In 2019, California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) celebrated its 25 anniversary. In 1994 the former Ft. Ord, home to the 7th US Army Infantry Division, by act of Congress became the newest member of the California State University System. With modest fanfare President William Jefferson Clinton was on hand (there were snipers on every rooftop) to give the new university his official blessings. In his convocation speech he said, “In converting a military installation into an institute of higher learning we are, in a way, beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks.” From 600 students in its opening year to over 7,500 students today, CSUMB has become a vital presence on California’s central coast, even more so since the creation of the “Leon Panetta Institute,” which attracts the attention of the world for its contribution to international relations.
On January 25, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Monterey Peninsula, we heard a very special concert celebrating the renovation of a splendid 115-year-old Steinway 6’4″ grand piano originally donated by parishioner Harry Ogden in 1992. This instrument was recently totally rebuilt and refinished thanks to donations from church members.
This concert was a standing-room-only sellout — there were not enough printed programs so latecomers had to share. But for those of us fortunate enough to squeeze into the limited space, it was a very rewarding concert. The featured artists on this occasion were pianist Lucy Faridany, cellist Linda Mehrabian, and vocalists Jody Lee and Patty Pai.
We heard some unusual repertoire — how often have you heard works combining voice, cello and piano? Well we heard several of them during this concert by composers Fauré, César Franck, Debussy and Poulenc. Singers Lee and Pai impressed us with their lovely voices, superb musicianship and lovely shaping of phrases.
Cellist Linda Mehrabian has a beautiful rich sound and charmed us with her elegant playing in works by Gabriel Fauré and Ralph Vaughan Williams.
The player with the largest role during the concert was Lucy Faridany, who always impresses us with her ability to get to the heart and soul of any work she performs. There is a naturalness to her playing, whether supporting others in ensemble playing or as a soloist, for on this occasion she performed Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu and Waltz in E Minor, Op. Posth, and and then blew us away with a powerful performance of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G Minor, Op. 23, No. 5.
We can hope that there will be many more concerts in the Church’s Music Series.
Last night Santa Catalina Theatre Arts presented the opening night of its winter production, Stage Door, a play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman. Magically we were transported back to the year 1936 to the Footlights Club, a boarding house for young girls aspiring to make a career in the theater. I say “magically” because the combination of an magnificently elaborate set, costumes mimicing the styles of the 1930s, and an excellent cast capturing the essence of what it was like to be naive and hopeful young actors during this period were so effectively portrayed.
Shakespeare. It’s a family name. A famous name. All around the world, people think immediately of William Shakespeare. Thousands of people can claim a Shakespeare in their family tree. We had the pleasure on Sunday afternoon, January 12, 2020, of listening to a fine chamber ensemble led by one such descendant: Nicholas McGegan. The Carmel Music Society invited us to Sunset Center in Carmel to hear Philharmonia Baroque Chamber Players with Sherezade Panthaki, soprano. This was part of a tour during McGegan’s Farewell Season as Music Director of Philharmonia Baroque. Since I particularly enjoy productions of Shakespeare’s plays where music is added between acts, or as part of the action, I was curious what music McGegan had chosen especially because we were not to hear the words of any of the plays.
In a suave display of synchronous ensemble, duo-pianists Alessio Bax and wife Lucille Chung performed keyboard, four-hand music under the auspices of the Steinway Society, Saturday, January 11 at the Hammer Theatre, San Jose. Music by Schubert, Debussy, Stravinsky and Piazzolla provided an emotional and color diapason of melancholy and mirth, traversing a range of piano music either meant for the salon or literally conceived on an orchestral scale, vehicles for the gifted duo whose acuity and precision may have reminded older auditors of the golden era of Vronsky and Babin.