Many of us who love classical music are in the position of gourmets who regularly dine at the city’s finest restaurants. A diet of concerts by leading musicians at places like the Kennedy Center and Strathmore can lead to a hyperrefined, and hypercritical, palate.
But sometimes meals at the corner restaurant, though less elegant, can be more sustaining. The Friday Morning Music Club has been offering the musical equivalent of such fare for 125 years. On Friday at noon it offered the first concert of this season in its new home, Calvary Baptist Church in Penn Quarter, along the same model it has pursued for most of those years: music played by, and for, people who love music.
All of the performers on Friday’s hour-long program are making lives in music, in different ways. They are teachers, accompanists, academics, hopeful young professionals. At one end of the age spectrum was the powerful collaborative pianist Ruth Locker, whose bio states that she made her Pittsburgh Symphony debut at 13, and who offered authoritative accompaniment to a lovely set of American songs (from Lee Hoiby’s sweetly melodious “Where the Music Comes From” to Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday”) sung by Natalie Barrens in a gentle, slightly underpowered and graceful soprano. At the other end was the violinist Destiny Ann Hoyle, who recently finished her studies at Catholic University and is in the process of setting out on a professional career, and who gave an endearingly coltish reading of the last two movements of the Franck sonata, accompanied by Katerina Zaitseva.
Also on the program were the duo piano team of Sophia Pallas and Julian Trail, who thundered out Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” — they are preparing their second CD — and the guitarist Jonah Rabinowitz-Buchanan, who played Barrios-Mangore’s “La Catedral” as a delicate filigree of sound that was not spoiled by a couple of slips in the tricky nonstop fingering patterns.
The club’s new digs are a counterpart to the elegant carpeted room in the Sumner School Museum where its performances were given for the past couple of decades. The second-floor chapel’s metal chairs are rowed on a linoleum floor; its stage is flanked by two stained-glass panels illuminated by fluorescent lights, one of which flickered persistently during the Mussorgsky as if to provide ambiance for this stormy music. An elevator bell dinged occasionally, in the distance. It’s a community space, offering homey ease and some lovely, less-heard music (especially the songs and the Barrios-Mangore). If you demand the perfection of a world-class soloist, or a four-star meal, you might find things here to criticize. But the club offers sustaining music played by serious musicians — which is, or should be, part of a balanced musical diet.