Classics in June 2018 and packed with talent
Usually a delightful event, the annual fundraising concert organised by the Kingston chapter of Soroptimist International was packed with extra talent this year. There were no fewer than 10 musicians (singers and instrumentalists) in the three-hour-long show held at the Church of the Ascension, Mona, on Sunday.
To that number, one should add another performer the witty master of ceremonies, Pierre Lemaire. He had a quotation for just about every composition and individual, one of the most apt being his statement that when well played, the black and white keys of a piano could sound "like a million colours".
He was referring to the sublime interpretation by pianist Stephen Shaw-Naar, of Chopin Etudes, Op 10 (movements 1, 2, 9 and 10), but Shaw-Naar also deserved thanks and praise for his contribution to the concert as a whole.
In addition to his solo item, he accompanied other performers, a total of 18 times, accommodating numerous musical styles and moods. Though he was perspiring profusely by intermission, when asked by The Gleaner if he was finding the playing onerous, he replied, "No, it's fun."
That answer might have been expected from the gifted musician. Also a professional singer, he got the Prime Minister's National Youth Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2001, and now, equipped with a both a bachelor's and a master's degree in music, he lectures in piano and music theory at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.
Another outstanding young musician at the concert was Santorini degli Arcangeli. His flexible tenor voice often got very dramatic in his first appearance with his singing of Comfort Ye My People Ev'ry Valley Shall be Exalted from Handel's popular oratorio Messiah. The singer was as entertaining when he returned to sing, in German, Richard Strauss' Zueignung (Dedication), and the Schumann/Liszt composition Liebeslied (Love Story).
But he most impressed the audience when, accompanied by other musicians on various instruments, he sang the lyrical The Dark Voyage, from his own cantata, Elegy. The imagery-filled composition, the only original one of the evening, is about a traveller setting sail across hazardous seas, trying to reach safe shores.
Also noteworthy, because it was as curious as it was pleasing, was the offering of Dr David Aarons, who holds a PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Washington. He played two items which, at first, would seem inappropriate for his musical instrument.
The pieces were the Allegro from Bach's Violin Concerto in A minor BWY 1041 and a waltz and he played both on a steel (tenor) pan. He told The Gleaner that, in fact, the violin concerto was popular with steel bands.
VERVE and SINCERITY
Three songs by soprano Rosette Salazar were at odds with the Classics in June title of the concert. Still, though not classics, the songs If I Loved You (from the musical Carousel); Can't Help Lovin' dat Man (from Showboat) and the Spiritual Ride on King Jesus were sung with verve and sincerity and greatly pleased the audience.
In-between and around the performers mentioned so far came others with a variety of delightful music. Dawn Fuller-Phillips (mezzo-soprano) started the concert with a soulful rendition of O Praise the Lord (Maurice Greene) and sang beautifully every other time she appeared. Dr Althea Neblett showed her mastery of the oboe when she played, solo, Poulnec's Sonata for Oboe and Piano and Alan Richardson's Sonatina for Oboe and Piano.
Guitarist Shawn Richards brought a lively Latin flavour to the evening with compositions by Eduardo Sainz de la Maza and Alfonso Montes, but was soothing when he accompanied Laurice Barnaby (flute) with Gabriel Faure's Pavane. Violinist Gabriel Walters was particularly pleasing with Jules Massenet's Meditation from Thais.
The concert ended with Shaw-Naar accompanying the singing by Salazar, Fuller-Phillips, Arcangeli and Clayton Blake (bass) who had not appeared previously of a Mendelssohn composition.