Morton Gold

Morton Gold

VentiCordi means winds and strings. The group, which was organized a few years ago, specializes in presenting works written for a combination of wind and string instruments. It is a musical fact of life that birds of a feather will flock together. There is no shortage of music written for wind trios, quartets, quintets or for string trios, string quartets or even quintets. (One exception are trios composed for violin, cello and piano.)

Works composed for strings and winds do exist, but not in the same quantity as the other kind, and more to the point, these compositions are not frequently performed. Thus, if one wants to hear these rarely performed pieces, VentiCordi is the one group that routinely finds works of merit for unusual combinations and performs them.

The group is headed by violinist Dean Stein and oboist Kathleen McNerney. Other participants are chosen depending on the instrumentation of the music being performed. Frequently, they will come from the faculties of Maine colleges.

With regard to the program given Aug. 4 at Kennebunkport’s South Congregational Church and Aug. 5 at Springvale’s Historical Museum, there were many highlights.

The composers ranged from W.F. Bach and Martinu to Kapustin, Arnold, Durafle and Eycherine. The performers included Stein (violin and viola); Chihara Naruse (piano); Erin Lesser (flute); Kathleen McNerney (oboe); Barry Saunders (alto saxophone); Patrick Owen (cello); and guest student Julia Lee (violin). The latter is a 14-year-old student of Portland String Quartet violinist Ronald Lantz. From what I heard, she more than held her own in this very talented group.

Lesser’s tone was fluid and consistent from top to bottom on her flute. If someone has written something for the saxophone that is regarded as unplayable, it is my contention that Saunders would find a way to play it and play it well.

Stein is the first violinist of the Portland String Quartet, and his command of the instrument is consistently on the highest level. What was surprising (to me) was the fact that he could demonstrate the same virtuosity on the viola. (The notes are farther apart and not readily playable on a violin, where the notes are very close together on the strings.)


McNerney’s tone on the oboe are what an oboe is ideally supposed to sound like, and her musicality is on the same high level. Naruse demonstrated technique that was matched by a variety of appropriate tonal abilities (touch), and the cello playing of Owen (also of the Portland String Quartet) was on the same high level.

Moving on, while I have no way of knowing if this custom holds true in other Maine counties or even in other states, it seems that people living in one part of York County seem reluctant to venture forth to another locale with the possible exception of rare events in Portland. I will not even speculate on visits to Concord, New Hampshire, or even Boston with the probable exception of some sporting events. One would think that one needed a visa to take in a concert or show in a neighboring town.

It is no reflection on the cultural affairs in Kennebunkport, Biddeford, Sanford, Ogunquit, Berwick or York to take in events in neighboring towns and cities within the county.

For example, it really makes no sense for folks in York not to see a show in Biddeford, or the folks in Biddeford not to take in a concert in Springvale, or the folks in Sanford not to travel to North Berwick, and so on.

Cultural events (plays, concerts, etc.) are not the same thing as high school basketball games! And it is my feeling that if one wants to show pride in one’s hometown, then it behooves people to at least patronize those events that occur in one’s town.

And I’m glad I ventured to Kennebunkport and Springvale. While all the compositions received superlative performances, it was the reading of the work by Durufle, composed in l928, that most appealed to me.

The next performances by VentiCordi will take place on Aug. 17 at the UU Church in Brunswick and on the 18th at the South Congregational Church in Kennebunkport. Starting time is 7 p.m. in both places.

— Morton Gold is a composer/conductor, retired educator and an arts reviewer for the Journal Tribune.

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