These Kids 'Rock' On The Piano
The Orange County Symphony, conducted by Dr. David Rentz, opened its 2014-15 season on Sunday night (Sept 28th) with a dazzling array of young pianists in the lead roles.
Left: Concertmaster Seunjai Chung tunes his violin.
Presenting the winners of the California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT) Annual Concerto Competition was such a success last year that the audience was eager for the repeat. It is remarkable beyond words that such extraordinary musical gifts can reside in people so young. Of course, we all know that that there are child prodigies, but to see them perform is always stunning.
With the piano center stage the conductor was somewhat hidden from view but not to the extent that you could not see him and the soloists catch each other’s eyes at the crucial points when orchestra and pianist needed most to co-ordinate.
The evening opened with Beethoven’s overture to The Consecration of the House – a mostly unfamiliar piece. The soft, slow opening seemed to show up some nervousness in the orchestra, and the bassoons got unfortunately buried in the swell as the music picked up and the players found their stride. So much attention would later be riveted on the soloists that is it best to remark here that the orchestra was, for the entire evening, extremely good. One regular told me that when he closed his eyes and just listened he could tell no difference between this and any performance by the Pacific Symphony under the baton of Carl St. Clair!
With Felix Mendelssohn’s buoyant Piano Concerto No. 1 in G Minor came soloist No. 1 – Elizabeth Zietz, a 9th grader at Northwood High School. A slender girl with flowing black hair and red evening gown she showed complete command at the keyboard. Sometimes bending low watching her fingers ripple up and down the arpeggios, sometimes swaying back, eyes closed, she charmed her audience with her performance.
There being no obvious place to hand over the piano duties to another player there came the switch when Elizabeth left the stage while the orchestra played and 12 year old Victor Shlyakhtenko took command. And take command, he did! He may even have had the harder shift. With white shirt and black bowtie he showed no hesitation with the flourishes and complexities of the music. Occasionally a slight, relaxed smile would spread across his face, only to be picked up and returned by the ever attentive David Rentz.
Victor and Elizabeth receive applause
The intermission brings its usual hubbub of photographs in the foyer, glasses of wine for those needing lubrication, and opportunity drawing tickets managed as usual with great care by the Key Clubbers. In fact it was appropriate on this occasion that Mike Anderson and Dorothy Rose presented certificates of recognition to Frank Barry (Key Club organizer) for his many years of service to the kids and the nonprofits of Anaheim, Naturally Shirley McCracken was also called out for applause. And in another very fine touch, the OCS also invited onto the stage Chris Sarkissian, owner of Pepz Pizza who over the years has provided the orchestra with pizza on their arrival at the theatre.
Come the second part of the evening and the conductor presented Wan-Chin Chang, piano, to play the Cesar Frank Symphonic Variations. Wan Chin usually sits with the first violins, but it should be noted that she is equally at home on the piano. Considering that she is Doctor of Musical Arts from USC and teaches in many fine arts schools, including Soka University, it was a delight to watch her perform. Her long, peach colored gown perfectly toned in with the stage backdrop!
Before the final piece of the evening Dr. Minji Noh, no stranger on the piano with the OCS, joined David Rentz to give an overview of the Concerto Competition and present the awards. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, small figures appeared out of the audience – pianists all- to receive their trophies. Have no doubt, the future of classical piano is in good hands!
Just some of the prize winners with Dr. Minji Noh. Mike Anderson (President) and Dorothy Rose (Exec Director) stand behind, watching.
Emily Wang performed the last concerto piece of the evening – the well known Piano Concerto in A Minor by Edvard Grieg. As soon as Emily played the first four chords everyone in the Servite auditorium knew they were in for a treat. They were not disappointed. She is currently a senior at Troy with a broad range of interests. Very tall, with a midnight blue gown, she displayed total mastery in every way. We had been prepared by Dr. Rentz to expect a long cadenza (when the pianist plays without orchestra, and can put all their own individuality into the interpretation) and therefore scrutinized every nuance, every extra legato effect, every joyous romp up and down the keys, until you saw the orchestra slowly get their instruments ready to pitch in for the final triumphant conclusion.
