Spring brings rhapsody, romance to South Whidbey stage

The Chamber Music Series reaches its final performance of the season this weekend with an afternoon of romantic compilations that herald the arrival of spring.

Musician Teo Benson is pictured teaching a violin student. Benson will be performing along with Nola Allen

The Chamber Music Series reaches its final performance of the season this weekend with an afternoon of romantic compilations that herald the arrival of spring.

On Saturday, Whidbey musicians join together for “Springtime Rhapsody and Romance” featuring music from Nola Allen who accompanies Teo Benson, Susan Strick and Frances Kenney.

The performance includes charming pieces from Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Schumann and Beethoven.

The program features Allen on piano and in watercolor, through the poster design. Allen is a regular performer on Whidbey Island and Seattle and accompanies each musician.

Concert organizer Libby Roberts said her goal for all concerts is to bring high quality and interesting chamber music for the island audience.

Roberts is blown away by Allen’s talents and said Allen is what makes the concert unique.

“She is at the heart of the concert; her energy and talent is mind boggling and she’s accomplished in watercolors,” Roberts said.

Allen originally began performing at the church with a trio that played together for 27 years. Now, she shows her watercolors in galleries and continues to perform with various groups.

“They’re good musicians,” she said of the performers. “We can feed off each other with ideas. Our collaboration is always enjoyable.”

One of the pieces she chose is “Violin Sonata No. 8” by Beethoven, which has become well-known to Allen. She said there is a certain joyfulness to the piece.

“He really shows his sense of humor,” she said.

Kenney has played with Allen for a few times and is in her third year playing in the series. On the oboe, Kenney said working with Allen is always enjoyable.

“It’s an act of creation and collaboration, living in the moment while playing together,” she said of Allen. 

The piece she performs “Adagio and Allegro” by Schumann can be challenging with elaborate long lines.

“There’s not many places to catch my breath,” she said. “The music makes me sacrifice my comfort. I do whatever it takes to communicate the phrases and push past the discomfort.”

The piece was not intended for an oboe and piano, she said — it was written for a horn. She described her piece with Allen as a back-and-forth conversation between the musicians.

Kenney said she hopes the audience has an afternoon “full of the vibrations” from the musicians.

“Live music has a different quality than recorded music,” she said. “There’s an opportunity to be really present with the music and I hope that’s enjoyable for the audience.”

For violinist Teo Benson, this island audience is something he has always enjoyed.

“I’m very appreciative of this audience. They are very intent on really doing their best to understand the music being played,” he said.

Benson has been a part of several concerts in the series and enjoys playing with Allen because of their shared experiences on Whidbey.

“I think we share a similar vision both being from the island,” he said. “We just work well together.”

Benson said the solo piece he will perform, “Ballade” by Ysaÿe, is a technical challenge. He connects with Ysaÿe’s works because of the feelings the composer can describe from playing the violin.

“There’s a little more depth in his compositions than other violinist composers. A lot of the others are flashy and impressive, but there’s not as much depth in the music,” Benson said. “His music is very emotionally and visually broad. I enjoy playing Ysaÿe.”

Allen said she is looking forward to being able to play beautiful music for the audience.

“The music is very gratifying no matter who is listening,” she said. “Even when I’m playing by myself in the living room — it’s wonderful music.”


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