BUZZ-O-METER ‌ Choral & Concert Music 

Sunset Serenade
New Music Collective: Katrina Ballads
Bank of America Chamber Music
Westminster Choir Concerts
Music in Time
Choral Artists Series
Intermezzi Series
Charleston Virtuosi
Verdi: Messa da Requiem
Spoleto Festival Concert II
Spoleto Festival Concert I
St. Petersburg String Quartet Mepkin Abbey Concerts
Yuriy Bekker in Recital
Transtrand Spelmanslag
Bach Cello Suites

 

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Sunset Serenade

WHAT IS IT? A pops concert by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra echoing themes from Piccolo’s “Opera is for Everyone” theme, conducted by Maestro David Stahl. WHY SEE IT? While the CSO’s current “Hear Me” billboard advertising campaign looks dark and ominous, the Sunset Serenade is just as soothing and colorful as it sounds, with the towering U.S. Custom House as a commanding backdrop. WHO SHOULD GO? It’s a free, family friendly event for music lovers. BUZZ: It’s a real gem as Charleston’s home-grown talent takes on beloved classics in an annual tradition. (Greg Hambrick)
Piccolo Spoleto • FREE • (1 hour 30 min.) • May 25 at 8 p.m. • U.S. Custom House, Concord and Market streets • 724-7305

 

 

 

 

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New Music Collective: Katrina Ballads

WHAT IS IT? The world premiere of New York-based composer Ted Hearne’s Katrina Ballads, featuring songs composed with text taken entirely from primary sources (New Orleans flood survivors, relief workers, celebrities like Kanye West, and politicians embroiled in the disaster). Hearne utilizes the talents of 11 instrumentalists and five singers, combining true-life tales with the rich musical history of the Crescent City to create a moving portrait of a city on the cusp of destruction. WHY SEE IT? Besides its artistic merit and the first-rate roster of participating musicians from across the country and right here in Charleston (including Nathan Koci and Ron Wiltrout from the New Music Collective), the production is co-presented by Yes is a World, a Chicago/New York-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization “working to promote peace and social change through musical diversity.” So while the ticket price might not be tax-deductible, should you feel the pull to donate after the show, the opportunity readily presents itself. WHO SHOULD GO? Fans of the forward-thinking projects of the NMC, who’ve done more to promote the forward edge of Charleston’s classical music scene in two years than just about anyone in the last decade, as well as those still reeling from the now nearly three-years-past disaster that, yes, could happen here, too. BUZZ: Despite the fact that no one’s seen it yet, Katrina Ballads is poised to become a show that makes a national — international, even — impact through its wholly creative approach to framing the Katrina tragedy in song, strings, and sorrowful remembrances. (Sara Miller)
PICCOLO SPOLETO ‘s spotlight concert series• $12 • (i hour 15 min.) • May 31 at 6 p.m. • Circular Congregational Church, 150 Meeting St. • 554-6060

 

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Bank of America Chamber Music

WHAT IS IT? A dozen or so fab artists from the global A-list serving up a festival-length feast of chamber masterpieces, potluck-style and seasoned a la Wadsworth. WHY SEE IT? It’s very simply hog heaven for chamber nuts. Except for a few festivals devoted entirely to the genre, there’s no richer or better-played treasure-trove of chamber masterpieces anywhere on the planet. We’ll get 11 different programs, each heard three times, spread across 17 days, all in the intimacy and acoustic glory of the Dock Street Theatre. Some festival attendees come here for nothing else. Returning, among a starry cast of regular players, is one of last year’s new festival darlings: harp hottie Catrin Finch. Stuffed shirts, be warned: longtime host Charles Wadsworth will be there to deflate your hot-air balloons with his vast wisdom and irreverent wit. WHO SHOULD GO? Chamber junkies (quite a few of us in the Holy City), you know who you are. But all you classical rookies who want to the experience the classics in a lighter, more intimate way — here’s your chance. Musical kids will dig it. BUZZ: Chucktown’s chamber fans are already drooling over this beloved series, even though they don’t know what they’re gonna hear yet (For festival newbies: “potluck” means you don’t find out what’s on the menu ‘til you get there). But no sweat — you can trust this W’s judgment. See preview on pg. 108. (Lindsay Koob)
SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $25-$35 • (1 hour 10 min.) • May 25–June 10 at 11 a.m. & 1 p.m. • Dock Street Theatre , 135 church st. • 579-3100

