On Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, The Musical Club of Westfield welcomed more than 220 in the audience and more than 40 musicians to its biennial Scholarship Benefit Concert in the sanctuary of The First Baptist Church of Westfield. The concert raised over $5,000 to help fund partial four-year scholarships for Union County college students majoring in music performance, composition, teaching, theater and therapy. In 2019, 11 local college students received a total of $33,000 as part of their four year awards.
Two years of planning and organizing led by Kay Macrae, producer, and Elsa Hahn, designer, created a magnificent musical experience. More than a dozen of Elsa's quilts set the tempo for the day.
For the early arrivers, Debra Biderman, violin, and Eric Deutchman, folk accordion, played folk tunes from colonial times, the Civil War era, and forward to music of our current century. With everyone assembled, the formal concert began with a thrilling rendition of Yankee Doodle with Rachel Markowitz and Robert Strauss, piccolos, and Aidan Supranowitz, percussion, representing Westfield High School's Blue Devil Bands. More music of the American revolution was captured by former scholarship winner Michael Rosin on the First Baptist Church's harpsichord as he presented James Hewitt's musical saga The Battle of Trenton, dedicated to George Washington in 1797.
The nineteenth century was introduced by John Wargacki portraying Walt Whitman reciting I Hear America Singing. Alto Kim Gorman accompanied by Joe Elefante presented the heart of American foksong with Stephen Foster's Oh! Susanna, along with Wayfaring Stranger and Simple Gifts. Mistress of Ceremonies Elsa Hahn called The Virginia Reel backed up by fiddler Debra Biderman and accordion player Eric Deutchman.
The religious heart of American music was brought out by pianist Helen Ryba performing a movement of African-American composer Florence Price's spiritual-inspired Piano Sonata in E-Minor. The Sanctuary Choir of The First Seventh-Day Adventist Church of Newark, New Jersey, Irma B. Ferdinand, Director, offered deeply felt renditions of Carlton Burgess' Cast Your Cares, Moses Hogan's I Am His Child, and James Abbington's Stop By, Lord.
Intermission ended with herald trumpeter Florian Schantz' rendition of Call to the Post. The audience felt the beat as Florian's Jazz Combo (Florian Schantz, trumpet and cornet; Rup Chattopadhyay, trombone; Margaret Schantz, flügelhorn; Lowell Schantz, guitar; and Cory Ackerman, drums) delivered John Philip Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever, New Orleans' When The Saints Go Marching In and Irving Berlin's Puttin' On the Ritz.
A former scholarship winner Chris Dellarso on clarinet and Mary Beth McFall on piano captured the jazz age with Benny Goodman's Don't Be That Way and Duke Ellington's Duke's Place. Chris' clarinet wailed the introduction to George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue performed by pianist Carolle-Ann Mochernuk. He then joined a fascinating arrangement of Gershwin's Summertime sung by soprano Cynthia Sacco accompanied by Mary Beth McFall.
Joe Elefante returned to the piano for a medley of selections from the golden age of Broadway musicals. Then Joe accompanied the concert finale, Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land, led by former scholarship winner Drude Sparre Crane, mezzo-soprano, and Glen Crane, bass-baritone, joined by the audience and all the performers. A magnificent Harvest Reception allowed the audience to meet the artists and to enjoy the All-American foods presented by Magaly Docabo, Maryann Dolling and Barbara Lockley.