By Ted AYALA
Ensconced just a minute’s walk away from Downtown Glendale is one of the city’s best kept musical secrets. The 1st Baptist Church of Glendale (209 N. Louise St.) plays host to the Glendale Noon Concerts, a free series of noon-time musical concerts that are free to the public. Every first and third Wednesday of each month, the sounds of some of the region’s most talented players peal forth from the halls of this church. The concerts, mostly of classical music, feature some very novel and interesting programming. Yesterday’s concert with string trio Vio-fonik was no different.
Vio-fonik, which is composed of musicians Harry Scorzo (1st violin), Jennifer Walton (2nd violin), and Alan Mautner (cello), was accompanied by harpsichordist Jennifer Bowen in a brief concert of music by George Frederick Handel and compositions by Vio-fonik leader Harry Scorzo.
Handel’s sunny Trio Sonata in B-flat op.5, no.7 was matched by the genial sound of Vio-fonik. Their graceful and lissome playing, gratefully warmed with vibrato, beguiled the ear. From first note to last, there was a pastoral simplicity to their playing that was quite winning. One felt a regret that the Handel piece ended so soon.
Violinist Harry Scorzo took a turn as composer as well as violinist in the remaining two pieces on the program. The work of the urbane French composer Maurice Ravel has evoked many images and places in the minds of his listeners. But it’s a safe bet that the flora and fauna of the Mesozoic Era has probably not been one of them. This didn’t stop composer Scorzo from composing his imaginative reinvisioning of Ravel’s suite ‘Le tombeau de Couperin’ that fuses moments from Ravel’s suite with the words of poet Mark Weber in Scorzo’s work ‘Maurice Ravel and the Pterodactyls of Paradise.’ Opening with a modal prelude, the work then intersperses sections from the Ravel piece with the words of Mark Weber. Requiring a narrator to speak the poem, Vio-fonik used Mark Weber’s prerecorded voice (the poet himself was unable to attend) in place of a narrator. It was an interesting piece of music that melded Weber’s primordial visions with Ravel’s nostalgic look at the French baroque into something of a stream-of-consciousness dream.
Scorzo’s Non-Inferential Apprehension closed out the piece. Using a philosophical term that he overheard from his son, Scorzo set teasing, pregnant chords against a prerecorded backdrop of audience murmur. A brief piece that seemed to be a prelude to an exposition that never arrives, it vaguely reminded me of the work of Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov and his music that serves as codas for pieces never written.
Jacqueline Suzuki of Kewa Civic Concerts serves as the Glendale Noon Concerts curator. In conversation after the concert, Suzuki gave a brief overview of the series and how it got started. “I played in this venue with another musical group years ago,” Suzuki related. “I immediately fell in love with the acoustics. They were simply great. I approached Pastor Charles Updike (of the 1st Baptist) about organizing a concert series. So he opened the gates for us and now we’ve been going strong since November 2008.”
Citing the church’s proximity to Brand Boulevard, Suzuki encouraged residents to come to the Noon Concerts. “We’re near great restaurants and stores. We have easy parking. There’s so much to do here. We want visitors to come here and as part of the many unique experiences people can find here [Downtown Glendale].”
The next Noon Concert will take place on April 20 with a performance of Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet played by the Kewa String Quartet. Admission is free and light lunches can be purchased in the lobby. For more information, contact the 1st Baptist Church at (818) 242-2113 or go online at www.fbcglendale.net or www.glendalenoonconcerts.blogspot.com.