News Column


June 6, 2013



This year, about the only place you're going to find Mozart at the OK Mozart International Festival is in the event's name.

Instead, the 29th edition of Bartlesville's most visible contribution to the state's cultural landscape is turning its attention toward music that has been made in America.

"With just a couple of exceptions, all the music we will be performing during the festival's main stage concerts will be by American composers," said Constantine Kitsopoulos, who is beginning his first season as OK Mozart's artistic director.

In its early years, OK Mozart was strictly a classical music festival, showing performers such as Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Leontyne Price and Andre Watts, with the music of Mozart being part of just about every concert.

In recent times, the festival has evolved to incorporate a broader variety of music, featuring such artists as Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth, jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis, bluegrass band Bering Strait and singer and bassist Esperanza Spalding.

But the idea of having an American theme for the festival's orchestral concerts is something quite new.

This year's OK Mozart will include performances by the Western swing trio Hot Club of Cowtown, a quintet of some of bluegrass music's greatest instrumentalists, and an evening of music from Hollywood's greatest films, performed outdoors on the grounds of the Woolaroc Museum and Wilderness Preserve.

"The response we've had so far to the programming for this year has been good," Kitsopoulos said. "We tried to put together a week of performances that had a cohesiveness to it, that made sense, but still was able to present a great deal of variety.

"Besides, it's important for us to do something like this. After all, this music is part of our culture as Americans, and we should embrace it."

Kitsopoulos points to the festival's orchestral concert Wednesday titled "To the New World," and featuring the Amici New York Orchestra, as a kind of portrait in miniature to the ideas behind this year's OK Mozart.

One of the works to be performed is by Norman native Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate, whose Chickasaw heritage is a source of his inspiration as a composer. Tate will serve as narrator for his work, "Spider Brings Fire."

America's heritage as the birthplace of motion pictures is represented by the Chaconne from "The Red Violin," a film score by John Corigliano that the composer converted into a violin concerto. It will feature soloist Erica Kiesewetter, concertmaster of the Amici New York.

"The final piece on that program is the only work by a non- American composer that the orchestra will perform," Kitsopoulos said. "That's Dvorak's Symphony No. 9, 'To the New World.'

"I wanted to include that because I also thought it was important to get an outsider's look. Because this is our culture, sometimes it's easy for us to take some things for granted. So this symphony is a way to show what someone who wasn't an American thought was truly American, who found in things like spirituals the inspiration for a great work of music."

A touch of classical

For the fans of European classical music, OK Mozart offers a week of chamber music programs, most of them featuring the internationally acclaimed Miro Quartet, which appeared as part of Chamber Music Tulsa's season in 2012.

Kitsopoulos said he considered having the chamber music concerts follow the American music theme but decided against it because of a lack of time.

"The Miro Quartet has just finished recording the late Beethoven Quartets, so they will be performing a number of those," he said. "And they will be working with (pianist) Jon Kimura Parker on several of the afternoon concerts. They have a great working relationship, and all of them do an excellent job of interacting with audiences - they can break that fourth wall very cleanly."

The Miro Quartet will also join with the Amici New York's Woodwind Quintet to perform Tuesday. In the past, OK Mozart has devoted one of its main stage concerts in the Bartlesville Community Center to chamber music.

However, this year, the chamber music concert will be held at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in downtown Bartlesville, with performances at 5:30 and 8 p.m.

The program for the Becky Wallace Chamber Concert will also feature the lone Mozart work of the main concerts - the Divertimento in F Major, K. 213 for Woodwind Sextet.

Family matters

Adria Benjamin is jealous.

It's an emotion that the violist and orchestra manager of the Amici New York Orchestra is all too happy to acknowledge.

"I've been coming to Bartlesville for several years now to work with youngsters in the schools," Benjamin said, "and I have to admit, I'm jealous. These students are so lucky to have the teachers and facilities and instruments and performance spaces that they have here. We don't have that in New York City.

"It's just another reason why I love Bartlesville and OK Mozart. I'm so proud to be affiliated with a town that understands how important it is to provide young people with the opportunities to experience making music."

One of the less publicized aspects of the OK Mozart International Festival has been its efforts to introduce music - classical and otherwise - to younger audiences, through a variety of educational outreach programs and events that appeal to all ages.

Members of the Amici New York orchestra will hold master classes and workshops during the festival for musicians ranging from seventh grade to college. The classes draw participants from throughout the region.

"We've been doing the master classes, if my memory serves me right, since about 1993," said Benjamin, who has been a part of OK Mozart's orchestra-in-residence since the festival began. "So many of us in the orchestra have active careers as teachers, and we wanted to include some sort of educational component to the festival."

In addition, Benjamin tries to make at least one additional visit to Bartlesville schools during the school year.