People were going home very happy.
It was an ebullient Erika Miller who bounced up to the microphone at a recent City Council meeting (Sept 23rd) to share the news of ever growing popularity and success at The Chance. The company has recently received another two Ovation Award nominations. These Southern California awards are for excellence in theatre and are given out by the Los Angeles Stage Alliance – the only peer-judged theatre awards in LA.
Erika called our special mention for the opening musical of the year, Lysistrata Jones, which was also featured for its fine choreography.
The current show is Maple and Vine, dubbed by the New York Times as “a clever, sharply drawn fantasy... makes a sneaky, compelling case for the seductions of living the Ozzie and Harriet life." With a wide grin Erika reminded the City Council that this was not a show for the kids!
And whereas we thought we had seen the last of the Reindeer Monologues after years of exposure to the harsh winter winds and snow of California, out came the news – they are BACK, by popular demand.
Stage Door Rep Three Year Anniversary
Can you believe it? Stage Door Repertory Theatre has now been playing to full houses for three full years and will celebrate its anniversary on Saturday October 4th. They have a special evening planned starting at 6:15pm for food, comedy, music and more; plus the main show at 7pm with announcements of the biggest and boldest 2015 season. All this for only $35!
Also of huge significance is that a few months ago SDR acquired the adjacent property to be able to expand their theatre operation. Note: buying more space is the way to go with growing Anaheim theatres! The extra accommodation provides for a scene workshop, proper changing space and green room for the actors, office space, etc. Whilst being a greater drain on the coffers, this is also indicative of a theatre with a strong audience base whose regular support makes this expansion possible. Congratulation to Nick and Julie Charles who have so diligently steered the enterprise to ongoing success. Here’s the link for the full details.
ACT – Anaheim Community Theatre
This group which prides itself on being able to set first time actors off on a stage career has been pulling in the crowds recently, and that to very appreciative audiences.
The threat of closure has been hanging over the heads of the theatre company with the possibility that the church hall may be leased off to an outside entity. We’ll have to check up and let you know.
Meanwhile The Diary of Anne Frank may be the last show in the space completing a splendid run that started off many years ago - with the same play. The play opens Friday October 10th and closes on Sunday October 19th.
As an added bonus for the Arts Council cast members will be at the next General Meeting on October Thursday 2nd. I anticipate we will see a scene from the play and get a strong encouragement to go see the full play at the First Presbyterian Church, on Broadway, where the company is based.
Debbie Reynolds Coming To APACF
Debbie Reynolds, darling of stage, screen and television in the 1950s and 60s, and her never-to-be-forgotten role opposite Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain, and later in her title role in The Unsinkable molly Brown, will be the celebrity guest at this year’s Great Gatsby Gala with the Anaheim Performing Arts Center Foundation.
Regular readers will know that the mission of APACF is to build a state of the arts performing arts center right here in California’s 10th largest city. They sensed the frustration when the Heritage Forum, widely tipped to be the location of the new facility, was bought by The Rock Church.
Now, after a prolonged silence about the plans, members of the City Council revealed at a recent Candidate’s Forum that the likely new venue will be the building of the City National Grove of Anaheim, right next to the Anaheim Angels Stadium.
However nothing is sure and until it’s all signed and sealed. The Grove’s lease has about a year to run when it is projected that some sort of deal could be hatched, maybe in conjunction with the current leaseholders Nederlander, to strip out and reconstruct the building to meet the requirements of the Foundation. Probably the main challenge will be to keep the City Council and staff focused on the main objective, ensuring that they thoroughly embrace the mission.
The annual galas in Anaheim Hills, fundraisers towards the main capital fund, have invariably been spectacular. The change of date from August to the fall is smart because the summer heat had become almost too much. The location is the same – the lovely home of Dr. Howie and Mrs. Linda Knohl of Fox Pointe Manor. With Fritz Coleman, weatherman from NBC4 as the host and many fine entertainers, vendors, and surprises this promises to be a fine event. Please click the image below to get the full details. Date to reserve - 1st November.