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Shout Out: Salif Koné will do his wailing best at New Music Works' annual--and positively surreal--garden party.

Avant Garden

New Music Works presents its 24th annual Avant Garden Party

By Scott MacClelland

'In the early springtime, after their tea, through the young fields of the springing Bohea, Jemima, Jocasta, Dinah and Deb walked with their father Sir Joshua Jebb."

Welcome to the wicked, whacked world of Dame Edith Sitwell, she of the Sitwell dynasty of poets and writers, who loved to jangle words and sounds for the sheer scintillation of it. This coming weekend, Sitwell's verse will go far to assure that New Music Works' annual Avant Garden Party (their 24th!) will be another surreal Fellini magical mystery tour.

NMW discovered the perfect locus for its traditionally whimsical AGP just last month when it invaded the arboretum for the first time to celebrate "New Zealand Day." Those of us who had to park in a eucalyptus grove some distance from the performance amphitheater wandered in amazement through the extensive gardens and pathways lined with exotic floral species from around the world. Plainly, one such intoxication demands another.

Back in the day, Sitwell's punchy persiflage attracted a kindred spirit in the otherwise quite sober British composer William Walton. Sir William--Willy to his friends--titillated 20 of Dame Edith's verses into a puff of hilarity called Facade, and kicked off the parade with a tooting fanfare. This punnery is the centerpiece of the AGP's performance lineup, and will feature prominent local musicians Cheryl Anderson and Michael McGushin reciting the Dame's droll drivel while the sextet of Sir William's design--winds, percussion, trumpet and cello--chatters merrily along.

Says NMW music director Phil Collins, "The music is spectacular this time! There's strange spatial fun, marching wackiness, erudite jazzy neoclassics with our local celebrity narrators."

Old friends are remembered as well: John Cage's Variations II, Lou Harrison's tenor bell Solo for Anthony Cirone, Christian Wolff's Burdocks, Alvin Curran's Music for Any Occasion and Don Plonsey's Marches.

In vivid contrast to Facade, and fortuitously added at the last-minute, are West African griots Mandjou and Salif Koné who will celebrate the traditional music and culture of Mali, plus Pacific Rim pieces, Eric Moe's Teeth of the Sea for conga and Peter Garland's Dancing On Water for clarinet and marimba.

As anyone who's ever attended a NMW Avant Garden Party knows, the sensuality doesn't stop there. Jozseph Schultz and David Jackman will launch scrumptious cuisine to complement the international flavors of the music, while spatial soundscapes and walking bands will provide entertainment between courses. Plan also for an auction of extraordinary items, both horticultural and arts-related.

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From the June 8-15, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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