Trumpet virtuoso Ryan Anthony and organist/pianist Gary Beard appeared in concert at Brevard College's Porter Center for the Performing Arts and charmed their way into many hearts with their easy rapport and seemingly inexhaustible supply of jokes. Until 2003, Anthony performed with the Canadian Brass; he is currently the interim principal trumpet with the Dallas Symphony. In the fall, he will assume their Principal Trumpet chair while continuing as a solo artist. Beard is active at Lindenwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Memphis, as conductor of the Lindenwood Chancel Choir and the Gary Beard Chorale.
I was put on my guard when a glance revealed their program was drawn largely from a newly-minted CD and the multiple references throughout their performance to the availability of CDs in the lobby framed the afternoon as a "selling opportunity." Furthermore, I was disappointed to learn that the programming consisted largely of arrangements of music composed for other media, everything from an Albinoni violin concerto to a Mozart aria. With the existing plethora of original works for their instruments, their programming choices fell well short of their collective talents. The magnificent Daniel Jaeckel organ was reduced to a "theater" instrument, and Beard's playing never came close to exploiting its possibilities.
The two men were certainly good humored and full of themselves, though, and they clearly enjoyed exploiting the possibilities of performing in various locations in the hall. The program opened with the familiar "Fanfare/Trumpet Voluntary" by Jeremiah Clarke, with Anthony processing from the back of the hall to the stage. Rapport with Beard was kept via a big screen on stage showing the organist at the console (invisible to the audience and high aloft in the balcony above the stage) while Beard viewed Anthony on stage on a monitor. Such cumbersome visual aids didn't preclude their impressive ensemble work throughout the afternoon.
Next came Tommaso Albinoni's Concerto Saint-Marc, with Anthony still performing on stage. An arrangement of Fauré's "Après un rêve," played with both musicians stationed in the balcony, featured a clunky organ part which would have fared better on the piano, where the harmonies could have been better blended. "Grand Russian Fantasy" by cornet virtuoso Jules Levy followed, with Anthony slipping back downstairs to take the stage. Its final variation was a splendid display of quadruple tonguing and an impressive trumpet cadenza. The last pieces before intermission were improvisations on "Danny Boy," the festive "Trumpet Tune" (for solo organ) by David German, the former minister of music at Charlotte's Calvary Church, and a lights-out rendition of "Amazing Grace."
After intermission was another Italian concerto, the Vivaldi Concerto in A flat. "Dreams of Karen" by Roy Milligan was an expressive homage to the daughter of a former teacher. The vengeance aria "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinen Herzen" from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte sounded surprisingly easy when played on the piccolo trumpet. Would Mozart have been delighted or offended by the orchestral transcription to organ? "Echoes of Harlem" by Duke Ellington, once arranged by Luther Henderson for the Canadian Brass, was refashioned yet again for this duo and performed with exceptional expressivity and nuance. Gershwin's mellow ballad "Someone to Watch Over Me" in a Turrin arrangement highlighted Anthony's perfect control of this jazz favorite. The concert concluded with Clarke's "Carnival of Venice." Anthony announced that he'd selected his favorite variations from three different arrangements, and he encouraged the audience to assist him through this knuckle buster, which the audience enthusiastically did.
I guess the concert was a success, if one judges such events by audience enthusiasm, and, of course, those brisk sales of CDs in the lobby. Having heard what they were capable of playing, however, I, for one, came away feeling cheated.