Happy Haunting

A Review of RidgecresTrio’s Ghosts and Songs program

Happy HauntingBy JORDAN COVERT

News Review Contributor

For the size of the community that we live in, there is an incredible amount of musical possibility in the city of Ridgecrest. Not only are there are a healthy number of skilled musicians who reside here, but programs such as the Ridgecrest Chamber Music Society fill a season every year with visiting musicians in chamber music ensembles that blow our minds every time. A week and a half ago, our small town saw a marriage of these two curious phenomena: an outstanding chamber music ensemble comprising local musicians.

Performing Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon (the 20th and 21st, respectively) at the Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church — a favorite venue for aforementioned chamber ensembles - RidgecresTrio features a traditional lineup for a piano trio, filled by Lee Alan Nolan on piano, Erica MacArthur on violin, and Ian Rawson on violoncello (or ‘cello for short). Lee is a very accomplished pianist in his own right — he has recently spent time collaborating with composer David Wurts in recording the latter’s Mendocino Suite and promoting the recorded multi-movement work both locally and online.

Ian is a career cellist who has been living and teaching in Ridgecrest, and Erica has been something of a local sensation, both as a performer and a teacher she is also the acting music teacher for Trona and Immanuel Christian Schools, and she handles the musical side of Fame Fridays at Richmond Elementary School, where kids learn about music and art.

While Erica played in place of Christine Snipes, who played with the trio in 2014, Lee and Ian were both returning members of the ensemble. Strangely, though, Ian was perhaps the least highlighted player in the performance; the ‘cello selection to be featured, a Khachaturian Rhapsody, ended up being omitted from the program, while a couple of ragtime pieces highlighted Lee’s piano and a Messiaen work showcased Erica’s violin.

The concert opened by showcasing the titular ensemble with the slow movement from Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E-Flat Major, a fair display of what the genre in general has to offer. Next, Erica presented a theme and five variations from 20th-century composer Olivier Messiaen. Lee regaled us with a rag by the legendary Scott Joplin before being joined again by his cohorts to present the opening movement of late Romantic/early 20th-century French composer Maurice Ravel’s Piano Trio in A Minor.

In the second half, Lee presented us with another Joplin rag with (according to Joplin) a more tropical theme to lighten the mood before the much weightier work of Ludwig van Beethoven. The featured piece of the concert, his famed Ghost Trio, is so named because pianist Carl Czerny is credited with associating the slow and expressive second movement with Hamlet encountering the ghost of his father.

The first and third movements, however, are much lighter in tone and more briskly-paced, not unlike Beethoven’s earlier works and those of his predecessor Mozart and his one-time teacher, Joseph Haydn. This contrast in tone and feel makes the Op. 70 No. 1 trio a solid representation of Beethoven’s status as a transitionary figure between the Classical and Romantic compositional styles.

Changes to the program notwithstanding, RidgecresTrio’s Ghosts and Songs program was a terrific showcase of the piano trio ensemble and the instruments featured therein, and presented a fantastic body of musical literature for our community to be exposed to and benefit from. I do hope to see more offerings of chamber music in our community, and I wouldn’t mind hearing from these three again.

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Jordan Covert is a homegrown musician, teacher, director and composer. He holds a bachelor of music in composition from Point Loma Nazarene University, where he was also an active performer. Locally he has been involved with a variety of theater and production groups, including Ridgecrest Musical Enrichment Society, Community Light Opera and Theatre Association, Cerro Coso Community College, and many other vocal and instrumental ensemble groups.

He is currently the musical director for CLOTA’s “The Secret Garden,” which opens in July. He also serves as a substitute teacher for Sierra Sands Unified School District and gives private lessons in voice, guitar, beginning and intermediate piano, and theory and composition. His original works are available at www.soundcloud.com/jordan-covert.

Story First Published: 2017-05-31