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The Grand Rapids Symphony opened the concert with 40 minutes of music that Lockington told the audience had "nothing to do with Ellington whatsoever."
"But they're a lot of fun," he added.
Sure enough. A romp through Rossini's Overture to "William Tell" and a sober reading of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings were crowd pleasers. A bit of string virtuosity was called for with Russell Peck's "Signs of Life," an adventurous bluesy number for strings.
Best of all was a novelty number, "Concerto for Cell Phone," featuring the dry and delightful Steven Brook as soloist in the piece by James Stephenson.
Wielding a battery of Motorolas and Nokias, and primping as musicians are wont to do on stage, Brook had the audience in stitches.
For once, hearing a cell phone go off in a concert hall was a genuine pleasure. The difference here was they were going off on cue.
Next time you're at a concert, do not try this on your own. Brook is a professional.
After intermission, Charles Schlueter and Eric Berlin took the stage to perform Duo Fantastique by James Stephenson. Berlin and Stephenson were both students of Charles Schlueter at the New England Conservatory. This piece was made possible by a generous grant from the Charles Schlueter Foundation. How thrilling it must have been for these former students to have this opportunity to collaborate with their mentor. In a theme and variation form, the Duo was wonderfully light-hearted, but presented with great musicality, control, and accuracy by the two soloists. Toward the middle of the work Schlueter presented an extended lyrical passage that was stunning in its musicality and attention to line through impeccable phrasing.
Charles Schlueter and Eric Berlin perform "Duo Fantastique" at the ITG, 2007, opening concert.