RECENT NEWS

STUDENT ARTISTS COLLABORATE WITH COMPOSER By Mary K. VanGieson, Number: Inc.
Photo By: Lauren Flynn
Date: 11/9/12
The exhibition currently on view at the Germantown Performing Arts Center is a collaboration between composer/musician Anna Clyne and 26 Houston high school Advanced Placement and Art IV visual arts students. The works are based on Clyne’s written text, snippets of music from her website and the student /teacher discussions held in class and reference Clyne’s most recent composition entitled, Prince of Clouds. Clyne states on her website that while composing the piece she “was contemplating the presence of musical linage – a family-tree of sorts that passes from generation to generation.”

Working under the direction of arts instructors Amanda McKnight and Bobby Spillman, students created paintings and sculptures based on their impressions of Clyne’s written thoughts and previous compositions. The works in the show range from a black & white ink drawing of a nest of hornets to a layered cloak-like garment to a ribbon painted violin. All demonstrate great imagination in giving a visual interpretation to creative musical thoughts.

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2012

IRIS ORCHESTRA'S PLANTING ROOTS By Kim Brukardt, Jewish Scene
Photo By: Kim Brukardt
Date: 11/8/12
In October, IRIS Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Michael Stern, IRIS musicians and staff braved the elements as the rain stopped just in time for the first iris bulb planting at Germantown Performing Arts Centre (GPAC) in Germantown, Tenn. The group moved on to the Germantown Charity Horse Arena and had to forgo the last planting at Hutchison School due to the weather, which delayed the first planting.

Now in its 13th season in residence at Germantown Performing Arts Centre (GPAC), IRIS Orchestra takes time to celebrate the roots it has put down in the Germantown/Memphis community not only through music but also through its host-family program and its extensive involvement in area schools. Michael Stern and members of IRIS Orchestra, alongside volunteers and supporters of IRIS, will spend the day planting iris bulbs purchased from the West Tennessee Iris Society during its recent fundraiser. In addition, the host families who house IRIS musicians during concert weeks will receive IRIS rhizomes for their own gardens as a token of the orchestra’s appreciation of unfailing generosity.

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STRINGS EXCEL IN IRIS PERFORMANCE IN GERMANTOWN By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Photo By: Janette Beckman
Date: 11/4/12
It's enough for some orchestras to simply perform familiar and comforting tunes, taking no chances and sending audiences home with fading satisfaction.

Not so the IRIS Orchestra, which aims to cultivate a sense of excitement not only in fine performances but in bold programming. Maestro Michael Stern pulled it together again Saturday night in a concert that premiered a work by versatile rising composer Anna Clyne, showed the virtuosity of two of the world's top violinists and showcased a robust string section.

The Clyne composition — "Prince of Clouds" — was co-commissioned by IRIS and is part of a remarkable program initiated by the evening's guest performers, Jaime Laredo and Jennifer Koh.

The project titled Two x Four features the two violinists performing four double violin pieces. Two of the works were performed Saturday at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre — Clyne's "Prince of Clouds" and Bach's well-loved Double Concerto for Two Violins. (The other works are Philip Glass's "Echorus" and a new piece by David Ludwig first performed in May).

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REVIEW: GERMANTOWN'S IRIS OPENS SEASON WITH GORGEOUS VIVALDI CONCERTO By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 10/14/12
The IRIS Orchestra opened its season Saturday night with a slightly different bit of programming. There was no guest artist as such, but there were four featured soloists from the ranks of the orchestra itself.

It proved to be an inspired decision with Vivaldi's Concerto for Four Violins in B minor, Op. 3, No. 10, providing a spotlight for four regulars. The violinists — Carolyn Huebl, Stephen Miahky, Miho Saegusa and Jonathan Swartz — are each exceptional and all have served as concertmaster at various times for IRIS.

The concert, playing to a full house at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre, was what listeners have come to expect from maestro Michael Stern and his merry band of players from all over the country. The performances were consistently excellent in technique and expressiveness.

Stern actually was not on stage for the Vivaldi, a work done without conductor and the four fiddlers setting the pace. Vivaldi and violins are somewhat like grits and gravy — a natural and sometimes supernatural match. The performers brought different styles while fully exploiting the eloquence of Vivaldi in the piece, the only flaw of which that it was too short.

