Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Back to School with KSYO



335 students to play in Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra this year

A new school year kicks off of the 42nd season of Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra. The Association, which includes 5 youth orchestras, consists of students ages 6 - 18 of all skill levels. We had RECORD-BREAKING numbers of kids audition this year, and 335 were accepted into the KSYO! 

82% of these students reside in Knox County, and will get to work with professional musicians and coaches as they practice their instrument. Students will rehearse weekly throughout the school year and perform 4 concerts, free to attend. Did you know we had this overwhelming number of talented young musicians in Knoxville?

Many thanks to all the judges and wranglers of the audition process - and a huge shoutout to all the students and parents who ensured many hours of practice over the summer! Have a great year.

Here are some students at their auditions, held in August.

 

    


Here are some snapshots from a 2014 KSYO concert.




This post authored by Rachel Dellinger, KSO Director of Communications.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tickets, Youth Orchestras, and Ageeana

The time has finally arrived, and the KSO's season and tickets are on sale now! While Monday was the launch date, handling fees will be waived on phone orders until this Friday the 21st. A cavalcade of guest conductors will be appearing throughout the year. It will be an eventful season as we seek a new director to pilot us through the unfamiliar yet beautiful waters ahead. Don't forget that Penny4Arts is still around. Under this plan a child can attend a KSO concert (or events presented by a host of other arts groups in town) for a penny, when accompanied by a paying adult. Kids fly free!

It's perhaps on the late side if your child wants to audition, but the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra will be holding auditions this coming weekend. The KSYO braintrust is preparing for the group's 42nd year of performances, which will be November 16, February 14 and 15, and May 2. Information and repertoire can be found on the website or by clicking here.

-------------------------------------------***************************------------------------------------------

Only someone living in a math-deprived world would fail to notice that this is the figurative 100th anniversary of Knoxville's musical badge, Knoxville: Summer of 1915, written by Samuel Barber in 1947 and excerpting James Agee's prologue to A Death in the Family. I've been surfing for information on where James Agee's life began-- and also where his father's ended. It is interesting to think on these places when listening to the work. Two tremendous sources of knowledge than on these matters are the blogger commonly known as Knoxville Urban Guy, and Knoxville historian and writer Jack Neely.

A few years ago, KUG posted something about the site of Agee'schildhood home, which is now called James Agee Park in the Fort Sanders neighborhood, at Clinch Ave. From time to time, events are held here in celebration of the flag-bearer of Knoxville's literary heritage. While that particular block of the Fort has been given over to student housing over the past century, a block more evocative of that era might be the 1600 block of Forest Ave. Perhaps Agee's childhood friends resided there.


As for the accident that took Hugh James Agee's life in 1916 and inspired his son's Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel A Death in the Family, the location is not particularly glamorous, but certainly storied. Jack Neely is arguably Knoxville's most well-versed person in Ageeana, by dint of research for his Secret History columns in the Knoxville Mercury and its predecessor, the MetroPulse. The intersection of Clinton Highway and Emory Rd. is as close as modern configuration can determine the accident site. For years, Jack and others would congregate at the Checker Flag Sports Bar and toast the tragic event-- he has even spoken to someone who remembered the accident. Here is a MetroPulse  article (amazingly still available), mourning the closing of the Checker Flag four years ago.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Rap on Clapping

Concert-goers new to the classical scene are always asking, “when can I clap?” In pondering an answer to this question, I came across some interesting facts and trends on various websites of symphony orchestras and record companies, and even some discrepancies as to the basis for the tradition. One source claims that the idea of saving applause for after the final movement of a piece is actually a pretty recent (only the last 50 years or so) phenomenon, while another says that the protocol is firmly rooted in the German tradition, dating back to Mozart's time.

