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New Music Works strikes a surreal Amar-chord at its annual Fellini-esque garden party

By Scott MacClelland

What sets Federico Fellini apart from other film directors is pace; the Italian master altered time, extending and compressing it to surreal and haunting effect. If that's a place you'd like to visit vicariously, rent a Fellini, perhaps this Sunday night.

But if you want to experience it in real life, book passage now for New Music Works' annual Avant Garden Party, Sunday afternoon in Aptos. You'll get the whole surreal package, including synchronized swimming, exotic foods and vintage wines, fabulous views, radiant gardens and--oh yes--scads of music, new and not so new.

Before they lost their lease at the Topside Estate on Spring Street, Phil Collins and his merry band of new music makers hadn't imagined that their annual garden party, now in its 24th incarnation, was portable. But starting last spring they became peripatetic, and now lead their flock of enthusiastic followers around town on a magical mystery house and garden tour. Indeed, it's become the cool thing to do, with rewards above and beyond even the typical NMW program.

The home and garden this Sunday belong to Rob and Sunny Fish, whose spread covers acreage on the ridge above Porter Creek, on the Soquel side of Cabrillo College. Music venues include the upper level of the house itself, the swimming pool area and a glade in the garden. Some of the music is planned according to the clock and some on the spontaneous spur of the impulse. Advance copy describes "chamber music intimacies indoors, aquatic Noh-ballet tableaux in the pool, and surprise-filled performances on the outdoor stage amid Sunny's spacious, beautifully tended gardens." Sunday's weather is named after the artist/designer hostess.

Program title is Transplants, and while no rejection is feared, changes from the originally announced lineup are always a last-minute possibility. The synchronized swimmers will cavort to Lou Harrison's "Tandy's Tango," a tribute to our own choreographic original Tandy Beal, in a new arrangement by Collins. Saxophonist Bill Trimble will play Harrison's "A Cornish Lancaran." SF Bay Area composer Nancy Bloomer Deussen, who writes in a romantic, melodic style reminiscent of Howard Hanson, will be represented by her "San Andreas Suite" for flute and strings.

Maria Newman's "Appalachian Duets" will spotlight two prominent Bay Area violinists, Cynthia Baehr and Robin Mayforth. The world premiere of music from Jon Scoville's "Palmistry" will be realized by pianists Irene Herrmann and Mickey McGushin. Featuring singer Aimee Page and pianist Beata Suranyi, Emmanuel Deruty's digital operetta "Without Ourselves" will be sampled in anticipation of its premiere at the Rio Theatre on June 7; Collins likes librettist Wayne Jackson's quirky, rural humor and trusts that the excerpts will be "flavorfully absurd."

Jack Body, a New Zealand composer who has captured the fancy of Collins and the NMW, will be acknowledged through a guitar duet arranged from "Valiha I," originally for Madagascan tube zither. "Breezes" by UCSC's Peter Elsea is all sound and light, driven by wind. Works by Alan Hovhaness, Belinda Reynolds and others will fill out the musical fare.

As if that weren't enough to overstimulate your senses, Joseph Schulz and colleague chefs from the Pearl Alley Bistro will serve gourmet goodies at poolside, with David Jackman's addicting chocolate for dessert. Then throw in a silent auction for an Artist's Dinner for Eight, and a Fourth of July event at Roaring Camp. All this, and that once-a-year surreal NMW distortion of time, for $30 per person. That'll leave enough change in your jeans to extend the spell with that Fellini you were going to rent.

The New Music Works Avant Garden Party will be held Sunday, May 31, from 2pm to 6pm at 300 Tolak Road in Aptos. Tickets are $30, available at Streetlight Records and the Civic Auditorium Box Office; call 429.2277 for more information.

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From the May 28-June 4, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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