Sunday, February 16, 2014

Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions results

The snow and ice that besieged Atlanta vanished in time for the annual Southeast Region Metropolitan National Council Auditions in Spivey Hall this afternoon.  Twelve contestants from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida sang two arias for a distinguished panel of judges:  Paul Kilmer, Director of Artistic Administration, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; John Churchwell, Head of Music, San Francisco Opera; and Diane Zola, Director of Artistic Administration, Houston Grand Opera.  

Two Encouragement Awards were combined as one and given to bass Daren Jackson (age 21) from North Carolina, who sang "Vous, qui faites l'enormie" from Gounod's Faust and "Madamima, il catalogo è questo" from Mozart's Don Giovanni. 

The Third Place Award was given to soprano Abigail Rethwisch (age 24) from Florida, who sang "Martern aller Arten" from Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail and "Je veux vivre" from Gounod's Roméo et Juiliette. 

The Second Place Award was given to tenor Jonathan Johnson (age 25) from North Carolina, who sang "Here I stand" from The Rake's Progress by Stravinsky, and "Ah! lève-toi, soleil!" from Gounod's Roméo et Juliette.

The Ryan Smith First Place Award was given to soprano Jennifer Cherest (age 29) of South Carolina, who sang "Comme autrefois" from Les Pecheurs de perles by Bizet, and "Quel guardo il cavaliere...So anch'io la virtù magica" from Donizetti's Don Pasquale.  As the sole First Place Award winner from the Southeast Region Final Auditions, Ms. Cherest will advance to the National Semi-finals at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on March 23, 2014. 

The pianists performing with the contestants were Utah Opera staff accompanist Carol Anderson, and Angela Ward.  

While the judges were deliberating, the audience was treated to arias sung by a previous winner of the Southeast Region Finals and the National Finals, soprano Indra Thomas, accompanied by pianist Sandra Lutters.

Congratulations to all the contestants, all of whom demonstrated talent, accomplishment, and promise.  It was another wonderful afternoon of music-making at Spivey Hall, where vocalists love to sing, and audiences love to hear them.  You can hear for yourselves on Monday, March 31, 2014 at 9:00 PM Eastern, when WABE 90.1 FM airs its broadcast of today's performances, which will also be streamed live on its Internet website (scroll down and look for "Listen now" in the column on the right). 

The Met Auditions will return to Spivey Hall again next season, details of which will be announced first to Spivey Hall's donors at the end of March.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Christiane Karg recital this Sunday cancelled

My tombstone (if I have one) will read, "Programs and Artists Subject to Change."  Due to illness, the eagerly-awaited North American recital debut of the brilliant German soprano, Christiane Karg, and pianist Malcolm Martineau cannot take place this Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 3 PM, as originally planned.  A cold that suddenly became severe has prevented her from flying from Germany to perform.  

Cancellations of this nature are, of course, a great disappointment, but we in Atlanta -- who have been through recurrent waves of colds and flu viruses since mid-November, with the crazy-wild fluctuations of unseasonably cold and warm weather -- cannot be anything but sympathetic to Ms. Karg's plight. Given her condition, it was clear she could not travel or sing this week. 

I heard Ms. Karg as a soloist in Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass at Mostly Mozart in New York a few summers ago, which reinforced all I knew about her and led to my decision to invite her to sing here.   I was truly delighted that she and her manager readily accepted this invitation.  

In my 30 years in artistic planning, I've dealt with a good number of last-minute cancellations (e.g., replacing a singer on four days' notice when the concert's in Australia, the singer's in Europe, and the singer needs a visa to enter the country before he can board a plane) -- but finding a singer of this level of quality and a pianist able to properly prepare and perform a full-length recital program on just a few days' notice is nigh impossible. The few candidates I had in mind are, quite naturally, busy, currently involved in opera productions in the US or Europe.  

Thus we must look to a future season for Ms. Karg's Spivey Hall debut, and I've decided (after significant consideration, and not without sincere regret) not to present another artist on Sunday, just to have a concert on Sunday.  Spivey Hall patrons familiar with the quality of our international artist series will, I hope, understand and agree.

There's one more solo vocalist left in the current season:  the bel canto rising-star Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught makes her Georgia and Spivey Hall debut on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at 3 PM.  Click here for more information about her.  We also greatly look forward to Spivey Hall's first-ever performance of Bach's magnificent St. Matthew Passion by the early-music ensemble of The Juilliard School, Juilliard 415, with Juilliard vocal soloists and the excellent Trinity Wall Street Choir, all conducted by Gary Thor Wedow.  Thus there's plenty of singing still to be enjoyed at Spivey Hall this spring.

