Trio prepares for ‘From the Top’ taping

Wednesday March 6, 2013 8:59 AM

The popular NPR program From the Top with host Christopher O'Riley will record performances for a radio broadcast in concert Friday, March 8, at the McCoy Community Center for the Arts in New Albany.

Tickets are $25-$35. Visit mccoycenter.org.

From the Top features performances and personal stories of young classical musicians from around the country. This performance will feature three local musicians: 17-year-old Audrey Watkins from Worthington; and The Mittelpunkt Duo featuring 17-year-old mezzo-soprano Michaella Cipriani from Westerville; and 18-year-old violist Eva Kennedy from Worthington.

Each of these three young musicians was kind enough to answer a few questions posed by The Beat.

The Beat: What are your thoughts on being selected for such a well-known program?

Audrey Watkins: It's the best feeling to get recognition for music from a source that's easily recognizable. Personally, getting to be on the show just makes me feel incredibly lucky because there are so many really talented people out there that deserve it every bit as much as I do. It's just a really, really cool opportunity.

Michaella Cipriani: I'm pretty sure Eva and I are the first group on the show that has both an instrumentalist and a singer, so that's really cool. It's great we get to perform in our hometown. Most From The Top performers don't get to do that!

Eva Kennedy: I'm so excited to be playing on From the Top! Contrary to competition settings, From the Top is truly just a celebration of music -- young musicians from all over the world get to talk about their love of music, and it reaches so many listeners, fellow musicians and music-lovers alike, across the country. What a great way to unite the music community!

TB: Is preparing for something like this different from a more traditional recital?

Watkins: As far as the musical preparation goes, I want every performance to be my best, so there's no difference between how I'm preparing for radio vs. regular. The main difference is the interview and audience participation aspect, which isn't really a part of a formal recital, so the main challenge (and delight) of this performance is being able to have focus during the actual music, and then plain fun during the show.

Cipriani: Eva's and my piece (Geistliches Wiegenlied by Brahms) is a trio. Chris O'Riley, the host of the show, is going to play the piano part. While rehearsing, we've had a bunch of different pianists -- coaches at Chamber Music Connection -- play the part. And each pianist has had different ideas about how the piece should be performed. It's been good hearing a lot of different perspectives. That kept us from getting locked in to one interpretation from the beginning.

The performance format is a little different than a normal recital. We'll be interviewed by the host in addition to performing. I'm almost more nervous about the interview than I am about the music! I'm used to performing music, but I've never spoken extemporaneously in front of an audience before. The idea of it scares me!

Kennedy: It's actually not as different as one might think. In both situations, our goal is to play our best and communicate the message of the piece to the audience in a meaningful way. That doesn't change because of the setting or the scale.

TB: Any comments on the piece you'll be playing?

Watkins: The Poulenc Sonata for Flute and Piano is a really great part of the flute repertoire, and the last movement has a lot of personality and spunk, which I love. There's a lot of opportunity for showmanship and energy, which is perfect for something as exciting as From the Top. The last movement also has a lot of different opportunities for surprises. It's a ton of fun to play!

Cipriani: Geistliches Wiegenlied is a lullaby for Jesus. In the text, Mary starts out asking the angels to quiet down the treetops because they're rustling too loudly. And then she starts shouting at the treetops. But then it all quiets down and the music becomes more introspective as she observes her sleeping baby. Then it starts getting cold and she needs to figure out what to do to keep the baby warm. So she begs the angels for help. And then again, everything calms down. In this piece, Mary sounds pretty stressed, desperate, even irritated sometimes. I really like how she's human here, rather than just clean, pristine, picturesque, as she's often portrayed.

The combination of a mezzo and a viola is so beautiful: -- sometimes sweet and mellow-sounding, sometimes so full of pathos. The sounds of the instruments fit the piece so well!

Kennedy: I have absolutely loved working on this piece! This was the first time I had ever worked with a vocalist, which is quite different from playing with other string players. Learning to phrase and blend with Michaella's sound was difficult at first, but very rewarding. This piece is as stunningly gorgeous as anything I have ever played. It has also been extremely beneficial to my solo playing -- as string players, we are always being told to play more like vocalists!

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