Ever since Wayne Anthony, an artistic polymath, joined the staff of Trinity Episcopal Church, lovers of musical innovation and excellence have come to expect - and experience - concerts and recitals notable for originality and sparkle.
Last night's event with the SonoNovo Chamber Ensemble and guest harpists is a fine example.
Called The Harp's the Thing, it was a highlight of the 2007-2008 Trinity Performing Arts Series, which has quietly developed a devoted audience seeking, as Anthony, the series creator, calls it, "music that's a little different, a little more esoteric."
About 200 folks showed up for the early evening event in the colorful, reconfigured sanctuary of the landmark church at Adams and St. Clair streets downtown.
As the title promised, the three works on the program focused on the harp, that beloved and ancient instrument so often consigned to the fringes of the symphony orchestra.
Soloists Julie Buzzelli, Denise Grupp-Verbon, and Nancy Lendrim - all busy performers and teachers - represented the very best regional talent. Accompanying them was the SonoNovo Chamber Ensemble, a hand-picked group of string players, woodwinds, and brass - Trinity's resident ensemble. Anthony conducted with spirit and delicacy.
Works by Debussy, Ravel, and Anthony - a premiere of the impresario's Suite for Lever Harp and Chamber Orchestra - offered an ample serving of impressionist compositions.
Opening the evening was the Anthony work in five sections written for Grupp-Verbon and adapted for the lever harp. Sometimes called the folk harp, it's a cousin of the bigger, louder pedal harp most often seen and heard.
The suite moved smoothly from the bright interplay of harp and orchestra - strings plus a woodwind quintet - in the Prelude to the softly textured Variations based on an ancient Latin chant (Personent Hodie) to a Recitative as tranquil and melting as yesterday's icicles.
In the fourth section, Theme and Variations, Anthony seemed inspired by Johann Pachelbel's Canon. The concluding Rondo was a wonderful romp.
Nancy Lendrim, principal harpist of the Toledo Symphony and a presence in the national harp world, performed Debussy's Danses Sacree et Profane in a confident yet graceful iteration of this favorite harp showcase.
Rounding out the evening was Bowling Green harpist Julie Buzzelli, superbly backed by strings, flute (Katie Jones), and clarinet (Lesli McCage) in a sophisticated performance of Ravel's Introduction and Allegro.
Anthony, SonoNovo, and the harpists provided a memorable evening. The final concert of this series, May 2, will include works by Bach, Schumann, Poulenc, Britten, and Infante with Anthony and Charles Brown at the keyboard. For more information, contact Trinity, 419-243-1231.
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