 

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Westminster Choir Concerts

WHAT IS IT? The Westminster Choir, America’s finest college ensemble, returns to Charleston with a new conductor and double the usual pair of concerts. WHY SEE IT? For the first time in over 30 years, Spoleto’s 40-voice resident choir will be conducted by somebody new: Dr. Joe Miller, their current director. Their longtime leader, Joseph Flummerfelt, retired from Westminster Choir College in 2005 — but “Flum,” as ever, remains in charge of Spoleto’s choral activities, and he’ll still conduct the big Verdi Requiem event. He and Miller have apparently decided that the usual matching pair of concerts isn’t enough, so there will be an extra program this year — featuring Les Angélus, an ensemble of just the women’s voices. It’s also to be offered twice, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. The full choir will be heard this year at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church on King Street. WHO SHOULD GO? Throngs of choral fans will be prowling the streets in quest of the daily fixes offered by both festivals — but these artists will be at the top of everybody’s “must hear” lists. If you want to experience the very best, just be there. And the two extra concerts may boost your chances of getting tickets. BUZZ: Chucktown’s choral nuts are all agog to hear their pet choir under Westminster’s new head honcho — especially after last year’s 11th-hour bailout by Tim Brown, Flummerfelt’s initial successor. See preview on page 109. (Lindsay Koob)
SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $32, $25 • (1 hour 30 min.) • Les Angélus: May 28, June 2 at 5 p.m. • St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 67 Anson St. • Full choir: May 31, June 7 at 5 p.m. • St. matthew’s lutheran church, 405 King st. • 579-3100

 

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Music in Time

WHAT IS IT? The popular contemporary music series programmed and hosted by youthful enthusiast John Kennedy. WHY SEE IT? There is no more “classical” music being created today, not really — no more than filmmakers are still churning out film noir or artists are fiddling with cubism. The word “classical” is a semantic device that served music well for a time, but now it mostly refers to tunes written by dead guys who wore white wigs. Kennedy casts his net across the world and pulls in the most interesting and talented composers working today, and very few of them would refer to their music as “classical.” Take The Bowed Piano Ensemble, for example, in Program I. The 10 members open up a piano, reach into its guts, and play the strings therein with fishing line. Classical? Forget it. Just new and cool. WHO SHOULD GO? Anyone interested in finding out what classical music sounds (and looks) like in the 21st century. The programs are short (75 minutes each), the price ($20) doesn’t chafe, and you’re out just in time for happy hour. BUZZ: Music in Time is consistently one of the most anticipated series in the Big Festival. Interesting, irreverent, unpredictable, and guaranteed to be unlike anything you’ve ever heard. See preview on page 111. (Patrick Sharbaugh)
Spoleto Festival USA • $20 • (1 hour 15 min.) • May 26, June 1, 2, 5, 7 at 5 p.m. • Recital Hall, Simons Center for the Arts, 54 St. Philip St. • 579-3100

 

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Choral Artists Series

WHAT IS IT? This choice 10-concert series, boasting quite a few of the nation’s up-and-coming choral groups, is Piccolo’s confident answer to the big dance’s Westminster-led choral supremacy. WHY SEE IT? Lately, Charleston can claim world-class choral excellence year-round, thanks in no small part to local choral guru Rob Taylor. And two of his ensembles will grace Piccolo’s dependable series again this year: the College of Charleston Concert Choir (recently acclaimed as one of America’s best) and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chamber Singers. We’ll hear from our own Cathedral Choir of St. John the Baptist, two more leading college choirs, three fine ensembles from across the Carolinas, a group of early music specialists and a special bunch known as Antioch: one of New York’s hottest vocal groups. WHO SHOULD GO? Most of the horde of choral thrill-seekers that descends upon us for two weeks every year should already know that they can get their jollies in this well-attended series. BUZZ: Comfort ye, my people, if you can’t get into the glam Westminster events — ‘cause you can look to most any of these groups for quality consolation. You should see the list of wannabe Piccolo choirs that get turned down. (Lindsay Koob)
PICCOLO SPOLETO • $7, $5 for students. See Piccolo brochure (or website) for dates, times & venues • 554-6060

