MrWimmer – An Interesting Life

a1095529836_2Jazzy Chiptune

The Waveform Generator / Self-Released – September 26th, 2014

An Interesting Life doesn’t waste any time getting started – any kitsch you or I may have detected in MrWimmer’s last big release, Once More Unto the Breach, is immediately absent here. This release is a strange blend of bebop, crooning, and fusion mixed with the pulsing glitz of 8-bit sounds and set brazenly in a post-apocalyptic world, similar to that in Sufjan’s Age of Adz – and somehow it all works together effortlessly. The lead-off track “Golden” gets going with off-kilter drums and swirling bursts of electronic sounds, accompanied by the electric guitar chops of Shawn Savoie. It smoothly transitions right into “Your Way,” which is the heaviest, most sinister track of the bunch (and of any I’ve heard from MrWimmer.) Savoie’s guitar abilities are again on display in this track – the solos are nasty, but his real effect comes from the weight and force that he adds to the track in its latter half. These first three songs, for all their electronic stylings, remain firmly-rooted in jazz tradition. “My Only” starts with the ‘spang-a-lang’ of a synthesized ride cymbal, incorporates noodling that wouldn’t be unusual to hear on a saxophone, and even shifts into a ragtime feel before ending in half-time.

If you’re familiar with the previous work of MrWimmer, you’ll likely feel a little more familiar with the latter half of this release. Stylistically, “How Long” would not have been out of place, had it been included as a part of Once More, but it certainly brings a more mature harmonic structure to the game – not to mention a great chorus. “Study” is a nearly-five-minute instrumental track that alternates between synth lines and fluctuating textures, ending with a guitar solo and a chromatic quasi-psychedelic outro. The title track starts with a fairly sparse pairing of electronic loops and piano before Wimmer’s voice is added – this song feels more intimate than any of the others on the album, and certainly serves well as the final track of the release.

I hesitate to call this release an EP – though it only lasts six songs and thirty minutes, it has the continuity, substance, and personality to make it a real, substantial release. Perhaps you’re a little hesitant to give chiptune music a try, but I’d urge you to reconsider. Like his releases that came before it, An Interesting Life doesn’t use chiptuning as a gimmick, but simply as a way to make some incredible music. And while I certainly enjoyed the material that preceded it, the sounds here are unabashed, highly crafted, and easily the strongest I’ve heard from MrWimmer yet.

Tracks I Liked? Golden!!, Your Way!!!, My Only!, How Long!!, Study!, An Interesting Life!


Ben Southworth – February 20th, 2015 – Park Avenue

Bear Medicine – The Moon Has Been All My Life

unnamedOctober 14th, 2014 – Self-Released

Genre: Acoustic Psych-Folk

RIYL: William Tyler, Nick Drake, Mark Fosson, Fleet Foxes 

Bear Medicine is the up and coming band Lexington band that everyone (in town, and beyond) would be smitten with, if they knew about them. Made up of four veterans of the Lexington music scene, the band hones in on a sound that thrives on a gentle, but persistent ebb and flow of melody and texture (it seems apropos that the album title references the moon in this way.) With the gentle precision of Josh Wright’s guitar playing and singing, textural noodling from Kim Smith and Seth Murphy (piano/flute and cello/bass, respectively,) and the always tasteful drumming from Severn Edmondson, the record is at the same time relaxingly pleasant and engaging. The songs range from simply arranged finger-picked acoustic guitar tunes (“Red Bird,”) to texturally dense psych-folk numbers (“Guillotine Valley.”) Favorites of mine are “Infestation” and “Blood in Common” – both have a way of reaching a rollicking stride, and do it cleanly, flawlessly, and effectively. Whether or not you’re already familiar with the stuff that Bear Medicine is doing, this is one to check out – it’s a quick, pleasant, and thoroughly refreshing listen.

