Monday, June 24, 2013

Chamber Music America announces 2013 New Jazz Works grants

Michael Blake of World Time Zone
Photo by Andrea Boccalini
Hurray for nonprofits that support jazz! Like Chamber Music America. Founded in 1977 by 34 musicians, CMA has included jazz musicians and presenters among its grantees since 2000. Current jazz programs support composition, performance, and career development.

CMA today announced $208,500 in awards to nine jazz ensembles through its New Jazz Works program, supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. From the press release:
The 2013 grantees are: World Time Zone, a saxophone trio led by Michael Blake; the Sheldon Brown Group, a Bay Area-based quartetthe Robin Verheyen NY Quartet; the Ben Kono Group, a quintet led by Kono on woodwinds; Manuel Valera and New Cuban Express; pianist Andy Milne’s hip-hop and rock-influenced Dapp Theory ensemble; the Alan Ferber Nonet, led by trombonist Alan Ferber; the Jacob Garchik Trio, joined in its commission by the Caravel String Trio; and Sicilian Defense, a quintet led by the trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson.
Earlier this year, CMA awarded an additional $116,8975 through its Presenting Jazz Program to concert presenters that engage U.S.-based jazz ensembles. From the press release:
The 2013 Presenting Jazz Grantees are: The Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, presenting the Claudia Quintet;Carnegie Hall, presenting the Vijay Iyer trio; The Flushing Council for the Arts and Culture, presenting Jason Kao Hwang and Edge+4; the Jazz Bakery, presenting the Dafnis Prieto Sextet; Outpost Productions, presenting the Mary Halvorson QuintetOutsound Presents, presenting Kyle Bruckmann’s WrackRoulette Intermedium, presenting the Joel Harrison Groupthe Rubin Museum of Art, presenting the Samuel Torres Group; San Jose Jazz, featuring the Vijay Iyer Trio; Stanford Live, presenting William Parker’s Special Edition; and the Walker Art Center, presenting the Craig Taborn Trio.
Each Presenting Jazz grantee also received $5,000 to support general operating expenses related to their jazz programming. Presenting Jazz is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which likes jazz a lot. Earlier this year, the foundation named the 2013 Class of Doris Duke Artists, and 7 of the 20 winners are jazz musicians and composers: Anthony Braxton, Billy Childs, Amir Elsaffar, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Miya Masaoka, Myra Melford, and William Parker. Each received an unrestricted, multi-year cash grant of $225,000, plus as much as $25,000 more in targeted support for audience development and $25,000 beyond that for personal reserves or creative exploration during (as the Foundation puts it) "what are commonly retirement years for most Americans." When do jazz musicians retire? Let's ask Wayne Shorter or Sonny Rollins.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Cecil Taylor wins Kyoto Prize

Cecil Taylor at Moers Festival 2008
Photo by Michael Hoefner
Wikimedia Commons
Ben Ratliff's post in yesterday's NY Times:
The improvising pianist Cecil Taylor, a pioneering, influential and highly experimental musician and a longtime Brooklyn resident, is one of this year’s recipients of the Kyoto Prize, awarded each year by the Inamori Foundation in Japan, the foundation announced on Friday. Mr. Taylor, 84, is this year’s laureate in the category of arts and philosophy; different fields across technology, science, art and philosophy are considered on a rotating basis, and there has been a recipient in music every four years. (The last musician laureate in 2009 was the conductor and composer Pierre Boulez.) The prize comes with a cash gift of 50 million yen (approximately $510,000), to be given at a ceremony in Kyoto in November. This year’s other laureates are the electronics engineer Dr. Robert H. Dennard and the evolutionary biologist Dr. Masatoshi Nei.
Howard Mandel, author of "Miles Ornette Cecil: Jazz Beyond Jazz," was interviewed by BBC Newshour that night. Mandel noted that the Kyoto is Japan's Nobel, except it also includes musicians. This is the first time Japan has awarded this prestigious and lucrative prize to a working jazz musician. You can hear Howard's vivid profile of Cecil here, starting at 45:29.

Synchronicity: On Wednesday, at a reception for Ragamala Dance and saxophonist/composer Rudresh Mahanthappa, who are working together on a new Walker Art Center commission, I met Herman J. Milligan Jr., an arts supporter, Artspace board member, and jazz musician who was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison when Taylor was artist-in-residence there. (Hiring black faculty was among the demands of striking students at UW-Madison in the late 1960s.) Milligan spoke about playing in an ensemble with Taylor, transcribing his music, and spending countless hours in practice and rehearsal.

