Wednesday, June 9, 2010

2010 Italian Festival Gala Concert

It was Jean Scalessa who really started the Gala Concert eight years ago – and it has become a more professional and polished concert each year. But how can we appreciate those who have the courage to start a concert series and who accept the risk that a new series might fail? And after the grueling work of convincing everyone to join in, they then hand it over to the lucky successor who has a ready-made tradition.

The first performers on the Gala Concert this year were the Wilmington Children’s Chorus, another group founded by a pioneer. David Christopher founded a chorus for kids living in the Wilmington area hoping to mix kids from city and suburbs and create a free, quality choral program. Kimberly Doucette, an active participant from the start of the project and current artistic director, prepared the kids well, showing how she has truly created an atmosphere of discipline administered with a smile. The kids came on quietly, sang well, watched the conductor, had the lyrics down pat (and they sang in Italian). Afterwards I complimented one of the singers who responded with a warm and sincere ‘thank you’ – no teenage squirming or dodging, which shows the program will give them music and mature poise.

Joe Soprani played an outstanding arrangement he created for accordion of Carnival of Venice. The accompaniment on piano by Jordan Irazabal was a great foundation for the piece.

The program also included excerpts from operas, and I was impressed with the round bass voice of Martin Hargrove in Verdi’s Te Lodiamo.

I enjoyed the traditional Italian numbers like Va pensiero from Verdi’s Nabucco, which I like to sing with the chorus and I was delighted that Dr. Brian Stone brought more discipline to the conducting than I had seen in the past. The chamber orchestra also had a great sound for Preghiera from Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni – again rounded out by piano.

Would that there had been more orchestral accompaniments than piano reductions! Piano reductions are great, but why use them when you have a full chamber orchestra for the afternoon? If they use the chamber orchestra for all of the solos next year, the concert will have developed in a way that would make Jean Scalessa proud.


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