Opera by Haitian-Canadian composer to premiere during Black History Month: Collaboration between David Bontemps and the OCM | Arts

When 44-year-old Haitian-Canadian composer David Bontemps was told in the summer of 2020 that the Orchestre classique de Montréal (OCM), then led by the late Boris Brott, wanted to produce his first chamber opera, La Flambeau, he was more than thankful.  That the work will premiere next Tuesday, Feb. 7 at Salle Pierre Mercure during Black History Month is an added bonus.

“I feel very privileged and humbled to just have my opera produced, because there are so many composers that have written major works that never had the chance to be presented to the public,” said Bontemps. “The opportunity to have it first presented in the city where I live is a big honour.”

Born in Port-au-Prince, Bontemps moved to Montreal in 2002, where he was quickly recognized by his peers. He has since written and recorded several albums and has received working grants from the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec and the Canada Council for the Arts

His opera is based on the 2014 award-winning play of the same name by his friend, Faubert Bolivar. The two former Port-au-Prince schoolmates have known each other for years and continued to follow each other’s careers as they took different paths, Bolivar as a teacher, writer, poet and dramaturge and Bontemps as a pianist and composer. 

Cameroonian-born soprano Suzanne Taffot, Canadian mezzo soprano Catherine Daniel, and Jamaican Canadian tenor Paul Williamson.

“He sent me his book in 2014 and when I read it I knew I had to write an opera based on it, but I never had the time or the opportunity. It was only in 2020, during the first pandemic lockdown, that I found the time and I wrote it in five weeks,” Bontemps explained during our recent interview.

Steeped in Haitian lore and West African mythology, La Flambeau is a critique of misogyny, corruption and the abuse of power. It tells the story of a dysfunctional couple, Monsieur (a narcissistic, ambitious and idealistic intellectual), Madame (who talks to her dead parents), and their working-class housekeeper, Mademoiselle. Violating his own principles, Monsieur rapes Mademoiselle. After a surreal trial, the corrupt elitist, who cloaks himself in virtue to subjugate the disadvantaged, confesses, and is subjected to a form of mob justice and turned into a zombie in service to his community.

Bontemps says he loves the story because it touches many aspects of pluralism, including language (Haiti’s divide between French and Creole speakers), class, education, as well as justice and belief systems — Western Christianity vs. the demonized West African-inspired Voodoo that some still manage to maintain and preserve. “But mainly, it’s about respecting everyone and observing that a society that is without respect and love is just a crazy, crazy place — a real dystopia.”

Like the play, Bontemps says his musical compositions both blend and contrast European classical music with Afro-Caribbean as well as traditional African rhythms, melodies and harmonies.

American bass Brandon Coleman, Montreal actress and director Mariah Inger, and Maestro Alain Trudel.

His 80-minute opera — sung in French, with short passages in Haitian Creole — is scored for four singers, a string orchestra and maracas. Conducted by Maestro Alain Trudel, the cast features Cameroonian-born soprano Suzanne Taffot, Canadian mezzo soprano Catherine Daniel, Jamaican Canadian tenor Paul Williamson, and American bass Brandon Coleman, with stage direction by Montreal actress and director Mariah Inger.

Maestro Brott, who at age 78 was killed on April 5, 2022, in a hit-and-run in Hamilton, Ontario, left his mark on the final product. “We had the chance to have a workshop in September 2021 with him, so the score has a lot of his recommendations and his influence is there somewhere. Unfortunately, he won’t conduct it although he said he really liked the music,” said Bontemps, adding, “But I’m very lucky to have Alain Trudel, a long-time friend of Boris.”

Salle Pierre Mercure in L’Université du Québec à Montréal is located at 300 de Maisonneuve Blvd. E. For tickets and information, visit orchestra.ca.

Rick Astley: I wasn’t cut out to be a pop star | Entertainment

Rick Astley says he “wasn’t born” to be a pop star.

The 56-year-old singer shot to fame in the late 1980s when he signed a deal with industry giants Stock Aitken Waterman – which saw him become labelmates with the likes of Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, and Sonia – and sold more than 12 million records worldwide with hits such as ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ and ‘Together Forever’ but decided to quit the industry altogether in the 1990s because he “didn’t want to do any of it” anymore.

