The sixth of March. A day that will pass into legend for the music program at Belmont Hill School. Last Sunday, instrumentalists from Belmont Hill School’s music program convoked and participated in the Winter Collage Concert, marking the third of four major performances this year.
In keeping with a long-standing Belmont Hill tradition, the Orchestra was the first to take the stage with the group playing a haunting rendition of Camille Saint-Saëns’s “Danse Macabre.” Central to the piece was star violinist Austin Kwoun’s who passionately played solo to complement the excellent technique displayed by the rest of the orchestra.
After the final G minor pizzicato chord in the strings, the orchestra left the stage, yielding the floor to a group of soloists the like of which has never before been seen at Belmont Hill. First in this set of five soloists was veteran pianist Juan Carlos Fernandez del Castillo, who elegiacally filled the Hamilton Chapel with the beautifully moving chords of Maurice Ravel’s “Pavane for a Dead Princess”. Such was a fitting end to his decorated solo career at Belmont Hill, which has lasted for six years and touched so many audiences.
Following Fernandez del Castillo’s brilliant performance was violinist Kerby-Louis Roberson playing Pablo Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen. His showmanship and technique duly impressed the audience, who were very grateful for an excellent performance. This recital marked the solo debut of Roberson, and the audience noted his great potential in the future. Subsequently Andrew Kaneb took the stage, to play the first movement of Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with excellent musicality and interpretation. The impressive afternoon of music only got better, and after the concertmaster left the stage, violist and polyglot Coleman Walsh impressed the audience with Gabriel Faure’s “Après un rêve,” which expressed the French qualities of Faure’s composition through his soaring lyricism and legato playing. Finally to end the first group of soloists was violinist Didier Lucceus, who would also be taking the solo stage for the last time in a stellar career at Belmont Hill spanning four years. He played the second movement of W.A. Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 transcribed for viola, and stunned the audience with his flashy cadenza, featuring tritones and other musical fascinations.
After this quintet of soloists came the Upper School Jazz Ensemble, supplemented by Armin Thomas on trombone, who first played the Tito Puente classic mambo “Ran Kan Kan” soloed by Marshall Knight on alto, JP Champa on trumpet, Ben Blaustein on trumpet, and Juan Carlos Fernandez del Castillo on piano. The audience took to the groovy vibe of the song very well, and they were just as receptive for the next tune played by the band, Freddie Hubbard’s “Red Clay”. Soloists on this tune were Ethan McIlhenny on tenor, Patrick Connor on trumpet, and Scott Jackson on drums. The audience was very well pleased with the group’s performance, and then left the stage to make way for two more soloists.
The first of these soloists was pianist Armin Thomas, who played the capricious Rhapsody in B minor by Johannes Brahms, propagating harmonious sonorities all through the Chapel with his lyricism and passion. After leaving the stage, fellow pianist George Hu, seasoned performer at Belmont Hill for six years, wowed the audience with a powerful performance of Franz Liszt’s “Après une lecture du Dante,” hands flying across the keyboard in octaves and in florid arpeggios. The final D chord marked the end of a decorated solo career for Hu.
Subsequently, the Middle School Jazz Ensemble took to the stage to rock the beat of Nat Adderley’s “Jive Samba” with Tim Brown soloing on tenor, and Jacob Welborn soloing on trumpet. As always, the MS Jazz Ensemble was well liked by the audience, and left the stage to rapturous applause.
Next came the Chamber Society’s Brandenburg Trio, consisting of Andrew Kaneb on violin, Didier Lucceus on viola, and Armin Thomas on piano, who played the 6th trio piece in a collection of 8 written by Max Bruch. They wowed the audience with their expressivity and clarity of sound. After the Brandenburg Trio came the acclaimed Belmont Hill Piano Trio, consisting of George Hu on piano, Spencer Kim on cello, and Austin Kwoun on violin. They played the Scherzo from Johannes Brahms’s Piano Trio in B major, and delighted the audience with its jocular character and wide dynamic range. After the applause, the Trios left the stage and gave way to the final act of the afternoon. The Jazz Combo, characterized by their suavity of character and sporting of aviator sunglasses, pleased the audience with a driving performance of “Cissy Strut” by Nocentelli, Neville, Porter and Modeliste. The applause after their performance signaled the end of the afternoon.
After requisite remarks by Mr. Fiori, the audience and the musicians retreated up the dell to the Prenatt Music Building, where a reception took place. Everyone present knew this concert was historic. The quality of the ensembles and the quality of the soloists has never been better in Belmont Hill history. The Golden Age of Belmont Hill Music is alive.