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Knoxville Symphony Orchestra
KSO blogger Andy
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Any non-musician who has hung out with a group of musicians talking has probably experienced a crisis of cognition when confronted with musical parlance. They will be dumbfounded to learn that (for example) “oh, that hairpin before the railroad tracks takes me by surprise every time!” is NOT referring to that musician's commute to work. I've selected a few words to define which have been repurposed for musical use without, apparently, the permission of the general population.
1) recap
This word has many good uses in the English language, from describing a summary of a story to describing auto tires that have been rejuvenated. In music, it is an abbreviation of the word “recapitulation,” an unwieldy word which denotes the return of the original theme of a piece after that theme's development. Most musical movements composed between 1650 and say, 1910 are formatted on an “ABA” form, e.g., A =exposition, B=development, and A=recapitulation. The recap will usually only have the same material as the exposition for a short while before more development takes place, which leads to the next word-
2) coda
The coda is literally, from the translation of the Latin “cauda,” the tail-end of a piece of music. It is the point where the music begins to either intensify to an ecstatic conclusion, often speeding up, or wind down to a peaceful settlement in anticipation of following movements. A musician who “had trouble in the coda” therefore has not been involved in an accident in Bismarck, they have merely discovered that there were more notes than they were aware of in a piece that was longer than they thought. If you are still confused, just remember that the final studio album by Led Zeppelin is entitled Coda.
3) hairpin
Leave it to those clever musicians to come up with a word from the Walgreen's Hair Care aisle to describe the shape of a musical direction. A volume swell in the music can be indicated by the words “crescendo” and “diminuendo,” (or “decrescendo”), but inasmuch as a picture speaks a thousand words, the use of sideways “vees” to indicate this swell is much more obvious when reading the music. The widest part of the hairpin is the loudest. Note the similarity...
hairpins, in reda red hairpin
Obviously, for a very lengthy increase or decrease lasting for multiple lines of print, these “wedge” notations are not practical, and the actual words “crescendo” and “diminuendo” are used with a series of hyphens to indicate their duration. While we're on the subject of crescendos….
4) crescendo
A crescendo (pronounced “creche-endo”) is the PROCESS by which the music gets louder. I wish I had a dollar for every time I've seen in print something like the following:
                                               The crowd noise had reached a crescendo.
I could buy that phrase's author a new dictionary. Arrggh. Friends, a crescendo is not something you reach. It is a way of reaching something. Not an end, but a means to an end. The crowd noise may be increasing, but when it gets to its loudest point, please call it a fortissimo, or a cacophony, but not a crescendo!
5) railroad tracks
Again, musicians are very good at “calling 'em the way they see 'em.” When a composer wants an unexpected pause in the music, they write two short, vertical parallel lines at the top of the staff to indicate it. The technical name is caesura, or if you're a classicist, c?sura. In any case, the directions are to stop at the railroad tracks, like any normal human being would. This is not a long pause, roughly just one or two seconds, so there's not time to rosin your bow or fix your crooked tie. It's a way that composers stop the flow of the music to fool the audience-- and sometimes the performers!-- for dramatic effect. Often overlooked due to its small size, an oft-used piece of sheet music will have many additional, thickly-penciled markings to warn players of oncoming silence, and a crisp, new part soon will.
caesura after the first note
6) sitz
This is a many-splendored word. The most splendid meaning denotes the tub you sit in at the Y after a workout. It is pronounced “zits,” like the comic strip, or the bane of an adolescent's existence. In music, however, the word is an abbreviation of the German word sitzprobe,a word which at first glance evokes any number of scary thoughts. It is used to define the first rehearsal of an opera or musical where the cast and the orchestra are brought together for the first time. It is usually no soak in a warm tub, as the musical flow is still unfamiliar to many. The cast of such a production are, as a rule, seated in chairs, hence the term “sitz.”
7) staccato
Okay, one more pet peeve. "Staccato clapping" is a term that many sports writers and broadcasters use to describe the rhythmic clapping that fans do when they "want some action" in a game. Musically speaking, staccato describes notes that are detached from one another- short notes that aren't connected to other notes. The opposite of staccato is legato, notes that are smoothly slurred, or at least having uninterrupted sound. Clapping is by nature something that can only be done in a staccato manner- have you ever succeeded in clapping smoothly? I didn't think so. I hereby deem "staccato clapping" to be redundant.
8 months ago | |
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The News Sentinel Pops series for the 2016-17 KSO season offers a range of attractions that appeal to Baby Boomers, Celtic music fans, and kids at heart. Two of our guest acts have been with us before, Blood Sweat and Tears, and Natalie MacMaster. The other four acts are Pet Sounds (a tribute to the Beach Boys), Mary Wilson from the Supremes, Windborne Music's tribute to Journey, and a showing of The Wizard of Ozwith orchestral soundtrack accompaniment.
First off, on FRIDAY, October 7 at the Tennessee Theatre, 8:00, the Beach Boys trendsetting album Pet Sounds will be reproduced in its entirety, with giant hits Wouldn't It Be Nice, Sloop John B, andGod Only Knows topping the bill. On the second half will be a collection of the Boys' earlier hits, which scarcely need an introduction. Then on January 7, we're off to see- and play- the Wizard, which is just as good the 15th time you saw it as the first. I have a recent fond memory from this past March of watching this with my mother, who saw it first-run when she was 12. I sure hope the charts for it are available way early, because (typical of films of the Technicolor Age) the score is chock full of notes and details. (This show and all that follow will be on Saturday nights at the Civic Auditorium at 8. I have learned my lesson from two years in a row of misstating both the night and venue of the season's firstPops production, which will be on a Friday at the Tennessee Theatre).
Mary Wilson is a 60's survivor with a long list of humanitarian cred, and she will be bringing the Supremes catalog to the Civic on February 4. If this is going to be anything like last season's Fifth Dimension concert, you can expect to get up and dance. The question remains whether Ms Wilson will summon me to dance the way Florence LaRue did during the Fifth Dimension's show. Just in case, I had better get to work on some of those dance moves.
Next up on our Pops journey will be... Journey! Windborne Music has done it again, this time with Steve Perry and the gang's monster hits like Wheel in the Sky, Any Way You Want It, Lights, and two perennial wedding and karaoke favorites, Open Arms and Don't Stop Believin'. I personally hope they delve into Steve Perry's solo catalog, with songs like Oh, Sherrie and Foolish Heart. This will happen on March 11.
Natalie MacMaster will bring back her rollicking, dancing, fiddling extravaganza to us on April 8. (It isn't Saint Patrick's Day, but it IS National Zoo Lovers' Day)! Her stage persona is high-energy and her technique is jaw-dropping. Our Pops finale will be an encore appearance by Blood Sweat and Tears on May 6. While David Clayton Thomas is no longer with the group, the band has, over the decades, continued the tradition of tight coalition that made their eponymous 2nd album one of the most beloved discs ever. With songs like Spinning Wheeland You Made Me So Very Happy, it is one of my go-to albums when I need to hear something tight and tasty.