I've seen Cecil Taylor live only once, at the Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis on February 19th, 2000. The now-on-hiatus Northrop Jazz Season and the Walker Art Center had partnered to bring him here. According to the Walker website, he performed with his new quartet: Joe Locke on vibes, Santi Debriano on bass, Jackson Krall on drums. Another website, Cecil Taylor Online Sessionography, has him playing with his trio that night, with Dominic Duval on bass and Jackson Krall on drums. Which is correct? I'd love to know, since the question of who Taylor played with that night has come up in conversation many times since then.

Cecil Taylor Online Sessionography posts this set list for the Ted Mann performance:
1) Untitled Improvisation (Taylor) 55:10  
2) Untitled Improvisation (Taylor) 34:00 
3) Solo - Taylor (Taylor) 1:40 
4) Untitled Improvisation (Taylor) 6:50
I remember that 55-minute opening improvisation, because as soon as it ended and intermission began, people fled the Ted Mann en masse, which meant that HH and I could move closer to the stage. I was fascinated. I had never heard or seen a performance like that in my life. I seem to recall his bassist (Duval or Debriano? I'm pretty sure it was Duval -- I'm picturing a white man, with long hair) laying his bass on the floor and kicking it, but that could have been something I dreamed later. When the concert was over, I felt I should receive a diploma -- that I had graduated from a crash course in free jazz/improvised music. Taylor reached into my head and opened my mind. He opened it in such a way that it has stayed open ever since. I knew from that point on that I could listen to anything. That didn't mean I would like everything I heard, just that I could listen without being put off or intimidated.

In March 2009, I spoke with photographer and filmmaker Chris Felver, whose documentary film "Cecil Taylor: All the Notes" was screening at the Bryant Lake Bowl on March 5. Felver said it took him "probably 20 years" to make the film, and that "I had to hang out with Cecil for 10 years to find out what the hell he was doing." Herman Milligan remembers meeting Felver when he was following Cecil Taylor around.

These are all small stories, the sort that many people who hear a lot of live jazz gather over the years. You store them away and forget them until something like the Kyoto comes along and you remember them again. I'm glad to learn that Taylor, now 84, has won this award. Maybe more people will become aware of him as a result. Maybe someone can update the information that pops up when you do a Google search for his name. He didn't die in 1981, and his last album was not "Jazz; The Smithsonian Anthology." If you happen to be in Willisau, Switzerland in September, he's playing a solo set there.



Filmmaker Chris Felver to attend local screening of his Cecil Taylor film

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Reid Anderson's "The Rough Mixes": Concert review

L to R: Steven Copes, Sunmi Chang, Tony Ross,
Jeff Ballard, and Reid Anderson
Video image by Cristina Guadalupe
Photo by John Whiting
Anticipation was a theme of Reid Anderson’s “The Rough Mixes,” a new work for chamber ensemble, percussion, electronics and video that debuted at the SPCO Center earlier this week. 

It was for those of us who know Anderson from The Bad Plus, for which he plays bass and composes. (This would be his first public performance on electronics, his first composition as a jazz artist to include classical musicians. Would he still sound like Reid?) It must have been for Anderson himself, who has been working on this project for more than two years. And for presenter Kate Nordstrum, who kept it alive through her own job changes and a labor dispute at the SPCO that lasted several months.

How was the show? Probably not what some people expected, based on where electronic music has been. “The Rough Mixes” is not, for example, "Switched-on Bach” (traditional music made with synthesized sounds, but still totally recognizable) or Varése’s Poème électronique (a mosaic of found and new sounds linked by pitch and repetition). It’s not Subotnik’s all-electronic “Silver Apples of the Moon." And it’s not trance, although I wondered briefly if it would be, because earlier I stumbled across two trance/techno pieces written by someone else named Reid Anderson. “NOT mine,” Anderson wrote in an email. “I just listened for a few seconds… Not mine.”

His opening phrases on synthesizer were so melodic and warm that you knew you were in for Reid-style beauty. Jeff Ballard softly shook a small rattle, and then came the strings: SPCO concertmaster Steven Copes and Sunmi Chang on violins, Minnesota Orchestra principal cello Tony Ross. There were seven movements, some of which flowed into each other and some of which seemed made up of several short, discrete parts. 

It sounded like contemporary classical music acquainted with jazz. It was minimalist and complex, smooth and spikey, baroque and Bach-ish, melodic and abstract, soaring and elegant. Varied in tempo and mood, it was a lot of things. The classical musicians had plenty to do, which doesn't always happen in mergers like this one. Occasionally, Anderson said afterward, they improvised. 

