A rhapsody in blue…


Music is often a thread that binds people together, connecting us even when all the barriers of modern society work together to keep us apart. However, it is apparent now that even with all the good intention in the world, our May concert cannot go on as scheduled, and at this time, we have canceled the performance.

It seems somehow fitting that we were set to perform a concert around the color blue, in all its shades and hues. Fitting that blue is also the color of sadness, in a time when there is so much strife and chaos around us, and it never seems to abate.

Gershwin was asked to compose a jazz concerto, and originally declined, saying he didn’t have enough time to complete the piece. Through much convincing and threats of a rival set to compose a similar piece, he finally agreed. He had five weeks to write it, an icon to look to when we find ourselves procrastinating.

In his own words, the piece came to him “on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty bang, that is so often so stimulating to a composer – I frequently hear music in the very heart of the noise. … And there I suddenly heard, and even saw on paper – the complete construction of the rhapsody, from beginning to end.”

Let us help and support each other, in this time of the rattle-ty bang, with the train that is carrying us all rushing past. Let us find the music in the heart of the noise.

Concert Update: Sunday, March 1st at 8pm

It’s not the prettiest title, but it’s eye-catching. Our upcoming concert is now Sunday, March 1st at 8pm at Singletary Center Concert Hall on UK’s campus, performed with UK’s Symphony Band.

jbchance001In addition to the all-important time update on the concert, there’s space to talk about another one of our pieces (mentioned briefly in the previous post): “Elegy” by John Barnes Chance. We’ve played his music before – you may remember “Incantation and Dance” (a personal favorite) – he’s an excellent concert band music composer. “Elegy” was commissioned by the West Genesee Senior High School Band, in memory of one of their number dying.

It was also the last piece John Barnes Chance wrote, as he also died at tragically young age, only 39. The note on “Elegy” reads that “the music symbolizes the tragedy of a life cut short, seemingly unfinished, as a portion of the original motif is left hanging while each instrument dies away.” While about a member of a high school band, it seems that these words can be applied to Chance as well, his own career cut short, seemingly unfinished.

In my mind, it feels appropriate to think of elegies in wintertime, when the trees are bare and the air is cold. It’s an easy time to feel the sadness that comes with poems and songs about bereavement and lamentation. common-purple-lilac-3-800x800

But elegies are not simply full of grief and sorrow. There’s room for consolation, for a remembrance of all the good things, hand in hand with the feelings of loss, for the knowledge that there will be good again, that we can feel the pain and celebrate the life. This, too, seems perfect for wintertime (such as it is in Kentucky). We have the cold, the snapping twigs, the crunchy frost, and the knowledge that spring will come, with green buds and red-chested robins.

To quote Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”:

Passing, I leave thee lilac with heart-shaped leaves,
I leave thee there in the door-yard, blooming, returning with spring.

Our Spring Concert will be performed March 1st, 2020 at 8pm – Singletary Center for the Arts

“Everywhere I roam, I’ll see you on the road…”

“State Flowers – Kentucky” by Shannon Newlin

As January wanes, CKCB is just getting going with our rehearsals for the March 1st concert. Beyond the excitement of new music, of seeing old friends after the holiday break and getting back into the swing of things, the CKCB is also joining forces with the UK Symphony Band for our upcoming concert, featuring music from and about Kentucky.

As a relatively recent transplant to Kentucky, I’ve spent the last two and a half years learning about the state where I currently reside. We all know the reputation and the stereotypes that Kentucky bears on its shoulders, but I think we all know how little those perceptions bear resemblance to reality. This concert’s journey through music from Kentucky composers and about Kentucky will take audience members on a journey of their own, a pastoral picture painted, a vibrant portrait of the gifts that Kentucky has to offer.

Among the odes to the Bluegrass and the quiet interludes of John Barne Chance’s “Elegy,” we also visit the nomadic Roma people, in Louisville native Valerie Coleman’s “Roma.” This piece is meant to depict the language, traditions, legends, and music of the Roma people, spanning generations, and spanning the globe – from the Mediterranean and Iberia, across the oceans to the Americas. Coleman infuses the music from many cultures into the piece, symbolizing the fusion of cultures that occur in the nomadic tribes. In this piece, we can hear Malagueña of Spain, Argentine Tango, Arabic music, Turkish folk songs, Latin claves, and jazz.

Most of us come from somewhere else, culture and tradition carried on our backs as weMy-Old-Kentucky-Home-1 go. For the Roma people, itinerancy was born as much out of necessity as any feeling of wanderlust. For those of us in modern society, it’s about finding a home, a place where we belong. Perhaps some of us belong on the road, our existence a dotted line on a map.

But I think there’s a pride to people who’ve found their home here in Kentucky. It’s evident when people stand at the opening strains of “My Old Kentucky Home,” it’s the way people who grew up here still make time to watch the Cats play basketball, no matter where they are. Kentucky is built from so many pieces, built by so many people. We hope you enjoy the experience of music celebrating the world of the fifteenth state, and we look forward to sharing it with you.

Our Spring Concert will be performed March 1st, 2020 at 3pm – Singletary Center for the Arts

“Let Tyrants Shake Their Iron Rod”

The idea of giving a name to a piece of music (or even to these posts) is daunting to me; trying to come up with the word or phrase that totally encapsulates the themes and inspiration. Some composers stay away from that risky endeavor, with numbered opuses and symphonies. Others gain title ideas from the impetus for their work, using lines of a poem or the name of the opera.