“He said: “I don’t think being a pop star is a very natural thing for anybody but some people, some people manage to do it and some people are born to do it perhaps. I don’t think I was really. I had developed a fear of flying, I didn’t want to go and promote records. I didn’t want to do any of it, really. “

The ‘Take Me To Your Heart’ singer – who went on to have daughter Emilie with then-partner Lene Bausager but eventually returned to showbusiness in the early 2000s and remains active in music today – went on to add that he was “super lucky” to have made a lot of money during his heyday which at the time enabled him to walk away after from the top.

Speaking on Channel 5 documentary ‘Stock Aitken Waterman: Legends of Pop Music’, he added: “I was super lucky that I had a massive amount of success in a very short period of time, somebody gave me a truckload of money for it and I could say ‘Okay, I’m done!'”

Country music duo Brooks & Dunn coming to Omaha

Brooks & Dunn, one of country music’s best-selling duos, will bring their “Reboot 2023” tour to Omaha this summer.

The concert will be held June 1 at the CHI Health Center Omaha. Special guest performer Scotty McCreery will be the opening act.

Led by musicians Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn, Brooks & Dunn has 17 Country Music Association awards, 26 Academy of Country Music awards and two Grammy Awards. In 2019, they received the Academy of Country Music’s Icon Award, which is given to those who have advanced the popularity of country music through songwriting, recording, production, touring, film, television and more.

The duo’s most famous songs include “Boot Scootin’ Boogie”, “Neon Moon” and “Believe”.

Acclaimed music program coming to Auburn High School

An Emmy-winning and multiplatinum-selling musician will bring his music education program to Auburn High School in March.

Mark Wood, an original member of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, will work with the school’s band, choir and orchestra through his program, Electrify Your Symphony. Together, they will create a rock orchestra that will perform for the public on Tuesday, March 14, in the auditorium of the school, 250 Lake Ave., Auburn. Tickets will be $10 for adults, $5 for students and free for Auburn district students.

Proceeds from the concert will support Auburn school music programs. Tickets will be available at the door and at showtix4u.com.

“The Auburn Music Boosters, the high school music department and the Auburn Enlarged City School District are thrilled to be able to provide our students with this amazing musical opportunity,” Auburn High School representative Allison Fennessy said in a news release.

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Wood will perform with the students on his handcrafted seven-string fretted electric Viper violin, his invention, while performing his original material and his arrangements of music by Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and more. Vocalist Laura Kaye, who is Wood’s wife, will also perform. Before the performance, Wood and Kaye will prepare students in workshops, teaching improvisation, composition and more.

The program has been featured on “The Today Show,” “CBS Evening News” and more.

“(Electrify Your Symphony) builds on the strong foundation provided by the classically trained music teachers, creating a partnership that inspires students and boosts their self-esteem and motivation on stage and off,” the program said in the news release.

For more information, visit electrifyyoursymphony.com.

Country music highlights quiet Waco-area weekend

Christmas weekend finds a quieter local music scene than previous December weekends, with a Nashville singer-songwriter, a Texas bluegrass trio and a multi-performer night the highlights for country music fans.

The weekend offers local followers of Nashville country singer-songwriter Kristen Kelly another chance to see the Lorena native perform for the home folks.

Kelly, whose sister Kimberly also is a country singer-songwriter, will play a solo show at 8 p.m. Friday at Bull Hide Creek Sports Tavern, 7589 Golinda Drive in Golinda. In addition to the live music, the evening will feature a catered taco bar and full bar service.

“It’s my last hometown show of the year. It’s always fun to come back and play for the hometown,” she said in a phone interview earlier this week.

Kelly returns to Central Texas a month after her latest single release, “Smoke,” which had a double tribute to her parents: Its release date of Nov. 10 fell on her mother Cindy Laughlin’s birthday and the image of a cigarette-filled ashtray that accompanied “Smoke” was the ashtray of her father Danny Kelly, who died last January.

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“Both parents were super, super supportive, encouraging my sister and I both to keep writing and playing shows,” she said.

These days, Kelly finds herself drawing from her early days as a performer with local rock cover band Big Dave and the Freaks and, working with co-writer Bridgette Tatum (“She’s Country”), has been blending rootsy rock with country.

