Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Priceless Gift from a Fading Generation

A Priceless Gift from a Fading Generation
They gathered for the gala opening of the Pennsylvania Music Academy in tuxedos and their fanciest dresses, but devoid of ostentation. Their average age approached
70. If there was a person of color in the crowd of over three hundred, he or she went unobserved.

This was Old Lancaster (in age and ethnicity) at its best, gathered together for a joyous evening of celebration of something that Lancaster throughout the ages has fooled itself about ... having world class achievements ... but this time knowing that for close to $30 million dollars it had at last made its mark.

Within seconds of famed violinist Arnold Steinhardt performing "Chaconne" by J. S. Bach, it was clear that what the wife and husband team of Frances Veri and Michael Jamanis had set out to do had been perfectly achieved: Acoustical quality that would seldom be equaled and perhaps never surpassed anyplace else in the world!

The sound was so audible, so pure that even an observer raised on classical music and surrounded by able violinists playing the finest of instruments was uncertain whether the music was amplified. It wasn't.

Following the Bach was the introduction of the stirring "Tunes from My Homeland" composed for the occasion by China native Che YI and performed ably by The Newstead Trio (Michael Jamanis the younger, violin; his wife Sara Male, Cello; and Xun Pan, piano.

Then Veri and Jamanis (Fran and Michael to the audience's delight) demonstrated that their piano talents had not waned by performing George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," recorded by them with success some three decades earlier.

Concluding the musical portion of this tasteful evening was Karl Jenkins "Paladio" and Samuel Barber's "Adagios for Strings" performed by the Academy's own string ensemble conducted by former student Brian DeMaris. The final work was Leonard Bernstein's "Make Our Garden Grow" with the Academy Choral and Children's Choir joining with the string ensemble.

"Welcoming" the audience and moderating the performances was famed actress and contemporary Clair Bloom. Adding a sense of nostalgia was Jamie Bernstein with numerous odes to her illustrious and much beloved father composer / conductor Leonard whose spirit she evoked in praising the Academy's purpose.

A last minute design change placed a glass dome over what was to have been a roof top garden. The wisdom of the decision – despite the high cost which was representative of every aspect of the facility - was apparent as the 300 plus enjoyed a late night dinner and a love fest of accolades bestowed by dignitaries, Fran and Mike, and bows taken by some who had made especially noteworthy contributions of talent and money to make the Academy possible.

And not the least of the accomplishments deserving of honor were those of Robert Brandt, Jr. and his Benchmark General Contractors, whose organization, suppliers and subcontractors flawlessly and with great patience and forbearance achieved virtual perfection.

What was celebrated last night was not so much the culmination of the seven year dream of Veri and Jamanis and members of the Board, remembered or still with us, but the cornerstone of a campus that, with continued support of government and individuals, can transfer Lancaster City from a exurbia / country town that had declined during the last quarter of the 20th century into one of the foremost music campuses and cultural centers in the country.

Unlike what will follow in another year with an opening of another extravaganza – one of questionable utility – there were no discordant murmurs here, no part of the community noticeable by its absence.

Wednesday, June 11, was indeed a night to remember: Perhaps a unique moment of true excellence in the history of our community. The Jamanises had a dream, and through work, money and talent our community made it possible.

Last night, we could all be proud to be from Lancaster.