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The Oklahoma Haydn Festival, founded 2012 in Oklahoma City by Raleigh-based conductor Jim Waddelow and Richard Jobe, presented an attendance-limited concert on the campus of Meredith College and also live on their Facebook page.* The concert was moved from Oklahoma City to Raleigh to avoid the risks and expenses of travel for the Raleigh based musicians scheduled to perform this concert. It was modified according to Phase 2 reopening protocol in NC. On-site audience attendance was limited to 25. It was planned to be held outside in the Patricia Spangler Russell Gazebo and Garden but was moved indoors to avoid the threat of rain. There were other last-minute modifications and adjustments in the streaming technology and performance personnel. The simple fact that this concert took place with such charming and gracious performances makes me think it might be related to the Haydn Symphony No. 96. dubbed "The Miracle."
Opening the concert were two soprano arias; the first was "O luna lucente" from Il mondo della luna (The World on the Moon**), Hob.XXVIII:7, Haydn's opera buffa first performed at Esterházy in 1777. The soloist was Lucy Kimbell, with Chelsea Waddelow at the piano. This delightful song to the moon was given an expressive and affectionate reading by the young soprano. Kimbell is a rising senior at North Carolina State University and has been involved in several White Iris Light Opera productions at Meredith.
The second aria was "Non v'è chi mi aiuta" from La Canterina (The Diva), Hob.XXVIII/2. Here the diva is complaining she has no more voice. Soprano Afton Wooten sang this dramatic piece with expressive despair and forceful presentation. She was joined and supported by pianist Waddelow with matching expressiveness. Wooten is a recent graduate of Meredith College.
Next on the stage, Waddelow the keyboard artist was joined by Jim Waddelow, the cellist, performing three selections from The Seasons, Hob. XXI:3. From "Summer" we heard the aria, "The Shepherd Gathers Now His Flock," which was especially notable for Chelsea Waddelow's dancing light keyboard touch, as well as by the gentle, warm singing of of the vocal lines the cello.
The introduction to the "Winter" section of The Seasons paints a dark and brooding picture with passages that clearly imply the biting cold. This was an excellent example of the melding of two artists behind one theme.
The cavatine "Light and Heat the Earth Forsaking" is another take on "Winter," a slow dance perhaps portraying the loneliness of being shut in due to severe winter (or from a pandemic viral attack?).
Next, we heard the Piano Trio No. 39 in G, Hob. XV:25 (arr. for cello and piano by Waddelow & Waddelow). Marked Poco adagio, this simple and charming theme is introduced by the piano with the cello joining in as the piece develops under Papa Haydn's exceptional skill and brought to life by the skilled Waddelows.
Twelve Variations in A, Hob. XVII:2 (Theme and Variations 1-5) gave pianist Waddelow the opportunity to display her talents in this piece, resplendent with sparkling arpeggios and rapid runs, sometimes in the left hand and sometimes above the melody, as an obbligato. It was an impressive and pleasant performance.
The variations were topped off with Adagio, Hob.XVII:9 from 10 Kleine Klavierstucke, a quiet and calming lullaby from Haydn to us.
The concert ended as it began with arias from the two young and gifted sopranos. Kimbell gave a lovely performance of "With Verdure Clad" from The Creation, Hob. XXI:2, and Wooten sang the Benedictus from Little Mass for St John of God, Hob. XXII:7 (Little Organ Mass), accompanied by Waddelow on an electronic keyboard with a rather good organ sound.
It was overall a pleasant concert with a somewhat intimate feel, fed by vocal introductions by each performer. However, there is no doubt but that the pleasure of the concert would have been enhanced by joining my fellow music lovers in the concert venue. The concert was free both for those watching it on Facebook, as I did, and those attending the restricted performance at Meredith College.
It is often said that when the door to one goal is closed, another door will open. Due to COVID-19, performing artists of all sorts who are dependent on loyal audiences have been thrown into an abysmal dilemma. They find themselves searching for some kind of open door somewhere, seeking creative outlets but finding few financial rewards. The Zoom app has been used to create virtual ensembles. Pianists have streamed recitals from their homes, sometimes with solo instrumentalists or vocalists. However, any movement in this direction, as encouraging as it might be, must be done against the background of the current misery. The world of music may have a magical quality to it, but still whatever door may open in the next year or so must have paychecks along the path.
**NC readers of a certain "maturity" will recall performances of this opera, in English, by the old National Opera Co. (Grassroots Opera). For many residents of NC, this was our very first exposure to a Haydn opera.