Monday, May 8, 2017

Nebraska Choirs Unite to Celebrate

Lincoln Choral Artists (LCA) finished their year with a final celebration of the 150th birthday of Nebraska.  Earlier in the choir year, LCA celebrated the sesquicentennial of Nebraska by collaborating with other Lincoln area choirs. This past Sunday, in O'Donnell auditorium on the Wesleyan campus, LCA was joined by singers from across Nebraska. The Heartland Singers of North Platte and the Grand Island City Singers.

Although the theme was "Sowing the Seeds of Music in Nebraska," it was clear from the participation of talented choirs from across the state that there are not only seeds, but many fruits of music in Nebraska!

The Bellissimo handbell choir of Lincoln also performed, a pleasant surprise on an otherwise choral concert, and the audience enjoyed the experience of seeing the talented performance of this community handbell choir.

The best pieces of the concert were the ones especially suited to the theme of Nebraska's celebration. The visiting choirs both performed works by John Rutter, with the North Platte choir's performance of "For the Beauty of the Earth," a most moving performance.

Two pieces were featured by Nebraska composers: "Nebraska Sky," the work of North Platte native, Kim Baxter, and "The Bee and the Frog," performed by LCA, by composer David von Kampen.

"Blow Prairie Winds," "Rattle on the Stove Pipe," "Song of Peace," performed by the bell choir, were other crowd pleasers that kept the Nebraska theme!

Although the concert was longer than many have the attention span for in this day and age, the massed vocal choir performances of "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "Beautiful Nebraska/America the Beautiful," and "Praise to the Lord the Almighty" gave a great chance to see the collaboration of the many singers, conductors, pianists, and organist of the day.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Lincoln Choral Artists: Music High Above Lincoln

High above Lincoln in the Nebraska Club, the 20th floor of the US Bank building downtown, the Lincoln Choral Artists (LCA), a talented community choir under the direction of Jason Horner with Dennis Plutalov at the piano, took a little “break” from their usual repertoire and presented “Crooning over Lincoln.” Dinner, concert, and auction all to benefit the wonderful work of LCA in keeping choral music alive and well in our community. Throughout the 2016-2017 year, LCA is celebrating Nebraska for its sesquicentennial, with A Capitol City Choirs Concert in the fall, and the upcoming Sowing the Seeds of Music in Nebraska on May 7th at 3:00pm at O’Donnell Auditorium on the campus of Nebraska Wesleyan. 

The gala on Friday, March 3, featured music of the ‘40s and ‘50s, old familiar favorites of Frank Sinatra, the Andrew Sisters, Nat King Cole and more. The choir was challenged to learn different sounds and harmonies than exist in some of their more classical repertoire, but what was most evident throughout program wasn’t the hard work put into the music but the fun the performers were having!

They opened the evening with “Fly Me to the Moon”—memorized, an impressive feat. In between choral pieces, the audience was treated to solos or small groups, some performed by the evening’s M.C., Michael Tully, and some by members of the choir. Not only was the audience tapping their toes along to the tunes, but even when not singing, every member of the choir was engaged, smiling, and moving to the music! Music included "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Java Jive," and a break from the crooner-theme for a Bach Organ Fugue in a challenging choral arrangement!

Once again, LCA proves that a love for music is far from dead in the Lincoln community.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

An Unlikely Combination: Percussion and Organ Duet

Dave Hall, UNL's Assistant Professor of Percussion and Jazz Studies, gave his percussion recital on Saturday evening. As usual with percussion recitals, the variety of sounds, styles, and instruments was fascinating and colorful. No one can fail to be impressed by the talent that goes into playing all the different kinds of percussive instruments.

The oldest piece of music on the program was composed in 2009, a composition by the performer, and the newest was written as recently as 2016. One delightful piece had the title "Azucar," or "sugar," and had a sweet and delicious sound as one would expect!

The highlight of the evening was, beyond a doubt, the grand finale which was a work composed by Kurt Knecht for Dave Hall and Christopher Marks, UNL's professor of organ. Featuring different percussion instruments for each movement, the work is a masterpiece of blending two instruments that one would not normally imagine working together--rhythms and harmonies highlighted one instrument or the other as they played both rousingly at times or peacefully. You can enjoy the performance (given earlier at Marks' recital) in the video below:

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Lincoln's Symphony Orchestra: family, fun, and the future of music

This afternoon was a busy one in the area's Classical music scene with a variety of concerts in Lincoln and Omaha from orchestras and flute choirs to pianists and operas. One crowded event was Lincoln's Symphony Orchestra's "Three Little Pigs" Family Concert. What a sight to see as families with children of all ages, from babies on up, crowded into Wesleyan's O'Donnell Auditorium for the afternoon's entertainment.

LSO is doing a tremendous service to the community by holding these family concerts: encouraging children to come, listen, and experience orchestral music while also keeping it short, entertaining, and engaging. Maestro Edward Polochick, although forced to remain seated throughout the concert due to a broken foot, was warm and welcoming to the children as actor Tim Marrone came along in the character of Mother Goose, then Mr. Pig, and finally, the Big Bad Wolf.

Not only is clapping and noise allowed and encouraged (as laughter or boos resounded throughout the auditorium depending on the antics and character of Marrone), but children also had the opportunity beforehand to play various instruments, have their faces painted, do crafts, then color on their programs and help conduct on stage. Although some of the music is lost behind the laughter, it is heard, and the next time children hear Beethoven's 5th or the music of Ravel, they'll have a happy memory associated with it and want to learn more!

A wonderful way to inspire a love of orchestra and perhaps the next generation of musicians!

Friday, November 11, 2016

UNL Opera's 'Little Women:' brilliant and emotional

Tonight, the audience seated in Kimball Recital Hall laughed, cried, and grew up with Jo March. The Glenn Korff School of Music put on Mark Adamo's Little Women opera--a brilliant opera written in 1998, featuring the some of the best that modern music can be, beautifully performed.
Tickets for Sunday's performance
can be purchased here.

The story of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott should be familiar to many, but the opera, while staying true to the story, brings out the themes of Jo's struggles and her loves.

In the first half, the audience laughed and rejoiced as the sisters played together, Meg was wooed by her "knight," and Jo wrote her "potboiler."

The music thrilled and made the emotions strike the hearts of everyone in the audience as the telegram arrived for Jo telling her that Beth was ill...and at the death scene, the instruments dropped out and the singing carried on--beautiful, but a little lonely, as Jo was feeling.

The themes presented of family, love, change, and, eventually, growth were perfectly brought together in the music, libretto, staging, set, costumes, and performance by the talented students at UNL.

With one more performance remaining on Sunday, Nov. 13th at 3:00pm, this is a chance that can't be missed--you will be able to relate to it on some level. Who has not longed for things to stay the same, but found that change comes upon them? Who has not had to learn that "now is all we have."