Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 15, 2019

REVIEW: Sevenars Music Festival, Opening Concert

The Academy, South Worthington, MA
July 14 - August 18, 2019
by Michael J. Moran
The Academy at night

This family-based music festival, founded by Robert and Rolande Schrade and named after  the first letter of their names and those of their five children, opened its 51st anniversary season on “Bastille Day” with an exhilarating program of French music performed (mostly) by members of the extended Schrade-James family.

It opened with two pieces from Debussy’s first book of “Images” played by Lynelle James, daughter of pianists David James and the late Robelyn Schrade-James and a granddaughter of the founders. Her “Reflets dans L’Eau” (Reflections in the Water) was lithe and sensuous, while “Mouvement” (Movement) had quicksilver energy. Lynelle’s father, David, next played Debussy’s “Clair de Lune,” from his “Suite Berganasque,” with gentle simplicity. He then brought vigor and clarity to Ravel’s compact three-movement “Sonatine.”

Lynelle’s aunt Rorianne Schrade, youngest daughter of the founders, followed with an alternately dreamy and dramatic account of Chopin’s Impromptu in F-sharp Major. The first half of the program ended with Lynelle and her brother Christopher James offering a fluid, engaging performance of an arrangement for cello and piano of the closing “Allegretto poco mosso” movement from Cesar Franck’s violin sonata in A Major.

The program’s second half was devoted to a delightful rendition of the “Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Saens in a version for two pianos, played by Lynelle and Rorianne. Each of the piece’s fourteen short movements depicts a different animal, except the eleventh, which depicts pianists. These players performed this and the other movements with humor and the mood best suited to each selection: majesty for the opening “Royal March of the Lion”; torpor for the ultra-slow “Tortoises”; and tender grace for the familiar “Swan.”

A special pleasure of this presentation was the hilarious narration by Ogden Nash, elegantly delivered by New York-based radio personality Magee Hickey, fresh from covering the city’s blackout for WPIX the night before. She even managed to keep a straight face when reading Nash’s clever rhyming of “boomerang” with “tasty kangaroo meringue.”

The joyous atmosphere of this musical family gathering was an auspicious launch to this beloved festival’s second half-century.