Sunday, May 11, 2008

Shaking Sticks at Notes

Warning: As I've said before, I'm not at all trained in writing about music, so for those who are music lovers, be prepared for inarticulate stumbling and bumbling as I try to describe this past weekend's experience in culture.

Saturday evening, Bee and the EcoFellow and I drove out to Prince George's Community College in Largo to hear the Prince George's Philharmonic perform. "The Prince Georges Philharmonic?! Seriously?" you're asking yourself, right? Yes, you heard correctly. PGP for short. Or, Pretty Good Performance, as Bee now calls them.

Fellow blogger Alice emailed me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I'd like tickets to a performance of Mozart and Dvorak as played by the PGP. (It just so happens, the same Alice plays violin in the PGP.) Never one to turn down an opportunity to hear classical music performed live, I said, "Yes, please!"

I've never attended community-type performances before. Most of my experience with theater, opera, ballet, and music has either been on a state or national level, so this was a first for me. And let me tell you, it was every bit as satisfying, exhilarating, and well-performed as what might be seen or heard in larger venues. Granted, the concert hall PGP performed in on Saturday evening was completely unworthy of their talent, but they overcame any lack of acoustic quality with sheer talent.

The PGP played three pieces: Mozart's Symphony No. 32 in G Major, K.318 and Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K.488 and Dvorak's Symphony No. 7 in D Minor, Op. 7. I honestly couldn't (and still can't) decide which piece I enjoyed the most. Each were complex and sublime in their own right and none were a burden on the listener. The evening's event included Awadagin Pratt as both a guest performer and conductor.

Led by music director Charles Ellis, the evening began with Mozart's Symphony No. 32. I'll say simply that the music was great, but it was watching Ellis that was a treat. The man conducts and moves like a swan. He was as much fun to watch as the orchestra was to hear!

Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 included Awadagin Pratt as guest pianist. I'll just say this: the man, his piano, and the music were one. You could literally see it flowing through him and it flowing out of him. I've seen a number of pianists who just pound out their music, but this gentleman embodied it and you could not only hear the passion in his playing, you could see it in his body as well. He was simply amazing and moving. Pratt is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of Music and the only graduate in the school's history to receive degrees in three performance areas: piano, violin, and conducting.

It was during Dvorak's Symphony No. 7 that we were treated to Pratt's conducting skills. Unlike Ellis, who was nimble and lithe and poetic in his conducting, Pratt was riveted, forceful, and direct. Both conductors accomplished soaring performances out of the PGP musicians and the results were absolutely lovely.

The Prince George's Philharmonic is an almost-all volunteer organization. Saturday's concert was the end of the 42nd season. Next year's season features some great music in its programs. If you're looking to enjoy some excellent music without breaking the bank, check out the PGP. We thoroughly enjoyed our evening and my take away was, you don't have to go to the Kennedy Center or the Met to enjoy great performances. Some of them might just be right in your own backyard! Thanks again, Alice. We had a great time!


Lucy said...

I've heard that's a darn good orchestra. And I've heard that one of the violinists is exceptionally good. But that may just be hearsay. I think the name is.....uh...starts with an A...Annie...Alyssa...Alice. That's It! Alice!

Jess said...

Wow, awesome! Blogs are great because then you meet cool people who offer you tickets to great things. I'm glad it was so enjoyable!

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Lucy: You should be very proud of Alice! Saturday's concert was a double treat: great music and seeing a friend perform.

Jess: I've met some really cool people through blogging. And yes, tickets can be a lovely fringe benefit.

Di said...

That sounds really great -- I would have LOVED to have gone to this too. Especially with such great company.

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Di: It was! Too bad you weren't here. We had an extra ticket for a friend who had to cancel last minute!

NG said...

Glad you enjoyed it. But the real credit goes to Mozart and Dvorak. What great music!

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

NG: That's gracious of you, but the music is only as good as the musicians who play it and you guys were pretty darn good!