How you might react at a concert should not be something to stress over. It's not your fault that composers wrote works in such a way as to “fake you out,” with false endings only a third of the way through a work. The tendency worldwide is to favor between-movement applause, especially after big endings where it is hard not to applaud, but not as an obligation after every single movement, regardless of its level of finality. After a movement that ends quietly, it is preferred that there be no applause, as the silence between movements here serves as a tension builder. When an entire work ends quietly, it is extremely jarring when one or maybe two attendees clap before the final note has even faded away. When this happens, the applauders, or shouters of “Bravo,” become performers, proving to all that they know when the work is over. (Or perhaps that they are following along in a score to the work). There are no awards for being the first person to clap; if there is any doubt, it's ok to be a follower and not a leader; the conductor will put down his baton and turn around and bow. I feel safe in quoting Billy Joel here; “Leave a tender moment alone.” Like most musicians, I cherish that span of silence that lay between the final placid note and the first pair of clapping hands. In any case, if someone's applause bothers you at a concert, it is NOT ok to express your dismay by giving them the hairy eyeball.

Let's look at some other questions that surface from time to time. I have used the terms “movement,” “piece,” and “work” above, but never the word “song.” To hear iTunes tell the story, everything that has sound is a “song,” whether it is a 5-hour Wagner Opera, a Bach cantata, or one of those little 20-second snippets of song on the Beatles' Let It Be album (like Dig It). Sure, iTunes, whatever. The concert hall reality is that classical composers write works (think “work of art”) or pieces, which may have several sections or movements. They may write song cycles, literally an album of songs, but that album as a body is referred to as a piece or a work.

Confusion happens when there are differing styles and tempi within an individual movement. Prokofiev did this a lot. It can also happen when two movements are linked together. (Musicians call this practice attacca, Italian for “attached”). In my first season here, maestro Kirk Trevor conducted Brahms 4th Symphony with the final two movements linked very seamlessly, and when the Thursday night performance was over, (thinking the third movement was actually 16 minutes long), no one clapped! He had to step off of the podium and bow to convince the audience that there was not another movement forthcoming. The Friday night show utilized a somewhat longer pause between the third and fourth movements.

I think we can all agree that, applause or not, there is no worse interrupter of a classical concert than a cell phone going off. We depend on the audience to be sticklers for silencing their phones, and for not answering them (but silencing them discreetly) if they do ring. I refer you to a scene in the 2000 Woody Allen film, Small Time Crooks, wherein Tracey Ullman answers a cellphone call in the middle of a cello recital. It's a ridiculously funny social commentary, brought off as only Woody can.

My words here are by no means the gospel on this subject. Here are a couple webpages whose content I found useful. NeoClassical is a blog by Holly Mulcahy, concertmaster of the Chattanooga Symphony. I especially liked that she had advice for experienced concert-goers and newbies alike, with some special guidelines for conductors. And this Colorado Public Radio story gives some historical background to the differing customs regarding this issue.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Apprentices and Assistants: An Overview

Since my arrival here in 1986, the KSO has had a succession of apprentice and assistant conductors who have brought new approaches and twists to the podium while learning the tricks of the trade.  I thought it would be interesting to dig a little bit to see the achievements these folks have made.  I can't tell you how much easier the internet makes this task.

Sergio Bernal was the apprentice conductor during my second season with the KSO, 1987-88.  His easy-going manner and Latin charm won over the musicians, who claimed him as “one of us.” He has been busy ever since- from 1997-2001, he was employed by the National System of Orchestras in Venezuela (aka El Sistema), of which our Principal Second Violinist Edward Pulgar is a product.  Since 2001, he has been the Music Director of the Utah State University Symphony Orchestra in Logan, UT.




Sergio Bernal before... (center, with shades, at a bad taste party in 1989)


and today.

Russell Vinick was the first musician I met in Knoxville who came from the same central Connecticut primordial soup as me.  It was such a relief to finally be able to go get a grinder (known as a “sub” or a “hoagie” most everywhere else) with someone and reminisce about the 1978 Hartford Civic Center roof collapse.  Today, Russ lives in Chicago and is the Music Director of (among other things) the Chicago Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, “Chicago's original community orchestra.”



