That’s a wrap: Rodrigo, Ravel, and Paris

What a nice way to end a season with a wide variety of music from France, Spain and America! Gershwin’s “American in Paris” is a fun piece describing the clamor and beauty of Paris, a city that has been on our minds a lot recently. Part of the clamor comes from traffic noises that are represented by taxi horns in the percussion section. Typically, these horns are rented since specific pitches are called for, but in the last few years, there has actually been a controversy about which notes to use. Here’s a New York Times article describing the situation.


Listen carefully and see if you can tell which taxi horns were used. By the way the horns were rented from Broadway and freelance percussionist, Mark O’Kain, who is originally from Oak Ridge. Mark played with the United States Marine Band and also toured with “Les Miserables” for about 20 years.

American composer Michael Schachter is getting to be an old friend of ours. He composed “Overture to Knoxville” for our season opener last year, and we’ll be playing it again at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. next spring. We’ll also be hearing a new piece by him next year.

Rodrigo’s guitar concerto is simply a gorgeous piece by the Spanish composer. It’s always been one of my favorites, but before I actually heard the piece, I had heard the theme from the slow movement as part of several jazz tunes. Miles Davis used it on his famous, “Sketches of Spain” album, and Chick Corea used it as the intro for his song, “Spain.” Then Al Jarreau covered Chick Corea’s version and the theme and the song got even more popular. Anyway, it’s rare to hear a guitar concerto with orchestra and this one is simply beautiful.

Ravel’s “Rapsodie Espagnole” is the French composer’s impression of Spain, and if you know Ravel (Bolero), you know that he has a unique skill in orchestrating (knowing how to make an orchestra sound great).
The whole concert shows off the beauty of the Knoxville Symphony and is a great way to end the season.

Except that Saturday is a free outdoor concert in Maryville, so that if you need even more Knoxville Symphony in your life (and who doesn’t) you can check out this concert in a beautiful setting next to the courthouse. (7:30 p.m. on Maryville’s Greenbelt, Theatre in the Park, free and open to the public).

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