Jodi Lipson, Alberto Gamez, Jeffrey Rubin, Austin Blair, Michelle Powell, Carol Henry

Not even a major accident on the Beltway could stop our performers on a rainy Saturday afternoon! Though a couple were understandably late, they all made it. There were seven pianists and a cornet player scheduled to perform at Raphael House in Rockville at 3:30 p.m. on May 18th. However, at that time two Virginia participants had not yet arrived, so the order of performance was shuffled, and we started on time with those present. Ten residents were already seated in the well-lit Common Room near a Chickering baby grand piano in the far right corner. After a brief introduction about the AMSF, our first pianist, Jung Yeon Kim, began. 

Jung chose a German composer, Johannes Brahms (1833–1897), and a French composer, Claude Debussy (1862–1918), and successfully contrasted the Romantic with the Impressionist. Brahms’ Intermezzo in A major Op. 118, No. 2 was a fitting opening for an afternoon of beautiful music. Jung’s second piece was Debussy’s Claire de Lune and, being a seasoned pianist, she convincingly captured the ethereal mood of the piece.

Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797–1828) was known for the melody and harmony in his songs and chamber music. It was therefore no surprise that Schubert was Austin Blair’s favorite composer. Austin played Schubert’s Moment Musicaux, Op. 94, No. 2 in Ab major D780. He approached the piece with the required tenderness, as his well-trained fingers painted passionate pictures for the audience. He certainly did justice to Schubert’s delicate melodies.

Jodi Lipson followed with June: Barcarolle, The Seasons, Op. 37a, by Russian Romantic composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893). Jodi’s performance of this piece showed great control, which resulted in beautiful phrasing and dynamics making it a joy to hear. She then played the first three variations of Sonata No. 11 in A major, KV331 by the great Austrian Classical composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791). Adjusting her touch from the Romantic to the Classical, Jodi again convinced us of her innate musicality with clean singing melodies and measured use of the pedal.

Alberto Gamez, a regular at Community Outreach, performed two Preludes by Polish composer, Frederic Chopin (1810–1849). They were Op. 28, No. 3 in G major and No. 4 in E minor. Chopin was a leading composer of the Romantic period and wrote primarily for solo piano. Alberto played both pieces masterfully and Chopin would have been proud of his interpretation. However, No. 4 was particularly enchanting because of its haunting nostalgic mood, helped both by the minor key and the pulsating left-hand chords.

Jeffrey Rubin played next, and he selected two pieces by Scott Joplin (1868–1917). Given Jeffrey’s relaxed demeanor, one would never have guessed that he had been sitting in traffic on the Beltway for over an hour! He first played “Maple Leaf Rag,” which drew a warm response from the residents who immediately recognized the melody. His second piece was “Solace” (a Mexican Serenade). This piece is not as well-known as Joplin’s other famous Rags, but it is just as engaging, with a lovely lilting melody that Jeffrey obviously enjoyed playing.

Edward Elgar (1857–1934) was a renowned English composer who wrote “Pomp and Circumstance,” which is now a standard part of many high school and college graduations. Michelle Powell rightly thought it a most suitable choice for performance in the month of May. She said that Elgar never finished high school, but he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Yale, where the piece was first performed in 1905. The piece was also played at the coronation of King Edward VII, son of Queen Victoria. Michelle’s posture and performance perfectly portrayed the regal nature of the piece as she threw her weight into the imposing chords. The familiar melody resonated with the residents who loved it and told her so after the recital.

For a change of mood, Carol Henry selected a jazz arrangement of the hymn “What a Friend,” written by Charles C. Converse (1832–1918) and arranged for piano solo by Jack Schrader (b. 1942). Carol was able to highlight the rich harmonies of the piece while keeping the rhythm steady throughout. Switching seamlessly from piano to voice, Carol ended her performance by engaging the audience in a lively sing-along of the song “O Worship the King,” written by Robert Grant in 1833. She was competently accompanied by Austin Blair on the cornet. The residents perked up as the warm velvety sound of Austin’s cornet filled the room. It was encouraging to hear the voices of both residents and participants who readily joined the chorus as they sang heartily after Jodi distributed written copies of the words.

After the recital, we took a group photo and we also sang “Happy Birthday” to Beth, a dear resident in her nineties who was pleasantly surprised after Jodi discovered that Beth’s birthday was the day before, on May 17th. It was a touching culmination to a wonderful afternoon of uplifting music.