Cristina Guadalupe’s video enhanced without distracting. From a Rorschach-like pairing of trees and sky falling into each other to drops on a window, floating heads, a fencer, waves on a beach and snowy fields, it made the experience of listening larger and more immersive.

The electronics were the biggest surprise. Anderson used his laptop, synthesizer, and controllers like delicate brushes, shading, refining, framing and filling in, adding dimension and color but never overpowering the other musicians. If anything, he might have been too subtle. Maybe because “The Rough Mixes” is an initial effort, he acted at times more like a conductor than a member of the ensemble. He could have given us more of those interesting electronic sounds.

Seated between the chamber ensemble (to his right) and Anderson’s table of equipment (to his left), Ballard stitched strings and electronics together with the finest of threads, adding intricate polyrhythms, his own vibrant colors, and the shimmer of brass. His imagination seems limitless, and he’s fascinating to watch and hear. In fact, Ballard is so compelling that he could have stolen the show. He didn’t, but I can’t imagine “The Rough Mixes” without him. 

Later, Ballard described how it was to play the piece, using words like “landscape” and “geology" and "layers.” He's forming a new band with Tigran Hamasyan, Lionel Loueke, and Anderson – on electronics.

Combining electronics with classical and jazz instruments in live performance, making electronically generated and altered sounds part of the mix (rough or otherwise), seems inevitable. Anderson’s piece is part of that process, a natural evolution in music. Other composers might look to "The Rough Mixes” as an example of how it’s done.



Sunday, June 16, 2013

More from the Reid Anderson interview

Reid Anderson by Cristina Guadalupe
On June 18–19, musician and composer Reid Anderson will perform a new work called “The Rough Mixes” as part of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s “Liquid Music” presentation series curated by Kate Nordstrum. 

“The Rough Mixes” is an evening-length piece for chamber ensemble, percussion, electronics, and video. The chamber ensemble includes SPCO violinist and concertmaster Steven Copes, SPCO violinist Sunmi Chang, and Minnesota Orchestra cellist Anthony Ross. The percussionist is Jeff Ballard, currently a member of the Brad Mehldau Trio, Joshua Redman’s Elastic Band, and Fly with Mark Turner and Larry Grenadier. Cristina Guadalupe is the videographer. Anderson, best known as the bassist for The Bad Plus, will play electronics.

Until now, electronic music has been a personal passion for him, his "other life." You can hear bits of his work with electronics at the start of “On Sacred Ground,” The Bad Plus’s reconstruction of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” and at several points during “Made Possible,” their most recent studio album. But these are never performed live. On the road, the band remains acoustic. 

I spoke with Anderson by phone on June 4 for an article that appeared in the Minneapolis StarTribune on June 16.

PLE: Let’s start with your background and fill in some details. You were born in 1970 in Golden Valley, Minnesota. Where did you go to high school? Did you graduate from Curtis?

Reid Anderson: I went to Armstrong High School in Plymouth. I did graduate from Curtis [the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia].

At Curtis, you studied classical music. When did you turn to jazz?

I took a sort of unnatural path from jazz to classical music and back to jazz. I was interested in jazz first and foremost. When I was finishing high school, I was very much interested in jazz and playing electric bass; I didn’t yet have an acoustic bass. I thought I should take some lessons and contacted [Twin Cities bassist and educator] Gary Raynor. He said, “You should get an acoustic bass, come back, and we’ll start with basic classical techniques.” I got together with him and took to it naturally. Then he suggested I seek out Jim Clute with the Minnesota Orchestra. [Clute was the Orchestra’s associate bassist; he also taught at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, at St. Olaf College in Northfield, and at the University of Minnesota.]

I entered the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire with the intention of learning how to play jazz. To be a music major, I had to be in the orchestra, so I was doing that and studying with Clute. One day Clute said, “I think you could get into Curtis if you wanted to.” He had sent a couple other students to Curtis. I made that my goal. I really wanted to get to the East Coast, and I saw that as my ticket out.

I got into Curtis and was sort of a rarity there. I had only been playing bass for a year. Everybody else had been playing all of their lives. And I had no experience playing classical music – a little bit at Eau Claire, but on a very limited basis.  So I went to Curtis totally inexperienced and also a bit conflicted because I felt I was setting myself on a course I wasn’t sure I wanted to be on.

