It’s almost 3:00 p.m. at Dundas Centre United, and the musicians are filing in. It’s the Community Orchestra of our city, tuning for the annual Young Soloists concert. I can see Jim, Margaret and Moe, applying the focus to the music that they did to their patients decades ago. And there are Bram, Natasha, Andrew, and Ana — kids I knew in the youth symphony, who have all embarked on careers in other professions. Life-long learners indeed, Bruce, Carolyn, Tom, and Joan approach the music with the intensity they expected of their school music students. When the concertmaster has tuned them, I’ll see Len Ingrao, the conductor who is a London treasure, committed to creating the finest community orchestra anywhere with exciting repertoire, and making stringent demands on his diverse bunch.
The welcoming musician stresses that this concert is part of their purpose as a community orchestra —to give brilliant young soloists the chance to perform with a full symphony. And I can see the church ladies in hairnets sliding into the balcony, coffee and cookies ready for the reception, asking nothing but a donation for the “Out of the Cold” dinner program.
And then, for two hours, we are transfixed, glancing down at the biographies in the program to see if these soloists really CAN be so young and so unbelievably versatile. Rachna Jog opens the concert. Her flute entices us through the three movements of Vivaldi’s concerto nicknamed “The Goldfinch”. The trills, repeated notes, and complicated passages toy with the violins of the small accompanying orchestra, and the second movement is as seductive as the bird’s own song. Rachna, a student at Western (in medical sciences and business), has a command of her instrument that seems magical: liquid yet bell-like in quality.
Hungarian violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim admitted that the Germans had four violin concertos of note. He attributed two to Beethoven and Brahms, and delighted in “the richest, the most seductive” by Max Bruch, “but the most inward, the heart’s jewel, is Mendelssohn’s.” The lucky audience heard both. MinJi Lee, 17-year-old student of Irene Tandberg, was enchanting in the Mendelssohn. Her technique was powerful yet lyrical, performing the ricochet bowing of the first movement’s cadenza with fire, while commanding tremulous delicacy required in the second movement. The effervescent finale brought everyone to their feet. Jasmine Kang ended the concert with the Bruch, astonishing with her full command of the violin. This 13-year-old displayed Romantic lyricism throughout, confidently leading through accelerando to the fiery finish that gets higher, faster and louder until it stops your heart with two final grand chords.
The joyous Mozart motet, Exsulatet Jubilate, is a piece that YouTube music enthusiasts post and argue about — who does the “best” one? I have listened to recordings from Bertolli to Battle to Te Kanawam and none of them outperforms young Claire Latosinsky. Her confidence and joy matched the lyric quality of her honeyed voice, exciting in the fast, florid passages and heart-wrenching in the elegant cantabile.
Kurt Vonnegut writes, “What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured”. Today, I saw and heard it happen in London.
Daina Janitis is a Londoner by choice, living in a woodlot just across the city limits, reveling in retirement by volunteering for many of the music groups of the city. She taught English for 33 years in area high schools, planned school travel through Pauwels, managed the London Youth Symphony, and was the last president of the Volunteer Committee of Orchestra London. She continues to be delighted by the unique bounty of creative arts available to Londoners.