Brazilian guitarist Yamandu Costa performs in Austin

~posted by Sarah Addison, KMFA Development Associate and Producer of Pianoforte

Saturday night marked the last concert of the Austin Classical Guitar Society’s 2011-2012 International Concert Series and the Guitars Galore Festival. The concert, which was sold out completely, featured the extraordinary Brazilian guitarist Yamandu Costa, who is on his first concert tour of the U.S.

The Guitars Galore Festival Orchestra performing the piece “Nebulae” by Olga Amelkina-Vera

The concert began with the Guitars Galore Festival Orchestra, consisting of what looked to be about 100 guitars, performing the piece “Nebulae” by Olga Amelkina-Vera, who won the Guitars Galore composition competition this year. The piece was haunting and beautiful, and one I certainly hope to hear again.

After a brief introduction by ACGS Executive Director, Matthew Hinsley, Yamunda humbly came out and played for a little over an hour. He played more notes on his seven stringed guitar than I thought possible, and almost all of the music he played he had written himself! The music ranged from upbeat tangos to lullabies, and was accented in places by his singing and even whistling. In between pieces he sipped tea through the straw of a handcrafted mug and chatted a little with the audience. His accent might have been a little difficult to understand, but his exuberant playing left nothing unsaid.

Yamandu Costa on stage

I hope Yamunda’s first tour of the United States has gone well so that he will return to Austin soon!

~posted by Sarah Addison, KMFA Development Associate and producer of Pianoforte

Enjoying “Sonorous Strings” courtesy of the Round Rock Symphony

~posted by Alison @ KMFA

I had the great pleasure of attending a chamber music concert last Monday evening… well, perhaps “attending” isn’t the right word: when you are listening to a talented quartet of musicians, it’s almost as if you participate. Chamber music is traditionally performed in smaller settings, and in this case in a wonderfully acoustic meeting room at the Georgetown Library. We could hear every distinct note from every instrument from only a few feet away. The pressure is on, then: not just for the musicians, but also for the audience, who for the most part perched on the edge of their seats and listened intently, all the while trying not to make a single sound that might distract from the beautiful music.

The Artisan Quartet performs Beethoven (Richard Kilmer, Paula Bird, Brice Williams, and Douglas Harvey)

Ms Toby Blumenthal, pianist, introduces the Mozart Piano Concerto (insider info: she said it was her favorite!)

These musicians in particular were the Artisan Quartet, joined by Toby Blumenthal on piano. The Artisan Quartet is sort of the “A” Team quartet of musicians who, in addition to being members of the Austin Symphony, are each performers and educators of international renown. Toby Blumenthal has similar credentials, and special thanks go out to the Round Rock Symphony who hosted their delightful collaborative performance. And there were even more classical music luminaries in the audience: Dr. Ellsworth Peterson was there, and he had kindly written the program notes for each piece.

The Artisan Quartet started the performance with a Beethoven piece (String Quartet Opus 18, No. 3 in D Major); then Ms. Blumenthal joined them for Mozart’s Piano Concerto (No. 14 in E flat Major), and after a short break, rounded out the evening with a Faure Piano Quartet (in C Minor, Opus 15).  Their music was wonderful, ranging at times from serene to optimistic to suspenseful.

Part of the Round Rock Symphony’s mission is “to musically enrich the greater Round Rock community by presenting affordable and accessible symphonic concerts of the highest artistic order,” and they certainly accomplished that when they hosted this event! Their “accessibility” isn’t just about location, it’s also about their warmth, hospitality, and devotion to promoting live classical music. I’m looking forward to attending their upcoming performances, especially the From Russia with Love concert, and of course the Georgetown Festival of the Arts!  You can check out their website for the dates and more info:

Performing the Faure piano quartet

Young performers shine at the ACO Pearl Amster Youth Concerto concert

~posted by Hannah Kate Schaeffer, KMFA Administrative Assistant

I had a chance to attend the Austin Civic Orchestra perform at the Bethany Lutheran Church this past weekend.  It’s a local event, with local artists providing their talents to a local audience. It isn’t every weekend you can hear live, classical music in this city, so I felt lucky to have two tickets to this performance.

The program began as a showcase of the talents of four talented winners of the Pearl Amster Youth Concerto competition. Three violinists and one pianist played along with the orchestra as if they had been performing like this for the entirety of their young lives. One blond violinist rocked out on his violin, like a young Mick Jagger who plays Scottish-themed concertos with symphonic orchestras instead of classic rock bands. Their parents and family members watched proudly as the young talents performed. Sure, a few of them have already  performed at Carnegie Hall, but that evening they had their own orchestras to back their solo performances in their home town.

Collin Turner, age 18, performing the final movement of Scottish Fantasy by Max Bruch as part of the ACO sponsored Pearl Amster Youth Concerto Festival at Bethany Lutheran Church on March 10, 2012

After a quick intermission filled with a deep yearning for a slice of the gigantic celebratory cake that sat in the back hall (to be eaten after the performance), ACO played the suite from Bernstein’s quintessential Broadway composition, West Side Story. I later asked conductor Dr. Ferrari why she chose this piece, assuming a connection between the young performers present and the young characters in West Side Story, but she just explained that she loved the musical, and the timing happened to be perfect. Well fine, Dr. Ferrari, but I’d still like to think that there’s something of a cosmic link between the young hopefuls at the concert that night and the adolescents who sang about their life’s springtime in West Side Story. But there at Bethany Church, the world provided a concrete ending to an age-old story that is rarely ever finished – the kids won.
    ~posted by Hannah Kate Schaeffer, KMFA Administrative Assistant

Mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves visits the KMFA studios!

~posted by Dianne Donovan, KMFA announcer and producer of Classical Austin

What a thrill it was to hear the great American mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves with the Austin Symphony Orchestra. While it was an all-French program, it was a rare treat to have music from such different sources. It was interesting hearing the differences in the timbre Ms. Graves’ voice in Ravel’s hauntingly sumptuous and exotic Shéherazade to the vocal colors she used in the arias, which were delivered in full operatic throttle. There were a few sobs heard as she sang Saint-Saens’ “Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix” from Samson et Dalila, but when she came back on stage to sing arias from another one of her signature roles, Carmen, we had a taste of the opera itself. In the Habanera, “L’amour est un oiseaux rebelle,” Ms. Graves gave us some very creative, playful phrasing the likes of which I had not yet heard on recordings.

The Austin Symphony under the direction of Maestro Peter Bay was in fine form with the soloist and in the instrumental pieces, the highlight for me being, Maurice Ravel’s, “La Valse.”

Denyce Graves and KMFA's Dianne Donovan

[Dianne Donovan had the great honor of interviewing Ms. Graves while she was in Austin for her performance with the Austin Symphony. If you missed that episode of Classical Austin, you can listen to it again here.]

~posted by Dianne Donovan, KMFA announcer and producer of Classical Austin


“All I want for Christmas is a sackbut.” ~ Sara Hessel, KMFA Music Director

Actually, I don’t really want a sackbut for Christmas. My ears are already ringing with the three amazing early music Christmas concerts that I’ve enjoyed in the past week!

It all started with “Yule, Brittania!” presented by Texas Early Music Project. We enjoyed carols, chant and traditional music from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, spanning the 13th-19th centuries. TEMP’s vocalists were in excellent form, and did full justice to the lovely arrangements by artistic director Daniel Johnson. While they gave us lots of ‘new’ pieces, somehow it’s par for the course at Christmas to enjoy the old familiar favorites the best, like “Ye sons of men, with me rejoice,” and the heart-melting Scottish lullaby “Balooloo, my lammie,” with alto Stephanie Prewitt singing it like only she can.

I couldn’t believe my luck when I heard that the UK-based Dufay Collective would be performing in Houston! I’ve been a fan of their spirited performances for years, and have played their excellent recordings on Ancient Voices many times. Their program of 16th- and 17th-century English music was sheer joy to listen to. Vocalist Vivien Ellis seemed to have stepped right out of one of Henry VIII’s Christmas revels with her clarion tone, excellent diction and storyteller’s sense. Especially memorable was an anonymous ballad called “To drive the cold winter away,” and the very moving “Thys endere nyghyt,” gorgeously arranged by director William Lyons. It was fascinating to watch the players switch effortlessly from one instrument to another: Mr. Lyons played flute, recorder, curtal (an ancestor of the bassoon) and bagpipes!

Rounding out this incredible week of music was the most dynamic performance of Handel’s Messiah I’ve ever heard, given by Austin’s own Ensemble VIII, along with Mercury Baroque (Houston), and directed by Dr. James Morrow. Dr. Morrow’s historically informed performance gave this hoary yet beloved masterpiece a much-needed dust off. The pared-down vocal and instrumental forces made for an extremely transparent texture that allowed the listener to hear nuances usually lost in large-scale productions. Quick tempi were used to great effect, but even the fastest passages were executed with precision. But this was no purely technical performance! The whole emotional spectrum of this masterwork was there for the hearing: the exuberant delight of “For unto us a Child is born,” the mystical “Behold the Lamb of God,” the pathos of “He was despised,” and the majesty of the Hallelujah Chorus and “Worthy is the Lamb.” It was an unforgettable experience, and one that I hope to have the pleasure of repeating next year!

Sara Hessel is KMFA’s Music Director, as well as producer and host of Ancient Voices. Tune in on Sundays, 9am and 4pm, to enjoy Ancient Voices, right here on KMFA, 89.5.

Austin Symphonic Band presents “Remembrance and Hope”

~posted by David Crews, KMFA announcer

Last weekend, the Austin Symphonic Band presented a concert on December 2nd. The theme was “Remembrance and Hope,” to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and then promising look forward to the holiday season. We enjoyed music from the 1940s, with exciting pieces like Victory at Sea, as well as lighter offerings such as In the Miller Mood, and some holiday favorites as well.

I was the narrator for one piece titled “Duty, Honor, Country,” based on a speech by General Douglas MacArthur.  I was very pleased to be able to perform this role, especially since my father is a medaled combat veteran of WWII.

The piece I narrated was very well received and it was an altogether enjoyable experience.  Here’s a photo from the event, and you might want to look now – I only wear a suit a few times a decade! Thanks to all the members of ASB for their good work and for the invitation.

KMFA’s first Gamba-cast: listen to La Follia’s “An Angel-ic Concert”

KMFA broadcast a special presentation of An Angel-ic Concert with La Follia Austin Baroque and internationally celebrated countertenor Ryland Angel! KMFA recorded this performance live at St. Louis Catholic Chapel on Nov. 5th. Listeners immersed themselves in the rich voice of one of the finest countertenors working today, as he presented sumptuous Marian hymns from Italy and the Austrian Court, backed by the musicians of La Follia, directed by Keith Womer. Original KMFA broadcast time was Sunday, November 27th at 2:30pm.

If you missed the original broadcast, you can listen to it again, just by visiting the KMFA website:


McCallum’s music in the park

~posted by Phil Pollack, KMFA Tech Ops Manager

Last weekend I enjoyed the great pleasure of  attending the McCallum Orchestra’s event, Music in the Park.  Held in the Mueller neighborhood’s Lake Park Amphitheater, the Orchestra played musical arrangements from favorite movies.

The student musicians all wore blinking lights while they performed on the night-time stage, and scenes from each film score that they played would appear on the movie screen behind them.  And at the end, how could I miss the 1980’s classic “Back to the Future” that was shown following the concert?

This was a free, family friendly event, encouraging donations to assist with orchestra expenses. It was the second of a series. I definitely recommend attending their next performance!

Here’s a short video clip featuring an orchestral version from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack:

Halloween at the Symphony!

~posted by Holly Algreen, KMFA’s Director of Individual Giving

On Sunday, October 23rd, I had the opportunity to attend the Austin Symphony Orchestra’s Halloween Children’s Concert at the Long Center. With a 4-year-old, a 3-year-old and a 2-year-old in tow, we made our way to the Long Center on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. We had Snow White, Pinkalicious and Yoda with us, and once we arrived we saw lots of princesses, Tinker Bells, ninjas, and ghosts in attendance.

The concert started out with Marco Perella as the Master of Ceremonies (dressed in a clown costume of course) by greeting everyone and explaining each section of the orchestra with guest conductor Irwin Wagner. As he announced each section they would play something familiar. The kids seem to love hearing the wind section, but the percussion section received the greatest applause. Then we heard The Smurfs March and enjoyed life-sized Smurfs dancing on stage! As the show went on we heard the ET theme-song and were amazed by skeletons and spiders coming down from the ceiling. All the kids screamed and laughed in surprise. Before the main event, “Peter and the Wolf,” we enjoyed a sing along of “My Pumpkin Lives Right Here in Austin,” which all three kids have been singing for days since. It’s now become a theme song in our home. And then we enjoyed a narrative, with music and pictures on the big screen of Peter and the Wolf.

The Concert was a wonderful introduction for kids to the symphony. They loved all the costumes, the spooky decorations throughout the Long Center and of course the music. It was a wonderful way to celebrate Halloween with music and fun for kids! I highly recommend this annual treat for any family with kids!

A Festival of Organ Concertos

Posted by Sara Hessel, KMFA Music Director

Organist Keith Womer couldn’t have given his recent concert a more fitting title than “A Festival of Organ Concertos.” The whole thing felt like a celebration — not only of the sonorous pairing of organ and strings, but also of St. Austin’s lovely neo-Baroque pipe organ! The concert was in fact in honor of the 10th anniversary of the dedication and installation of the Laukhuff-Bier Organ at St. Austin’s, an instrument built in the style of an 18th century south German organ.

Keith Womer on the St. Austin's organ

Keith and his gallant band of string players from La Follia Austin Baroque treated us to music by Mozart, Haydn, Vivaldi, and Handel, along with the famous Adagio for Organ and Strings by Tomaso Albinoni Remo Giazotto.

Hey, wait a minute…

Yes, it’s true! As Keith told us in his entertaining and informative remarks, that famous Adagio was in fact composed by the musicologist responsible for cataloging Albinoni’s works, Remo Giazotto. At first, Giazotto claimed it was a newly rediscovered work by Albinoni. But as time went on, the truth emerged: it was an original work by Giazotto, based on a scant 2-3 measure bass line by Albinoni.

Another musical illusion shattered! But regardless of who wrote it, it sounded magnificent in that space. Concertmaster Go Yamamoto’s solo work was especially moving—the plaintive solo violin contrasted beautifully with the measured intensity of the organ.

The neo-Baroque organ at St. Austin's church

The program concluded with Handel’s beloved F Major Organ Concerto, subtitled “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale.” This was definitely the high pointof the evening—the organ absolutely sparkled! In Handel’s time, an organist was expected to improvise parts of a work like this, and being the talented instrumentalist he is, Keith did ol’ George proud with his effervescent performance.

If you get the chance, please go hear the lovely Laukhuff-Bier Organ at St. Austin’s! You can see a list of upcoming events here:

For more information about future performances by Keith Womer and La Follia Austin Baroque, please visit their website: