Friday, December 30, 2011

People on the Move

Hot on the heels of his Clayton Holiday Concert successes, Maestro Richman went directly to LA to rehearse with the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra for its tour of China. The timing of this tour is cleverly designed to occur on the 40 year anniversary of President Nixon's historic China visit in 1972. What's more, the KSO's Director of Education and Community Partnerships, Jennifer Barnett, will be soprano soloist on the tour, which will feature eight performances in six cities over a 13-day run.

Another of our staff will be leaving us on January 13th. The KSO's Director of Communications, Stephanie Burdette, will be taking a position closer to her family in Richmond, VA. She will be a project manager for an advertising firm called the Martin Agency. One of her major successes in her nine years with the KSO is the establishment of this very blog, which is now well into its third year. We will miss her smiling face and wish her and her family all the best!

Speaking of Richmond, I can't help noticing from time to time that some in our community, and even in the orchestra, seem to think that our conductor's last name is pronounced the same as the city to which Stephanie is moving. I can only hope that these folks are being quaint and not unobservant.

The travelling bug has even hit my family. (This blog is being posted from Laconia New Hampshire, where my parents live). In a few short days, our son Thomas will be flying to Spain to spend his spring semester abroad in Madrid. A junior Art History major at Middlebury College in Vermont, Thomas is no stranger to Knoxville's classical audiences, having participated in the children's choir for Mahler's 3rd and for Knoxville Opera's production of Turandot. He claimed first prize in the Knoxville Choral Society's Young Classical Musician's Competition on piano in 2007, and in 2002 portrayed the title role in Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors in a fine production at Westminster Presbyterian Church. We are devouring these last few days with him here stateside, and now I am off to kick his butt at pool.

On behalf of the KSO and all of its many faces, please have a happy and safe New Year!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Message

Well, here we are in the shadow of Christmas Day. It will be the first Christmas/Hannukah for some of the members of the KSO family: Alexandra Bloch, Kiri Fellenbaum, Claudia Pulgar, Clare Burdette, Alex Kim (Nadine Hur’s son), and Elise Carlson (Lucie Novoveska’s daughter). I am sure that their parents’ hearts will be as full of wonder as their own.

The KSO family wishes all of you a joyous and restful holiday season! I will leave you with a little more humor.

Here is an unbelievably random collection of personnel rendering a medley of Christmas tunes comatose-- Sonny and Cher, Bernadette Peters and Captain Kangaroo (and one very homely looking child).

Now for something completely fowl... It's just too cute... I wonder how many of these are French hens?

This is about the extent of my knowledge of Christmas carol lyrics. All you need is the first line after all! It's so bad it's good.

And finally from the unblinking world of Facebook comes a list of titles of new reindeer operas. Thank you to my friend Lisa Ferrigno, whose status update got the ball rolling... (she led off with the first three, mine are the last two; duplicates have been eliminated and names have been left off to protect privacy, but about 40 people responded).

Top ten reindeer operas:

10. Vixen in China
9. Santa and Delilah
8. Turandoe

Adeste Fidelio
Donner and Aeneas
Castor et Prancer
Die Zaubersleigh
Die Rentiere ohne Schatten
Der Fliegende Reindeer
The Flying Fatman
Das Reingeld.
Rudolph in the Underworld
Santa Boccanegra
Prancer Grimes.
Abduction from the North Pole
Whoa Zech!!!
Comet und Gretel
The Cunning Little Vixen (Janácek) DOESN'T HAVE TO BE CHANGED!!!
The Reindeer's Progress
Tails of Hoofmen.
Madam Blitzen Flies
Deer Fliedermoose.
Iphigénie en Cupid
Le nozze di Blitzen
Lucia de Lammermoose.
Der Frozenkavalier
Donner Quichotte
Porgy and Blitzen
Santa and the Night Visitors
The Bartered Hide
The Magic Fruitcake
Deer Sleighschutz

Monday, December 19, 2011

25 Years of Holiday Class

Wow! The Clayton Holiday concerts this year were truly special, as witness the FULL HOUSE at today’s matinee. Logan Murrell’s smile and voice lit up the house, Jim Clayton displayed some serious talent and class, Hallerin Hilton Hill took us into new realms, Santa cracked us up, and Lucas Richman tied together the orchestra and Choral Society, Sound Company Children’s Choirs and Go! Contemporary Dance Works to give inspired and inspiring performances.

There are a couple people behind the scenes that you should know about. About one-fourth of the charts we played from this weekend were arrangements done by Warren Clark. With very little to go by, sometimes just a squeaky, jangly cassette tape, he can take a song and arrange it so that every player on stage has a part to play that is legible, correct, and playable but never boring. Tunes that Jim Clayton ("C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S" and "Christmas in Dixie") and Hallerin Hilton Hill ("One Light" and "Light One Candle") sang were arrangements done by Mr. Clark. Often the deadline is in the middle of a rehearsal, yet he comes through time and time again. Oh, and I have learned a new word; the opposite of “swung” is “strate!”

The responsibility of getting those arrangements to our stands falls to our second clarinetist and librarian, Mark Tucker. NO music would be on our stand if not for this patient, patient man. And come to think of it, no one would be playing it either, because he is also the personnel manager. If anyone deserves a little time off, it’s Mark, who on top of all that lost his father on November 4th. Take five, Mark! No, make that twelve. You don’t seem like the type who goes for lords a-leaping or geese a-laying, but I hope at least three or four of your twelve days involve a beach and some barbecue.

