Diverse, delightful performance in support of Williamsburg Music Club

For 55-some years, the Williamsburg Music Club has provided the community opportunities to enjoy musical experiences provided by professional and talented area students during monthly meetings, benefit concerts and special performances. Importantly, it also offers grants-in-aid to students showing substantial talent to help further that talent.

None of this happens without available funding and, as with most arts organizations, it largely depends on financial support from area arts commissions and donations from individuals, as well as that gained through benefit programs.

The latter was the occasion for Saturday’s “Divertimenti 10” program in Williamsburg Baptist Church, appropriately sponsored by the Williamsburg Area Music Teachers organization. Established in 1982, according to its website, “… to provide support for private music teachers and performance opportunities for our students,” the group has for 10 years offered an annual benefit for the Music Club, garnering close to $60,000.

The fine and worthy merger of the two resulted in a pleasant offering of diverse musical selections embracing everything from tin pan alley and Broadway songs, to songs sacred and operatic. And it embraced equally diverse performances on piano, organ, harp, accordion, and voice, ably presented by 15 musicians.

The 12 pieces offered were done with great intent inspired by the desire to help provide inspiration and support of young artists in their upward career paths. Throughout the affair, participating teachers spoke glowingly of students who have benefited from Music Club grants, using them to continue professional training and performance opportunities.

The event opened with Paulette Amory singing and playing from the piano “My Funny Valentine” and Billy Joel’s “Mexican Connection,” followed by a nicely done “Toccata” of Gigout by organist Heidi Bloch. There was also a fun “Bumble Boogie” that was given an enthusiastic piano playing by Nancy Lanier and a zippy “Czardas” by James Rice on a digital accordion.

Quite beautiful was “Psalm 23” in a flowing vocal arrangement for Stephanie Lupo, Myrna Brinkley, Lanier and Rice, with flute input from student Elizabeth Friedrichs and pianist Dorothy Raskin. Also of note was talented harpist Alexandra Mullins who displayed delicate playing and fine fingering in a Rondo based on “Zitti, Zitti” from “Barber of Seville.” Lupo, Brinkley and Marj Gottschalk-Trone also teamed up for the “Three Ladies Trio” from “Magic Flute,” with Sarah Bland on keyboard.

While all works were warmly received, several stood out, notably Terri Osborne’s sensitive piano playing of Debussy’s richly crafted “Clair de Lune”; guitarist Todd Holcomb’s developed touch in a polished “Asturias” of Albeniz; and operatically trained Lupo’s strong delivery of “Climb Every Mountain” from “Sound of Music.”

The affair’s highlight came from bass Christopher Mooney, with support from Karen Ives on piano. Mooney’s performance background overflows with experience in important national opera companies and festivals, as well as with the “Opera Festival di Roma.” A highly regarded member of vocal faculties and organizations, he’s a familiar voice with the Virginia Symphony and other regional venues, always offering a deeply rich and inviting sound. Impressive on all counts.

For this benefit, he delivered a full voiced “Non Piu Andrai” from “Le Nozze de Figaro,” maybe the most well-known aria from the opera. Mooney gave it all the wit and charm the comic moment deserves, decorating it with characterizations that enhanced the joy of the piece, closing the benefit concert on a solid note of success for two deserving community-focused arts groups and their worthy students.

Shulson, a Williamsburg resident, has been covering the arts for more than 40 years. He makes a guest appearance in Margaret Truman's "Murder at the Opera."

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