Variety Sparks U of L Faculty Concert!

By Henry C. Mayer

For the second year in a row, your writer has been invited, along with his family, to the Faculty Gala Concert. This event formally -- or informally -- opens the school year for our local and prestigious School of Music. And what a delight it is to go and hear such a diversity of talents.

It was an eye-opening and ear-satisfying event on Sept. 8 in the North Recital Hall. There was, for instance, a faculty jazz ensemble, led by John LaBarbera. One of their number, Jerry Tolson, arranged Juan Tizol's Perdido for alto and tenor sax, trumpet, bass, drums and piano. I would be hard pressed to say who enjoyed it more: the players or the audience. I would have to say that for myself, this performance gave me new and stronger ideas of how much work and talent are needed to play jazz with aplomb. So I salute John and his colleagues for their dedication. The breath control needed to perform this piece borders on the incredible.

Louisville's own and internationally acclaimed pianist Lee Luvisi gave a talented and widely appreciated rendering of Chopin's Ballade in F minor. Critic Olin Downes once characterized Chopin as "the supreme poet of the piano" and one only has to hear this lovely and challenging work to agree.

Equally moving was Edie Davis's soprano rendering of a Letter From Major Sullivan Ballou -- the last letter he wrote his "darling Sarah" before being killed in the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861. Contemporary John Kander has skillfully recaptured the pathos, the lasting affection, the moving patriotism and the theological virtue of hope which make up this piece.

Manual de Falla's Spanish Dance was probably the shortest piece on the program, but in this arrangement of it by the immortal violinist Fritz Kreisler it brings out the varied influences in Spanish culture. Though it struck me that the Gypsy motive prevailed, one should not forget that to be Spanish is a multiple inheritance: Basque, Andalucia, Aragon, Castille, Catalonia and others. Peter McHugh and Naomi Oliphant make a great duo.

The unique thrill of woodwinds played with verve and talent was when flutist Francis Fuge, clarinetist Dallas Tidwell, oboeist Marion Gibson, bassoonist Matthew Karr and horn Diana Morgan re-created the excitement of Jacques Ibert's Three Brief Pieces.

Robert Schumann is one of the more tragic artists but he lives forever in music of singular beauty. Michel Sampson's viola and Brenda Kee's keyboard artistry combined to give us one indication of Schumann's genius. Their rendition of Adagio and Allegro Opus 70 was impressive.

A quite different but genuine talent is that of School of Music professor Frederick Speck. His Fantasia is a fresh rendering of a 17th century hymn tune. Naomi Oliphant brought this piece to life with her artistry on the keyboard. Performing it well demands an ability to effect a change of pace from fast to slow and cover the entire keyboard with poise and alacrity.

When one hears of Antonio Vivaldi, one usually expects to hear the melodious strings and to be charmed by them. However, Henry Howey took three movements of the Italian master's Concerto and brilliantly arranged it for a brass quintet. This opening piece on the program requires great teamwork and our faculty's brass quintet was more than up to it. Despite almost three centuries of being performed, this piece has more than stood the acid tests of time and change. Each performer more than deserves our applause: the trumpeters Michael Tunnell and Herbert Koerselman, the tuba by John Jones, the trombone of Richard Cryder and the horn of Kenneth Albrecht.

In all, it was a happy and melodious evening topped off by the gracious hospitality of an outdoor reception. We are proud of our School of Music. This is not cheap flattery; this event drew an overflow crowd which almost filled the stage as well as the auditorium.