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Aug 14

Ivory in the Balance

A recent federal administrative action that has affected string players and string instrument collectors is the “Ivory Ban,” an effort by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to strengthen the Endangered Species Act by restricting and regulating border crossings of items containing ivory. The ultimate purpose of this effort, enacted in February and “soft-pedalled” in May, is to increase the crackdown on poaching of elephants in Africa and Asia. That, in and of itself is a righteous goal, but...I don't usually have a political bee in my bonnet, and this is perhaps an unusual forum for such a topic, but already this edict has proven troublesome to touring orchestras and international artists entering the US. Already some unsuspecting string players have had bows confiscated (and, I assume, destroyed) by TSA agents because of a nickle-sized piece of ivory in the tips of their bows. This has been the preferred material for protecting the end of the bow stick for centuries, although more recent bow makers have switched to different materials since 1976. Occasionally there may also be ivory in the frog of the bow, or in the pegs of the instrument. Only ivory installed before February 26, 1976 is permitted to enter, and then only with valid CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) documentation. (February 26, 1976 is the date on which African elephants were placed on the endangered species list). The CITES documentation is predictably complicated at seven pages long. The fact is that the majority of people can't tell real ivory from synthetic, let alone legal ivory from illegal. Hundreds of bows (which hardly ever have a date stamped on them) change owners daily, mostly without any papers, and if you ask any party involved in those exchanges, they would more than likely be unaware of the ivory content. You try out a bow, and if it feels right and does the things you want it to do, (and you can afford it), you buy it, whether it has papers or not. High-end bows ($30-50,000) are affected by this because replacing their ivory invalidates their authenticity and endangers their integrity. To be sure, we are not talking about factory-made equipment that comes with an owner's manual and a bar code.String players are just one demographic who are affected by this ban. While it is doubtful they would show up at the gate, countless old pianos are out there with ivory keys-- including one in the White House, I have heard. Sax and trumpet keys may have ivory caps. Cue balls for billiard sets, pistol handles, to say nothing of primitive art and jewelry. I do truly care about the plight of the elephants. It's just that I am skeptical that criminalizing musicians (and others) and placing their equipment at the mercy and whim of some airport employee is going to do anything to stop even one poacher from acting-- or bring dead elephants back to life.I have included a list of links for further information, as the matter is so complicated that I can only scratch the surface of what is going on with this issue here. The website www.violinist.com offers some general tips for travelling with instruments here .This League of American Orchestras posting offers some more specific tips and links to the numerous websites that hone in on how to at least try to stay within the law.President Obama's National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking (a pdf) can be found here.The US Fish and Wildlife Service gives us here an overview of what can and cannot be done with ivory.Here is the USFWS's guide to travelling internationally with a musical instrument, expanding its scope to endangered plant life such as pernambuco wood, from which the finest bows tend to be made. Good luck.Here is an article from Time with links about the "soft-pedalling" of the original act.

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Aug 8

P's and Q's

It's time to talk about our new Q-Series! Five Wednesday noons at the Square Room, starting September 24. Tickets will go on sale August 18that $15.00 apiece. Any remainingtickets will be $20.00 the day of the show,so act quickly to take advantage of this great package deal! Your ticket includes a boxed lunch supplied by Cafe 4, one of downtown's classiest lunch spots. The soundtrack to your lunch hour will be provided by the KSO's Principal Woodwind Quintet and/or Principal String Quartet (repertoire TBA).---------------------------------------------------**************************************----------------------------------------------Our violist and violinist husband-and-wife team, Louis Diez and Anileys Bermudez, are proud parents of Thomas Rafael Diez, born Monday, August 4 at 6:01 p.m.! Congratulations to them, and welcome, Thomas, to the One Big Happy Family that is the KSO!----------------------------------------------------*************************************-----------------------------------------------I couldn't pass up this meme which showed up on my Facebook feed, it is sort of nerdy, but at the same time, enlightening. Composers' penmanship is an interesting study. Some are painstakingly clear in spite of their famously abundant output, (Bach, Mendelssohn), while Beethoven's handwriting so messy it's a wonder anything can be determined from the manuscript. Here is a sampling of Treble Clefs from ten legendary composers. Top row: Bach, Haydn Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert. Bottom row: Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, Debussy, Ravel.

