Walter Bitner

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Curb Concerto Competition Finalists 2019

2019 Curb Concerto Competition Finalists: (l to r) Jaime Kim, Luke Turner, Jocelyn Hartley ~ photos by Kathleen Munkel (click to enlarge)

 

As we have done each winter for more than twenty years, the Nashville Symphony hosted our annual Curb Concerto Competition for students ages 14-18 last month.

The first round of the competition took place on Saturday, Februrary 23 before a panel of Nashville Symphony musicians who selected three finalists. These three young soloists then proceeded to the finals round which was adjudicated by a different panel that took place the following afternoon, February 24. This year’s winner will perform with the Nashville Symphony at the annual Side By Side Concert with Curb Youth Symphony on May 7. The 2019 Side By Side Concert will be conducted by Nashville Symphony Assistant Conductor Enrico Lopez-Yańez.

Nineteen superlative young musicians from across Tennessee and beyond competed in this year’s competition: 6 flute players, 4 violinists, 3 pianists, 2 clarinetists, 2 saxophonists, and one student each on cello and bassoon. Both rounds took place on the stage of Laura Turner Hall at Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

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SphinxConnect 2019

 

At the end of January I traveled to Detroit, Michigan to attend the largest and most impactful event of its kind: the 7th annual Sphinx conference “SphinxConnect” and the the 22nd annual Sphinx Competition. This is the fourth year in a row that I spent the first weekend of February in Detroit! and it was the third year in which I was engaged to be a speaker.

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The Golden Age of English Lute Music

Elizabeth I playing the lute by Nicolas Hilliard, c. 1580 ~ Berkeley Castle, Berkeley, Gloucestershire, UK (click images to enlarge)

The Lute Part XIII

The reign of Queen Elizabeth I – an astounding 45 years from 1558 to 1603 – is often referred to as the Golden Age of English history. The long rule of the Virgin Queen brought momentous advances for England: colonization of the New World and circumnavigation of the globe by English privateers, the dramatic defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, Elizabeth and her advisors’ miraculous achievement of reestablishing and maintaining a Protestant state for nearly fifty years in the face of continental Catholic opposition.

England brought forth an artistic and cultural flowering under Queen Elizabeth – most famously in the development of the theatre and the work of the playwright William Shakespeare, whom she patronized. Music, too, flourished during the Golden Age: English musicians were renowned not only at home but abroad for their excellence and virtuosity, and the Queen herself not only patronized court musicians, she played the lute herself.

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Rain Music

Cliffs at Pourville Rain 1896 by Claude Monet (1840-1926)

It has been raining here for weeks. The rivers are overflowing their banks, school districts all over the region canceled classes yesterday because of flooding, and all of us who work downtown are watching the water rise anxiously.

It is difficult to escape a sense a déjà vu as memories of the 2010 flood that devastated our city resurface and fears that history could repeat itself arise.

As I drove into town this morning to produce our annual concerto competition, I found myself thinking about all of the music about rain that has been a part of my life.

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The Forest presents Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, Part 2

The Forest at The Barbershop Theater, Nashville, October 31, 2018. (l to r) WB, Kate Atanian, Ryan Middagh, Eric Brewer, Andrew Guinn, Mario Galati, Michael McLemore, Alex Blizniak, Danesa Harper, Kari Leigh Ames, Brian Hull (click images to enlarge)

 

Continued from Part 1

 

Taking it apart in order to put it all together

Concurrent with all the logistics and planning for the show’s “big picture”, I spent time last summer trying to figure out exactly what keyboards I would need to be able to play the show and how they would be set up.

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The Forest presents Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, Part 1

The Forest performs Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon at The Barbershop Theater, November 1, 2018 (l to r) Michael McLemore, Alex Blizniak, Eric Brewer, Andrew Guinn, Danesa Harper, Kate Atanian, Walter Bitner, Ryan Middagh (click images to enlarge)

 

In 2018, I found myself playing in a rock band for the first time in over thirty years. This is what happened!

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17th Annual Mozart’s Birthday Concerts

This month, Roger Wiesmeyer’s Mozart in Nashville will present concert celebrations to honor the Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 263rd birthday. This annual tradition features an ensemble of local musicians – often including members of the Nashville Symphony, free-lance professionals, and amateurs – who perform two benefit concerts for a local charity featuring music by Amadeus, who was born on January 27, 1756.

The 2019 concerts will take place:

Friday, January 18, noon, at St. George’s Episcopal Church, 4715 Harding Road, Nashville.

Saturday, January 19, 3 pm, at W.O. Smith Music School1125 8th Avenue South, Nashville

This year’s concerts feature:

Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550
Françoise Pierredon & Roger Wiesmeyer, piano four-hands

Adagio in C, K. 356
Dennis James, glass armonica

Adagio and Rondo, K. 617
Dennis James, glass armonica
Jessica Dunnavant, flute
Roger Wiesmeyer, oboe
Kris Wilkinson, viola
Keith Nicholas, cello

These special events will benefit the The Little Pantry That Could, who provide produce and shelf stable items free of charge on a weekly basis to anyone in need.

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The Continuum

The Music of the Spheres, from Practica Musice by Franchinus Gaffurius, Florence, 1496 (click images to enlarge)

Music has been a part of human life for as long as we know. It fascinates me that we live in a time when advances in technology and the efforts of musicologists and musicians have made it possible to learn about, study, listen to, and learn to perform music from a vast profusion of times and cultures – far beyond what was possible in the past.

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2018: What Kind of Blog Is This?

Posing with the philosophers at the British Museum, January 22, 2018 ~ from Three Days in London

Off The Podium Reflections, Statistics, and Top Ten Posts

Here is my annual review of Off The Podium, in which I share some thoughts, highlights, and statistics for 2018. Sometimes this blog is a little all over the place, hence the title.

The past year was turbulent, with a lot of activity for me personally as well as in the department of Education and Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony. Off The Podium continues to provide a great means to share the activities of the department with the world, and to continue to develop my writing on the topics of Music and Education – these features of Off The Podium reach thousands of readers all over the world and have brought me into contact with many musicians and educators I would otherwise have had no opportunity to meet or correspond with.

Thank you everyone for your continued encouragement and support.

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How Great is the Pleasure

or, Love and Music

 

directing the Nashville School of the Arts Chamber Choir, May 13, 2013, Ingram Hall, Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University, Nashville (click images to enlarge)

 

This lovely eighteenth century canon was a staple of my school choirs’ repertoires throughout my entire teaching career. I came across it in a songbook when I first started teaching at Blue Rock School in the early 1990s, and I believe I taught this to every choir I directed until I left teaching in 2014. I taught it to every age group: elementary, middle school, high school. Over the years, How Great is the Pleasure became a kind of unofficial choir theme song for my vocal ensembles, and although it was not something we often sang in performances (especially with older groups of children), we sang it on a regular basis, often as part of our warm up or to close a rehearsal. I never met a child who did not love to sing this song.

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