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Long awaited, eagerly anticipated and joyfully celebrated today, our North Carolina Museum of Art’s new permanent collection gallery is now officially open to the public. Throughout the day, the Plaza Music Stage and the Park Theater were filled with samplings representing the diverse cultures that make our state rich in so many different ways. The opening Festival, sponsored by Progress Energy, drew throngs of artists and art-lovers in spite of grey skies and a few sprinkles.
The highlight of the day was the official Opening Ceremony at 6:30 p.m. following a concert featuring the Carolina Brass, a part of the tenth season of the Sights and Sounds on Sundays concert series co-sponsored by the Museum and the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild. World class musicians from the Greensboro Symphony and the Winston-Salem Symphony comprise the ensemble: Timothy Hudson and Dennis de Jong, trumpets, Robert Campbell, French horn, David Wulfeck, trombone, and Matt Ransom, tuba. They were joined by the versatile guest artist John Beck, percussion, who played drums, the xylophone, bells, whistles, kazoos and a variety of other noise-makers (respectfully) called for in the last selection.
The program opened, appropriately, with “Carolina in the Morning,” words by Gus Kahn and music by Walter Donaldson, 1922, and arranged for brass quintet by Arthur Frackenpohl. We then heard a suite of music from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, arranged by the peripatetic New York Broadway trombonist Jack Gale.
Giovanni Gabrieli’s “Canzona per Sonare No. 4” brought the regal counterpoint of late 16th century Venice to Raleigh with style and precision. For my taste, the music of this period and especially that of Gabreli defines the brass quintet to its best advantage. Next on the program we had a deliciously served slice of J.S. Bach – “My Spirit Be Joyful,” from one of the Easter cantatas. Bach sounds good no matter what, and this piece was played joyously by the Carolina Brass.
The North Carolina Museum of Art, the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild, and Carolina Brass jointly commissioned the gifted local composer J. Mark Scearce, director of the Music Department at North Carolina State University, to compose a special piece for this occasion. Ceremonies for Brass Quintet is comprised of seven short movements, some of them clearly celebratory fanfares, some of them hymn or anthem like. The outdoor performance required that the music be held firm in the manner familiar to musicians: with spring-loaded clothes-pins. This in turn resulted in taking more time between the movements than was intended. Nevertheless, it was a stirring and thrilling piece. Although Carolina Brass performs frequently in the Triangle, this was the ensemble’s debut on the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild’s “Sights and Sounds” series of concerts, presented at the North Carolina Museum, often in conjunction with special touring art shows.
Carolina Brass continued the program with W.C. Handy’s American classic, “St. Louis Blues” and a gorgeous performance of Gershwin’s “Summertime,” with Jeff Richmond joining the quintet, playing the mellow flugelhorn. The closing selection by Joe Green (arr. Beck) was entitled “Xylophonia” and featured Beck playing the xylophone, cowbells, bicycle horns, the kazoo, and various other bits in a tribute to the John Philip Sousa and Spike Jones eras of American band music. It was a rousing piece and pure delight to hear.
For the official Opening Ceremony, we heard a reprise of the concluding fanfare, the seventh movement from Scearce’s marvelous creation, followed by glowing and proud comments by George Holt, Director of Performing Arts and Film Programs, Lawrence J. Wheeler, the Director of the North Carolina Museum of Art, Linda A. Carlisle, Secretary of the NC Department of Cultural Resources, and Lloyd M. Yates, CEO and President of Progress Energy Carolinas.
All of the events of this grand opening week end mark the beginning of an era of great enrichment for the folks of North Carolina.