By Mary-Justine Lanyon
Before the musicians from the Riverside Philharmonic took the stage at the Arrowhead Arts Association’s fall concert, the young musicians from Mountain Top Strings began what proved to be a magnificent afternoon of music.
The 13 young strings players performed five pieces: “Temenn Sinfonia,” “Shenandoah,” “Blue Tango,” “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and “Take 5.”
Prior to the Sept. 17 concert, director Sharon Rizzo told the Alpine Mountaineer that the Mountain Top Strings would be playing a sampler of baroque, folk, tango, rock and jazz.
Valerie, who was visiting from Riverside and had heard the Philharmonic’s concert there the previous night, said that hearing the young strings players was “an unexpected treat.” Their standing ovation was well deserved.
Ken Camarella, president of the Arrowhead Arts Association, welcomed the full house at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church by asking, “Would you like your child or grandchild to play like this?” He went on to say that the strings program had been started by Arrowhead Arts 22 years ago with just 35 students. Today there are more than 100 who are benefiting from the program.
Camarella also described the other music education programs offered to local students. He introduced Sarah Shumate, who teaches those programs, and welcomed her to the podium to conduct the Philharmonic in the playing of the national anthem.
Tomasz Golka, the music director of the Philharmonic, then stepped forward and began the afternoon’s concert. He described the first piece, Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto, as having “lush harmonies and dissonances. This is one of the great violin concertos,” he added.
Parts of the concerto – in which Concertmaster Sam Fischer was the soloist – were light and lively while others were loud and forceful. In parts Fischer appeared to attack the violin. A number of instruments were the focus of the piece throughout.
Chris Levister, president of the Blue Jay Jazz Foundation, said the dissonance of the piece reminded her of the dissonance of war. People may have been in chaos “but music was used to keep us together.”
Maestro Golka then conducted the Philharmonic in his orchestration of Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor. It begins with a solo cello playing the subject of the Passacaglia (which is a set of variations built on a repeating bass line). Gradually more and more instruments – including chimes, a marimba and a vibraphone – are added to the mix. The overall effect of this orchestration is magnificent. One audience member described it like different layers of a story that come together.
After a brief intermission, the Philharmonic offered Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 in E minor. Maestro Golka alternately coaxed more out of the orchestra and indicated he wanted a softer sound. Meanwhile, he conducted with his whole body, often crouching down and appearing to dance.
While traditionally audiences do not applaud between movements of a symphony, the enthusiastic crowd at this concert did. After they applauded after the third movement, Maestro Golka slightly turned to them, saying, “And now we have an encore for you.”
As the audience prepared to leave, Camarella asked them to consider becoming members of Arrowhead Arts and making donations to underwrite the educational programs they offer to local students. To learn more about Arrowhead Arts and to make a donation, visit www.arrowheadarts.org.