The Salisbury Symphony Orchestra presented its annual Family Concert in Varick Auditorium on the campus of Livingstone College, with the inimitable David Hagy as Music Director and Conductor. There were so many stars in this performance that there must be fewer in the skies right now.
"What do opera singers have to do with Peter Piper and his pickled peppers?" you ask. Well, Teresa Radomski, soprano, and Doug Crawly, baritone sang an entire alphabet of these tongue twisters, with nary a slip of the tongue, to music composed by Micah Levy (b. 1953). Mr. Levy, a composer and conductor, used the late 18th century English book Peter Piper's Practical Principles of Plain and Perfect Pronunciation as the source for this work of the same name. He was on hand to start out the silliness by narrating "Andrew Airpump asked his aunt her ailment" before turning the rest of the alphabet over to the soloists to present their renditions of these alliterations. Even the orchestra got into the act with sounds like empty eggshells from the percussion, and retching from the trombones and contra bassoon.
The concert opened, however, with two rising stars. First, 12-year-old violinist Dustin Wilkes-Kim played Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28 by Camille Saint-Saens. Dustin lives in Winston-Salem and made his solo debut with the Winston-Salem Symphony Orchestra in 2008. He has also won a number of prestigious competitions. His performance was nothing short of amazing, with clarity of line and a virtuoso technique.
The next stellar performance came from 13-year-old Richard He, who played the third movement of Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky's (1840/93) Concerto No. 1 for piano and orchestra. Richard had also appeared as piano soloist with the Winston-Salem Symphony in 2008, and has won awards in many local and state competitions. This concerto is a virtuosic tour-de-force, and Richard had what it took to play it, and so he did with great beauty and expertise.
Now, if all that weren't enough, there was still another half of the concert left, starting with a robust performance by "Surprise Guests," The Livingstone College Concert Choir and The Catawba Singers of Catawba College performing "Hail, Poetry" from The Pirates of Penzance by W. S. Gilbert (1836-1911) and Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900).
After Peter Piper picked his pickled peppers, the orchestra played the presto movement from Mozart's Divertimento, K. 136, while the All-County Fifth Grade Honors Chorus assembled on stage and along the side aisles to sing "There is Beauty in the Bellow of the Blast" from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, and "A Modern Major General" from The Pirates of Penzance. They somehow managed to get all those words out in time with the orchestra and with rather good precision. But, of course, that is what the concert was all about: "Perfect Pronunciation."
The Honors Chorus was then joined by the Livingstone and Catawba choirs to present excerpts from the Finale to Act I of The Pirates of Penzance. This was partially acted out on stage by Teresa Radomski, Doug Crawley, and four singers from the Catawba College production of the operetta. With the choirs lining both sides of the auditorium from front to back, the surround sound was simply stunning, bringing a grand closure to the concert and a standing ovation from the audience.