Mount Vernon Music will open their seventh season on Saturday, Aug. 25, beginning at 7 p.m. with a night of gumbo and Dixieland jazz courtesy of the N'Awlins Gumbo Kings.
“We had them the first year of Mount Vernon Music,” Mark Miller, one of MVM's founding members, recalled during an interview in the News-Telegram offices. “They were just terrific.”
The evening's menu, of course, includes a bowl of that special Cajun soup so associated with the Crescent City.
“At this point, the plan is to have little bowls of gumbo for our guests,” Miller noted. “There will be other food as well. It's going to be great fun.”
Along with N'Awlins food and great Dixieland jazz, the night will also feature a silent auction with food from artisan bakers and crafts from local sources.
Tickets for the event are $25 each and $10 for children under 12.
The gala is also a great opportunity for businesses to become MVM sponsors.
“Our gold sponsors [$1,000 or more] receive six complimentary tickets to the gala,” Miller said. “Silver sponsor [$500 or more] receive four tickets, while bronze sponsors [$250 or more] receive two tickets.”
All sponsors will be listed in the gala's program book and in programs for other performances of the season.
MVM's next event, called “Heavenly Strings,” will include three performances at different locations. On Sunday, Sept. 9, at 3 p.m., Miller will be joined by Elizabeth Elsner on violin, Ute Miller and Liesl-Ann De Villiers on viola and Jeffrey Hood and Karen Smith on cello for a double concerto by Mozart and also Shubert's Quintet in C-major. The Shubert is considered as one of the greatest pieces of chamber music ever written.
The group will move to Commerce and Dallas for the two other “Heavenly Strings” events.
“We tend to pluck a few of them [performances] out and take them over to the city because we have a lot of supporters over there,” Miller noted.
At 4 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 10, the group will perform at the Finney Concert Hall on the campus of Texas A&M University-Commerce.
Miller is thrilled to be performing at the state-of-the-art TA&M venue.
“It’s like being in an instrument” is how Miller describes the hall's acoustics. “It's really, really sweet. They suffered for a long time with a building that was falling down. They tried their best to keep it up, but now they have this incredible place.”
On Tuesday, Sept. 11, they will entertain an audience at East Dallas Christian Church, 629 North Park St.
For the next MVM event, Ellen Rose, the principal violinist of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, will be joined by pianist Kristin Ditto in a special concert benefitting MVM's outreach program.
“She's taking this recital program on tour in China,” Miller said. “She approached us and said, ‘I would love a chance to do this for your series.’”
Rose will be in recital on Sunday, Oct. 26, at 3 p.m. in MVM hall, performing works by Messiaen, Boccherini and others.
In November, the group will again expand its performances to include dates in Mount Vernon and Dallas. Joel Schoenhals will be on piano, along with Miller on violin, Ute Miller on viola and Jeffrey Hood on cello. They will be playing the romantic music of Fauré and a special number by a young Felix Mendelson.
“The Mendelson is a jaw-dropping little thing,” Miller mused. “He was about 14 when he wrote it, I think. It's gorgeous.”
The group will perform in MVM hall on Sunday, Nov. 11, at 3 p.m. and again on Monday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. in McIver Chapel of Wilshire Baptist Church, 4316 Abrams Road, in Dallas.
History will repeat itself in on Saturday, Jan. 5, at 7:30 p.m. during the Agnes Burns Keyboard Concert as MVM regular Steven Harlos recreates a 1939 concert by Polish pianist Jan Paderewski at State Fair Music Hall in Dallas, showcasing the works of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin.
“Tom Wilkinson had this idea,” Miller said. “Agnes Burns was his aunt. She had gone to this recital back in 1939. She was blown away. She still had the program. Tom inherited it. That's what we're going to do.”
To start the new year off in a classic way, MVM will present “Clarinet and Strings,” with Daryl Coad on clarinet, Miller and Elsner on violins, Ute Miller on viola and Oliver Schlaffer on cello. The performance will be held on Saturday, Feb. 9, at 7:30 p.m.
“Daryl is one of our new trustees,” Miller explained. “He performed with us a couple of seasons back. He's a wonderful player. He teaches at the University of North Texas. He plays with the Fort Worth Symphony and is visible with area ensembles. He has a gorgeous sound.”
Schlaffer has performed with MVM in the past, too.
“He's really busy as a teacher,” said Miller. “He is a player with a couple of orchestra in the Metroplex.”
Beth Elsner first came to Miller's attention when she did “a little bit” of substitution work with the North East Texas Symphony Orchestra.
“I thought, 'Wow. This is a really good violinist,'” Miller remembered. “She's the concert master of the Abilene Symphony, and she just clicked when we got together to play.”
For “Clarinet and Strings,” the group will play music that ranges from “classical genius” to “meditative blues harmonies.”
In April of 2013, MVM will bring back another favorite for three performances.
The American Horn Quartet will play on Friday, April 5, at St. Rita's Catholic Church, 12521 Inwood Road, Dallas on Saturday, April 6, they'll be at MVM Hall, beginning at 7:30 p.m., and at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 8, they will perform at Finney Concert Hall in Commerce.
“They're going to bring the house down,” Miller promised. “St. Rita's collaborated with MVM last year with their baroque series. They've been real supportive.”
Horn Quartet member Jeff Horn also likes Finney Hall.
“He performed with us last year and said he really wanted to get the quartert there. They would love to play in here,” Miller remembers. “I'd be surprised if people don't start discovering it as a recording venue. It's really well suited for that purpose. You can do studio quality work in there.”
On Sunday, May 12, at 3 p.m., flautist Helen Blackburn and her husband, Drew Lang, who plays the marimbas, will bring their special blend to the MVM stage.
“They're terrific,” Miller notes with a smile. “They've been performing for decades. They know each other so well. There is a lot of back and forth in what they do. She is the principal flautist for the Dallas Opera and plays with the Dallas Symphony.”
MVM will close out their “de Gumbo” season with a Summer Children's Concert on Monday, June 17, at 2 p.m.
“The Hall Ensemble of Fort Worth will be bringing ‘Leopoldo the Frog: A Musical Story’ to our final event,” Miller advised. “We'll be working with the Mount Vernon Public Library to promote the book behind the music.”
With everything in place, MVM is now waiting for the sponsorships to line up and memberships to come in.
“It's white knuckle time because the economy is hard,” Miller said. “We believe that in hard times, the arts – and music in particular – are more needed, not less needed. The most visible part of what MVM does is in our brochure and in our performances. However, we still regard the outreach as the heart and soul of why we exist. We're trying to do more of that.
It is at this moment in the interview that Miller stops to gather himself, and then relates an especially poignant story about a recent visit he and Ute made to a nursing home.
“We have an arrangement of ‘The Tennessee Waltz’ for the violin and viola that we had commissioned just for us. We sometimes end our shows with it,” he said. “A woman struggled and managed to pull herself up to a standing position with her walker and proceeded to dance around the room with the walker. She came up to us after the song and apologized, saying ‘I just couldn't help myself.’ Music touches people like that. That's why we do what we do.”
MVM is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. All donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.
MVM memberships start at $25 and are good for the entire season. Membership categories include associate ($25-$49), friend ($50-$149), patron ($150-$499), benefactor ($500-$2,999)
and underwriter ($3,000+).
Tickets to all MVM events are $15 for non-members, $10 for members, with students through high school admitted for free. College students with valid ID can purchase tickets are $5.
Learn more about MVM by visiting their website,
www.mountvernonmusic.org, or by calling 903-563-3780.
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