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IRIS WINDS UP SEASON WITH CLASS By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Photo By: Steve J. Sherman
Date: 05/07/12
IRIS Orchestra ended its season Saturday night with what has become its usual mix of intriguing programming and stellar talent.

The guest performer was pianist Andre Watts, who has been a highly regarded artist in the 45 years since he burst on the scene as a 16-year-old prodigy, impressing the likes of Leonard Bernstein and wowing orchestras around the world with his virtuosity.

That skill was beautifully on display at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre in his performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 ("Emperor"), a piece grand and soaring in itself, but given a particularly sensitive emotive interpretation by Watts.

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SHORTER SEASON FOR IRIS By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Photo By: Janette Beckman
Date: 04/30/12
The 13th season of IRIS Orchestra promises to be bold and beautiful, but it's also going to be the shortest one ever.

The four-concert 2012-2013 schedule is down from six this season, but the guest artists and programming are alluring.

In November, Jaime Laredo and Jennifer Koh perform Bach's Double Violin Concerto as well as the premiere of a work written for the two acclaimed violinists by American composer Anna Clyne.
In February, violinist Gil Shaham returns to IRIS for the third time to perform the Brahms Violin Concerto. Shaham's popularity continues to grow, particularly in Memphis where he has made numerous appearances since his prodigy days two decades ago.

Pianist Jeffrey Kahane stars in May 2013, performing several pieces, including Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto.

The first concert of the season in October puts the spotlight on violinists in the orchestra, setting a theme for the season that will highlight various musicians in the group each concert.
Since its inception in 2000, IRIS musicians selected by artistic director and principal conductor Michael Stern have come from around the country to perform at the concerts, usually held at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre.

The four-concert schedule is the shortest IRIS has offered. In the early years it offered as many as eight concerts annually. As the economy waned, it cut back, having only five events in the 2009-2010 season but has had six concerts in the two seasons since.

But the economy is still taking a toll on performing groups, so the cutback in number of performances was necessary, said executive director and percussionist David DePeters.

"We always look at how to present the best concerts we can in an affordable way," he said. "We've cut back before based on how we anticipate things will go in the next year. That's one of our strengths, that we can have a flexible schedule and still provide great performances and guest artists as well as continuing our community outreach efforts."

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IRIS, GUEST CELLIST LEAD PLEASANTRIES By redric Koeppel, The Commercial Appeal
Photo By: Steve J. Sherman
Date: 04/23/12
In Saturday night's concert at Germantown Performing Arts Centre, IRIS Orchestra didn't stray far from the confines of the 19th century.

Led with panache and commitment by artistic director and principal conductor Michael Stern, the group rendered three well-known crowd-pleasers with which the crowd was indeed well-pleased, and for good reason: Whether the required mood was merry wit or anguished introspection or folkloric exuberance, the orchestra -- and guest artist, Israeli cellist Amit Peled -- delivered the goods.

Merry wit came in the form of Gioachino Rossini's Overture to "La Cenerentola" ("Cinderella"), a sort of bonbon tossed to the audience before the more serious works. Rossini composed the fairy-tale-based opera early in 1817, just before it premiered in Rome at the end of January. He was 24, and already had the huge successes of "Tancredi" and "The Barber of Seville" behind him. The buoyantly melodic and diverting Overture is froth of the highest order, as is the opera it precedes, and IRIS Orchestra gave the piece its full measure of good cheer and vitality.

To turn to Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, called on a completely different setting of intention and mood. Composed in 1918-19, the four-movement work's solemn and passionate character reflects the psychological and historical devastation of World War I, the passing of the old order of European culture and the ill health of Elgar and his wife, who died in 1920. One would have to possess a heart of stone not to be moved by the sweeping, introspective theme of its opening section or by the sense of elegiac renunciation that dominates the Adagio.

Peled's approach produced a notably muscular attack and a deeply supple, even majestic sound, though slightly roughened; when he swayed into the notes, when he plucked the strings, you felt the vibration in your bones. Local audiences are far too prone to jump to their feet in ovation, even at the most standard renditions, but this performance from orchestra and soloist deserved the approbation.

After intermission, the orchestra returned with Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17, "Little Russian," composed in 1872-73 and revised in 1879-80. Stern elicited and commanded the collective power of IRIS for this metamorphic, heavily rhythmic and frequently exhilarating symphony.