Kelly’s most recent release, her first project in six years, is a two-part EP, “Something Worth Saying,” whose second part arrived early last year. Kelly, tabbed as one of CMT’s Next Women of Country, also has opened for such Nashville stars as Brad Paisley, Montgomery Gentry, Rascal Flatts and Gary Allan.

The year ahead will find Kelly releasing more new music, playing solo gigs and moving into podcasting with “Something Worth Saying,” adapted from the monthly songwriters’ round she’s hosted in Nashville. She’ll take that podcast on the road, in a “Nashville writers’ round-style show coming to a city near you,” she said.

Bluegrass band

Cold may send the music inside at the debut of the McGregor Country Christmas festival Thursday and Friday when bluegrass band the Purple Hulls is scheduled to play.

The Hulls, anchored by twins Katy Lou Clark and Penny Lea Clark Gimble, with bassist Sarah Birkeland rounding out the trio will perform at 6 p.m. Thursday and 7:15 p.m. Friday on the festival’s outdoor stage.

The Clarks grew up in a musical farming family near Kilgore — yes, their name comes from the purple hull peas the family grew — and took their talents to Nashville after graduating from South Plains College in Levelland, where they studied music and played basketball. For five years, they did studio recordings, worked for the Grand Ole Opry and wrote songs for the Sony/ATV music publishing company. They returned to their family farm in Texas about 12 years ago and continue to perform. Penny Lea Clark married McLennan County District Clerk Jon Gimble earlier this year.

Not goodbye

It’s not a goodbye that Axtell country musician Michael Saldana will make with six friends at The Backyard on Friday, but more like a — well, the informal title says it best: “Slow Down Saldana.”

Saldana, a frequent performer at area bars, clubs and other live music venues, is cutting back on performing next year to try and heal his vocal nodes.

“Singing five nights a week, sometimes four hours a night — I pushed it too hard,” he admitted recently. Told by a doctor to slow down or risk permanent damage to his voice, he’s opting for the former after 16 years as a performer.

Waco country performer Michael Saldana will have a half dozen local players join him Friday in a “Slow Down Saldana” show Friday at The Backyard.

He’s got six musical friends lined up to perform at Friday’s “Slow Down” show. In light of the low temperatures forecast for Friday night, the event will be inside rather than on The Backyard’s outdoor stage. “I’m not going to torture my friends,” he laughed.

Planning to play are Chris Low, Larissa Boyd, Lauren January, J.C. Pringle, Towne Adams and Lucas Jones.

Doors open at 6 p.m. with the music starting at around 7 p.m. Each of those performing will have solo time onstage, but it’s more like an open jam, and other musicians are encouraged to show up with their guitars.

“It’s one big blowout with all my friends,” Saldana said. “We’re playing for fun.”

MARTIN: Willie Nelson and ZZ Top tix on sale this week; a chat with Aaron Watson | Community Alert

Whitewater Amphitheater had a fantastic season this year, and the venue is hard at work planning for an exciting one in 2023.

They are off to a great start, with their first announcement of a co-headlining show with Willie Nelson and ZZ Top on April 14 and 15.

Both acts will perform full sets and receive equal billing. Tickets go on sale Friday, Dec. 16, at 10 a.m. at WhiteWaterRocks.com.

According to the venue’s Facebook announcement, your tickets will not be emailed to you until 72 hours prior to the event.

Though pairing an iconic country artist with a classic rock band might seem strange at first glance, it does make perfect sense.

After all, both Willie Nelson and ZZ Top are true Texas icons. and what better place to join forces than right in the heart of the Lone Star State.

Whenever I think of Texas country or Texas rock and roll, Nelson and ZZ Top are the first two names that come to mind.

I would be willing to bet that most Texas music fans will be super excited seeing these legendary acts on the same stage on the same night.

Who knows, maybe they will even team up on a few songs. Willie actually recorded a version of ZZ Top’s song “I Love My Automobile” for a tribute album many years ago.

I bet ZZ Top could do a blistering version of “Whiskey River,” too. I once saw them play a rock version of Johnny Cash’s hit “Folsom Prison Blues,” so anything is possible.

Obviously this show will sell out instantly, so be ready to jump online at 10 a.m. Friday morning.

