Monday, August 27, 2012

Kelly Hall-Tompkins: 'Garth Newel Piano Quartet at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen'

Violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins recounts Music Kitchen's 59th Performance, Garth Newel Piano Quartet at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen:

This morning I was delighted to present the Garth Newel Piano Quartet for a Music Kitchen performance at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.  I originally met the quartet when they attended my performance at the 2010 Chamber Music America conference.  They have since invited me to play several concerts with them at the beautiful Garth Newel Music Center in Virginia, so it was my absolute pleasure to present them in a Music Kitchen concert while they are in New York for this year's CMA conference.  They are the embodiment of everything Music Kitchen seeks to accomplish:  The artists are friendly and approachable and their performance is at once spirited, warm, virtuosic, polished.  Even before they started playing, there were clients eagerly waiting- several people asking when the performance would begin.  "I don't want to miss it; I want to be sure to be here!" We had arrived early and there continued to be a steady stream of clients in eager anticipation, so I decided to have them just start 10 minutes early!  I quickly did my rounds to nearby tables, introducing myself and welcoming people to the concert.  One woman surprised me by recognizing me from the Olivieri Center for Homeless Women, where, due to their program shift, I have not presented a performance for 3 or 4 years.  From my photographer Greg Routt's marvelous photos of a past Music Kitchen performance,  I recognized a gentleman who eagerly sat down nearby, glued to the artists before they played a note.  As they dove into their first piece, the Schonfield Café Music, he smiled knowingly and said to me, “The roaring 20s!”  Though the piece was written in 1987 in Minnesota, he was absolutely right about the spirit of the work’s character.  Further, it was a perfectly chosen work for this environment- intended for a lively bustling environment of diners.  This was an amazing performance in every way and it captured many around the room in a more individual, though no less profound way.  I suddenly noticed another gentleman, this time a soup kitchen volunteer who had stopped his tasks to come closer to listen.  He was positively taken with the performance, his face in a dumbfounded stare until he finally turned to me, saying slowly and deliberately, voice dripping with awe- “Where- did-you-find-them??”  After I told him that the artists hail from Virginia, he melted onto the floor, drinking in the charms of the performance. After that, he continued, “I don’t even believe in God, but now, after this, I believe.  There must be a God!”
All four players were in now, playing the Brahms Piano Quartet, sure to charm any lover of chamber music.  Brahms is my favorite composer for chamber music and even if you don’t know the work specifically, his rich compositional style and voice-leading are unmistakable.  The same volunteer turned to me once again and said, “Pretty soon we are going to have to pay to volunteer!!”  Listeners sometimes identify with individual artists as they watch and listen, and this was one of those times.  A man got my attention to say, motioning to the violinist Teresa Ling, “I could stand here and listen to her play all day!”

For some, it’s not at all what they say with their words, but it’s their body language that tells all.  During a emotionally wrenching, sentimental and nostalgic passage in the Tchaikovsky Trio, a new client was entering the area with his meal tray.  He was so taken, so touched by the music, his face filled with awe and raw emotion as he stared from one player with the soaring melody to the next, he forgot himself and his tray tipped more and more towards the floor.  He kept walking closer, not believing his eyes and ears, his grip on the food tray slackening with each step.  He had obviously come for food, but something different now pulled at him.  Though his eyes looked as if he were weeping, they were filled with joy. Fortunately he did not drop the tray, but I was not too concerned about that- I too was taken with seeing his reaction. I will not soon forget that man and the effect the music had on him nor the soaring performance by the Garth Newel Piano Quartet and the effect it had on me!
Following are the notes from the listeners:
GREAT Never before have I heard this live, and seen it live, my first time.
Thank you. – Derrick
Liked it very much.  The concert was impeccable - from Guest
I like classical music and I like the music this group is playing.
A-OK, GREAT – Old Man
Thank you for your support of Music Kitchen Concerts!
Kelly Hall-Tompkins

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