Musical Curiosity: Ives Style

 

ives-photoThis season, Utah Symphony Music Director Thierry Fischer has programmed four symphonies by American composer Charles Ives.  Symphony No. 1 fits solidly into the late Romantic style.  In his other symphonies he exhibits his interest in experimental approaches, often applied to his trademark use of hymn tunes and traditional songs.

Charles Ives was fortunate to have a father who not only encouraged his son’s musical education, but believed in encouraging his son’s curiosity to explore and experiment with his musical voice.  George Ives explored music outside the “normal” bounds of music theory and composition, and his experiments had a deep influence on Charles’ thoughts about composition.

For the musically “curious” and “experimental,” Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, a proponent of Ives’ music, has created very interesting resources available online.  We encourage our patrons to visit the interactive website at the link here and have some fun exploring music through the lens of the Ives musicians. While the organizing focus of the website is built on Ives’ A Symphony: New England Holidays which is not included on our season, the information about Ives’ method of composition is all relevant to his other work. In particular we encourage you to start with the link to his Father’s Experiments. You’ll be able to hear examples of some of those experimental techniques in the videos and also play around with each technique on your own.

Visit the Utah Symphony website for program and ticket information for the Ives concerts and our entire season at www.utahsymphony.org/ .

For Utah Symphony concert goers this weekend, November 11 and 12, you will have the opportunity to hear Ives’ Symphony No. 3, The Camp Meeting.  You can listen to the three movements of this chamber symphony while watching the score, at the links below.

I. Old Folks Gatherin’
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgOh4YJ0Ixk

II. Children’s Day
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Za2GIkdIaCQ

III. Communion
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qq3r8iNBzk0

“I can’t imagine where I would be now if I hadn’t seen that performance.”

Our Utah Opera in-the-schools programs are offered to every school in the state on a 3-5 year rotation plan. Our presentations are general assembly programs in which Utah’s students get to hear and see professional opera artists in action. We want our events to be inspiring, and we hope that teachers and students return to class and continue exploring their opera experience (we provide post-assembly suggestions in the teacher materials in that hope). Our artists get a lot of fan mail throughout the year, and they write back to all the classes who write to them. One young Park City student, for instance, recently wrote in his letter, “That was a great show! I want to see that show again. I like music just as much as you do. I am learning how to play the piano until I can play it just like Timothy [the pianist in our performing troupe].”

But it is virtually impossible for us to gauge long-term effects on any of the students who experience our artists’ presentations. Fortunately, we occasionally receive a letter from a former Utah public school student who was deeply influenced by our program. Last year we heard from a choir teacher in the Cedar City area that he decided to study choral music because of his experience with our artists’ visit to his own high school choir class. Here’s another letter along those lines, this time from a singer/director/educator who recently discovered that she was working in a summer opera program with a pianist who had been in Utah Opera’s Resident Artist program 14 years ago and had performed in her junior high.

Dear Ms. Fowler,

I had the pleasure of working with Jeremy Frank this past summer at the Miami Music Festival. I was the stage directing intern in charge of directing the studio program performances and Jeremy was the principal coach and music director for the studio program. Just before Jeremy left the festival, he asked me how I got involved with opera, and it turns out, that’s an interesting story!

When I was in 7th grade, Utah Opera sent an outreach program to my Junior High school (Fairfield Jr HS, Davis SD). I’m sure that I had heard some snippets of opera at home before. My family enjoyed all varieties of music, though no one in my family pursued music as a career. However, I had never seen an opera, and I had never heard an opera singer perform live. When those young artists came to my school and sang, I thought, “That’s it! That’s what I want to do with my life! I want to be an opera singer!”

The next year I started taking voice lessons. You can imagine how sessions with my Jr. High and High School (Davis HS) career guidance counsellors went when I told them I wanted to be an opera singer. They were always taken aback, but I assured them all that I had a plan.