I couldn’t deny the fact that in my heart of hearts, I couldn’t see myself as a classical bass player. It just wasn’t the kind of creative space I personally need in my music-making. After three years, I told my teacher I wanted to graduate and leave. [By then] I had enough credits. I could have stayed another year but decided I needed to pursue this other thing in my life.

Up to that point, for the years I was in Curtis, I hadn’t even thought about jazz. Toward the end, I started thinking I’d better figure out how to be a jazz musician. I started playing around Philadelphia with some great musicians there, then moved up to New York, and the rest is history.

You have very little web presence. Even your article on Wikipedia is a stub. Why is that?

I’m not somebody who has the energy to put into that. Anyone who knows me knows that if you send me an email it could take me two weeks or more to get back to you. I want to put my energy into other things.

For a lot of artists I really like, there’s a lack of information out there. I find that appealing. We don’t all have to be fully exposed, fully knowable to everybody. These days, there’s a lot of pressure to have a Facebook page and a Twitter account and update your Wiki. I think there’s another side that’s also valid and to me more interesting.

This isn’t a personal philosophy. Maybe it’s just pure laziness.

Will “The Rough Mixes” be your first public performance as an electronic musician?

I’ll say yes. I did one little thing a couple of months ago where I made noises with a friend in a bar in Brooklyn. I was happy that when I plugged things in, everything worked. I considered that a trial.

What do you mean by “The Rough Mixes”?

It can mean a lot of things. Something happens when you’re creating anything that’s sort of that first draft. It always has something magical in it. It’s full of potential. I like that state of things. It’s a fragile state.

I don’t want to get too wordy or philosophical about the title. I just like the energy of those moments. Confluence happens, congruence happens, and something comes out of that. It’s all individual elements, and they’re completely indifferent to each other, but there’s a meeting point. I see it as a society where all of us individuals are doing things. We encounter each other sometimes and interact with each other and move on, but just because we move on doesn’t mean there isn’t some kind of larger interaction going on.

In the end it’s music, and music is abstract.

It’s an incredible opportunity to perform your first music in front of an audience, in a very public forum. It’s something I have worked on for a long time, but it’s high-risk.

I’m deeply interested in and have a real love for … I can’t say “electronic music” because that’s such a wide thing, but I love the potential of what you can do with those kinds of sounds. It’s still such new territory, but I connect with it personally.

You’ve said that Charlie Haden was your main inspiration for playing bass. Did you have a main inspiration for playing electronic music?

Yeah, of course. It feels clichéd to say this, but Richard James of Aphex Twin is truly the untouchable master as far as I’m concerned. That’s the music that really turned me on to electronic music, and I still find it deeply moving.

Talking about your influences is a funny thing. On a number of levels, you can’t be what you love. It’s a tragic situation. You just can’t do it, and you have to guard against it as well.

Have you had any teachers for electronic music?

No, I’m an autodidact. But pretty much everybody is. You can study electronic music, but the people who really are doing it, generally speaking, didn’t get a degree.  Electronic music is modern folk music. It’s something that everybody has ready access to.

What do you listen to?

I’m not a big music listener, but I recently bought a turntable. I have a lot of records, a lot of classical music. I’m pretty eclectic in my listening habits, when I do listen. Like everybody. That’s the most common thing in the world these days.

You’ve often said that your music with The Bad Plus is “part of the jazz tradition.” Does your electronic music belong to a particular tradition?

I really don’t think so. I have to admit I’m a total outsider in this world. I’m not part of the community of people making electronic music. I’m just at this lonely outpost, trying to do something that is personal and trying to find a way to do it. I don’t know if I would choose that option, but I have to admit that’s kind of what it is.

In an interview with Duke, you described “Rough Mixes” as “basically a chamber music piece – two violins, cello, drums – with electronics and video.” Why that particular configuration?

Since this is my first foray into this, I really wanted to keep it simple and contained. Just balancing those elements is enough.

Drums aren’t usually associated with chamber music.

Electronics aren’t, either. Jeff Ballard is going to be an important bridge between the strings and the electronics. He’s a great soulful musician, a great improviser.

Now that you’re working with strings, would you ever write for full orchestra? It seems a lot of jazz musicians are doing that lately.

Having come this far [with “The Rough Mixes”], I think it might have been easier conceptually to write for full orchestra. When you’re dealing with two violins and a cello, there are certain practical considerations. It’s not the sound of a full orchestra, it’s an intimate sound, and when you add electronics and drum set, it’s easy to overwhelm. I’m very conscious of that.

