Classical Music News of the Week, May 31, 2015

St. Charles Singers Offer Festival of Folk Songs in Concerts June 13-14

The St. Charles Singers' final concerts of the 2014-15 season will feature famous choral arrangements of folk songs from the British Isles and North America in performances at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 13, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 14, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles, Ill.

Over the course of two different concert programs, the acclaimed professional chamber choir, conducted by its founder and music director Jeffrey Hunt, will perform all 25 works from the two-volume collection "Folk-Songs for Choirs." These are traditional songs from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the United States, and Canada, arranged for unaccompanied mixed choir by noted British composers. The volumes were edited by renowned contemporary English choirmaster and composer John Rutter and published by Oxford University Press.

The two-concert series, titled "Bushes and Briars," takes its name from one of the songs.

The June 13 concert will feature the complete "Folk-Songs for Choirs 1." On June 14, concertgoers will hear "Folk-Songs for Choirs 2."

In addition, the St. Charles Singers will perform the world premiere of a newly commissioned work by one of its resident composers, Nathaniel Adams of Chicago. The three-minute piece is an unaccompanied choral arrangement of singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell's "I Don't Know Where I Stand," from her 1969 album "Clouds." The work will be sung at both concerts.

A Rare Event
Although the English choral tradition has been a cornerstone of the St. Charles Singers' repertoire for decades, this will be the first time that the choir has performed the entire Oxford folk-song series.

Tickets and Information
Single tickets for the June "Bushes and Briars" concerts are $40 adult general admission, $30 for seniors 65 and older, and $10 for students.

Tickets and general information about the St. Charles Singers are available at www.stcharlessingers.com or by calling (630) 513-5272. Tickets are also available at Townhouse Books, 105 N. Second Ave., St. Charles (checks or cash only at this ticket venue). Tickets may also be purchased at the door on the day of the concert, depending on availability. Group discounts are available.

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

Music Institute Chorale Performs American Premiere
The Music Institute of Chicago Chorale, conducted by Daniel Wallenberg, announces its summer plans, including Dumka, a celebration of Eastern European music featuring an American premiere, June 7 at 3 p.m. and its 12th annual Summer Sing-along Wednesday, July 22 at 7:30 p.m. Both events take place at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Illinois.

Dumka features the American premiere of "Wedding Songs" by Yuri Butsko. Performing this work with the Chorale are mezzo soprano Laura Boguslavsky and pianists Gregory Shifrin and Irina Kotlyar. The program also includes works by Rachmaninoff, Miškinis, and Dvorák, as well as folk songs from Croatia, Macedonia, Greece, and Georgia.

For its 12th annual Summer Sing-along, the Chorale welcomes guest conductor and Music Institute faculty member Frank Winkler, along with soloists Peter Van de Graaff, baritone, and Kathleen Van de Graaff, soprano, to perform a Choral Masterwork Series featuring Brahms's Requiem accompanied by full orchestra. An optional free rehearsal takes place Tuesday, July 21 at 7 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall.

Admission to Dumka is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $5 for students available at brownpapertickets.com/event/1640609. Admission to the Summer Sing-along is $10 payable at the door. For information about the Summer Sing-along, contact 847-905-1500, ext. 101 or register at musicinst.wufoo.com/forms/2015-music-institute-chorale-summer-singalong/

For further information, visit https://www.musicinst.org/

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Oregon's Britt Fest July 31-Aug. 15
The Britt Classical Festival, led by Music Director and Conductor Teddy Abrams, has announced a wide-ranging, adventurous series of concerts of contemporary and new music paired with core classical repertoire for its three-week 2015 season, beginning July 31. The programs include the world premiere of a folk song cycle written and performed by vocalist and songwriter Aoife O'Donovan and fiddler Jeremy Kittel alongside work by Charles Ives, George Antheil and Copland; performances of John Adams's Absolute Jest string quartet showcase with the Dover Quartet and Samuel Adams' recent work Radial Play; orchestral showpieces including Brahms's Symphony No. 2 and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring; Teddy Abrams performing on piano and clarinet with his own Sixth Floor Trio, playing music from a variety of genres in a program alongside music by Samuel Barber and Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique; and composer Mason Bates on electronica in his popular work Mothership with the Britt Orchestra, on a program that features James Ehnes in Barber's Violin Concerto.