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IRIS ORCHESTRA'S 'TASTE OF HEAVEN' ELEVATES SPIRIT By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Photo By: Jennifer Gasparian
Date: 01/09/12
When Heidi Grant Murphy starts singing, you marvel at how a human voice can do what it does.

Murphy's sweet, subtle, crystalline vocals elevated the luminously performed works in Saturday night's IRIS Orchestra concert at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre.

Maestro Michael Stern programmed the evening, titled "A Taste of Heaven," around Mahler's "Symphony No. 4 in G major," a stunning work that culminates with a child's view of heaven in the song "Das himmlische Leben" ("Heaven's Life").

This is the first time IRIS performed a Mahler symphony, and there's no question that Stern chose well. Mahler's symphonies range from big to gargantuan, but the Fourth is not unwieldy. Yet it is both cerebral and transcendent, beautifully blending the human and the spiritual, and the orchestra played with exquisite passion.

The final movement featured Murphy's singing, her lustrous soprano layering on another dimension of gorgeousness to the piece that enthralled the audience.

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2011

IRIS PLUCKS RIGHT STRINGS AT GPAC CONCERT By Jon W. Sparks
Date: 12/05/11
Saturday night's IRIS Orchestra concert was an all-strings triumph of programming and performance, again showing the deft touch maestro Michael Stern has in creating a presentation that is both familiar and adventurous.

Guest performer Elizabeth Hainen brought virtuoso harp skills in two remarkable performances to the Germantown Performing Arts Centre. The first was Caplet's "Conte fantastique," a tone poem based on Edgar Allen Poe's "Masque of the Red Death." The 1919 work is thrilling and terrifying, sounding today like the soundtrack from a horror film, but all the more interesting for how it set a standard for aural chills.

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MARTIN SHORT - IRIS ORCHESTRA By WREG NEWS CHANNEL 3
Date: 09/30/11
Martin Short is best known as a comedic genius. But he is also a talented singer and musician and has received a Tony Award. He's combining his love of both acting and music on stage in Memphis this weekend for a special performance with IRIS Orchestra.

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MARTIN SHORT PERFORMS WITH IRIS ORCHESTRA By Kacky Walton
Date: 09/28/2011
Kacky Walton speaks with Martin Short about his upcoming performance in IRIS Orchestra's twelfth season inaugural concert, coming up Saturday, October 1st, at GPAC.

Comic genius Martin Short brings his unbridled energy and improvisational talent to Prokofiev's masterful musical parable, "Peter and the Wolf," and to the chansonnier role in H. K. Gruber's ingeniously surreal reworking of Frankenstein as a "pan-demonium" scored for orchestra and a cabinet of toy instruments.

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IRIS SHOW PUSHES ENVELOPE By Jon W. Sparks
Date: 10/03/2011
Not everybody loved Saturday night's IRIS Orchestra's season opening concert.
But nobody will forget it.

The first number to open the 12th season at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre, Copland's "Latin American Sketches," was deceptive, promising a standard program. The lush, precise performance was the caliber we've come to expect from IRIS.
And then it changed.

The departure was not a move away from quality, however, but rather in the direction of adventurous musical work. On top of that was the live-wire performance of actor and comedian Martin Short, who seized the evening with two separate compositions.

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IRIS MATCHES WORKS IN DEVOTED FINALE By Fredric Koeppel, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 04/18/11
Perhaps it was because Saturday night's performance at the Germantown Performing Arts Center was the last concert in its 2010-11 season, but IRIS Orchestra, under the baton of founder and artistic director Michael Stern, seemed unusually deeply involved in and committed, both technically and emotionally, to its program.

That program could have been called "Romantic, Late-Romantic and Neo-Romantic" to encompass Robert Schumann's "Overture, Scherzo and Finale in E major" from 1841, revised in 1845; the Saint-Saëns "Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor," from 1868; and Edward Elgar's "Enigma Variations," written in 1898-99.

Not only was the progress chronological, but each piece revealed increasing emotional and psychological depth.

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IRIS MIXES IN A HELPING OF SHAKESPEARE By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 02/28/11
Always inventive IRIS has never been a staid classical presence, but the concert at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre energetically broke new ground in a collaboration with the Tennessee Shakespeare Company.

