Mark Gibson conducts the CCM Philharmonia at Moveable Feast.

Discussing CCM’s Polish Festival with Professor Mark Gibson

The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music is proud to present an interdisciplinary collection of concerts in the month-long Polish Festival running Sept. 9 through Oct. 2.

200px-herb_polski-svg

The coat of arms of Poland.

Through a series of classical and jazz concerts, lectures and a special art installation, CCM’s Polish Festival celebrates the wealth of extraordinary music and creative expression of one of the world’s great cultures.

The festival’s opening concert begins at 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 9, with a performance by the CCM Philharmonia in Corbett Auditorium. CCM Director of Orchestral Studies Mark Gibson will lead the Philharmonia in a concert featuring the world premiere of American Dreams by alumnus Piotr Szewczyk (BM Violin, 2000; MM Violin and Composition, 2003). The program will also include Witold Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra. Naumburg Gold Medalist and CCM faculty artist Soyeon Kate Lee will join the Philharmonia for a performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2.

Follow this link to the Polish Festival Schedule to view all of the events: http://ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice/concerts/orchestras/polishfest.

CCM graduate student Charlotte Kies sat down with Polish Festival Artistic Director Mark Gibson to learn more about the creation and inspiration behind the event.

What originally inspired you to create the Polish Festival?
The initial inspiration came through discussion with Polish friends on the wealth of extraordinary music from Poland, especially in the last century. I jokingly suggested that the only reason we don’t perform more of it is because the names are unfamiliar and daunting. After overcoming that minor stumbling block, the music on the other side – masterworks by Lutosławski, Szymanowski, Skrowaczewski, Penderecki and more – immediately rose to the level of challenge and quest.

What do you hope students will learn from participating in the Polish Festival concerts?
They are learning that there is so much beyond Chopin, even as we enjoy the rare opportunity to share both Chopin piano concertos with our students and public. Specifically, the Lutosławski Concerto for Orchestra takes its place next to, not beneath, its namesake by Bartók. The Szymanowski “Song of the Night” is nothing less than the most colorful Polish Impressionism, inspired by Ravel but uniquely crafted and painted in sound. And Penderecki’s magnum opus, “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima,” remains one of the most dramatic, powerful evocations of the horrors of war ever committed to paper.

Every score we have programmed, from the legendary opera composer Stanisław Moniuszko to the Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist and composer Włodek Pawlik, bears the mark of mastery and import. They all demand to be heard and experienced.

Besides the fact that the composers of the festival are Polish, how did you program all of the music? Could you tell me what led you to pair Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra for your opening concert?
The opening concert of the CCM Philharmonia season has more than once featured a faculty guest artist as a soloist. I had been looking for a chance to work with Soyeon Kate Lee, former Naumburg Competition winner, ever since her arrival at CCM several years ago. The Chopin was the ideal opportunity; when I asked which of the two concertos she preferred to play, she offered the F Minor. The Lutosławski leapt out as among the most celebratory, virtuosic scores I have never conducted, though I have admired it for decades. We perform Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra in November, so the Lutosławski was therefore an easy choice to open the season. The Philharmonia is eating it up!

As for the remainder of the programming, I had the difficult task of choosing between literally dozens of worthy composers and styles. A work such as Górecki’s gorgeous and moving “Symphony of Sad Songs” is by now part of the canon. Along with the Penderecki Threnody, a broad spectrum of Polish music will be performed. Skrowaczewski’s English Horn Concerto was selected to provide a venue to feature another of our superb students. The Szymanowski Third Symphony, the “Song of the Night,” has been on my wish list for at least 20 years. It will be an honor to share it not only with our students and public, but with the Xavier University Choir and tenor soloist CCM faculty artist Daniel Weeks as collaborators on this performance. Ultimately, there were too many scores to choose from and unfortunately we can’t devote an entire year to Polish music. I hope our public might be inspired to explore further by what they hear.

Did you have a strong relationship with the Cincinnati Polish community before planning this festival?
My primary contact with the Polish community in Cincinnati has been through my jazz colleague, Rick VanMatre, who is married to the brilliant Polish visual artist, Anna Socha VanMatre. In fact, she has donated a major art work, a dramatic piece from her “Metamorphosis” series, for display in Corbett Auditorium for the Festival concerts. Through my friendship with the VanMatre’s, I have been introduced to more members of the local community, notably the scientist Piotr Chomczynski and his wife, Dr. Judith Heiny, whose generous sponsorship makes this festival possible. It has been gratifying to see the support from the local community, in particular the Polish-American Society of Greater Cincinnati, led by Emilia Bacca.