The festival takes place in the Britt Pavilion, an intimate, beautiful outdoor 2,200-capacity amphitheater in the historic Gold Rush town of Jacksonville, Oregon, 17 miles from Ashland. This is Teddy Abrams's second season as the Britt Classical Festival's music director.

Other highlights of the three-week festival include:
Carmina burana, with soprano Celena Shafer, tenor Javier Abreu, and baritone Hugh Russell, and members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus, the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers, and the Rogue Valley Chorale.

A performance of one of Abrams' own works, Visceral, to kick off the opening night program.

An evening of music by Leonard Bernstein, sung by Broadway vocalist Morgan James with the Britt Orchestra, including songs from West Side Story, Wonderful Town, On the Town, and others.

An all-French orchestral showcase for The Britt Orchestra, with Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe, Suite 2; Dukas's The Sorcerer's Apprentice; Debussy's Jeux, and Guillaume Connesson's Cosmic Trilogy, Part 1: Aleph.

A 20-voice ensemble drawn from the San Francisco Girls Chorus sings in the charming Performance Garden.

Two free morning concerts for children, one with percussionist and educator Gabriel Globus-Hoenich.

For details and tickets, visit www.brittfest.org

--Jean Shirk Media

Naxos Founder Klaus Heymann wins Yale University's prestigious Sanford Medal
On Monday, May 18th, 2015, at a ceremony at Yale School of Music, Naxos Chairman and owner Klaus Heymann was presented with the prestigious Samuel Simons Sanford Award. Previous winners include Yo-Yo Ma, Mstislav Rostropovich, Isaac Stern, Alfred Brendel, Emanuel Ax, Marilyn Horne, Sherrill Milnes, Aaron Copland, Pierre Boulez, Sir George Solti, Eugene Ormandy and Juilliard President Joseph Polisi.

In his citation at the presentation, Robert Blocker, Dean of the Yale School of Music, made reference to both the history of the Sanford Medal, and to the accomplishments of Klaus Heymann and the Naxos group of companies he created.

Dean Robert Blocker's Citation:
"The Samuel Simons Sanford award is the highest honor the School of Music gives. Let me tell you just a little bit about the significance and history of the Sanford Medal. Not only is it our most prestigious award, but it recognizes and honors a person who was the first Professor of Applied Music at Yale, and one of the founders of the Yale School of Music. A pianist of extraordinary ability, but of modest renown, Sanford was also one of Yale's most generous supporters. Teaching and devotion to musical causes were always close to his heart. He sponsored musicians' concert tours and students' studies abroad. He was in complete charge of the installation of the Newberry Organ in Woolsey Hall, and he gave the magnificent mace of silver and gold carried in this morning's commencement procession for the University, and his family is also responsible for the Presidential Collar.

We honor people who have given distinguished service to music. This morning it is our great pleasure to honor Klaus Heymann. Klaus Heymann is the Chairman of the Naxos group of companies with wholly or partly owned subsidiaries in fifteen countries. The group is the world's leading producer and distributor of classical music."

A full video of the presentation can be seen at https://vimeo.com/128431427

--Raymond Bisha, Director of Media Relations, Naxos of America and Canada

Daniel Barenboim Designs 'Radical' New Piano
Pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim has unveiled a new type of piano, which he says is "radically different" to the standard concert grand. It is built with straight, parallel strings, promising a superior sound to a regular piano, in which the strings are installed diagonally.

Barenboim launched the instrument at London's Royal Festival Hall, in advance of his Schubert recital series. He intends to perform the entire series on the new piano.