However, in my undergrad, I tried to make myself do something more lucrative, but I kept finding that my heart just ached to sing, so after finishing my undergraduate in Communication Disorders, I pursued a Masters in Vocal Performance at CIM. I am currently in the 4th year of my doctorate in voice at Indiana University. Opera outreach is now very important to me and dear to my heart. I have been performing or directing for Reimagining Opera for Kids for four years, and before that I had the opportunity to participate in outreach through CIM and Great Lakes Light Opera.

As I was telling this story to Jeremy, he said, “Wait, what year was this?” And as it turns out, Jeremy was there that day, playing in that outreach performance at my Jr. High school—the performance that changed my life, gave me a life-long love for opera, and sent me on the most enjoyable and fulfilling career path. Then we had the pleasure of working together in Miami 14 years later!

I’m so glad that Jeremy gave me your contact information. I am very grateful for the opportunity to personally thank you for all that you do in educating children about opera in Utah. I can’t imagine where I would be now if I hadn’t seen that performance. I think that few people can boast that their doctoral programs are fun or enjoyable, but I could not be happier. I have enjoyed every minute. It is my dream to create beautiful and meaningful work as a director and a singer, but most importantly to instill in students a love for this remarkable and timeless art.

Thank you,

Jacquelyn Mouritsen

Meet Madeline Adkins – Utah Symphony’s New Concertmaster

madeline-adkins-2015-photo-by-cassidy-duhon-08“From the moment I started working with the orchestra, they were so warm and friendly. There’s a unique spirit to the group and everyone really has such a great attitude and loves to play music. I’m really looking forward to being a part of that.”

~Madeline Adkins

The Utah Symphony is thrilled to welcome Madeline Adkins as she begins her role as concertmaster this 2016–17 season. Originally from the college town of Denton, Texas, Ms. Adkins knew from a young age that she wanted to become a musician. She is the youngest of eight children, six of whom are currently musicians. “My parents were music professors at the University of North Texas,” says Ms. Adkins. “We were encouraged to play starting at the age of five, and many of us continued professionally in orchestras around the country.”

Ms. Adkins received her bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from the University of North Texas and her master’s degree from the New England Conservatory. She recently finished sixteen seasons with the Baltimore Symphony, five of as assistant concertmaster and eleven as associate concertmaster.

Ms. Adkins begins her appointment as concertmaster for the Utah Symphony at the opening concert of this season. She appreciates the rich history and legacy of the symphony, and looks forward to bringing her own experience and energy to the orchestra. She says, “It’s interesting to come into an orchestra in a leadership position because you’re bringing your years of experience but also respecting the traditions and the history of this group. It’s important to find that balance between bringing new energy and ideas while also wanting to take in what everyone else is doing and what Maestro Fischer’s vision is…each musician brings his or her own unique musical history to the group. That is one of the things that makes the orchestra such a fascinating musical organism… every person is unique and they each bring that experience to the orchestra. My goal is to strike that balance and try to jump on the moving train of where things are going.”

Ms. Adkins plans to lead with a spirit of optimism, enthusiasm, and dedication as she joins the orchestra as concertmaster. “I try to bring as much energy as possible to what I’m doing. It helps people around you,” she says. “I really try to bring not only a physical energy, which is important in leading the violins or the string section, but also an emotional energy, to just really give 110% percent all of the time. I think when you lead by example, people really respond to that.”

Ms. Adkins says there are numerous well-known concertmasters in the industry that she looks up to, but one of her biggest role models is Alex Kerr, who is currently concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony, and has also served as concertmaster for the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. She says, “He epitomizes, for me, that sense of optimism. He brings a positive attitude and obviously a great wealth of experience. I am impressed when interacting with musicians how positive he is…I aspire to emulate him more.”

To young aspiring violinists and musicians, Ms. Adkins advises, “It’s hard to get away from the competitive aspects of music, but I think the more you can keep your mindset on the music, on the listeners, on the people who get to enjoy and have their lives enriched by what you’re doing, the happier you’ll be. You’re going to make better music if you can focus on the beauty, the emotion, and having an impact on people’s lives.”

