CONTACT: Beth Brand



Last Friday evening, October 24, the venerable Tryon Concert Association held the first performance of its new, more casual concert series, TGIF Concerts. A bit of a departure from their regular concert season of four full-length performances, TGIF Concerts are only one-hour long and begin with a happy hour in the lobby of the Tryon Fine Arts Center. (Doors open at 5 p.m., concerts begin promptly at 6 p.m.) TGIF Concerts are relaxed events and provide those of us who may not be so comfortable with classical music a fun way to ease into the art form.

Making the event even more inviting, the much-loved Mountain Chamber Players opened the series. The group has performed throughout the region since 1998. All faculty members at Brevard College, the Mountain Chamber Players consist of Rita Hayes on flute, Brian Hermanson on clarinet, Jason DeCristofaro on percussion, and Katherine Palmer at the piano.

The group began the evening with Palmer and Hermanson on stage with their instruments, while Hayes with her flute and DeCristofaro with a Bodhran drum came through the audience, and all played a rousing march with a Celtic feel titled Introductions (2000). The piece was composed by Robert Glenn Palmer, husband of pianist Katherine Palmer, and started the evening with high energy and a little drama.

Next, the flute, piano and clarinet joined together to fill the auditorium with the lovely, light and familiar sounds of Léo Delibes’ (1836-1891) Flower Duet. Used in many films and also featured in British Airways commercials several years ago, this well-known and approachable piece was written for the opera Lakmé.

Lulled by the beautiful sounds of the Flower Duet, eyes soon opened wide as percussionist DeCristofaro wheeled onto the stage and plugged in his vibraphone. The instrument looks similar to the xylophone but has added components that produce tantalizing variations in both volume and pitch.

As DeCristofaro began playing Fugue from Violin Sonata in G minor (BWV 1001) by J.S. Bach, my eyes, at least, got even bigger. DeCristofaro seemed to negate some type of physical law as he masterfully and inexplicably handled four mallets simultaneously. And the piece he chose to play, a fugue, allowed the audience to experience the full potential of the vibraphone. A fugue takes a phrase in music and absorbs it and interweaves it throughout a piece (I looked it up). The resonance and vibrancy expressed by the vibraphone made this absorption and intertwining stimulating and exciting for listeners.

Also played that evening were Intermezzo in A Major, Op. 118, No. 2 by Johannes Brahms, played solo on the piano; Suite Antique by John Rutter, with piano and flute; Lullaby for a New Century composed by DeCristofaro and played on his vibraphone; Trio by Madeleine Dring, featuring a poignantly sweet clarinet solo; and a performance of My Funny Valentine by Rodgers and Hart.

Throughout the hour, the musicians engaged the audience and gave some insights into various aspects of what we were hearing. For me, these bits of information served to make the music more accessible and thus more moving.

The Mountain Chamber Players concluded with Al Anderson’s Steppin’ ‘Round. Their playful arrangement, complete with xylophone, left the audience upbeat and energized.

While I may not yet be ready to commit to a full season of full-length classical music concerts, TGIF was a good time and a terrific introduction to this type of music. (I kept thinking that if I still had teenagers at home, this would be a perfect event for the whole family.) Seeing familiar faces at the happy hour before hand and then decompressing from the workweek with an hour of lovely music made for an uplifting transition to the weekend.

The next TGIF Concert takes place on February 27. It features Superello, the voice (soprano) of Allison Pohl and the strings (cello) of Alistair MacRae. Ticket are available at You can bet you will see me there.