Tracks I Liked? *Red Bird!, Infestation!!!, Rigor Mortis Dear!, Blood in Common!!!, Two Steps, Guillotine Valley, *Big Chief!, Sevens!!, All You Celestials!! 

*(Tracks 1 and 8 are both great instrumentals!)

Can’t wait til mid-October to hear some? Hear “Infestation” below!

Ben Southworth – September 26th, 2014 – Hagermann and Maxwell

The Harmony of Heaven

I love music. I can’t get enough of it. I love harmony; I love dissonance. I love rhythm; I love sustain. I love sharing music with others; I love people sharing music with me. It comes in every form: Jazz, Electronica, Classical, Alternative, Folk, Hip-Hop, Pop, and everything in between. I love music. But…

There’s one HUGE let down with music, it always ends.

Every song has an end. Every album has an end. Every movement has an end. Every melody has an end.

The fact that music ends is perfectly natural. It always happens. If music didn’t end then it would lose its mystique. Music would become tiresome, and monotonous. It must end, that’s just how it is.

However, this leaves me with one question: If this is so natural and predictable, then why am I always left desiring more?

There are specific songs I love that always leave me disappointed. Not because they are bad, but because I wish that they would never end!

“Beth/Rest” by Bon Iver is the perfect example. Whenever I hear this song I HAVE to turn up the volume as loud as possible and raise my hands in the air. It immediately sparks euphoria in me. (That’s right, Bon Iver creating an emotion other than depression…)

The worst part about this song is that it ends. Whenever it’s over, I am always left wanting more. It happens every time. So once again I ask myself, If this is so natural, then why does it feel so unnatural?

In fact, this is common with most desires! When I eat, no matter how full I am, I always wish there was more. When I wake up in the morning, I always wish I could go back to bed. When I finish an Ale8, I ALWAYS want another.

You would think that by now I would grow used to it; that the blow would soften over time. But no, I am consistently left wanting more out of life!

Every desire has something that fulfills it. Exhaustion has sleep, hunger has food, thirst has water. So then what fulfills my desire for things to never end? Is there a place, object, or existence in which music never ends?

Let’s look at things on a grander scale. Why does death feel so unnatural? It’s actually one of the few things we can 100% count on happening, and yet it is in contradiction to all our natural desires. What fulfills our desire to live forever?

I think this is Heaven. 

Let me (briefly and incompletely) define Heaven. It is first and foremost, a place of unending fulfillment for every desire we have. It is where our ultimate desire to be happy is forever achieved.

Out of this inference, comes a deeper meaning for all the desires stated previously. With this understanding, “Beth/Rest” becomes a way for me to experience Heaven. In fact, our five senses become a way in which we experience small glimpses of heaven.  A hamburger from Meadowthorpe Cafe is now a glimpse of heaven. The mural of Abraham Lincoln on the back of the Kentucky Theatre is now a glimpse of Heaven. The smell of the flowers at The Arboretum is now a glimpse of Heaven. (Last and definitely not least!) The cold side of my pillow is now a glimpse of Heaven.

This newfound realization has led to a deeper appreciation for the world around me. Music, art, literature, and nature have a new eternal meaning. When I hear “Beth/Rest” I now think; if this is the feeling I have now, then how amazing will this be in Heaven!? This euphoria will be never ending. 


