Monday, March 29, 2010

Dancing with the REAL Stars

This Thursday, April 1st, our very own Maestro Lucas Richman will be participating in Knoxville's Dancing with the Stars. The proceeds from the event will raise money for East Tennessee Children's Hospital.

On a personal level, I think East Tennessee Children's Hospital is a terrific place. Of course, you never want your child to wind up there, but if they need medical attention, it is THE place to be. As a parent I have spent enough time at Children's to be on a first name basis with a lot of the staff. My daughter was premature and had a host of complications. In her first three years of life, we spent a lot of time at the hospital, seeing specialists affiliated with the hospital, and going to physical, occupational, and speech therapy at Children's Hospital Rehab Center. Now, at age five, Alice is a normal, healthy, happy little girl. There is no doubt in my mind that we owe this to the hard-working physicians, nurses, therapists and staff of East Tennessee Children's Hospital.

There are a few ways you can participate in Knoxville's Dancing with the Stars. You can attend the event on Thursday and watch Lucas do the Fox Trot. There will be other people dancing too, but we all know that Lucas will be the one to watch! If you can't be there, you can vote for Lucas online. Each vote is only $1. The great thing is, you can start voting NOW before he even dances! Also, no one is limited to a single vote so feel free to stuff the ballot box for this great cause!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


1 out of 8 people in our country do not have enough to eat. Here in East Tennessee the numbers are worse: 1 in 6 people living right here in our community will go to bed hungry tonight. In Knox county alone, this amounts to upward of 47,000 adults, 9,000 seniors and 15,000 children who don't have enough food to eat. As a mother this hurts my heart. It is unacceptable.

Tonight you can help. The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra is once again participating in Orchestras Feeding America National Food Drive. We are collecting non-perishable food to donate to Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee. Last year the symphonies around the country who participated raised over 200,000 pounds of food to donate. Lets see if we can help top that number this year! When you come to the concert tonight, bring a can with you. Heck, bring as much as you can carry! This is the Volunteer state, after all... This may not seem like much to you but it means the world to someone in need. With 1 in 6 people in our community experiencing hunger, chances are great that you know someone who is suffering.

You can find a list of the items most needed by Second Harvest here. We cannot accept food in glass containers or monetary donations at the concert. If you would like to make a monetary donation to Second Harvest, here is where you can contribute.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Random Monday

* This week the KSO will once again be participating in Orchestras Feeding America. We will be collecting canned goods at our concerts on Thursday and Friday. There are children and seniors right here in our community who go to bed hungry because they do not have enough to eat. We can make a direct difference.

* Continuing in the spirit of giving to the community, Lucas will be participating in Knoxville's very own Dancing with the Stars on Thursday, April 1st. Although the event takes place on April Fools Day, it is no joke. This is a fundraiser for East Tennessee Children's Hospital. You can vote with your wallet; every vote costs $1 and all proceeds benefit the hospital. I've never seen Lucas dance, but my guess is he's quite dapper. Vote early and vote often!

* Have you seen these PSA's for the Arts? They seem to have been out for awhile but I've never seen them on television. Knox county is getting ready to ax some more arts programs in the schools. Perhaps they need a good dose of Raisin Brahms or Van Goghgurt.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Tomorrow night the symphony will give a performance in Tellico Village. We go to Tellico every year and it's one of my favorite runouts because it is close and the audience always packs the hall.

The first year I played with the symphony the principal second violinist and I carpooled to Tellico. It was Julie's first year as well so neither of us had been to Tellico. Now, driving directions from the symphony have vastly improved, but at that time they weren't always the greatest. Julie and I had been told horror stories of directions that included instructions such as, "Take I-40 North" or "turn left at the place where they tore down Captain D's." This might have worked out okay for someone who had lived here long enough to know where Captain D's used to be but we were terrified. I pictured us driving down the road searching for the remains of buildings past; unwilling archaeologist-musicians on an impossible quest to find our performance space.

We never got directions quite that bad, but on a previous occasion we had carpooled together to a runout to Lincoln Memorial University, followed the symphony directions, and were quite surprised when we found ourselves heading back toward downtown Knoxville in the absolute wrong direction.

With this experience fresh in our minds we set out for Tellico Village with a lot of extra time. It was a good thing, too, because we needed it. Our directions said to turn right. What they didn't say was that there were two streets with the same name in Tellico Village. We saw the road named on the directions. It was on the left, but we figured the directions were wrong so we turned. It was a bad decision. We found ourselves in a neighborhood. We quickly realized our mistake and flagged down a man mowing his lawn. He wasn't much help and seemed very suspicious of two women dressed head to toe in black formal attire. We started panicking. This was obviously the wrong way but we were on the right road. On a hunch, Julie headed back to the main road. Five minutes farther up we found the second road by the same name, on the right this time. THIS was the correct road. We made it to the concert with a few minutes to spare for warming up.

Now, nine seasons later, I know how to get to Tellico, but tomorrow I plan to take the GPS just in case.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Music for Relaxation

I had a terrible weekend. Usually I can look at things and keep perspective. Once the dust settles on a situation I tend to be a "lets make some lemonade!" kind of girl. Right now I have enough lemons to open a lemonade factory. It wasn't all doom and gloom, though. The pops concert on Saturday was a nice reprieve. (Didn't I tell you it would be a great concert?!) Yesterday afternoon, though, I needed a break. So I turned out the lights and turned on some music.