In discussing the upcoming 2016–17 season, Ms. Adkins said, “It’s a great season. There are so many interesting concerts scheduled. The fact that we’re doing all of the Ives and the Brahms Symphonies is an interesting juxtaposition between the lesser-known and the more standard orchestral repertoire.” She is especially looking forward to her solo concerto debut on November 18 and 19. She will be performing Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2.“ Prokofiev is one of my favorite composers. I played for a number of years with Yuri Termirkanov, the director in Baltimore, so I feel an affinity with Prokofiev in particular. I’m really looking forward to playing that piece.” Ms. Adkins is also excited to explore the music of opera, which she hasn’t played much previously, and appreciates the unique opportunity the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera provides to play both symphonic and operatic repertoire.

What is a Concertmaster?

A concertmaster (from the German word Konzertmeister) is the leading violinist in a symphony orchestra. He or she is the principal violinist in the first violin section and acts as an assistant to the conductor and a spokesperson for the orchestra.

Historically, concertmasters would conduct the orchestra from their chair, but this became difficult as larger orchestras became more common. Today, the concertmaster is responsible for supervising tuning, following the conductor’s cues, ensuring that the strings play the same bowing motions and musical phrasing/articulation, playing solos in the absence of a soloist, and helping the orchestra to maintain a consistent, unified sound. In other areas of the world, like the United Kingdom, the concertmaster is simply known as “leader.” A concertmaster must have strong people skills and leadership abilities. They must maintain a level of professionalism and diplomacy, being able to skillfully communicate and negotiate with the musicians and conductor.

The role of concertmaster, however, encompasses much more than leadership. A concertmaster must be a highly skilled musician, with the ability to execute technically difficult passages, perform and maintain a wide variety of tempi (speeds), analyze full musical scores to discern bowing order and musical phrasing, and effectively count difficult rhythms and time signatures. The concertmaster must be flexible, with the ability to quickly make changes to follow the conductor’s cues or instructions. Additionally, the concertmaster must be very aware of his or her surroundings by listening carefully to all the different sections and constantly watching the conductor for cues.

Utah Symphony’s Vice President of Operations and General Manager Jeff Counts said, “I like the way Tim Page put it in his 2002 article about concertmasters. He called them ‘first among equals’ and I think this captures the complex nature of artistic hierarchy quite well. The concertmaster role is essentially one of leadership and partnership.”

Within Utah Symphony, Mr. Counts says the role has an impact on the sound and personality of the orchestra. “The concertmaster coordinates and defines the sound of the string section which, in many ways, has a significant impact on the personality of the entire orchestra. They accomplish this through the preparation of bowings and the offering of other stylistic direction during rehearsals,” said Mr. Counts. “They are also called upon to perform, with distinction, the frequent violin solos that occur in the orchestral repertoire. It’s a tough job, but the important ones often are.”

Paul Meecham Q&A

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Utah Symphony | Utah Opera’s President and CEO Paul Meecham started July 1, 2016 after completing a final 100th anniversary season with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, where he held the role of their chief executive for 10 years. He shares why he and his family are excited to move to Utah and start a new chapter.

Q: First of all, welcome to Utah. Everyone is thrilled to have someone with your vast industry experience. What factors influenced you to take the role as the President and CEO of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera?

A: Ultimately, it was an easy decision to make because of the people at USUO. In meeting with Thierry Fischer, Christopher McBeth, the board, staff and musicians, as well as several community leaders, I immediately sense a shared vision towards artistic and community excellence. I believe that the synergies created in merging the Symphony and the Opera have yet more potential to be tapped, and the success of the Deer Valley® Music Festival has added a whole new and exciting dimension.

Q: Among other things, Utah is known as a mecca for outdoor recreation, phenomenal geographic landscape and community involvement. Tell us what your family is excited about experiencing.