It was a concert, yes, but there was also a theatrical event integrating Michael Gandolfi’s brisk and lovely “Themes from a Midsummer Night,” with a performance of scenes from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

It was a visual and sonic romp as players from Germantown-based Tennessee Shakespeare Company bounded across the stage -- and even the musicians got to add some ham to the feast.

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BRAVOS ALL AROUND FOR IRIS PERFORMANCE By Jon W. Sparks, GO Memphis
Date: 02/24/11
IRIS Orchestra’s concert Saturday night did what it does best: push the creative envelope while providing an exciting — even explosive — musical experience.

The big draw was one of the most energetic works maestro Michael Stern has offered -- Chris Brubeck’s “Travels in Time for Three,” commissioned by a consortium of orchestras that includes IRIS and given its Mid-South premiere at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre.

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STRING TRIO TIME FOR THREE PUT ITS STAMP ON COMMISIONED WORK By Jon W. Sparks, GO Memphis
Date: 02/21/11
IRIS Orchestra blooms with activity this weekend. Saturday’s concert caps a series of events that includes school tours, a fundraiser tonight and an expanded dress rehearsal aimed at young people.

The main event is the Mid-South premiere of a commissioned piece written for the high-energy string trio Time for Three, which wowed IRIS concertgoers in its 2006 appearance.

SHORT TO BRING COMEDIC TOUCH TO SEASON-OPENING IRIS SHOW By Jon W. Sparks, GO Memphis
Date: 02/20/11
IRIS Orchestra’s 12th season promises plenty of wit and virtuosity.Emmy Award-winning actor Martin Short starts off the season Oct. 1 narrating Prokofiev’s popular “Peter and the Wolf” and playing the chansonnier role in a performance of H.K. Gruber’s “Frankenstein!!” scored for orchestra and toy instruments.

Michael Stern, IRIS’ artistic director and conductor, said Short -- known since his “Saturday Night Live” days for his comic characters -- will bring that comedic sensibility to the performance. The actor has performed with other orchestras in addition to many acting roles that include a recent serious stint on the FX drama “Damages.”

IRIS, which performs at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre, will have six concerts in the coming season. Other guest artists include harpist Elizabeth Hainen, soprano Heidi Grant Murphy, violinist Vadim Gluzman, cellist Amit Peled and pianist Andrè Watts.

IRIS BLOOMS IN WINTER Fundraiser + Silent Auction Feature Auction:
Items from Anthropologie and Mednikow

Presented by:
Michael Stern and IRIS Orchestra

Sponsored by:
Memphis College of Art

Musicians:
Time for Three

Guest Artist:
Jill Wissimiller

Date:
January 21, 2011

Time:
7:00 - 9:00 P.M.

Location:
Memphis College of Art
Downtown Campus - 477 South Main
Valet Parking Available

Reservations:
To RSVP please contact:
Kara Craig
Phone: 901.275.8347
E-mail: karacraig@irisorchestra.org

$40 for reservations made in advance
$50 at the door

Hosted By:
Tim and Ellie Bakelaar
John and Weetie Whittemore
Alex and Shea Wellford
Biggs and Neely Powell
Robert and Bradley Fogelman
Mark and Leanne Sykes
Alan and Margaret Everett
Nick and Amanda Goetze
Mike and Anne Keeney

FORGOTTEN CHANTS & REFRAINS By By Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found
Date: 01/06/11
Not too long ago we told you about up-and-coming American composer Jonathan Leshnoff (b. 1973, see the newsletter of ), and here are three more symphonic pieces on this second volume from Naxos devoted to him. An associate professor of music at in Maryland and composer-in-residence with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, he’s a contemporary composer who writes intellectually stimulating music with immediate appeal.

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2010

THE BEST CLASSICAL CDS OF 2010 By Rich Fisher, Public Radio Tulsa
Date: 12/21/10
On today’s show, we speak by phone with Tim Smith, the classical music and drama critic for The Baltimore Sun. Smith has also written for The Washington Post, The New York Times, BBC Music Magazine, Opera News, and other publications. His book from 2002, “The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Classical Music,” can now be found (as Smith himself puts it, in the “bio” section of his fun-to-read blog) “on the most discerning remainder racks.” Here are some of Smith’s faves from 2010 — as discussed on today’s StudioTulsa, yet otherwise in no particular order:

IRIS RIDES MOMENTUM INTO HOLIDAYS By Jonathan Devin, The Memphis News
Date: 11/29/10
Halfway into its 10th anniversary concert season, IRIS Orchestra is still riding a wave of excitement generated by soloists Yo-Yo Ma and Yefim Bronfman in its first two concerts.

