The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
By Virginia Ross, Special For The Quill
When asked to attend a concert of "chamber music," I was reluctant. It was not that I don't appreciate classical music, I was raised on it. My mother was a founding member of a symphony orchestra in a city of similar size to Burlington, Iowa, and I spent many an evening with Beethoven and Mozart, etc.
I guess "chamber music" envisioned for me as something being played in Henry VII's court for courtly dances or else Victorians primly sitting in an overly decorated drawing room listening with feigned interest to cellos, piano and violins. In reality, this concert was neither.
Scanning the art deco auditorium, I saw most attendees came in matinee dress. Years ago Civic Music was a time for furs, long gloves and yes, sparkly jewelry-an elegant night with the elite. Today, and maybe for the best, all types of dress is acceptable.
While the seats were filling up, the Civic Music Board played a PowerPoint presentation relating a short history of the event during its 81 years of 384 performances. After a recognition of program sponsors, one after the other of big name entertainment filled the screen-Arthur Rubinstein, Mantovani, Van Cliburn, Boston Pops, Peter Nero, Marcel Marceau, Bob Hope, Oklahoma, Chicago, etc.
A welcome by the Civic Music president was followed by a memorial to Bob Wilson, the Hawkeye columnist who had always been synonymous with culture in Burlington before his untimely death.
To a rousing ovation, the International Chamber Soloists took the stage. All twelve dressed in black (two cellos, seven violins two violas and a bass) who came from all over the world-Australia, Venezuela, Brazil, Latvia, Russia, Taiwan, New Zealand, Korea, Bulgaria and the U.S. Their leader, Dmitri Berlinsky, originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, had won international recognization as a young musician and came to the U.S. in 1990. A few years ago he was invited to join the faculty of Michigan State and was encouraged to invite exceptional talents to university. From this the International Chamber Soloists was formed.
The concert began with an avant-garde selection featuring the "Four Seasons of Buenos Aires" by Astor Piazzolla with violin solo creating a summer mode which was followed by cellos bringing forth a lively fall. Winter was a mellow cello taking the lead; spring arrived in a sprintly dance followed by a tender love song.
The second selection, a "Scent of a Woman," invoked an Italian or French cafˇ where young and old appreciate the beautiful women strolling down the boulevard.
After an intermission, the group launched full force into Tchaikovsky with Berlinsky athletically challenging the musicians and yet leading them into a dramatic rendition of the piece which weaved a siren song, echoes of folk music and ended with stirring melodies. The violins were masterful, the violas sang forth, the cellists labored tirelessly and in the background the bass grounded the entire presentation.
The group then pleased the audience with Leroy Anderson's "Fiddle-Faddle." One may not recognize the name of the song, but most definitely, the energetic repeating notes bouncing around the hall as well as in the memory of the audience would be familiar. A rousing ovation greeted this.
What a fantastic night!
Hint for the concert attendee:
If you have a general admission ticket, you may sit in either upper or lower baloney seats that do not have names tapes on them. After intermission, vacant seats are up for grabs.