Review: ‘Happy Holidays’ With the National Chamber Ensemble

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National Chamber Ensemble in performance. Photo by Robert Jansen.

The National Chamber Ensemble’s joyful annual Happy Holidays concert was the perfect way to spread the wonderful sounds of Christmas and Chanukah. There were performances from talented musicians of all ages, who showed their love for the music they played and for the instruments that bring them such pride and accomplishment. Soprano Rebecca Littig was the special guest singer and her glorious voice rang out throughout the concert. Mary-Claire Burick, President of the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, returned as guest hostess.

As was described on their website, Happy Holidays is:

An annual tradition, NCE’s holiday concert brings classical masterpieces and holiday favorites together in one fun program for the whole family! Guest soprano Rebecca Littig will delight with music of Mozart. The 2016 winner of the National Chamber Ensemble Outstanding Young Artist Achievement Award will make their debut with NCE. The concert concludes with a ‘Carols Sing-Along’ to get everyone in the holiday spirit.

The National Chamber Ensemble: Artistic Director Leonid Sushansky (violin), Jorge Orozco (violin); Uri Wassertzug (viola); Vasily Popov (cello), and Natasha Dukan (piano), were joined by this year’s National Chamber Ensemble Outstanding Young Artist Achievement Award recipient, 12 year-old Brandon Du, who is a pistol on the violin. Other participants were 15 year-old violinist Teddi Yoo 15, and Ms. Littig.

‘Happy Holidays 2016’ Montage by Robert Jansen.

The program began with the very popular “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson complete with bells and a ‘smacking wood.’ Then came a medley of Chanukah favorites, by Daniel Leavitt. Young violinists joined members of The National Ensemble to play “Bach Double Concerto – Vivace.” It was such a wondrous site to behold-young violinists beaming with pride as they played like veteran musicians

Brandon Du was then presented National Chamber Ensemble Outstanding Young Artist Achievement Award recipient. He gave a quick “Thank you!” as he prepared to ‘wow’ the audience after intermission.

Meanwhile violin Teddi Yoo, and competition finalist, and pianist Natasha Dukan performed Pablo De Sarasate’s fiery “Malaguena,” played with fury and sensuality. Next, Ms. Littig’s gorgeous voice filled the Spectrum as she sang Mozart’s “Exultate Jubilate.” It was spine-tingling.

A brief intermission followed and then the audience had the opportunity to see why this 12 year-old won this special award. What we saw and heard was jaw-dropping. Playing two very difficult compositions: The “Bruch Concerto No. 1 In G Minor -3rd movement” and Pablo Sarasate’s “Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs)” for Violin and Piano, with Natasha Dukan.

Young Du played effortlessly, fiercely, filled with self-confidence, and occasionally – with a smile. My friend who accompanied me to the concert looked at me and remarked, “No 12 year-old should play that well!” But Mr. Du is no ordinary 12 year-old and his talents are bountiful.

Photo by Robert Jansen.

How do you follow the Wunderkind? Well, you play Robert Schumann’s “Piano Quintet in E-Flat major, Opus 44, the finale: Allegro ma non troppo Movement 4″ and the National Chamber Orchestra received a rousing and well-deserved ovation from the audience at the end of their flawless performance.

To end the evening, Rebecca Littig lead the audience in Leroy Anderson’s ‘Christmas Festival” a montage of popular Christmas songs, including “Joy to the Word,” “Deck the Halls,” ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” among others, and ending with a rousing “Adeste Fideles” (O Come All Ye Faithful).”

As the audience made its way to the post-concert reception you could hear people saying over and over what a fine time they had. Attending the National Chamber Ensemble’s annual Happy Holidays” has become an annual tradition for me, and I already look forward to next year’s concert. Meanwhile, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and/or a Happy Chanukah. May the New Year bring you good health, much success, and great concerts!

From the 2015 Happy Holidays concert:

Happy Holidays played on December 10, 2016, at The National Chamber Ensemble performing at The Rosslyn Spectrum – 1611 North Kent Street, in Arlington, VA. For tickets to the next performance of The National Chamber Ensemble Vive la France: The Magic of Saint- Saens on Saturday, February 11, 2017, at 7:30 PM, go to their website.

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Joel Markowitz
Joel Markowitz is the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. He founded the site with his brother Bruce to help promote the vast riches of theatre and the arts in the DC Metro area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and DC theater and music venues, universities, schools, Children's theaters, professional, and community theatres. Joel is an advocate for promoting the 'stars of the future' in his popular 'Scene Stealers' articles. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene. His work can also be seen and read on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. He is an avid film and theater goer, and a suffering Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan. Joel was a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which had a 25-year run when it took its final curtain call last year. Joel is a proud member of The American Critics Association.