Music Teachers produce holiday cheer at Blackstone Library

Pianist Jesus Garcia and flutist Dalia Chin perform winter songs arranged for the piano and flute by Judy Nishmura during the final concert of the year’s Music Teachers of Hyde Park Series. (Photo by Spencer Bibbs)

By M.L. RANTALA
Classical Music Critic

Music Teachers of Hyde Park (MTHP) is an alliance of independent private music teachers serving Hyde Park, Kenwood, and South Shore. The group sponsors many events throughout the year that give its students opportunities to perform and learn, including recitals and workshops.

The members of MTHP have wide-ranging skill sets and the group’s printed guide says, “We teach virtually all instruments and styles of music — from the piano to the oud and from opera to jazz.”

Last Wednesday, as part of the organization’s Artist Series — free concerts given by the music teachers themselves — there was a holiday concert at the Blackstone Library featuring music for flute and piano. It was a pleasure not only to hear the polished performances of Dalia Chin (flute) and Jesus Garcia (piano), but also a chance to share holiday cheer with an audience ranging in age from pre-school kids to grandparents. Occasionally certain members of the audience would get up and run around a bit, but that only added to the event. It’s wonderful to know that there is a place for young kids to get an introduction to classical music where they are welcome and adults are tolerant of the occasional weaknesses of kids who can’t stay completely still or quiet for an entire concert.

Chin and Jesus both have professional careers as performers as well as music teachers, and they have performed together for some time. This was evident in their collaboration that appeared not merely comfortable but second nature to them.

Before the performance, Chin spoke briefly about the music of the first half of the concert: Christmas carols and other holiday music arranged for flute and piano by Judy Nishamura. While adults would have understood what was about to happen merely from reading the program, the kids were given a heads-up; much of the music would be familiar to them, but arranged in new ways.

First on the program was “The Angel Gabriel Danced,” a Basque carol. Chin and Garcia started on sure footing with bold and clear declarations of the melody, which shifted attractively in and out of major keys. The solo flute section saw Chin play with lightness and grace.

The arrangement of “Silent Night” was imaginative, and dared to include variations of the melody that strayed far from the original. The players were adept with the jazzy inflections, the piano offering muscular support to the effervescent sound of the flute.

“Blooming Joy” was based on Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” with the focus of the music shifting constantly from flute to piano and back again. Chin was assured while Garcia was fluid and able to turn on a dime as the mood shifted. The hopefulness and joy emerged directly from the music as the pair built to a dramatic climax.

“Angels We Have Heard on High” was the basis for “Merry Angels. It had perky staccato and a brisk pace. There was big, brash sound from the piano and the flute sounded many finely executed trills that were fun and frothy.

The arrangement of “Greensleeves” brought new life to this oft-heard English folk song and included expertly rendered piano lines and soothing melodies from the flute.

“Ho Joy” was an arrangement of “Joy to the World” and cleverly inserted some quotations from the “Ode to Joy,” the choral movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. The ornaments and flourishes were delectable, and there were some hoots of pleasure along with applause from the appreciative audience.

The second part of the concert featured 20th century classical music. First there were six pieces for flute and piano by the Azerbaijani composer of the Soviet era Fikret Amirov (1922–1984). Ice skating fans may remember the routine by American Michelle Kwan, a world champion, performed to Amirov’s “Gulustan Bayati-Shiraz.”

The six sketches drew musical portraits of various aspects of life in Azerbaijan. Notable was “In the Azerbaijani Mountains,” an alpine journey that elicited the ideas of cool breezes, melting snow and rushing streams. It was a most pleasing landscape. Chin and Garcia reveled in the interesting dissonances and the unusual modes in the score, serving as splendid ambassadors for the music.

The final work on the program was by Otar Taktakishvili (1924–1989), a contemporary of Amirov from Soviet Georgia. The duo took on the first movement of his flute and piano sonata. Marked “Allegro Cantabile,” Chin and Garcia gave it just the right singing quality. The sense of yearning in the central part of the movement was fully developed and both players showed attractive assertiveness. It was a great way to end the program, which was then followed by Christmas cookies and other tasty snacks.

To learn more about the free MTHP concert series, or to find a music teacher, visit MTHP.org.