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Jul 31

2014-15 Chamber Classics: Wow.

The definition of the term “chamber orchestra” was imbued on me at a young age. The works of Bach, Corelli, Haydn and Beethoven, performed with more intimate forces, came across totally differently than with the “all hands on deck” crew.In the Baroque, pretty much all they had was chamber orchestras, but as venues and instrumentation grew more grandiose and hyfalutin', people began to miss the olden days when there were soirees in CHAMBERS that essentially had no bad seats. Beethoven, Brahms, Grieg, Copland, and Richard Strauss recognized the potential in these musical textures and connectivity, and have composed music just for our Sunday afternoon chamber series this season!. If they only knew...Leading off on September 28th, Beethoven brings it all home (well, most of it) with an overture and a symphony. The Coriolan Overture and his 4thsymphony will sandwich an appearance by UT's Cello Professor, Wesley Baldwin, in Luigi Boccherini's iconic Cello Concerto. Some people ask, “did Beethoven even write a 4th Symphony?” but there it is, sandwiched in between the Rasumovsky Quartets and the Violin Concerto in the catalogue. Dr. Baldwin's colleague and our Resident Conductor, Jim Fellenbaum, will conduct.Speaking of quartets, the KSO Principal String Quartet's usual April concert will happen in November this season, on the 2nd. We will be presenting Shostakovich's 8th Quartet and Beethoven's epic Op. 132 Quartet. I hate it when people refer to Shostakovich as “Shosty.” He deserves a more dignified nickname, like Rostropovich has; Slava. To me “Shosty” conjures up images of Shasta soda, or the “Mister Softee” ice cream truck that used to compete with Good Humor when I was growing up. It was soft ice cream, compared to the ice cream bars that Good Humor sold. (Sells?) ANYway, there is nothing sugar-coated about Shostakovich 8, and this much-revered late Beethoven quartet is so different a work from his 4th Symphony that you won't believe it's the same composer. Venezuelan composer Efrain Amaya's Angélicawill be the perfect palate-cleanser.First thing back from the holidays will be our January 11th Orchestra Soloists concert, with concertos by Stamitz (trumpet) and Mozart (bassoon). New fellers Chase Hawkins (trumpet) and Aaron Apaza (bassoon) will lead the charge. On the second half, EVERYone will get a solo in Strauss's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme Suite, a quirky and beloved 20th -century neo-Baroque work which has become a hallmark of the chamber orchestra repertoire. It's pronounced “boor-zhwah zhon-tee-yum,” and was last performed here in April 1995, when Phil Hansen was our principal cellist. Way too long ago.Although March 1st isn't technically a spring date, James Fellenbaum and the KSCO's offering of Copland's Suite from Appalachian Springwill make it so at the Bijou. Starting with Grieg's Holberg Suite and weaving through music of Honneger and Webern, this is as varied a chamber orchestra concert as one could imagine. What's more, the Go! Contemporary Dance Works will be adding their talents in the Copland, augmenting the springtime ambiance.Lucas Richman's final appearance with us at the Bijou Theatre will be May 3. The program features three luxurious works whose scope and sentiment suits the Bijou-- and the occasion-- perfectly. American Composer William Schuman's Symphony for Stringsdates from the year before Appalachian Springbut comes from quite a different place. The strings will then get a rare break and Richard Strauss' Serenade for 13 Windswill finish up the first half. A word has been coined for the skill required to produce such beautiful music for winds: it's called “bandstration.” Like orchestration, but with a band. The grand finale, and another long-awaited return, will be Brahms' First Serenade for Orchestra. It's pretty much a six-movement Brahms Symphony, and if you're like me, you know there ain't no such thing as too much Brahms.  This is a star-studded Chamber series, and I Can't Wait! Please join us! All concerts start at 2:30 at the Bijou Theatre.

