Thompson Street Opera Company Wraps Up 2015 Season

Thompson Street Opera Company concludes its third season of productions this weekend with Eric Lindsay‘s opera “Cosmic Ray and the Amazing Chris” at Walden Theatre. The company’s executive director Claire DiVizio spoke with Classical 90.5’s Daniel Gilliam about the history of Thompson Street Opera and their last run for the season.

Clips from the premiere production

A Contemporary Collaboration

Hilary Hahn

Many of the most memorable classical compositions were the result of the collaboration between the composer and the artist. One recent example is the Violin Concerto by Jennifer Higdon. Violinist Hilary Hahn was a pupil of Higdon’s at The Curtis Institute of Music. Their relationship and shared experiences are reflected in the concerto written for Hahn.

The first movement is entitled “1726” which is the address of the Curtis Institute where the composer first met Hahn. With the address in mind, Higdon used the intervals of unisons, 7ths, and 2nds, throughout the movement.

The second movement, “Chaconni”, is the calm middle movement of the work. This title comes from the word “chaconne”. A chaconne is a chord progression that repeats throughout a section of music. Higdon supplied several chaconnes for this movement allowing the soloist to play with select members of the orchestra.

The finale is entitled “Fly Forward”. Jennifer Higdon created a virtuosic ending to show off the soloist’s skills.

Jennifer Higdon won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for her concerto. Watch Hilary Hahn and Jennifer Higdon talk about their collaboration in this video recorded right after the work’s premiere.

Members Only: Rachel Grimes


Louisville Public Media members can join Louisville composer and pianist Rachel Grimes as she plays from her third solo album “The Clearing” on June 15 at 2pm. She’ll be joined by Jacob Duncan, Scott Moore and Christian Frederickson. Members at any level can reserve a seat by calling (502) 814-6565 or emailing If you’re not a member, it’s easy to join!

Concerto for Ukulele, “Campanella”


A concerto for ukulele and orchestra by Byron Yasui will be premiered by the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra with soloist Jake Shimabukuro this weekend. The conductor will be JoAnn Folletta.

Byron K. Yasui has been on the music theory/composition faculty at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa since 1972, where he presently chairs the graduate studies in music. Jake Shimabukuro became well-known after his ukulele version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” went viral on Youtube. Shimabukuro has appeared in the Kentuckiana area several times in the past decade. This is the first concerto to be written for ukulele and traditional orchestra. It is also very virtuosic. Yasui’s composition was created specifically with Shimabukuro in mind, giving it the nickname “Concerto for Jake.”

Classical 90.5 will post a recording of the concerto when it becomes available. In the meantime, learn more about the production of this work’s premiere.

Great Contemporary Concertos


Alan Brandt begins a new blog series about great concertos from the past 40 years.

“Reminiscences of Yunnan” is the title of the concerto for zhongruan and orchestra by Chinese composer Liu Xing (born 1962) written in 1984. The zhongruan (pictured), or ruan for short, is sometimes called the “Chinese lute.” It has four strings and circular body. Although the instrument is over 2000 years old, “Reminiscences” was the first major work to feature the ruan in a solo role.

At the age of 12, Liu’s parents intended for him to learn the violin. But a neighbor was an exponent of traditional Chinese instruments and convinced the boy to learn the yueqin, which is similar to the ruan. He mastered the instrument and four years later was enrolled in the Shanghai Music Conservatory. Liu became bored with his classes and instead took to improvising on the zhongruan and listening to Stravinsky.

Since the premiere of the concerto, the ruan has become more popular in both traditional and popular Chinese music. Liu Xing recently wrote a 2nd concerto for zhongrun which premiered in 2014.

Enjoy the third movement of Reminiscences of Yunnan in the original arrangement for folk orchestra.