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Fun in the Classroom

Posted by ksampson in Announcements on February 4, 2015

Left to right: Jobey Wilson, Rebecca Hawkins, William Kirkley, and Elizabeth Whitfield enjoy sharing their love of music in the classroom as part of the Symphony's Orchestrating Kids Through Classics™ educational outreach program.

Four Lexington Symphony musicians (Elizabeth Whitfield, Rebecca Hawkins, William Kirkley, and Jobey Wilson) visited 24 schools in January as part of the Symphony’s Orchestrating Kids Through Classics™ (OKTC) program. The classroom visits were a prelude to four concerts exploring the history of classical music offered by Music Director Jonathan McPhee and Lexington Symphony, which took place at the end of January.

During the brief (45-minute) school visits, the musicians covered a multitude of topics, including science, math, history, and language arts. The idea of playing a position on a sports team was used as a comparison to the differing roles musicians play within an orchestra. Different types of chocolate came in handy as an example when explaining musical “themes and variations,” and the suggestion of pouring water into a tuba (figuratively, of course) helped students envision how a tuba’s pitch can be highered or lowered.

The musicians also infused their presentations with plenty of humor (as demonstrated in the photo above). “They spoke to the students right at their level, and did a great job keeping their interest,” reported one of the classroom teachers.

Behind the Scenes: Lexington Symphony Concert Fund Partners

Posted by ksampson in Announcements on October 14, 2014

Christina Gamota, founder and chair of Lexington Symphony Concert Fund Partners — the sponsoring organization of our upcoming October 18th concert — talks about her lifelong love of music, what makes Lexington Symphony special, and her drive to offer support for large-scale programs, guest artists, and extraordinary musical experiences.

Christina Gamota, founder and chair of Lexington Symphony Concert Fund Partners

When, why, and by whom was Lexington Symphony Concert Fund Partners (LSCFP) founded?

It began in 2008. The idea came to me after a Rachmaninoff concert in September of 2007. I was so moved and inspired the brilliant performance of pianist Sergey Schepkin that my mind was full of floating ideas and questions, such as: How can we continue to have concerts like this? How can we set up sponsorships? How can we make it more affordable? I knew we had to use a different approach to draw larger participation, and I thought it could be a partnership created by friends and lovers of music. The purpose of the Fund is to provide substantial financial support for large-scale programs, and to bring renowned guest artists and extraordinary musical experiences to the town of Lexington. With these ideas, I approached Music Director Jonathan McPhee, who was very positive about the idea. He asked me what kind of music I would like to hear. Being Ukrainian by birth, I said, “Chaika, or Tchaikovsky as you know him.” He smiled and said he had some great ideas as well. That was enough for me. One evening soon after, I started approaching friends about the idea and everybody was supportive. By the end of the night, I had five partners. I thought I was halfway to my goal, though later I learned that the figure I was given was only going to cover a little less than half the cost of a concert. It didn’t matter; my objective was to cover the entire concert, and I knew I could do it. We started with 13 partners and three pending. Today, seven years later in 2014, we have 30 partners involved in the Fund.

How did you get involved with Lexington Symphony?

My first meeting was when the Symphony was called Sinfonietta, and they were looking for someone to help them raise money. That was more than 15 years ago. At that time, unfortunately, I was not able to help. In 2006, I was approached again about ideas for fundraising. On June 1, 2007, I had a fundraiser at my residence that featured music and art (art is my other passion).

What makes Lexington Symphony special?

Lexington Symphony provides the community with excellent classical music, and it is also known for its unique outreach program and conductor’s talks. The orchestra engages all age groups in the community from youth to seniors.

Can you talk about your interest in and/or love of music?

As a child of the war and later an immigrant in several countries, I traveled with my dad to many of his choir rehearsals. Music brought hope to my father in strange lands and made him happy. He had a beautiful voice, and music became increasingly important in my life. In my family, music was the hope and memories of the past that sustained us in good and bad times. It was also a new learning experience, as it continues to be.

What is your long-term vision for LSCFP?

My vision for the LSCFP program is that it will continually grow so we will be able to have more large-scale programs, bring in renowned guest artists, and have great concerts. (The list of concerts supported by LSCFP to date is below.)

What is required to become a Lexington Symphony Concert Fund Partner, and what are the benefits of doing so?

Lexington Symphony Concert Fund Partners are individuals or families who donate a minimum of $1,000 in support of Lexington Symphony each year. Since its inception, LSCFP has contributed a total of $170,000.

Being a Lexington Symphony Concert Fund Partner has the following benefits: (1) a season preview with maestro Jonathan McPhee; (2) a special invitation to an open rehearsal; (3) two additional tickets to a concert of your choice; and (4) a private post-concert reception. For partners who donate $3,000 and above, a special dinner with Maestro Jonathan McPhee is also offered.

Where can people get more information about supporting Lexington Symphony by becoming a Lexington Symphony Concert Fund Partner?