 

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Intermezzi Series

WHAT IS IT? The five concerts of the Intermezzi Series offer a terrific variety of late-afternoon events that mostly fall somewhere between chamber and full orchestral dimensions. WHY SEE IT? Here’s your chance to hear quite a few of the festival’s top artists, moonlighting in between their primary operatic or orchestral gigs. This year, look for a Beethoven piano concerto (you guessed it: Andrew von Oeyen’s back, conducting from the keyboard), a selection of larger chamber pieces, a revealing array of vocal works by Mahagonny composer Kurt Weill, and two programs of smaller orchestral classics. Their 5 p.m. start times and central Marion Square location (St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church) make these an ideal halfway stop between major daytime and evening events. WHO SHOULD GO? Something for everybody is the plan here. If you don’t go for vocal recitals, there are the orchestral or keyboard events. Most of these are OK for older kids. BUZZ: Always well done, always jam-packed, always frustrating when they sell out before it occurs to you to lock in your ticket. Everybody’s wondering how these concerts (they used to do ‘em at Grace Episcopal) — will sound at St. Matthew’s this year. See preview on page 110. (Lindsay Koob)
Spoleto Festival USA • $25 • (1 hour 15 min.) • May 28, 30, June 4, 6, and 8 at 5 p.m. • St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, 405 King St. • 579-3100

 

Charleston Virtuosi

WHAT IS IT? Flutist Tacy Edwards’ newest venture in bringing chamber music to life in Charleston, the sixth installment in Piccolo’s Spotlight Concert Series. WHY SEE IT? One of the most energizing elements of any Spoleto/Piccolo Spoleto season stems from the sheer variety of what’s out there — to hear, to see, to experience. And one of the hands-down best ways to experience it, outside of the Big Festival, is in Piccolo’s answer, the Spotlight Concert Series. Charleston Virtuosi’s gig promises to showcase that element of variety, boiled down to the rich intimate rue of chamber music. The composers slated for performance range from Mozart (a movement from The Marriago of Figaro) and Rossini (his William Tell Overture) to Lezcano. The work of College of Charleston composer Trevor Weston is also on the program, with the added treat of a world premiere performance of local composer Edward Hart’s Three Latin Rivers. WHO SHOULD GO? Chamber music lovers and anyone who appreciates the talent it takes to make broad stylistic shifts within a single performance. BUZZ: The Charleston Virtuosi is a “new” local group, yet all of its members have the credentials and talent to create a first-class ensemble. (Robert Bondurant)
PICCOLO SPOLETO • $12 • June 2 at 6 p.m. • City Gallery at Waterfront Park, 34 Prioleau St. • 554-6060

 

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Verdi: Messa da Requiem

WHAT IS IT? Simply the most melodramatic and terrifying mass for the dead ever written, Spoleto’s big choral/orchestral concert this year. WHY SEE IT? This is one of the world’s handful of truly great requiems — like the one by Brahms that we got two Spoletos ago. It’s really a concert work, for huge orchestra and chorus plus four big solo voices. But close your eyes and forget about the Latin it’s sung in and you’d swear you were at the opera house. In fact, it’s often described as Verdi’s “sacred opera” — what with its exaggerated drama, drippy emotion, and heavy musical spectacle. Maestro Joseph Flummerfelt will lead his super-chorus (the usual Westminster voices beefed up by our own symphony chorus) — plus an all-star orchestra and a pack of prime soloists. They ought to keep you on the edge of your seat right from the start, and leave you limp with exhaustion after it’s all over. One of the festival’s hottest tickets. WHO SHOULD GO? Any opera nut, or anybody whose spine goes all a-tingle when a big orchestra and chorus get down to cranking up the decibels. Kids? Think PG-13. BUZZ: Some of us still remember — with reverence and awe — the last time Flummerfelt and company did Verdi’s Requiem at Spoleto, back in 1997. I recall it as a wonder-struck member of the chorus — but those who heard it from the other side of the stage agreed with me that it was one of the supreme artistic experiences of a lifetime. Expect the same this time, or even better. (Lindsay Koob)
Spoleto Festival USA • $10-$65 • (1 hour) • June 4 at 8 p.m. • Gaillard Municipal Auditorium, 77 Calhoun St. • 579-3100

