Bernstein: Lexington Opera House, May 6th

Leonard Bernstein would have been 100 years old this year. His composing, conducting, and character leave a legacy that will be remembered indefinitely.

The Central Kentucky Concert Band, along with special guest artists, the brilliant University of Kentucky Faculty Brass Quintet, will present Bernstein’s Overture to ‘Candide’, Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,  Divertimento for Symphonic Band,  and Suite from Mass at the Lexington Opera House on May 6th at 3PM. There is no charge for admission and no tickets are required.

Experience the mastery of Bernstein in one of Lexington’s most architecturally-significant venues.

Keep up with the band on Facebook at: Central Kentucky Concert Band.

Let Joy March Fo(u)rth

So many artists in this world are tortured. Among them, for instance, are writers Sylvia Plath and Edgar Allen Poe; artists Vincent van Gogh  and Pablo Picasso; and musicians Robert Schumann and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

One day, Tchaikovsky, with grave intent, stood in a river as it swirled around him–the black current swirling and sapping his body heat, ushering him closer to hypothermia and death. The river did not claim him that time. Tchaikovsky, in writing to one of his patrons, talked about the happiness of others:

2018 March 4th poster

“How happy they are that all their feelings are simple and straightforward. Reproach yourself, and do not say that everything in this world is sad. Joy is a simple but powerful force. Rejoice in the rejoicing of others. To live is still possible.”

I imagine this scene in a market square or a busy street—people swirling, some with faces set and leaden tracing a path to a singular destination, while others lean against lamp posts, laughing, or languid at a café sharing a drink, immersed in discourse.


Was Tchaikovsky masking his pain? Was he just trying to get a few more Rubles out of his trusty benefactor? He was, however, discussing his feelings behind the Finale in his Symphony No. 4 which is a featured selection in the Central Kentucky Concert Band’s March Fo(u)rth concert this Sunday, March 4th at 3 pm at Transylvania University’s Haggin Auditorium.

Dr. Ben Hawkins, CKCB’s conductor, provided a note of caution in making too strong a connection between an artist’s mental state (whatever state that may happen to be) and the art the artist produces.

“Composers create music,” said Hawkins,” And that music as often as not has no connection with any personal narrative in his or her life. Deeply depressed composers have written joyous music, and happy composers have written profoundly sad or disturbing music.”

The Finale is a joyous and manic celebration of sound that swirls around the listener, more like the ebullient street scenes described by Tchaikovsky than the cold eddies of the river in which he stood offering to forfeit his life.

We, as listeners, are partners in the emotional experience of the music. Said Hawkins, “It’s the complex web of tonal and temporal relationships within an entire piece that generate whatever response a listener might have. The great moments that sometimes transpire during a performance only happen in relation to what has happened prior to then.”

Hawkins and CKCB assistant conductor Les Anderson intend to provide many opportunities during the concert for great moments and to show the audience the manifold forms of the march.

In grand relief with the Finale is the First Suite for Band by Alfred Reed.

Anderson will conduct First Suite on Sunday’s concert. When asked about the reasons he selected the piece, Anderson said, ”…It is modern and had the two movements of two contrasting march styles with the hard-driving March and the circus-like Gallop. I also love the Rag; it is a march-like piece that adds nice contrast to the rest of the pieces on this concert.”

Continuing the dive into the marches, Anderson noted, “Reed, being a 20th century composer, uses a lot of dissonance as compared to the Tchaikovsky selection. He also writes music that is easily identifiable as American. His march is not like most of the marches you think of when you are thinking of Sousa, King, Fillmore, and other American March kings.”

Summing up the goals of the entire program, Hawkins said, “I just want the audience members to be engaged and uplifted by the music.”

The band has spent the New Year working to ensure that the rejoicing Tchaikovsky observed in the street will be present in this next concert.

There is no admission charge to the concert; no tickets are required. There will be a reception in the auditorium lobby after the concert.

Follow the band on Facebook: Central Kentucky Concert Band.

CKCB’s Next Performance: Sunday, March 4th

Sousa hasn’t cornered the market on marches. Of the ten or so marches we have planned for you, only one is by Sousa. Don’t get us wrong–Sousa is great. We love Sousa. But we also love the contemplative Trauermusik by Wagner, the grave March to the Scaffold by Berlioz, the jazzy, bouncy The March from “1941” by John Williams, and the dynamic finale to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. And we have more in store, too!

Come hear all the marches on Sunday, March 4th at 3:00 PM at Transylvania University’s Haggin Auditorium in the Mitchell Fine Arts Center.

It’s free. It’s fun. And all the marches are in 4/4 time–except when they’re in cut time. Or 6/8 time. Or in 1.

Sooo, let’s just say they all have time signatures.

Regardless, you’ll be tapping your feet in celebration of the marches.

Free admission; no tickets required.

2018 March 4th poster

Remembering Michael Bush

We are bound by the love of music. Of performing music. Of listening to music. Of thinking about music.

We are bound with each other by the bonds of music. Through this common bond, we develop relationships with each other that, initially, are founded on the common love of music, but are sustained through our humanity.