Music making is about community after all, the creation of family through sound. Our family just became significantly bigger.

Is the Polish Festival a one-time event, or do you hope to make it into a recurring celebration of Polish music?
For the past 10 years, we have started our orchestral season with a festival dedicated either to a specific composer or a national style. I felt it was time that Polish music be celebrated in a similar fashion, and though I cannot anticipate another festival dedicated to Polish music, I know that we will continue to feature it in our programming. Next year, we are committing major resources to celebrate the centenary of Leonard Bernstein, one of my conducting teachers and a major influence on the lives of so many American musicians.

Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?
I promise those who come to our concerts will be delighted with and inspired by the music of Poland, and they will absolutely learn how to pronounce the names of the composers by the end! I encourage one and all to join us for this unique tribute to one of the world’s great musical traditions.

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The Polish Festival runs Sept. 9-Oct. 2 throughout the CCM Village. You can learn more about the festival’s opening concert and other events here.

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A tanguero performance in Buenos Aries. Photo provided by Kristin Wendland.

Tracing Tangueros: Alumna Co-Authors First English Study on Argentine Tango Music

During her first trip to Argentina over the holidays in 2000 Kristin Wendland (MM Composition, 1982) began exploring the complex relationship between dance and music in the Argentine tango. The interest she developed in the subject during that brief trip has blossomed into what can surely be called expertise. Wendland and her co-author, Kacey Link, just completed the first English-language foundational study on the tango, called Tracing Tangueros: Argentine Tango Instrumental Music.

Argentine Tango Ensemble Concert at Schwartz Center. Photo provided by Kristin Wendland.

Argentine Tango Ensemble Concert at Schwartz Center. Photo provided by Kristin Wendland.

After that initial trip to Argentina, Wendland began the research alone and returned to Buenos Aires for seven months in 2005 as a Fulbright Scholar.

“In that time, I absorbed many elements of Argentine culture, especially the music, through attending countless concerts and getting to know tango musicians,” Wendland said.

Those tango musicians are the tangueros mentioned in the title. Anyone with an expertise in tango, especially a tango musician or dancer, is a tanguero, or aficionado. After essentially becoming a tanguero herself, Wendland shared her knowledge in an article published in the College Music Symposium in 2007 titled “The Allure of Tango: Grafting Traditional Performance Practice and Style onto Art-Tangos.”

That same year, Wendland was invited to direct the College Music Society’s Tango Institute, where she met Kacey Link. They began to work together at the conference and eventually developed their ideas on tango into a book proposal. It took more than four years for that proposal to materialize into Tracing Tangueros, which was published by Oxford University Press in March.

Wendland has balanced the role of researcher and author while teaching as a senior lecturer at Emory University in Atlanta, where she coaches the Emory Tango Ensemble and teaches courses in Argentine tango, among other subjects.

Tracing Tangueros covers not only how to perform and interpret tangos authentically but also the genre’s historical development and guidelines to composing or arranging tangos. The book is supplemented by an extensive companion website, which includes musical recordings and videos that demonstrate tango performance practices. It is being sold in hardcover and ebook editions through the Oxford University Press.

“Kacey and I saw a need to write this book, since many musicians outside of Argentina are interested in playing tango music but really don’t know how to interpret it stylistically,” Wendland said.

“We hope it will give practicing musicians and scholars a solid stylistic basis to study, play, arrange and compose the music, while giving a more general reader an understanding of its history. We also hope it will lay the groundwork for future tango studies.”
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Story by CCM graduate student Alexandra Doyle

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The company of "Cats". Production photo by Matthew Murphy. http://www.broadway.com/shows/cats-broadway/photos/

CCM Alumni in Broadway’s “Cats” and “Hamilton”

We are thrilled to report that ten CCM alumni are involved in Broadway productions this season!

Christine Cornish Smith (BFA Musical Theatre, 2013) makes her Broadway debut this fall as Bombalurina in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. The Broadway revival of the Tony Award-winning musical opened at the Neil Simon Theatre in New York on July 31. Other alums in the production are: Kristen Blodgette (BM, 1976), Cats musical supervisor/director; Aaron J. Albano (CCM, 2001-2003), chorus; and  Jessica Hendy (BFA Musical Theatre, 1993), chorus and Grizabella understudy. Hailei Call, who earned a BFA from CCM’s Theatre Production and Design program in 2011, is working on the creative team in Cats.

According to Hendy’s interview with WCPO, this is her second time performing in the feline production. She made her Broadway debut in the original cast of the Cats chorus and as understudy for Grizabella, belting the character’s iconic ballad “Memory” in 1999.