 

Spoleto Festival Concert II

WHAT IS IT? Here’s the festival’s big-band blockbuster: three pieces for huge orchestra, headlined by Mahler’s “heavenly” Fourth Symphony, delivered by the absolute cream of America’s young musicians. WHY SEE IT? This year, our vaunted Spoleto Festival Orchestra gets to strut its stuff in yet another symphony by Gustav Mahler (for the third time in four festivals) — but this one is very different from the violent, schizoid Fifth of last year. The Symphony No. 4 is a comparatively gentle beast, but still magnificent — ending with the composer’s own rustic, but radiant impression of heaven. And it’s shorter than most Mahlerian monsters, so there’s room left in the program for two tone poems — both of them meaty masterpieces for virtuoso orchestra. We’ll hear Richard Strauss’ perky Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, recounting the misadventures of a medieval German clown — plus Paul Dukas’ picturesque Sorcerer’s Apprentice (think Fantasia: Mickey Mouse, and lotsa brooms). WHO SHOULD GO? Lovers of big, juicy orchestral extravaganzas aren’t likely to hear anything better than this outside of our biggest cities. It’s an especially approachable program for newcomers to heavy orchestral sound. Even precocious kids can respond to stuff like this. BUZZ: We Mahler fans of Chucktown (and there are a lot more of us lately) are on a mission: to hear as many of his symphonies locally as we can. Since the early ’90s — between our own Charleston Symphony and Spoleto — we’ll have gotten every one of the nine except numbers 7 and 8. (Lindsay Koob)
SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $10-$65 • (1 hour 45 min.) • June 5 at 8 p.m. • Gaillard municipal Auditorium, 77 Calhoun St. • 579-3100

 

Spoleto Festival Concert I

WHAT IS IT? This is the smaller of two main festival orchestral concerts this year, contrasting the lively music of Maurice Ravel with Johannes Brahms’ greatest and most intense symphony, his fourth. WHY SEE IT? As if the members of the crack Spoleto Festival Orchestra weren’t already the festival’s hardest-working musicians, the powers that be have decided to give us two complete concerts from them for the second year running. The newly refurbished Sottile Theatre will host the first of them, offering mid-sized orchestral classics. It’s the “little brother” to the big Mahler concert at the Gaillard. Many believe that the generally sober symphonic music of Johannes Brahms reaches its highest point in his glorious Symphony No. 4; especially its churning final movement. But the wit and charm of Maurice Ravel’s whimsical Mother Goose Suite will keep the going from getting too serious. WHO SHOULD GO? Big-band fans who don’t like the idea of missing out on the visceral and exciting playing of America’s finest young orchestral musicians. BUZZ: By all accounts, adjustments to the Sottile’s once-spotty acoustics helped make last year’s outing of Beethoven’s Fifth one of the festival’s surprise smash hits — and grumpy procrastinators who missed out on tickets were granted a repeat performance. Could it be that popular demand and the Sottile’s limited seating might inspire another encore this year? (Lindsay Koob)
Spoleto Festival USA • $25-$60 • (1 hour 45 min.) • May 31 at 8 p.m. • Sottile Theatre, 44 George St. • 579-3100

 

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St. Petersburg String Quartet Mepkin Abbey Concerts

