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In the wings | with John Fleming

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Ex-interim director Duncan Couch back for stint at Master Chorale of Tampa Bay

Two musicians featured

A pair of special musicians will be featured at Friday night's concert by the Florida Orchestra at Lowry Park in Tampa. Jessica Tomlinson, a pianist from St. Petersburg, and Lyudmilla Fuentes, a cellist from Lakeland, both have overcome physical impairments to make music. Tomlinson, 24, is partially blind, and Fuentes, 13, has no left hand (only a thumb) and learned to play a cello with the strings reversed, fingering them with her right hand and bowing with a prosthesis on her left arm. They'll play at 6:30 p.m., followed by the orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Free.

Couch back to lead chorale

Duncan Couch will be interim artistic director of the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay next season.

Couch will also be interim director of choral activities at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

He is replacing Richard Zielinski, who is resigning in June to become director of choral activities at the University of Oklahoma.

Couch, 68, will be filling in for the Master Chorale for the second time. In 1993-94, he led the chorus when it was between permanent directors, and contributed to excellent performances of Poulenc's Gloria and Mozart's Requiem.

"That's the reason I'm sitting here now," Couch said from the Master Chorale office on Tuesday. "I had such a wonderful experience with the choir."

Back then, Couch was music professor and director of choral activities of Stetson University in DeLand, a position from which he retired in 2006. He will work with the Master Chorale until a new director is named, probably next year.

The Master Chorale will perform with the Florida Orchestra in Mahler's Symphony No. 3 (women's chorus) and Mendelssohn's Elijah in 2009-10, as well as present concerts on its own.

Auditions will be held in August. Information: (813) 974-7726; master chorale.com.

Irish drama opens Thursday

Lovers of Irish drama will want to check out Shining City, which opens Thursday and runs through May 24 in a Stageworks production at Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Glenn Gover (Ian), Richard Coppinger (John), Dahlia Legault (Neasa) and Slake Counts (Laurence) star in Conor McPherson's play about a guilt-ridden widower who is the first patient of a therapist who has left the priesthood and set up practice in downtown Dublin. $10-$24.50. (813) 229-7927; tbpac.org.

Smiles for American Stage

American Stage is basking in the glow of two recent developments. Jaden Sterling, a real estate investor and "wealth coach" who lives in St. Petersburg, gave the company $50,000 toward its new building development fund. In return, Sterling will receive naming rights to the concession stand in the new Raymond James Theatre at St. Petersburg College in downtown St. Petersburg.

The company also announced that it now has 3,128 subscribers, the first time it has topped 3,000 subscribers in its 30-year history.

Few funds beats no funds

Arts funding has taken a hit in the Legislature's struggle to balance the state's 2009-10 budget. Now recommended is an appropriation for cultural and museum grants totaling $2.5 million. That's down from comparable funding of $6.5 million in the current fiscal year. It could be worse: At one point, the proposed budget included nothing for the arts.

John Fleming can be reached at fleming@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8716. He writes for the arts blog Critics Circle at blogs.tampabay.com/arts.

Ex-interim director Duncan Couch back for stint at Master Chorale of Tampa Bay 05/05/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 5, 2009 11:03pm]

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