Cheryl North :: Interviews

Cheryl North Interviews Chad Hoopes prior to his performance at the New Year's Concert of the San Francisco Symphony, December 31, 2009

Material from the Classical Music Column for the December 25, 2009 Preview Section, Bay Area News Group.

By Cheryl North

Well, it's finally here: Christmas Day, 2009. Along with Merry Christmas wishes from me to all my readers, let me reveal my sure-fire recipe for an extra healthy helping of seasonal joy: add a bit of sing-along caroling to the day's traditional present-opening, toasting, and feasting activities. Whether one's voice resembles that of an angel or a waif with a severe case of laryngitis, a song shared will top off the day with an extra dollop of delight.

But, looking ahead, the San Francisco Symphony has come up with an especially appealing recipe for celebrating the waning old year's metamorphosis into the high hopes of the new on 2009's final eve. The doors of Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco will open at 8 p.m. Thursday for an especially festive concert, scheduled to begin at 9 p.m., followed by a "Masquerade Ball," with masks provided by the Symphony.

Ah, but the evening's high point will be the music itself - a frothy confection composed of 19th century Viennese waltzes, polkas, and tunes from operettas, along with a bevy of costumed dancers and other special New Year's Eve surprises. The symphony musicians will be led by guest conductor and jazz pianist Bramwell Tovey. Special guest artists will be the dreamboat British tenor Alfie Boe (he was chosen by Baz Luhrmann to sing the role of Rudolfo in his Broadway La Boheme); strawberry blonde soprano, Layla Claire; and the remarkable 15-year-old violin prodigy, Chad Hoopes.

I had a chance to speak with young Hoopes while he was at the Cleveland Airport awaiting a plane to take him and his two musician sisters to Utah where, as the Playing Hoopes Trio, they will perform for Robert Redford and his holiday guests.

A disarmingly natural and forthright fellow, Hoopes said, "that because I love music so much" it is not at all difficult for him to spend up to five hours a day practicing and to perform up to four concerts a month.

"I remember sitting on my mom's lap when my older sisters, Alexandra and Anna, were practicing or when they had their violin lessons," he explained. "I was absolutely intrigued by their music. Then when I was about three, I begged my Mom to get me my own violin." She did, and by age four, he began taking lessons.

Since then, it's been one success after another, the latest of which was his recent win of the first prize in the Young Artists' division of the 2008 Yehudi Menuhin Competition in Cardiff, Wales. He's played with numerous orchestras throughout the world, including the Cleveland and Minnesota Orchestras, the Pittsburgh Symphony; the Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera, and the Brussels Chamber Orchestra. He was also the chosen soloist for an Emmy-winning commercial for the Cleveland Indians Major League Baseball team, and he has made several appearances on national television networks.

Certainly one of his most remarkable achievements is to have progressed through all the requirements, save organizing requisite papers, to become an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. His big project culminating the path to his Eagle award was to plan and then plant the gardens surrounding the Family Hope Lodge for the American Cancer Society in Cleveland.

"It was really an exciting experience. When it was all finished, we had a big dinner for about 40 patients and their families in the garden." Hoopes' near-term goal is to simply "continue learning, playing solos, and participating in a series of educational concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra in early 2010." An important long-term goal, he admitted, "is to learn and perform one of my favorite pieces, the Brahms" Violin Concerto." One of his most recent achievements is to have mastered the great Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. "It's a marathon to play," he said, "but I love it. It makes me excited and invigorated. Performing on stage before an audience makes me feel the same way." Two of his musical idols are Joshua Bell and Nicolay Schneider.

For his San Francisco New Year's Eve performance, he will play Henryk Wieniaowsky's Caprice No. 4 and Fritz Kreisler's Caprice Viennois.