Long Island Composers Alliance Presents Tomorrow’s Classics….Today
The Long Island Composers Alliance (LICA) presented Tomorrow’s Classics….Today on May 27, 2016 at Hofstra University’s Fortunoff Concert Hall, in association with the University Music Department and The Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame.
There was a good audience in the hall for the event, mostly parents and family members of the young composers and performers, but a fair number of LICA members as well, there to judge the young musicians for awards to be made at a later date.
The festivities began with LICA President Herbert Deutsch, in which he introduced the 43rd edition of the program. Apparently, for the last 25 years, the event has been entirely music by students, but this year, they’ve returned to the original format of a mix of student composers and performers, and composer members of the Alliance, performed by students.
Deutsch referred to the program as, “one of the great experiences of my life.” And so it is, I’m sure, for both composers and performers.
The first part of the program was music for students by LICA composer members.
The first offering in this format was LICA member Patricia King’s Concoctions. 9 year-old pianist Jason Gould performed three of these charming, rhythmic works which are quite appropriate for training young players.
Next was Julie Mandel’s two songs from Girls! The composer was at the piano, accompanying 11 year-old Sean Fruman. He has an unaffected young voice, clear, with good clarity of pronunciation. The first song had very cute words, a nice tune and is right for a young singer. The second song was, again, good for a young singer, with good and affecting lyrics about the effects of divorce on a young life. Very nice composition, well performed.
This was followed by 8 year-old pianist Tyler Benedict’s performance of Herbert Deutsch’s Two Pieces from the Nancy-Jo Notebook. The first piece, the composer explained, was Jimmy’s Little Fingers in the Phryge, so-called because it was composed in the Phrygian mode. This gave the short but effective piece a rather ancient sound (as this mode has been known to do). The second piece was more rhythmically challenging, complete with knocking on the piano. Very well handled by Mr. Benedict, who has lots of room to grow as a performer.
Closing out this part of the evening was Jane Leslie, who was piano accompanist for 16 year-old Emma Lopez-Fonte and duo partner with 10 year-old Rachel Kauderer. The first piece, Sail Away, was pleasant, but the young singer seemed a bit tentative, and was even a little hard to hear at times. Interestingly, however, she projects a nice stage presence, and seemed to make good contact with the audience. For the future however, a little more volume please. The piano collaboration on Dreamsong was also pleasant, with the young pianist capably presenting the charming, unassuming melody. This music reminded me of a lovely walk on a Summer’s day.
Then, on to the second part of the program, music by student composers, all of whom are entrants in LICA’s student composer competition.
First up was 16 year-old Elizabeth Gergel’s Dreaming, performed by pianist Jane Leslie. The arpeggios have it! An interesting melody, but a somewhat unconventional work for one so relatively young. Ms. Gergel needs to keep listening to many different composers and growing musically.
Next up was the previously mentioned Jason Gould, this time as both composer and performer. His Memories is rather darker and slower than the other works heard so far, and is a little unexpected from one so young. That said, it is a good piece, and was capably performed by the composer, who showed a nice understanding of dynamics.
Then came the 14 year-old composer/pianist Lydia von Hof and her Wild Fire. Someone likes Liszt! The piece was off to a fast start, followed by a rather mysterious second theme. This is an ambitious piece that was well performed by the composer. She’ll keep listening and growing musically.
Pianist Jason Black then performed 17 year-old composer Annie Nikunen’s Someday. The older pianist attractively essayed this piece, which features some nicely unexpected modulation and flourishes. There’s real imagination in this effecting music.
Pianist Christine Dore-Connolly presented 14 year-old Peter Giulio Mainetti’s Midnight on the Beach – a somewhat dark beach with a bit of potential for danger. This is truly striking music with some fascinating compositional ideas for one so young. Very evocative, and very well performed, including a sort of folk dance at the end. The composer has listened to other music, and listened well. I’d like to hear more of his work.
This was followed by 14 year-old composer/pianist Joohyeon Park’s The Universe and I. Hers is an interesting universe – and a little off-center, with its odd time signatures, incomplete phrases and intentional dissonance. Well performed by the composer, this is music from an inquiring mind whose universe I hope continues to expand.
Next up was Songs of Spring and Winter (from Love’s Labour’s Lost) for guitar, clarinet percussion (tambourine) by 16 year-old Zachary Lee. Rhythmic, pop-oriented and drawn from Shakespeare, this might fit nicely into a production of the play – perhaps sometime in the future at Hofstra itself? I assume the composer is the singer. The setting and instrumentation is imaginative and the performers were committed to the music.
17 year-old composer Zachary Mezzo was next with his Resolution for oboe and strings. This is very attractive music, a showcase really for lovely oboe writing and playing by Andres Ayola. The strings had some adventures in intonation, but overall this was a fine performance of a nice bit of pastoral writing.
Emily Ramonetti (16 year-old composer/pianist) then presented her Beautiful Things piano trio. Paging Pachelbel at first, but then a more contemporary, arpeggiated piano idea that grows into a big, lush theme. Very nice ideas, very good presentation from the composer and her colleagues.
This was followed by 17 year-old composer David Jung’s Woodland Daydream, with the composer conducting a string quintet, which included bass. This walk in the woods was more like a brisk, late Spring stroll with a lot on your mind – but you know where you’re going and how long it will take to get there – no time for dreaming, really, but a pleasant stroll nonetheless.
Sierra Wojtczack’s J.S.G.D (the first initials of the members of the string quartet that performed it – which included the 16 year-old composer/cellist) featured some fine young string players. And the composer has some lovely compositional ideas, including good use of rhythm. The group could use a bit more rehearsal (better ensemble will come with more time working together), but I especially appreciated the jazzy touches that show a good direction for the future.
The final student composition, Brass Quartet by 16 year-old hornist Natalie Olivieri was performed by a talented two trumpet, horn and trombone ensemble. The composer displayed good antiphonal skill and the piece felt like an introduction to visiting royalty, or at least a local politician. Good writing, good playing, good presentation.
Arline Diamond Memorial Cash Awards will be given according to age category to three of the evening’s student composers in recognition of their work. They will be presented and their works will be performed on June 5, 2016 at LICA’s 45th Anniversary Concert at Long Island’s South Huntington Library.
Here’s hoping for 45 more years of looking to the future!
Visit Long Island Composers Alliance at http://www.licamusic.org/.
Visit the Hofstra University Music Department at http://www.hofstra.edu/academics/colleges/hclas/music/index.html.
Visit The Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame at http://www.limusichalloffame.org/.
Review by Jeffrey James