Praises for the Upton Trio

Published 4:08 pm Thursday, October 5, 2017

Happiness is welcoming the Upton Trio back to Landrum today. I would have liked to hear the Steinway farewell concert at Tryon, too. Surely the few opportunities to hear great music here could be spaced apart so that we could attend all of them!

I was not asked to write about the Upton Trio again, but I really need to do so. We who opted for this program were treated to music making of the highest order. The players worked together to recreate from the lifeless scores living, breathing music—sometimes soft and sweet, sometimes rollicking and boisterous.

Pianist Billy Shepherd put the piano lid on the short prop, because that Boston comes with a BIG voice. Not having to hold back, he could concentrate on the demands of the scores, which were many and varied! I think he would have welcomed not only a page turner, but someone to softly wield a fan . . .

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Cellist Dusan Vukajlovic quickly disappeared again, this time leaving behind his music stand. I had wanted to tell him how much I enjoyed hearing him play not only the broad melodic themes he shared, but also the booming pizzicatos that I could hear very well. That must be a marvelous cello to respond so well to Dusan’s long bowing, the lovely harmonics and even sometimes flailing out the strokes of energetic music.

The program was re-arranged to bring us the Bloch Nocturnes first, then a Mendelssohn Trio, and after a brief intermission, the American Story composed by violinist Mary Lee Kinosian. I was pleasantly surprised by the sonorities of the Bloch, and pleased as always to hear the more familiar harmonies and melodic themes of Mendelssohn. Mary Lee put a lot of body English into her violin part, playing with an exciting flair when called for. As a concertmaster, she can do this while sitting down . . .

Her five-part “American Story” covered a lot of ground, both historically and musically. I was especially moved by her working in the tune of Amazing Grace. Amazing to me how that hymn has crossed over into the mainstream of music so that its message is now almost universal!

Later we heard a quote from Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” as an expression of a little boy’s happiness in welcoming the return of his father, the captain of a riverboat.

The concluding part was a hopeful, optimistic evocation of “America becoming America.”

Last but not least, came our reward of Whitney Blake’s Belgian chocolate, molded into violins and pianos. Treats for the mind, ears, and palate. Could there be a finer Sunday afternoon?

 Garland Goodwin, Tryon, N.C.