The program of the final concert of the Carmel Bach Festival is always a surprise. Members of the audience entering Sunset Center have no idea what works will be performed, for there is no printed program. However, our Emcee for the evening, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Carmel Bach Festival, Paul Goodwin, is constantly onstage to inform us of his choices of works that have been heard durning the previous two weeks at various venues around Carmel. Except possibly for Dramaturge David Gordon, there could be no more endearing host at a concert than Paul Goodwin. He is charming with his intelligent and witty comments that enhance and enlighten us at every step along the way.
“Best of the Fest” also turned out to be “The Longest of the Fest,” and although Mr. Goodwin promised us a program with each half having a duration of 55 minutes, each half turned out to be approximately 90 minutes, so the the entire program including intermission was three and a half hours long. It was a credit to members of the audience that they continued to be alert and enthusiastically connected throughout this long evening.
Goodwin mentioned how difficult it was to select this final program from all the many CBF performances in so many different venues. But in the end, we had a program that included samples of everything — significent excerpts from orchestral, choral, vocal and instrumental works heard during the festival. We heard the festival vocal soloists soprano Mhairi Lawson, soprano Clara Rottsolk, mezzo Meg Bragle, tenor Thomas Cooley and baritone Peter Harvey in a scene from Act III of Mozart’s Idomeneo, Mr. Cooley in a masterful performance of Aaron Copland’s “Boatman Dance,” Clara Rottsolk in a lovely performance of “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz, Mhairi Lawson singing “The Rain in Spain is Mostly in the Plain (with Peter Harvey) from My Fair Lady, and finally all five vocalists in Rossini’s I Gondolieri. Another treasure we heard was a vocal octet “I can Tell the World” by Moses Hogan that was originally presented at the Oldemeyer Center in Seaside. The ending of the vocal part of the concert was a fine performance of the Gloria from C.P.E. Bach’s Magnificat.
Concertmaster Peter Hanson gave us an impressive performance of Mendelssohn’s “Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage” and the Reformation Symphony, plus a magnificent performance of Bach’s Fugue á la Gigue arranged by Gustav Holst. This set also included a lovely vocal performance by Mhairi Lawson of Bachianas brasileiras No. 5 by Villa-Lobos and Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach’s Symphony in D minor. These were stunning performances.
For those of us who were unable to attend the Wednesday evening Mission Concert, we had the pleasure of hearing the Festival Chorale, conducted by Andrew Megill in moving performances of Wie soll ich dich empfangen from Bach”s Christmas Oratorio and a vital and involving performance of a work influenced by this — Paul Simon’s “American Time.” The set ended with Bach’s Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden. It was an example of beautiful singing by gorgeous voices and with magnificent and precise vocal ensemble.
Another performance that many of us may have missed from the Saturday Family Concert was the delightful nonsense of excerpts from “The Adventures of Leonard and Rasmus” with Paul Goodwin as narrator and Rebecca Mariman as Great Aunt Lulu. This musical mystery story with artwork by York School Students James Pasinosky and Taylor Jani projected on a screen over the stage was one of the highlights of the evening.
We also had an opportunity to hear Associate Concertmaster Emlyn Ngai perform a dazzling version of Piazzolla’s Tango No. 3 and that gentle giant, Edwin Huizinga (wow, does he ever get a big hand from the audience) also dazzling us with another Piazzola treasure “Oblivion” with accompaniment featuring lute (Daniel Swenberg) and cello (Allen Whear).
Well, there was more — much more than can be described in less that thousands of words. It has to be said that it is a great experience just to read the Festival Program, all 140 pages of it, which is so well put together it is an enriching experience in itself — as a description of what occurred during the past two weeks, and also with its excellent program notes and information about the people working in the background to make the Festival possible.
After the performance members of the audience had a chance to mingle with Festival artists and staff at a lovely champagne reception outside Sunset Center and on its upper terrace. This was a delightful end to a delightful evening.