Kile Smith

Classical Host

Kile Smith hosts the contemporary American music program Now Is the Time on Sundays at 10 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, teaching music history at Cairn University, music notation at Temple University, or 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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Now Is the Time
1:24 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

String Circle

from Daniel Bernard Roumain: Ghetto Strings

All kinds of strings are circling on Now Is the Time, Saturday, March 1st at 9 pm Eastern on the all-classical stream 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
10:10 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Extended Family

from Neil Rolnick: Extended Family

We're all family on Now Is the Time, Saturday, February 22nd at 9 pm Eastern on the all-classical stream at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Excerpts from the third film in the Philip Glass "Qatsi" trilogy begin the show. Naqoyqatsi from 2002 included much digital imagery, so Glass decided to balance that with a completely acoustic musical underlay. Prominently featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Naqoyqatsi explores our relationships to each other and the world.

The Gene Pool, Siblings, Cousins and Uncles and Aunts, Loss, and The Gathering are the five movements comprising Extended Family by Neil Rolnick. Moving away from family, family moving back, grandchildren, neighbors, neighbors' children, more family, life and death are all springboards for this string quartet put together with the humor, panache, and skill Rolnick brings to all his music. The string quartet Ethel plays.

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Now Is the Time
3:43 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Valentines

from Augusta Read Thomas: Love Twitters

We hope it's not too late for Valentines on Now Is the Time, Saturday, February 15th at 9 pm Eastern on the all-classical stream at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. We start with soprano and guitar, and with an orphan's dream of an angel in Romance by William Ortiz. Irving Berlin's "They Say It's Wonderful" is the inspiration behind Love Twitters by Augusta Read Thomas, for piano, but Morten Lauridsen asks, "Against whom have you formed these thorns?" in Contre qui, rose. A lover asks for a handkerchief (she'll return it when no one's looking), in a four-hand piano setting of the Italian folk song Amor dammi quel fazzolettino by Andrew Violette.

David Bennett Thomas works with some of the greatest love poetry in his Juliet: Five Songs from Shakespeare, and we hear Eric Whitacre's first published choral work, Go, lovely Rose. Finally, Allen Shawn sends us into the evening with a last-minute Valentine's Day present for his wife, titled simply, Valentine.

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Now Is the Time
10:30 am
Fri February 7, 2014

Old Love Story, Old Computer

from Graham Reynolds: The Difference Engine

It's a story as old as love, and a computer before there were computers, on Now Is the Time, Saturday, February 8th at 9 pm Eastern on the all-classical stream at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Philip Lasser's Nicolette et Aucassin are in love, and like Romeo and Juliet, their families disapprove. Unlike R&J, however, this ends happily. Two sopranos sing the 13th-century–inspired musical lines of the boy and girl, and actor Michael York's narration fills in the story.

A triple concerto for violin, cello, piano, and strings is the construction behind The Difference Engine by Graham Reynolds. The title is the name of a machine by the 19th-century inventor Charles Babbage, who was trying to build what we now call a computer. With movements such as "The Cogwheel Brain" and "Cam Stack and Crank Handle," Reynolds invents a propulsive concerto that imagines what goes with what. Like love, we suppose.

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
5:58 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Mexico and Cuba in the Fleisher Collection

Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday Feb. 1st at 5 pm... The Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music is not only the world’s largest lending library of orchestral performance materials, but because of the foresight of founder Edwin Fleisher, Curator Arthur Cohn, and the adventurousness of the globe-trotting Nicolas Slonimsky, it also contains hundreds and hundreds of Latin American orchestral scores and parts.

As we’ve recounted on Discoveries before, Fleisher commissioned conductor and author Slonimsky in 1941 to travel throughout Central and South America for the purpose of adding music from these countries to the vast European and growing American repertoire already on the shelves of the Collection. Scores were shipped to the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the huge task of reproducing them began. Some of the scores were given outright as gifts; others, after photographic reproduction, were returned. Dozens of music copyists then began extracting the individual parts needed so that the works could be performed.

This would have been familiar work for Candelaria Huizar, the composer, violist, hornist, and in the 1920s, music copyist in the library of the National Conservatory in Mexico City. He had already studied music as a child with the director of the Jérez Municipal Band. At nine the band took him on as a saxhorn player. He joined other brass bands, and when one of them traveled to Mexico City, he stayed there the rest of his life. He became a music copyist at the Conservatory, then librarian, and later, Huizar was professor of composition, harmony, and orchestration there. His Imágenes (Images) is a delightful look back at his hometown.

