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We're in the throes of holiday programming, with Nutcrackers and Messiahs, carols and other songs, bells, jazz out-takes, and more. (We have friends who used to leave the country for the entire month of December, and a patron at the recent St. Lawrence String Quartet program suggested a visit to the Middle East as a viable means of escape.) Among the myriad offerings, some stand out for the high quality of the selections while others are notable due to superior execution. Over at Athens Drive High School on a beautiful, crisp afternoon, there were large infusions of both attributes as the Triangle Youth Philharmonic offered its fifth annual holiday program. The venue was, in effect, the cradle of the Philharmonic Association and its remarkable orchestral and jazz programs that now engage hundreds of talented young people in its numerous ensembles. The TYP, which played on this occasion, is generally considered the organization's top group (although truth to tell there's such strength and depth in the others that the pipeline is secure and there is fierce competition for those TYP chairs).
There were excerpts from Nutcracker (the Marche) and from Messiah (symphonic versions that would surely have elicited smiles from the great Handelian, Thomas Beecham), and some very attractive (and not often heard) pieces by Leroy Anderson. Artistic Director Hugh Partridge conducted and commented on music in the first half, eliciting some amazing playing from his young artists (who had quite limited time to prepare for this program, the ensemble's big fall program having been given only three weeks earlier). There was in fact little evidence of weakness anywhere, in any section. The opening – that Nutcracker March – was a little ragged at the outset, but elsewhere, aside from the players' youthful appearances (and keen enthusiasm for what they were doing), it would have been hard not to think this a fully professional orchestra.
Part two included music by Vaughan Williams and Mel Tormé, handsomely led by the TYP's assistant conductor, the immensely talented Rashad Hayward; we hope this work with other young people is not interfering too much with his own clarinet studies. Partridge returned for one of the more attractive sing-along settings we've encountered; the audience did well enough in this sequence of seven carols and hymns done up by Arthur Harris. For the grand finale, Jimmy Cvetkovski made his conducting debut in Anderson's "Sleigh Ride." This appearance resulted from his having won a raffle, but he brought his own baton and showed considerable promise and poise, too, on the podium.
Methinks a programming opportunity was (again) missed. Had a tree – a fruit tree, maybe – pear, perhaps – been readily available, the principal conductor could have climbed it, resulting in a Partridge in a …; no, that's just too silly to imagine….
Happy holidays, all!
The TYP's honors recital will be held January 14 at St. Paul's Episcopal, in Cary. The big spring run of concerts comes in April, followed by two performances of Stravinsky's Firebird, with the Raleigh Dance Theatre, in May. See our calendar for details.