Musical Notes Graphic

Let’s start the new year off right.

How about with the Bob Cole Conservatory Honors Festival closing concert, the fourth annual edition of which took place the other day at the Carpenter Center?

This is a wonderful service the conservatory performs, bringing high school students from all over, including Alaska, for a couple days of coaching and rehearsals with Bob Cole faculty and guest artists, and culminating in a concert. Jermie Arnold of the band faculty is the coordinator, and the event is funded by (reduced) student fees and grants from the university.

We began with the choir, under Jonathan Talberg; they sounded better than a high school choir has any right to. Yes, they were reinforced by those few members of the Bob Cole Chamber Choir who weren’t home for winter break, but still. The blend and intonation were exemplary, the lines smooth, the timbre rich and full, especially after they warmed up a bit.

And the program was an honest one: three staples of the contemporary repertoire by Thompson, Dello Joio and Dickau; an a cappella classic by one Marco Antonio Ingineri; a lovely piece by grad student Matthew Lyon Hazzard (I heard some of his music at the recent choral concert. He is a talent, and his “Dream Song” performed here is a real gem.); Alice Parker’s ubiquitous “Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal,” performed without a conductor; and a fun, short Russian tongue twister called “Venike.” All were spot-on.

Next came the strings, coached by faculty member Moni Simeonov and Pacific Symphony concertmaster Dennis Kim. They opened, as they did last year, with Arthur Foote’s lovely, lyrical “Air,” and sounded terrific. Then came the Bach Double Concerto with Simeonov playing the second solo part and a succession of student violinists — Mizuki Horiguchi, Rachael Kim and Daichi Horiguchi — playing the first. They showed not only incredible talent, but professional-level poise, and the ensemble supported them admirably.

The Honor Band, under John Carnahan, began with an evocative piece by John Mackey, and a beautiful one by Carnahan himself. Michele Zukovsky, who coached the winds and was the longtime principal clarinet at the LA Philharmonic, soloed in “Viktor’s Tale,” from John Williams’s score to “The Terminal.” And the band’s segment, as well as the concert as a whole, closed with Arnold conducting the rousing “Curtain Call” by John Wasson, which I heard the Muni Band play this last summer.

Events of this type are really beyond criticism, but that never stopped me before. The choir could have used a shell (admittedly, logistically impossible), or more resonance than was afforded by the dry Carpenter. I wish Arnold hadn’t read his welcoming speech, but had spoken more spontaneously.

And the ticket distribution remains an issue; the ticket line was insane. This event deserves a packed house (Sunday’s was almost full), but if you go next year, go early.

Just go. It’s a great thing.

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