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For those lucky enough to have been part of last Sunday’s packed house at the PARAMOUNT Hudson Valley Theater in Peekskill, New York, the Christmas season got off to a rollicking good start with the Holiday Show of internationally renowned violinist, Daisy Jopling, and her sensational band. A Peekskill resident herself, Jopling was born in London in 1969. A student of violin from the age of three, by age 14 she was performing Bach’s Double Concerto for Violin and Oboe at Royal Albert Hall. The soaring and world-wide career that followed has included performances at the United Nations, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, as well as the major music festivals of Vienna, Edinburgh and Salzburg. With her Daisy Jopling Band she has toured in Germany, Austria, Turkey, Norway, Mexico, and throughout the U.S. With all of that she still finds time to focus on the community of her adopted Peekskill hometown, and most especially on the local children she hopes to inspire via music programs supported by her Daisy Jopling Foundation, with its goal of “Transforming Lives Through Music.”
Certainly Sunday’s joyous concert was an inspiration to all those present, both young and old. A statuesque and beautiful woman herself, in performance Jopling’s talent offers much more with a kind of beaming inner light and radiantly focused energy that is seemingly boundless. The program began with the talented Westchester Youth Choirs in candlelit procession through the audience as they sang the beautiful Gregorian chant, “Ubi Caritas.”
Once onstage amid the golden glow lighting of designer, Molly Tiede, the group superbly performed Rachmaninoff’s challenging and lyric-free exploration of the human voice, “Vocalise.” Accompanying the group with violin in hand, Miss Jopling appeared like an angelic vision in a gorgeous floor length gown and feathery matching wrap, all of snowy white. (Designer, Jane Wilson Marcus).
Next, Jopling delivered a thrilling interpretation of Vivaldi’s “Winter,” from The Four Seasons. It was full of exotic excitement and rhythmic pulsations, as the artist’s joyous abandon had the golden tresses of her blonde hair bouncing with every stroke of the bow, while shimmering earrings flashed with each sweet sound and toss of the head. There would be delicacy one moment and controlled yet thunderous ferocity the next. It was captivating to see such uninhibited joy from a performer.
Composed by Jopling and Brian Taylor, the next selection, “Prayer,” was beautifully highlighted by both the graceful, proud and expressive dancing of ballerina, Brooke Foster, and also the soothing spatial projections of Rich Mason that would colorfully and creatively illuminate the screen behind the performers throughout the show. Introducing, “Awakening,” another of her collaborations with Mr. Taylor, Jopling reminded the audience that in spite of the troubling challenges facing our world today, “We have the inner power to cope.” The lashing excitement and virtuosity she displayed in this piece made it easy to understand her international appeal. Her talented band members had striking solo moments during this number with Taylor on flute, Brian Marsella on piano, Lavondo Thomas on bass guitar and Matt Zebroski on drums. Then, prior to Intermission, the Westchester Youth Choirs returned to the stage with Artistic Director/Conductor, Elisabeth Southern, to perform Vivaldi’s “Gloria – Laudamus Te,” beautifully capturing all of the work’s joyous harmonies, counterpoints and rich variations.
There would be no shortage of delights in the second half of the program as three dozen eager and smiling little members of the Tom Thumb Pre-School Chorus appeared onstage with director, Nancy Brophy, to perform an adorable “12 Days of Tom Thumb,” with their little arms outstretched and gesturing skyward. Jopling followed performing “Dvořák 9” based on the 2nd movement of the composer’s New World Symphony. Its soothing opening strains had at first a calming effect following the excitement of the toddlers, but then the tempo evolved into a funky and lively pace. The band then moved on to another Jopling/Taylor composition, “Viento” (The Wind), a lush and electrifying work that Jopling dedicated to her husband Joe Brown, “…for being my rock and helping me in countless ways.”
Yahli Hilah, a fourteen year-old protégée of Miss Jopling, was then called to the stage to delight the audience with her own original song titled, “Friendship.” Special Guest, Emery Rodrigues, brought pop-star power and a soaring voice to the melancholy, “Where Are You Christmas?” Drawing on her wide experience with Hungarian folk music, Jopling then joined the band to bring rich romanticism and gypsy flair to the gaiety of Vittorio Monti’s composition, “Csárdás,” while at the same time a beautiful selection of colorful gypsy scenes faded in and out when projected backstage. It was just one example of the extensive research and organization that characterized the overall program. Guest performers, Joni Blondell & Gerry Cruz, did a wonderful job with the challenging counterpoints of Frank Loesser’s sweet duet, “Baby it’s Cold Outside,” though over-amplification detracted from their fine voices.
The program’s final delights would include Jopling on electric violin during the “Carol of the Bells,” from the Westchester Youth Choirs, and then a fine example of Jopling’s support for music education in the schools when the violins of the Hen Hud Elementary Strings joined the choirs for a rousing “Jingle Bells,” that found the audience singing along.
The grand finale of the Michael Jackson/Lionel Richie classic, “We Are the World,” featured all the youth choirs including those of Tom Thumb, Mt. Olivet, New Era Creative Space, Peekskill Middle School, Kyle Center, and the Steel Imaginations Community Choir. It was a spirited and poignant conclusion to a memorable holiday celebration. Clearly the music world has found a treasure in Daisy Jopling, but the City of Peekskill is especially blessed to claim her as its own.
Readers interested in learning more about DAISY JOPLING and her music may wish to visit her website at http://www.daisyjopling.com.