Stepping Out With the Viola in the Bull City: 

Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante For Violin and Viola
On the Bill For N.C. Symphony's Durham Concert

"Viola Viola!"
with David McKnight

Cleaver Smith Swenson & McKnight
Monday, February 4, 2008

DURHAM--The viola will really get to take a bow when the North Carolina Symphony stops in Durham Thursday, Feb. 7, for a Carolina Theater concert which will also feature the Fifth Symphony of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky.

Two string maestros from the N.C. Symphony, violist Anton Jivaev and violinist Brian Reagin. will be the featured soloists for a presentation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Symphonia Concertante For Violin and Viola."

The symphony will get its A from the oboe at 8 p.m. to get things started at the Carolina Theater, with another Mozart work, "Overture to Cosi fan tutte," leading off the program, to be followed by the "Symphonia Concertante."

Yes, friends, we realize that the violinist is usually listed first in chamber works for violin and viola and for violin and other instruments, but after all, this being a viola column, "Voila, Viola!" is pleased to give Mr. Jivaev the first mention.

Besides, Mr. Reagin, who serves as the North Carolina Symphony's concertmaster, has been making so many excellent solo appearances in recent years that surely he won't mind experiencing what we first sampled years ago in making our rounds through the vineyards of country music across the South: how to be billed as second fiddle when there's only one violin in the lineup!

Of course, Mozart provided for ample string sections for this viola-violin showcase, including a virtual doubling of the orchestra violas with a pair of oboes and horns thrown in for good measure, so to speak. Mozart composed this work in 1779 and no, that wasn't in Salisbury, N.C., but rather Salzburg, Austria.

And Durhamites will note that the listing of this composition as K. 364 refers to the catalogue known as Koechel listings, not Krzyzewski listings as might be supposed by some of the more fanatic Duke Blue Devil basketball fans in town. Thursday's concert at the historic Carolina Theater, coming one night after the Duke-North Carolina basketabll game in Chapel Hill Wednesday, will be a good opportunity for classical music and basketball fans alike in the Bull City to move back from the lessons of Krzyzewski to the listings of Koechel.

Of course, if Mozart had had to perform a concert before a Duke-Carolina back in his day, he might have penned "Eine Kleine Hoops Musik" or something else along those lines for all we know. The composer did however find a good reason to compose two stand-alone duos for violin and viola four years later in 1783 as Michael Haydn, feeling more than a bit under the weather and facing a deadline for completing a half dozen violin-viola duos, had managed to pen four of them but needed two more. So he went to the ace of the bullpen and asked Mozart to head out to the mound with the final two duos, which arrived in the form of the Duo in G (K. 423) and the Duo in B Flat (K. 424) just in the nick of time.

Fans of the big-league symphonic opus will certainly want to stick around for the second half of Thursday's N.C. Symphony concert because the orchestra will unfurl the score to Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, one of the finer exhibitions of the many moods of orchestral brass ever to come out of old St. Petersburg in Russia. The Fifth Symphony is quite emotional from beginning to end, but to hear its heart-rendering strains amidst the excellent acoustics of the restored Carolina Theater auditorium should constitute one of the finer classical music experiences to be enjoyed throughout this season.

Brian Reagin and Anton Jivaev will also present the "Symphonia Concertante For Violin and Viola" by Mozart for N.C. Symphony patrons in Moore County this weekend at a concert Saturday night at Pinecrest High School. Given that Moore County was named for the early U.S. Supreme Court Justice Alfred Moore of North Carolina, we can say that when it comes to showcasing the viola alongside the violin, truly it can be said that justice is being done by Mssrs. Javaev and Reagin along with their compatriots in the North Carolina Symphony.


[Third viola from the left, down the hall and around the corner to the right.]

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Voila, Viola 
Viola Joins the Lineup in Emery & McKnight "Warm and Windy" Project

RALEIGH, N.C.-- We have continued to rely on the viola to carry us through these jaunts through our musical neighborhood here in the Triangle area of North Carolina, pairing the instrument with the guitar on several selections on the new Emery & McKnight "Windy and Warm" CD.

Bearing in mind that all string parts used on this project were developed in and around solo guitar arrangements which for the most part had already been crafted by guitarist Bruce Emery, you can then understand why both our viola and violin passages generally took the form of harmonies, obbligatos and occasional co-leads as opposed to outright string solo selections backed by rhythm or chording guitar.

But just don't forget that one of the great names associated with stylish guitar music, Heitor Villa-Lobos, was a string guy himself, having played the cello. And like virtuoso violinist Aaron Rosand today, Villa-Lobos enjoyed a good cigar now and then. But as far as we know, only Aaron Rosand has made the interesting assertion that the true keys to the tone of his violin-playing are his cigars!

