The Mount Vernon Chamber Orchestra Association is the kind of organization that makes a city a community. It sponsors a community orchestra and two youth orchestras, a music school, a summer music festival and a free chamber music series, all of which feature local artists and attract diverse audiences. Ulysses James has been directing all this activity for many years with enthusiasm and grace.
The concert of chamber music for French horn et al. at the Lyceum in Alexandria Sunday was the finale of this summer's series of weekly concerts. There will be four more free chamber music concerts during the regular season.
Hornist James Criswell took on a tough assignment and, for the most part, handled it very well. In collaboration with pianist Rob Blount, he gave a playful and nicely coordinated reading of Bernard Heiden's 1939 Sonata for Horn and Piano and a confident and well-rehearsed performance of Alec Wilder's Suite for the same combination. Wilder's music is sounding dated these days but, as the century is ending, it is good to be reminded of what people were comfortable with 50 years ago.
Violinist Lucia Conrad joined the group for an unfortunate attempt at the Brahms Horn Trio. The piece was not ready to be performed and should have been replaced by something easier.