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Sounds of UK Talents Fill the Summer Air in Spain, Prague

By Whitney Hale

(July 21, 2015) — From a chorus of more than 50 voices to the baton movement on a conductor's rostrum, the talents of the students and faculty of University of Kentucky School of Music were in the spotlight this summer in cathedrals, concert halls and theatres across Spain and in Prague, even in one site that premiered a popular opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

In Spain, a little less than half of the members of UK Women's Choir had the opportunity to further their own education while enriching the lives of others through the beauty of music and cultural exchange in a tour running June 9-19. Student vocalists on the trip not only had a chance to learn about the rich, musical heritage of Spain but also were able to perform in some of the country's most historic cathedrals.

During the tour, the choir visited Madrid, Seville, Córdoba, Granada, Torremolinos and Toledo and took in such famous sites as the Cathedral of Toledo, Church of Santo Tome, Alhambra, Generalife and the Mezquita Catedral de Córdoba. Under the direction of Associate Director of the UK School of Music Lori Hetzel, the UK Women's Choir performed five concerts across the country, including an exchange concert with the University of Córdoba, a concert with the Seville Youth Orchestra, a Mass at Basilica Nuestra Señora de Las Angustias, and a concert with the children's choir of Granada.

"Paying for this trip was especially hard for me but singing with the UK Women's Choir was an experience that made my soul richer than I could've ever imagined," said music education sophomore Savannah Fallis, of Oneida, Kentucky. "I was able to explore places that many people only dream about, make music with my talented friends, and form memories that will last a lifetime."

Fellow choir member Malinda Massey, a secondary English education and English senior from Albany, Georgia, agrees the trip was a major blessing. "Being a part of the Women's Choir has always been an adventure, and going overseas with the group made me better understand the musicianship and sisterhood that we all share between one another. To hear our voices echoing in the sanctuaries of cathedrals in Madrid and Grenada was both humbling and moving...We were reaching out to people from another country in a universal language we all spoke, and the connection I felt between myself and the audiences, our choir, and our music was something truly irreplaceable. Joining the UK Women's Choir has proved to be one of the best decisions I've made since coming to college, and going on tour with them proved just that."

The UK Women’s Choir is a select ensemble composed of more than 100 of the school’s most talented female voices. The singers, ranging from freshmen to graduate students, represent a variety of musical backgrounds and academic disciplines. The choir’s challenging and diverse repertoire includes literature spanning from Gregorian chant to eight-part music of the 21st Century. With an emphasis on music by female composers, the ensemble performs works of many different languages and compositional forms.

More than 2,000 kilometers away Director of UK Orchestras John Nardolillo raised his baton on performances of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" at the Prague Estates Theatre, home to the very stage the legendary composer premiered the opera in 1787. The production was staged as part of the inaugural "Prague Summer Nights Young Artists Music Festival," presented by Classical Movements.

As part of the festival, Maestro Nardolillo conducted four performances of "Don Giovanni" under the direction of famed baritone Sherrill Milnes. The 30-day Young Artist Festival, running June 7 to July 6, with 100 students featured multiple concerts and productions. Nearly 500 singers and instrumentalists auditioned to be considered for the Prague Summer Nights Festival from all over the world and finally 45 singers, including three UK Opera Theatre vocalists, and 55 musicians, including 24 members from UK Symphony Orchestra, were selected along with leading faculty from all over the world. In addition to conducting, Nardolillo served as artistic director of the music festival. 

"Classical Movements has created an extraordinary program and we believe that no other summer musical training offers young artists so many different opportunities to perform in such magnificent venues — both for opera singers and instrumentalists. We were fortunate to get such high caliber applications and to attract such superior faculty," said Neeta Helms, president of Classical Movements Inc.

Festival highlights included the Opera Gala in the Estates Theatre; a performance of work by Mozart and Maurice Duruflé with the Anchorage Concert Chorus in Smetana Hall; a production of "Suor Angelica" in the Church of St. Simon and Jude, where Joseph Haydn and Mozart performed; a performance by the orchestra at Smetana Hall; chamber music and song recitals in the salon of the Antonin Dvořák Museum in Prague; and a cabaret in one of Prague’s famous jazz clubs. 

Performers in the "Prague Summer Nights Young Artists Music Festival" hailed from the United States, England, Germany, Korea, Canada, China, Mexico, Argentina, Russia, Croatia and the Czech Republic, and are from top music conservatories and universities such as the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, Indiana University, the University of Southern California, the Peabody Conservatory, the Eastman School of Music, the University of Kentucky, the University of Michigan, the New England Conservatory, Northwestern University, the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music in London, as well as schools in Germany and Austria.

Joining Nardolillo from UK were three opera students and 24 musicians. The opera students performing in Prague were: vocal performance senior Mary Catherine Wright, of Lexington; 2015 graduate Taeeun Moon, of Busan, South Korea; and graduate student Christopher Kenney, of Fargo, North Dakota. The 24 UK instrumentalists playing in the orchestra included: Makaila Babiarz, Alexis Corsaut, Heather Gosnell, Sarah Grindle, Chandler Martin, Isabelle Martin, Miranda Martin, Maya McCutchen, Matthew McMahon, Jessica Miskelly, Kristen Morrill, Maria Navarra, Diana Pecaro, Emily Rush, Daniel Taylor, Nathan Williams, and Jessie Zhu. In addition to performing, Miskelly, UK Symphony Orchestra's concertmaster, served as concertmaster of the orchestra for the "Prague Summer Nights Young Artists Music Festival."

Classical Movements is one of the world’s leading concert planning and music management companies. Clients include some of the world’s finest orchestras and choruses around the world. In its 22 years, Classical Movements has worked in over 140 countries on six continents. The company also commissions new music through its Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program, supporting orchestra and choral clients as well as composers, and it owns an international choral series and four annual international music festivals in Europe, South America, Africa and North America. 

The UK School of Music at the UK College of Fine Arts has garnered a national reputation for high-caliber education in opera, choral and instrumental music performance, as well as music education, composition, and theory and music history.