Five – count 'em – five ensembles performed under the banner of the Philharmonic Association starting on the morning of April 26 and ending shortly before 9:00 p.m. three days later. That's five of the PA's seven – you count 'em – performing groups (or include the three regional youth orchestras and you may make the count equal seven in those three days and nine, all told).
Two jazz bands will strut their stuff on May 18.
Oh, and there was also the first of two honors recitals on the afternoon of the 26th (with the second one coming May 10).
If I were the artistic director of this outfit, I believe I'd be crying out for some relief! But the work-load is admirably shared, so Hugh Partidge and Margaret Partridge and Marta C. Findlay-Partridge and Tim Kohring and Jacob Wenger and C. McCrae Hardy and Gregg Gelb and Lisa Burn (and their myriad assistants) do not have to be everywhere, all the time. (Whew!)
Anyway, the big events were the Sunday afternoon concert of the Triangle Youth Philharmonic and Tuesday evening's double-header in Meymandi Concert Hall involving the 85-member Triangle Youth Orchestra (the acronym for which seemed to be pronounced "toe"), with Assistant Conductor Wenger and Conductor Kohring sharing duties as the baton-meisters, and the 100-member Triangle Youth Symphony ("tys" as in "tis" with a short "i"), presided over by Hardy, with string coaching assistance from MCF-P.
I always seem to wind up talking about the size of these outfits but – when discussing orchestras – size (in terms of the number of strings) matters. Some of these players are littler people, still, than their adult counterparts, but the chairs are the same ones used by the PA's acknowledged professional orchestra backer, the NC Symphony, and believe you me, when you have 85 chairs on that stage – or, better still, 100 – it looks as impressive as it sounds when those chair occupants play!
The short first section of the evening featured music by Chevalier de Saint-Georges (whose full name is Joseph Boulogne Saint-Georges), Grieg, Mahler, and Larry Clark's "Engines of Resistance" plus that old ditty about the drunken sailor, as arranged by Grant Hull (a favorite of the old Navy boy who is writing this review – ah, those memories…). Wenger led the first two works, Kohring the last three. The orchestra sounded rich and full and seemed very well-managed. The largest piece was a little telescoped bit of tunes from Mahler's Symphony No. 1 which moved along at a very nice gait. The Clark number, with oodles of percussionists doing their thing, served as a very lively finale.
This part had begun with presentations of awards for perfect attendance. Part two did, also. It seemed noteworthy (to me) that there were no absentees (!) for these presentations – to 26 members of TYO and 39 of TYS (if I counted them correctly). Departing seniors were recognized before part two began; this is a very nice touch. Not all will continue in music but surely these youngsters represent the future of the art we seek to serve in the most tangible possible ways.
Hardy conducted the TYS in part two, which began with the wonderfully festive "Jubilee" by Chadwick (whom the conductor reckoned few would know about, but no one who ever saw the cover of the famous Mercury record will ever forget it or the music, once heard…; click here to see it).
There followed Bach's "Little" G Minor Fugue (S.578) as arranged by Lucien Cailliet.
And the finale was the last movement of the "New World" Symphony of Dvořák, which must be some kind of Top 10 item for youth orchestras, as we'd heard the DUSS play the same piece as its concert finale just three days before. (Yes, it's time for the youth orchestras to do their spring programs, as we said….)
In all these pieces, I had to keep reminding myself that this was not the PA's top orchestra. Indeed, I had to keep reminding myself that the players are all student musicians. None of the evening's conductors cut the young people any slack in terms of tempi. And the best work of the evening gave more than ample evidence of the excellence of the PA's overall program, the excellence of the teaching and coaching, and the excellence of these kids. One could close the eyes and hear the real McCoy in the fine concert room that is Meymandi, much more often than not.
On one count only were we let down: that has to be the sorriest PA system in captivity. Surely the City and the people who run this hall can do better!
We understand that adverse weather cut into rehearsals for this run of concerts (for TYP and the Tuesday night groups). Adverse weather slammed the hall at the end of this program too, to which too few of us had bothered to bring umbrellas or other rain-gear. It does not help that the performing arts center sidewalks routinely flood, meaning that patrons get their feet soaked even after the rain stops. It's just one more thing the City needs to address when it renovates the place.
For details of all the pending events, see the PA's website (above).