Tickets go on sale in August! Make plans now! http://www.knoxvillesymphony.com/events/pops/


9 months ago | |
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World's Fair Park, South Lawn! Tomorrow! The weather-guessers are in agreement that the likelihood of rain will be very low, and all Americans are agreement that this will be the most well-deserved Independence Day celebration ever. Our new Maestro Aram Demirjian will be at the helm, leading the KSO through heroic and traditional patriotic fare in his premiere as Music Director on the FREE32ndannual Pilot/Flying J Independence Day concert.
The position of Music Director comes with a variety of opportunities to provide emotional leadership to a community through music, and just such an opportunity has arisen with the recent passing of Pat Summitt. One of his first duties will be honoring the legendary UT women's basketball coach with a moment of silence and a visual tribute (in conjunction with WBIR-TV Channel 10)that will play while the orchestra performs Rocky Top.There is no better venue than this great stage for Aram to get his baptism intoBig Orange Country.
The larger civic celebration known as Festival on the Fourth will be a bigger-than-ever party, with special touches (such as the base of the Sunsphere being illuminated with red, white and blue lights in honor of Knoxville's 225thanniversary) and a variety of entertainment options throughout the day. Earlier in the day on the South Lawn, Americana band Kelsey's Woods will be performing at 4:15, and pop/rock cover band Fourkast will perform at 6:15. The KSO's performance,will start at 8, while the fuse of the fireworks display will be lit at 9:35.

