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Bodhi Tree Concerts to celebrate 10 years with ‘eclectic, joy-infused’ performance

Pulitzer-winning composer and pianist Anthony Davis will perform in Bodhi Tree Concerts' 10th-anniversary show in La Jolla.
Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and pianist Anthony Davis will perform in Bodhi Tree Concerts’ 10th-anniversary show in La Jolla.
(Courtesy of Bodhi Tree Concerts)

When organizers say the upcoming 10th-anniversary Bodhi Tree concert will have something for everyone, they aren’t kidding.

The Sept. 25 concert at St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in La Jolla will feature a Pulitzer Prize-winning pianist, an opera contralto, “Latin Jazz royalty,” representatives of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir San Diego, an accordion player, a mother-daughter flamenco dance team, a scene from “Sweeney Todd,” French cabaret and a cake (to name a few).

“It will be an eclectic, joy-infused program with many of these artists performing live for the first time since the pandemic,” said Bodhi Tree Concerts co-founder Walter DuMelle.

Assuming things “don’t get worse” with the highly contagious Delta variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus, the plan is to have the concert in person. However, there’s a backup plan for a livestream in case that can’t happen.

The event is intended to be “a concert and a celebration and a party and a fundraiser,” DuMelle said.

From the beginning, Bodhi Tree Concerts has had the mission of supporting local artists and partnering with nonprofits to give them a platform for exposure and to support them financially with ticket proceeds. About two dozen of the local artists who have performed with Bodhi Tree over the years will be on hand to celebrate the 10th anniversary.

Flamenco dancer Isabella Valenzuela will perform at the 10th-anniversary concert for Bodhi Tree.
(Courtesy of Bodhi Tree Concerts)

For the first time, Bodhi Tree Concerts will be the primary nonprofit beneficiary. Ticket revenue and other proceeds will fund its arts education programming and future concerts. Proceeds from certain raffle items will go toward completing Bodhi Tree’s commissioning of a children’s opera with Pulitzer-winning composer Anthony Davis to be called “Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote.” Much of the commission was covered through a National Endowment for the Arts grant.

The concert will double as a food drive for Feeding San Diego, which has been a beneficiary all season as Bodhi Tree Concerts took its performances online.

“This will be the first time we can have them talk to our audience and have a food drive,” co-founder Diana DuMelle said. “Everyone that buys a ticket is encouraged to bring food to donate, and those that do will get a free raffle ticket.”

Pianist Alison Luedecke, who performed in the first Bodhi Tree concert, is on the bill for the 10th-anniversary show.

“In the beginning, I remember getting involved because I loved the opportunity for musicians and to have performances for people that appreciated good live music, but it had the charitable aspect to it to help different organizations in the community,” Luedecke said.

Those early performances were a “wonderful experience,” she said, adding that she looks forward to the anniversary concert to “celebrate all that Walter and Diana have done.”

Luedecke, branching out from her typical baroque style of music, will perform pieces by Edward Elgar for violin and piano from the Romantic period.

In reflecting on the past 10 years of running the concerts, Diana DuMelle said the idea stemmed from “the hope of making a difference as two regular, non-wealthy people in the community.”

They knew music, “so we started it as a little way to help other local artists and give back,” she said. “It’s overwhelming for me because we have been in quarantine for almost two years, but we have found ways and our artists have found ways to still present and still create, which is really inspiring. It forces some hope on me when I don’t always feel a lot of hope. It proved to me that anyone can make a difference, little by little, concert by concert.”

Walter DuMelle, who also has performed in the concerts, said it has been “very rewarding to bear witness to all of these greatly talented people be a part of what we have put together. Then the Bodhi Tree Concerts family grows because we get to see them in other places ... and we have that richer sense of sharing. For me, it’s been a broadening of our musical world and the San Diego music-making community.”

Pianist Irving Flores will perform during the Sept. 25 Bodhi Tree Concerts celebration.
(Courtesy of Bodhi Tree Concerts)

Though neither of the DuMelles could nail down a top highlight from the past decade, Diana said the Music en la Calle festival that Bodhi Tree Concerts presents in City Heights “is really special to me” because it is a full day of music intended to represent the diverse community in which it is held.

“City Heights has 70 countries represented, and every year we add more representation to that,” she said. “This year we were able to do it live, and seeing all the kids and families come out was extremely special.”

Pianist George Winston, whom she considers an inspiration for the Bodhi Tree Concerts format, has performed with the organization over the years. “He gives back wherever he goes. He loves to tour and … he donates all the profits from CD sales and merchandise to the local food bank wherever he is,” Diana said. “He is an inspiration and a revelation. So having him was great.”

Walter said “there are so many moments musically that have been highlights,” but he takes particular pride in staging many San Diego premieres.

“We don’t strive for that necessarily, as some are established repertoire pieces, but they have just never performed in San Diego before,” he said. “It allows us to bring a new level of music-making to the San Diego audience, something they have never heard before.”

Though the anniversary concert will be at St. James by-the-Sea, others have been held at the Cuvier Club, La Jolla Community Center and venues outside La Jolla.

Bodhi Tree Concerts 10th-anniversary performance

When: Saturday, Sept. 25; 6 p.m. social hour and raffle viewing and 7 p.m. concert. Reception to follow.

Where: St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, 743 Prospect St., La Jolla

COVID-19 requirements: Proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test; mask-wearing while indoors

Cost: $25

Information: bodhitreeconcerts.org