"This won't be your typical classical music concert," Gloria Felix-Thompson cautioned cheerfully as she described what to expect in yesterday afternoon's Music for the Inner City program, presented by the Arts Connection at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Anacostia.
She was understating her case. This was a program that included an a cappella performance by baritone Gordon Hawkins, the second movement of Beethoven's Eighth Symphony arranged for octet (including soprano saxophone), Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" and a conducting contest (with the warhorse "Stars and Stripes Forever"), featuring audience participants selected in a lottery.
The outdoor concert, on a hillside that gave a picture-postcard panorama of the city, began just as a ray of sunshine, almost on cue, burst through an ominous cloud cover.
Several musicians briefly described their instruments. Bassoonist Jean Young honked her double reed amid audience laughter, but then demonstrated her instrument's beauty with brief melodies from "The Rite of Spring" and "Peter and the Wolf."
"Bach did not write that sound," conductor Darrold Hunt noted as a motorcycle blasted out an introduction for the Andante movement of Bach's "Brandenburg" Concerto No. 2. The concerto fared well in its innovative arrangement, with Jonathan Helton's unobtrusive soprano sax sounding almost like an oboe.
"Opera singers also sing loud, because you never know when an ambulance will go by," Gordon Hawkins commented as a brassy ensemble of street sounds roared to life before his a cappella performance. Hawkins is a local treasure, and his singing in Gershwin's "A Woman Is a Sometime Thing" and particularly the spiritual "Stand Still Jordan" was stunning.