I'm not a big fan of those "Music for Relaxation" CD's. Listening to Bach's Air on the G String with crickets chirping in the background is just not that relaxing to me. When I want to relax I turn to a variety of music. Yesterday I put on a recording of Erik Satie's Gymnopedies and Gnossiennes for piano. Satie was a French composer and pianist who was writing music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Gymnopedies are his most famous compositions. Written originally for solo piano they have been transcribed for nearly every instrumental combination conceivable from solo instrument with piano to rock band. The pieces are melodically simple with sparse harmonies. The ease and flow of the music is mesmerizing. As I listened to the pieces yesterday I could actually feel the tension leaving my body. It was like having a brain massage. Of course, music didn't reverse my bad weekend. It did put me in a much better humor to deal with things, though.

If you haven't heard any music by Satie, you owe it to yourself to look him up.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bolero for Cello Eight Hands

There is a piece by PDQ Bach for viola four-hands: one viola, two bows, two players. I've wanted to perform it for a long time but have always been discouraged when I try to read it with another player. Staying out of the way of just one other hand and bow is extremely challenging. Four people on the same instrument? Amazing.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Newton's Third Law

The motto "the show must go on" is as applicable to the symphony stage as it is to a Broadway show. Life doesn't stop just because there is a concert. Sometimes the unexpected happens. People get sick, strings break, or Broadway calls.

It is moments like these that lead to greatness. I was not around for the pops concert about 10 years ago when the guest artist suddenly became violently ill right before the performance. I have heard all about it, though. Not because it was a disaster, but because everyone in the symphony banded together and gave a memorable performance on the fly. It has become a KSO legend. The Masterworks concert where Lara St. John broke her E string in the middle of the Shostakovich violin concerto is one of the highlights of my nine seasons with the orchestra. It was dramatic and exciting. I have never heard an audience roar like they did when she finished that piece.

You see, Newton's Third Law of Motion applies to the symphony orchestra nearly as well as it applies to physics. You push on us, we'll push back. The greater the disaster, the greater our effort to compensate. Not that we don't try to play our best under normal circumstances, its just that when something unexpected happens everyone pushes a little bit harder. This is when greatness occurs.

On Saturday the orchestra will be performing a pops show. A few months back, the unexpected happened when our guest artist for the show canceled. KSO management found a replacement in singer Steve Lippia. Now, this is not in any form a disaster since Lippia is an experienced and quite talented singer, but when I flipped through my pops music this weekend my sixth sense started tingling. I have a feeling this is going to be one of those times where the unexpected leads to greatness. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if we were still talking about this pops concert in 2020.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Baroque Masters

This afternoon we begin rehearsal for Sundays chamber concert. The concert features music of Baroque era masters such as Handel, Bach, Vivaldi, and Purcell.

We will also be playing the famous Pachelbel Canon in D. Pachelbel was kind of a one hit wonder. The Canon is by far his piece that is performed most often and is especially popular at weddings. When I taught Suzuki violin we often had the students play the Canon for public performances at festivals, shopping malls, etc. I always enjoyed watching the audience as they played because couples would hear the music and start to smile with happy memories. It is a piece that has earned the ire of cellists everywhere because their part consists of eight notes repeated and repeated and repeated until the piece is over. If Dante had envisioned a circle of Hell reserved just for cellists, I expect the punishment would have somehow involved the Pachelbel Canon. That doesn't mean the rest of us can't enjoy it, though!

The featured instrumental soloist for this concert is KSO's new principal bassoon player, Ellen Connors. She will be performing the Vivaldi Bassoon Concerto in A minor. In my nine seasons with the orchestra this is the first time we have had a soloist playing the bassoon. It is a rare opportunity to hear this beautiful instrument featured with the orchestra.

Also on this concert is Bach's Coffee Cantata. When a piece has a nickname, there is usually a story behind it. Sometimes the composers are responsible for the alternate name, but often friends or colleagues coin the nickname. Before I read the program notes on this piece I thought there was a good possibility that the string section that first performed the piece had given it the moniker of "coffee cantata." We don't play for several movements, enough time to go get some coffee. Actually, it is a cantata about coffee. Apparently Bach loved the stuff. The piece shows a humorous side of Bach that is rarely seen.

The Baroque Masters Chamber Concert will take place at 2:30 this Sunday at the Bijou Theater.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Chopin turns 200!

Subject: Frederic Chopin

Born: March 1, 1810 in Warsaw

Died: October 17, 1849 in Paris of tuberculosis, although recently people have speculated that he may have had cystic fibrosis.

Known for: piano music! Chopin composed nearly exclusively for the piano. He did write a cello sonata and a piano trio, both of which feature...... the piano!

Child prodigy? Yes. Chopin was outplaying his first piano teacher at age 7. He penned his first compositions that same year. He was compared to Mozart and Beethoven.

Contribution to music: Chopin was a pioneer in form. He was responsible for inventing new forms such as the instrumental ballade as well as seriously tweaking existing forms such as the sonata, waltz, etude, etc. He also pushed the harmonic envelope with his use of chromaticism and dissonance.

Happy or neurotic?: Leaning more toward neurotic. Chopin wasn't particularly lucky in love. He never married, but had a few long-term tumultuous romances that never quite worked out, most notably with writer George Sand. He was also quite sickly for most of his life.

Strange fact: Chopin was terrified of being buried alive. When he died, his heart was taken out of his body and preserved per his request. The Polish government now has control / possession of his heart.

Here is Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii, one of the 2009 gold metal winners of the Cliburn Competition performing Chopin's Twelve Etudes, Op. 1.