CICA: It's a wrap!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Performers at one of the CICA Music Festival performances held at The Aud take a bow during one of the many standing ovations they received throughout the event.

The last piano has been trucked back to Little Rock, the orchestra's music stands have been returned to various schools, the leftover T-shirts have been packed up and faculty and students have departed. The sounds of cheers, bravos and the noise of wild standing ovations have long disappeared from the auditorium. There's not much physical evidence left behind to show what an incredible impact the Chen International Culture and Arts (CICA) Summer Music Festival had on those who participated and those who attended; but lives were changed.

For students and faculty there was an opportunity to study with acknowledged masters. For three weeks Festival Director Thomas Chun-yu Chen made good use of world-renown talent, including them as featured artists, teaching faculty and orchestra members. Students had the opportunity to study under and play onstage with the Eroica Trio, the St. Petersburg String Quartet, violinists Alexander Gilman, Dr. Shih-Peng Chang and Dr. Gregory Maytan; violists Lech Antonio Uszynski and Margaret Carey; cellist Carlton McCreery, guitarist Dr. Zachary Johnson, flutist Dr. September Payne, oboists Shannon and Michael Clardy, pianists Arthur Hart, Dr. Mei-Hsuan Huang and Olga Zelevinskaya; vocalist Dominika Zamara, composer Jeremiah Bornfield and the multiply talented violist Dr. Marshall Fine.

For the rest of us, there was the treasured opportunity to hear music that may never be heard elsewhere when faculty explored one another's talents then created duos, trios and larger groups for brilliant recitals that were top-notch entertainment worthy of any "Performance Today" program.

Here's just a taste of what you might have missed:

* The unexpected and delightful collaboration of Gilman and Uszynski in the Handel

Passacaglia for violin and viola at the end of Uszynski's recital program of June 27.

* The eclectic programming of the Eroica Trio during the first week, including works by

Beethoven, Brahms, and tango composer Astor Piazzolla.

* The compelling virtuosity of CICA veteran violinist Dr. Shih-Peng Chang in the Paganini Violin Concerto no. 1 in the June 29 orchestra program conducted by Maestro Thomas Chen.

* An incredible evening of brass and winds in various combinations from brass choir to surround-sound flutes from one end of the auditorium to the other.

* The sensuous contribution of Zamara on July 3, and her appearance in two other concerts with the CICA Festival Orchestra and the Ozarks Chorale. She commands at least six languages including Russian and Czech, and her lyric soprano blended deliciously with the orchestra.

* The premieres of two new pieces by Bornfield -- one for solo piano, played as part of the July 4 concert with pianist Arthur Hart, and a humorous song with string quartet and multimedia called "Chigger Gulch" about his experience in Eureka Springs. Bornfield's music is tonal, Beethovenesque, and speaks directly to the heart.

Also the Ozarks Chorale, a premier ballet with artistic director Tamarah Jonason, International Concerto Competition finalist, cellist Barrett Black and the equally sensational performance of Zachary Johnson as conductor/soloist in the Giuliani guitar concerto. The standing ovations were plentiful and raucous.

* The arts as represented by the exhibition of a surrealist painting of the quartet playing Shostakovich, which was placed in a silent auction following the St. Petersburg Quartet's June 20 program of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Ravel, and Georgian composer Sulkhan Tsintsadze.

* A stunning performance on July 6 by the CICA Orchestra conducted by CICA veteran Dr. Marshall Fine. Fine's program, featuring International Concerto Competition winners Josh Sadinsky, Jonny Mok, Chuan-I Ting, Tsu-ming Kuo and Margaret Carey in the Bartok Viola Concerto, did full justice to every soloist and showcased the orchestra at its very best.

* Fine's transcription of the Bach Flute Partita on June 18 and his "Wonder-Variations" -- a set of variations and fugue on Stevie Wonder's "Livin' for the City" -- which closed the student chamber programs on July 5. Both were delivered with solid musicality, full emotions, and total mastery of his instrument.

* The final concert on July 7 under Maestro Chen's baton featuring Sibelius's tone poem

* Finlandia," the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Gilman as soloist, and an especially colorful rendition of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade." Gilman certainly enjoyed playing the concerto and seemed to wear his passion on his sleeve. The orchestra responded enthusiastically as did the crowd in the auditorium. Many left the concert expressing sheer amazement that this level of performance was available in Eureka Springs, along with regrets they had not attended more of the performances.

* Finally, the collaboration and networking among musicians and the excitement already generated for 2013 promising an equally, if not more, impressive season.

The question may fairly be asked: is this festival, evidently organized with Mr. Chen's lavish understanding of important music, worth it? The answer is a resounding Yes! Thomas Chun-yu Chen deserves full kudos for investing in our community and making this festival as well as the learning opportunity and school available to Carroll County. Some artists have already planned to come back with families for vacations and two have made inquiries into moving here. As word spreads, Chen's efforts will attract more tourists, and he and his faculty should be supported to the utmost.

Anyone wishing to be on an email list for next year may contact festival organizers via the website,

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