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  • David Kiser

Crescent Music Club Recital Review 2024

-6:45 PM, May 7, 2024. White Oak Baptist Church across from Bob Jones University



I thought it was important to document this event organized by Crescent Music Club for many years in Greenville, SC. Crescent is the local Greenville Chapter of the National Federation of Music Clubs that in their meetings take elements from church services, recitals, and the women's social clubs of the past all into one with an emphasis on education and the next generation of musicians, so thus the: Scholarship recital.

A few disclaimers: I teach or have taught a vast majority of these students but I am by no means their main teacher who is Lisa Kiser. Another disclaimer is that my daughter performed in this recital and still another is that I was a former scholarship recipient a number of years ago and one more! I am an honorary member of the club. So please interests are vested, much.

The program was led the Sarah Gentry, President, and Janice Flinte and Gilda Hendricks, Scholarship Committee co-chairs, with the customary NFMC collect, hymn and introduction [poetry reading was skipped this time]. Anne Braswell received an award and John Gentry accompanied the singer.

The young kids see the older kids play. I could write that again and again. Here we have the older students inspiring and lighting the fires underneath the impressionable ones and what good impressions they were left with. All are winners of their respective scholarships. You can find out more by visiting: https://crescentmusicclub.org/. And students, here are quotes you can use in your future professional lives. The piano students are all students of Lisa Kiser.

Brooke Carrier (grade 12) -- with accompaniment from her mother Julie Carrier-- a clarinet student of Mary AllyeB Purtle (yes that is the correct spelling of her unique name which she will tell you about) started the program with a broad toned and pleasing rendition of the Andantino from the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano by Leonard Bernstein, which was published in 1942 and it was his first publication! A two movement work, you could hear them bring out the Latin flare, with the coolness of Hindemith inspired phrasing. That was a good start to the recital and for the many piano students sitting there a good taste of what sonatas for clarinet and piano are.

Next Eleanor Kiser (grade 3) played Wistful Waltz by Mary Leaf. Eleanor gave a sensitive performance of the work that requires skilled use of pedal and control of the balance between accompaniment and melody. It was her "final" performance of the piece this year before she puts it to rest, to which she said "I like that piece though."

Victoria Staples (grade 4) gave a dynamic and form-sensitive rendition of Kuhlau's Sonatina in G major, op. 55, No. 2, the first movement. These sonatinas require much dexterity and skill in rapid passagework and scales and one always must be in control of the tempo as it can easily run away from you.

Sonia Okunev (grade 5) performed Mozart's dazzlingly difficult Sonata in D major, K. 311, 1st mvt. by Mozart. This was a mature performance beyond her years and once again I was reminded of the spiritual beauty of Mozart's music that was well-loved by the writer Thomas Bernhard.

Owen Ancona (grade 6) gave a determined and concentrated performance of another Kuhlau Sonatina: Op. 55 No. 3, the first movement. This one contains a number of hazardous 16th note passages that he played with aplomb. He presented himself like a seasoned professional.

Bryan Ouyang (grade 7) played a masterful Berceuse or cradle song by Frederick Chopin. Because this concert was on a school night and during a state testing week students had to cut their pieces to around 3 or 4 minutes. Bryan with fleet fingers captured the flighty, dreamlike quality of the work which starts by putting you to sleep to only throw you into a dreamscape of considerable excitement with only the ostinato left hand (the same throughout the piece with one or two exceptions) to remind you that you are sleeping.

Yuchen Lin (grade 9) followed up with another dreamlike piece the third movement of Gargoyles by Lowell Liebermann, who is a respected composer of modern piano music. Yuchen drew us in with even handling of the endless 16th notes, navigating a small memory slip with much skill. There was an audible gasp from the audience as the music flew to the top register of the keyboard and just disappeared into thin air (setting the stage for the raging toccata that ends the piece that Yuchen also knows but did not perform on this occasion).

Andrew Ning (grade 10) performed an abridged version of Rachmaninoff’s Second Sonata in B-flat Minor. He reminds me of the Pollini/Michelangeli school of piano playing where cool perfectionism presides over the interpretation. He showed a clear understanding of the architecture, saving the loudest fortissimo for the climax of the development.

Carter Saccocio (grade 12) gave an improvisatory and moving rendition of Reena Esmail’s Varsha, a piece for cello solo. He played an abridged version of the young Indian-American composer’s piece. Carter, who studies with Daria Janssen, played with the confidence and expression of a seasoned concert artist.

Henry Sun (grade 12) gave an abridged performance of all the fiendishly difficult sections of Chopin’s Ballade No. 4 in F minor, a quixotic, legendary piece in the piano repertoire with a coda that is feared by all. Perhaps taking a too fast tempo in the coda I was amazed he could get all those notes out. I’ve heard Henry play this piece a few times and as recent 2nd prize winner of the Asheville Area Piano Forum Competition the audience erupted in applause during the fermata pause before the coda. I told him to leave the pedal down and I thought it worked this time.

Olyvia Fan and Renee Wang (grades 12) played movements three and four from Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite (primo and secondo parts, respectively). Starting off a bit rocky, they locked step and gave a really wonderful, stylistically accurate, and delicate performance. They have only been playing together the past year or so and I told them that I wished they would have started earlier! While they go their separate ways to college I hope they will meet to play piano four hands in the future.

Maggie Ledford (grade 10) sang two songs for us with John Gentry accompanying at the piano. A student of Kimilee Bryant, Maggie’s voice was immediately arresting in Amarilli, mi Bella by Caccini. She did a musical theater number which showcased a different side of her personality and acting skills and I applaud her for going out of her comfort zone. (I didn’t catch the song name, but it was about monkeys?)

Jason Zhang (grade 12) gave everyone’s favorite performance of the evening of the entertaining rag Serpent’s Kiss by William Bolcolm, a piece that uses many extra-piano effects like knocking, foot stamping, and whistling, to great effect. It was an exciting and inspiring way to end the parade of piano students. The piece is quite difficult and demands that the performer bring out the entertaining elements among the literal cluster of notes.

Jacob Sadowski (grade 12) closed the program on the king of instruments which in the church was an A. E. McCracken 1960s era two manual and pedal board instrument of modest size. Sadowski used the foundational choruses and I was pleased by the sound and the far separation of the swell box. His teacher Ed Dunbar assisted in the page turns. He played a Bach transcription of a G Major Violin Concerto by Johann Ernst (Allegro movement only). For many of the students it was probably the only time they had heard a solo work on the pipe organ. Jacob had heads bobbing!

That concludes my review of the 2024 Crescent Music Club Scholarship Winners Concert. Congratulations to all the performers! The only negative I might add was the low attendance. Those students worked incredibly hard and you could see on their faces the self reflection about the job they had done. I hope by documenting it here this will be further encouragement to the students and the younger students who will compete for these scholarships in the future. The arts are alive and well.


-David



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