2015 Met Opera Mid-South Region Finals on Saturday

Update: Winners

A field of 12 singers emerged from the district competitions in the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions for the Mid-South Region–4 sopranos, 1 mezzo-soprano, 1 countertenor, 3 tenors, 1 baritone,   1 bass-baritone, and 1 bass. The regional competition is being held  Saturday, February 21, 2015, at Memorial Hall, University of Kentucky, in Lexington, KY.  The district winners competing in the regionals are:

Arkansas District
Ray Chenez, countertenor
Cody Luan, tenor
Huanhuan Ma, soprano

Kentucky District
Rebecca Farley, soprano
Christopher Kenny, baritone
Matthew Turner, bass

Middle/E. Tennessee District
Todd Barnhill, tenor
Stephen Martin, tenor
Amanda Palmeiro, mezzo-Soprano

West Tennesee District
Laetitia Grimaldi, soprano
Josh Quinn, bass-baritone
Amanda Walden, soprano

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At Arts Knoxville: Most Memorable Classical Music Performances (Knoxville) of 2014

What a year! My list of the Most Memorable Classical Music Performances (in Knoxville, that is) for 2014 is online at Arts Knoxville.

Thanks for reading.

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Filed under Classical Music News, From the Balcony

A New Weekly for Knoxville: ‘The Knoxville Mercury’

The demise of the newsweekly Metro Pulse at the hands of its parent company, E.W. Scripps, two months ago, was painful for both its staff and its Knoxville readership. For many—and there is actual evidence to support this—Metro Pulse was the voice of the Knoxville downtown’s miraculous revitalization and of Knoxville’s cultural scene. Its closure seemed to leave a gaping hole in Knoxville’s life and a dead-end for many of Knoxville’s small business advertisers.

Happily, those two months were not without significant progress being made on an entity to take the place of Metro Pulse, both in spirit and reality. Participants in the most recent staffing of Metro Pulse have joined with some dedicated and interested parties in Knoxville to create a somewhat rare, but not unheard of, enterprise—the Knoxville History Project—a new non-profit organization that will support a for-profit weekly newspaper to be called the Knoxville Mercury. The goal is to “ensure the new enterprise’s long-term sustainability with a combination of public, private, and commercial revenue sources.” (Check the Knoxville History Project link above for information on its other goals and activities.)

Jack Neely, who had served as Associate Editor of Metro Pulse for most of its life, will be the Executive Director of the Knoxville History Project and will continue to write his immensely popular column in the new paper. Coury Turczyn will return as Editor and Matthew Everett will return as A&E Editor. Tricia Bateman has come on as Art Director; Jerry Collins will be the Business Manager.

Most of the contributing writers will return, including yours truly as the Knoxville Mercury‘s classical music critic.

The paper is aiming for a mid-February first issue.

Because the project will depend on a variety of revenue sources, a Kickstarter campaign is underway to get the first year off to a start. You can visit that Kickstarter page here.

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A City and Its Arts

A new post at ArtsKnoxville: “Do Arts Define a City?

Thanks for reading.

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Filed under Miscellaneous Commentary

Vienna State Opera Offers Streaming Service

The Vienna State Opera’s new streaming service has a wonderfully descriptive video explaining the program–


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KSO Review: Soprano Emily Birsan and Strauss’ ‘Eine Alpensinfonie’

This review is a copy of the original at ArtsKnoxville.

While the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s artist booking policy often leans toward young artists at the beginning of careers, few of these have impressed and captivated in so many different ways as did soprano Emily Birsan in her appearance in the orchestra’s Masterworks concerts this weekend. Birsan was on hand for the bulk of the first half of the evening, first in Franz Schubert’s lied Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, followed by two Verdi arias, “Caro nome” from Rigoletto, and “È strano…Ah, fors’è lui…Sempre libera” from La Traviata.

Schubert wrote Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (The Shepherd on the Rock) from a request by soprano Pauline Anna Milder-Hauptmann but never heard it performed by her, dying a month after the work’s completion at the age of 31. The piece was originally written for soprano, clarinet, and piano, with the voice and clarinet essentially in a marvelous duet relationship. In this performance, the clarinetist was KSO principal, Gary Sperl; the KSO performed an orchestrated version by Carl Reinecke.

