An Afternoon Delight

      It was a rainy afternoon outside but the sanctuary was inviting with its garnet and sapphire stained-glass glowing warmly. Then the music began, making the experience complete.

      From the first songs Sound the Trumpet and Let the Bright Seraphim by G.F. Handel to the final number, this was a delightful recital by sopranos Ann Cyptar and Patricia Ricciarelli, with Mildred Andrews Young at the piano and Sean O'Neill, trumpet. On March 16, 2003 at 4 pm we gathered 85-strong at First United Methodist Church in Newport News' Hilton Village, where Mary Matthews is Director of Vocal Music.

      We learned of the recital a week ahead in an e-mail from Ann Cyptar who introduced herself as Assistant Director of the Voice Center at Eastern Virginia Medical School "where I diagnose and treat folks with voice disorders/problems." Both she and Ms. Ricciarelli study with Genevieve McGiffert. Readers of this newsletter had an announcement soon after. She continued "I can't tell you how many times I've referred to your website. You folks do a tremendous service to the art song community. My deepest thanks."

      Some of our favorite recordings are duets by female vocalists and live performance is even more exiting. We were regaled by Felix Mendelssohn's In His Hands (The Ninety-fifth Psalm) and Domine Deus from Mass in C Minor and Sull' aria (The Letter Aria from The Marriage of Figaro) by Mozart. An absolute show-stopper was a recitative and duet Sous le dôme épais from Lakmé by Léo Delibes. The tune is lovely and the vocal blend of these light, sweet soprano voices was very beautiful.

      The very accomplished trumpeter Sean O'Neill is Ms. Ricciarelli's brother and together they achieved a chamber-like blend in Let the Bright Seraphim. Later in the program he performed the Trumpet Concerto in D Major by Heinrich Stölzel (1690-1749) on a Baroque trumpet that has a sound closer to a hunting horn than a modern trumpet and is fiendishly difficult to play. Later in the program he played Flor Peeter's (1903-) Sonata for Trumpet & piano, op. 51, second movement (aria) on a modern concert trumpet with Mrs. Young.

      Ms. Ricciarelli was soloist in My Dear Marquis from Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss and Art is Calling for Me from The Enchantress by Victor Herbert. Her delivery and stage presence well expressed the charm and mischief in the music.

      Ms. Cyptar sang the aria The Trees on the Mountain by Carlisle Floyd (1926-) from his opera Susannah, expresing the innocence and longing of that young woman.

      A set of duets, full of fun and mischief followed: What Can We Poor Females Do? by Henry Purcell and Die Schwestern of Johannes Brahms, a song of two sisters who do everything in unison. The last verse reads "O sisters lovely, How does the next chapter run? You love the very same lover, And here the story is done!" Rossini's La regata Veneziana sung in Venetian dialect is of naughty sisters who root for their favorite rowers in the regata as the piano ripples along.

      The program closed with The Prayer, "a crowd-pleaser that goes down easy." The piano and muted trumpet miked for balance as were the singers, open this piece written by Sager, Foster, Testa and Renis and made popular by Josh Groban.

      The fine piano work by Mildred Andrews Young, now of Williamsburg, and the playing by Sean O'Neill of Pottstown, PA added to the specialness of the occasion. The choir members of the church provided an elaborate spread for the reception that followed. Our thanks to everyone who worked to create this afternoon delight.

      The next program in the Life Enrichment Series at First United Methodist Church will be Requiem by Gabriel Fauré, featuring bass Steve Kelley and soprano Pat Ricciarelli on Sunday, April 13 at 4 pm.

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