I said my next post would show previews, but before I got there I attended two concerts at the Festival this weekend and I wanted to share some of the moments that make attending the Classical / Orchestral season so special here in J-ville (what locals call Jacksonville). I expect to share these kind of stories as I proceed with this blog (everyone needs filler), but I will always give you a heads up in the title or first lines if the article won't pertain to the creation process directly. By the same token, those who enjoy the stories more than the quilt will also know whether to read on.

From the beginning I've considered attending concerts part of the research. Yes - that sounds as great as it is!
Jonathan and I usually start the night by heading to the Performance Garden - a small stage area complete with lights and sound operator - and a terraced seating area. (Before we bought reserved seats we would find a place on the Hill, set-up our spot and head back down.) Like the Green Show at OSF, there is a different local group each night that plays music from 6:00 to about 6:40, which is nice accompaniment while enjoying our packed dinner.

The real fun begins at 7:00 when we are generally treated to an informative conversation with the guest artist. The soloist this evening, cellist Joshua Roman did indeed spend time with a host from JPR (Jefferson Public Radio). I always learn so much at these talks and they help me understand the music better once the concert begins. The stories from the musicians are usually good for a laugh as well. Most importantly, when the artist takes the main stage, I always feel a deeper connection with them; I understand what they are trying to say with their music.

It is a tradition to open the Orchestral season with the Star Spangled Banner, and this was made appropriate for the evening by programming all the music to have a USA - and specifically West Coast USA - connections. The initial notes seemed harsh, but we can always attribute that to the boisterous brass ready to rouse a crowd. Like a baseball game, some in the audience sing along and somewhere always a slight tingle in the spine and solar plexus.

I am going to say flat out, I loved the opening piece, The Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra, by American Composer John Adams (who calls Oakland home). I had not read the liner notes in the program and later found out this was an 'out-take' of his opera called Nixon in China from 1986. My point of reference was therefore less specific; I enjoyed it simply as a short story or movie (which I now know was the intent). The effect was cinematic and though I journaled more about it, I won't bog down here. Suffice to say I felt almost everything the composer wanted me to feel. That is artistic success.

The second piece was less easy to love. By L.A. based composer Andrew Norman, Unstuck was jarring, confusing, and discordant, but reflective of our over paced and shorter (often split) attention spans. You could call it the music of society's attention deficit disorder. I described it to another quilting friend concert goer as, "A very scrappy crazy quilt made by a large group of contributors." She said, "As long as you throw two cats fighting on it."

But here's where Music Director and Conductor Teddy Abrams reminds us that most great composers now considered masters in our eyes (or ears) were at first considered heretical in theirs. No lie - riots broke out in the day over what they experienced as experimental music. I'm reminded of Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future after his digressive performance into heavy metal, "Trust me, your kids are gonna love it."

Guest cellist Joshua Roman was brought out for the last segment before intermission, the Cello Concerto by Mason Bates. This composition was commissioned specifically for Mr. Roman and he is the only one playing it at this time, so such a special opportunity. One of the tidbits we got during the pre-concert talk was that he is still working on fine-tuning his interpretation (we were told to look for measure 53 in the 2nd movement...as if). He explained, "I can't cheat. I'm the only one playing this so I can't copy someone else."
I love the cello (I played in school) so I love Cello Concertos (few that there are) and this was no exception. Joshua had described some of the ways he and composer Bates collaborated while creating the piece. This included where he let the bow bounce on the strings (all of us kids did that, but he would get yelled at by his tutors) and playing with a guitar pick (which seems quite reasonable to me).

Jonathan and I got to meet Mr. Bates when Teddy first brought him to the Hill in 2015 with his techno-infused Mothership (a piece in which he also performed), and Britt played his Anthology of Fantastic Zoology last season so we are getting more familiar with his work. He is considered one of the leading minds keeping Classical music vibrant in the Twenty-first century, so we are really fortunate to be part of that legacy with the Britt Orchestra led by Teddy Abrams.

The SECOND special event at this concert was after intermission, with the WORLD PREMIERE of Song of Sasquatch by Portland native Kenji Bunch, commissioned by the Britt. Mr. Bunch was at the performance and introduced it from the stage. Fun and light, there were three segments: Sasquatch in Love, Sasquatch's Lament and Sasquatch Runs Free. I heard riffs first reminding me of Gershwin (in love?) and then of Looney Tunes (runs free?), which I found perfectly considered for this legendary beast as elusive as Bugs Bunny.

Mr. Abrams concluded this long (two additional pieces) and varied concert by bringing us safely home with the very recognizable (and therefore comfortable) Adventures on Earth from E. T. by the grand master of cinematic composition, John Williams. An apropos ending to an adventurous night.

...next time I promise...back to the quilt.