Joining him at the Conservatory was his countryman José Rolón. He studied music in Paris from 1904 to 1907, then came back to Mexico, and founded a music school in Guadalajara. In 1927 he returned to Paris to study with composer Paul Dukas and one of the great composition teachers of the 20th century, Nadia Boulanger. Rolón came back to Mexico again, taught at the National Conservatory, wrote music criticism and a harmony textbook, and composed the Piano Concerto we’ll hear today. This brand-new recording was made from materials housed in the Fleisher Collection.

Born in Paris to a Cuban mother and Spanish father, Amadeo Roldán, after music study in Madrid, moved to Cuba at age 19. He was concertmaster of the Havana Philharmonic, founded the Havana String Quartet, and became one of Cuba’s leading composers. Roldán broke new ground with perhaps the very first percussion-only works for the concert stage, and injected new life into Western classical music with the sounds and rhythms of Afrocubanismo. His 1928 ballet La Rebambaramba, the Suite of which we’ll listen to, is a riot of percussion, soaring melody, and audacious orchestral sound.

When Mr. Cohn suggested to Mr. Fleisher that his Collection needed to look beyond the standard repertoire and acquire symphonic works from other cultures, this is what he was talking about.

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Now Is the Time
10:24 am
Fri January 24, 2014

Music for Four Hands

from Lance Hulme: Manic Music

It's music for different duos on Now Is the Time, Saturday, January 25th at 9 pm Eastern on the all-classical stream at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Charles Knox's Suite for Piano Four-Hands is puckish and not a little bold: its six movements take four minutes to play, and include an "Etude" that lasts all of six seconds. Chen Yi channels, for two violins and strings, two ancient Chinese instruments in her Romance of Hsiao and Ch’in, and George Crumb, in his Otherworldly Resonances for two amplified pianos, honors, in the "Palimpsest" movement, old manuscripts that have been erased and written over (and quotes the Gospel song "Bringing in the Sheaves").

Van Stiefel sets poetry of Sidney Lanier for voice and two electric guitars in Souls and Raindrops, and Ursula Mamlok's brilliant Sonatina is for two clarinets. Lance Hulme composed Manic Music, he said, for "two maniacal pianists," and the playing seems to demand a certain craziness, as cavalier as you can be while staying in step with your duo partner.

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Now Is the Time
2:11 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

from Steven R. Gerber's "Goin' Home," from Spirituals

We reflect on a legacy of greatness on Now Is the Time, Saturday, January 18th at 9 pm Eastern on the all-classical stream at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Yehudi Menuhin said this: "I look to music to bind and heal. I think the musician can be a trusted object, offering his fellow men solace, but also a reminder of human excellence. I believe as strongly as ever that our finite world turns on finite individual efforts to embody an ideal."

Steven Gerber's Spirituals for strings and Curt Cacioppo's Contrapuntal Fantasy on John Newton's "Amazing Grace" for piano spin the teardrop crystals of an American heritage in the sunlight of varied compositional languages. Leslie Adams sets African-American poets, including Langston Hughes, in Nightsongs. And in Stèle for solo violin, Karel Husa pays tribute to Menuhin, whose greatness went beyond music. Each of these works points us to ideals beyond our finite selves, something Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us of whenever we remember his legacy.

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Now Is the Time
2:20 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

Time with the Family on Now Is the Time

from Dick Hensold: Dad’s Fantastic! Jig

It's fathers and sons, mothers, sisters, and a child on Now Is the Time, Saturday, January 11th at 9 pm Eastern on the all-classical stream at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Jeremy Beck's String Quartet No. 2 has two movements—I. Fathers, and II. Sons—that regard affinity and opposition in warm and dramatic music. Jerome Kitzke bangs on a toy piano and chants wildly in The Animist Child, a passionate, beguiling work he wrote to celebrate a birth. In Sacred Sisters, Victoria Bond uses ancient chant to celebrate heroines of the Bible: Esther, Ruth, Judith.

Marc Satterwhite looks at the tragedies visited by Chile's Pinochet regime on its citizens, by focusing on The Widows of Calama, who searched the Atacama Desert for the bodies of the missing. Originally for contrabassoon and piano, Satterwhite reworked it for bass clarinet, and the show closes with another wind instrument, the Northumbrian smallpipes. Dick Hensold, in his medley of dances that include Dad's Fantastic! Jig, always seems to walk that edge between poignancy and joy.