Idiot Glee – The Prairie

Idiot-GleeAmbient Piano/Electronica

Night-People Records – December 14th, 2013

I must confess, it’s taken the better part of the year for me to get used to seeing Idiot Glee as a foursome, rather than just James Friley with the multi-keyboard/drum-machine/loop-pedal setup that he started out with. It’s grown on me, though – the band has done an excellent job of fleshing out his tunes, and some of the new stuff they’ve come up with since forming has been fantastic. That said, to receive a notification in my mailbox that a new album, titled The Prairie, had been released was a big surprise, and a good one at that. The album is divided into three major sections, each with three songs a piece – “The Prairie,” “Position,” and three already known Idiot Glee songs, reworked on solo piano. The first portion starts out with piano and electronic bass before adding textures of synth – the entirety of “The Prairie” (parts one through three,) comes in at over twenty-two minutes, but I assure you it’s a beautiful listen the whole way through. “Position” and its three parts is about half the length of the first portion, but is an equally beautiful and mesmerizing piece built with an acoustic guitar at its very base. Sprinkled in are more immediate rhythm from the bass and synthesizers, but it remains a meditative companion to the first third of the album. The final chunk of the album is perhaps the most interesting to Idiot Glee fans – the last three songs (“Swimming Pool,” “Trouble at the Dancehall,” and “Little Berlin”) are live takes of James and a piano, without further accompaniment. They all translate remarkably well to the stripped down sound, and are played with such nuance as to give them their own identity outside of their original iterations. For an album that was released without much notice or hype, The Prairie is an excellent addition to Idiot Glee’s discography (or tape-ography,) and is absolutely worth a listen. 

Ben Southworth – January 16th, 2014 – Hagermann and Maxwell

IronPost’s Top 10 Kentucky Albums of 2013

When folks ask me about my favorite albums of the year, I find myself delivering the disclaimer “I didn’t listen to much music made outside of Kentucky this year.” This is thanks to my job of overseeing WRFL’s Kentucky Music Playbox until August, but lucky for me 2013 has been an excellent year to be a musician in the Bluegrass. Some musicians had been storing up music for years, waiting for things to come together before releasing their albums. Others sprung their music upon the world without even a moment’s notice, but pleasantly surprised us with such a sudden gift of song. Regardless, the quality of music in 2013 has been incredible, and I consider myself lucky to have been an agent of support for the work that so many people have done so creatively.

10. Devine Carama - No Child Left Behind

a2058518520_2I’m not always one to listen to rap or hip-hop, but after meeting Devine Carama and Sheisty Khrist through WRFL’s Trivial Thursdays and hearing the stories of their music, I was excited to give this album a listen. Rather than boasting exaggerated claims of materialism – money, drugs, fast cars, and the like – Devine spends the length of the album fighting for positivity. He urges for a shift in the attitudes of others in the genre, asking them not to continue misleading America’s youth, but challenges them to empower them through their music – something that No Child Left Behind is able to accomplish with ease. It’s not just something he preaches on the album – his Twitter feed is one of my favorites to follow, despite his knack for spewing out the occasional ten-tweet spiel, he’s unfaltering in his positivity.

9. Ford Theatre Reunion – Famous Monsters

10164_10151449220116260_445629453_nAnother Trivial Thursday’s find, Ford Theatre Reunion’s Famous Monsters was an excellent part of my 2013 Independence Day. Spanning twelve tracks, the album is a tour of the band’s strange and goofy sounds, but showcases some serious songwriting chops. Famous Monsters is centered around the theme of (not surprisingly,) monsters, and each track is about a different monster – some are even are presented as songs sung from the point of view of the monster. Perhaps not the album with the most serious subject matter of the year, but one that is unfailingly creative and fun to listen to.


8. MrWimmer – Once More Unto the Breach

3468260661-1As far as uniqueness goes, there aren’t many albums that I’ve heard this year that do better than MrWimmer’s Once More Unto the Breach. For years, Alex Wimmer, the singular force behind MrWimmer has been accessing the soundcard on his little, yellow Gameboy Color to orchestrate soundscapes of “bleeps and bloops.” Pairing the music from these pre-written tracks with little more than his guitar and voice, MrWimmer sets out on his first full-length album with the story of a girl and her dreams that take her away from the sadness of her reality. Importantly, Once More Unto the Breach is able to stand on its own two feet as a great album – it keeps from using chiptuning as a gimmick, but rather as a tool that fits the music perfectly.