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Jul 23

Never to be "forgotten"

On Saturday, a very special honorary event took place at the James Cox Auditorium on the UT campus. A contingent of Korean War veterans was honored and feted for their distinguished service. The ceremony included a presentation of medals to the veterans by Korean General SeungWoo Choi, a sword dance, a fan dance, some martial arts demonstrations, and a performance by a traditional Korean orchestra.Resident Conductor James Fellenbaum led a small orchestra, which included past and present KSO members and KSO Youth Orchestra Manager Kathy Hart's Suzuki Hart Strings in a performance of the Armed Forces Salute, heard recently at the 4thof July concert. As each branch of the service had its respective march played, veterans of those branches stood and were recognized with applause.You learn something every day. What I learned, through reading the News-Sentinel item, is that our own Eunsoon Corliss, (assistant principal violist), is vice-president of the Knoxville Area Korean Association! She was quoted extensively at the end of the article, and her beautiful words made it plain that this event-- and these veterans-- meant the world to her. She is also responsible for these fabulous pictures of the dancers and of little Kiri, Fellenbaum (daughter of Jim  and Sarah), who had the distinct thrill of meeting the fan dancers and their fans...So beautiful, colorful and and precise...Who is that behind the fan??It's Kiri!!

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Jul 17

WE NEED YOUR VOTE! (CLICK ON ENCLOSED LINK)

It may have slipped by, bundled in with some other KSO news as it was on my June 6th post, but a great fundraising opportunity for KSO fans will still be available until August 21. The First Tennessee Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the First Tennessee Bank, is holding an online grant vote, the prize from which is $5,000 for whatever non-profit organization totals the most votes each day. This is all to celebrate First Tennessee Bank's 150th birthday, which was March 25th. There are WAY more than 150 nonprofits participating in the contest, so it is by no means a slam-dunk to get an award; there are 68 REMAINING entries under the letter “T” alone.It is often said jokingly on election day, “Vote early and often,” but with this contest, you actually can! You are allowed to vote from MULTIPLE DEVICES for (the KSO and) up to 10 nonprofits EVERY DAY. We're shooting for the week of July 21 (next week) for a big push to vote. So log on to their website, tell a friend, tell your boss, tell your DOG if she's online. You don't need to be in Knoxville, or even in the USA to vote, and the “captchas” are easy to read. It IS a popularity contest. Share this link which leads you to the vote and explains things with much more detail and quality than I am capable of, in a charming video.Speaking of voting, I feel the need to remind those of you in the Knoxville area, there is a very important election coming up on August 7th. Make sure you get out and vote; no one can do it for you.

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ALL KSO season tickets have been mailed! Subscribers will have them in hand by next week. See you at the symphony! http://t.co/8zcDyFNrDjFri, August 8, 2014

Enjoy a preview of the KSO Concertmaster Series! Starting in Oct, @GabeLefkowitz & Friends perform at @knoxart. https://t.co/LlF6Nf3iaEThu, August 7, 2014

Single tix go on sale Aug 18 for brand new #KSOQSeries at @thesquareroom! 5 chances for classical music Wednesdays: http://t.co/Qyd0TkYMvqTue, August 5, 2014

RT @thetomatohead: A portion of today's food & drink sales goes to @dollyslibrary of Knox County. Donations matched 100% by @TNImagination.…Tue, August 5, 2014

RT @KnoxDailySun: Looking for summer fun? Check out the Knoxville Festivals http://t.co/SnBOXjKlsM @eastTNhistory @TNStageCo @KnoxSymphony…Tue, August 5, 2014