(We were thrilled to see a performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto by Aaron Rosand during our camper experience at the Brevard Music Center in the summer of 1963, when JFK was President and Pablo Casals was the George Strait of White House entertainment.)

Well, we've gotten off the main subject, which was the use of viola on "Windy and Warm." Again, recognizing that the guitar carried "the lead" for most of the way through this project, we can then say that viola was featured on our renditions of "Anji," "Moon River" and "Firefly." Then the viola was combined with the violin on a number of other songs on the CD, including "Moonlight in Vermont."

Meanwhile, the violin used in these sessions, which was made just over a year ago by renowned Charlotte luthier John Sipe, is featured with the guitar on several tunes, including "Begin the Beguine," "Misty," "Going to Carolina in My Mind" amd "Drive-In."

Speaking of "Misty," do you know who's coming to appear with the Charlotte Symphony in April? Two guesses, and it's not Tony Bennett. Yes, wouldn't it be great if when Johnny Mathis sings the line, "And a thousand violins begin to play," if they could unfurl the curtains and reveal an extra layer of violinists from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools playing on just that one song?

Okay, that may be just another pipedream PR suggestion from this Charlotte native, but you have to remember, I learned violin under the slapstick comedian, music educator and CSO violinist Jack Stern. The only viola lessons I ever got were from CSO violist Sam Citron just when things were getting a little bumpy before a scheduled viola solo somewhere along the way.

Since we couldn't lasso a John Sipe viola at the time of the recording sessions,we were able to play on a fine instrument made available to us from our friends at High String Music in Durham, a sonorous viola from the Paolo Lorenzo example.

You may hear the selections on "Windy and Warm" by selecting the "Play Tracks" ledger on the music page for this CD at:

My favorite blending of viola and violin on "Windy and Warm" -- "Moonlight in Vermont." Welol, someone up in New England has to keep the flames of romance glowing while the politicos and pundits go stepping to over in the Granite State of New Hampshire!

Viola was also featured on Joe Swenson"s "The Waning Heart" and in an oboe-viola duet on "Autumntime in Massachusetts," on our 2006 Cleaver, Smith Swenson & McKnight CD, "Changin' My Mind," featuring former North Carolina Symphony oboist and Raleigh musician booking manager Mary Greiner.

Did I tell you about the time I tried to get a job singing with the Carolina Opera? I went in to audition and the committee asked me, "What voice would you like to try out for, Mr. McKnight?"

"Tenor," I replied confidently.

"Well if that's the case," a committee member piped up, "why don't you try singing ten or fifteen miles from here?"

(May we have a rimshot from the percussionist?)

We hope Johnny Mathis likes our intro to "Misty," for it was done in the spirit of Stephane Grappelli, the Frenchman who could make a violin go dancing off into the moonlight.

Best wishes for the New Year--

David McKnight
Durham, N.C.

Cleaver Smith Swenson & McKnight Band
Emery & McKnight Duo

See Charlotte luthier John Sipe's violin shop at:

See Bruce Emery's guitar instruction books at:

(Posted on Behalf of David McKnight by TheMuse)

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Well here we are... Summer's over and here comes the Fall 
OK its been too long. I've not payed enough attention to the Weblog.

Sure you say... "Who cares? Well I do for one.

I think I'll start keeping track of what's going on here in CA. Weather's turnign cooler. Allergies have peaked and perhaps are in decline. Almost didn't need to take my meds today. Now to get my perscription for "happy pills". Fall into Winter - the two months from mid-November to mid-January is really when I need a little outside assistance. Caffiene will have to suffice for now.

Politics still is at the forefront along with the music and the running. Still am not wtching Netwrk or Cable News programs. Not until a new adminstration takes over. Now I know what happened to monkey in "Bedtime for Bonzo" - Reagan "squared"..

Trivia Question: What was the name of the Monkey in the movie "Bedtime for Bonzo?"
A hint to follow in the next installment.

I wake up and say wonder... "is it over yet?"... Gonzales has left, Rove.. but will they ever get their come-uppnace? Who knows. Iran Contra never amounted to much in the way of those responsible getting their appropriate credit or much less jail terms. Iraq will result in even less justice being doled out.

How can some see through it for what it was from the beginning - purely an opportunity of the neo-cons try their "democracy experiemtnt", and yet some still believe it was a crucial step in going after those responsible for 9-11. These people can't see past the noses on their faces?. Maybe someday people will all know the truth.