7. Hair Police – Mercurial Rites

549344_10151300109813727_432562200_nNot many albums in 2013 were as surprising as Mercurial Rites - not as much due to the content of the music on the album, but because of how unexpected it was to be released at all. After remaining pretty quiet as a group since 2008 (though the members of the group have ended up finding plenty of things to keep themselves busy,) Hair Police dropped this album with hardly any notice at the beginning of February. It is overflowing with cacophony and grit – inhuman vocals, screeching feedback, droning electronics, and a healthy dose of static and distortion – but for all the discomfort that it holds, it has a surprisingly “acoustic” sound to it. Mercurial Rites is easily the most challenging listen on this list for the casual, non-acclimated listener, but it turns out to be the one I find most dense and meditative.

6. Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God

Jim-James-Regions-Of-Light-And-Sound-Of-God-608x604I was surprised to see how much press and attention this album received when it first released, but I really shouldn’t have been. Jim James is easily one of the best known musicians from Kentucky, and probably made more appearances on the late-night circuit than anyone else from our state in 2013 (shy of Jennifer Lawrence, perhaps.) Regions of Light and Sound of God is James’ first solo album of original music, and while it shares a lot of sound with My Morning Jacket, it is unmistakably a solo expedition. The music, for all its electronics and reverb, becomes difficult to place – it sounds equally likely to have come from the future as it does to have come from the past. When all of this is taken together, it creates an album that paints a picture of Jim James, and of nobody else.

5. fleece – Present Pleasures

fleeceLexington’s own Graham Tucker is to credit for the music of fleece, and while Present Pleasures is one of the least assuming albums of 2013, it’s one of the best. The album is full of forty-six minutes of music, but the thirteen songs don’t claim to be about much of anything – the music is just good. As far as ambient electronica goes, fleece has managed to do a lot of work on this album to let his ideas play out well. Though some of the tracks break the five minute mark, they keep from getting stale by slowly adding complexity in texture and motion. The entire album plays quite a bit like a live deejay set, as songs morph into each other and create a listening experience that is relaxing and on par with more famous folks like Ryan Hemsworth.

4. Idiot Glee – Life Without Jazz

830102046-1There aren’t many musicians in Lexington that I found so immediately interesting as Idiot Glee, and I found myself alongside many Lexington residents eagerly awaiting the release of this EP. Though James Friley stands at the core of this record, he is joined by some of the best, most talented musicians and artists around town throughout. The songs on the album are not only some of the better songs he’s put out, they’re some of Idiot Glee’s nicest sounding songs in terms of fidelity and production. “Pipes” is a dizzying track that asserts Friley’s maturity, but there might not be a better song out of Lexington this year than “Little Berlin.” The EP’s final track is heavy, swooning with depth and reverb, and accompanied by a breathtaking guitar/saxophone duel from Trevor Tremaine and Matt Duncan.

3. Englishman – Unsafe & Sound

62385_10152156378920283_1587966166_nAs a classically trained trombonist, I don’t find myself listening to music for its lyrics too often, but the opposite has always been the case with Lexington’s Englishman. Unsafe & Sound is somewhere between an EP and an LP, but the seven songs that comprise its twenty-six minutes are nothing but quality songwriting. Andrew English and his accompaniment perform songs that have a distinctly nostalgic, “Kentucky” flavor to them – English explains that the album is one that explores the “feeling that the ways in which we participate in the human experience are changing too rapidly to process.” Though there are some definite departures from the sound of Englishman’s self-titled debut, the music is lush, and the lyrics remain clever and sincere.

2. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy

homepage_large.a401df0bI wish I could say I knew more about Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, but the truth is that I happened to walk into CD Central a few hours after he had dropped copies of this record off in person. Armed only with the knowledge that a lot of people really liked his music, I picked up a copy on vinyl and took it home to listen. The album is an incredibly intimate, sparse, and sincere ten-song work that features only Will Oldham and his acoustic guitar, and I immediately knew I had made a good purchase. I don’t think my record player has ever played a record as much as it has played this one, and for good reason – if you’re looking for a good way to get into Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s music, this one has effectively introduced me to his work in a big way.