Russ Vinick

Up until the mid-90s, the presence of an apprentice conductor was solely at the discretion of Maestro Trevor, but starting in 1995 (I THINK), the KSO instituted an official apprentice conductor position.  Tuba player Sande MacMorran was the official assistant conductor, whose job was to conduct rehearsals in the Maestro's absence, or to take to the podium so that the Maestro could hear orchestra balance from out in the house to check balance.  This situation was inherently awkward, since an orchestra member's part would then be missing from the mix- and the tuba is an important element in that mix.  I am a little sketchy on the exact dates the apprentices were in town, but I'm petty sure they are as follows.

A native of Dawson Creek, BC, Charles Demuynck is currently a composer and conductor heard throughout Canada and the US.  My stand partner at the time (1995-96), Carey Cheney, was also a Canuck, and the two of them were always reminiscing about good times in the “old country.”  Charles is now Music Director of the Oakville (ON) Chamber Orchestra, and is in heavy demand in the Toronto area.


Charles Demuynck

Conductor-violinist Navroj “Nuvi” Mehta came to Knoxville for the 1996-97 season.  Nuvi had the distinction of having the longest arms I have ever seen on a conductor (rivaling Leif Seigerstam), and his performance of David Diamonds Rounds for String Orchestra was an exciting experience.  He has been the Director of Educational Outreach for the San Diego Chamber Orchestra since 1999, and continues to be involved with the San Diego Symphony.   He can be seen here in a podcast interview for a performance of Beethoven's 5th by the SDSO.


Nuvi Mehta


Tara Simoncic was here for the 1997-98 season, another apprentice who the musicians could relate to and bond with.  Her current activities take her all over the world, but she is probably most well-known as the long-time conductor for the Louisville Ballet's annual Nutcracker performances.


Tara Simoncic


Our apprentice conductor for 1998-99 was Rufus Jones, Jr.  Rufus was a studious conductor with a passion for the music of African-American composers such as William Grant Still and Samuel Coleridge Taylor.  After his stint with the KSO, he went on to guest conduct near and far, including the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (Musical May) in Florence, Italy, but his major focus has been on research in the area of African-American conductors and composers.  You may have seen him on PBS's Tavis Smiley just a couple weeks ago, on which he plugged his new book entitled Dean Dixon: Negro at Home, Maestro Abroad.  The book explores the fascinating yet tragic life and career of Dean Dixon, the first African-American conductor to lead the New York Philharmonic. Here is that interview.


Rufus Jones, Jr.

Daniel Meyer was enlisted as the KSO's apprentice conductor for the 1999-2000 season.  The orchestra's strong financial condition fostered the creation of a new Assistant Conductor position, with former Assistant Sande MacMorran now Associate Conductor.  Dan's confidence and ability on the podium were such that he was hired in that capacity.  I will always remember his performances of the Young People's Concerts, in which I played The Swan from Saint-Saëns' Carnival of the Animals.  When Maestro Lucas Richman was selected as Music Director of the KSO in 2003, he essentially traded places with Dan, who assumed the Assistant Conductor position with the Pittsburgh Symphony which Maestro Richman had vacated to come here.  Currently the Music Director of both the Erie Philharmonic and the Asheville Symphony, Dan somehow found the time in March of 2011 to return to Knoxville to conduct the KSO in Holst's The Planets.


Daniel Meyer

Swiss native Cornelia Laemmli Orth brought a refined European style, an effervescent sense of humor, and an unflagging, sincere smile to the podium in 2002.  Her tenure here tided the orchestra over during the transition between Maestro Trevor's and Maestro Richman's Music Directorships.  In the years since her appointment, Cornelia has been Music Director of the Oak Ridge Symphony and the Symphony of the Mountains (formerly the Kingsport Symphony) in upper East Tennessee.  Since the apprentice conductor post was discontinued during Maestro Richman's tenure, her proximity to Knoxville has fortunately resulted in repeat engagements with the KSO on Pops concerts and run-outs.