While we are talking about ZZ Top, they just announced another co-headlining tour this summer featuring Lynyrd Skynyrd.

They are calling it the Sharp Dressed Simple Man Tour, and they will make two stops in Texas. The first will be at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth on July 29 and another on July 30 at the Cynthia Woods Pavilion in the Woodlands. Tickets for this tour can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com.

Aaron Watson to play Gruene Hall shows

Texas country artist Aaron Watson returns to Gruene Hall this weekend for two shows.

His Saturday night show with Kemberly Kelly as the opening act is sold out.

On Sunday night, his special guest will be Hayden Baker, and at press time, there were still tickets available at GrueneHall.com.

I had the chance to speak with Aaron a few weeks ago to discuss the upcoming shows and to talk about his year. Just as he was ready to release his latest album, “Unwanted Man,” he had a rare vocal cord flare up that put him on complete vocal rest for months.

He had just survived being off the road during the pandemic, so this setback was tough.

“I owe it all to the Texas music scene,” Aaron explained. “It’s given me the chance to do what I love for a living. I just love Gruene Hall, we’ve been playing there for forever now. Over the past 20 years I’m not sure how many shows I’ve played there, but it’s a bunch. I like doing the back-to-back nights, it’s so much fun. The band and I get to relax a bit, kind of our own staycation.”

Aaron and his wife have three children, and if you follow him on social media, you can tell he is a great dad.

“I love being a dad,” Aaron said. “I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve remained an independent artist. It gives me more freedom to do what I want to do. I can make decisions based on my family and what’s best for them.

“It has been a fun job to have with my kids. They enjoy getting to go to work with dad. That means the world to me. I tell people that we are a small-town business and our business is country music. When you come out to Gruene Hall and buy a ticket and buy merchandise, you are helping me pay for my band and helping me keep the lights on at home.”

When I asked Aaron how he survived the pandemic and then vocal issues, he admitted it was tough times.

“It was definitely a double whammy,” he said. “But life is full of double whammys. If you live long enough you are going to face challenges. I am still seeing a throat specialist in Birmingham, Alabama. It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you walk through the office and see all the cancer patients fighting for their lives.

“You have to put things in perspective. I think sometimes we live our life like we are going to be young and healthy forever, and that’s just not the case. One of my vocal cords got inflamed from over working and over singing.

“It is bound to happen when you play as many shows as we do. Every now and then you have to stop and put on new tires.”

One positive outcome of having so much down time is the fact that he has three finished albums that he still hasn’t released.

Aaron assured me that he has big plans for next year, and as a huge fan, I can hardly wait to see what he has in store for us.

A Very Bibulous Christmas at Devil’s Backbone

The Devil’s Backbone Tavern is one of the most historic venues in the Texas Hill Country.

What was once a stagecoach stop for the early settlers has become a regular stop for some of the best artists in the music business.

Owned and operated by musicians Robyn and John Ludwick, they continue to book the best that Texas music has to offer.

This Friday, they will have a talented group of artists joining forces for a show called “A Very Bibulous Christmas.”

It will be hosted by Mike Harmeier and will feature special guests Matt Hillyer, Django Walker, Jonathan Terrell and Cody Braun. Get your tickets now at DevilsBackBoneTavern.com.

Comal Country Music Show scheduled for Dec. 20

Last month, I dropped the ball and failed to mention the anniversary of the Comal Country Music Show.

Hopefully their die-hard fans went and enjoyed some great country music. Next Tuesday, Dec. 20, they will host their December show at the Columbus Club Hall on Landa Street.

The doors open at 6 p.m. and the music begins at 7:30 p.m., with the low price of just $7 at the door.

As always, all profits are donated to the Meals on Wheels program at the Comal County Senior Center. The guests this month are two amazing singers, Loren Woods and Yesenia McNett.

Austin City Limits announces 2023 season

Austin City Limits, the longest-running show of its kind in history, just announced their 2023 season. The new season will start with an ACL Hall of Fame induction of Sheryl Crow on Jan. 7.