"One year, I worked on a project with Wilson Elementary," she said. "I came down to Bartlesville four times to work with the students who were preparing to perform Haydn's Toy Symphony. I brought some unconventional toys to use - a bunch of wacky, sound- producing objects for them to use.

"There was one boy in the group, who I was told wouldn't talk, and it was true - he never said a word the whole time I was there. At least, until the end, when he came up to me and said, 'That was fun.' "

Said Kitsopoulos: "That's one reason why I love working with kids. They have a real hunger for what good music can give you.

"I have never heard anyone who ever once learned how to play an instrument say, 'Man, I wished my parents had NOT made me practice so much,' " he laughed. "But even if they don't choose to pursue playing an instrument, once you get a taste of that experience of making music, it touches your life forever. And it helps build future audiences."

The 2013 OK Mozart Festival has a number of family-oriented programs for each day of the festival, beginning with Sunday's presentation of "The Wizard of Oz," with the Amici New York Orchestra performing the film's score live.

"We were wanting to do things that would bring more families to the festival," Kitsopoulos said. "What better way to do that than with 'The Wizard of Oz'?

"For one thing, almost everyone knows the movie and the songs," he said. "And we're going to have a costume contest for the youngsters."

Children younger than 12 will be admitted to "The Wizard of Oz" showing for free (there is a limit of two free children's tickets per adult ticket).

"But it's also a great film score," Kitsopoulos said. "The songs were written by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, but Herbert Stothart composed the bulk of the score. And it's some pretty serious music."

Kitsopoulos has conducted "The Wizard of Oz" more than a dozen times.

"It can be tricky because sometimes the sound quality of the film isn't all that great, and you can easily drown out the dialogue," he said. "But I've done it often enough that I'm able to identify the problems and can modulate things where necessary."


All events at the Bartlesville Community Center, 300 S.E. Cherokee Ave., unless otherwise noted.


8 p.m. - OK Mozart Block Party at Frank & Lola's, Second Street and Dewey Avenue. Featuring Wink Burcham, Pilgrim and the Paul Benjaman Band.


2 p.m. - "The Wizard of Oz," with live accompaniment by the Amici New York Orchestra.


8 p.m. - "An Evening of Bluegrass" featuring Noam Pikelny, Bryan Sutton, Ronnie McCoury, Luke Bulla and Barry Bales.


5:30 and 8 p.m. - Becky Wallace Chamber Concert featuring the Miro Quartet and Amici New York Woodwind Sextet, at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 210 E. Ninth St.


8 p.m. - "To the New World," with the Amici New York Orchestra, violinist Erica Kiesewetter and narrator-composer Jerod Tate.

June 13

8 p.m. - Hot Club of Cowtown.

June 14

8 p.m. - "Hollywood on Parade," the Woolaroc Outdoor Concert, with the Amici New York Orchestra. At Woolaroc, 1925 Woolaroc Ranch Road.

June 15

8 p.m. - "America's Musical Bounty" with the Amici New York Orchestra, pianist Jon Kimura Parker and baritone Norm Lewis.


All performances begin at 1 p.m. and take place at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 210 E. Ninth St.

Monday - The Miro Quartet

Tuesday - enhake

Wednesday - Jon Kimura Parker and the Miro Quartet

June 13 - The Miro Quartet, with Jon Kimura Parker

June 14 - The Miro Quartet, with Jon Kimura Parker


All programs at the Bartlesville Community Center, unless otherwise noted.


2 p.m. - "The Wizard of Oz" with Amici New York Orchestra. Adults: $24-$45. Students: $15-$35. Children younger than 12: Free


11 a.m. - Crossroads Learning Experience. $5

2 p.m. - Meet the Woodwinds by Amici Quintet

2 p.m. - Blues You Can Use

6 p.m. - Dizzy Pickers


11 a.m. and 1 p.m. - Claptet

3 p.m. - Love's It! Children's Concert


11 a.m. - Green Country Music Together

2 p.m. - Ellis Island

June 13

10 a.m. - Pioneer School Demonstration, Bartlesville History Museum. Adults $4, children $2 (buy tickets at OKM or BCC box office), limited seating

11 a.m. - Stone Lion Puppet Theatre: "Kuchina Drums." Children $3, adults free

2 p.m. - Stone Lion Puppet Theatre: "Prairie View." Children $3, adults free

June 14

11 a.m. - "Pioneer Woman: Laura Ingalls Wilder" by Michelle Martin

2 p.m. - Experience Trumpets Family Concert by Stephen Goforth

3 p.m. - "Adventures in Oz," Michelle Martin

June 15

1 p.m. - Kilkenney Road Irish band


When: Saturday to June 15

Where: Bartlesville Community Center

Tickets: Main Stage concerts -- $15-$55. Chamber concerts -- $24. 918-336-9800,

James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478

Originally published by JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer.

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