Every four years, the American Pianists Association produces the Classical Fellowship Awards, a year-long endeavor that begins with a national call for nominations to identify the top American pianists under 30 years of age, who visit Indianapolis over the course of the year giving solo, chamber music and concerto performances. As the culmination of the year’s cycle, the five finalists join together in Indianapolis for Discovery Week, during which they perform every day for one week, at the end of which one of them is named the APA Christel DeHaan Classical Fellow.
InConcert Sierra presents APA current and past winners during our season schedule each year. This relationship came to fruition because of our board member and forum hostess Aileen James. Aileen was previously the APA artistic director before retiring to Grass Valley in 1996. We work very closely with Joel Harrison, the current APA artistic director, in choosing current and past APA winners to present to you.
Last April, Harrison invited my husband, Ken, and me, as InConcert Sierra’s artistic and executive directors (respectively), to attend Discovery Week and meet the winner of the competition, whom we had already booked to perform in Grass Valley for Nov. 17. Who would it be? We were both honored and excited to be included on the list of honored APA guests.
We were invited to cocktail parties and social gatherings, including an afternoon luncheon at Christel DeHaan’s estate in Indianapolis. Christel Dehaan is vice chair of the APA board of directors and founder of Resort Condominiums International. Each day, we were treated to concerts featuring the finalists. The most impressive, we both concluded, was Sean Chen’s chamber performance of “Dohnányi: Piano Quintet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 1” with the Linden String Quartet. We also immensely enjoyed the song recitals with all five APA finalists performing with soprano Jessica Rivera.
On April 20, the day of the finals, the energy in the Hilbert Circle Theatre would have provided enough electricity for the entire state of Indiana. All of the finalists performed superbly with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gerard Schwarz.
After Sean Chen’s performance of the “Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major,” we were astounded. Instead of leaping to our feet in exuberant applause, the entire audience sat for seemingly minutes of stunned silence. Then, the applause exploded, and the now-famous Sean Chen smile showed his own satisfaction as well.
After the week in Indianapolis was over — after all the performers thrilled us with brilliant playing — after the awarding of the 2013 American Pianists Association DeHaan Fellowship — after all the hugs, photos and champagne — we left Indiana feeling inspired about the future of classical music and these young upcoming pianists.
We are looking forward to presenting Sean Chen to Nevada County Sunday. The program will include “Valse in A-flat Major” by Alexander Scriabin; “Impromptus” by Frédéric Chopin; “La Valse” by Maurice Ravel, arranged by Sean Chen; and “Sonata No. 8” by Sergei Prokofiev .
There is a pre-concert forum at 1:15 p.m. with Aileen James. The concert begins at 2 p.m. After intermission, InConcert Sierra will announce the winners of its Autumn Youth Scholarship.
Tickets for Sunday’s concert are $28 for general admission, youth 5-17 are free with adults. They are available online at http://inconcertsierra.org, at Briar Patch Co-op or by calling 530-273-3990. It will be hosted at the Seventh-day Adventist Church, 12889 Osborne Hill Road in Grass Valley (off Highway 174).
For information, visit http://inconcertsierra.org, or call 530-273-3990.