An elevated musical variety show
The format--an elevated musical variety show--matched the intent--the bringing together of artists, church people and social causes to their mutual edification, enjoyment, and endowment. In this case, Concert4aCause, a group of like-minded, service-oriented mostly musicians, put together an always surprising show at Northside Community Church one Sunday night in early October with the proceeds going to Avalon Housing, a non-profit that provides supportive housing for people with extremely low incomes. This wasn't the first such show Concert4aCause has put on--shows from the last two years have benefited the Red Cross, SafeHouse, and the School for Yoga Action. It may or may not have had the widest assortment of performers, but the performers and the sequence was always--always--surprising.
The show started with Charles Ives' The Side Show, an offbeat fanfare performed by trombonist Randall Hawes and pianist Kathryn Goodson, then followed it with Goodson tearing into The Alcotts, Ives' Beethovenian depiction of family life, with giddy virtuosity. So far, so good--and then came Dina Soresi Winter's magnificently inflected declamation of Arvia MacKaye Ege's "A Bitter Fruit" and eurythmist Claudia Fontana's luminously diaphanous interpretation of that same text through the marvels of rhythmic movement.
Next, trombonist Hawes returned with cellist Sarah Cleveland for a beautifully played and wonderfully playful pair of duets: a bit of wit from the French baroque by Boismortier and a dab of Old Argentina in the form of Un Choro em Buenos Aires by Gilberto Gagliardi. Last up before intermission was the most unusual grouping yet: a sensitive account of Chopin's E-flat major Nocturne by pianist Adrienne Clark, another grandiloquent reading by Soresi Winter with another pellucid series of movements from Fontana on Soloviof's Immanuel, and finally the return of Cleveland for a highly dramatic take on Chopin's Funeral March arranged for cello and piano.
The same performers returned in somewhat different configurations in the second half with Hawes and Goodson together enjoying the delights of Pascal's Sonate en 6 minutes 30, Cleveland alone playing three movements
of Bach's G major Cello Suite with an ideal balance of control and freedom, then Cleveland joined by Clark, Fontana, and Soresi Winter for The Swan as described in poetry by Ogden Nash, music by Saint-Saens, and movement by Rudolf Steiner. The grand climax came when the mighty baritone Chris Grapentine joined Goodson for a trio of all-American songs: Ives' "Charlie Rutlage" and Copland's "At the River" and "Ching-a-Ring." The first and last were funny and exhilarating respectively, but the central song, delivered with massive dignity and passionate intensity by Grapentine, seemed to lift Northside Church six inches above its foundation.
Heaven only knows what Concert4aCause will turn in this time--a January 31 show for the Family Learning Institute--though Goodson has hinted at Schubert definitely, Beethoven probably, and Strauss, maybe.
[Originally published in January, 2010.]