Recent CCM graduate Samantha Pollino (BFA Musical Theatre, 2016) returns to Broadway in the Chicago cast of Hamilton. Performances begin Sept. 27 at the PrivateBank Theatre in Chicago. Two other CCM musical theatre alums, Andrew Chappelle (BFA, 2009) and Alysha Deslorieux (BFA, 2012) are members of the original Hamilton cast, which earned 11 Tony awards at the 2016 ceremony.

CCM also has alums in Something Rotten, produced by Kevin McCollum (BFA, 1984). Leslie Kritzer (BFA Musical Theatre, 1999) plays Bea in the musical. Musical theatre alums Max Clayton (BFA, 2014) and Eric Sciotto (BFA, 1997) are in the ensemble.

The 2016 Tony Awards included six productions that had CCM alums as cast or crew members. You can read more about their work here.

Are you a CCM Alumnus with news? Stay in touch by sharing your story with us!

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Story by CCM graduate student Charlotte Kies

Cats production photo by Matthew Murphy

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Header for Cincinnati's 2016 May Festival.

Cincinnati May Festival Features CCM Alumna Tamara Wilson as Guest Artist in Verdi’s Otello

Header for Cincinnati's 2016 May Festival.

As a rising star in the opera world, soprano and CCM alumna Tamara Wilson (BM Voice, 2004) has already amassed an impressive international reputation. Cincinnati residents will have an opportunity to hear her voice again this weekend as she joins the May Festival‘s 2016 line-up!

Soprano Tamara Wilson (BM Voice, 2004).

Soprano Tamara Wilson (BM Voice, 2004).

Wilson, a former student of Barbara Honn and the 2016 winner of the prestigious Richard Tucker Award, will return to the Queen City to perform the female lead role of Desdemona in Giuseppe Verdi’s famed opera Otello under the baton of May Festival Music Director James Conlon.

Wilson will be part of a star-studded cast including tenors Gregory Kunde (the 2015 International Opera Awards Male Singer of the Year) and May Festival regular Rodrick Dixon, along with the May Festival Chorus and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

The performances starts at 8 p.m. this Saturday, May 21, in Music Hall. Tickets are available online at https://my.cincinnatisymphony.org or by phone at 513-381-3300, so make sure to reserve today to see this rising CCM alumna!

About Tamara Wilson
American soprano Tamara Wilson made her much-anticipated Metropolitan Opera debut in December of 2014 in the title role of Aida, when the New York Times praised the “laserlike authority of her high notes,” and observed: “Her voice blooms with her palpable involvement in her own story: Her singing is urgent, her physical performance restrained yet powerful.”

Nominated for a 2016 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera after her English National Opera debut last fall as Leonora in La forza del destino, the soprano will make further debuts next season at the Bayerischer Staatsoper and Deutsche Oper Berlin. She was a finalist in the 2004 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a Grand Prize Winner at Barcelona’s Annual Francisco Viñas Competition, a winner of the George London Award and the recipient of both a 2008 Sara Tucker Study Grant and a 2011 Richard Tucker Career Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation.

After launching the present season headlining Aida at the Aspen Music Festival, Wilson returned to Oper Frankfurt as Elisabeth de Valois in Don Carlo; sang Lucrezia in Verdi’s I due Foscari in Santiago, Chile; made her Cleveland Orchestra debut; and joined Marin Alsop for Mahler in São Paulo. Back in the States after touring Japan as Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus under the baton of Seiji Ozawa, the soprano looks forward to taking Brahms’s German Requiem on an East Coast tour with Seraphic Fire and singing Desdemona in Otello at Cincinnati’s May Festival, in celebration of James Conlon’s 37th and final year as Music Director. Last season Wilson made her role and house debuts headlining Norma at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, following recent debuts at Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Los Angeles Opera, and Carnegie Hall. In addition to being a CCM graduate, Wilson is also an alumna of the Houston Grand Opera Studio.

Learn more about the achievements of CCM’s students and alumni by subscribing to The Village News!
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Story by CCM graduate Kevin Norton (DMA Saxophone, 2015)

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A promotional image for the Animal Mother, a jazz trio comprised of CCM alumni.

CCM Jazz Alumni Receive Glowing Review from the Washington Post

CCM alumni Matt McAllister (BM Jazz Studies, 2013), Josh Kline (BM Jazz Studies, 2015) and Jon Massey (BM Jazz Studies, 2012) have been making waves with their latest musical project, Animal Mother.

