Kile Smith

Classical Host

Kile Smith hosts the contemporary American music program Now Is the Time on Saturdays at 9 pm on HD-2 and the classical stream, and co-hosts Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection on the first Saturday of every month at 5 pm with Jack Moore. Discoveries takes a fresh look at music in the Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music at the Free Library of Philadelphia, where Kile was curator for 18 years. He also fills in as an on-air classical host.
 
When he's not producing podcasts of CD reviews for WRTI, writing for the Broad Street Review, or teaching private composition, Kile is busy composing orchestral, choral, chamber, and liturgical works. His music is praised by critics and audiences for its emotional power, direct appeal, and strong voice. Gramophone magazine calls his Vespers "spectacular," possessing "sparkling beauty." The Philadelphia Inquirer describes his music as "breathtaking."
 
He's composed for The Crossing, Piffaro, Orchestra 2001, and the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival. He's also written for David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Jennifer Montone, Philadelphia's principal horn, and Anne Martindale Williams, principal cello of the Pittsburgh Symphony. His website is kilesmith.com.

The weeds in his ever-widening gardens hint that he needs to get outside more.

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
10:20 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Bach Old and New

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday, Oct. 4th, 5-6 pm. Every generation comes up with new ways to perform Johann Sebastian Bach. This tells us two things. One: Performance practice is as vital and relevant as ever. Rather than imagining forgotten professors paging through dusty tomes, we might envision performers kicking up dust with brilliant concerts of so-old-it’s-new repertoire. But consider that the professors are very often the performers themselves.

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Now Is the Time
11:30 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Voices of Autumn

includes Jackson Hill's Voices of Autumn

Say hello to fall on Now Is the Time, Saturday, September 27th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Jonathan Miller conducts Chicago a cappella in his setting of The Fall, a little poem about a boy, holding leaves over his head, pretending to be a tree. When he drops them, his parents say, "Look, it is fall." Composer/harpist Anne LeBaron joins with shakuhachi and koto in her trio Into Something Rich and Strange, and Ursula Oppens plays a piece that John Corigliano made up out of improvisations, Winging It.

Chanticleer sings the Buddhist chant–inspired Voices of Autumn by Jackson Hill, and from the CD As Falling Leaves comes Arabesques of Adolphus Hailstork, for flute and mallet percussion. Finally, the change in seasons reminds us of Keeping Time, which just happens to be the title of a work from Dan Becker's new CD, Fade.

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Now Is the Time
11:56 am
Fri September 19, 2014

Dancing Loops

Two versions of the same piece encircle Now Is the Time, Saturday, September 20th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Mathew Rosenblum wrote Möbius Loop for saxophone quartet and for saxophone quartet with orchestra—we'll hear both versions, one at the beginning of the show, and one at the end. The Raschèr Saxophone Quartet leads the way, with Gil Rose's Boston Modern Orchestra Project.

Electro-acoustical music of Rand Steiger is 13 Loops, with digital processing of some of the sounds accompanying the performers as they play. Paring all the way down to a single flute, however, is Whirlwinds Dancing by R. Carlos Nakai. Lisamarie McGrath solos on the Native American flute; the characteristic chiff at the beginning of the notes charm us into a circling reverie.

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Now Is the Time
12:50 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

Dead Man Walking

Masks are worn and removed on Now Is the Time, Saturday, September 13th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. The flutist and composer Katherine Hoover has greatly expanded the literature for her instrument with genial yet focused music. Masks, for flute and piano, includes the movements Haida Indian mask, Huichol Jaguar mask, Afro-American Death mask, and Clown mask. It succeeds in being charming and self-effacing at the same time.

The mask worn by murderer Joseph De Rocher slowly slips as Sister Helen Prejean visits, counsels, and shows love to him in Dead Man Walking, Jake Heggie's opera from just a few years ago. We have time for excerpts from both acts, including the riveting ending, with his confession and the echo of a gospel song. Joyce DiDonato, Philip Cutlip, and Frederica von Stade head the cast.

