SPOTLIGHT: Bach, Brahms and the British — chamber music at UUCWI May 11

Posted in Feature, Music, Spotlight

May 8, 2013

Put a little vivacity into your weekend with music by the best B’s in the canon.

The final concert of this season’s Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Whidbey Island Chamber Music Series, “A Musical B&B: Bach, Brahms & British Composers,” is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11 at the UUCWI congregation hall.

The performers include noted musicians Nola Allen (piano and harpsichord), Teo Benson (violin), Frances Kenney (oboe) and Kathryn Vinson (mezzosoprano). Eileen Soskin, well-known musical scholar, pianist and Whidbey Island resident, will provide commentary on the various pieces.

The musicians will present the “Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100” by Johannes Brahms, two Bach sonatas  and songs by British composers Gurney, Stanford, Head, Warlock and Williams.

The Brahms sonata was written in Thun, Switzerland in 1886 and is considered the most lyrical of the composer’s three violin sonatas, as well as the most difficult, requiring a balance of lyricism and virtuosity.

Like the music of Bach and Brahms, the program of British songs is harmonically quite complex, but much more contemporary, and offers a wide range of drama and emotion.

Pianist Allen graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory where she majored in organ and piano.  She served as organist and music director of Mercer Island Presbyterian Church for many years.  A busy professional accompanist and chamber musician, she has made several tours with the Seattle Ladies Musical Club Young Artist Competition winners throughout Washington State.  She has also performed with the Chaminade Trio for 27 years and is a past president of Ladies Musical Club.

Whidbey Island native Benson began playing violin at the age of 5.  He has won scholarships and concerto competitions in Washington State and Colorado and holds a Master of Music degree in violin performance from the University of Washington, where he studied with Ron Patterson. Mr. Benson is a member of the Tacoma Symphony and performs frequently in the Seattle area with an indie folk rock band, The Crying Shame and a jazz blues band, Stop, Thief!, featuring classically trained musicians performing Benson’s original.  For the past three years, he has performed as soloist in Guadalajara and Chacala, Mexico.  Mr. Benson directs the Halcyon School of Music in Seattle, where he maintains a full studio of students and is the lead instructor for the Young Strings Project Outreach, a non-profit organization providing violin instruction to disadvantaged students in the Seattle area and on Whidbey Island.

Oboist Kenney grew up in a musical family in two musical towns, Oberlin and Cincinnati. She began playing the oboe at the age of 11, studying with a conservatory student who demanded that she play long tones every day (and also made reeds for her). She continued her studies in Cincinnati with Linda Baker and attended a magnet school for creative and performing arts. At Indiana University, she studied oboe with Marc Lifschey and Nicholas Daniel as a performance major, with a minor in ethnomusicology. Just prior to finishing her undergraduate studies, Franny left the music field to study early childhood education. After a 10-year hiatus from music, Kenney settled on Whidbey Island, where she took up oboe again and where she has been performing with the Saratoga Orchestra since 2009.

Vinson received her Bachelor of Arts in music at the University of Washington.  She has sung principal operatic roles in Germany and the United Arab Emirates and has an extensive repertoire of German Lieder, while equally at home with oratorio.  She has been featured on several film soundtracks and sang the mezzo solos for Pacific Northwest Ballet in about 150 performances of their annual production of “The Nutcracker,” as well as two productions of “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  She is currently soloist and alto section leader at All Pilgrims Christian Church.

Tickets are $20 and $10 and are available at Moonraker Books  in Langley, Habitat for Humanity in Freeland, by email at and at the door. The UUCWI church is located at 20103 State Route 525, just north of Freeland.

(Pictured at top are musicians Teo Benson, Nola Allen and Kathryn Vinson./Photo courtesy of Libby Roberts.)








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