The season will continue with Nathaniel Rateliff and Adia Victoria on Jan. 14, Adrian Quesada on Jan. 21, War on Drugs on Jan. 28, Pavement on Feb. 4, Maren Morris on Feb. 11, and Spoon on Feb. 18. The season will conclude on Feb. 25 with another ACL Hall of Fame induction of Joe Ely. The Austin City Limits TV show is broadcast locally on KLRN, the PBS station in San Antonio.

Random notes from the music scene

Hope Hospice and Village Venue will be hosting a Winterzeit Christmas Show on Friday, Dec. 16, at 7:30 p.m. Live music will be provided by Zack Walther and Matt Briggs. It will be a CD release party for their new Christmas album.

There is a $25 entry fee with 50% of ticket sales going to the Hope Hospice Grief Center. This family-friendly event will be held at the Silos at Freiheit, located at 2032 Central Plaza.

Gruene Hall just announced some new shows that include Dale Watson, Los Texmaniacs, Micky & the Motorcars, Roger Creager and a second show by the reformed Uncle Lucius. Tickets for all the shows go on-sale Friday at 10 a.m. at GrueneHall.com.

Rock band Blue October will play the Tech Port Arena in San Antonio on Saturday, Dec. 17.

Riley’s Tavern recently held a toy drive that collected 75 toys and $2,000. Well done guys, this will help a lot of local kids have a better Christmas.

Redbird Listening Room welcomes Bryon White on Sunday at 4 p.m. He’s the lead singer of The Damn Quails. Next Wednesday at the Redbird is the sold-out show by William Beckmann.

The rock band Kansas celebrated 50 years with the 3-CD set of hits titled “Another Fork In The Road.” According to their press release, they are releasing an American version and a European version. As Christmas gets closer, more venues will be hosting special holiday shows. A quick look at the concert calendar and you will see that the Brauntex Theatre, Devil’s Backbone Tavern, Gruene Hall, Luckenbach Dance Hall, Our Lady Bar & Grill, Rudy’s BBQ, and Villa at Gruene all have special shows this week.

Westerly High Music HOF announces new slate of inductees | Daily-news-alerts

WESTERLY — The Westerly High School Music Hall of Fame will induct 10 new members at a ceremony scheduled for April 2, according to Louis M. Toscano and Thomas J. Liguori, members of the selection committee.

The inductees include Angela (Lombardo) Bacari, George Bookataub, Marilyn Frechette Brockmann, Margaret Day, John Graham, Robert Guarino, Albert Norcia, Florence Soloveitzik, William Thorpe and the late David DeAngelis.

“It’s a great group,” said Toscano, who, like Liguori, is a member of the Westerly High School class of 1970. “The emphasis is on music educators.”

Members of the class of 1970 created and endowed the hall of fame as their 50th anniversary class gift in October of 2021. In November, they held an induction ceremony at Westerly’s United Theatre.

“We decided to move the ceremony to the spring so we could showcase the Westerly High School bands,” Toscano said.

Interestingly, Liguori said, three members of the Westerly High School class of 1966 are included on the list of 2023 nominees.

DeAngelis, the 2002-03 Westerly Teacher of the Year, taught music and theater at Westerly High School for 33 years. He also founded the high school’s Theater Scrapbook Company and served as music director at Our Lady of Victory Church from 1993 to 2014.

Bacari, a 1961 graduate of Westerly High School, has had a lifelong career in the music industry. A mentor to Liza Minnelli and Billy Gilman, she has made a number of hit records, toured with such celebrities as Don Rickles, Rodney Dangerfield and Norm Lewis, and has appeared on “The Merv Griffin Show,” “The Dinah Shore Show,” “The Virginia Graham Show” and many Jerry Lewis muscular dystrophy telethons.

Bookataub, also a 1961 graduate of the Westerly High School — where he was voted “Class Musician” — was a member of the first graduating class of Berklee College of Music in 1966, has served as a high school band director for 40 years, and was an instructor of percussion at the University of Maine, Portland.

Brockmann, a graduate of Westerly High School with the class of 1945, performed on Broadway in “All for Love” and road productions of “Blossom Time” and “Miss Liberty.” A regular performer at Fay’s Theater in Providence, she was the soloist at the 1948 Cherry Blossom Festival, performed at the Latin Quarter and has maintained a lifelong love of music.