Have you felt any pressure to write certain things or in certain ways because you’re composing for classical musicians? Compositions for classical and jazz musicians can sometimes sound more like bits of music on parallel tracks than true collaborations.

That’s been my entire existence for the past year. It’s a tricky thing. I’ve come to this:  I’m not thinking of myself as an electronic musician, I’m thinking of myself as an improviser, a musician who’s very interested in electronics and how to incorporate that into live music-making. Because I know a little about the classical world, I want those musicians to feel very comfortable.

Are you asking the classical musicians to improvise?

Not per se. Some things are going to have to be sussed out in rehearsal, to see what everyone’s comfortable with. I’m not going to put anyone in a position that’s out of their comfort zone. It won’t be improvisation per se, but the way the music is set up … I mentioned “congruence” earlier. There are independent elements that aren’t concerned necessarily with the other elements around them, but their coexistence makes something. As a composer, your job is to set up the right conditions so it’s not chaos.

What do you want from the classical musicians?

I really only want people to play their hearts out. That’s all I require. I hope they’re challenged in an enjoyable way.

What has been the most challenging part of working on “Rough Mixes”?

This is all such new territory for me. Even though I feel the integration of electronics with live musicians is very much a part of the music-making quest these days, trying to come up with a personal solution from scratch has been … engaging. It’s all very abstract up until the point of performance. There are all these abstractions in the air. I’m trying to tether them down with whatever I can.

I see a lot of people out there trying to develop ways of performing electronic music live. One criticism of electronic music as a live art form – and it’s a valid criticism – is you just hit “play” and [the computer] plays a song, like a deejay playing records. That’s an oversimplification, but to some extent it’s true. The technology has reached a point where it’s now possible to be more interactive. There are a lot of people putting their energy and thought into how to do that. It’s still the Wild West, but it's full of potential.

Does it feel like you’re making live music?

Yeah, it does, because basically everything I’m using is something I built myself to do things I want them to do. Even though there’s so much incredibly capable commercial software out there, sometimes, oddly enough, there’s no easy or obvious way to do things that seem easy or obvious. I approach the whole process of making electronic music from my experience of being a live musician and improvising. I think, “What do I want to have happen here, and how can I make it happen?”

It’s not like putting your fingers on the strings of your bass – or is it?

It feels like that to me. Of course, the physical sensation, the tactile sensation is very different. But there’s still an emotional sensation.

I’ve heard people say that electronic music is cold.

It can be, but a lot of music is cold, not just electronic music.

What kinds of equipment are you using?

I have a computer, a couple of controllers, and a synthesizer with knobs and buttons. The computer controls everything. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the computer.

What can we in the audience expect to hear on Tuesday and Wednesday?

Generally speaking, this is music that unfolds at a fairly leisurely pace. There’s a certain amount of minimalism involved. I feel connected to the idea of minimalism, not in any dogmatic sense, but I once heard John Cage say, “Familiarity can breed love.” I like the idea of becoming familiar with something, of melodies you want to hear again, things you like better when you hear them again and again. Not to say this is a minimalist piece, because it’s not, but it certainly engages that concept. It’s definitely part of myself as a composer that I don’t attempt to deny.

Any closing words?

I’m realizing I don’t quite have my spiel together about this. But that’s what happens when you’re entering a new realm. I’m not someone who puts the words first and then does the work. I would rather do it in the other order. I guess that in a way explains my lack of web presence, too. It’s really important for me that the work speaks for itself.

There is one thing I will say about “The Rough Mixes”: Electronics is a part of this music. It’s not electronic music.


Reid Anderson’s “The Rough Mixes” will have its world premiere at the Music Room at SPCO Center at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, June 18-19. Tickets ($10 adults, $5 children) are available online or by phone at 651-291-1144.

Monday, June 3, 2013

'Catch Them While You Can': An evening of mixed emotions with musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra

Mozart's Clarinet Quintet in A Major, L to R:
Erin Keefe, Gina DiBello, Anthony Ross,
Tom Turner, Burt Hara
Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra gave a beautiful concert Friday night at St. John’s Episcopal Church, a neighborhood church in south Minneapolis. Not all of them were there; not all of them would have fit. The fourteen who came played an evening of chamber music titled "Catch Them While You Can," in honor of four who are leaving soon for jobs elsewhere.

They were there to raise money, because they have been locked out for eight months (the entire 2012-13 season) with no salary or benefits; to stay connected with their audience, which that night included their great benefactor Judy Dayton; to say their own public farewell to the four departing musicians; to give us a chance to hear them play together for the last time; and for the sheer joy of playing together before an audience. If the last reason sounds strange under the circumstances, you didn’t see principal cello Tony Ross’s face as he and concertmaster Erin Keefe exchanged glances, or when Burt Hara turned an especially delicate phrase on his clarinet. Ross has always seemed like a serious man, and lately like a frustrated and angry man, but for brief moments that night, he looked genuinely happy.

Ross, who isn’t leaving (yet, as far as we know), and Hara, who is (for the Los Angeles Symphony), are members of St. John’s Episcopal, and before the concert began, we heard from another member that “Tony and the gang” had helped raise a lot of money for the church’s outreach efforts, including Habitat for Humanity. Hosting this concert was “our chance to pay them back.”

Brandenburg #6: Tom Turner, Richard Marshall,
Layton James, Arek Tesarcyzk, Kathryn Nettleman,
Beth Rapier, Pitnarry Shin
We heard Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #6, a proud and elegant work for strings and continuo. “We like to call that piece the viola Brandenburg,” Ross told us after. He served as host for the evening. Principal viola Tom Turner, one of the seven musicians who performed the concerto, has taken a position with the San Diego Symphony. Cellist Pitnarry Shin will join her husband, Kyu-Young Kim, in New York. Kim was principal second violin for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; he found another job during that orchestra’s lockout, which ended just in time to salvage the final concerts of their season. On harpsichord: Layton “Skip” James, who retired in 2009 after 40 years as principal keyboard with the SPCO. The Minnesota Orchestra has an endowed chair for a principal keyboard, but there’s no one in it.

The Mellits, L to R: Gina DeBello, Jonathan Magness,
Katya Linfield, Sam Bergman
The Brandenburg was followed by a piece that was new to most people in the room, including the musicians. They wanted to play something spicy, and principal second violin Gina DeBello, who has accepted a position with the first violin section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, suggested String Quartet No. 3: “Tapas,” by Chicago composer Marc Mellits. “We decided to play it because we had a group who could do it,” Ross explained. They learned its eight short movements, “small plates,” in two weeks.

“Tapas” looked and sounded like a workout for the musicians – not unmusical, but challenging and contemporary. It wasn’t something we usually hear from the Minnesota Orchestra.

After the intermission and before the closing piece, Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A Major, Ross gave the talk that has become a regular part of the musicians’ concerts since the lockout began. When violist Sam Bergman gives the talk, he breathes fire. Ross is more than capable of burning down the house, but this night’s talk was more sad than angry.

He began by thanking the crowd. “Your support has buoyed us in this tragic year … Our silver lining is you. None of our board or management have attended any of our concerts [since the lockout] and seen your passion … We’re down to 73 musicians [from 98]. In every year, there are three or four auditions; being down to 73 is not normal … This orchestra is our family. The most painful moments have come when people leave … The fabric of our orchestra is unraveling at an alarming pace.” He spoke briefly about the work we were about to hear, and about Burt Hara: “Nobody can resist his tone who has a heart.”

And then they played the Mozart: Hara, concertmaster Erin Keefe, DiBello, Ross, and Turner. The one good thing about the lockout – and I write this as someone who sat in a pew – is the chance to hear these exceptional musicians in different settings and configurations. In this small, intimate church with its peaked wood ceiling (and very attentive crowd), we could hear everything: fingers on strings, the resonance of the fine instruments that professional musicians play (when they can afford them, which might not be for long), Hara’s warm, human breath in his clarinet. We should remember that before professional orchestras and public concert halls, the only people who ever heard highly trained and skilled musicians play such instruments were kings, emperors, and popes. 

The Mozart was exquisite. Following a standing ovation that wouldn’t stop, the musicians returned for an encore – a selection from the Larghetto, a movement so universally touching that it is played at both weddings and funerals. It was the perfect ending to an evening of mixed emotions. Joy in the music, sorrow in losing four more musicians to a lockout that seems endless.

At the reception: Tom Turner (L)

Judy Dayton, Cy DeCosse

Pitnarry Shin, Erin Keefe

Pitnarry Shin, Burt Hara

St. John's Episcopal Church

A note about the photos

Tony Ross, whom we met at the check-in desk, allowed photos but cautioned John: no shutter noise, no flash. This would be a subtle, up-close-and-personal sort of concert. The layout of the church, the compact size of the chancel, and the size of the crowd prevented use of the "foot zoom." So John recorded much of the evening on his camera's video, then viewed countless frames to find those that would make good stills. The photos from the reception were taken as usual.