WHAT IS IT? One of the truly great string quartets of our time performing timeless music at a remarkably beautiful location. WHY SEE IT? The St. Petersburg Quartet have graced Piccolo Spoleto with their presence for quite a few years now. Every year, even die-hard, crusty aficionados leave this quartet’s performances with their mouths agape. This year should be no exception as the group pays tribute to Mepkin Abbey’s late Abbot Francis Kline. Slated for performance are two of the greatest string quartets ever written. Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 8 encapsulates the composer’s thoughts about death, ranging from agitated fervor to glacial acceptance. Warm and rich, Dvorák’s “American” Quartet will fit the setting and provide a beautiful tribute to Abbot Kline. WHO SHOULD GO? Chamber music lovers should not pass up the opportunity to hear these talented musicians. BUZZ: The events at Mepkin Abbey always turn out to be major highlights of any Piccolo Spoleto season. Hearing the St. Petersburg Quartet perform in honor of the Abbott makes this performance one not to miss. Get your tickets early, as a “sold out” sign will greet any procrastinators. (Robert Bondurant)
PICCOLO SPOLETO • $35 • (2 hours) • June 2 at 2 p.m. • Mepkin Abbey, 1091 Mepkin Abbey Road, Moncks Corner • 554-6060

 


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Yuriy Bekker in Recital

WHAT IS IT? An hour of music by Jewish composers, from Copland to Kreisler, selected and performed played by Yuriy Bekker, the Charleston Symphony’s young new concertmaster. WHY SEE IT? The CSO tends to get a little overlooked during festival time. Bekker also played in the Spoleto Festival Orchestra when he was in college, so he’ll bring that youthful early June spirit, while doing his new hometown proud. WHO SHOULD GO? Everyone who gave rock star violinist Joshua Bell a dollar when he played in the Washington, D.C. metro. All 35 of you. BUZZ: The repertoire ranges from heavy to light, but there is a powerful emotional undertone to this recital. Bekker hails from Minsk, Belarus, where many of his relatives died at the hands of the Nazis. (Jonathan Sanchez)
PICCOLO SPOLETO’S SPOTLIGHT CONCERT SERIES • $12 • (1 hour 15 min.) June 3 at 6 p.m. • Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, 90 Hasell St. • 554-6060

 

 

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Transtrand Spelmanslag

WHAT IS IT? Toe-tapping folk arts, fiddle-style, from the Dalarna region of Sweden, where the music of the fiddle has been a mainstay since the whole wide world was young. WHY SEE IT? Queen Street is a lot closer than the dales along Sweden’s Dalälven River, which is where you would have to go to see this kind of entertainment in its native environment. WHO SHOULD GO? The Devil, en route to Georgia, might want to stop by for some fiddle lessons before he embarrasses himself again in front of Johnny, losing another fiddle made of gold in the process. With six decades of experience, these fiddle masters could very well pass along a trick or two. BUZZ: This troupe is a world-class act, making the rounds at festivals and music events around the globe. (Jason A. Zwiker)
Piccolo Spoleto • $15, $10 students/seniors • June 1 at 9 p.m.; June 3 at 2 p.m. • Footlight Players Theatre, 20 Queen St. • 554-6060

 

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Bach Cello Suites

WHAT IS IT? College of Charleston cello professor and virtuoso Natalia Khoma performs some of the greatest works ever written for unaccompanied cello. WHY SEE IT? All of the wankery, posing, and occasional technical prowess that somehow still passes for “shredding” these days must bow in solemn reverence to the genius of Bach. This is the real deal. Raw, naked emotion distilled to a mathematically perfect point and given flight in a way that relies as much on the performer’s interpretation as it does the notes on the page. Casals’ recording of these works early in the last century saved them from the obscurity of pedantic exercise, and they have since become a dearly loved measure of any cellist. What’s more, Natalia Khoma is not just any cellist. What her seemingly effortless musicianship and dark warmth of touch will create with these intimate works remains to be heard, but will definitely be worth the hearing. WHO SHOULD GO? Lovers of the cello and chamber music will most appreciate hearing the Suites live. These are works of intense intimacy, so it might be best to find a babysitter. BUZZ: The name Khoma stands at the cusp of being added to this select group of cellists: Casals, Rostropovich, Ma, DuPre, and Harnoncourt. See preview on pg. 108. (Robert Bondurant)
PICCOLO SPOLETO’s early music series • $12 • (1 hour) • May 29 at 3 p.m. (Suites 1-3) and June 8 at 3 p.m. (Suites 4-6) • First (Scots) Presbyterian Church, 53 Meeting St. • 554-6060


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