Anyone who is interested in becoming a Lexington Symphony Concert Fund Partner can contact me at

Concerts Supported by Lexington Symphony Concert Fund Partners

2008–2009 Season: November 8, 2008
Mussorgsky, Dawn Over the Moskva River        
Tchaikovsky, Violin Concerto
Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 4 featuring Irina Muresanu, violin

2009–2010 Season: February 6, 2010
Diamond, Rounds for Strings
Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 21 in C
Copland, Appalachian Spring featuring George Li, piano

2010–2011 Season
2010: November 20, 2010
Mahler, Symphony No. 8

2011–2012 Season: September 17, 2011
Debussy, Nocturnes
Holst, Planets featuring New World Chorale

2012–2013 Season: November 10, 2012
Mahler, Symphony No. 5

2013–2014 Season: November 16, 2013
Beethoven, Symphony No. 9 featuring Michelle Trainor, soprano; Janna Baty, alto; Ray Bauwens, tenor; and Mark Risinger, bass
Ralph Vaughan Williams, Dona Nobis Pacem featuring Michelle Trainor, soprano; Michael Prichard, baritone; and New World Chorale

2014–2015 Season: October 18, 2014
Butterworth, A Shropshire Lad
Elgar, Dream of Gerontius featuring Barbara Quintiliani, soprano; Ray Bauwens, tenor; Aaron Engebreth, baritone; and New World Chorale

A Moment Outside Time: The Music of Arvo Pärt

Posted by ksampson in Announcements on September 11, 2014

Here, we provide an overview of the music of renowned Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, which will be featured at our upcoming 2014-2015 season opener, “Estonian Night,” on Saturday, September 20th.

Arvo Pärt was born in Paide, Estonia, on September 11, 1935, and grew up in Tallinn. From 1958 to 1967, he was employed as a recording director and a composer of music for film and television for the music division of Estonian Radio. During this time, he studied composition under Heino Eller at the Tallinn Conservatory, graduating in 1963. His early works, written while he was still a student (a string quartet and some neoclassic piano music: two Sonatinas and a Partita in 1958) demonstrate the influence of Russian neoclassic composers such as Shostakovich and Prokofiev.

Lexington Symphony Board Chair and President, Epp Sonin, with Arvo Pärt at Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra event at Carnegie Hall in May. Photo by Eleri Ever.

In the early 1970s, Pärt discovered a way of writing music that became uniquely his own. The first composition in Pärt’s new style was the piano piece Für Alina. In this piece, he explores widely spaced pitches on the piano that created a unique openness to the sound of the work. Pärt referred to this new style as “tintinnabuli.” The simplest way to describe this is that his choices of pitches “evoke the pealing of bells, the bells’ complex but rich sonorous mass of overtones, the gradual unfolding of patterns implicit in the sound itself, and the idea of a sound that is simultaneously static and in flux.” Pärt explains the term this way:

Tintinnabulation is an area I sometimes wander into when I am searching for answers — in my life, my music, my work. In my dark hours, I have the certain feeling that everything outside this one thing has no meaning. The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises — and everything that is unimportant falls away. Tintinnabulation is like this. . . . The three notes of a triad are like bells. And that is why I call it tintinnabulation.”

When comparing all of Pärt’s post-1976 works, it becomes apparent that his approach to religion has given rise to a humbleness in his artistry. His music is often said to transport the listener to a “moment outside time,” emerging from silence at the beginning of the work and slowly returning to it as the piece closes. Whatever the intention of the pieces, many of his works can be said to reflect the inconceivable sadness that Mary and the disciples felt as Christ was crucified before them on the cross. Music critic Wolfgang Sandner states, “In a world in which Christian ideals are not universally acknowledged, this state of suffering (of the Passion of Christ without which all that comes after Christ cannot occur) is not one that must be artificially created.” The melodic figures, restricted to only a few notes, are powerful in that they are filled with both grace and sadness. Sandner notes that, “Arvo Pärt’s cryptic remarks on his compositions orbit around the words ‘silent’ and ‘beautiful’ — minimal, by now almost imperiled associative notions, but ones which reverberate his musical creations.”

Remarkably, many of the most powerful moments in Pärt’s compositions are a result of the simple action of a single line or the counterpoint created by only two voices. Dissonance is never meant to be abrasive but rather to convey the sense of suffering that is so apparent in many of Pärt’s works. “It has a beauty at once austere and sensuous that seems to be hardly of our time,” says Brian Morton in his book Contemporary Composers. “Yet there can be little doubt that the revelation of his music has been one of the most important factors in the development of a new sensibility in recent music.”

Estonian pianist Diana Liiv will perform at our 2014-2015 season opener

Pärt’s work is spotlighted in the Symphony’s 2014-2015 season opener program, which is offered in honor of his 80th birthday. As a featured guest for the evening, the Symphony welcomes pianist and fellow Estonian Diana Liiv, a favorite performer of Pärt’s works.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Tubin | Estonian Dance Suite
Pärt | Lamentate for piano and orchestra; Diana Liiv, piano
Pärt | Fur AlinaFür Anna Maria, and Variations for the Healing of Arinushka, for piano
Pärt | Tabula Rasa for solo violin, viola, and string orchestra with prepared piano
Sibelius | Kariela Suite

Sources: Biography by David E. Pinkerton II; Wolfgang Sandner, liner notes for Arvo Pärt Tabula Rasa; Donald J. Grout and Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music, 4th ed. (New York and London: W.W. Norton and Company, 1988), 133; Morton and Collins, eds., Contemporary Composers, 729.