Cornelia Laemmli Orth

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Pops, Pops and More Pops! (corrected)

While the KSO Masterworks Series has a lot to offer with its all-star repertoire and its parade of guest maestros, the Pops Series packs a wallop, too, with six concerts that run the gamut of popular culture and music.

Starting with a bang is the “Classical Night Fever,” a 70s disco revue that will whisk you away to the days of dance floor derring-do, platform shoes and disco balls. Our guest ensemble, Motor Booty Affair, keeps a busy schedule around their Maine home base, but they will board their flying funk machine to the Tennessee Theatre on FRIDAY, Oct 2nd at 8:00. (Please note that except for this one, all of the subsequent Pops concerts will be Saturday nights, and will start at 8:00 at the Knoxville Civic  Auditorium).

1940 was a great year for movies, with The Great Dictator, The Grapes of Wrath, The Philadelphia Story and Foreign Correspondent all capturing the imagination of adult viewers, and Pinocchio  and The Blue Bird  charming the kids. One movie was released, however, that won over movie-goers of all ages, and that was Fantasia,  celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.  On January 16th, 2016, the KSO will be providing music to scenes from Fantasia, including Mickey Mouse's ever-popular Sorcerer Scene. IMDb has a lotto say about this wonderful film, and also provides some interesting trivia.

As a prelude to Valentine's Day, the KSO will present songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein on February 13th. Wouldn't It Be Loverly if you took your sweetie to the Civic to hear love songs and songs you love? (Say yes). Tunes by other Rodgers collaborators, such as Lorenz Hart and Jerome Kern, will also be performed, adding up to what will surely be Some Enchanted Evening.

The Fifth Dimension will grace us with a return engagement on March 12, 20 years after their first appearance with us in May of 1995. Their 60s and 70s hits are baby-boomer anthems, hearkening back to a pre-Auto-Tune era when what you heard was what you got.

In 1975, I bought my first stereo, and was thus indoctrinated into the world of record collecting. My first purchases were Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, by Elton John, and Led Zeppelin IV. I wore out that Led Zep album, trying to unlock the secrets of Jimmy Page's guitar playing, while my parents wondered when I would unlock my cello case. On April 9, Windborne (who brought us The Music of Queen this past April) will be back, this time with a program of Led Zeppelin's music. This very first of Windborne's productions is now in its 20th year, and features gritty Classic Rock hymns such as Kashmir, Black Dog, Stairway to Heaven, and Good Times, Bad Times. I don't need to add that this will be a GOOD time.

For the grand finale of the News-Sentinel Pops Series, we will be hosting none other than Kenny G! OMG!   If songs like Yakety Sax and Junior Walker's Shotgun helped put the saxophone on the pop map, Kenny G built an entire empire based upon the sax. Songs like The Moment, Songbird and Forever in Love are staples in a genre that really only includes him.  This smooth jazz feast will take place on May 7th.



Sunday, July 12, 2015

Summer Reading List, Part 2


Where were we, I guess it was January! Personally, the bulk of next season's uncharted (by me) territory will be trod by the end of January. After that, the repertoire tends to be more familiar and includes some more of my all-time favorites. On the 21st and 22nd at the Tennessee Theatre, our guest conductor, Aram Demirjian, will lead the orchestra in an eclectic program that begins with music of John Adams and Gyorgy Ligeti. My favorite violin concerto, the Bruch, will follow, spotlighting violinist Philippe Quint, and what better way to get you over the January blues than Beethoven's radiant 7th Symphony? The 2nd movement Allegretto is as perfect a piece of music as has ever been written; if you have seen The Fall, Mr. Holland's Opus, The Darjeeling Limited, or The King's Speech, then you've heard it and know what I am talking about. There are probably three dozen movies all told that have sampled it.

