Classical Music in the City by the Sea

What would happen if you combined ocean, cliffs, the smell of sea air, with Romantic architectural exquisite mansions from the turn to the 20th century and the lush melodic sounds of classical music?  You get a magnificent presentation of an earthly manifestation of heaven known as The Newport Music Festival.  The Festival has been celebrating the geniousness of every composer who has survived the test of time for 43 seasons debuting (and bringing back) 58 artists from 17 countries.  Their music can be heard in the beautiful venues, such as the Breakers Mansion, The Elms, Portsmouth Abbey, Crosspoint Church, etc.... 

After the untimely passing of the artistic director, Dr. Mark P. Malkovich III, last May 2010, MPM III's son, Mark IV took over and modernized the Festival to attract a new audience of all ages to classical music.  During the 43rd season people were able to listen to American music, such as "Yankee Doodle"  with different variations from different composers, such as Anton Rubinstein, and listen to the music of Gershwin.  There was even a children's show with Saint-Saen's "Carnival of the Animals" which was interactive for the audience to participate in.  The Festival brought back the legendary pianist - improvisationalist - extraordinaire, John Bayless, who had had a stroke three years ago and learned to play the piano with one hand.  Well, to be honest with you, I was stunned to find out that the music was done with just one hand and not two because it actually sounded like four!  For more information on the John Bayless concert read my last blog post.

On Friday July 22nd, I was able to mingle out on the Breakers' terrace, where a pre-concert reception was held in celebration of Igudesman and Joo's, "A Little Nightmare Music", debut concert at the Newport Music Festival.  The place was packed with influential people, people who helped the festival become a success, board members, local politicians, festival artists, doctors, even Billy Joel himself.  So, what I mean to say was this concert was COMPLETELY SOLD OUT!  At 8:30pm the concert started introducing the artists and their talents.  We heard violinist, Aleksey Igudesman, and pianist, Hyung-ki "Richard" Joo, take ordinary classical pieces and put a modern twist to it, or even modern pieces and make it into a classical piece with a style from a different time period.  They took the famous Mozart piece, "Alla Turca", and changed the key signature to a major key and turned it into a Yiddish, oriental, Jewish, Korean, Arabic style of music.  This, my dear friend, is a smorgasborg of music.  They even introduced Eric Clapton's, "All By Myself", with Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto and then inserted Clapton's lyrics making Joo and Igudesman cry at the end.  Clapton's "All By Myself" was originally from Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto.  Back when "All By Myself" was written (the words, that is), Clapton had to get special permission from the Rachmaninoff estate so the melody of the concerto could be used in the song.  But, I'm digressing here....The hilarious act of Igudesman and Joo brought class back into music.  They brought music back to the people.  They made music much more fun and enjoyable by putting comedy and drama and acting into their playing instead of just sitting there and trying to remember what pieces they memorized.  They didn't act like the stuffy robot that you normally would see at band/chorus concerts or a solo concert.  The music came alive with splendid joy and enthusiasm.  This Dynamic Duo educated us that music doesn't have to be all about the notes and the rhythms but about our soul, the very core of music that brings us ALL together!!!  So, when the concert was coming to a close, this fresh classical group threw in an encore piece, "I (We) Will Survive" and played it with the classical/whimsical style of Mozart, the technical style of the Baroque period, and the gallant style of the Romantic, all of this played to a simple song from the 1970's. 

At the end of the concert, I went back in the green room and took Igudesman and Joo's photo and got their autograph on my DVD case as a memento to remind me that music is still very much alive in our souls and to use this experience to spread this liveliness to every generation to come!
Billy Joel in the black baseball cap
Aleksey Igudesman (violinist) in the white button-down shirt.  July 22nd is actually his b'day.
Hyung-ki "Richard" Joo (pianist) in the black shirt on the left.
A signed copy of my Igudesman and Joo "A Little Nightmare Music" DVD.

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