Got to go. Don't want to overstay my welcome on the first entry n a while.

What I need is a just little inspiration.. Hey isn't that what a "Muse" is supposed to be? So where is my Muse? They haven't paid me a visit in very long long while. Maybe I'm just getting old and they have found younger more deserving souls.


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Partricia Sun's article: "Fake vote, fake democracy" 
I read this article by Patricia Sun, California spiritual speaker that I have seen in the past. She sums up the state of elections and this administration pretty well.

Here is the original article which can be found at:

Fake vote, fake democracy.

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war."
––Abraham Lincoln 1864 in letter to Col. W.F. Elkins.

If the vote is fraudulently changed by the “the wealth aggregated in a few hands” and the election thereby stolen, then by definition you have no Democracy––are we there yet?

You’ll know in about one week.

With a record seventy-three percent disapproval rate for Congress the public is finally seeing the painfully cumulative impact of failure and corruption in the Republican congress—but it is still possible that the will of the voters may not matter.

Why are George Bush and Karl Rove so certain they will not lose the House and Senate?

Reporters have said that they “almost seem delusionally certain they will win the House and Senate in November.

I am reminded of 2000 when Al Gore was declared the winner in Florida by the networks using exit polls. One network went live to Crawford ranch to get Bush’s reaction—“Oh no, oh no, that’s not right, we’ve got Florida”—with a smirk and smile. I was shocked as I realized he “knew”. I felt uneasy as I realized Bush’s inability to hide his childish certainty––even gloating––was so obvious that it revealed that he, at least, believed that he had inside information that he would win Florida.

I never saw that clip shown again. The media has been notably quiet about the abundance of serious information on voter fraud. There were rumors of memos to some reporters not to cover the issue of voter fraud and questionable races. Supposedly they were burned by their “wrong” exit poll determination that declared Al Gore the winner in Florida––the fact that they were actually correct is a fact still seldom mentioned.

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"Changin' My Mind" -- The Movie 
-- First sketch.
-- Names can be re-worked.
-- Script drafting and editing to come.


SCENE 1: [West Main Street Street Durham. Front steps of Satisfaction.]

Pickell: "Well, I'll be dog--there's Proctor, gazing out to the sunset in the West again like he always does. Wonder where he's thinking about going this time?"

Duvall: "I don't know, but last time he was talking about how Tennessee is just out there over the horizon."

Karl: "Yeah, how can I forget? He was saying: 'I could be in Knoxville or Nashville in no time--even might go all the way to Memphis...'"

Duvall: "Hey Proc! You dreamin' up another one of those Western rides? You know, you're going to have to make up your mind whether you want to go out there or stay around here and finish this job we're doing."

Proctor: "Yeah, I know. But this time, I have an idea that will really work. All I've got to do is hitch up the wagon and head 'er on out to..."

Pickell: "Let me guess: Missouri or Arkansas..."

Karl: "No, I think he wants to go learn mandolin in Kentucky..."

Duvall: "I'll bet he's got his heart set on West Virginia..."

Proctor: "Kansas, boys! We'll all go out to Kansas and raise the roof! There's a guy at the newspaper in Wichita who says I should come out a talk about the paper. Bet'cha I can land a job at the Eagle. Why, it's right next door to Winfield where all those flat-top guitar players get together every year."

Pickell, Duvall and Karl: "Kansas! He wants to go ridin' all the way to Kansas!"

Proctor: "Yeah boy, and we'll stir such up a ruckus that even Roy Williams might hire us to play! I'm talking Lawrence, Wichita, Abilene..."

Pickell: (Mimicking George Hamilton IV:) "'Prettiest town I've ever seen...'"

Proctor: "And Manhattan! Don't forget Manhattan."

Duvall: "My kind of town: Broadway, movies, fine dining--I'll go get my top hat and dancing shoes..."

Proctor: "No, Manhattan, Kansas! Wheat fields, country & Western music and Kansas State University!"

Karl: "Yeah, but who's going to fill in for you in the band while you're out there Jawhawkin' and Wildcattin' with all those sunflowers?"

Proctor: "That's an easy call, gang. Just get that hot-rod guitar man playing across the street at the James Joyce, Jimmy Lee Gibson. Why, there he comes now--he must be taking a break."

Jimmy Lee: "Hey guys, what you are you doing on Main Street? I thought you would be gigging in Chapel Hill tonight."

Pickell: "Proctor here is talking about ridin' out to Kansas. We need you to step in and do some shows for us."

Jimmy Lee: "Why, it'd be a pleasure, fellows. When's the next gig?"

Duvall: "As soon as Proctor leaves town."

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