Young Maine musicians to perform in Portland for NPR’s ‘From the Top’

This article was published by the Portland Press Herald on Wednesday, November 20, 2019.

Young Maine musicians to perform in Portland for NPR’s ‘From the Top’

by Bob Keyes, Portland Press Herald Staff Writer

Three young musicians from Maine will join seven peers from other parts of the country when the radio program “From the Top” comes to Portland on Wednesday for two tapings at Merrill Auditorium.

Colin Aponte of Blue Hill performs at Merrill Auditorium on Wednesday as part of “From the Top,” presented by Portland Ovations. Courtesy of Portland Ovations

The program is distributed by National Public Radio and provides a platform for talented young classical musicians by featuring them in concert and on the radio.

Wednesday’s program, which begins at 7 p.m. and is open to the public, is presented by Portland Ovations and will highlight the talents of 17-year-old soprano Annabel Parker from Rockport, 16-year-old violinist Joshua Rosenthal of Damariscotta and 15-year-old violinist Colin Aponte from Blue Hill. Concert pianist Orli Shaham will host Wednesday’s tapings. The performances are part of Portland Ovations’ Bicentennial Series, which focuses on Maine themes and performers.

The programs taped on Wednesday will air the weeks of Dec. 16 and Jan. 6. “From the Top” airs at 5 p.m. Saturdays on Maine Public Classical, one of more than 200 stations nationwide that broadcasts the show, now in its 20th season. Tickets to Wednesday’s program cost from $15 to $45. The show gives the performers a chance to showcase their talents and talk about their passion for music and performance.

For Aponte, appearing on the program is a dream come true and a family tradition. His older brother, Brandon, also a violinist, performed on “From the Top” when it came to Bowdoin College last fall. “I’m obviously very excited,” said Aponte, a sophomore at Bangor’s John Bapst Memorial High School who has been playing the violin since he was 3 years old.

For his national debut, Aponte plans to perform “Introduction and Tarantella” by Pablo de Sarasate. The online database AllMusic describes it as “a flashy virtuoso display-piece.” Aponte calls it “a bucket-list piece that I have liked since I was young and have always wanted to learn.”

Joshua Rosenthal, violinist from Damariscotta Courtesy of Portland Ovations

Rosenthal will perform “Limerock,” a Mark O’Connor fiddle tune that shares classical and folk music values. He’s been playing the violin for 11 years and hopes to make music his career. A homeschooled student, Rosenthal performs with the Mozart Mentors Orchestra of Rockland, under the direction of Bowdoin College’s Anthony Antolini, and is concertmaster of the New England Conservatory Preparatory School’s youth symphony in Boston, with whom he will perform in Boston on Monday.

Wednesday’s performance in Portland represents his greatest musical opportunity, he said. “This is a really big deal for me. I feel very honored to get on the show,” Rosenthal said. “I have this big love for music, and I want to spread that joy that I feel whenever I play.”

Parker will sing “Quella Faimma che m’accende,” or “The Flame that Ignites Me,” by Benedetto Marcello. It’s a song that Parker has sung a few times since middle school, including earlier this year when she won the vocal prize in the Young Stars of Maine competition, sponsored by Bay Chamber Concerts.

A senior at Camden Hills Regional High School, Parker is in the midst of applying to colleges and is planning to study classical vocal performance. She’s also interested in musical theater, and starred in the lead role in her school musical, “Mary Poppins,” which closed over the weekend.

She is excited and nervous about Wednesday night. “I have never done anything on a national broadcast level before. This will be a first. I am mostly excited to perform, but I am very, very excited to meet the other performers on the show. I have read their bios, and they are all impressive. I love meeting other musicians,” Parker said.

In all, 10 musicians will perform, with others traveling to Maine from California, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Aponte knows two of them from his time with the National Youth Orchestra this summer. In addition to performing, the musicians will participate in leadership training, career-development activities and community outreach.

“From the Top” has recorded five times previously in Maine, including at Merrill in 2010, said Erin MacCurtain, national tour marketing manager for the show. About a dozen Maine musicians have performed on the show.

Annabel Parker of Rockport Courtesy of Portland Ovations

Shaham has been a guest host for two years, since the departure of original host Christopher O’Riley. A pianist with an international career and a music educator, Shaham is a longtime listener and fan of the show. “I think the premise is inspiring. It’s unusual to give these young people a platform and to experience something on such a higher professional level than anything they have done to this point in their lives,” she said in a phone interview from New York, where she lives. “The kids are so genuine and so eager to share their enthusiasm for music.”

Shaham is familiar with Portland. She was a season-opening guest pianist with the Portland Symphony Orchestra in fall 2013, coming to Maine at the invitation of the orchestra’s former music director, Robert Moody.

She values her work with young musicians. She is artistic director of the children’s music series Orli Shaham’s Bach Yard, which she founded in 2010. The programs provide activities with musical instruments, concepts and performances. “Like anything else, if you want it to endure, you need to invest in the next generation. I feel so strongly about what music can do for us and how it can enrich us and give meaning to so much of the rest of our lives,” she said.

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