Patrons who have been issued tickets will be contacted by Spivey Hall's Patron Services staff by email if we have email addresses for them, otherwise by snail mail or telephone.  The value of tickets purchased may be applied towards another Spivey Hall performance this season or next.  Refunds of purchases made with a credit card are possible, but since Spivey Hall doesn't retain credit card numbers, the numbers will have to be confirmed by patrons and the Box Office. Purchases made with cash are also refundable, but more information is required (in this instance, it's best to speak a Patron Services representative).

Now, back to grant applications and next season's brochure...

Friday, January 31, 2014

Richard Morris Memorial Concert tomorrow

Saturday, February 1st, Spivey Hall pays tribute to our late organist-in-residence, Richard Morris, who passed away unexpectedly in September from injuries sustained while driving to his church. On the day that was scheduled to be his annual Spivey Hall recital, we will pay tribute to his memory and celebrate his life in words and music.

Performing the 3 PM concert (for which all available tickets have been issued -- we expect a totally full house) are Alan Morrison, who like Richard was encouraged by Emilie Spivey to pursue a concert career, and performs extensively when he's not teaching at the Curtis Institute of Music (where he heads the organ department) or Westminster Choir College; and Peter Carter, one of Richard's more recent students, who performed at Richard's requiem mass, and who is now studying with Alan at Westminster.  Their program includes works from Richard's repertoire.  Both Alan and Peter will speak from the stage in the course of their recital.  A reception for the audience and artists follows, hosted by the Friends of Spivey Hall.

I will remember Richard the rest of my days -- the majesty and stylish elegance of his playing, and his inimitable way with words, both in his comments from the stage in his pre-concert talks with guest organists as well as in his own recitals. 

Richard Morris was man of strong convictions in his music-making and his faith.  He would be at times humorous, witty, and irreverent -- Richard enjoyed a joke and a laugh, and deflating pomposity -- but about things that mattered to him (e.g., the performance of Bach's music, and liturgical music in the Catholic Church) he was deeply, unwaveringly, and passionately serious.  I enjoyed his anecdotes about organists and the organ literature, and his stories about studying in France with the legendary pedagogue, Nadia Boulanger.  Richard was a young protégé of celebrated organist Virgil Fox, who coached him in repertoire and influenced his sense of showmanship.  Moreover, he was utterly loyal to Spivey Hall, and to the our magnificent Albert Schweitzer Memorial Organ built by Fratelli Ruffatti.  He is greatly missed.

At tomorrow's memorial concert, many people will share stories of Richard, whose music-making reached untold millions of listeners in concerts, recordings, and broadcasts over a long and distinguished career. 

Below is the bio that will appear in the memorial concert program book.

May 30, 1942 – September 12, 2013

James Richard Morris was born in Atlanta, the son of Benjamin Franklin Morris and Jessie Clyde Forehand Morris.  His remarkable musical talents quickly emerged.  His concert career began at age 12 as piano soloist with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra, performing the Grieg Piano Concerto at the Fox Theatre before an audience of 5,000 people. At age 13, he was head post organist and choir master at the Fort MacPherson Army Base in East Point, Georgia, until he graduated high school. He was twice soloist in the Atlanta Symphony Youth Concerts during his high school years.

He received his bachelor’s degree in piano at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, as a pupil of Thomas Brockman; he also studied the organ with Catherine Crozier. Grants from the French government enabled him to study in France with the legendary pedagogue, Nadia Boulanger, as well as distinguished pianists Robert Casadesus and his son, Jean.  He then became a Fulbright Scholar at the Academy of Music in Vienna as a pupil of Richard Hauser. Upon his return to the United States in 1965, he earned the degree of Master of Divinity from Nashotah House Seminary in Wisconsin and spent several years in the parish ministry. He later became a Catholic, and was awaiting ordination in 1972 when Emilie Spivey, herself an organist and the founder of Spivey Hall in Morrow, Georgia, heard him perform.  She encouraged him to work with the iconic American organist, Virgil Fox, thereby launching his extraordinary career as a concert organist.

Richard Morris is one of a very small number of organists to have appeared as soloist in Carnegie Hall. Other prestigious New York concert halls that have hosted his performances include Town Hall and Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. In interviews with Barbara Walters on NBC’s Today show, he appeared with Carol Channing, Eartha Kitt, Dame Cleo Laine and Bing Crosby. He gave concerts on four occasions at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., including the special concert series celebrating the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter.

For 25 years, Morris performed an average of 50 to 60 concerts a season for Columbia Artists and the Community Concert Associations of the United States and Canada, both as soloist and with his popular organ-and-trumpet program, Toccatas & Flourishes.  He was an acclaimed soloist in performances for national and regional conventions of the American Guild of Organists and with orchestras throughout the country.  As one of Nadia Boulanger’s favorite students, he was asked to play for her American memorial mass in 1979.  In 2005, Morris was master of ceremonies and a featured soloist of the Virgil Fox Legacy 25th Memorial Concert at New York City’s Church of St. Paul the Apostle. 

