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Free Arts Month: Strings and organ in two concerts at University of Puget Sound

Post by Rosemary Ponnekanti / The News Tribune on Jan. 30, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
January 30, 2011 9:12 pm
Organist Joseph Adam. Courtesy photo.

One great thing about free arts events (if you haven’t been following me, I’m almost at the end of blogging a whole month of one free arts event every day in Tacoma) is that if you haven’t paid for a ticket, you don’t feel compelled to stay until the bitter end. If you have antsy kids, if you have something else to do, or if you just don’t feel well, you can walk out halfway through and not regret it. Yesterday and today I’ve been sick with a nasty cold, so I chose a seat as far from other people as I could and only stayed for the first half of two free classical concerts at the University of Puget Sound – the first with strings and piano, the second with organ.

Last night the Los Angeles Collective (Duane Funderburk on piano and Alex Russell on violin) collaborated with both UPS/WSU students and UPS faculty for a concert ranging from Dvoràk to Prokofiev to Gershwin, with some hymn tunes in the middle. The Collective is best known for  unusual arrangements for duo or more, and their UPS concert featured many. After opening with a Gershwin set (a piano prelude with gutsy violin part and “It Ain’t Necessarily So” with Russell alternating jazzy and virtuosic over a string ensemble, they ran through an exhilarating Prokofiev scherzo before delivering a set of three hymns arranged by Funderburk. “What Wondrous Love is this?” was serene with Vaughn-Williams overtones; “A Mighty Fortress” honored the text with an upbeat arrangement, but “Lamb of God” tended toward the schmaltzy. An Allegro from a concerto by the 13-year-old Mendelssohn ended the first half with charm and fantastically matched thirds passages from violin and piano; in all of this the student orchestra was nimble and full-bodied in tone.

I had to miss the Dvoràk piano quintet with UPS faculty, but I was back there this afternoon in Kilworth Chapel to hear another faculty member: organist Joseph Adam playing solo works by J.S. Bach and friends on Kilworth’s gorgeously baroque Fritts organ. The ‘friends’ moniker extended to Bach’s student and copyist Johann Krebs, whose Trio in G major and Toccata in E major borrowed Bach phrases and added funny little chromaticisms, plus an impressively-played pedal passage. Then there was Bach’s son Carl Phillip Emmanuel, with a sonata in F major that was delicately classical with rather interesting echoes and rests; and Bach’s arch-admirer Mendelssohn, whose sonata in d minor took a Bach chorale theme and treated it to warm chords and inventive pedal basses.

Adam’s a restrained and mostly neat performer, nothing too exciting, offering dry but informative verbal notes before each piece. Again, I wasn’t well enough to stay, but among the ¾-full crowd in the spare, elegant cream chapel there were plenty of others coming and going, so I didn’t stand out.

The University of Puget Sound offers many free concerts, some with students and others with faculty or guests. Pick up a brochure at the Wheelock Student Center at 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, or check out the schedule at www.pugetsound.edu. You can also call 253-879-3419.

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