Walter Bitner

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The 2017 Schermerhorn Invitational Choral Festival

Today the Nashville Symphony hosted the first ever Schermerhorn Invitational Choral Festival at Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

Monday, February 6, 2017: three choirs from Middle Tennessee public high schools gathered for a day of music making on the stage of Laura Turner Hall under the direction of Dr. Tucker Biddlecombe, Interim Director of the Nashville Symphony Chorus and Director of Choral Activities at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music.

A wonderful day of music and camaraderie was had by all as our beautiful concert hall was filled with the joyful sound of young people singing for and with each other. Here follows some impressions and photos from the day!

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Introducing the Nashville Choral Consortium

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NashChor: Music City’s New Choral Music Resource

“I wished there was one place where I could go to see all the choral events happening in Nashville and Middle Tennessee – church, university, show, evensongs, youth choirs, everything.” says Tucker Biddlecombe.

If you don’t know Tucker you’re probably not a choral singer in Nashville, Tennessee: he is the Director of Choral Activities at Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt, and this fall begins his tenure as Interim Director of the Nashville Symphony Chorus.

“I’ve observed that many times our organizations schedule events on top of one another, significantly reducing our audiences and creating various conflicts for singers.” he says. “I have some web savvy, so I built a new website: NashChor.org, the Nashville Choral Consortium.

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Homecoming 2016: Thank You, Nashville Children’s Choir

James Wells leads the combined choirs of the Nashville Children's Choir Program + Alumni, as Madeline Bridges leads the audience in "Sol-Fa Calypso" at Homecoming 2016, April 30, 2016, First Baptist Church, Nashville

Touring Choir co-director James Wells leads the combined choirs of the Nashville Children’s Choir Program + Alumni, as Program Director Madeline Bridges leads the audience in “Sol-Fa Calypso” at Homecoming 2016, April 30, 2016, First Baptist Church, Nashville

On Saturday, April 30, 2016, the Nashville Children’s Choir Program held their annual spring concert, as they have every year for more than 25 years. This year’s performance was even more touching than previous years’ performances – not only was the concert the culmination of the year’s rehearsals presented by the more than 250 singers in the program’s 4 choirs. In addition, some 80 alumni – including many in their 20s and 30s – joined the choirs for the day to rehearse a very special “Homecoming” program presented that afternoon that included singers who participated in NCC in the past as well as currently enrolled choristers.

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Elgar, Poulenc, & Lauridsen at West End United Methodist

the combined Chancel & Sanctuary choirs of West End United Methodist Church perform Morten Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna under the direction of Matther Phelps ~ March 6, 2016, Nashville

the combined Chancel & Sanctuary choirs of West End United Methodist Church perform Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna under the direction of Matthew Phelps ~ March 6, 2016, Nashville

The last week has been a flurry of music and activity – the symphony was in the hall rehearsing Rossini, Brahms, and Strauss on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for three performances: our annual High School Young People’s Concert on Friday morning, and Classical Series concerts on Friday and Saturday night. Also on Saturday, we held the first round of our annual Curb Concerto Competition – sixteen teenage instrumentalists competed for cash prizes and the chance to perform a concerto movement with the Nashville Symphony on the stage of Laura Turner Hall! – and on Sunday afternoon we held the competition’s finals. This coming Saturday is our first ever auditions for our new program Accelerando. It’s been a very busy time of year for the Education staff at the Nashville Symphony!

After the final round of the competition was over on Sunday, after photos had been taken and I said goodbye to the finalists and their families, I dashed off a quick email to the symphony’s publicist with details for the press release and then made my way across town to West End United Methodist Church for a special late afternoon concert.

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Music City Baroque & Vox Grata: Music from the Venetian Ospedali

Music City Baroque & Vox Grata perform music from the Venetian Ospedale, January 24, 2016, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Nashville

Music City Baroque & Vox Grata perform music from the Venetian Ospedali, January 24, 2016, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Nashville ~ photo by George Riordan

Like much of this part of the country, last week Nashville was hit by a record snow storm – the largest snowfall recorded here in the last 28 years. Between 5 and 10 inches fell on Friday and Saturday, depending on what part of town you live in (8 inches was the official recorded snowfall at Nashville International Airport).

When snow falls here the city shuts down. Not only do schools and businesses close, but it’s simply not safe to be on the roads. We have few plows and they only attempt to clear main roads, leaving most neighborhoods treacherous and ice-bound. My family did not leave our house on Friday or Saturday, except on foot to walk the dog or to scout out the state of neighboring streets.

So by Sunday afternoon, when the city had begun to thaw out, I was happy to make my way across town to hear an afternoon concert of old music performed in collaboration by two local ensembles.

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Brahms Requiem at West End UMC

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Brahms Requiem at West End United Methodist Church, April 19, 2015

This weekend I was reminded of the embarrassment of riches we have in Music City.  The symphony presented fabulous concerts on Friday and Saturday, featuring two works by American composer Michael Daugherty, both recent and one (Tales of Hemingway for Cello and Orchestra with the incomparable Zuill Bailey) a world premiere, alongside standard repertoire by Beethoven and Stravinsky.  On Sunday, Music City Baroque presented their 10th Anniversary Season Finale with a performance of the Vivaldi Gloria at St. George’s Episcopal Church, and West End United Methodist Church presented a performance of A German Requiem by Johannes Brahms featuring their Chancel Choir under the direction of Matthew Phelps, with Margy Bredemann, soprano, and Jonathan Carle, baritone.  Both of Sunday’s concerts were free.

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