Day, a 1955 graduate of Westerly High School, studied harp at Julliard School of Music, was the principal harpist for Providence Harp Ensemble and played with a number of local organizations, such as Pfizer Players, St. Pius Church Choir, Immaculate Conception Church Choir, Colonial Theatre and Mystic River Chorale.

Graham, a member of the Westerly High School class of 1966, toured Europe with School Band of America in 1966, taught music in the West Warwick schools from 1970 to 2000 and has performed with both the Rhode Island Philharmonic and Eastern Connecticut Symphony orchestras.

Guarino, also a member of the Westerly High School class of 1966, holds a master’s in voice from Manhattan School of Music and was a tenor soloist with symphony orchestras in Boston, San Antonio, Harrisburg Opera, Orchestra of New York, Princeton Pro Musica and New Haven Chorale. He has performed as lead with Michigan Opera, Atlanta Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera and Wolf Trap Opera. He is professor emeritus at The College of New Jersey and founder of Collegium Musicum, and currently directs Stonington Madrigal Singers. 

Norcia, a graduate of New England Conservatory of Music, taught for more than 20 years in the Westerly school system. He composed the Babcock Junior High School song, wrote and published “Voice,” an instructional guide to singing, judged many statewide student vocal competitions and served as an evaluator of music programs in public schools.  

Soloveitzik, a 1922 graduate of Westerly High School, studied at Julliard School of Music and Yale Conservatory and taught piano in Westerly for many years. Her pupils included hall of famers George Greeley and Al Copley.  

Thorpe, another member of the Westerly High class of 1966, earned degrees from Boston Conservatory of Music in piano and New England Conservatory in voice. A member of Pi Kappa Lambda National Music Honor Society and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, he has performed in 32 states, was a soloist on the CBS-TV broadcast celebrating the Cole Porter Centennial, represented the United States at a United Nations concert in Shanghai, was soloist at the Bethlehem Music Festival, Missouri River Festival, Arizona Heritage Festival, Boston Lyric Orchestra, Boston Civic Symphony, and many other East Coast orchestras. He is also founder of Thorpe Music Publishing Company. 

More information about the April 2 induction ceremony will be released closer to the date.


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Birthplace of Country Music Museum hosts Darrell Scott, John Long at Farm and Fun Time | Arts & Entertainment

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A Little Left of Center: I love country music: Three of the reasons why | Columns

Yep, I am a country music lover.

It was Johnny Cash who said, “Of emotions, of love, of breakup, of love and hate and death and dying, mama, apple pie, and the whole thing. It covers a lot of territory, country music does.”

Country is my favorite genre of music. Largely to blame are Morgan Wallen, Hardy, and Ernest. I have long referred to these country hitmakers as the great trifecta of modern country music. These three friends have been blowing up the scene for a while now. I was fortunate to see them all perform live and feel comfortable writing this piece based on those experiences. I am here to proclaim with good authority that this trio is fun to watch. These guys are multifaceted and versatile. With a little something for everyone, let’s break down how these good ol’ southern boys have turned many, including myself, on to today’s country music.

Morgan Wallen

Morgan Wallen is the epitome of the Southern pretty boy. His true talent, however, is his ability to not only sing a great song, but to get his audience to really “feel” his joy of performing. Wallen has said that after seeing Eric Church perform, it left such a profound impact on him because, as he puts it, “you could feel what Eric Church was singing.” It’s apparent that Wallen also sets out to do just that when he performs. Having seen both Wallen and Church perform live, I concur. Wallen’s music also blends a variety of genres. From “Broadway Girls” featuring rapper, Lil Durk, to his collaboration with Ernest on “Flower Shops” (nod to traditional country music with steel guitar embedded throughout), his range and musicality is what makes him so appealing to country music lovers and those like me, who are still fairly new to the country music scene.


I have found that many Ernest Smith (he goes by only his first name, professionally) fans don’t know that his first released song was a rap single, “Dopeman.” It is a catchy joint with a smooth beat that showcases that he definitely has an affinity for rap, yet personifies versatility when you discover he has written songs for the likes of FGL, Kane Brown, his buddy Morgan Wallen, and others. Ernest has a number of hit songs under his belt including “More than my Hometown,” a single on Wallen’s “Double Album.” He also did a beautiful remake of “Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton with new and rising female artist Hailey Whitters. Not only is the song awesome, but the cheesy, ‘70s throwback video is a nostalgic delight. If those things didn’t make him appealing enough, add to his talents a cool podcast titled “Just being Ernest.” He interviews friends and other celebrities in this entertaining series that only adds to his versatility as an entertainer.


