People often do dinner and a movie, so how about lunch and a concert?
The 27th annual FPC “Promenades” concert series opens at 1 p.m. Thursday with a violin prodigy, Benjamin Beilman, accompanied by Yekwon Sunwoo on piano. For this concert and three others – all at 1 p.m. Jan. 31, Feb. 14 and March 7 – the seats are borrowed at First Presbyterian Church, 1300 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach. Season tickets are $30, or $10 at the door, if available, on each date.
Brown Bradley, founder and artistic director of the series, said many rising stars of classical music, as well as colossal ones such as Joshua Bell and Renee Fleming, have played FPC concerts through the years.
Question | Rounding the corner closer to three decades, what has kept the music from never stopping as a nice time out for the public, whether on Sunday afternoons or the past few years, to extend one’s lunch break?
Answer | It all started with two concerts. ... Philip Powell, before his chairmanship in Coastal Carolina University’s music department, had just moved to town. I had wanted to start a concert series like I had done in New York. Then he played the piano at our first concert here, and I sang and he played for the second concert. ...
This year, to start off, we got Benjamin Beilman, the winner of the 2010 Montreal International Musical Competition, which is a very prestigious feat. I walked with him on the phone the other day. He’s a unique personality. He’s 21 years old and just playing around the world with every orchestra. They call him the new Joshua Bell.
Q. | Speaking of Joshua Bell, how special was booking Jeremy Denk for Feb. 14, the man who accompanied him on piano here in 2009?
A. | Jeremy Denk decided two years ago he would take a break from accompanying Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell and all the people he has played for. ... He’s quite a character. Go to his blog; he is so candid. ... He has turned out to be a real great pianist in general. When he was here with Joshua Bell, after the concert, the audience wanted to see him as much as they wanted to see Joshua Bell.
Q. | What names who have played this series still leave you floored in awe?
A. | Olga Kern, whom they call the premier pianist in the world ... you just see her all the time – she has played for Renee Fleming. I think she was the greatest pianist. ... She didn’t disappoint us: five encores and three standing ovations. That was a memorable concert never to be forgotten. ... We’ll find out if Jeremy Denk can top her.
Q. | Your thanks continue to the city of Myrtle Beach for funds from the Accommodations Tax program. How big a largess is that, coupled with the FPC series subscriber base?
A. | We’ve been getting $10,000 grants from the city. We were able to get $14,000 for this year. ... The concerts ... are also for snowbirds. The “A-Tax” is done for tourism, and Mayor John Rhodes and city council, they kind of know our history.
Q. | How has that recognition from the city also kept the ticket price affordable, a good deal for patrons, whether for the season or a la carte per concert?
A. | We pulled the ticket price way down like that during the economic crash. That was when started packing the house in. We’ve built up a good audience for people who like classical music.
Q. | What else does First Presbyterian Church lend besides its sanctuary, upstairs and down, for these concerts for the public?
A. | The church also lets us use the wonderful Steinway piano. The concerts are a real gift to the community.
Q. | And the crowds have followed since you moved the concerts three years ago from later Sunday afternoons to 1 p.m. on select Thursdays?
A. | We tried it one year, and to my surprise, it worked. They go to lunch and they come on over. Some of them get there at 12:15 or 12, so it’s a big social hour until the concerts start.