Prodigies stun at Beaver Creek recording of NPR’s ‘From the Top’
National Public Radio is known for its podcasts, including “From the Top,” an episode of which was recorded at the Vilar Performing Arts Center on Wednesday night. “From the Top” is a program featuring talented young musicians, giving them a large platform to share their art with the world.
“We believe that voices of young artists need to be heard loud and clear,” said a member of the show’s staff. “Art is about hope and empathy … it has the power to unify people of all beliefs.”
The show, which was co-hosted by pianist Peter Dugan, welcomed violinist Charles Yang as a co-host. Yang is an internationally touring musician and songwriter that got his start after performing on “From the Top.”
This particular episode featured five young artists, each playing a different instrument. Once they played their music, Yang and Dugan would briefly interview each of them about their love of music and their personal lives.
The show kicked off with 16-year-old violinist Charlotte Marckx. She played “Carmen Fantasie” by Franz Waxman with Dugan accompanying her on the piano. The song has been popularized by film and television. After her performance, Marckx discussed her love of moving people with music.
Next came Benjamin Lee, 16, playing the erhu. The erhu is an instrument often referred to as the “Chinese violin,” despite the fact that the erhu is centuries older than the violin. Lee walked the audience through the unique instrument itself, explaining that it mimics the human voice as to express emotion. Lee performed “Tai Ji Qin Jia” by Chen Jun, and discussed how he was introduced to the erhu and began playing it.
At this point in the show, Yang and Dugan invited Marckx and Lee back to the stage to perform a four-part collaboration of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.”
Yang and Dugan also performed a stellar blues- and rock-infested arrangement of The Beatles’ “Blackbird.” This number was an exclusive for the live audience, as it was used to fill ad time during the broadcast. The live audience also had the opportunity to enter to win “From the Top” merchandise as the show began.
Scott Quirk, 17, took to the stage next. Quirk is a flutist and played “III. Salmon Lake” by Daniel Dorff — a song about Dorff’s childhood living on the shore of a lake. Quirk then discussed his popular flute-themed Instagram account (@scott_quirky) and its surprising success with over 4,500 followers.
Next came Denver native Gwyneth Aggeler, 15. Aggeler, a classical guitarist, played “I. India” from “Libra Sonatine” by Roland Dyens. Aggeler then discussed her exploits in teaching middle school-aged boys how to play guitar, explaining that they often prefer to use their instruments as weapons.
The final performer to take the stage was 16-year-old pianist Marc Soong. Soong played a paraphrase on “Figaro’s Aria” from “Barber of Seville” by Grigory Ginzburg. Soong would go on to discuss how his skills in music often intersect with his skills in physics and mathematics.
To wrap up the show, Yang and Dugan brought Aggeler back to the stage to perform “Loopy,” an original song written by Yang.