David Park and Friends are bringing Utah to Carnegie Hall and Carnegie Hall to Utah
Musicians like Tchaikovsky and The Beatles have played at Carnegie Hall. Soon, so will David Park and Friends
Before David Park (violin), Melissa Garff Ballard (piano) and Alex Marshall (piano) bring Utah to Carnegie Hall, the trio plans on bringing Carnegie Hall to Utah.
The three musicians will be joined by soprano Marina Poplavskaya for a performance at the famed New York concert venue on Oct. 13, but before they go, they’re performing at Libby Gardner Concert Hall with soprano soloist Michelle Dean.
Carnegie Hall attracts the top international musical talent — to perform, you have to apply. Park applied for the opportunity and invited Ballard and Marshall to join him.
“We’re excited that we’ve got a prime time on a Friday night,” Park said of the opportunity. He mentioned the group has received support from Carnegie Hall and were given an introduction in their advertisement. “Ninety percent of the time, they don’t,” he said.
The trio will join a group of elite performers like Tchaikovsky, The Beatles, Bill Withers and musicians across all genres in having secured a performance slot at one of the world’s most exclusive music venues.
“This is a really unique opportunity for Utahns to be the focal point of this concert because most of the time in Carnegie, you have people from all over the world that collaborate together,” Ballard told me.
Park, Ballard and Marshall each have strong ties to Utah. Though Park’s career has taken him around the globe as a first-class soloist, he has a relationship of around three decades with the Utah Symphony and has taught at the University of Utah.
Ballard represents District 20 in the Utah House of Representatives, is a graduate of the University of Utah and is an accomplished pianist. Marshall performs with the Utah Symphony and is the music director in the theater department at the university.
Before the trio treks to New York City, they are performing the same concert in Utah. With composers like Bach and Mozart on the set list, the concert is slated to feature some of the classics from the best-known classical music artists.
“If I had a wish, it would be for Utahns and those in our valley across the Wasatch Front and beyond to know if you can’t make it to Carnegie Hall on Oct. 13, then you need to come for a New York experience here at Libby Gardner Hall at the University of Utah on Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m.,” Ballard said.
Playing at Carnegie Hall is “like the Olympics for music,” she said. “I am probably the only legislator in all the history of Utah to ever perform in Carnegie Hall.” Playing for Carnegie Hall for the first time is an emotional experience for Ballard.
It’s a time for her to represent the arts in Utah, she said. “I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to perform there, but also to represent Utah legislators and the diverse occupations we have.” In the House, Ballard said she’s the sole professional musician and legislators have a bevy of other careers.
While Ballard is looking forward to her first time playing at Carnegie Hall, Park is excited to return to where he debuted in New York in 1993.
“I just recalled recently that last time I performed there was 30 years ago. I was a little kid. I was a prodigy,” Park said. “I played Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ with orchestra at Carnegie Hall.”
As Park talked about his enthusiasm for returning to the Big Apple, he held the violin he’s using for the concert: a 1692 “Falmouth” Antonio Stradivarius — one of the finest violins in the world.
It was named after a previous owner, the Earl of Falmouth. It was made in Cremona, Italy, which had a little ice age from the mid-17th century to mid-18th century, Park said. The trees in the area grew slowly and “then, therefore, the wood was very dense.” The wood from this period cannot be duplicated and sets this violin apart.
An anonymous donor lent Park the violin after watching a viral video. A violin maker was polishing the instrument when he invited Park to play music on it before he returned it. The violin maker asked Park if he could video him for Instagram and then, the video went viral.
The owner of the violin saw the video and wanted to meet Park. After meeting Park, he decided to lend him the instrument, which he has now been playing for over a year.
Park sees himself as a “guardian” of this violin, because if an intermediate student were to play on it, the violin itself can get worse, he explained. “For the collectors to have it played by somebody they respect, I think that it’s also important.”
The violin produces graceful, dulcet tones that swell across the hall as Park rehearses. The sound’s vibration beseeches the listener to be enchanted into a rich experience. It’s the kind of experience where every faculty is engaged.
It’s a unique sound: a different one than music on the radio that can be more of a “straight-forward metronomic creation,” Ballard said.
“There’s something amazing about live music. You often will hear digitized, synthesized music on the radio or even classical music that’s been synthesized, but to have musicians playing it live is a very personal experience,” Ballard remarked.
The personal experience with music is also an emotional one, Ballard said. As an example, she talked about “Erbarme dich, mein Gott” (Have mercy, my God) from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, which they will play after the intermission. It’s an aria about Peter’s despondency after he denied Jesus Christ three times.
“And you can feel in this, as the three of us are playing together, you feel the tragedy and the yearning for mercy from God,” Ballard said. “Immediately after that, we play a Strauss piece called ‘Morgen!’ which is this ethereal, heavenly experience of tomorrow. ... It takes you from this agony to this heavenly peace.”
The group will also play Mozart’s Violin Sonata in E Minor and other songs. The encores will be a surprise.
Tickets to their concert on Oct. 2 at the Libby Gardner Concert Hall (University of Utah) are available on Arts Tickets and for their concert on Oct. 13 at Carnegie Hall are available on the Carnegie Hall website.