Come out and see us! And fly that flag high!

9 months ago | |
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The world has lost a true leader with the death of Pat Summitt, former Lady Vols basketball coach and the winningest coach in any college sport, period. She was the face of collegiate women's basketball for more than 40 years as a player, Olympian, and coach. Her accomplishments earned her a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, and status as one of the most beloved public figures in Tennessee history. There is some common ground between the UT Women's basketball program and the Knoxville Symphony.
As part of a strong tradition of hosting celebrity guest conductors at the annual Ijams Nature Center concerts, Ms. Summitt led the KSO in an unforgettable rendition of The Tennessee Waltz in Sept. of ‘97. Before she gave the downbeat, however, she made an amusing “substitution.” She called out then-principal flutist Rob Cronin and instructed second flutist Jennifer Regan to take over first flute, claiming that Rob was suffering from a condition she called “loser’s limp.” During the ensuing performance, Pat looked at Larisa Bairomova and I on the front stand of cellos, and with arms waving, asked “How am I doing?” but the look on her face clearly indicated “WHAT am I doing?” I thank the day that I decided to become a musician, for it led me to that point where I would be sharing the stage with such a strong leader.
My wife and I would later be in contact with Ms. Summitt at AYSO soccer and Knox Youth Sports basketball games, where she graciously shared her knowledge of athletics and competition. She was the most amazing “soccer mom” you could ever wish to meet. Our son Thomas played with (and alas, against) her son Tyler in various venues across the county. I was just tickled pink one day when she approached me postgame with a box of Krispy Kremes. The smile on her face was just as radiant and real as her infamous “game face” stare was menacing. It was fulfilling to be acquainted with that side of her.

Memorial gifts may be made to The Pat Summitt Foundation by visiting www.patsummitt.org/donate .

The stare...

...and the smile of success

9 months ago | |
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It's not spring any more, but it is string season with the KSO Youth Orchestras' String Camp! More than 200 violinists, violists, cellists and bassists are descending upon Hardin Valley Academy's Music Department to build toward a final concert Friday, June 24 at 2:30. I am privileged to be a part of it this year, and my work with the kids in the cello sections has been sheer joy. They are not merely a talented bunch, (and it's a big bunch!) but inquisitive and courteous as well.
Four ensembles are derived from the total student body: the Prelude, Overture, Intermezzo and Finale. Conductors of these groups and combinations thereof are Erin Archer, Kathy Hart, Wesley Baldwin, Nina Missildine Mikos and James Fellenbaum. An overriding theme of the camp's repertoire is music of the movies, with selections from Starwars, The Avengers, The Sound of Music, and others being offered.
I have included some fine photographs of the proceedings at camp by Faithful Photography. Enjoy! Better yet, come on out tomorrow to see our talented musicians make sweet summer music.



Dan Thompson leads a contingent of bassists

Sarah Ringer with a passel of violinists

Yours truly demonstrating a pizzicato moment

Erin Archer leading the Prelude Orchestra

What it's all about.



