At Bösendorfer Hall on June 27, Eric Hale, Master of Ceremonies, introduced himself after breaking the ice singing Guido's Song from the musical Nine . He then presented what he described as the evening's blockbuster (sic) opening act: Raleigh's admirable James Longmire, bass-baritone, whose rendition of "Das Fischermadchen," from Schubert's Schwanengesang , was enchanting. His richly resonant voice seemed to match the lush quality of the Bösendorfer Imperial grand piano; he should perhaps endorse the instrument and prepare an entire recital with his accompanist, Susan Timmons. The Schubert Lieder that the audience obviously enjoyed were however too brief for the great effort of walking on and off stage, and the first of the two, "Der Atlas" (also from Schwanengesang ) suffered from the unrelenting resonance of the Bösendorfer. The voice was overpowered even though the piano lid was on the short stick. It could have been closed or the artists might have remembered to have someone listen for balance in rehearsal.
Next, Timmons was joined at the Bösendorfer Imperial by Abbi Modjeska. They were introduced as amateurs, but you could have fooled me. Impeccably, they played Brahms' Hungarian Dances Nos. 6, 7, 5, and 1, in that order. Timmons took the primo position for the first two and secondo for the final dances after exchanging places with Modjeska.
Next we were treated to a group of popular songs sung alternately by Laurel Harris and Megan Lumsden. Harris's natural and winning Broadway style activated "I Got Rhythm" and facilitated an expressive performance of "Waiting for Life to Begin," from Once On This Island , and, later, "Christmas Lullaby," a Christian song. Lumsden appeared tentative although engaging in "Vienna" by Frank Wildhorn and really got into the spirit of "Shine It On" from The Act .
As he presented the award-winning young pianist Vivian Cheng, emcee Hale announced that every program needs to begin and end with something spectacular. She brought out the best in the Bösendorfer Imperial as she played Bach's Prelude and Fugue No. 1, from The Well-Tempered Clavier , and Chopin's Ballade No. 1. The final Ravel Toccata was a rapid-fire execution by well-tempered fingers performing brilliantly.
In the future, a printed program is highly recommended as a tangible vehicle with which new artists can further their careers. If this is a volunteer showcase, having a printed program is a mutually supportive way Ruggero Piano can thank the participants.
Hale invited the audience to suggest local artists who would enjoy the new showcase opportunity called "Friday Night Mix at Bösendorfer Hall". At the level of the opening concert, free to the public, this is well worth attending. A reception followed at which the audience could meet the artists. Career-building needs supportive showcasing such as this, which is being selectively offered by the Ruggeros.