Modern pianos have become highly standardized, with few changes to their fundamental design over the last 100 years. They are largely cross-strung, with the bass strings crossing over the middle and treble strings in an "x" pattern, allowing the sound to be concentrated on the centre of the soundboard.

Barenboim was inspired to experiment with the design after playing Franz Liszt's restored grand piano during a trip to Siena, Italy in September 2011.

For more information and a video demonstration, visit http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-32885683

--BBC Entertainment and News

Cleveland International Piano Competition Young Artists Announces 2015 Winners
On May 21, 18-year-old Yuanfan Yang from the UK (Senior Division) and 15-year-old Jae Hong Park from South Korea (Junior Division) were named First Prize Winners of the 2015 Cleveland International Piano Competition's Young Artists competition. The distinguished jury selected the winners from a field of 25 candidates who performed over a ten-day period.

By the close of Thursday's final performances, the competition's jurors were faced with a difficult task, as the finalists delivered exceptional performances of their respective concertos with the Canton Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Gerhardt Zimmermann.

On Thursday night, Pierre van der Westhuizen, President and CEO of the Cleveland International Piano Competition, remarked: "For the past 10 days, it has been my privilege and pleasure to work with 25 of the most charming, talented, and dedicated young pianists you can possibly imagine.  Their work ethic is astonishing.  Their level of skill is jaw dropping. But perhaps most important of all, they are filled with all of the joy for life that one would hope for in teenagers – a fact that I find very, very comforting and uplifting.  It is clear to me that the future of classical music is very bright – and safe – in the hands of these talented, and thoroughly delightful, young artists."

In addition to cash prizes of $25,000 and $10,000, presented by Zoya Reyzis and the Payne Fund (respectively) – which are among the largest cash prizes of their kind for these age groups - the First Prize Winners will share a debut New York recital at The Frick Collection on August 13.

Additional awards, Senior Division:
Second Prize: Jiacheng Xiong, 18, China - $10,000, presented by The Hershey Foundation
Third Prize: Chaeyoung Park, 17, South Korea - $5,000, presented by Peg and George Milbourn

Junior Division:
Second Prize: Leonid Nediak, 12, Canada - $5,000, presented by Clara T. Rankin
Third Prize: Elliot Wuu, 15, USA - $2,500, presented by Peter and Sue Osenar

Audience Prize: Leonid Nediak - $1,500, presented by Mr. and Mrs. William Ivancic
Bach Prize: William Yang, 13, USA - $500, presented by David Osage and Claudia Woods in memory of Dr. William M. Weaver
Mozart Prize: Elliot Wuu - $500, presented by David Osage and Claudia Woods in memory of Dr. William M. Weaver

For more information, visit https://www.clevelandpiano.org/

--Katharine Boone, Kirshbaum Associates

Institute for Therapy Through the Arts Establishes Independence
The Institute for Therapy through the Arts (ITA), celebrating 40 years of providing creative arts therapies to children, adults, and families, announces its decision to become an independent nonprofit organization. Operating since its founding as a division of the Music Institute of Chicago, one of the leading community music schools in the United States, the ITA is targeting fall 2015 for this institutional shift.

Executive Director Jennifer Rook is optimistic about this development. "ITA is stronger than it has ever been, and we are ready to move forward in achieving our goal to bring the creative arts therapies to more individuals. I look forward to working with our new Board of Directors and Advisory Council as we implement our strategic plan."

The decision to establish independence comes at a pivotal time, following the recent successes of ITA's therapy practice. After implementing a three-year strategic plan in 2012, ITA experienced significant growth and made greater investments in programs and staff. In 2014, ITA began billing Blue Cross Blue Shield for psychotherapy sessions provided by creative arts therapists who were also licensed as counselors, social workers, or psychologists, allowing them to serve more clients who previously did not have the means to pay for therapy out of pocket. Additionally, an anonymous donor provided a three-year grant to offset a portion of ITA's operating expenses and invest in new initiatives as the staff worked to achieve a sustainable financial structure.

For more information, visit https://www.musicinst.org/institute-therapy-through-arts

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa