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Singing the praises of the year in music

  • kronos-quartet

    Kronos Quartet, the groundbreaking string ensemble, made its Valentine Theatre debut in January.

    <Jay Blakesberg NOT BLADE PHOTO


Kronos Quartet, the groundbreaking string ensemble, made its Valentine Theatre debut in January.

Jay Blakesberg NOT BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

What a year for classical performing arts!

My collection of programs from 2013 bursts with wonderful memories of events presented by the many dedicated, talented, and hard-working musicians and dancers, producers, and presenters in the region.

The new year leaped off with the Kronos Quartet, the groundbreaking string ensemble, in its Valentine Theatre debut. In February, the Toledo Symphony with singers from Bowling Green State University delivered a stunning performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.

In March, the symphony and Stefan Sanderling continued the award-winning series with Bruckner’s Symphony No. 2 in Rosary Cathedral. The University of Toledo signaled its revival of opera with a memorable production of Orfeo at the Toledo Museum of Art Cloister.


South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela closed out BGSU’s Festival Series.


Collaboration, a strong point of many local performances, continued to gain momentum. April burst with activity, from the Toledo Ballet’s revival of Giselle to Sono Novo and Ballet Theatre of Toledo’s original production of Peter and the Wolf and Snow White, and the Toledo Opera pulled off a spectacular Gala.

In May, Toledo School for the Arts amazed with its Kaleidoscope showcase. BGSU brought fabled South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela to campus to close out its Festival Series, and the Toledo Symphony wrapped up its season with Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 and the return of pianist Cornelia Herrmann.

June led off with Masterworks Chorale’s Collage VI and July and August were studded with Music Under the Stars concerts at the Toledo Zoo.

September brought brand new series and excitement, starting with the symphony’s all Rachmaninoff program in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle, and wrapping up with the first northwest Ohio taping of From the Top, the hit PBS young talent show, at BGSU.

In October, Aida rode in through the Toledo Opera’s grand production, and the Dorothy MacKenzie Price Piano Series launched at UT, where superstar mezzo Marilyn Horne had her first residency. The Perrysburg Symphony Orchestra kicked off its 53rd season.

November brought a brilliant production of Pirates of Penzance at BGSU and the UT Opera Ensemble dazzled with its performance of The Tender Land. The Toledo Symphony’s groundbreaking Classics concert featuring two versions of “The Four Seasons” brought the tango to the Peristyle, generating huge buzz.

In a year of huge economic uncertainty, one thing was sure: where there’s a will to keep the arts alive and accessible, presenters will find a way. The region’s corporations and businesses, its institutions, and countless individuals have sustained this richness through their generosity.

So as 2013 ticks to a close, let’s give one more round of applause for all the performers, presenters, and venues for continuing to enrich life in the old Black Swamp territory. And let’s start buying up tickets for what promises to be a fabulous 2014.


The Toledo Symphony wrapped up its 2012-2013 season last spring with Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 and the return of pianist Cornelia Herrmann.


● In Ann Arbor, Kerrytown Concert House has planned several concerts to fill in that dead time right after New Year’s.

A program based on the poetry of Khalil Gibran is planned for 8 p.m. Jan. 3 in the historic venue at 415 N. Fourth Ave., near Zingerman’s famous deli in North Ann Arbor. Bassist Dave Sharp will be joined by saxophonist Chris Kaercher, keyboardist Mark Nilan, and percussionists to improvise suitable music while narrator Dr. Yvan Silva reads the beloved Gibran lines. Tickets are $5-$25.

A chance to hear the legendary cabaret duo of William Bolcom, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and piano phenom with his amazing wife, the mezzo Joan Morris, will happen at 4 p.m. Jan. 5. The event is a benefit for Kerrytown, where the couple have performed frequently. Tickets for this special event are $15-$50.

And the program titled Forgotten Songs of Theodore Gouvy, performed by soprano MeeAe Nam, tenor John Elwes, and pianist Joel Schoenhals, will begin at 8 p.m. Jan. 6 in Kerrytown. Gouvy (1819-1898) was a French composer who based his writing on French Renaissance poetry of love. Tickets are $5-$25.

Reservations are recommended for Kerrytown. Information: 734-769-2999 or

● There are many ways to get to Carnegie Hall in New York City and most of them involve talent and the famed advice — “practice, practice, practice.”

For Notre Dame Academy junior April Varner, the formula worked as she made her debut Sunday in the elegant Weill Recital Hall of the historic hall through a competition organized by American Protege. This New York-based company arranges for singers and instrumentalists from junior high through college to test their mettle against peers.

For Varner, the journey began in Nashville, where she performed at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel to win a spot on the Carnegie roster. She sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables in one of three performance events that day.

A busy student and performer, Varner sings in the Christ the King Church choir where she also is a cantor.

Send News of Music items to at least two weeks in advance of the event.

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