At 7:30 p.m. this Saturday, July 21, the Marine Chamber Orchestra will perform a unique concert featuring the collaboration of the string players and guest violinist Nicholas Kitchen. Kitchen will lead the orchestra in a beautifully balanced program of works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven. The program will include Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 9 in C, Opus 59, No. 3, and Bach’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in E, BWV 1042; Prelude and Fugue No. 4 in C-sharp minor, BWV 849; and Concerto in D minor for Two Violins, BWV 1043. The concert is free and open to the public and will take place at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Va. Kitchen will offer a pre-concert chat from 6:45-7:15 p.m. in the lobby.
The orchestra will perform this concert with no conductor. Instead, Nicholas Kitchen and Concertmaster Staff Sgt. Karen Johnson will lead the group together. “When chamber orchestras play without a conductor, rehearsing and performing become an entirely different experience for the musicians of the orchestra,” Johnson explained. “It is a collaborative process between the players, and each player becomes more responsible for the musical process and also the outcome of the process.”
This week as the orchestra collaborates with Mr. Kitchen, the group will be invigorated by the brilliant artist and Bach scholar’s musicianship and new arrangements.
“Every time we collaborate with someone outside of our organization, we are exposed to new ideas, different and interesting ways of doing things, and it is a like an infusion of new energy,” Johnson said.
Nicholas Kitchen is a solo violinist, chamber musician, teacher, video artist, technology innovator, and arts administrator. He has been connected to the Marine Band and Marine Chamber Orchestra his entire life through his uncle David Johnson, former Marine Band cornetist, and other family members Sue Franke, former Marine Chamber Orchestra violist, Phil Franke, former Marine Band euphonium player, and Marine Chamber Orchestra violinist Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Franke. In programming the concert, Kitchen worked closely with Staff Sgt. Johnson as well as Gunnery Sgt. Franke, ultimately landing on a program filled with Bach and Beethoven, including two new arrangements by Kitchen himself.
“Bach and Beethoven works are considered traditional and old, but if we do it with a certain spirit, it has a way of becoming new,” Kitchen said. Johnson added, “There is no doubt that when masterpieces of the repertoire written by the greatest composers are presented on any program, whatever the musicians bring or add to the actual performance is really only the icing on the cake. The foundation, the inherent greatness of the music, is already so musically satisfying, and this particular program will only add to that experience by presenting these same works in a new way.”
The first half of the program will include Bach’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in E. BWV 1042, featuring Kitchen on solo violin, Kitchen’s own arrangement of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue No. 4 in C-sharp minor, BWV 849 from the Well-Tempered Clavier Book No. 1, and Bach’s Concerto in D minor for Two Violins. Gunnery Sgt. Franke will perform alongside Kitchen allowing both to serve in solo roles throughout the Concerto in D minor, and Franke couldn’t be more thrilled:
Nick Kitchen is my mother’s cousin, his Uncle David was my grandfather. I have numerous memories of him staying with our family when he played at venues in or around Washington, D.C. One of my most vivid memories is of a time when he and his quartet stayed with us when I was about 10 years old. I remember sitting in the basement watching in awe as they rehearsed for their concert that night. It was such an inspiration to a young violinist! I also remember being distraught that they would be leaving early the next morning, but when I woke up, I found a signed photo of Nick on the piano that I still have hanging in my music room today! It will be an unbelievable experience to perform with one of my childhood idols!
Kitchen echoed the sentiment:
My Uncle David was a great trumpeter in the Marine Band. I heard a lot about the band and the White House and his experiences. That’s been with me since I was the tiniest child. It’s so neat to see my cousin Chris become a wonderful violinist and I’m really happy that we have this opportunity to perform together. It’s just an awfully great feeling that we’re finding this beautiful opportunity to interact on a musical level and bring it all together. I wish Uncle David was still here to see it. I know he would have loved it.
The program will conclude with Kitchen’s arrangement of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 9 in C. In this arrangement, Kitchen created a double concerto grosso, meaning each section of the orchestra has two soloists and a larger section. “That means we’re going to hear all sorts of individual playing in the orchestra but constant dialogue with the whole orchestra playing together and making big sound,” Kitchen explained. “Sometimes it will sound like only four people are playing. Other times it will sound like the larger orchestra. All that will make a very interesting dialogue between large and small. The audience will actually have heard all the members individually at some point in the concert. They’ll also hear the large group sound. Someone listening to the concert will feel like they are connecting with all the individuals who are playing but also hear a really cohesive group.”
Kitchen notes that all four pieces on the program will build on that mixture of the individual and the large group. “Bach and Beethoven are so full of energy and so full of thoughtfulness and meditative qualities,” he said. “The music covers everything in terms of its emotional content. So my hope is that we will bring that to life, and the audience will feel part of that. It’s amazing when you have that excitement and that newness with something that’s been played for years.”
The Marine Chamber Orchestra will perform at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 21, at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria. Free parking is available in the adjacent garage. Nicholas Kitchen will offer a pre-concert chat at 6:45 p.m. in the lobby. A post-concert chat with the soloists will take place in the lobby following the performance.