1. Matt Duncan – Soft Times

1725075169-1Soft Times was Lexington’s most hotly anticipated album of 2013, and it delivered on the excitement that people had for it. Spanning twelve short pop songs, the album is perhaps the best representative of the town it came from – with artwork from Robert Beatty (like numbers three, four, (and maybe seven?) on this list,) performances from some of the towns most talented musicians, and a unique pressing on a record label started in Lexington. Matt Duncan has always shown a knack for meticulously crafted, perfect pop songs, and somehow manages to get it right on each song on the album. Like many others on this list, Soft Times gives a great, personal look into the life of the artist that produced it, but somehow manages to capture the spirit of an entire time in Lexington, Kentucky.

What album was your favorite?

Ben Southworth – December 26th, 2013 – Mt. Horeb Pike

“Head Cleaner” – A Louisville Music Compilation Vol. 1&2

547508_638186256221733_337165123_nReleased November 29th, 2013 – Gubbey Records

Genre: Louisville

I can safely say this is the first piece of mail that IronPost has received that has required the acquisition of a new piece of equipment to listen to. As a twenty year old, I remember growing up with a few cassettes, but I think that even then, they were probably on their way out – making way for CDs and eventually for MP3s. That said, cassettes seem to be regaining popularity, and this compilation – spread over two cassette tapes – is stuffed with forty-six songs from Louisville bands. Much in the same way Louisville’s music scene isn’t devoted to one or two genres, this release is a (excuse the cliche) smorgasbord of sounds, jumping track-by-track from lo-fi indie, to hardcore rock, to jazz fusion unapologetically.

The quality of the music is superb, and though there were several groups and musicians who I’d never heard of, it’s clear that the folks at Gubbey were careful in picking good tunes for this release. And though plenty of bands I did know weren’t included on the release, most of them already have music that resides on some form of physical media – I’d say the majority of the bands on Head Cleaner haven’t had an opportunity to put their music out on something like this. It’s endearing, to say the least, to see so many bands and musicians – spanning ages, cultures, genders, and genres of all kinds – being brought together for a compilation like this.

In the meantime, I’ll be listening to Head Cleaner for the next good chunk of time – photoI’ve got some work to do in order to figure out how to navigate cassettes all over again. If you’re challenged by antiquated forms of musical media like I am, you’re in luck – the cassette comes with a download code that can be redeemed on Gubbey’s website. If you’re new to Louisville, to Kentucky, or simply want to find out what music is right for you in this massive collection of bands, I can’t think of much better a place to start.

If you’re wanting to catch some of this stuff live, and celebrate the release of this massive compilation, you can enjoy a series of shows on November 29th and 30th – click here to read more.

For the time being – until November 29th, when the compilation is released, that is – you can hear a handful of songs from Head Cleaner on Gubbey’s Soundcloud page.

Ben Southworth – November 23rd, 2013 – Maxwell and Hagermann

Englishman – “Unsafe & Sound”

62385_10152156378920283_1587966166_nSelf-Released: November 19th, 2013

Genre: Dreamy Folk-Pop

When I started programming shows at WRFL – my first regular spot was a much-fought-over 3-6 AM slot on Saturday mornings – one of the records I found myself playing the most was Englishman’s self-titled LP. Early in 2013, knowing that he had an EP on the way, it’s safe to say that I’ve been waiting on Unsafe & Sound with a healthy dose of anticipation since the last time it was cold in Lexington. Finally in November, it was a sudden release, but I find myself more than happy to have waited until now.

Sonically, Unsafe & Sound is a bit of a departure from the band’s last release, but they’ve certainly departed in the correct direction. Although Englishman’s music has always had a bit of added texture from various found sounds and electronics, this album expands the flavor – songs like “More than Insects” and “Fiercest Warrior” are swimming in it. The lead off track, “Fill a Silo,” has a certain “Kentucky” feel to it, perhaps due to its opening lyrics: “Mountains and minerals take years to unravel, the people who love them don’t often travel. They don’t get flu shots, don’t have TVs, live by the weather and the honeybees” - it’s the best first track to an album I’ve heard in a long time.