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IRIS ORCHESTRA ADDS PASSION TO BARTOK CONCERTOS By Jon Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 11/15/10
Killer B’s were loose Saturday as IRIS Orchestra played Beethoven and Bartok with a guest performance by pianist Yefim Bronfman.

Oboist Richard Dallessio mused before the concert at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre: “I wonder how often people have ever heard two Bartoks in one night.”

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YO-YO MA DELIVERS AS USUAL, AGAIN WOWS GPAC CROWD By Jon Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 10/03/10
Friday night, Yo-Yo Ma reaffirmed why we love superstars.

As much as we know of his illustrious history and as many recordings as we may have heard, the brilliance of the cello virtuoso’s live artistry still managed to surpass expectations and gave the audience at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts a night to remember.

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SUMPTUOUS ‘NEW WORLD’ CLOSES 10TH FINE YEAR FOR IRIS By Jon W. Sparks, GO Memphis
Date: 03/21/10
The 10th season of IRIS Orchestra came to a triumphant close Saturday night with a robust blend of brilliance.

It has been a remarkable decade of well-crafted performances by top musicians from around the country (local players included) who are joined by stellar guest artists to dish up some great classical music.

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IRIS STRING QUARTET PROGRAM SPARKLES By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Photo by Mike Brown
Date: 03/01/10
IRIS Orchestra routinely has a guest artist to show off, but Saturday night’s performance departed from that formula.

It featured, rather, a superlative string ensemble of IRIS musicians performing pieces that all had origins as string quartets but were later upgraded to symphonic size.

Leading off the program was Verdi’s String Quartet in E minor, scored for orchestra by Arturo Toscanini, a lush and handsome piece that embodied the essence of poetry.

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IRIS PERFORMANCE BLOOMS AS DELICACY DRIVES WORKS By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 01/11/10
Saturday night’s IRIS Orchestra performance was a triumph of freshness.

Guest artist Dawn Upshaw brought her crystal soprano voice to works by Stravinsky and Golijov, pieces of aching beauty that showed the power of delicacy.

Upshaw, who has won four Grammy Awards, displayed with her seemingly effortless prowess how the voice can become as one of the instruments, and the brilliant compositions allowed IRIS instrumentalists to sing.

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2009

CAPTURES ESSENCE OF SCHUMANN By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 11/16/09
“Schumann was a nut,” cracked pianist Jeremy Denk, an accurate assessment, but offered with true affection.

Denk, after all, knows a thing or two about the German composer, as splendidly evidenced by Saturday night’s performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto with IRIS Orchestra.

The brilliant, rolling and poetic composition was thrillingly rendered by Denk who played with shimmering fluidity. Sometimes performers need to prove something -- but not the expressive Denk, whose intent was purely to immerse the audience in Schumann’s gorgeousness. Nothing nuts about that.

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VIOLINIST MIDORI TO CRITIQUES STUDENTS ON CAMPUS TODAY By Joseph Walz, The Daily Helmsman
Photo by Dan Borris
Date: 10/02/09
World famous violinist Midori will be on campus today critiquing music students in a two-hour class at the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music.

Midori’s class will be today from 10 a.m. to noon in Harris Concert Hall. Students will perform for the artist, after which they will be critiqued and given feedback.

Midori is part of the concert and masterclass series sponsored by IRIS Orchestra and The Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music. The classes are free and open to those who want to observe at Harris Concert Hall, however participation in the classes is exclusively for selected students in the music school.

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GERMANTOWN FINDS FUNDS FOR CIVIC AID By Lela Garlington, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 04/19/09
During a lean budget year when Germantown laid off a city planner and cut back other workers’ salaries and hours, the city is proposing to almost double its civic support to local groups in next year’s budget.

Of the city’s $36.7 million in general fund expenses, Germantown is proposing just more than $768,000 for grants to various local organizations.

