Henderson concert series resumes Sunday with violinist

Feb. 08, 2013 @ 06:35 PM

The Henderson Community Concert Association will present solo violinist Ann Fontanella on Sunday as part of its 2012-2013 concert series. She will take the stage in the civic center at Vance-Granville Community College at 3 p.m.

Attendees should expect a diverse program of classical music.

“I’m playing a wide variety of pieces of music that were written all for the violin by violinists,” she said.

Nevertheless, Fontanella has something to offer to the uninitiated as well.

“I try to make the classical music accessible to my audience,” she said. “A lot of people when they think of classical music they find it intimidating and they get a little turned off to it because of that. During my concerts I do talk a lot between every piece. I’ll say something — I’ll tell them a story; I’ll tell them about the time period. I’ll tell them the back story so that they know exactly what they’re listening to and I find that makes it more accessible to people to see what I’m trying to bring to them.”

“I do stuff that is more accessible to the ear,” she said. “I play things from ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Its all still classical music but I try to keep it as accessible classic.

“I’ll pick out classical selections that anybody can walk in and go ‘that’s pretty — I like that.’”

As a practitioner of the “old Russian school” style, her technique lends itself to creating pleasing sounds.

“My playing style itself — I try to be very precise, try not to miss anything. I always try to play with a warm tone.”

In her youth, Fontanella studied under Erik Friedman. He, in turn, was a protégé of Russian legend Jascha Heifitz, who, according to Fontanella, “was considered by many the greatest and the most popular violinist of the 20th century.”

Performing in front of audiences since she was 8 years old, she is well aware of the importance of knowing her audience and making adjustments accordingly. Of course, changing the set list isn’t always an option.

“The program has obviously been set in stone,” she said. However, she can put those moments when she speaks between songs to good use.

“But when I talk, depending on what kind of vibe I get from the audience, like I may tell jokes in one town but I won’t tell the same joke in a different town,” she said.

Building a relationship with an audience is crucial. But there is another type of connection at work as well. Fontanella spoke about a musical heritage.

“Most ideas in popular music extend from the theories and ideas that were come up with by classical musicians about 600 years ago. And they just cross all borders,” she said.

“I listen to Billy Joel,” she said. “I can tell you that his themes, his construction — everything is based on classical theories.”

Yet, regardless of any link between genres, why would someone want to attend her show?

“Because I make it fun,” she said. “I really do my best to give everybody an enjoyable experience. And I would be able to promise them that if they came to my concert, they would recognize at least three to four pieces on the program.”

“I am there on the stage explaining things and giving them the history as part of our (musical) heritage. And I try to make this part of our heritage fun. And enjoyable.”

Contact the writer at dwilson@hendersondispatch.com.