All seven songs on this EP are solid tracks, making it pretty difficult to say which is the best – on my first listen through, I was at a loss on which to choose. The pacing, ordering, and substance of the album and each song it contains truly makes this one of the most solid collection of songs that has been released since I started paying attention to Lexington music a couple years ago. “At 25″ and “We’re the Monsters” are both big-sounding songs that I could listen to on repeat, and (as mentioned before,) “Fill a Silo” is masterfully written. “We’re the Monsters,” though, is wonderfully strange and at the same time, it’s everything a pop song should be – between verses of stark dissonance, are chorus sections that ring with the voices of what sounds like a full choir. It’s my favorite at the moment, but the simple beauty of the tune that follows it – “Dear Life,” a track that features mostly Andrew English with additional instruments padded softly below – is perfectly placed as the album’s closer.

An album that explores the “feeling that the ways in which we participate in the human experience are changing too rapidly to process,” the album will leave you feeling the need to slow down. Perhaps it embodies a sense of intentionality, but certainly a sense of self-awareness in thinking and digesting the experiences that life offers. Though it bears the label of an “EP,” Unsafe & Sound is a work that contains more than enough substance to feel like a majorly strong release.

Tracks I Liked: Fill A Silo!!!, Kids and Bipolars!, More than Insects!!, Fiercest Warriors!, At 25!!, We’re the Monsters!!!, Dear Life!!

You can also hear the music live at Cosmic Charlie’s this Friday, November 22nd. Find out more here.

Ben Southworth – Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 – Maxwell & Hagermann

S H O Z O – “Death Passes”

1174961_696889580325434_779218778_nSelf-Released: August 18th, 2013

Genre: Fuzzy Electronic Indie-Pop

For an album based on the subject of death, Lexington’s S H O Z O has managed to put together a collection of songs that comes out sounding surprisingly upbeat. Made up of seven songs exploring this central subject, the record manages to address death from a different angle at each track. Be it the loss of a loved one, the forfeit of love, the tragedy of last December’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, or an enfeebling automobile accident for a member of the group (and such for his musical comrades,) the band is perfectly capable of seeing death in nearly every light. The music is heavily electronic, relying much on the keyboarding and programming of Cameron Webster, but is given life from S H O Z O’s remaining members. With distant, but ever-present vocals from Charles Bruin and Justin Miller, and work on the guitar and bass from Miller and Ben Vickers, the band comes together with excellent cohesion. Top it off with a layer of fuzzy distortion, and some additional instrumentation in the form of trombone, cello, and violin and the album comes together with a sense of identity. When the album is over, it’s not just an album about death, but one that tells stories of the band, its members, and the time in which it was written.

Tracks I Liked? (Death Passes listens well as an album, but…) A Certain Terror!, Children of the Night!!, Falling Apart!!!, I Was an Eagle!, Defibrillator!!!, Oh Angel Our Destroyer

Keep up with S H O Z O’s antics on Facebook

Ben Southworth – November 10th, 2013 – Maxwell and Hagermann

CSA Fall Harvest Party – Lexington Art League

Friday night’s event at the Lexington Art League – the Fall Harvest Party for their Community Supported Art project – was a beautiful evening, mixing mediums of art in a masterful way. The Loudon House, home to the LAL and Friday’s event, is a beautiful, restored space, and is consistently the perfect venue for these sorts of things. It must be assumed that the building was an elegant home in its prime, and though it has needed restoration since then, it was raised to much of its former glory for this event. Retaining a sense of hominess, the Loudon House was filled with appreciators of art and culture, as they mingled with each other – and with the featured artists, themselves.