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IRIS ANNOUNCES SEASON OF ‘UNCOMPROMISING QUALITY’ By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Photo by Mike Brown
Date: 03/16/09
IRIS Orchestra continues a strong lineup of selections and guest artists in the just-announced 2009-2010 season.

Among the acclaimed performers will be violinist Midori and soprano Dawn Upshaw on stage at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre.

IRIS Chamber Orchestra musical director Michael Stern leads the orchestra during a rehearsal at GPAC in this file photo.Maestro Michael Stern has programmed a typically diverse array of compositions to fill the five concerts, down by one from the current season.

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2008

BLESSED TO RECEIVE By Cathryn Stout, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 10/09/08
It was not the delivery Carrington Wise anticipated, but it came at the perfect time. The music teacher at St. George’s Independent School Memphis campus stopped by her classroom one recent evening to open what she thought was a new desk. Instead, she found meticulously
packed boxes from Germany containing two xylophones and three metalaphones.

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IRIS GUEST URI CAINE BOOGIES TO BRAHMS By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 10/05/08
The opener of the ninth season of IRIS was a wild ride, from the traditional (a solid Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony) to the roller-coaster boogie-woogie of Brahms.

Actually the boogie-woogie -- and blues, and stride piano, and a rich mix of other jazz forms and invention -- were courtesy guest soloist Uri Caine. The pianist took Brahms’ “Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel” and gave it an expression that would have stunned the old composers.

Handel got the ball rolling in 1733 with his Suite in B-flat major. Brahms, in 1861, created his 25 spectacular variations on that theme. Taking it another giant step further, Caine re-orchestrated the Brahms (in 2004) and improvises his own piano performance on each gig.

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SMILES BLOOM AT IRIS PERFORMANCE By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 01/27/08
Watch how an audience reacts to a performance. They might cheer or hurl raspberries or applaud politely. But Iíve never seen a crowd smile as much as the audience did when cellist Lynn Harrell finished his glorious performance of Saint-Saensí Cello Concerto No. 1.

It happened Saturday night during IRIS Orchestraís performance at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre, an evening where sublime performances even beyond Harrellís thrilled the crowd.

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IRIS REHEARSES WITH STAX MUSIC ACADEMY STUDENTS By Christopher Blank, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 01/26/08
Back in 2000, when conductor Michael Stern first knocked on the door of the Germantown Performing Arts Centre, he used the Symphony No. 5 as a calling card.

That musical phrase launched IRIS Orchestra into existence with romantic fervor.

Eight years since, Stern’s hand-picked chamber orchestra has recorded several critically acclaimed albums, commissioned new works of music and created a national reputation.

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2007

BREAKING FREE By Christopher Blank, The Commercial Appeal
Photo by Mark Weber
Date: 04/21/07
Opportunities, obligations await IRIS next year in its first season as an independent orchestra. IRIS conductor Michael Stern is ready for the orchestra’s independence: “It allows IRIS to do things in this community and elsewhere that we couldn’t do before”

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IRIS PERFORMANCE NEARLY FLAWLESS By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 12/02/07
IRIS Orchestra is frequently inspiring, but Saturday nightís performance was as close to flawless as itís ever been. Maestro Michael Stern presented a program of overlooked works that are superb compositions, yet for various reasons are infrequently performed.

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2006

THE BRILLIANCE OF AMADEUS: IRIS CELEBRATES GENIUS’ MUSICAL PERFECTION By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 05/08/06
Music hasn’t been the same since Wolfgang Mozart came into the world 250 years ago. In honor of his genius, Saturday night’s concert by IRIS Chamber Music Orchestra ended its season with a triumphant run of three symphonies and a piano concerto, all revealing different sides of the master, all gloriously performed and all challenging how we regard the concept of perfection.

Rigid philosophers may insist that perfection is unattainable, but there’s no stopping the use of the word when it comes to Mozart. Performers, conductors and listeners fall back on the term, spurred by the transcendent qualities of form, harmonies, intelligence and the gut feeling that each moment could be no other way.

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IRIS SERVES UP ANOTHER WINNER By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 03/06/06
The power, precision and beauty of the string sections reverberated through the
Germantown Performing Arts Centre at Saturday night’s IRIS Chamber Music Orchestra
concert.

