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Biddies and geezers who think the younger generations don’t amount to much should meet the Triangle's Melissa Chan, a pianist, organizer, and espouser of numerous worthwhile causes. We first encountered her when she played with the Chapel Hill Philharmonia two years ago at the then ripe old age of 14. Since then we've heard from her from time to time, mostly in connection with her charitable work, the chief platform for which is http://www.kidshelpingkids.webs.com/. On Saturday evening, she and a band of like-minded colleagues from the area took over Ruggero Piano's Bösendorfer Hall for a marathon benefit program – the 9th she's arranged – for Raleigh's Community Music School. The concert lasted a bit over three hours – one could argue that it was a tad too much of a good thing – but along the way there was considerable variety – short talks, demonstrations, words of welcome, and the like. There were performances by pianists and string players. There were enough victuals on the buffet to feed everyone present and then some. And from a glance in the alms basin, it looked as if the CMS got some welcome revenue, too.
There were lots of participants, but Chan stage-managed and presented them superbly well, logistically. All the littlest kids (and some not so little) – in order of initial appearance: Elena Huang, Amy Han, Emily Lin, Vevey Zhan, Emily Xu, Lucas Chen, Jane Zhao, Celia Henderson, and Caroline Wang – were involved in an opening reading of Mozart's  Variations on "Twinkle-twinkle Little Star." Ruggero provided two grand pianos – a Bösendorfer and a Fazioli, side by side on the stage – so one youngster began while the next sat in readiness, poised to perform without dropping a beat. More advanced players came next, in turn, delivering solo and accompanied selections by some major composers. Among them were Lucas Chen as a capable violinist, accompanied by Alice Zhao, and Vevey Zhan, accompanied by Zina Astrakhan. Other solos before intermission were by pianists Brendan Kearney, Jinsong Han, Hilary Sun, Celia Henderson, Eric Song, and Alice Zhao. Some of these are quite advanced, so performances of music by Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Wagner (as transcribed by Liszt), and Prokofiev all gave great pleasure.
In the second half, an ensemble from the Mallarmé Youth Chamber Orchestra performed a movement from Mendelssohn's First Piano Trio; the artists were Ethan Chu, piano, Leah Bar-On Simmons, violin, and Colyer Durovich, cello. Michelle Wang (who is also a pianist) played the bourées from Bach's Third Cello Suite. With Chu's assistance, violinist Roman Lin played the finale of Tchaikovsky's Concerto. And guitarist Eric Kofman played a lute concerto by Vivaldi, partnered by Ian Dohm, violin, and Michelle Wang, cello.
Richard Ruggero spoke about the difference in Bösendorfers and Faziolis, showing that, in terms of the vibration of the instrument itself, the former resembles a string instrument more than the decidedly percussive Fazioli. That said, it was the Fazioli that the program's concluding players used – Melissa Chan, Eric Metcalf, Mendel Nguyen, and Jonathan Chan (the latter partnered by Melissa Chan) played music by Ravel, Bach, Chopin, and Prokofiev (the first movement of the Third Concerto) that would have been comfortably at home on any adult recital program you can imagine – these are all first-class talents.
That the whole show was the idea of Melissa Chan is remarkable enough. That she mustered so many like-minded young people and produced this program at such a high level is indeed commendable. Be on the lookout for her name and the names of the others who took part!
Note: With thanks to Melissa Chan, who is a student of UNC-based Mayron Tsong, we are able to link some of the other students with their teachers, as shown below:
Karen Allred: Mendel Nguyen
Zina Astrakhan: Jinsong Han, Elena Huang, Brendan Kearney, Eric Metcalf, Emily Xu, & Vevey Zhan
Florence Ko: Lucas Chen, Emily Lin, Hilary Sun, & Alice Zhao
John Ruggero: Jonathan Chan, Ethan Chu, Celia Henderson, Eric Song, & Michelle Wang