Photograph by Fatamata Vetu
View with Bamboo: New Music Works' Avant Garden Party looks good, sounds better.
It's an afternoon of contemporary classical delights at New Music Works' Avant Garden Party
By Scott MacClelland
Over the centuries, a handful of composers have answered the siren call for a full-on sensual experience, including colorful light shows, dancing, feasting, erotica, exotic perfumes and balms and other recreational concoctions. If the New Music Works' Avant Garden Party this coming Sunday sounds a little surreal, count on it being so. This annual fundraiser, produced by and for NMW, promises extraordinary stimulation from some if not all of the aforementioned temptations. What you can be sure of is a garden of many delights (floral and aquatic), delicious eats from the culinary worldviews of Jozseph Schultz and David Jackman and some of the best music that could possibly complement such deliberate sensationalism.
Once again, Eric Thiermann opens his casually idyllic gardens for the afternoon, from 3 to 7pm, on a quiet cul-de-sac in a Live Oak neighborhood. Singers, instrumentalists and ducks will parade through the day, with special focus on the music of the late, great Lou Harrison and many of the exact musicians for whom Harrison custom-tailored these works. For example, David Tanenbaum will play Harrison's Scenes From Nek Chand on the designated National Steel guitar. (Nek Chand, an Indian transport official, secretly built an illegal rock garden in his spare time. When it was discovered, some government officials called for its destruction under zoning and building regulations. Today, the Rock Garden of Chandigarh, often compared to Simon Rodia's Watts Towers but expanded to some 25 acres and containing several thousand sculptures, is one of India's most popular tourist destinations.)
Percussionist William Winant will join Tanenbaum's classical guitar for Serenade for Guitar and Percussion and Jahla in the Form of a Ductia to Pleasure Leopold Stokowski on his Ninetieth Birthday. Tanenbaum is also scheduled to play Acoustic Counterpoint by Steve Reich, as well as some guitar music by the fabled Toru Takemitsu.
The UC-Santa Cruz Percussion Ensemble will participate in Harrison's Flute Concerto, featuring flutist Kathleen Purcell; A Joyous Procession, and a Solemn Procession, with Michael McGushin's Ariose Singers; and Tributes to Charon. (The Harrison works range from the Flute Concerto of 1939 to Scenes From Nek Chand of 2002.) The Ariose Singers will also survey Harrison's mass settings for St. Anthony and St. Cecelia.
NMW music director Phil Collins describes the concerto as one of Harrison's "kit" pieces. "They are 'build your own' works," he says, "with the basics of rhythm and melody but random harmony." Citing several such pieces, Collins says this one "is unbelievably concise, each movement is an ostinato and features remarkable cross rhythms." He adds, "It is a most elegant and popular nonharmonic piece."
Harrison was a longtime and eager supporter of NMW and worked with its composer/founder Collins over many years. His influence remains profound, even while Collins' eclectic appetite has continually expanded and led to numerous commissions of new music, particularly from around the Pacific Rim. Collins is himself represented in the afternoon's repertoire by his setting of poetry by Sappho, playing guitar to accompany alto Debra Spencer and violinist Cynthia Baehr. NMW harpist Jennifer Cass plays Jon Scoville's new Angle of Repose (on a theme by Federico Mompou) as well as Harrison's Music for Bill and Me. Winant and Cass are expected to play Harrison's Beverly's Troubadour Piece, which Collins describes as "relaxed and sexy."
A dozen instrumentalists and the Ariose Singers will make for a richly varied musical palette, offered from two stages. Some of the works will be repeated. Other musical surprises not listed in the press release, and an auction for valuable goods and services, should be anticipated.
NEW MUSIC WORKS' AVANT GARDEN PARTY is Sunday, June 8, 3pm, at Thiermann Gardens, 2888 Sandy Lane, Santa Cruz. Tickets are $35 general/$30 senior/$25 student, available at Streetlight Records, UCSC Ticket office and S.C. Civic Box Office. (831.420.5260; www.newmusicworks.org)
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