For sheer emotional potency, not much beats Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion and
Celesta. It’s a masterpiece, soaring with intelligence while being greatly admired by
musicians who love the challenge. The audience, not universally fond of 20th Century
music, stood and gave the orchestra and Maestro Michael Stern an enthusiastic thumbs up
for a performance that showed IRIS at its best. There were moments exquisitely sad and
others insanely frenzied. The musicians would fade to impossible softness or wield
aggressive blankets of sound -- and it was one of the finest performances of the season.

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GPAC’S BEST PLAYS VIENNA’S FINEST: IRIS IN A GLORIOUS WALTZ By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 01/16/06
Maestro Michael Stern delivered the best of the best Saturday night.

He imported some of the finest Viennese tunes imaginable and got IRIS Chamber Music Orchestra to give one of its best realized performances at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre.

Topping it off was guest soloist Jonathan Biss, whose serene confidence possessed his performance of the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21.

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2005

GLITTERING RECEPTION OPENS IRIS’S SIXTH SEASON By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 10/18/05
IRIS Chamber Orchestra with Conductor Michael Stern opened its sixth season Saturday
night, October 8 at the Germantown Performing Arts Center, with featured soprano Kallen
Esperian in what was a glittering gala.

World renowned soprano and Memphian Esperian with IRIS Chamber Orchestra gave a
stunning season opening concert featuring Berlioz’s Overture to Beatrice and Benedict,
Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et la mer for soprano and orchestra, Richard Strauss’ String
Sextet from Capriccio, Selections from the Gershwin songbook and Liszt’s Hungarian
Rhapsody No. 2.

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PLAYING OUT OF TOWN By Chester Lane, Symphony
Date: 09/10/05
In the southwest corner of Tennessee, just outside the I-240 “Loop” that circles Memphis, lies the city of Germantown. Located in Shelby County, where the average household income exceeds that of any other county in the state except three in the Nashville area, Germantown is a largely residential community with a population pegged officially, and with quaint precision, at 40,203. It prides itself on its AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor’s, its superior public services, and a government that, in the words of City Administrator Patrick Lawton, “places a high value on things that add value to the lives of its citizens.” A visitor to the city’s web site will find Germantown’s amenities described in the usual language of civic boosterism, but with an eye-opening difference: This is a community that offers “award-winning schools, acres of parkland, a comprehensive fitness and recreation complex, an extensive sports program, and IRIS, the city’s chamber orchestra” (emphasis added).

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MIDORI’S PASSION, GRACE MAKE PERFECT MOMENTS AT IRIS By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 05/09/05
Midori conquered Beethoven and the sellout IRIS Chamber Music Orchestra audience with
such seeming ease.

Of course it wasn’t all that simple. But when the violinist came onstage at the Germantown
Performing Arts Centre on Sunday afternoon and cranked up the Beethoven Violin Concerto
in D major, it was such a silken performance that it seemed effortless.

Maestro Michael Stern had earlier referred to the work as a “perfect moment of grace and
purity and nobility.” Midori provided the passion with a wonderfully physical performance
that took no note for granted, yet allowed the piece to appear lighter than air.

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‘BLACKBIRD,’ IRIS PLAYERS TAKE WING By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 02/14/05
Amazing musical adventures just keep on coming with IRIS. Maestro Michael Sternprogrammed and executed yet another sterling concert with the chamber music orchestra Saturday night at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre, one that was rich, diverse, sexy and surprising.

Featured guest group eighth blackbird --- the name taken from a Wallace Stevens poem -- is
a stunning sextet of exceptional ability. The six musicians performed “Split Horizon,” a 2003
composition by the young Minnesota-born David Schober, who was present and introduced
the piece.

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2004

IRIS SWELLS INTO ODE TO JOY By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 12/06/04
IRIS Chamber Orchestra delivered a stunning holiday gift over the weekend.

Maestro Michael Stern’s program at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre was an even bigger, grander manifestation of IRIS’s mission to combine old favorites and contemporary challenges, including, as he put it at Sunday afternoon’s performance, “music we helped to create.”

The blowout work was Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with a larger than usual orchestra plus the local Gary Beard Chorale plus four world class soloists crowding the stage and staggering the crowd with a vigorous, heartfelt performance.