In a glowing review of the ensemble’s May 8th performance at the Twins Jazz Club and Lounge in Washington, DC, Washington Post contributor Michael J. West suggests, “(T)hese guys — unlike many declared jazz musicians — had mastered the music’s basic foundation before reimagining it.”

A self-described “garage jazz” band, Animal Mother formed at CCM in 2013 with McAllister on drums, Kline on tenor saxophone and Masey on bass. Initially conceived as an opportunity to practice free improvisation, the ensemble soon began to focus on McAllister’s original compositions. The band released its debut album, The Youth Will Rule!, last year and recently embarked on a tour of the Midwest.

Back at home, Animal Mother has been nominated two years in a row for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards in the “Best Jazz” category.

“Animal Mother deserves more ears,” West concludes in his review, “not least because they slyly suggest that they have even more musical ingredients than meet the ear.”

You can read the full write-up online at www.washingtonpost.com.

Learn more about the achievements of CCM’s students and alumni by subscribing to The Village News!
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Story by Curt Whitacre

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Bearcats at the Ballpark

CCM students and alumni to sing National Anthem at Reds Game

CCM students and alumni will sing The Star-Spangled Banner at the Great American Ball Park Friday night before the Cincinnati Reds play against the Seattle Mariners. The baseball diamond will serve as the singers’ stage as they perform during UC’s annual Bearcats at the Ballpark outing.

Students Nicole Hodgins, Sam Krausz, Grace Newberry, Pedro Arroyo and Chris Albanese will join alumni Danielle Adams (MM Voice 2014), Sarah Folsom (MM Voice 2015) and Stephen Hanna (MM Voice 2016) in singing the National Anthem at the game.

Bearcats at the BallparkThe event features a pre-game celebration at 5:45 p.m. with free giveaways at the Kroger Fan Zone, where UC President Santa Ono will perform the cello before the game. President Ono will also throw the first pitch at 7:10 p.m. Each year, discounted game tickets are offered to UC students, alumni, faculty and staff for Bearcats at the Ballpark:

Field Box: $28 (regularly $36)
Outer Mezzanine: $18 (regularly $20)
View Level: $11 (regularly $15)

To purchase tickets, visit reds.com/bearcats or call (513) 765-7055. Make sure to select CCM as your college in the drop-down menu!

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Playwrights Conference

10-Minute Play Festival closes Playwrights Conference with new work by Todd Almond

The week-long playwriting intensive hosted by CCM Summer Programs will come to a dramatic close Saturday (May 14) in a series of 10-minute plays from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m in the Cohen Family Studio Theatre.

Fourteen playwrights have spent the week learning from industry professionals in master classes to write and develop original works. The inaugural Playwrights Conference was organized by CCM Assistant Professor of Drama Brant Russell. It gave participants the unique opportunity to work closely with leaders in the field — including internationally known playwright and composer, alumnus Todd Almond (BM, 1999) and dramaturg Lisa Timmel, director of new work at the Tony award-winning Huntington Theatre Company in Boston.

“[The participants] are working with levels of expertise and talent that they would not otherwise have access to,” Russell said. “Lisa and Todd represent the very best of what the industry has to offer and I don’t know of any other situation in which playwrights at this level with their engagement with the craft would be able to work these people.”

Each participant has written a short play to be performed at the 10-Minute Play Festival on Saturday. Almond was commissioned to write and develop a new play specifically for this conference, which will premiere at the close of Saturday’s festival around 8:15 p.m. Each play will be performed by CCM’s own drama students.

“Todd’s play is part of a commissioning initiative that I’ve launched here that brings plays to CCM to be produced, the world premiere version of that will hopefully then go on to have a professional and academic life of its own for years and years and years,” Russell said.

Photo by CCM E-Media student Arielle Kruger.

Photo by CCM E-Media student Arielle Kruger.

The playwrights, including Almond, have rewritten and edited their works throughout the week to perfect them for the stage. Almond said the conference feels like a “Sundance retreat where you come every day with new pages.” Almond drew from his memories as a CCM student when writing and developing the play, he added:

“It’s about wrestling with identity when you go to college. There’s a bit of a tragedy early on that kind of derails the main character and he has to wrestle with getting back on track. The actors are helping me figure out what in that is honest and what in that feels forced. I think our process is making it more honest, we’re making this play actually feel real and not devised.”

The 10-Minute Play Festival is FREE and open to the public. Join us for an evening featuring all-new works by playwrights from across the country brought to life on stage with the talents of CCM student actors 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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Photos and Video by Arielle Kruger

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