Violin Solist Peter Mellinger and Conductor Farkhad Khudyev
This has been an exciting year for Youth Music Monterey County (YMMC) as it celebrates it 25th anniversary season and also the acquisition of a new Music Director/Conductor Farkhad Khudyev. On Sunday afternoon at Sunset Center we had an opportunity to hear the Junior Youth & Honors Orchestra in a concert featuring the 2012-13 Concerto Competition Winner, violinist Peter Mellinger, and vocal guests Rebecca Davis, soprano, and Ben Gulley, tenor.
Entering Sunset Center’s parking lots we observed not the usual older concert patrons, but instead lots of young families accompanying smartly dressed young kids toting musical instrument cases. Since the combined Junior Youth and Honors Orchestras consist of almost a hundred young orchestra players, if you factor in two parents and perhaps a few siblings for each player, you begin to understand how this concert attracted an audience of approximately 500 people. Entering the lobby at Sunset Center we observed a series of tables representing donated items for a silent auction that was a part of the ongoing fund raising efforts of YMMC to offset its operating expenses.
Attending this concert reminded me of the early years of YMMC when the concerts were held in Santa Catalina’s auditorium. The young players of the Junior Youth Orchestra had to have their string teachers come out on stage before the first piece was performed to help tune their instruments, a process that took over fifteen minutes while the audience waited patiently. Today’s concert demonstrated how far we have come in the intervening 25 years, for now, even the youngest players of the Junior Youth Orchestra at the beginning of the concert come out on stage like young professionals and tune their own instruments.
After introductory remarks by YMMC Executive Director Vanisha Douvon and Music Director Farkhad Khudyev, The Junior Youth Orchestra kicked off the afternoon’s program with Scene I and the Valse from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” followed by Verdi’s Overture to Nabucco. It was an inspiring sight to see sixty young students playing so well while being introduced to great music and the experience of playing in an orchestra at a young age.
After a long intermission during which bids were being made at the silent auction in the Sunset Center Lobby, the Honors Orchestra came out on stage to perform Beethoven’s Overture to “Leonore.” Khudyev introduced this work by giving us some clues how the music’s opening moments depicts the descent step by step into the lower dungeon where Florestan, the political prisoner awaiting his execution, will eventually be rescued by Leonore disguised as a prison guard named “Fidelio.”
The second treat from the Honors Orchestra was a performance by 17-year-old Peter Mellinger, the 2012-13 Concerto Competition Winner, performing the final movement of Max Bruch’s Violin concerto. Mellinger, who is also concertmaster of the Honors Orchestra, is a Junior at Carmel High School and has been a pupil of violin teacher Rochelle Walton for the past nine years. His bio page in the YMMC printed program lists his musical accomplishments, and they are many. Mellinger gave us an exciting performance of the Bruch concerto finale, and received a well-deserved standing ovation.
Tenor Ben Gulley & Soprano Rebecca Davis
The remainder of the program featured tenor Ben Gulley and soprano Rebecca Davis, two splendid singers with established careers, whose performances in Puccini’s La bohème at Hidden Valley last year were a sensation. Hidden Valley’s founder and Music Director, Peter Meckel, a board member of YMMC, helped bring these fine artists to this event. Gulley sang Una Furtiva Lagrima from Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, Davis sang Ave Maria from Verdi’s Otello, and together they performed the Finale to Act I of Puccini’s La bohème. We heard some beautiful singing on the highest artistic level from these singers, whose gorgeous voices and highly developed dramatic skills were truly impressive. The Finale to La bohème’s Act I was so full of poignant dramatic emotion it bought tears to the eyes of many a listener. This was glorious singing.
In May YMMC will present its final concert of the season, and it will honor past Conductors Stewart Robertson and John Larry Granger. This is not to be missed.