This seems like a good place to recognize players who were at the first Clayton Concerts in 1987: violinists Mary Anne Fennell, Norris Dryer, John Fox, Liz Farr, Julie Swenson and Susan Thompson; violists Eunsoon Corliss, Bill Pierce and Carol Tucker, cellists Bruce Wilhite, Scot Williams, Alice Stuart and Don Grohman, bassist Herb Hall, flutist Cynthia D’Andrea, oboist Phyllis Secrist, clarinetist Gary Sperl, hornist Mark Harrell, trumpeters Cathy Leach and Marc Simpson, tympanist Mike Combs and pianist Carol Zinavage. We’ve come a long way, baby! And yet the joy of playing in the orchestra has been a constant.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Clayton Concerts' 25th Anniversary

This year’s Clayton Holiday concerts are the 25th annual ones. The silver anniversary version, if you will. It seems there are more features to this year’s shows, given the momentousness of the occasion. Jim Clayton has been such a gracious benefactor for lo these many years, but this year he will have a somewhat different additional role, one that may surprise many. Hallerin Hill, the Sound Company children’s show choirs, Go Contemporary Dance Works and the fabulous Logan Murrell will join Clayton regulars the Knoxville Choral Society– as the song says, “a show with everything but Yul Brynner.”

The Clayton concerts are a perennially festive event for those in the orchestra, a chance to exchange gifts, cards, cookies and hugs. In previous years there have been wild dress code variations, sometimes involving reindeer antlers, electric earrings and bow and scroll tinsel. Santa and his elves always make an appearance.

Along with the usual wide variety of holiday music, a featured work on this program will be the Finale & Hope from the Symphony of Hope: The Haiti Project. This work is a collaborative effort among some 25 composers to bring attention to and help raise funds to rebuild Haiti after the devastating earthquake that struck on January 12, 2010. This is symbolic of the rebuilding efforts in that afflicted nation; to wit, many hands make light work. Our own Lucas Richman is not one of the composers, but his talents are evident on the recording that was conducted by him and released this past September.

We’ll be looking for you Dec. 16 & 17 at 7:30 (note earlier start time), with matinees on the 17th and 18th at 3:00 at the Civic Auditorium.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dear Santa...

Another Christmas is approaching, and even though I am just dreaming, there a few things that I want the music world to receive.

-A Brahms Octet for strings
-Mozart Cello Sonatas
-Beethoven’s 10th
-Brahms Cello Concerto
-a Wagner comedy
-Bartok Quintet for piano, violin, cello, oboe and trombone
-Schubert string quartet, “Death and the Taxman
-Schubert Symphony # 20
-Copland “Fanfare for the Common Cold
-a Fugue for Ten Horns
-A chalet overlooking Pachelbel Canyon
-a voice-operated page-turning mechanism
-Stravinsky “Camaro Suite
-a Honda Fugue (to follow the Prelude)
-I really just generally want a ricercar
-I would like for those “Allegro” RVs to actually travel at least andante
-a Black and Decker variable speed reversible cello bow
-an atmospheric resubstantiator which could reconstruct all of the music that Brahms burned
-I would like for choral conductors to just say they are conducting in 8 instead of being so fancy-schmancy and telling us that they are conducting in a subdivided 4.
-a fugue for Texas Instruments
-a National Semi-conductor, so people in the back stands of violins can see better. (I know, big government, but it’s an idea whose time has come).
-a video of Ravel and Debussy racing through the wine list at Les Deux Magots in Paris
-I want to put some Crumbs in a Byrd Cage and watch the Byrds get Bizet

There. I guess that about Rhapsodup.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Nutcracker... Sweet!!!

The Nutcracker is back! From the overture, which I’ve never played– no cellos!– to the final waltz, which we just played a couple of hours ago at LMU, every mood is broached. Joy, despair, fear, mischief, love, – it’s all there. It is a zone that we enter every December in which we lose ourselves in the music while the finest local dancers take the stage one floor above us. The Appalachian Ballet Company's production has some new twists this year, and it has been amusing to hear how the presence of so many new players affects the overall feel of the ballet.

My favorite part is the snow waltz. The nutcracker has just become a handsome prince, and he leads Clara to a piney forest where snowflakes are dancing around them. I could never understand why such a joyful sort of occasion is accompanied by such starkly luscious E-minor music. The contrary motion and the hemiola rhythm create a sense of urgency that is calmed when a B-Major scale picks us all up and drops us into the land of E Major. A women’s choir confirms the good mood, and then it’s time to take a break. My second favorite would have to be the Arabian Dance. The harmony is so soulful and the instrumentation color is so charming, I never notice that I have just played the same rhythmic figure 66 times.

Tchaikovsky’s music seems so perfect, so pre-determined. It is hands down my favorite composition of his. Well, along with the Rococo Variations. The overture is in B♭, and Act 1 ends in E Major, a key a tritone away from B♭– about as unrelated a key as could be. (See earlier post about intervals). Act 2 picks up in E Major, and the ballet ends in B♭. This is not a coincidence. How he maneuvers to arrive in these keys so seamlessly is yet another marvel. As in the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra we played last month, every instrument is put through its paces in tasteful ways. Even the chime– I would certainly find it challenging to hit the chime exactly the same way exactly 12 times. (And not 13)!

In the 90's, I was able to play the entire first act from memory. It made for a very transcendental experience. Back then there were two completely different productions of the Nutcracker– the City Ballet, which was based variously in Cincinnati, Tulsa or New Orleans, and this same Appalachian Ballet. This year the ABC is doing productions at the Civic Auditorium, Dec. 3rd at 8 p.m. and Dec. 4th at 2 p.m., and at the Clayton Center for the Arts at Maryville College, Dec. 10th at 2 and 8. It should be noted that out of the 28 or so ballet companies in the Southeast, the Appalachian Ballet is one of four that use live music. And believe me when I say, live music is best.