This summer, we were delighted to welcome Michael Bush to our community band–to our community. Michael’s hometown was Lexington, and he was taught  years ago by Les Anderson, one of our very own. Michael heeded the call of God and became a minister, recently appointed to Pisgah Presbyterian Church near Versailles, Kentucky. Michael learned about CKCB, and joined our tuba section. Quickly, Michael began contributing more than just his considerable musical talent, but in other ways, too, such as helping us update our constitution and bylaws. Michael joined a community band, but he also joined a community of band members.

This fall, Michael was called home to His side.

During Sunday’s concert, the band prayed a musical prayer for Michael and his family, as has become our custom when we lose a member in active standing with our band. Many of us knew Michael but for a moment, but his kindness, convictions of heart, and talent will continue to resonate with us.


Masters of Russian Musical Literature Featured at December Concert

CKCB poster December 2017
Fabulous poster art by CKCB member Jason Sturgill

Music is powerful. But can you imagine a time and a place where composing  a musical piece could jeopardize your and your family’s life?

That’s the position Dmitri Shostakovich found himself in after receiving criticism from no less than Joseph Stalin himself for writing music that didn’t comport with the official state musical tastes.

Shostakovich’s next work couldn’t anger the management again, and likely had to satisfy them. Fortunately, he succeeded with the Fifth Symphony. And fortunately for us, we have that symphony accessible to us in today’s world.

Central Kentucky Concert Band Conductor Dr. Ben Hawkins says of Shostakovich, “Perhaps more than any of his other pieces, the Fifth has come to represent Shostakovich’s lifelong struggle to walk the fine line between staying in the good graces of Stalin while composing music that did not compromise his great personal integrity. Few, if any, musicians in any age have worked in constant peril the way that Shostakovich did.”

Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 Finale will be a featured selection in the band’s next concert.

Says Hawkins, “I would guess that the Shostakovich Fifth is one of the ten or so most performed symphonies. It may be the most-performed 20th-century symphony, although one of the Mahler symphonies may very well claim that position. At any rate, its place in the standard orchestral repertoire is written in stone.”

In addition to Shostakovich, the band will be featuring several other Russian composers’ music. When asked what about the Russian composers attracted Hawkins to program the entire primary block of the program with their music, he says, “I like the Russians because they have a way of writing really engaging melodies, and because they all, even the most Western-influenced, bring certain melodic and harmonic inflections that distinguish their sounds from German music in particular, but even from the French tradition that did provide an important influence. One can almost always hear Russian folk coloring, and especially the great choral tradition of the Orthodox Church.”

Alexander Goedicke, another of the Russian composers featured in the upcoming concert, was a lauded pianist, composer (who had no formal training in composition), and professor at the Moscow Conservatory. The band will perform Goedicke’s Concert Etude featuring the band’s very own principal trumpet player T.J. Thomas as soloist.

Thomas, a native Kentuckian, attended the University of Kentucky on scholarship and

TJ Thomas
T.J. Thomas at a recent CKCB rehearsal

received his Bachelors of Arts in Music in 2005 and his Masters in Music Performance two years later in 2007. Thomas enlisted in the United States Army and played with the Army Ground Forces Band in Atlanta as well as the 100th Army Band out of Fort Knox, Kentucky.

The Concert Etude is a piece that demands precision to execute it properly–there is no slack allowed.

Speaking of the technical aspects of the solo passages of the Concert Etude, Thomas says, “The double-tonguing requires precision and careful coordination with your fingers as well as the band.  Also, it is important that the articulation remain light and not get too heavy in the main melody, otherwise the lyrical section will feel out of place. However, it is a fun piece to play, and like most music, it is more fun the faster you go!”

CKCB has many talented players in it and is delighted to have Thomas among them. Thomas has been a member of the band for around 8 years. Says Thomas, “I enjoy performing with CKCB because it provides an outlet to perform some pretty interesting and exciting music that we may not otherwise have experienced.  I have also made some lifelong friends in CKCB and that, to me, is equally as important as the music.”

Hear the band perform Shostakovich, Goedicke, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and more at Haggin Auditorium in the Mitchell Fine Arts Center, Transylvania University, at 3 PM on Sunday, December 3rd, 2017. There is no cost for admission, and no tickets are required.



CKCB 2017-2018 Season

Russian Masters of Music. March Fo(u)rth. Tribute to Bernstein.

There it is. Our primary concert season expressed in nine words, but so much music is behind those nine words.

On December 3rd, we’ll present Tchaikovsky, Kabalevsky, Shostakovitch, Rimsky-Korsakov, and others in a program that will range from gorgeous harmonies, stately melodies, to rhythms  that will make you dance in your seat. 

CKCB Dramatic B&W RussiaAfter our Russian concert, the calendar flips and so will you as we March Fo(u)rth into 2018. We will salute the masters of the march in that March 4th (see what we did there?) concert.

CKCB Dramatic B&W March2018 marks the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein. His compelling melodies and harmonies have graced many stages, the airwaves, and music collections for decades. We’re paying tribute to Mr. Bernstein on May 6 at the Lexington Opera House–perhaps a most fitting venue to present this master of musical theater.

CKCB Dramatic B&W BernsteinOur concerts will all be at 3 PM in the afternoon and as always there is no admission charge or tickets required.

Check back here and on our FB page for updates to each concert.