A: Well, we are certainly looking forward to the world-class skiing! And none in the family has ever visited the fabulous national and state parks in southern Utah. Also, I think my kids have already got their hearts set on Dinosaur National Monument! My wife and I love hiking, so couldn’t be happier in moving to Utah. We’ll have to see whether my thirteen-year old son and eleven-year old daughter will agree with us! Both our kids are keen on sports such as soccer and baseball, and my daughter rides horses, of which I’m told you have a few in the state! We are a close-knit family and have quickly picked up that Utah is a very family-friendly state so we expect to settle in very quickly.

Q: Utah has had a big year in the media, attracting attention as the best place for skiing, mountain biking, as well as earning accolades as the top state for business. What has surprised you most about Utah?

A: I think the biggest surprise has been the quality of all the arts. Obviously I was aware of the world-class symphony, but was less familiar with the equally high level of the opera, ballet, theater and visual arts scene.

Q: Your experience leading top-tier orchestras is widely known and respected in the classical music industry. We feel fortunate to have attracted a leader with such a great track record to help shape what is yet to come. Describe what you see in store for the future of the organization.

A: It’s perhaps too early to speak of an overarching vision yet—after all, I just began July 1! However, I will want to build upon the momentum that has developed during the 75th anniversary including the celebrated Carnegie Hall performance, the commercial recordings, and the artistic partnerships forged with the ballet, theater, and others. And just around the corner is another reason to celebrate—the 40th season of Utah Opera in 2017–18. There’s much to look forward to in the years ahead!

Ghost Light Podcast Now Available on iTunes

Listen in on conversations related to orchestral music with the Utah Symphony’s new podcast, The Ghost Light. Each episode is 10-15 minutes long (perfect for a commute!) and focuses on topics related to the orchestra and classical music. The podcast is now five episodes in and past episodes have included conversations with Thierry Fischer, Mary Anne Huntsman, Mike Pape, Paul Meecham, and Christopher McBeth. The Utah Symphony’s General Manager and Vice President of Operations, Jeff Counts, hosts each episode.

If you were to walk on the stage in Abravanel Hall or Capitol Theater when the venue was closed and no one was there, you wouldn’t be alone in the dark. A ghost light is a single bulb that is left on and placed on the stage after each performance. There are different explanations for ghost lights, which is a tradition in most venues. Some believe it keeps ghosts away from the stage. Others think it appeases the ghosts and keeps them happy. The pragmatic see it as an important safety measure to keep people from falling over things that have been left on stage (or off the stage itself!). In that spirit, each episode includes a bonus feature – a ghost story!

You can now subscribe to Ghost Light via iTunes, Stitcher, or SoundCloud or search for “Utah Symphony” in your podcast app. New episodes are released each Monday.

Between the Barlines – Pablo Villegas

During the 2016 Deer Valley Music Festival, the Utah Symphony has launched a weekly interview series entitled “Between the Barlines,” which seeks to reveal aspects of guest artists’ lives outside of the music for which they are known, including things such as their backgrounds, their influences, and their non-musical interests.

Nicknamed “The Soul of Spanish Guitar,” Pablo Villegas has won international acclaim for his guitar performances that are as passionate as they are intimate. Born and raised in the musically and culturally rich landscape of La Rioja, Spain, Pablo won the Andrés Segovia Award at the age of 15, launching a succession of international wins that include Gold Medal at the inaugural Christopher Parkening International Guitar Competition. He has since performed for both the Dalai Lama and the Spanish royal family, and it was he who gave the world premiere of Rounds, the first composition for guitar by five-time Academy Award-winner John Williams. A born communicator, Pablo explains: “Music is a social tool, and opening people’s hearts, and helping them connect to the inner life of the emotions, is my mission.”

In this interview, Pablo comments on his musical upbringing, from watching his hero Andrés Segovia on TV at the age of 6 to his early love for musical performance. A passionate and earnest personality, Pablo talks about his many hobbies from salsa dancing, to cooking with friends, to hiking. A man dedicated to inspiring the future generation, Pablo also discusses the emotional power of music, connecting and celebrating people with his performances and his non-profit organization, Music Without Borders Legacy.