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Now Is the Time
10:21 am
Sat January 4, 2014

Now Is the Time Turns 200!

from James Syler, Minton's Playhouse

It’s our 200th show and we’re celebrating on Now Is the Time, Saturday, January 4th at 9 pm! Judith Lang Zaimont starts us off in a poignant mood as we look back with Reflective Rag. The two pianists of Quattro Mani bring us Kindred Spirits of William Bland, the title summing up how we feel about all our contemporary American composers. Then another duo, of clarinets, brings us the fresh Aphorisms II of Ursula Mamlok.

Allen Shawn’s Nostalgic Pieces party with a waltz and a boogie-woogie, and David Wolfson’s Time and Tide (Benediction) marks the passage of the years with four cellos (multi-tracked by one player). Minton’s Playhouse by James Syler translates the jazz club to saxophone quartet and wind ensemble, the spirit of Charlie Parker hovering over this bopping concerto grosso.

Then we program a composer whose only other appearance on NITT was in Show #100. Kile Smith’s American Spirituals, Book 2, for cello and piano, blushingly closes out the celebrations. We’re grateful to all of you, composers and listeners, for keeping contemporary American music alive on WRTI!

If you're new to Now Is the Time, just go to wrti.org and click on the Listen: Classical button at the top. Day or night, that brings you the all-classical stream, and at 9 pm every Saturday, you'll hear Now Is the Time. In the Philadelphia area with an HD radio? Dial us up at 90.1 FM, HD2, or find all the frequencies here, depending on where you are, from the Shore to the Poconos to Harrisburg to Dover. Thanks for supporting American contemporary music on WRTI!

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
2:05 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

1914: Machines and Dreams

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday Jan. 4th at 5 pm... In 1914, if you were in the market for the stuff that makes big things move—rope, sails, block and tackle gear, every kind of ship, railroad, or mill supply—you would’ve known George B. Carpenter & Co. of Chicago. Its predecessors went back to 1840. After burning down in the 1871 Great Fire it was rebuilt in a year. George Carpenter, who had been helping run the company, bought it outright in 1882.

His son John had music on his mind, not a manufacturing and wholesale business, and the family supported his evident gifts. John went to Harvard, was President of its Glee Club, and composed for Hasty Pudding larks. More seriously, he studied with John Knowles Paine, and then traveled to England and Rome, where he studied with Edward Elgar. He came back to Chicago in 1909 and composed, but also took on the day job he’d hold until his 1936 retirement, Vice President of George B. Carpenter & Co.

Perhaps machinery was in his blood after all, because in 1914 his creative breakthrough was an evocation of the baby carriage. Adventures in a Perambulator is a symphonia domestica relating a child’s point of view all the way from Envoiture! (All aboard!) to Dreams, the two sections we’ll hear (in between are a policeman, a hurdy-gurdy, a lake, and dogs). Carpenter’s skill was not lost on audiences and critics, who were charmed by his humor and light touch with a large orchestra. His precise program notes narrate the child’s inner voice, ending with: “It is pleasant to lie quite still and close my eyes, and listen to the wheels of my perambulator. How very large the world is. How many things there are!"

Across the ocean in 1914, England saw the premiere of a symphony by a composer who was already well regarded, Ralph Vaughan Williams. His 1909 Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and 1910 A Sea Symphony moved him beyond his successes editing folk music, Henry Purcell, and The English Hymnal. A London Symphony remains, out of his nine symphonies, the most popular.

After its premiere, he sent the score to Germany, to the conductor Fritz Busch, but it was lost in the turmoil of the World War. The composer then rewrote it from the orchestral parts, changing it greatly, for a 1920 performance under Albert Coates, who provided program notes to which the composer grudgingly agreed. Vaughan Williams insisted he did not have a story in mind when composing it, although he said one might perhaps call it Symphony by a Londoner.

That he composed a “symphony” at all is due to his good friend, the composer George Butterworth, who insisted he ought to. So he took sketches for a symphonic poem about London, worked them into four movements, and dedicated the music to Butterworth, who would die in that same World War, in 1916.

After the 1920 revision, Vaughan Williams reworked it again in the 1930s, and the version heard most often today is two-thirds the length of the original. The ending, Vaughan Williams suggested just before he died, was inspired by “Night and the Open Sea,” the last chapter of the 1909 novel of H. G. Wells, Tono-Bungay, where the machinery of empires and schemes, small and large, sink into dreams.

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