KSO is ‘hall of the living’

Harold DuckettArts 865

For at least the last half century there has been continuing discussion about how to prevent the classical music concert hall from being the exclusive domain of dead composers and the aging/dying audience that admires them.

During the selection of the new music director for the Knoxville Symphony, the KSO selection committee chose young conductor Aram Demirjian and charged him with shaking things up and making the KSO’s concerts the exhibition hall of living music.

They got what they paid for in one huge installment at Thursday night’s KSO masterworks concert at the Tennessee Theatre.

With a program that featured the innovative PROJECT Trio: classically trained double bassist, Peter Seymour; cellist, Eric Stephenson; and creative flutist, Greg Pattillo; the concert ranged from Dvorak’s Bohemian, Eastern European folk-culture inspired “Symphony No. 8 in G Major,” Op. 88, on the front end, and finished with Nicholas Hersh’s orchestrated version of British rocker Freddie Mercury’s 1975 “Bohemian Rhapsody,” written for the band Queen.

But the guest musicians of PROJECT Trio weren’t the only standout solo performances of the evening. In the Dvorak, there were stellar solos by principal trumpet, Philip Chase Hawkins; principal flute, Hannah Hammel; principal oboe, Clair Chenette; and principal clarinet, Gary Sperl.

Despite there being plentiful, likely weather-related, empty seats, everything on the program got roars of approval from the audience.

PROJECT Trio’s double bassist Peter Seymour, cellist Eric Stephenson, and flutist Greg Pattillo. Photo submitted

PROJECT Trio performed three of their own compositions, “Djangish,” based on the music of Belgian-born Romani French, jazz guitarist and composer, Django Reinhardt; “Raga Raja,” based on Indian Bollywood music ideas; and “Hungarian Dance No. 5,” both superbly performed with Demirjian and the KSO.

There was also a post-minimalist piece called “Scatter, Concerto for PROJECT Trio and Orchestra,” written in 2016 by gifted young American Adam Schoenberg, whose music the KSO has played before.

Considering what I heard older KSO patrons saying about how much they enjoyed the concert, as they exited the concert hall last night; together with the full great hall at the Knoxville Museum of Art for the Concertmaster Series concert last week and the Chamber Classics recital at the UT School of Music, just three days before that, both of which included contemporary music; maybe, just maybe, we have a trend developing here.

Each of us is made up of bits of the past and the present, along with anticipations for the future. Why shouldn’t the music around us be that mix, as well?

The concert will repeat tonight at 7. Concert-goers are advised to allow extra time for parking, since parts of the State Street Garage are inaccessible. Check with the Knoxville Symphony office for ticket prices and availability. 865-291-3310.

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