Friday, April 10, 2009

Millennium Stage - The Gulport High School Orchestra - Mozart, Bach, Hindmarsh, Vivaldi, Villa-Lobos and Still - 04/08/09

Conductor: Billy Ulmer
Mozart: Divertimento in F
Bach: Concerto in D Minor - Vivace
Bridge/Hindmarsh: Scherzo Phantastick
Vivaldi: Concerto in B-flat Major for Violin, Violoncello and Orchestra
Villa-Lobos: Bachinas Brasileiras, No 5
Still: Danzas de Panama - Tamborito & Cumbia

My musical week started with a delightful surprise when my friend Patty asked me if I'd be interested in joining her to check out The Gulfport High School Orchestra at the Millennium Stage on Wednesday. This is where she went to high school back in the days (Not that long ago, really) and she was keen on showing them some support while enjoying an early evening musical hour. It's near my office, it's free... and it often features some little-known but amazingly talented artists in various fields of the performing arts. Needless to say she didn't have to twist my arm.

And these high schoolers turned out to be quite engaging musicians. Once one got past their natural adolescent awkwardness, their still developing talent and some hard-to-contain jitters, things went pretty smoothly.
The performance started predictably enough with the sure value that is Mozart, and his Divertimento, while a bit rough around the edges at times, also displayed evident commitment and seriousness from the orchestra members.
The first movement of Bach's Concerto in D Minor featured two violinists, Tristan Harrell and Kristina Russell, who more or less delicately managed to bring out the music's intricate nuances.
The highlight of the hour though, came from the duo of violinist Alba Madrid and cellist Daniel Martinez, who performed a spirited Scherzo Phantastick, which was no short of fantastic indeed after a rather tentative beginning, immediately followed by a lovely concerto by Vivaldi. The dialogue between the two soloists quickly grew more assured and ended up being totally sure-footed.
Widely known as the most important Brazilian composer of all times, Heitor Villa-Lobos wrote various works inspired by Brazilian folk music and the European classical tradition, and the most popular of his Bach-influenced Bachianas Brasileiras, No 5, was a neat introduction to his oeuvre, courtesy of Soprano MaryAnn Kyle.
We wrapped up this too short hour with a Caribbean-colored piece written by "the dean" of African-american composers, Williams Grant Still, who broke racial barriers in the musical world in more ways than one. Tamborito and Cumbia from his Danzas de Panama, inspired by Panamian dance themes, was a fun-filled conclusion to an unplanned but very enjoyable mid-week quickie. Thanks, Patty!

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