When talking his upcoming performance at the Red Butte Garden with the Utah Symphony, Pablo says, ”When my management told me about this I was oogling about the festival and the environment. I can’t agree more with the philosophy of this festival which is sharing and having a unique experience of music surrounded by nature…I love that because music can be enjoyed in a variety of ways and when people feel comfortable in jeans and shorts and having a picnic, music in those circumstances can be magical…I can’t ask for more and I can’t wait. And I look forward very much to be there and share my values from Spain and my music, playing probably the most beautiful concerto ever written for a soloist in an orchestra…I invite every single person from Utah to come to Red Butte Garden and be part of this celebration of music, and this celebration of themselves.

Be sure to listen to our interview with Pablo Villegas here!

Check out details about Pablo’s performance with the Utah Symphony at the Red Butte Garden here and learn more about Pablo Villegas here.

Between the Barlines – Michael Feinstein

During the 2016 Deer Valley Music Festival, the Utah Symphony has launched a weekly interview series entitled “Between the Barlines,” which seeks to reveal aspects of guest artists’ lives outside of the music for which they are known, including things such as their backgrounds, their influences, and their non-musical interests.

Nicknamed “The Ambassador of the Great American Songbook,” Michael Feinstein is considered to be one of the leading interpreters of American Standards. In 1977, when Michael was introduced to Ira Gershwin, brother and lyricist of George Gershwin, Michael began studying for Ira for six years, researching and cataloging Gershwin materials. As Ira’s assistant, Michael earned access to numerous unpublished Gershwin songs and has performed and recorded many throughout his career. Michael is known for his work in preserving the legacy of America’s popular songbooks.

In this interview, Michael discusses the humble beginnings of his musical legacy, from working in multiple piano bars to his most memorable performances, to his first, influential meeting with Ira Gershwin. Michael also talks about his favorite composers, which spans Romantic composers like Rachmaninoff and Grieg as well as contemporary singers like Catherine Russell and Storm Large. A passionate musician, Michael discusses his enthusiasm for finding lost pieces of American music, pouring through everywhere from archives to dumpsters for rare musical manuscripts.

When talking about his upcoming celebration of Gershwin with the Utah Symphony, Michael says, “To perform with the Utah Symphony is a very blessed experience because it is one of the great orchestras of the world. There’s a deep and long Gershwin connection because Maurice Abravanel knew the Gershwin brothers. I met Maestro Abravanel many years ago in New York and it was a thrill to meet him because he was so close to my mentor, Ira Gershwin…the show is one that’s interactive and it’s certainly a lot of fun. With this kind of orchestra I can perform the ballads with a lush string section and the swing songs with the brass, so it’ll really run the gambit of style and energy for that evening. I think it’ll be a real fun night.”

Be sure to listen to our interview with Michael Feinstein here.

Check out details about Michael’s performance at the Utah Symphony’s Deer Valley Music Festival here and learn more about Michael Feinstein here.

Between the Barlines – Justin Freer

During the 2016 Deer Valley Music Festival, the Utah Symphony has launched a weekly interview series entitled “Between the Barlines,” which seeks to reveal aspects of guest artists’ lives outside of the music for which they are known, including things such as their backgrounds, their influences, and their non-musical interests.

Born and raised in Huntington Beach, California, Justin Freer has quickly established himself as one of the West Coast’s most exciting musical voices and highly sought-after conductor and producer of film music. Writing some of 20th Century Fox Studios’ biggest campaigns including films such as Avatar, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Aliens in the Attic, Justin also serves as Founder and President of CineConcerts, which seeks to preserve film and TV concert music, including scores of films such as Gladiator, The Godfather, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Justin is a co-creator of the DreamWorks Animation concert with the Utah Symphony, which will feature award-winning conductor Shih-Hung Young with the Utah Symphony at the Deer Valley Music Festival on Friday July 29th.

In this interview, Justin talks about his upbringing on the West Coast and how it’s influenced his musical work as an award-winning composer and conductor. A thrill-seeker, Justin discusses his hobbies outside of music and composing, which includes the exhilarating activity of skydiving. Justin also comments on notable performances he’s had, including one for the 2012 Major League Soccer Championship in Los Angeles, and of the upcoming performance of music from DreamWorks animation.

