In keeping with my promise of posting concert reviews, here is the latest. It was unique in the construction—just like pressing the shuffle feature on a CD player. The musicians didn’t know what was coming up next!
Shortly after 7:00 P.M. on April 7, Nancy Pearson, Seacoast Entertainment Association Board Member, walked onto an open stage set with piano, chairs, microphones and soft, violet lighting and introduced one of the most unique instrumental groups found anywhere.
Shuffle Concert is an eclectic group of instrumental musicians and one singer. Their main goal is to give their audiences the experience of great music in a variety of musical styles, and the experience of participation. A menu of music choices from multiple styling venues is passed out. Attendees were advised to memorize their number.
Dressed in concert black, the musicians took their places. They called out the first number and a participant voiced their selection. Shuffle Concert musicians flawlessly executed Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s “The Star-Crossed Lovers.” This slow, beautiful jazz piece expresses the sadness of Romeo and Juliet. Violin, Clarinet and Piano together are unusual and most of the music is arranged for particular instrument groupings playing duets, trios, quartets and ensemble.
Director and Founder Eliran Avni and Clarinetist Moran Katz are both from Israel. Hassan Anderson, Oboist and Mr. Personality, is from Florida. All three are graduates of the famous Juilliard School in New York City and knew of each other at Juilliard. They did not come together in their music until after graduation.
In the upbeat manner of the ensemble, Katz expressed her joy and the love of what she was doing in every piece she played. Katz invoked the soulfulness of this instrument as she magically worked her woodwind.
Sofia Nowik sat center stage expertly plying her bow across the cello strings, and only left center stage when the cello wasn’t required. She never missed a beat. She was constantly watching each musician as her cello, along with the keyboard, carried the rhythms for the ensemble.
Harmonics on a violin can sometimes sound like a fingernail scratching across a blackboard. There was none of that when Brendan Speltz played them. This technique is difficult to perfect but not for Speltz. Everything he did on that violin was done to perfection. He was not quite as good with the shakers as Anderson in one piece, but did have a definite violin wrist technique with them. They were both amusing.
Soprano Adrienne Pardee has an absolutely lovely voice. When she turns up the vocal volume, it can probably be heard out in the parking lot. She often sang without a microphone and her voice was just as lovely soft, but not always heard by the back row.
A highlight of the evening was “Far From The Home I Love” from Brock and Harnick’s “Fiddler On The Roof,” performed by Pardee, Anderson on oboe and Avni. Anderson introduced this piece as being about a “hot boy” and then proceeded to unbutton his shirt a bit while eyeing Pardee. Shortly after Pardee started singing, she broke up and asked to start over. She stated, “I can’t stop thinking about the hot boy.” Everyone cracked up then. Anderson excused himself from the stage, returning with his shirt buttoned and a great deal of decorum. The piece started again and Pardee sang this sad, emotional song beautifully. When it ended, Anderson crossed the stage and gave Pardee a kiss on the cheek.
Perfection in playing one’s instrument and then in playing in a group is accomplished by a great deal of practice, along with a lot of talent. The intonation of instruments may be even more important. A string can be played on a sliding scale. Winds can also hit various parts of a single note. Perfection is achieved in intonation by listening to each other and not letting notes slide. Shuffle Concert has unbelievable and exquisite intonation and clarity of tone.
Enough cannot be said about Avni. He is the consummate piano accompanist playing with perfection in the background letting the rest of the musicians stand out, never overpowering them with his vast talents. It was a treat during “The Eleven O’clock Train,” by A. Barbosa and arranged for the group by Oran Eldor, to hear his command of the keyboard. It would be good if he did more of that.
Presented by SEA producers Pat McArdle and Nancy Pearson, Shuffle Concert was the sixth in this seven-part series of SEA’s 35th concert season. Don’t miss SEA’s next exciting concert, The New Hot Club of America, on May 13 at FEC. For tickets call 541-997-1994.
Left to Right: Adrienne Pardee, Sofia Nowik, Brendan Speltz, Nancy Pearson, Eliran Avni, Hassan Anderson, Moran Katz