The 28th annual concert of the Cross Chamber Orchestra was most praiseworthy in its youthful energy and especially because of the wise choice of soloist for the occasion.

The members of this string orchestra, consisting solely of Korean nationals, were of high musical vitality and technical dexterity. At the direction of Jin Daniel Suh, they closely felt and followed the musical ideas expressed by the conductor. The orchestra gave a beautiful performance of St Paul’s Suite for String Orchestra by Gustav Holst. From the beginning to the end, such warmth of tone and honest “folksy” energy was most commendable. From the exciting opening Jig to the soothing murmurs of Ostinato, from keenly erratic declamatory Intermezzo to instinctive Finale, the orchestra’s ensemble was simply flawless. For Bartok’s Divertimento for String Orchestra, everyone did an enjoyable job.

The most remarkable, however, was the Mozart Piano Concerto in A major K414. The soloist of the evening was Sister Joanna, an actively performing Catholic nun-pianist from Korea. She was truly impressive and without empty showmanship in her approach to the keyboard and to the music of Mozart. With her exacting touch and quietness of dramatic soul, the listeners were in speechless awe. Perhaps lacking in outward charm and sometimes in tonal warmth, Sister Joanna nonetheless led the musical journey attentively through her determination and willpower concealed in her soft-spoken manner. In the first movement Allegro, the driving force of the orchestral tutti was followed by the pianist’s charismatic beauty of ascetic musicmaking. In many moments her playing was enchanting with respect to tone and sincerity of feeling. The second movement was a heartfelt soliloquy, rendered piously. The last movement Allegretto was excellent too, despite the tempo rendered more like presto furioso. Certainly all the notes were played wonderfully by the orchestra and the pianist, but the mischief and teasing musical discourse were missing at the cost of the delight of speedy ride. Consequently some passages were blessed with somewhat hardened sound. However, the virtue overruled vice by all means.

The orchestra's encore was Bach's “Jesus, Joy of Man’s desiring,” revealing perhaps the word “cross” in the name of the orchestra came from a religious inspiration. However, the musical direction was just too excited to sensitively feel the simple tune – much in haste, and there was no final peace this tune could have brought. It was an etude of running triplets.

But the musical marvels far exceeded any malady, and the evening was a fascinating feat of religious stoicism and extreme vitality.