car that took the last parking spot at Walmart.  Having survived this commemoration of consumerism, you owe it to yourself to have your ears filled with the joyous sounds of the season, brought to you by the Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestra and the Webb School's Madrigal Singers.  I hope you acted in a timely fashion, though, because it appears that this concert, today at 2:30 at the Bijou, is SOLD OUT.

If you WERE lucky enough to be an early bird and score tickets to this concert, here's what you have to look forward to.  The Webb Madrigal Singers, under the direction of LeAnne Johnson, are in high demand this time of year for performances of sacred and secular music.  Their share of the concert is substantial; they will partake in the final nine selections.  Highlights of this involvement are the Hallelujah Chorus and Glory to God from Handel's Messiah, the “Shepherds' Farewell” from Berlioz' oratorio L'enfance du Christ, and a wacky a capella arrangement of The Twelve Days of Christmas. This arrangement, credited to the a capella group Straight No Chaser, reweaves the traditional Twelve Days text into a crazy choral quilt by incorporating quotes from five or six other carols, the Dreidel Song, and even Toto's 1982 hit Africa.  Instrumental numbers include Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on 'Greensleeves,' Tchaikovsky's Christmas Waltz and the Farandole from Bizet's L'Arlesienne Suite.  I never knew the Bizet had lyrics!  You learn something every day.



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Let's take a look back at a couple fun November KSO events…

The Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestras presented their Fall concerts on Monday the 13th. 



Red scarves and neckties lent an extra touch of class to Kathy Hart's Sinfonia ensemble. The Philharmonia orchestra, directed by Nina Mikos, had teal accents. (photo courtesy of Sarah Gimbel).


James Fellenbaum's Youth Symphony did a tremendous job with Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio espagnol. I especially relished the performance because I played the work in my youth orchestra. (photo courtesy of Hahn Choo).


Sean Claire (far right) performed Mendelssohn's "other" Violin Concerto (in D) with the Youth Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Wesley Baldwin (far left). Center three (left to right) are Kathy Hart, Preludium orchestra director Erin Archer, and Jim Fellenbaum.

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The KSO UnStaged event on the previous Thursday was an unqualified success, with its diverse intimate performance stations across The Standard's wonderful facility.



Beer was the overture to this concert, with Knox Brew Tours meister Zack Roskop speaking on the brewer's art...


… and photo-bombing some musicians celebrating the triumph…


A new work by composer Annika Socolovsky (standing at left two photos up) was commissioned for the event. Here percussionist Bob Adamcik hones his bowed vibraphone technique prior to the performance.


Violinists Ruth Bacon Edewards, Robyn Quinette, violist Jennifer Bloch and cellist Ildar Khuziakhmetov perform The Eurhythmics' Sweet Dreams Are Made of This.






Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Warm Tunes for Cold November Nights

The November Masterworks concert pair this Thursday and Friday at the Tennessee Theatre boasts three essential masterpieces.  Beethoven's Violin Concerto will be in the unusual lead-off spot, with two tone poems following intermission; Richard Strauss's Death and Transfiguration, and Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet.  Any of these works could either open or close a concert, and their content is gripping.

Beethoven's concerto for violin is a towering work in its genre, although it had a rocky start. Beethoven finished writing the solo violin part the day of the premiere, so that the soloist and dedicatee, Franz Clement, had to sightread parts of it at the performance!   Needless to say, these less-than-ideal conditions led to an unsuccessful debut, and the work lay in relative obscurity until 1844. At that time, 12-year-old Joseph Joachim resuscitated the work in London under the baton of Felix Mendelssohn.  Joachim would later become a close friend of Brahms, collaborating on the later master's violin concerto and contributing the work's cadenza.   Luckily, guest soloist Paul Huang will have had much more time to prepare than Franz Clement did back in the day.

Death and Transfiguration is a deceptively macabre title for a work that is chock-full of both energy and profound beauty.  Strauss's command of orchestration is just jaw-dropping, and guest maestro Joshua Gersen has his finger on the pulse of the composer's intentions.  The phrase “tone poem” has come to be a catch-all term for a programmatic work that is longer than an overture but usually shorter than a symphony.  It isn't that the music is particularly rhyme-y; it might as easily be called a “tone saga,” or “tone mural.”  Tchaikovsky's Overture-Fantasy “Romeo and Juliet” touches on all the moods and nerves of Shakespeare's drama, thanks to some of his most poignant coloristic writing. Check out the muted violas and second violins about 5 minutes in.  It is the most beautiful musical depiction of bullfrogs in the moonlight, serenading the two lovers. 

Performances are Thursday, Nov. 16 and Friday, Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Tennessee Theatre. Tickets found here.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Novemberfest

Anyone who has lived in this town for more than 10 or 15 years cannot deny the spectacular growth that the city has experienced in that period.  This “crescendo” has been encapsulated by the boom in craft breweries, ignited by a national trend thereto.  Knoxville currently boasts at least ten of these institutions, where ten years ago there might have been one.  The KSO has partnered with several of them in presenting a new and unique music-centric experience called “UnStaged.”  The idea is to bring classical music away from the concert hall, and present it in a more intimate setting in a more informal and thirst-quenching way.

Two promotional performances – “appetizers” – have already taken place at beer terminals in town, and a third is just a couple days away.  On October 5, cellist Stacy Nickell and violinists Ruth Bacon Edewards and Rachel Loseke performed at the Pretentious Beer Company on Central Ave. in the Old City.  The late Classical music patriarch of Knoxville, Norris Dryer, would have been so proud knowing that not only has a brewpub opened up below his old apartment, but also that classical music was being played there!  On the following Thursday, principal bassist Steve Benne, principal oboist Claire Chenette, and violinist Zofia Glashauser performed WAY out west at the Blackhorse Pub and Brewery.  Coming up this Thursday, November 2nd at 5:30, principal bassoonist Aaron Apaza, principal flutist Hannah Hammel and violist Eunsoon Corliss will hold court at the Casual Pint of Downtown at 421 Union Ave., next to the Oliver Hotel.


The main UnStaged event will take place on Thursday, November 9th at 7 pm at The Standard on Jackson Avenue in the Old City (next to Sweet P's Barbecue).  Compositions for various-sized ensembles will be performed in two different performance spaces within the venue, including Mozart's Symphony no. 40 and Milhaud's La creation du monde.  Beers from Alliance Brewing Co., Blackhorse Brewery, Crafty Bastard Brewery and Last Days of Autumn Brewing Co. will be featured.  Food will be tastefully provided by Knoxville caterer Nancy Kendrick, and between sets, the members of the KSO will mingle with concertgoers beer devotees.  The event is funded in part by a generous grant from the American Orchestras' Future Fund, a program of the League of American Orchestras. Tickets are here and include tastings from said brewers.



Outside looking in on the Oct. 5 Pretentious Beer Co event