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Suppose you were in charge of a whole bunch of gifted young musicians, and you wanted to stage a mirthful and musical good holiday time. In such a case you would of course lean heavily on composer Leroy Anderson. So that’s just what Triangle Youth Philharmonic conductor Hugh Partridge did in Meymandi Concert Hall to observe the parent Philharmonic Association’s Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Season, all the while helping to gladden a cold and rainy mid-December evening.
“A Christmas Festival” was the Anderson opener. Here were jolly excerpts from seemingly every well-known Christmas song. (Not quite though, because the Bruce Chase arrangement of “Around the World at Christmas Time” opened after intermission and furnished the skillfully-played remainder.) The players did some of their best work on Anderson’s “Belle of the Ball” leading to intermission. Before that, percussionist Samuel Brunswick demonstrated his considerable chops as a typist in “The Typewriter Song,” always good for a few hefty guffaws. If this performer should ever face tough times, he can probably find gainful employment as a stenographer. Anderson was brought back to close the program with the obligatory “Sleigh Ride.”
Not all the orchestral offerings were light and fun-filled. Concertmaster Maitreyi Muralidharan served as accomplished violin soloist in the Largo and Allegro movements of the Winter section from The Four Seasons by Vivaldi, a work of seasonal as well as historical significance. Philharmonic alumna Alicia Reid, a student at the North Carolina School of the Arts, came on for two staples from the soprano literature. Her tone was incisive and crisp in “He Shall Feed His Flock” from Handel’s Messiah, still more so in the following Mozart “Alleluia.”
The players seemed at their best and well within their comfort range with Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on “Greensleeves.” This full and profuse orchestration was enhanced by fine work on harps and flutes.
What was the “featured” work of the festive evening? It would just about have to be those five selections from Tchiakovsky’s renowned (and highly seasonal) ballet, Nutcracker. Adding a pleasing “multimedia” dimension to “Le chocolat” and “Le café” were dancers Thalia Hernandez, Ryan Stradling, Nicole Fannéy and Chandler Proctor. Nicole Machi, Grace Vojnovich and Nate Compiano were graceful and appropriately comic clowns in “Le thé.” The dramatic “Pas de Deux” featured sinuous and sylphlike action by Regan Kucera and Preston Chamblee. Miguel Campaneria, faculty member at International Ballet Academy of Cary, choreographed these exquisite movements of grace and athleticism. Partridge and the players maintained brilliant precision with the dancers throughout.
Here was a set of “holiday” offerings by spirited young musicians that went far toward exorcising any seasonal demons of gloom. Many thanks to them and to their dedicated mentors.