9 months ago | |
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The news is out! The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra has named Aram Demirjian as its 8th Music Director, after an exhaustive search stretching back to October of 2014. Holding a master's in conducting from New England Conservatory, he will be making a jump from his post at the Kansas City Symphony where, among other things, he initiated a weeknight concert series entitled “Classics Uncorked,” akin to our “Scotch and Strings” and “Beer and Beethoven” endeavors. His youthful enthusiasm and genuine personality were hits with the selection committee. There is a subtle circularity to Aram's appointment here. One of his mentors, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra music director Robert Spano, can claim as his first music teacher Bernice Dryer, the mother of the recently deceased KSO violinist Norris Dryer.
From the musicians' standpoint, the wide range of the candidates' conducting styles and the spectrum of repertoire they've chosen have forged the orchestra into a formidable performing unit. (Cue Dwight Schrute from The Officegiving that speech- “WE ARE WARRIORS!!”) We eagerly await the repertoire choices Maestro Demirjian (pronounced “de-MURR-gin”) makes to complement the solo repertoire which was chosen last November.

It has been a long journey with many high points. We can't wait to see what the Maestro has in store for us!

10 months ago | |
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As the KSO's 80thseason winds down, it's an opportunity to take a look at what some members of our orchestra will be doing this summer.  There is one more concert, and it's tonight at 7:30 at Maryville's Theatre in the Park.  You guessed it, it's an outdoor concert, but the rain should be ending any minute now.  Resident Conductor Jim Fellenbaum will lead us in a fun, family-friendly show that is a repeat of our Market Square concert (which actually happened at the Bijou).  After that, it looks like HEAVY PARTYING as we await the announcement (annunciation?) of the selection of our new Music Director.

As happened in a previous summer, principal clarinetist Gary Sperl will be flying across the pond to teach with the Daraja Music Initiative in Moshi, Tanzania.  Actually, his previous stint there was for an entire school year, (during which Peter Cain was our principal clarinetist), but rest assured, he will be back in the fall for the new MD's first season.  He will be joined by violist Hillary Herndon and violinist Rachel Loseke this summer in this VOLUNTEER teaching mission.  Gary's project there started a while back and is also known as Clarinets for Conservation.  In addition to the obvious music education value, C4C seeks to educate about the plight of the mpingo tree, which is unique to Tanzania and from which comes the wood used to make clarinets.  Last summer Hillary started a sister project called Daraja Strings, which involved some of her UT students.  Rachel is very excited about the trip, and has set up a Gofundme account to help defray costs.  Hillary also has set up a fundraising mechanism through UT called Volstarter, which can be accessed byclicking here.  We wish them the best of luck this summer!
10 months ago | |
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The KSO's May Masterworks concert pair offers a grand opportunity for grand opera music.  The centerpiece of the concerts will be The Ring: An Orchestral Adventure, which is music from the four operas making up Wagner's Ringcycle, arranged by Henk de Vlieger.  The lighter side of this music was presented in January, 2015 as part of our “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony” Pops concert, along with footage of Bugs and Elmer as Siegfried and Brunhilde.  While there won't be any singing on our concert, there will be a massive orchestra featuring a rarely heard instrument that was invented just for these operas: the Wagner Tuba.  (And please remember, his name is pronounced “VOG-ner”). The Wagner tuba is an instrument that is doubled by French horn players.  I can't find the words to describe the difference between a French horn's sound and a Wagner tuba's sound, but the difference is real, and worth coming out to experience.  One unusual thing about this concert is the presence of not one but TWO pieces of music that have offstage brass.  At two different points in the Wagner, principal horn Jeffery Whaley will step off the stage and play the vaunted Siegfried horn calls that every horn player loves.

Our Wagner Tuba Quartet, from left: Sean Donovan, Mark Harrell, Mitzi Hall, Katie Johnson.

A better look at the Wagner tuba (right) compared to French horn (left).

