Alberto Gamez, Sharon Atteh-Chi, Mary Lewers, Anne Spear, Claudette Sikora and Carol Henry

On Saturday, January 20th, there was another first for Community Outreach. Who would have thought that the attendees would include another species? As the 18 residents settled themselves and the recital was about to begin around 3:30 p.m., Daisy and Ruby strolled in and made themselves comfortable. This would have been unremarkable except for the fact that Daisy and Ruby are dogs! Eventually, their owner showed up and identified herself. She told us that they would be no problem at all because they both “loved music.” Thus began our recital at Sunrise Senior Living in Virginia.

Anne Spear was the first of five pianists. Earlier, during the warm-up, she had discovered that the “A” above middle C on the Baby Grand piano was not playing. Nevertheless, she soldiered on and captivated the audience with her rendition of Waltz Poetico #4 by Enrique Granados (1867-1916), and a gorgeous arrangement of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Harold Arlen (1905-1986). Anne said that the latter was written as a song of hope for people near the end of the Great Depression in 1939. She played the piece with a fluid legato style that truly expressed its beauty.

Claudette Sikora played next. Her first piece was “Mattinata” (which is Italian for morning) by Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1857 – 1919). It was written for the great Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso, to sing while accompanied by Leoncavallo himself. It is a love song that tells the story of a lover bidding farewell to his beloved as the morning sun rises. In addition to adeptly handling the intermittent glissandos, Claudette convincingly conveyed the passion of the song. Her second piece was Nocturne in Eb major, Op. 9, No. 2 by Frederic Chopin (1810 – 1849). Claudette’s sensitive touch was well suited to this nocturne as she executed the tender trills and made the melody sing.

Our lone flutist, Sharon Atteh-Chi, followed Claudette. She played a 4-movement piece called “Legends for Flute” by contemporary American composer Valerie Coleman. The 4 movements were 1.) Lin-Fa (The Lotus Lily), 2.) Dagda’s Harp, 3.) Gaia, and 4.) El Encierro (The Running of the Bulls). They were all enchanting; “Dagda’s Harp” ended on a shrill staccato high note that sounded like a bird’s chirp. The last movement was upbeat and playful, and made one feel like dancing a jig. Sharon’s playing was both fluent and precise, with excellent tone control indicative of a well-rehearsed performer.

Returning to our pianists, Alberto Gamez played Fantasy in D minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791). This piece presented a kaleidoscope of color while moving through many moods in its four short sections – Andante, Adagio, Presto, and Allegretto. Alberto set the stage with the smooth flowing arpeggio chords of the opening Andante and the slower staid tempo of the poignant Adagio. His nimble fingers were just as competent with the fast-running sixteenth notes of the Presto as with the dancing melody of the ending Allegretto. It was beautifully played.

Multitalented Mary Lewers chose to play the piano instead of her beloved flute at this recital and selected “The Harmonious Blacksmith” by George Frederic Handel (1685 – 1759). Originally written for harpsichord, this piece is the final movement (Air and Variations) of Handel’s Suite No. 5 in E major HWV 430. Unlike pianos (which weren’t invented until 1700), harpsichords do not have sustaining pedals. Skillfully using only her fingers to achieve the required sustaining, Mary successfully simulated the harpsichord sound on the grand piano to the delight of the audience.

Carol Henry closed the program with the Irish folk song “Londonderry Air,” which the residents immediately recognized. It was originally written by British lyricist W.G. Rothery (1858 – 1930). Her second piece was an unusual piano arrangement of the hymn “Because He Lives,” written by Bill and Gloria Gaither in 1971. The arrangement was peppered with embellished chords, which produced rich harmonies that filled the room. In navigating the broken “A” piano key, Carol made lemonade from that lemon by simply singing that note each time her right hand had to play it in her pieces. This, of course, resulted in much laughter!

After the recital, we thanked the residents (and our canine companions who had long departed for greener pastures) for being an excellent audience, and gathered near the piano to take a group photo in our fun sunglasses. It was a lovely recital, and we left Sunrise knowing that we had successfully entertained and uplifted our audience.