Saturday, February 8, 2014

Swing Your Partner!

We heard how tap shoes can cause the dancer to become another instrument in the percussion section of the orchestra in our recent Clayton Holiday concerts, and we shall hear it again tonight in the Dancing and Romancing Pops concert at 8 at the Civic Auditorium. Joan Hess and Kirby Ward will don the tap shoes for some Rogers/Astaire-influenced numbers, and Debbie Gravitte will sing some love-locked ballads, marshaling the KSO’s effort to bring an early Valentine’s gift to downtown Knoxville. Another guest performer at this concert will be Swing– that trademark taproot of early 20th-century American popular music, cultivated and nurtured by Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and others.

Arrangements for this concert are typically written involving keys that favor instruments keyed in flat keys. Traditional jazz instruments (clarinet and trumpet families) call B♭(two flats) the home key, but orchestral instruments are accustomed  to C Major (all of the white piano keys). Tastefully arranged tunes from this era should whiz by effortlessly without regard for difficulties of key or rhythm, yet there is very little time to put the music together in rehearsals. Those lush swing harmonies can go pretty far afield in the tonality department. Some players are sometimes unpleasantly surprised by how fast a song actually goes compared to how fast they wish it went. Complex syncopated rhythms sound very intuitive, but what those rhythms look like on the printed page surprises some folks.

The Valentine’s season continues into next week as Knoxville Opera will stage Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amour, (The Elixir of Love) at the Tennessee Theatre on Valentine’s Night and on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 16. More on that in a bit...

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