The foyer at the Performing Arts Centre dripped diamonds (10 carat plastic) while another “gem” the size of a softball graced a silver draped stage drenched in classy, rich lighting to celebrate the North Okanagan Community Concert Association’s Diamond Jubilee, Saturday.
And what better way to mark the 60 years since Josephine (Joey) Karen spearheaded NOCCA’s intent, to bring acclaimed musicians to Vernon, than invite the Gryphon Trio to return? Audible sighs of pleasure filled the auditorium in appreciation of the music created by this genuine Canadian “gem.”
NOCCA’s new president, Paul Maynes, introduced each member of the trio by first name. Jamie Parker (piano) became Jamie while Annalee Patipatanakoon (violin) and her husband Roman Borys (cello) were dubbed Annalee and Roman respectively. Thus, they all became family.
“Paul” paid tribute to the larger family of NOCCA volunteers who have contributed to the success of some 300 concerts since the first in October 1953, when Cuban pianist Jorge Bolet brought his own piano to play in a high school gym.
Jamie introduced Beethoven’s Piano Trio in D Major by suggesting its subtitle, Ghost, was a mere marketing ploy by an ambitious promoter. Yet its haunting second movement seemed perfectly chosen for this Halloween season.
Beethoven composed the trio while staying with Countess Marie von Erdödy in Vienna in 1808 when he was happy and prolific. (His 5th and 6th symphonies were composed during this period.)
The Gyphon Trio rendered Beethoven’s work to perfection, in seeming effortlessness, with harmonies so delicately and exactly drawn that each individual instrument often blended into one cohesive composite. Their frolicking calls and counter calls, echoes and answers, with the players listening and watching with trance-like intensity (especially Roman) enthralled.
The second piece, Michael Oesterle’s Centennials, was commissioned last year by the trio and demonstrates their commitment to expand musical education and promote Canadian composers.
Centennials pays tribute to three iconic figures who influenced Oesterle’s life. It may have presented a challenge to those whose comfort zone lies more in melody but it stretched the appreciation of others.
Oesterle first pays tribute to TV chef Julia Child so evocatively that some who have seen her in action mentally added dialogue to the quirky music.
Next, he celebrates Conlon Nancarrow who composed for player piano. Chattered notes between pizzicato strings and staccato piano became phrases and short conversations, reminiscent of holes being punched in piano rolls at varying intervals.
Oesterle has a persistent interest in mathematics and science and likens the focus and discipline required to excel in them to those necessary in the arts. Small wonder then that his third icon is Alan Turing, the mathematician whose genius helped Britain crack Germany’s enigma code in the Second World War.
Balm was applied to anyone needing it in the second half, with Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D Minor. Its theme, played sublimely on cello in the opening, set the tone for the first movement.
Mendelssohn’s work as an accomplished artist who painted detailed watercolours of places he visited on his extensive travels, lent a backdrop to the lyrical second movement introduced by the tenderest of piano solos. The quicksilvered scherzo led to the resumption of the theme in the passionate finale.
It was splendid and begged two encore pieces.
The elegant evening was rounded off with anniversary punch and goodies, animated discussion and a rare opportunity to mingle with the three consummate musicians and personable souls who comprise The Gryphon Trio. They have my vote for yet another return visit.
The NOCCA continues with its 60th anniversary season with the Reside Dawson Duo, Nov. 22. Tickets are available at the Ticket Seller in the Performing Arts Centre.
— Christine Pilgrim is a freelance writer who reviews the NOCCA season for The Morning Star.