|Chris Dahlke, viola. Photo courtesy of The Music School of Delaware.|
By Christine Facciolo
It’s a pretty safe bet that TheMusic School of Delaware didn’t anticipate 75-degree temps at concert time when it titled Wednesday night’s program “Good Vibes and Winter Winds.” But weather notwithstanding, this was a most interesting — and entertaining — program to come out for, no matter what Mother Nature was up to.
Indeed, it’s a rare event that gives an audience the opportunity to hear works by Stravinsky, Lennon & McCartney and Haydn performed by the School’s talented faculty plus one “rising star” student.
Trumpets heralded the opening of the program as Malcolm McDuffee and Jay Snyder performed Stravinsky’s Fanfare for a New Theatre, composed in 1964 to celebrate the opening of the New York State Theatre as part of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
Flutist Paula Nelson and Augustine "Gus" Mercante — this time using his voice to narrate — offered Alan Ridout’s The Emperor and the Bird of Paradise, a delightful tale of imprisonment, freedom and happiness.
McDuffee returned with pianist Donna Beech to perform Barat’s Andante & Scherzo with sensitivity and note-perfect accuracy. Beech, flutist Melinda Bowman and cellist Matthew Genders offered a colorful and incisive reading of Martinu’s charming Flute-Cello-Piano Trio. From the care-free Allegretto with its bird-like trills for the flute and attractive melodies, to the calm and restful Adagio and jaunty finale, the musicians gave a fresh and breezy interpretation of this joyful work.
McDuffee and Snyder once again inaugurated the opening of the second half of the program with a performance of Plog’s Fanfare for Two Trumpets.
Paula Nelson (flute), Jacob Colby (violin) and Rowena Gutana (cello) joined together to show why Haydn’s London Trios have endured despite falling out of vogue in the 19th Century. Their performance of the delightful Trio No. 1 in C major was full of zest and vitality, as they explored the composer’s wit and originality as well as his serious side, evidenced by the terse rigor of the development section of the sonata-form first movement.
Chris Dahlke then took the spotlight with accompanist Richard Gangwisch in a performance of the second movement of Walton’s Viola Concerto. Dahlke’s Vivo was energetic and incisive, bristling with jazzy syncopations reminiscent of Prokofiev, whom Walton admired. Dahlke also exhibited a mature and self-assured stage presence that belied his youth. This young man — a mere 16 years of age — has garnered a slew of awards for his playing and no doubt can look forward to a stunning future on the concert stage.
Vibraphonist Wesley Morton reached into the Lennon/McCartney songbook for his contributions. Morton gave sublime and understated renderings of the pop classic Michelle — dedicated to his wife to thank her for her patience in living with a musician — and Blackbird, which Lennon and McCartney composed to show the Beatles’ support for the American civil rights movement.
The Pegasus Trio, consisting of Melinda Bowman (flute), Christopher Braddock (guitar) and Jeanmarie Braddock (violin) capped off the evening with performances of two whimsical works by guitarist/composer Braddock. First, they captured the long history of tradition and variety that characterizes Scottish folk music in Braddock’s four movement composition The Hill Trow Prologues. This work tells the story of the Scottish Hill Trow, land-dwelling troll-like fairy creatures with a fondness for music and a reputation for kidnapping musicians or luring them to their Howes.
The Trio then generated a bit of audience participation with their final offering, Make a Hawk a Dove – a TV Heroine Retrospective, a medley of TV themes celebrating several small screen heroines of the '60s and '70s. Particularly touching was the hat toss the women gave in tribute to the late Mary Tyler Moore.