Viola phenomenon performs with string band

There are few concerts that can make a member of an audience laugh, cry and be full of joy at the end. This was the case when Kenji Bunch, a world-renowned composer, played the viola at Trinity Chapel.

Director of Fine Arts Lois Jaeger said, “[Bunch] is one of the most talented and personable musicians I’ve met.”

Over 40 orchestras on six continents have performed Bunch’s symphonic music. Several record labels have recorded his music, including Sony/BMG, EMI Classics, Capstone and RCA. He has performed collaborations that received much praise with renowned choreographers, such as David Parsons, Kate Skarpetowska and Darrell Grand Moultrie.

On the night of the performance, Bunch began with Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, BWV 1051, Movement 3. Music Professor Adrian Lo also played the viola with Bunch with the Bethany String band accompaniment.

After this performance, Bunch played Concerto No. 1 for Four Violins, TWV 40:201, with seniors Michael Harting, Benjamin Schultz and Katherine Kjeer.

After a brief intermission, Bunch played his original compositions on the viola.

“Most of them explore different tunings of the viola,” Bunch said. “I think the viola is misunderstood.”

One of these songs, “Etoufee,” named after a Southern dish that is essentially spicy gravy over rice, had a Delta blues feeling to it. A comical composition Bunch played was “The Dogbreath Express,” which was a tribute to his rescued Pit Bull, Coffee.

“She is a wonderful friend and companion,” said Bunch.

After another intermission, the Bethany String Band, directed by Lo, came back to join Bunch in the final four pieces, which were classic bluegrass songs that Bunch sang and played the fiddle on. The first three were “Sixteen Tons,” “I’ve Been Everywhere” and “In the Jailhouse Now.”

The final song performed was “Orange Blossom Special,” which featured PSEO student Daniel Halvorson, who played the fiddle alongside with Bunch. The piece became a “dueling fiddle” song between Halvorson and Bunch. At the end of the concert, both received a standing ovation, leaving some audience members in tears by their outstanding performance.

Pianist of the Bethany String Band Kayla Busch said, “It was really cool to play with someone who has a lot of experience, especially because we didn’t practice with him a lot.”

Bunch resides in Brooklyn, New York with his wife Monica, daughter Emmaline and Coffee, and teaches at the Juilliard Pre-College.

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