Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra musicians play with the pros
Wednesday night is becoming all-hands-on-deck night at the annual Chamber Music Festival of Lexington.
It’s the point in the fest where ensemble-in-residence WindsSync shares the festival main stage with the artist-in-residence and the festival’s core ensemble. But this Wednesday night, fest president Gregory Pettit had another name for the evening: “A program replete with talented Kentuckians.”
Indeed, it was probably the largest number of musicians the Chamber Fest has had in one concert in its 12 years, thanks in part to a quartet of Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras string players who joined the festival’s core string ensemble of musicians from the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra for a performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Octet in E-flat major” to close the show.
“This is the rarest opportunity they can have in their lives,” CKYO music director Marcello Cormio said to the audience before the concert. “I don’t know how many young players — 15, 16, 17 years old — get this opportunity at this point in their careers.”
It was made possible by a CKYO alum: festival artistic director Nathan Cole, who grew up in Lexington and is now the first associate concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. One person in the audience at the Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center with a unique perspective on the event was Lexington Philharmonic concertmaster Daniel Mason, who was Cole’s violin teacher and teaches one of the CKYO musicians on stage Wednesday, violinist Madeline Farrar.
“It was a great idea,” Mason said of inviting the CKYO kids to join the pros in the performance. “And this was the perfect piece for it. The joke was Mendelssohn didn’t want anyone getting bored, so there are a lot of notes in it, for everyone.”
What really impressed Mason was not only did the CKYO musicians know their parts, they knew each others and understood what was happening in the ensemble, which is essential for strong chamber music playing, he said.
The CKYO quartet was rounded out by violist Jeffrey Shen, cellist Nathan Tantasook and violinist Skye Park, who will also be in Friday night’s concert playing Johannes Brahms “Sextet No. 2” with the festival ensemble. At Monday night’s WindSync feature concert, a quintet of CKYO wind players joined the ensemble for Charles Gounod’s “Petite Symphonie” — flutist Missy Hill, oboist Angelina Pius, clarinetist Nathan Richey; bassoonist Alexis Cerise, and french horn player Benjamin Humphries.
Pianist Andy Du was actually the first CKYO musician to play Wednesday night, performing Antonin Dvorak’s “Romance for Violin and Piano” with Cole.
And Cole was not the only CKYO alum on the program. Cellist Ben Sollee, who is now enjoying a career as a roots/Americana musician and composer, is this year’s artist-in-residence and offered the audience four of his songs, including his tribute to late Lexington artist Louis Bickett, “Pieces of You.”
Sollee, who will also be part of Friday and Sundays concerts, shared an amusing account of how he discovered the cello through the instrument’s ability to imitate the sounds of bodily functions that amuse pre-teen boys, and split his early years playing it between classical music at school and the blues his father favored.
Prior to Sollee, WindsSync, which has been in Lexington performing for the past week, presented another set showing just how delightful wind instruments can be together. Bassonist Kara LaMoure defined the diverse evening with her own term: “a variety show of chamber music.”
The fest continues through Sunday.
IF YOU GO
Chamber Music Festival of Lexington
What: Festival featuring core ensemble (Nathan Cole and Akiko Tarumoto, violin; Burchard Tang, viola; Priscilla Lee, cello; Alessio Bax, piano), ensemble-in-residence Windsync, artist-in-residence Ben Sollee and members of the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras.
Aug. 23: Cabaret concert with the entire festival lineup. 7:30 p.m. Al’s Bar, North Limestone. $16 at the door.
Aug. 24: Core ensemble, Ben Sollee and CKYO guests playing music of Grieg, Brahms and Sollee. 7:30 p.m. Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center. $35 advance, $40 walk-up, $15 student walk up with ID.
Aug. 26: Core ensemble and Ben Sollee playng Mozart, Janacek and Beethoven. 2 p.m. Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center. $35 advance, $40 walk-up, $15 student walk up with ID.
Tickets: Call 859-425-2550 or visit chambermusiclex.org.