When talking about the upcoming show of DreamWorks Animation music, Justin says, “It’s a high octane treat to be able to bring this concert to this venue with the Utah Symphony. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I think this particular set of music and this set of animated pieces are admired by a lot of different people around the world…You can’t really experience the power of film music, in your home theatre or in a movie theatre, the way you can by hearing a live 85 piece orchestra bringing alive the musical textures. It’s very unique and very special and it really is one of those things where you have to go see it to believe it. ”

Be sure to listen to our interview with Justin Freer here.

Check out details about Justin’s performance at the Utah Symphony’s Deer Valley Music Festival here and learn more about Justin Freer here.

Between the Barlines – Rei Hotoda

During the 2016 Deer Valley Music Festival, the Utah Symphony has launched a weekly interview series entitled “Between the Barlines,” which seeks to reveal aspects of guest artists’ lives outside of the music for which they are known, including things such as their backgrounds, their influences, and their non-musical interests.

Born in Tokyo but grew up in Chicago, award-winning conductor and pianist Rei Hotoda has emerged to become one of America’s most sought after and dynamic classical artists. A tenured Associate Conductor for the Utah Symphony, Ms. Hotoda has led the orchestra extensively in chamber concerts, regional tours, and in the Deer Valley Music Festival. For her solo performance with the Utah Symphony, Ms. Hotoda will be accomplishing the incredible and unique feat of conducting while playing the piano, performing Mozart’s 9th Symphony at the Deer Valley Music Festival on Wednesday August 3rd.

An open and friendly personality, Rei talks about her great balancing act of her familial life, her career, and her musical performance. In this interview, Rei discusses everything from her admiration for the Dalai Llama, to her opinion on the role of women in the modern classical music world. Rei also comments on her upbringing, talking about the influence of her mother and her very early piano practice beginning at the age of 3.

When discussing her performances at the Deer Valley Music Festival, “I’m really excited about doing these big concerts like the John Williams concert that ends the festival, as well as these chamber concerts that I’m doing where I’m playing and conducting a Mozart piano concerto. I’m thrilled, and since I’ve gotten to know some of the community up there, I’m really excited to share this music with them.”

Be sure to listen to our interview with Rei Hotoda here.

Check out details about Rei’s solo performance at the Utah Symphony’s Deer Valley Music Festival here and learn more about Rei Hotoda here.

Between the Barlines – Will Hagen

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During the 2016 Deer Valley Music Festival, the Utah Symphony has launched a weekly interview series entitled “Between the Barlines,” which seeks to reveal aspects of guest artists’ lives outside of the music for which they are known, including things such as their backgrounds, their influences, and their non-musical interests.

A Utah native, award-winning violinist William Hagen has emerged as one of the world’s most accomplished young violinists. William made his professional debut with the Utah Symphony at the age of 9, and since then, has earned international acclaim, winning third-prize at the 2015 Queen Elizabeth International Music Competition, the highest ranking American since 1980. For his performance with the Utah Symphony at the Deer Valley Music Festival on August 5th, William will be classic masterworks including Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

In this interview, William Hagen discusses his early childhood, playing for the Salt Lake Sluggers baseball team and his beginnings with the violin at the age of 4. In addition to his experience entering the challenging world of classical music and where he thinks the genre is headed in the future, William also exclaims love for more contemporary music, including the recent Justin Timberlake hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and legends like Marvin Gaye.

However, William’s earnest and down-to-earth nature shines when he talks about his home state of Utah, “From the bottom of the heart, I’ve been a lot of places and I love Utah. Every time I come home and I look at the Wasatch front I think, ‘my gosh.’ I haven’t found a more beautiful cityscape in the world…I’ve been to some pretty cool places and I’ve never seen mountains so close to the city. It’s a wonderful place and I always like coming home.”

Be sure to listen to our interview with William Hagen here.

Check out details about William’s performance at the Utah Symphony’s Deer Valley Music Festival here and learn more about William Hagen here.