To round off this musical trifecta, you cannot forget Michael Hardy, who goes by only his last name. The energy and vibe he brings to his live performances is unparalleled. To put it bluntly, his shows kick butt. A high energy load of fun is what you’ll get at a Hardy show. I would best describe his style as modern country rock. One of my favorite songs is “He went to Jared.” It’s a fun sing-along jam about a hardworking blue collar dude who lost his girl to a prestigious fella who went to the Harvard of the south — Ole Miss. It was the first Hardy song I ever heard and I immediately liked it. Seeing him perform live had me hooked for good. He is truly on that stage to party and have a good time. If you want to hear an emotional country song that tells a raw story of domestic abuse and outlaw justice, check out his latest duet with Lainey Wilson, “Wait in the Truck.”

Regular dudes

Honestly, the appeal of these three is that they seem like regular folks — unpretentious bros who enjoy entertaining and having fun — they are the guys you just wanna sit down and have a beer with — or in my case — go fishing with. Having met Wallen as a VIP guest at a concert this past summer, I can tell you he is the real deal — humble and down to earth. Ernest is, too. In fact he’s known for driving around Nashville in his 1966 Cadillac, and I’ve met him briefly at a concert last summer. I haven’t met Hardy, but hope to someday. We’ll see him next February in New York City. A girl can dream…

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Tuning In: Popular tunes even infiltrated ‘pure’ classical music | ETC

We received multiple complaints from listeners recently when we broadcast music performed by the Vitamin String Quartet. They’re a standard string quartet in terms of instrumentation, but they play their own arrangements of pop songs.

Interlochen Arts Academy’s popular music ensemble was giving a concert that week featuring arena rock songs, so we thought we’d help promote the event by playing classical versions of songs by Queen and Bon Jovi.

Another listener was very upset that IPR broadcast a story about Lizzo playing James Madison’s flute during a recent concert in Washington, D.C.

Lizzo is a pop artist, sure, but she’s also a classically trained flutist who had spent the day of the concert at the Library of Congress exploring a curated collection of historical flutes.

What these two strong, negative responses have in common is the sense of separation that people want to maintain between popular music and classical music.

The smarty pants in me wonders if that means classical music has to be unpopular.

The historian in me knows that the Vitamin String Quartet is just one example in a long line of classical musicians drawing on popular music favorites.

The distance between “popular” and “classical” music isn’t nearly as spacious as I think some people wish it was — that’s true now, and it’s true historically.

Beethoven composed more than 20 sets of piano variations (also called theme and variations), the vast majority of which used a popular song of the time as the theme. It’s akin to writing a set of variations on the latest trending Taylor Swift or, yes, Lizzo song.

Brahms jammed his Academic Festival Overture full of melodies from popular drinking songs of the era like “Gaudeamus Igitur,” or “Therefore, let us be merry.”

Renaissance composers frequently wrote masses whose melodies were based on popular songs of the day. Dozens of composers wrote masses — performed in churches — based on “L’homme armé,” a French secular tune that was a favorite of Charles the Bold.

There’s plenty of historical precedent for overlap between “popular” and classical (unpopular?) music.

So why do people find it so off-putting when Classical IPR has the occasional pop tune or artist on the air performed with classical instrumentation?

Someone asked me recently why Classical IPR had stopped playing “pure” classical music in recent years. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond.

The smarty pants in me wanted to say, “Puri? Like the choral composer Stefan Puri?”

The historian in me wanted to raise the alarm about the terrible things that have happened in American and global history in the name of keeping institutions, music, art and populations “pure.”

Instead, I said, “What do you mean by ‘pure’ classical?”

They responded, “You know, Beethoven and Brahms.”

The smarty pants in me wanted to say, “Oh, like, Beethoven’s variations on the song ‘Es war einmal ein alter Mann,’ or ‘Once upon a time there was an old man’?”

Instead, I said, “Thanks for your feedback.”

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