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‘ODE TO JOY’ ERUPTING AT GPAC By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 12/03/04
After 16 years The Gary Beard Chorale has a lot of music under its collective robe. From Handel to Hoagie Carmichael, the group has sung the gamut of secular and spiritual music.

So when Germantown’s renowned IRIS Chamber Orchestra asked the ensemble to sing one of the most spiritually secular choral works ever written, Gary Beard leapt at the chance.

In the weeks since rehearsals began for Beethoven’s famous Ninth Symphony -- a.k.a. the “Ode to Joy” -- Beard has been learning just how deep that spiritual energy runs.

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IRIS BLOOMED AGAIN ON SATURDAY NIGHT By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 11/15/04
Maestro Michael Stern, again showing consistency, presented a memorable program by the
chamber orchestra that informed, delighted and astonished.

The evening’s guest artist at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre was pianist Stanislav
Ioudenitch, the brilliant winner of the 2001 gold medal at the Van Cliburn competition. In two
19th Century pieces, Ioudenitch displayed an exquisite touch with those spring-loaded fingers
running up and down the keyboard with an easy confidence.

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IRIS ENDS SEASON ON HIGH NOTE FOR GPAC AUDIENCE By Jon W. Sparks, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 05/10/04
IRIS Chamber Orchestra’s exclamatory season ended with bravos! ooohs! whoops! and hollers!

There was nothing staid about Saturday night’s concert at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre. blasted off with Copland’s energetic “Music for the Theater,” moved into higher drama with Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in G minor and ended with soloist Gil Shaham breathing fire into the Brahms Violin Concerto in D major.

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2003

THE BEST CLASSICAL CD’S OF 2003; HARTKE: CLARINET CONCERTO; OTHER WORKS By Anthony Tommasini,The New York Times
Date: 12/21/03
Most of the musical energy of the Mid-South was aimed at downtown Memphis and the Beale Street Music festival Saturday night, but no small amount of power emanated from the Germantown Performing Arts Center far to the east, where soloist Yefim Bronfman thundered through Brahms’s monumental Second Piano Concerto with IRIS orchestra.

Michael Stern, musical director and conductor of IRIS, concocted an interesting group of works for the orchestra’s last performance of the season.

Robert Schumann’s Overture to Manfred, Op. 115 is a vigorous and brooding homage to the grandeur and isolation of Byron’s tortured hero. It’s not difficult to see Schumann, 38 at the time, looking at his own life of struggle and fitful success as he descended into depression and madness.

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BRONFMAN AND IRIS OFFER BRILLIANT CLOSE TO THE SEASON By Bill Ellis, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 05/05/03
Most of the musical energy of the Mid-South was aimed at downtown Memphis and the Beale Street Music festival Saturday night, but no small amount of power emanated from the Germantown Performing Arts Center far to the east, where soloist Yefim Bronfman thundered through Brahms’s monumental Second Piano Concerto with IRIS orchestra.

Michael Stern, musical director and conductor of IRIS, concocted an interesting group of works for the orchestra’s last performance of the season.

Robert Schumann’s Overture to Manfred, Op. 115 is a vigorous and brooding homage to the grandeur and isolation of Byron’s tortured hero. It’s not difficult to see Schumann, 38 at the time, looking at his own life of struggle and fitful success as he descended into depression and madness.

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2001

CHAMBER ORCHESTRA SCORES AGAIN WITH STELLAR PERFORMANCE By Bill Ellis, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 01/14/01
If consistency were a crime, IRIS stands accused. In its inaugural season, the Germantown chamber orchestra has been consistent four times over - in its performances, programs, leadership and guest soloists.

Saturday at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre, the ensemble, under director Michael Stern, gave more of the stellar same to 826 in attendance. And you wondered why tickets have sold so fast?

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2000

MA, STERN RESONATE FAR BEYOND THE MUSICAL SCORE By Bill Ellis, The Commercial Appeal
Date: 09/20/00
Given that Tuesday was the debut splash of Germantown’s new chamber orchestra, IRIS, it was an odd evening to label a reunion.

Yet that’s exactly what the concert was for its two leading men - cellist Yo-Yo Ma and conductor Michael Stern - who together visited the Germantown Performing Arts Centre in 1998 for GPAC’s fifthanniversary gala.

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