The concert will open with Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3,one of four overtures Beethoven composed for various productions of his opera Fidelio.  More like a movement of a symphony than an overture per se,this work features principal trumpet Chase Hawkins rendering two fanfares from different parts of the house.  There is also a demonically difficult violin lick shortly after the fanfares, you can't miss it.  The work is considered the best of the four overtures Beethoven composed for Fidelio,but it has been criticized for overwhelming the music which follows it in the opera-- in essence, for being TOO good.
Between the Beethoven and the Wagner comes a work which is decidedly not from 19th-century Germany.  American composer Christopher Theofanidis (rhymes with “free this”) has written a three-movement suite based on Australian aboriginal creation myths.  Theofanidis' musical language is reminiscent of Adam Schoenberg, whose Finding Rothkowe performed last month, and of Gian Carlo Menotti.  I find it remarkable that the four horns that lead off the work seem louder than the 11 (or so) horns that populate the Wagner orchestra.
A special tribute will be offered after the Beethoven. Keyboardist Carol Zinavage, who is resigning at the end of the season, will be honored for her 31 years of playing with the orchestra.  When I was new in town, she and I became fast friends, and soon began a long string of (roughly) annual recital collaborations.  We discovered that our musical interests had a lot of overlap, especially concerning Rock n' Roll, and it was so heartening to know another person who “gets” my sense of humor.  We'll miss ya, Carol!
11 months ago | |
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The Knoxville Opera's production of Tosca, each act of which was performed in a different venue, was a huge hit in spite of the rain that fell on Act 3 at the Tennessee Amphitheater.  Outdoor concerts continue to adorn the KSO's schedule, with a performance at Maryville's Theater in the Park on May 26, with a rain date the next night, and Market Square Thursday, May 5.  Due to imminent cold, rainy weather however, our Market Square concert TONIGHT will be held at the Bijou Theatre, where concert time temperatures hopefully will NOT expected to dip into the 40s.  (So far May is looking cooler than April, just like December seemed to be warmer than October).  WE are expecting to dip into the music of Johann Strauss (Roses from the South),Franz Josef Haydn (two movements from his “London” Symphony), Franz von Suppe(Light Cavalry Overture)and George Gershwin (The Man I Love),as well as music of Irving Berlin and Leroy Anderson.  Resident Conductor Jim Fellenbaum will direct, and with any luck, his darling daughter Kiri will be on hand to distract him. And in spite of the change of venue, this concert shall remain FREE.

The weekend will send us into the land of cool, smooth jazz, with special guest Kenny G gracing our Civic Auditorium Pops stage Saturday night at 8.  Get ready for Desafinado, Forever in Love, Heart and Soul, Songbird, and Somewhere Over the Rainbow like you've never heard them before-- or if you have, probably not live.  Kenny G captured listeners' hearts with his 1986 album Duotonesand he has not let go in the ensuing 30 years.  I'm a Big Fan!
11 months ago | |
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The final concert of the KSO Chamber Classics series is TODAY at 2:30 at the Bijou Theatre!  And when I say “classics,” I mean it.  Like Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3, with Concertmaster Gabe Lefkowitz as soloist, Britten's Simple Symphony,and Dvorak's timeless Serenade for Strings.
Britten composed the Simple Symphony in 1933-34, and dedicated it to his childhood viola teacher, Audrey Alston, using melodies he composed when he was as young as ten.  It is a very accessible, strings-only work that shouldn't be confused with Carl Nielsen's work of (roughly) the same title, which is anything but simple.  Each of the four movements has alliterative titles; Boisterous Bouree, Playful Pizzicato, Sentimental Sarabande, and Frolicsome Finale.  The second theme of the Pizzicato movement bears a striking resemblance to Barnacle Bill the Sailorfrom that old Popeyecartoon. 



Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major is a happy romp for soloist Gabe.  The work is in G Major, aka “the people's key.”  It is a staple on the audition circuit, and reveals a lot about a player's abilities.  After a brief intermission, we will finish our concert with the Dvorak's 1875 Serenade.  It's one of the “big 4” works in the genre, joining string serenades by late-Romantic heaviesTchaikovsky, Elgar, and (Dvorak protegé)Josef Suk.  I'm looking out at the sky right now and it'sbright blue and cloudless.  This is the musical equivalent of that sky.  The work's sunny disposition reflects obviously happy times in the composer's life.  Many themes reappear from movement to movement in a dignified, reminiscent way, and the waltzy second movement bears a strong resemblance to Chopin's Waltz in C# Minor, op. 64, No. 2.  Same key and everything, but definitely with its own grace and intention.
11 months ago | |
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