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
5:42 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

Philadelphia Premieres: Four Composers, Three Countries

Miranda—The Tempest (1916), John William Waterhouse

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday September 6th, 5-6 pm...We continue to admire the scope of the Fleisher Collection, with a look at four more works premiered in Philadelphia by the Symphony Club, founded in 1909 by Edwin A. Fleisher. He had traveled throughout Europe to collect all the orchestral scores and parts possible to obtain for his collection, now housed in the Free Library of Philadelphia. A trip for us through three countries provides a good taste.

Anatol Lyadov from Russia and Ernest Chausson from France were both born in 1855 and the works we’ll hear today were composed within a year of each other. In the Ballade (From Olden Times), which Lyadov composed originally for solo piano, he addressed what many other composers were addressing in Russia: music that was specifically, undeniably Russian. Nationalism can have a negative connotation, but the impulse is innocence itself, being the search for your own origin. In music this translates into the search for a folk language unsullied by commercialism and unaffected by outside influences. This going back to go forward, this building of a musical personality on a foundation in your own soil, is musical nationalism, and is heard to warm effect in Lyadov. He orchestrated the Ballade in 1906.

There’s no denying the Frenchness of Chausson, yet he turned for inspiration to that most English of authors—and ironically, the most international—Shakespeare. We’ve looked at The Bard in the Fleisher Collection through Hamlet, Falstaff, Macbeth, and others; this time it’s Chausson’s incidental music Two Dances from The Tempest.

Staying in France but turning to Gabriel Pierné, we find an unexpected connection. There is not a lot of Pierné orchestral music, so this is a good opportunity to meet him through Ramuntcho, also composed for a play. It is filled with the exotic sounds of the Basque region as the smuggler Ramuntcho, in between forays into Spain, loves, and loses, Gracieuse. The play was a success in large part because of Pierné’s music.

He was also a widely regarded organist, being César Franck’s student and successor at the Saint Clotilde Basilica in Paris. As a conductor he led the premiere of Stravinsky’s groundbreaking Firebird ballet. So what is the surprise? Stravinsky's composing job had earlier been offered to, and turned down by, Anatol Lyadov.

We’ll end this journey with our own excursion into Spain, and Joaquín Turina’s Danzas Fantasticas. As Lyadov and many other composers have done, Turina wrote this work first for piano, and orchestrated it later. He lived in Paris himself for a while, studying with Vincent d’Indy and getting to know Debussy and Ravel. Back in Spain, he composed among other works these dances, operas, and music for guitarist Andrés Segovia.

The sound of Spain is as marked in Turina as is France’s and Russia’s in our other composers today. Edwin Fleisher reveled in collecting as much orchestral music from as many countries as he could, and it would be at his Symphony Club concerts that these works were first heard in Philadelphia.

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Now Is the Time
3:23 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

Labor Day Weekend on Now Is the Time

Maybe this weekend you're traveling with Now Is the Time, Saturday, August 30th at 9 pm. We start with City Columns for orchestra by Shawn Crouch, and then go way, way out with Michael Daugherty's percussion concerto UFO. Evelyn Glennie solos, sometimes on unidentified pieces of metal, in the work that's all about Roswell and Area 51 and improvising in front of a large wind ensemble.

It's also the time of year for going back to school, and Matthew McCabe remembers his first music teacher in Everything Must Be Beautiful. The homage uses her voice, together with electronically processed sounds, in glorious, retro, two-channel tape. Whether you're here or far, far away (we stream online!), and whether you study, teach, work, or rest, have a great weekend!

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Now Is the Time
10:46 am
Fri August 22, 2014

String Circle

All kinds of strings are circling on Now Is the Time, Saturday, August 23rd at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. The Minneapolis Guitar Quartet starts off with Daniel Bernard Roumain's homage to places he's lived and loved. Ghetto Strings visits Harlem, Liberty City in South Florida, the Motor City, and the land of his parents, Haiti. Ethel is the string quartet playing String Circle 1 by Kenji Bunch, who, since he's also an accomplished violist, knows his way around strings.

