Two special recitals this weekend will spotlight the talents of students in the School of Music and two visiting pianists, all of whom are affiliated with and/or supported by the National Federation of Music Clubs.
As part of the NFMC’s 75th “Federation Days” weekend at Chautauqua, music students who have received scholarship money from states and individuals in NFMC’s Northeast Region, NFMC’s national branch or the Chautauqua Fund will perform in a recital at 3 p.m. Saturday in Fletcher Music Hall for the visiting members and the general public. Additionally, the winners of NFMC’s 2017 Ellis Duo-Piano Competition, Happy Dog Duo, will play in concert at 5 p.m. Sunday in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall.
The NFMC is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and supporting American musicians of all ages and skill levels. With over 135,000 members, NFMC has branches in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
NFMC donated the building on Chautauqua’s grounds that now houses the School of Music offices, and Chautauqua Institution and NFMC have been in partnership ever since. Each year, members of the Northeastern Region stay at Chautauqua to have their annual business meeting and attend several concerts.
“We share the mission of encouraging young people — mostly in the student-collegiate age, we call it — in their musical endeavors,” said Ruth Ann McChesney, vice president for the Northeastern Region of NFMC.
Additionally, national and state branches of NFMC grants thousands of dollars in scholarships each year to assist School of Music students in attendance for the summer. Chautauqua grants additional scholarships in the name of NFMC Northeastern Region and in honor of Dorothy Dann Bullock, NFMC president from 1959 to 1963, and president of the Chautauqua Women’s Club for many years. This year, scholarship funds amount to a total of $13,200.
The recipients of these scholarships will perform at the recital in gratitude to NFMC.
One of the students performing is violist Jessica Wong. She will be playing the first and fourth movements of Max Reger’s Suite for Viola Solo in G minor, Op. 131D No. 1. The two movements juxtapose each other in that the first movement is very grave, with few happy moments, while the fourth movement is more energetic.
“There’s so much emotion, especially in the first movement, and then in the fourth movement it’s really fast and with a lot of emotion at the same time,” Wong said.
Wong is the recipient of the NFMC Chautauqua Directors scholarship.
“It has been a big help, because most summer music festivals cost quite some money,” Wong said. “Here (they are) very generous with scholarships, so I’m very grateful.”
Another student performing is pianist Alexei Aceto, who will be playing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G-flat Major, Op. 23 No. 10. The piece is part of a cycle of 24 preludes that Rachmaninoff wrote, each one in a different key. G-flat major is a “soft and sensitive” key, Aceto said, and the piece is very contemplative and introspective because of it. It has moments of joy with an undercurrent of darkness, like many Rachmaninoff pieces.
“Where (Rachmaninoff) goes with the piece in only two pages is unexpected, but also it seems so natural,” Aceto said. “You hear it and you think, that couldn’t have gone any other way.”
Aceto is the recipient of the NFMC-Pennsylvania Federation Award.
“I figured (this piece) would be good for this recital because it might be my best way of saying thank you, in a way,” Aceto said. “I’m so thankful to the NFMC and I’m so glad to be here at this program.”
Eleven other student musicians and scholarship recipients will also perform, including five additional instrumentalists and six vocalists.
Each year, Chautauqua also invites a young NFMC-affiliated artist or artists to perform in their own recital. This year, Happy Dog Duo, comprised of pianists Eric Tran and Nathan Cheung, are visiting with NFMC and will be giving a special concert the day following the scholarship recital.
Stanford University alumni Tran and Cheung have won over a dozen piano duet competitions due to their skill in both dual piano and four-hands (playing at the same piano) duets, “with a focus on bringing humor and joy to the classical music world,” according to the NFMC’s website. They have played extensively in their hometown of San Francisco and alongside four symphony orchestras. They have also toured internationally in Korea, China and Canada, as part of a musical written and performed by their fellow Stanford students.
Tran and Cheung have been playing together since middle school. The name of their duo comes from a 30-second duet composition they wrote themselves on a long plane ride, called “Happy Dog.” Neither of them own any dogs.
The award-winning duo will perform a unique program comprised of pieces by Felix Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, Maurice Ravel, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Frederic Rzewski. It will be the Chautauqua community’s only chance to see them play. Afterwards, the New York branch of NFMC will host a reception on the Lenna Hall porch.