April 29, 2014 -- The 2014 Spring Chamber Music Series will start coming to a close with a special performance at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 1. Coordinated and programmed by violin player Staff Sgt. Karen Johnson, the concert will feature the string players of “The President’s Own” performing pillars of their repertoire in addition to a smattering of selections that represent the diversity that defines America. The program will be repeated at 2 p.m., Sunday, May 4 in John Philip Sousa Band Hall at the Marine Barracks Annex.
Johnson’s program is bookended by Johann Sebastian Bach’s Preludio from Partita No. 3 in E, BWV 1006 for solo violin and Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat, Opus 20. “The program will [also] explore new musical voices,” Johnson said. “Composer Lev Zhurbin’s work, the Vjola Suite, showcases much of the world music influences that inspire modern American composers. The Appalachian Duets by Maria Newman are pieces that evoke the energy and fun of dueling fiddlers, the sweetness and nostalgia of century-old tunes passed down from generation to generation.”
The heart of the program features three 20th century tunes for guitar and piano that influenced guitarist and vocalist Gunnery Sgt. Alan Prather and pianist Gunnery Sgt. AnnaMaria Mottola’s styles of playing.
“When AnnaMaria and I began to discuss the music for this program, the conversation quickly turned to favorite recordings,” Prather said. “One of the musicians we both mentioned was pianist Bill Evans, who made several duet recordings with guitarist Jim Hall. Evans also made one record with singer Tony Bennett. ‘Young and Foolish’ is the opening song on that record.”
“As for the other two songs, ‘My Funny Valentine’ and ‘I Thought About You,’ we wanted to sandwich a better known song between two that may be a bit more obscure to some listeners,” he continued. “ ‘My Funny Valentine’ was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for the show Babes in Arms and has been recorded countless times by hundreds of artists. ‘I Thought About You,’ composed by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Mercer, has also been recorded numerous times but I don’t think it’s quite as well known as ‘My Funny Valentine.’ ‘I Thought About You’ is special to me because I can remember playing it with my sister, who is an outstanding jazz vocalist and now the director of vocal jazz studies at the University of Miami, while we were both still living at home.”
“Personally, I like a song that makes me feel something; a song where the music and the lyric cause an emotional reaction. Each of these songs does that to me … It’s rare that I hear lyrics like that in today’s popular music … My hope is that AnnaMaria and I will be able to convey those emotions to the audience in our performance,” Prather said.
The free concerts will take place at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 1 at the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives located on Constitution Avenue between 7th and 9th Streets in northwest Washington, D.C., and at 2 p.m., Sunday, May 4, in John Philip Sousa Band Hall at the Marine Barracks Annex in southeast Washington, DC. No tickets are required. Street parking is available at each location; on May 4 patrons may also park in the lot under the overpass across from the Annex.
Program and Notes