Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Dumont Concerts: Breathing Life into the Baroque

–by guest blogger, Jessica Graae

To enter the concert hall at the Barn at Flintwoods is to greet the Baroque era in all its gilded magnificence. Not only a performance and recording venue, the space houses a treasured private collection of antique harpsichords. The collection, ranging from several Ioannnes Ruckers models, a 1707 Nicholas Dumont and a Spanish-made harpsichord, has been carefully restored both mechanically and aesthetically. Each is meticulously decorated with pastoral scenes, flying cherubs, and even shrimp waiting patiently to be consumed. The most recent acquisition – a harpsichord made by Ruckers in 1627 – was unveiled at Brandywine Baroque’s Dumont Concerts, a weekend-long harpsichord “festival”, which concluded on Sunday, May 24.

The Dumont Concerts opened with a wonderful recital by Karen Flint, Artistic Director of Brandywine Baroque. She played several instruments in the collection, taking us on a musical journey both around the room and world. Striking is Ms. Flint’s knowledge of performance practice and musicology. Her program included two works by Elizabeth Jacquet de La Guerre (1665-1729), a composer and court musician for Louis XIV. Ms. Flint played these virtuosic, sometimes contemplative, movements with grace and skill. The evening ended with Davitt Moroney on the 1635 Ruckers harpsichord, joining Ms. Flint in a “four hands” duet by Fran├žois Couperin (1668-1733).

Olivier Baumont performed a program entitled “Les Clavecinistes versaillais”. An exceptional artist and scholar, Mr. Baumont played works by eight different composers who performed at Versailles, including Couperin, Jean-Phillip Rameau, and an eight-year-old Mozart. After each piece, Mr. Baumont applauded the instrument he had played, reminding us how special and important each of the harpsichords is at the Barn at Flintwoods.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Delaware Symphony freebie

A free sample of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra's next season is available on CD, just by asking.

The "Listen Local" CD previews the DSO and its guest artists in the repertoire of the 2009-2010 classical series. Conductor David Amado also recorded a friendly and informative conversation with host Mark Mobley about the musical juxtapositions in each concert. They talk about lesser-known works of Mozart, Beethoven and Stravinsky to ever-popular Grieg, Dvorak, Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland and Kurt Weill.

Mark Mobley is the DSO's director of community engagement and frequent narrator. E-mail him at to request a copy of the audio guide.

A complete brochure also lists the coming children's and pops concerts at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, plus the champagne chamber series at the Hotel du Pont Gold Ballroom.

The Delaware Symphony Orchestra opens Sept. 25 and 26 with a piano showcase contrasting Gershwin, Ravel and Rachmaninov. The preview CD even has an excerpt of Rachmaninov himself playing his concerto.

New Ark Chorale sings in the dark

The sixth “American Tapestry” concert of the New Ark Chorale was played without light. The power at the Newark church cut out ten minutes after the singing began and no one – including Music Director Michael Larkin, the singers, or the pianist missed a lick. The song was How Can I Keep From Singing?

Pianist Wendy McNally played on in fading light and missed not a note as enthusiastic volunteers waved bright flashlights onto her music. Her playing was excellent the entire time. If your eyes had been closed you would not have known anything was amiss.

Kevin Muccheti, a high school senior, won the New Ark Chorale scholarship and played Chopin’s Polonaise Opus 26, No. 1 in the dark as well – to great applause. The New Ark Chorale presented him with a check for $2,500 toward his music education studies.

Guest artists Skip Roerich played percussion and John Gordon bass. Both were particularly effective as a walking bass introduction to Down By The Riverside,
a surprising arrangement by John Rutter with some great ragtime phrases for pianist Wendy McNally.

The second half of the concert saw the chorale at the back of the church allowing the singers to take advantage of the last bits of daylight for Larkin’s rearrangement of some of Ray Conniff’s famous love song medleys.

Longtime Chorale member and alto, Adele Knopf said, “There was never a doubt that the show would go on. Sunday's experience proved to us how well-rehearsed we are and how well we respond to our director's cues. All of us were especially impressed by the scholarship winner who played in the dark, and by our three accompanists who played both in the dark and at the opposite side of the room from where the choir had to sing. We'll be talking about this for quite some time.”

By the time the lights went back on, the audience had been won over by the great efforts to keep the show going. They happily joined in and sang along with the last few choruses.