Ahnell pays tribute to former instructor at ClarinetFest

Kirsten Ahnell, Professor of Clarinet at Kentucky Wesleyan College, was recently invited to play for the International Clarinet Association’s ClarinetFest in Reno, Nevada. Ahnell is also the founder/organizer of the local series of ‘Brown Bag Lunch Concerts’ and the principal clarinet for 30 years with Owensboro Symphony Orchestra. ClarinetFest was attended by 2,000 clarinetists from the United States and throughout the world, and Ahnell was honored to have the chance to perform.

Ahnell was specifically asked to perform at the Theodore Johnson tribute. Johnson was Ahnell’s teacher when she obtained her Artist Diploma degree, an advanced performance degree, at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Johnson was a longtime clarinetist with the Cleveland Orchestra and is considered one of the all-time greatest Eb clarinetists. The Eb Clarinet, also called a piccolo clarinet, is smaller than the common Bb clarinet and plays at a higher pitch.

To honor Johnson, Ahnell chose to perform an Eb clarinet arrangement of Carnival of Venice Theme and Variations. The clarinet arrangement of the piece was originally for Bb clarinet but was rearranged for Eb clarinet by her father, composer and professor emeritus of music at Kentucky Wesleyan Dr. Emil Ahnell.

“It was a wild challenging, technical work, but came off quite well and the audience seemed to really enjoy it,” Ahnell said.

Ahnell was accompanied on piano by Sean Raley, organist/pianist/choirmaster at Trinity Episcopal Church in Owensboro.

A review of the performance spoke highly of Ahnell, noting that “during her performance she showcased impressive control over her instrument with a remarkable ability to play in any dynamic and style at any range. Through the leaps and jumps throughout the piece, Ahnell was able give a truly show-stopping performance, making this classic feel new again.”