Image result for chester revolutionary war lyrics

And in the Revolutionary War period, it was common practice to give one’s composition a completely unrelated name so that if other words were given to the song at a later date, there would be no confusion. This is how William Billings’ “Chester” was named, and has no more to do with a New England town of Chester (there are seven) than with Chester Cheetah.

“Chester” began as a church hymn, but was adopted by the Continental Army as a marching song. The lyrics, written by Billings himself (as far as any historian can tell), help to play into this winter concert theme of “Warhorses”:

When God inspir’d us for the fight,
Their ranks were broke, their lines were forc’d,
Their ships were Shatter’d in our sight,
Or swiftly driven from our Coast.

The Foe comes on with haughty Stride;
Our troops advance with martial noise,
Their Vet’rans flee before our Youth,
And Gen’rals yield to beardless Boys.

William Schuman, an American composer, used “Chester” as inspiration for the third movement of his “New England Triptych: Three Pieces for Orchestra After William Billings.” The words of the piece express perfectly the burning desire for freedom that the colonists felt during the Revolutionary War, a feeling that echoes through Schuman’s 1957 composition and still sounds in the present day.

One of the ending lines of “Chester” is “Loud Halleluiahs let us Sing.” As we’re in the midst of the holiday season, the midst of a time of turmoil and strife, we can keep the hopeful, fighting spirit of the colonists alive in our hearts, and that someday we will be able to celebrate, by singing loud halleluiahs*.

*The author would like to note that while “Chester” is based upon a Christian hymn, the word “halleluiah” is often used in a nondenominational sense, and that is how it is being used in this entry

Our Winter Concert will be performed December 8th, 2019 at 3pm – Mitchell Fine Arts Center (Haggin Auditorium) – You can RSVP on Facebook.

Warhorses marching onward

ckcb poster Fall 2019 aThis fall, as we work through rehearsals for the December concert, the theme “Warhorses” gives us two ways to look at our concert repertoire. Not only is the term emblematic of riding into battle, with bravery at your back and hope at your front, the term “warhorse” has also come to mean a person with long tenure in their field, and a wealth of experience.

Many of our composers on this upcoming concert bill could be said to fit that brief, but one in particular is Percy Grainger, a prolific composer whose work spans decades, and is well-known in concert bands and across, but who still viewed his career as a failure.

Born in Australia, Grainger moved to Frankfurt to study music, then on to London, ending, finally, in the United States. It was during his time in London when he wrote “Colonial Song,” which is the piece that will be featured in December’s concert. Originally written for solo piano, as a gift for his mother, Grainger wrote “Colonial Song” as “an attempt to write a melody as typical of the Australian countryside as Stephen Foster’s exquisite songs are typical of rural America.” As Kentuckians, I think we can all see the value in a good down home tune.

Grainger’s music was divisive, not always loved. Early iterations of this piece did not make him popular with critics, or his contemporaries, though as he served in the United States Army, Grainger reworked this piece for military band. By the end of the twentieth century, forty years after his death, “Colonial Song” was included on lists of “meritorious works” and has been recorded by several high-profile wind ensembles.

Themes from “Colonial Song” found themselves used in marches written by Grainger, further cementing this militaristic bent to the tune that started as a Christmas present. Warhorse by theme, “Colonial Song” plays well with the other tunes on the bill. Warhorse by achievement, Grainger certainly deserves his day in the sun.

Our Winter Concert will be performed December 8th, 2019 at 3pm – Mitchell Fine Arts Center (Haggin Auditorium)

Looking ahead…

com·mu·ni·ty (noun)As summer is ending, it’s time for the community band, and band supporters, to look towards what’s next. The fall is an exciting time of change and new-ness, and CKCB is not an exception to the rule.

First and foremost, we have an updated website! If you have trouble find the pages you used to visit, let us know, but we hope you enjoy the easy to navigate layout and the clean look to it all!

Secondly, it’s time to think about membership to the band – if you’ve long thought about joining our ranks, fall is the time to make that decision! We have three open rehearsals, starting with our first rehearsal at 7:30pm on September 5th, and any qualified musicians interested in continuing on will be asked to have a brief audition with our band director. Full details on what to expect can be found on the For Prospective Members page, and more audition-specific information on the Audition Information page.

Thirdly, though all are welcome to sit in on open rehearsals, we’d especially like to invite any tuba, euphonium or trombone players to come by and see what we’re all about!

Our concert schedule is updated for this season, and keep an eye on our Facebook page for hints about our upcoming repertoire. We’re excited to get back into the swing of things and we hope to see you at rehearsals, at concerts, or wherever you like to support us best!

Summertime and the living is easy


Originally, I was going to make a few jokes about the dog days of summer, but then looked up the origin of the phrase and learned that it’s how we refer to the most humid days of summer, and the rising of the Canis Major constellation. As Kentuckians, we know that the most humid days of summer are from March 1st through November, so we’ve been living in the dog days for a bit.

The best way I can think of to beat the summer heat is to not go outside until the sun has set. And, wouldn’t you know it, there are three free concerts in the evening this summer. CKCB is going on our annual tour, visiting Paris, Bardstown and the UK Arboretum! We hope you’ll come out to see us, to hear our dulcet tones mix with the chirping of crickets and to see if the fireflies can keep the beat.

From Sousa to Rodgers and Hammerstein, we promise an evening full of tunes you recognize, of the lovely nostalgia that comes from those hazy summer evenings. We’ll be in Paris, KY on June 30th, Bardstown on July 5th, and the UK Arboretum on July 6th. All concerts are at 7pm, and all concerts are free!