Blind judging to select three finalists among hundreds of applicants in the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra’s Elizabeth Loker International Concerto Competition began on Jan. 12. Previous competitions featured only the winning finalist in concert with the full orchestra. In March, three finalists compete with solo opportunities within the full-orchestra program to win the top prize.
Pretty cool. A classical music playoff for a Super Bowl competition ring. And now the three finalists have been announced: Violinist Sophia Geng from Andover, Massachusetts will be performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major. Harpist Rebekah Hou, from Cleveland, will play Ginastera’s Harp Concerto. And cellist Alejandro Gomez Pareja from Madrid, Spain, will perform Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1.
The initial judging of the 155 candidates was completed by five selected MSO Musicians, narrowing the initial candidates down to 20 finalists. The 20 finalists were then judged by the MSO Music Director Michael Repper, who then selected the 3 finalists who will compete on Sunday, March 24th at Todd Performing Arts Center. For the final round, an esteemed panel of three judges will select the winners of the 2024 competition.
Those are Edward Polochick of the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra in Nebraska, James Kelly of the National Philharmonic in the Washington, D.C. area, and Sachi Marasugi of the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra of Maryland.
They listened to recordings by young musicians from all over the world and narrowed the field to these three winners, a Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra ensemble of string musicians rehearsed for upcoming concerts in Easton and Rehoboth Beach. Beethoven’s String Quartet, opus 18, No. 4 in C minor and Dvorak’s String Quintet, opus 77 in G major will be performed at 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 10 at Epworth United Methodist Church in Rehoboth and at 4 p.m. Sunday Feb. 11 at Easton’s Academy Art Museum.
The three concerto competition finalists will perform with the full Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra in the program just announced. That 3 p.m. concert at the Todd Performing Arts Center at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills is on Sunday, March 24.
Elizabeth Loker was a retired vice president of the Washington Post company who oversaw technology that advanced online publication of the news. Moving to Royal Oak, she became an ardent supporter of the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and ultimately in its establishment of this competition among young musicians, ages 12 to 25. Having died young at 67 of cancer, Loker may best be remembered now, among her many other accomplishments, for this prize. Evidentially, it was among her great passions.
Happy birthday Freddie Douglass, who seems to be all over town these days. The last time I heard from Frederick Douglass was around Feb. 1, 2017, when someone must have reminded the new president, Donald Trump, that February is African-American Month and that maybe he should say something about it. “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more,” Trump said, adding, “I notice.”
It was quite apparent to anyone who knows anything that Donald Trump had no idea who Frederick Douglass, the African-American abolitionist, author and orator, was. He failed to notice that Douglass died in 1895.
At the time, summer of 2017, my wife Liz and I had just moved from Long Island to Easton Club East, which is right next door to the Dutchman’s Lane farm I grew up on. It’s barely a mile from one part of what was then the thousands-of-acres Lloyd Plantation on which Douglass was held as a slave. I started to write a mocking commentary about this evidence of Trump’s colossal ignorance at the time, but decided it wasn’t worth the effort. I should have called him on it. Whatever, the headline would have been: “Frederick Douglass Was My Neighbor.”
Besides his commanding sculptural presence in front of the Talbot County Courthouse, Douglass has recently appeared in a highly contemporary interpretation, a 21-feet-high black-and-white portrait outside the entrance to Out of the Fire restaurant, dressed smartly in a slimming suit, with high-top sneakers and a high-tech watch. And now, Frederick Douglass will be memorialized on Feb. 17, near the estimated date of his birth, starting at 3 p.m. at the Avalon Theatre in downtown Easton. He would have been 206 years old – well past the age of presidential eligibility, we suspect.
“Frederick Douglass spent his life fighting for the cause of freedom,” says Tarence Bailey Sr., a founder of the Bailey-Grace Family Foundation and a five-times great nephew of Douglass. Some time in February 1818, Maryland Records show that Douglass was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey near the hamlet of Queen Anne. Twenty years later, he liberated himself, after growing up a slave in various Talbot County locations, and fled to Massachusetts where he changed his name to Douglass to avoid recapture.
For the birthday occasion, actor Phil Darius Wallace performs his original one-man play, “Frederick Douglass: Lion of Thunder,” later to be joined by Millicent Sparks on “The Harriet Tubman Living History Experience” for a combined Black History Month presentation. Theo Wilson, host of the History Channel’s “I Was There,” will serve as emcee of the program with music by Push Play D.C., featuring Donnell Floyd.
Another fund-raiser follows, a VIP dinner at the Waterfowl Building with music by saxophonist Azu, also known as Prince of Ghana (he’e not royalty), and a display of sculpture by Maryland artist Richard Blake. The aim is to raise money in support of Operation Frederick Douglass on the Hill in the historically black Easton neighborhood for an African-American Cultural Museum.
Dance aficionados, take note. A ballet classic that ranks high among them all, comes to Baltimore for one night only, performed by a Los Angeles-based international touring company. You can hardly imagine a more romantic ballet than “Swan Lake.” Tchaikovsky’s enduring masterpiece about a princess who is turned into a swan by a sorcerer with an agenda, is “reimagined” in choreography by the World Ballet Series at the Lyric performance on the night before Valentine’s Day. The 2-and-a-half-hour ballet begins at 7 p.m. at The Lyric on Mount Royal in midtown Baltimore.
Who can believe that it’s been 60 years since The Beatles first toured America? Well, I can. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing but great musical regard for the Fab Four songwriters and studio musicians. But they never toured enough to be a great live band. My favorite band, the Rolling Stones, is still touring live 62 years later behind an album of new music. But never mind that. Stones tickets to their “Hackney Diamonds” tour stop in Philadelphia on June 11 is sold out at several hundred per seat. The Mainstay at Rock Hall concert, commemorating The Beatles first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” Feb. 9, 1964, will set you back 10 bucks. You couldn’t buy bottled water at Lincoln Federal Field on Stones Day Philly for $10. An ad-hoc band of local performers well-known and appreciated by Mainstay regulars will play songs all of us of a certain age will remember forever. “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” “She Was Just 17,” sure. For my money, “Please, Please Me” is the jewel among The Beatles early releases. But what do I know? I’m a Stones devotee. You can hardly beat “Satisfaction,” or certainly not, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” I rest my case. Celebrate with my “Beatles” favorite, “In My Life” from the exquisite “Rubber Soul” album.
The concert starts at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 7.
Steve Parks is a retired New York arts writer and editor now living in Easton