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While Zehetmair and Co. were dazzling the crowd in Reynolds Theatre, the Duke University String School presented its fall concert in Baldwin Auditorium, where three remarkable performances figured in the program. "Love's Pilgrimage," a brief song by James Jirtle, sung by a 10-voice Chamber Choir prepared by the Durham School of the Arts' Scott Hill and accompanied by a string orchestra led by Dorothy Kitchen, received its world premiere. Jirtle is perhaps best known as the local boy soprano whose CD scored great success with area music lovers and radio stations several years ago. Now that his voice has changed, he is pursuing other musical avenues, including composition; the DSA Chorale presented an anthem of his a year ago. His new song, heard at the DUSS' dress rehearsal on the morning of December 8, has a lovely, flowing introduction that suggests some of the great string adagios of the past, and the large ensemble played it beautifully. A smaller group accompanied the choral portions, which were handsomely sung. The work is a setting of a John Masefield poem that, Kitchen explained, speaks of our memories when we are old and our hope that we may look back with satisfaction to see that we lived up to the potential of our dreams and our actions and that we accomplished what we set out to do. . The score is dedicated to the DSA Chorale, Hill, the DUSS and Kitchen. We'll look forward to hearing other compositions by Jirtle, who is planning to study composition at the university level.
A Rondo by Paganini, unearthed by DUSS Music Director Dorothy Kitchen and arranged by her for her massed string group, suggested some of the classic transcriptions of solo violin pieces that served Toscanini, Stokowski and others as showpieces for their virtuoso string ensembles. During the rehearsal, it worked extremely well without a leader, as Kitchen checked balances from the hall, and then went even better when she returned and jolted everyone with a still brisker tempo.
We stayed to hear Kitchen lead a rehearsal of Mendelssohn's Concerto, in which assured solo violinist John Hammond played radiantly and received solid support from his colleagues, augmented by proud papa Samuel Hammond, who filled in missing wind and brass parts from the keyboard. With talent like this in the pipeline, the future of classical music in our country looks promising, indeed.