Centennial Gala Concert Vignettes

Running from March until June 2015, vignettes illustrate the concepts behind the June 21 concert, and introduces its stars!

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Scott Henderson created a full-page ad for BMC’s June 21 Centennial Gala Concert, to run in the March 29 program for the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra concert. The gala is symbolized by a large treble clef encrusted with precious gems. Two of the most brilliant are sure to be sopranos Tracy Satterfield and Lindsey Nakatani.

Tracy blue diamondwill unite Richard Strauss’ “Serenade” (sung by a nightingale at twilight) with Rachmaninov’s “Sleep,” to produce a moment as fragile as a Fabergé egg. Lindsey will offer an inspired aria from Mozart’s “Shepherd King,” in which the theme is wreathed in melodic garlands for string quintet, flutes and violin obbligato (supplied by Roman Yearian, the concert’s most recent award laureate). Tracy’s songs too are made all the more magical by their accompaniments. Nancy Bussard suggested Cole Anderson as the perfect pianist (she has been a lifelong mentor to both artists), and he replied to Tracy, “I know both songs; they are two of my favorites.”

That’s been the story of this very special event. It’s a labor of love, created by BMC award recipients reaching across generations and continents to collaborate. Lindsay will interrupt her summer gig at Caramoor Music Festival for a flying visit; Roman will race back from Austin; Cole and his bride, pianist Siyuan Li, are stopping off on their way to engagements in China. To be continued.                             – Jack Frymire, March 2015.

vignette march 2015

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Our CeDonnellan, Joanne compntennial Gala concert on June 21st will open with an array of nine string players, drawn from elite BMC award winners over the years. Most are mid-career artists, who have flown in from around the country and beyond to honor the BMC and salute Joanne Donnellan, award winner in 1961 and still going strong. Their choice for an opener? The lush Prelude to Grieg’s “Holberg” Suite, which all but one of them learned at her knee.

Diaz, AlbertWe call them the Centennial Strings, and they are the backbone of our concert, morphing into quartets and quintets to partner pianists and singers in a kaleidoscope of favorites and novelties. But they will reunite at the opening of the second half, for the “Battle of the Bands.” One quintet will challenge with the Tango from the movie “Scent of a Woman.” Then a “rival” quintet (including guitarist Albert Diaz) will reply with the famed Boccherini Fandango. After which both groups will join in for that catchy theme played in the captain’s cabin in “Master and Commander.” As an 18th-century wit remarked, “God would write Haydn—but He’d listen to Boccherini for pleasure!”

In addition to Joanne, the Centennial Strings include (top row) violinists Grant Donnellan, Lisa Toner, Roman Yearian; violists Jeffrey Carl Johnson, David Quiggle; (bottom row) cellists Nick Strobel, Jonathan Thomson, and bassist Douglas Johnson. Next month we’ll zoom in on two buddies from Ferndale, whose storied careers as viola virtuosos led them to Spain, and all over the world: David Quiggle and Jeffrey Carl Johnson.      – Jack Frymire, April 2015

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THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME ON JUNE 21st
A Centennial Gala needs to be more than just a string of solo turns. Our aim was to create a 90-minute tapestry of collaborations, falling into four thematic chapters:
The reunion of Joanne Donnellan’s far-flung brood of Ferndale professionals, the Centennial Strings. Violists Jeffrey Carl Johnson and David Quiggle encapsulate the lifelong closeness of this intrepid “Band of Brothers.” Both studied with the great Walter Trampler at New England Conservatory; both migrated to the Symphony Orchestra of Galicia in La Coruña, Spain; both tour with bandArt Chamber Orchestra of Madrid (though David is now on the faculty of Ithaca College Conservatory).
“Sumstuart singsmer of 1916.” The Club was founded in the midst of upheaval. Ravel’s “La valse” is often read as the musical representation of the meltdown of the Old Order in World War I; Vaughan Williams’ “On Wenlock Edge” gives a voice to the unquiet ghost of a Shropshire lad killed in that conflict.
“The Latin Quarter.” If Spain was the dream, French composers were the dreamers; Turina went to Paris to learn how to compose Spanish music. Long after the Italian composer Boccherini went native on “The Streets of Madrid,” the Tango returned from Argentina to colonize both Spain and France (and yes, there will be a pair of surprise Tango dancers).
madeline plays“The Teutonic Trinity.”  We tapped three Classical heavyweights light enough on their feet to fit right into a Midsummer celebration: A melting aria from Mozart, Schubert’s leaping “Trout,” and Mendelssohn’s merry round of musical tag (Octet, Finale).
Got your Gala ticket yet? They’re on sale on our website, or at the usual outlets. I can’t think what enticements we can add without compromising your morals.
Jack Frymire, May 2015

king fm aug 2014

Stay tuned! Joanne Donnellan is heading to KING FM studios in Seattle later this month and will tape an interview that will air in June, as we get closer to the Gala Concert!

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We live in the Golden Age of pianists, which is to say, of piano-teaching. No doubt there are far more great pianists in the world today than great pianos for them to play on! Here in Bellingham, Western Washington University has long been a citadel of brilliant pianism, and a magnet school for gifted students. Throughout the town and county, excellent teachers are busy cultivating apt and diligent pupils.

Gala pianistsMembers and guests of the Bellingham Music Club have been the happy beneficiaries—mostly gratis—of this keyboard bounty, through appearances by guest artists, as well as recipients of the Enid Carrick and Virginia Glover awards, over the years. But you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! The Centennial Gala (two weeks from Sunday!) is, among other things, a mini piano festival. Performing on two matched Steinway grands (on loan from magnificently generous friends), Cole Anderson and Siyuan Li will demolish the ballroom with Ravel’s apocalyptic La valse, answered by Angelo Rondello‘s cascading renditions of both Ondine (also Ravel) and the Poulenc Toccata. We’ll be ready for the refreshing clarity of Schubert’s “Trout”  variations for quintet, which pianist Madeline Slettedahl has graciously learned for this performance.

Like all the other ensembles, it will be assembled in a single day of feverish rehearsal, after flights across time zones. The other pianists will also fan out into varied ensemble assignments: Turina‘s Escenas Andaluz sextet (backing David Quiggle’s solo viola), songs by Mozart, Rachmaninov, Vaughan Williams and Richard Strauss—all assembled in a day, but backed by many hours of expert preparation. (Meanwhile the Centennial Strings will pull together ensembles by Mendelssohn and Grieg, plus some famous dance pieces used in movies, in nonstop rehearsals beginning at their reunion dinner Friday, hosted by Joanne Donnellan.)

The names of these multiple BMC award winners will be familiar to members who have followed their careers. Many have come a long way to honor their teachers and this club on its Centennial, for which we are profoundly grateful. But grateful is as grateful does. Members and guests: The Bellingham Music Club is celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime anniversary on June 21st. It’s a Command Performance to which you are cordially invited.
           – Jack Frymire, June 2015