Walter Bitner

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Side By Side 2017

Curb Youth Symphony & Nashville Symphony musicians rehearse for the annual Side By Side performance, May 16, 2017 ~ photo by Kelley Bell (click to enlarge)

Last week – on Wednesday, May 17, Curb Youth Symphony joined the Nashville Symphony on the stage of Laura Turner Hall for our annual Side By Side concert. Curb Youth Symphony is directed by Carol Nies, and this year’s annual Side By Side event was conducted ( for the first time) by Nashville Symphony Music Director & Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero. For two days many of Middle Tennessee’s most accomplished teenage musicians thronged the halls of Schermerhorn Symphony Center, rubbing shoulders with Nashville Symphony musicians backstage and sharing stands with them on stage as we rehearsed and performed this much anticipated event.

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Two Brahms Portraits

this print cropped from “Brahms at the Piano” by Willy von Beckerath (1868-1938) has hung over my piano at home since 1986

Johannes Brahms was born on this date 184 years ago: on May 7, 1833. The Brahms Bicentennial is only 16 years away!

Like Sebastian, Brahms is a composer whose music has been a deep and abiding presence in my life. Yet I have so far avoided writing much about his music here on Off The Podium. Beyond a reflection I wrote in 2015 after attending a performance of his Requiem, I have merely mentioned Brahms a few times in other articles. So far.

Today, in honor of Brahms’ Birthday, I offer these personal anecdotes:

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Blair School of Music: Adult Summer Chamber Music Institute 2017

Joseph Haydn and friends playing string quartets

This summer, Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music will host their first ever Adult Summer Chamber Music Institute. The brainchild of Pam Schneller, Blair’s Associate Dean for the Precollege and Adult Program and Senior Lecturer in Choral Music, this special four-day program is the first of its kind in our area (as far as I know) – a unique opportunity for adult amateur string players to come together and make music in an intimate setting.

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Nashville Philharmonic: Spring 2017

“I’m really excited about our final pair of concerts this season!” said Christopher Norton, music director of the Nashville Philharmonic, Music City’s volunteer community orchestra. “There are so many connections to the Nashville community inherent in this program, and it encompasses the Nashville Philharmonic’s commitment to education, outreach, and the advancement of the arts.”

Last week I spoke with Dr. Norton and the soloists who are featured on the upcoming programs on May 7 and May 9, including the winners of the NPO’s 2017 concerto and composition competitions.

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Fie, Nay, Prithee John

Henry Purcell (1659-1695) ~ anonymous portrait

Singing canons is a wonderful way to help young singers develop independence, sing harmony and polyphony, and all with material that takes much less time to learn than music cast in more than one part. In strict canon, everyone sings the same part: we all learn the same melody and text together, and once it’s solid split up the group, start singing it at different times, and presto! musical magic.

Canons can be simple enough for very young children to learn in a few minutes or so challenging that professional choirs must exert considerable effort to sing them well. With a broad repertoire of canons on the tip of her tongue, the skilled music teacher is ready to make or teach satisfying music with students of any level, for any occasion, at any time or place.

Over the course of my teaching career I taught dozens of canons to students of all ages: rounds with students beginning in Kindergarten, catches with more experienced singers (usually by third grade). We sang canons about everything: happy and sad canons, silly canons, canons about love, animals, God, food, about music itself. Canons in English, Latin, French, German, Russian. Canons. One of the most important canons I tried to teach to all of my students over the years is the ancient Sumer Is Icumen In, which I have written in detail about here.

Another fabulous canon which I taught to hundreds of students from elementary through high school, and which is the subject of today’s article, is the indignant and difficult “chiding” catch Fie, Nay, Prithee John by the great Henry Purcell. And yes, by teaching this song, I taught my students to swear.

 

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Nashville Concerto Orchestra: Spring Concert 2017

Matthew Phelps conducts the Nashville Concerto Orchestra in rehearsal for their first performance, with Gil Perel, bassoon ~ June 25, 2016, Edgehill United Methodist Church, Nashville

Music City’s unique Nashville Concerto Orchestra will present their fourth concert next Saturday, April 15, bringing full circle the NCO’s first annual cycle of seasonal concerts that began with their Summer 2016 concert last June.

This week I spoke with the orchestra’s founder Roger Wiesmeyer and this concert’s soloists about the upcoming program and the special opportunities this ensemble provides.

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Farewell, Vinay Parameswaran

Vinay Parameswaran

Today, the Nashville Symphony announced that Vinay Parameswaran will be leaving his position as Associate Conductor here to become Assistant Conductor at The Cleveland Orchestra. Vinay leaves Nashville in June to assume his new responsibilities. It has been our privilege to work closely with Vinay on many education and community programs in the last couple years, and I know I speak on behalf of the entire EDCE department – and everyone here at the Nashville Symphony – in expressing how much we will miss him. Vinay is a tremendously talented, insightful, and positive musician and it has been a joy to collaborate with him.

Last week Vinay and I sat down for an hour to reminisce about his time at the Nashville Symphony and reviewed some of the highlights of the last several years.

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Is Music a Sport?

Winners of the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition (l to r) silver medalist Beatrice Rana, gold medalist Vadym Kholodenko, & crystal award winner Sean Chen ~ photo by Tom Fox

“I’m so bored. What is wrong with me? This is what I’ve always wanted. I won Nationals. I’m in charge of this committee. But it feels so meaningless. Do all teachers feel this at some point?”

~ (character) Will Schuester
Glee, Season 4, Episode 3: Makeover

Although advocates for music education – especially music education in public school settings – often speak to ideals about “music education for all children”, or the importance of the inclusion of music education in a well-rounded education, the reality of the state of music education in the United States is that music education is not for everyone.

Alongside the inequality of access and inclusion already being discussed by many throughout the country, the role that competition plays in the activities of music education presented to our children has become so pervasive that by their very nature, these activities exclude and discourage many children, who as a result are not receiving a music education, or are receiving an inadequate and impoverished music education.

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BACHanalia 2017

On Friday, March 31, from 4 – 10 pm, Christ Church Cathedral at 900 Broadway in downtown Nashville proudly presents the 11th Annual BACHanalia. This unique, beloved event is a continuous, six hour concert of our friend Sebastian’s music presented once a year as a gift to the community. Click here for the church’s official announcement of the event. Note the new times! This year’s event will be held from 4 – 10 pm, not 5 – 11 pm as in previous years.

Again this year I was very lucky, and was granted a sneak peak at BACHanalia 2017‘s performers and selections, which I now leak to you here, oh readers of Off The Podium. Warning: Spoilers!

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Sarabande

disputed portrait of our friend Sebastian by Johann Ernst Rentsch the Elder (d. 1723) painted c. 1715, which would make him 30 years old here. Sebastian most likely wrote the cello suites when he was at Köthen (1717-1723)

Our friend Sebastian was born this time of year in 1685 – on March 21 or March 31, depending on whether you recognize Old or New Style (Julian or Gregorian) calendar conventions for commemorating things that happened centuries ago. I have friends who insist that one or other date is correct, but for me it doesn’t matter – for me, every year for many years now I have observed a quiet little personal eleven-day period of reflection on Bach’s music between March 21 and March 31. Each day for eleven days, I set aside some time to both play some of Sebastian’s music (on piano, harpsichord, or lute) and to intentionally listen to some of my favorite recordings of pieces that have touched me deeply.

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