But we go to Phillip Rhodes for a solo viola dance suite, and inspired by Bach. It's the Partita, from 1977. Full circle is how we'll finish the show, with guitars, but this time two of them, the wonderful Anderson-Fader Duo. From their CD Le Cirque is Fantasy on 12 Strings by Martin Rokeach.

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Now Is the Time
5:59 am
Fri August 8, 2014

Secondary Impressions

They come in twos on Now Is the Time, Saturday, August 9th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Joan Tower responded to Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man with numerous Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman; we'll hear No. 2. Eric McIntyre doubles down on impressionism with Secondary Impressions for saxophone and piano, and Kronos performs the Quartet No. 2 of Philip Glass.

William Hawley's Two Motets on Roman poets, sung by Volti, separates the last two instrumental works, the Four Fanfares for Two Trumpets by Andrew Rindfleisch and John Novacek's Three Rags for Two Pianos.

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
5:59 am
Wed July 30, 2014

Philadelphia Premieres: Josef Suk, Vitezslav Novak

Symphony Club String Orchestra, 1921-22
in the digital collection of the Fleisher Collection, the Free Library of Philadelphia

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday August 2nd, 5-6 pm... The gentleman from Philadelphia was heir to a textile business but his passion was music. An amateur violinist and violist, he founded a club for young people to play music at a time—1909—when there was no instrumental music instruction in the Philadelphia schools. He obtained a building, hired a conductor, and brought the students in to play orchestral literature, as much as he could buy. He called it the Symphony Club.

Edwin A. Fleisher (1877-1959) quickly realized, however, that he would need to go to the source of orchestral music. Music publishers did not have the international reach, through agents and distributors, that they would later have. So Fleisher traveled to Europe, purchased music, signed agreements, and shipped scores and parts back to the United States.

He was building what would become the largest library of orchestral performance material in the world. It was the library of the Symphony Club, and is now called the Edwin A. Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music. It is housed in the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The Symphony Club held readings/rehearsals every week, for younger and older students, for strings only and for full orchestra. They learned chamber music and theory, and even had a choir. Occasionally they’d give public concerts. Boys and girls, blacks and whites, rich and poor all took part, with Edwin Fleisher footing the bill, paying for salaries, music, and later, the hand-copying of instrumental parts where none existed.

The library grew to include American and Latin American music, but in the beginning the music was European through and through, the spine of orchestral literature, music popular at that time and music that had been popular in previous decades.

Because of Fleisher’s access to European publishers, the Symphony Club often premiered works in Philadelphia that would later become staples of orchestral programs. That’s the case for the two Czech composers on Discoveries today. Josef Suk’s Serenade for string orchestra and Vitezslav Novák’s Slovak Suite, which show up on programs all over the world, had their very first Philadelphia hearings on Symphony Club concerts.

Suk and Novák, born within a year of each other, were colleagues and friends, and in the vanguard of the new generation of composers reaching beyond folk influences to a more international sound. They could not escape—nor did they really wish to—the teaching and influence of Dvořak. Suk, in fact, had married the master’s daughter. But the future of Czech music continued bright and world-renowned in large part to their own legacies.

So it was, that when Edwin A. Fleisher toured Europe in the early years of the 20th century, prodding publishers for the latest in orchestral music, he returned with works by Josef Suk and Vitezslav Novák (as well as by Dvořak). Philadelphia first heard these works because of the Symphony Club, because of its library, and because of the gentleman from Philadelphia who founded them both.

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Now Is the Time
10:55 am
Fri July 25, 2014

Voices from the Heartland

New music hears old tunes on Now Is the Time, Saturday, July 26th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. George Crumb has a way—like no one else—of investing the simplest gesture with mystery and grandeur. He fills his seventh American Song Book, Voices from the Heartland, with these touches of wonder assembled in these hymns, spirituals, folk songs, and American Indian chants. Soprano Ann Crumb and baritone Patrick Mason are accompanied by Orchestra 2001, conducted by James Freeman.

Beginning the show, there's just time enough to hear a movement from David Amram's Violin Concerto. His Celtic Rondo breathes the air of long ago from another place, or maybe he hears the spirits of ancestors from any place. Charles Castleman is the soloist.

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