While one was immediately drawn to Birsan’s poise and effortless delivery, that respect leapt even higher as she dramatically carried the song’s narrative along, supported by clean, sophisticated tone and miraculously crisp diction. The vocal agility of Birsan was beautifully matched by the echoing flavor and spice from Sperl and the clarinet.

An even greater thrill, though, came from Birsan in the Verdi arias, a performance that revealed surprising reserves of power, depth and warmth in her lower range, and a thrilling goose-bump raising ability in her substantial upper range. This is a singer that will soon be snapped up hungrily by the international operatic world, if there is any justice at all.

The journey that was the satisfying second half of the KSO’s evening began in the dim light before dawn, climbed to the mountain heights through forest, glacier, and waterfall, braved untold dangers and a storm, only to return home at day’s end chastened by the ennobling experience. That journey was Richard Strauss’ programmatic tone poem, Eine Alpensinfonie, a fifty-minute-or-so exploration that I personally wouldn’t mind taking again and again.

At the time that Strauss returned to sketching out the work in 1911, a decade had passed since his last orchestral work, the ensuing years being consumed by operatic productions. A confluence of events probably provided much of the motivation for the works creation, not the least of which was the death of his friend and musical adversary, Gustav Mahler. Inspiration, too, came from his part-time home; Strauss kept a villa in the Bavarian mountain village of Garmisch.

Within the 22 sections of Eine Alpensinfonie, arranged chronologically from dawn to nightfall, are instrumental textures and colors of every possible description, from resplendent bursts of brass, to clarinet and flute birdcalls, to pastoral violin passages and cowbells, to gnarled and twisted undergrowth passages, to a harp waterfall and a wind machine storm. While the fascinating variety of instrumental effects in the KSO’s textural painting was endlessly entertaining, conductor Lucas Richman and orchestra seemed to bask in something greater: the work’s ability to draw the listener in to willing acceptance of lyrical descriptions twisted with modernist tonalities.

I enjoyed conductor Richman’s epic take on the work, giving each section’s descriptive textures the proper exposure and emphasis, light and darkness. I confess that I would have preferred a bit more in the way of nuanced tempo and dynamics to heighten the storytelling and balance out the inevitable gravitational pull of fortissimo playing. Nevertheless, the KSO’s Eine Alpensinfonie was a journey worth every minute of the dizzying and dazzling narrative.

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Delingerfest, the Work of Larry Delinger, Begins Oct 24

Larry Delinger

Larry Delinger

Check out the information on DELINGERFEST, a program of events centered on the music of composer Larry Delinnger running from 10/24 thru 11/16, at ArtsKnoxville.

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Filed under Classical Music News, Opera

Sunday: UT Symphony, “Haydn”

A bit of a preview of Sunday’s UT Symphony concert can be found in my new companion blog, Arts Knoxville.

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Filed under Orchestral

At Arts Knoxville: A Catharsis and a KSO Review

My review of the weekend’s KSO performance (and a cathartic explanation of events) can be found at my new Arts Knoxville blog. Thanks for reading.

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Alt-Weekly Metro Pulse Shut Down by E.W. Scripps

Metro Pulse, the alt-weekly newspaper that carries my classical/new music commentary in Knoxville, has been shut down by its parent company, E.W. Scripps.

At least for the short term, local reviews will be hosted at:


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Metro Pulse Review: KSO Opens Season with Brahms, Hindemith, and Torke

In this week’s issue of Metro Pulse, I review last weekend’s season opener for the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. Pianist Jon Kimura Parker joined the orchestra for a mostly excellent performance of Brahms Piano Concerto No.1. Also on the program was Michael Torke’s Bright Blue Music and Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber.

You can read the review online here.

Pianist Jon Kimura Parker

Pianist Jon Kimura Parker


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Filed under In Metro Pulse, Instrumental Ensembles, Orchestral, Performance Reviews

In Metro Pulse: KSO’s Q Series Begins Next Week

In this week’s issue of Metro Pulse, I preview the beginning of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s new Q Series, a schedule of noon-time lunch concerts featuring its Principal String Quartet and its Woodwind Quintet. Read it online here.

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Filed under Chamber Music, In Metro Pulse