AAFSW and the Pitch Pipe Foundation hosted a midday concert in the Dean Acheson Auditorium at the U.S. Department of State on August 1, and those who attended were fascinated by what they heard and saw. There were five distinguished instrumental artists who had met each other barely a week before: Er-Gene Kahng from Arkansas (violin), Joel Pagán from Puerto Rico (viola), Dr. Carrie Pierce from Texas (cello), Dr. Wendy Case from Tennessee (violin), and our own 2016 SOSA winner Jennifer Heemstra from Michigan (piano). They performed music by exclusively women composers: rarely heard or newly discovered or recently written pieces for piano quintet.
The first selection was a five-movement piece entitled “The Offering” by Elena Kats-Chernin, an Uzbeki composer now living in Australia. Each movement had its own specific musical theme and mood, sometimes lots of rhythmic energy, sometimes ingenious melodic development. Particularly bewitching was the slow, somber movement with an ostinato phrase on the piano.
Next we heard the second movement of a Piano Quintet by Mrs. H.H.A. Beach (Amy Beach), a slightly more familiar, American composer whose work is known for Romantic Period influences. It was grand and impassioned, and played with conviction.
The concert ended with “Juba” — a short, fun movement of a Piano Quintet by the African-American composer Florence Price. It was a total romp, at break-neck speed, and the musicians delighted us with humor and virtuosity.
This program was remarkable for several reasons; obviously, the choice of repertoire was a marvelous celebration of women and diversity. But further, the expressive unity and precision of these performers who barely knew each other was truly impressive. Best of all, it generated enthusiasm for the mission of the Pitch Pipe Foundation, which seeks to link great artists to great need, such as trafficked women and children in India and Nepal, or neglected veterans here in the United States. Many thanks to the artists, and to our program chair Sheila Switzer, for making this special experience possible.
AAFSW Membership Chair