Standing: Carol Henry, Austin Blair, Michelle Powell, Jodi Lipson, Alberto Gamez
Seated: Barbara Freggens, Ellen Lazarus

On Saturday, April 20th, the weather was perfect. All seven performers arrived early for our first recital at Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington, DC. The room was spacious, and the brown Kawai Grand piano was in good shape. On the program were four pianists, two classical guitarists, and a vocalist. After a brief introduction about the AMSF and a warm welcome by our President, Michelle Powell, we began promptly at 3:00 p.m. There were 12 residents already seated.

Austin Blair opened the program with two pieces from “Lieder ohne Worte” (Songs without Words) by German composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847). They were Andante Espressivo Op. 30, No. 1 and Adagio Op. 53, No. 4. Austin has an uncanny ability to adjust his touch to the mood of the music as he plays. Both pieces were delivered in the quiet controlled nostalgic style they required with singing melodies and measured rubato.

Performing at Community Outreach for the first time, Jodi Lipson followed Austin with “The Seasons” Op. 37A June: Barcarolle by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893). Jodi played with clarity and confidence. The piece was definitely well-rehearsed and her dynamics were impressive. One would never have guessed that this was Jodi’s debut.

The classical guitarists performed next. First, Barbara Freggens played Andante Op. 44, No. 1 by Spanish composer Fernando Sor (1778–1839). Then Ellen Lazarus joined her for a lovely duet by Italian composer Ferdinando Carulli (1770–1841), named “The Nest and the Rose.” The duet was followed by Ellen’s solo which was a fun piece named “El Abejorro” (The Bee) by Emilio Pujol (1886–1980), another Spanish composer. Ellen asked the audience to listen carefully to the ending and come up with an interpretation of what they imagined had happened to the bee as she plucked the final chords. The consensus was that it had expired!

Polish composer, Frederic Chopin (1810–1949), is a favorite of Alberto Gamez who played two Chopin pieces. First, Alberto wooed the audience with the enchanting melody of the Nocturne No. 20 in C sharp minor (posthumous), and then he played the well-known Prelude Op. 28, No. 15 in Db major. The Kawai Grand responded readily to Alberto’s gentle and fluent touch.

The next pianist was Michelle Powell, who began with the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata Op. 27, No. 14 in C# minor. Michelle played with such feeling that after the recital one of the residents personally commended her for selecting this particular movement. Her second choice was Andalusia by Spanish composer Enrique Granados (1867–1916). She explained that Andalusia is No. 5 of a set of 12 Spanish Dances Op. 37 composed in 1890, that have been transcribed for guitar and for orchestra in addition to the piano. It is a challenging piece to perform but Michelle handled it with aplomb!

Carol Henry closed the program with two songs. The first, a solo, was “Going Home,” with music from the Largo of the New World Symphony by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak (1841–1904), and words by William Arms Fisher (1861–1948). The second was “It is Well with My Soul” with words by American lawyer Horatio Spafford (1828–1888), and music by Philip Bliss (1838–1876). Carol explained that this song was inspired by a tragedy at sea in 1873 when two ships collided and sank in the Atlantic Ocean killing 226 people. On board the ship headed to England were Horatio’s wife and four young daughters. Of the group, only his wife survived and she sent him a telegram saying, “Saved alone.” A heartbroken Horatio wrote the words of this song on his subsequent voyage from Chicago to England to retrieve his wife after her rescue. Accompanied by Austin Blair on the piano, Carol distributed the written words and (assisted by Ellen Lazarus), engaged the audience in a two-part sing-along.

Judging by the enthusiastic applause from the residents throughout the program, it seems that this recital had a perfect mix of music with pieces for piano, guitar, and voice. The sing-along at the end was a great Finale because it encouraged lively interaction with the residents. After the recital, Monsignor Bazan and several of the ladies including Debbie, Emma, Theresa (who used to be a singer), and Gloria, stayed to chat with the performers and show their appreciation. Even the Activities Coordinator, Francine, took the mike to tell us how grateful she was for the performance. We ended another successful recital with our group photo willingly taken by Alberto’s wife, Mary.