The premise of “Community Supported Art” is borrowed from agriculture – small farms often rely on subscriptions and follow the model of community supported agriculture. Having spent the past two summers working on a small-scale farm that does just that, I was very excited to see a link being drawn between my love for art and agriculture – a love shared by much of the Lexington arts community.1044428_10151943778818905_922800426_n Themes from agriculture were carried over – from the wooden crates that delivered the art, to the general warmth associated with this kind of personable interaction – and people seemed to be genuinely enjoying the company of one another. Since my arrival at the University of Kentucky, my discovery of Lexington’s art community has been a consistent point of beauty in my life.

As visitors to the Lexington Art League, our Introduction to Arts Administration class was treated – as usual – to a bit of time with the folks making things happen behind the scenes. Becky Alley – the curator for the LAL – had some of the most interesting insight to the organization, and to this specific event. Having gone to school to pursue an Art Studio degree, Becky was certainly equipped with an appreciation for the arts, but has since become concerned with the organization and welfare of local art at large. She told us how the idea for CSA(rt) had been started by an organization in Minnesota, and that they had received support in order to publish brochures so that other art organizations – like LAL – could replicate their project. Her responsibilities in managing this project – recruiting local artists, promoting the event, and making many artistic decisions herself – were completed while overseeing many other projects in the meantime. The Lexington Art League is not the type of organization to take things one venture at a time, and has been hosting other outreach programs, installations, and educational pieces in the meantime. With a dedicated staff, but one that remains in the single digits, Becky and the rest of the Lexington Art League are still able to constantly grow as an asset to the north side of town, and to Lexington as a whole.

Ben Southworth – October 29th, 2013 – Maxwell and Hagermann

UK Opera Theatre Performs Les Miserables

Going into see Les Misérables was a totally different experience than going to see the Louisville Opera – having seen several renditions of the opera, I at least knew the storyline and much of the music. Anytime I go to see a piece of theatre, I’m especially interested in the construction of the set, and for UKOT’s rendition of the production, I was very much impressed. The refunctional set was a big part of keeping the show moving along, but the similarity from scene to scene was not distracting – small nuances in the stage kept it looking fresh. The performers, too, were phenomenal – Jean Valjean (played by Gregory Turay,) was an absolute standout of the show. His performance of “Bring Him Home” was breathtaking, Marius’ (performed by Zackery Morris,) rendition of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” was as emotionally wrenching as any I’ve seen. It’s always impressive to see any show at the Lexington Opera House – a beautiful, professional venue – and seeing a university opera company perform at such a high level there made the experience all the more incredible. Having talked to several of my friends who were involved either on stage or in the pit, there is recognition that Les Misérables is less a classical1395350_10151643458871017_198387762_n opera work than it is a piece of musical theatre (albeit extravagant.) This said, Les Mis is recognized as a the standard production for top echelon organizations, regardless of its artistic classification, and to see a group of students perform it to such an astonishing caliber only adds to the value of Lexington’s culture, and to the worth of a degree at The University of Kentucky.

As a member of UK’s Introduction to Arts Administration class, we were treated on either side of the production with a question and answer session from a few members of the professional staff – perhaps the most interesting to me was Guest Director, Richard Kagey. A very charismatic man who had decided several years ago that he’d be retired by now many times, Kagey – like many involved so deeply in the arts – found himself doing what he loved well past the time he had expected. Having started directing operas in 1970, and largely by “figuring it out as he went along,” he had certainly come a long way as a respected member of the opera community, and treated his time with this university group no differently than the years he had spent on Broadway. Faced with different challenges, though – two casts, made entirely up of students – he talked much about the necessity of using his time wisely with the performers. He had one-third as much time to rehearse as he would with a professional opera company, but he stressed the fact that he expected no less of them than he would of a group of paid professionals. This attitude of high achievement and expected expertise was no less than evident while watching the performance, and is one of the huge reasons that UK’s Opera Theatre Program is one of the best of the best in the country.

Ben Southworth – October 22nd, 2013 – Maxwell and Hagermann