At Mrs. Spivey’s invitation, Richard Morris served as consultant on the tonal design of Spivey Hall’s Albert Schweitzer Memorial Organ, built by Fratelli Ruffatti of Padua, Italy, and dedicated in 1992. He was named Spivey Hall Organist-in-Residence in 1994, serving also as head of Clayton State’s Organ Department, giving annual recitals, hosting pre-concert talks with visiting guest organists in the Spivey Series, and taking part in numerous special events, including various Clayton State ceremonies and two live broadcasts of the nationally syndicated public-radio program, Performance Today.  With the Spivey Hall Children’s Choir and Dr. Martha Shaw, he performed in the annual December holiday concerts at Spivey Hall, participated in their recording, Homeland, and took part in the Spivey Hall Tour Choir’s performance at the 2001 American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) National Conference in San Antonio, Texas. 

He featured prominently in festival events as part of the Calgary International Organ Competition North American Finals that Spivey Hall hosted in 1988 and 2002, and collaborated in recital with the Atlanta Symphony Brass Quintet as well as in duo recital with organist Hector Oliveira.   Moreover, Morris was the creator of a highly popular program for organ and trumpet, Toccatas & Flourishes, which he performed at Spivey Hall (and toured nationwide) with trumpeters Martin Berinbaum, Mark Hughes, Mark Inouye, Richard Kelly, Raymond Mase, Robert Sullivan, and Scott Thornburg.

Richard Morris was an active recording artist. His critically acclaimed recording releases include:

Toccatas & Flourishes: Organist Richard Morris & Trumpeter Martin Berinbaum (Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, Georgia; Klavier Records)

Toccatas & Flourishes, Vol. 2: Organist Richard Morris & Trumpeter Martin Berinbaum (Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Newark, New Jersey; R&R Records)

“The New” Toccatas & Flourishes: Organist Richard Morris & Trumpeter Raymond Mase (Seventh Street Theatre, Hoquiam, Washington; R&R Records)

Toccatas & Flourishes, Vol. 4:  Organist Richard Morris & Trumpeter Scott Thornburg (Seventh Street Theatre, Hoquiam, Washington; R&R Records)

In Dulci Jubilo: Organ Music of the Christmas Season (Seventh Street Theatre, Hoquiam,
Washington; R&R Records)

Fugues, Fantasia, and Variations: 19th Century American Organ Works (St. Joseph’s Old Cathedral, Buffalo, New York; New World Records)

Richard Morris at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta: Sonic Fireworks – Music for Organ, Brass, and Percussion with the Atlanta Brass Ensemble (Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, Georgia; R&R Records)

Richard Morris; Organ Masterpieces from France and Germany: Works by Tournemire, Dupré, Vierne, Bach, and Reubke (Second Baptist Church, Houston, Texas; R&R Records)

Richard Morris – Organist (Bel Air Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles, California; Gothic)

Richard Morris: The Grand Tradition (A.E. Schlueter Pipe Organ, First Presbyterian Church, Savannah; MSR Classics)

 On Spivey Hall’s Albert Schweitzer Memorial Organ, Morris recorded Heavy Organ: Tribute to Virgil Fox for SeeMusicDVD, issued as both a stereo CD and a 5.1 surround-sound DVD with colorful Kaleidoplex Digital Light Organ graphics by Marshall Yaeger – an extension of Morris’ two-concert 2002 Virgil Fox Festival at Spivey Hall.  

Morris' commercial and live-in-concert recordings have been broadcast by American Public Media’s nationally syndicated radio program hosted by Michael Barone, Pipedreams, and selections from his Spivey Hall recitals have broadcast and streamed on the Internet by Public Broadcasting Atlanta’s WABE 90.1 FM.

In addition to his duties at Spivey Hall, Richard Morris served as Organist/Choirmaster at St. Peter and St. Paul Episcopal Church in Marietta, Georgia, and, from 1994, as Church Organist and Georgian Chant/Polyphonic Director at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Mableton, Georgia.  In Rome, he sang in Gregorian Pontifical Institute choir workshops led by Dom Turkle, including a performance for the Holy Father Blessed John Paul II, with whom he had an audience. He attended Catholic music conferences at Ft. Royal, Virginia, and his perspectives on music in the Catholic Church were published in an extended interview with Latin Mass Magazine.

His survivors include his business and touring manager, Robert J. Serredell, Jr., and brother and sister-in-law, B. Ronald and Cynthia Morris.