Another eclectic Masterworks concert comes along on February, 18th and 19th, this time with guest conductor Eckart Preu. The repertoire comes from Spain-via-Weimar (Strauss' Don Juan), Verona-via-Moscow (Prokofiev's Suite from the Romeo and Juliet ballet), and..... Seymour!? Yessiree, Heritage High graduate Jennifer Higdon's blue cathedral is the most-performed orchestral work written in the last 25 years. In the classical realm people say “Higdon” as they would “Strauss” or “Mozart,” especially now that she has won a Pulitzer Prize for her Violin Concerto. Anyway, the wingspan of this repertoire will have us burning the midnight oil, for sure.

Mention the words “Brahms Sextet,” around string players, and they will coo. Both of his sextets are lush and captivating earlier works of his that set the bar out of reach for their genre. Gabe Lefkowitz and Friends performed the B-flat sextet in March of 2014, and will complete the cycle on April 6th and 7th at the Knoxville Museum of Art with the G Major Sextet. Coooo.... Gabe will return to the spotlight on the April 24th Chamber Classics concert, soloing on the Mozart G Major concerto. This concert, directed by Resident Conductor James Fellenbaum, will conclude with Dvorak's Serenade for Strings. As radiant as the Beethoven 7th but on a smaller scale, you can practically smell the kolaches during the 2nd movement Tempo di Valse.

By May, we will mostly likely have chosen a new Music Director.  Many things will be learned and revealed about the candidates, and I am really looking forward to the process.  The final Masterworks concert on May 12th and 13th will again be led by James Fellenbaum, and will feature Beethoven's longest (and IMHO, best) overture, the Leonore No. 3, with its cockamamie violin outburst and offstage trumpet call.  The concert (and the season) will end with a suite from Wagner's monumental Ring Cycle, music which always pushes the envelope on orchestral achievement.  It's fitting that maestro Fellenbaum gets the last word in on this season, a reward for his tireless, quality work piloting the orchestra between Music Directors, and for his capable and tactful handling of every duty with which the KSO has entrusted him in during his tenure here. We look forward to his continuing presence on the podium and in the community. Way to go, Jim!


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

COME FORTH ON THE FOURTH!

It's just a few days away, the biggest Independence Day celebration and concert since... last year! Saturday night at 8:00 the KSO will take the stage on the Performance Lawn (formerly the South Lawn, apparently) of World's Fair Park to commemorate the USA's 239th birthday. There will be something for everyone at this party, starting at 4:00 pm with the Regal Cinemas' Kids Zone, and music from bands Handsome and the Humbles, Bantum Rooster and Misty River. As usual, there will be an impressive array of food vendors, a flyover at the start of the concert, and of course, those fabulous fireworks will pack a charge! Here is an official link to Festival on the 4th with more details, as well as a Go Knoxville article with many other attractions

The KSO itself has some goodies up their sleeve. Anyone who tweets to @knoxsymphony, or uses the hashtag #KSOJuly4, will automatically be entered to win a pair of tickets to a KSO Masterworks performance of his/her choice. Resident Conductor James Fellenbaum will lead the orchestra in a program of festive favorites like Sousa's El Capitan and Stars and Stripes Forever, an Armed Forces Salute arranged by Bob Lowden, The Pledge of Allegiance, and John Williams' suite of music from The Patriot. Other great tunes you won't want to miss are Let It Go from Frozen, Ashokan Farewell, Selections from The Sound of Music, and a suite from Williams' landmark score to Star Wars.
Our guest will be soprano Katy Wolfe, who will sing the Pledge and Gershwin's Summertime.
Anyone who has attended the KSO's Very Young People's Concerts (where she is Picardy Penguin's charming sidekick), the Sound Company show choir (which she leads), or one of scads of productions involving her at the Clarence Brown Theatre, is acquainted with Katy's talents.


The concert will be rain or shine, and free parking will be available at several area garages- although the 11th street lot, which is closest to the venue, has had some legendary post-concert traffic snarls. Garages on Locust Street, Walnut Street, State Street & Market Square are just a few blocks walk from the show, and there will be ADA Parking at the Fort Kid Parking Lot. Hope to see you there with bells on!