The Barracuda is swimming a little farther afield now, so I think it’s safe for all you liberal arty types to venture up… to Alaska!  It’s time once again for the minor miracle that is the CrossSound Festival (28 Aug – 6 Sep). Alaska native, Harvard grad and Asian zither performer extraordinaire Jocelyn Clark is the driving force behind this truly unique yearly series; concerts that not only bring living contemporary music into this far corner, but as well building bridges between Eastern, European and American musics and performers. This is the festival’s 10th year — no mean feat and worth big kudos to all involved.

The 2009 edition goes by the moniker “Refugium” (def: “a small, isolated area that has escaped the extreme changes undergone by the surrounding area“), and Jocelyn and crew have put together a really nice mix:

CrossSound’s 2009 project Refugium demarcates and prepares the ground on which two string ensembles historically separated by geography and culture meet. IIIZ+ (“three zee plus”), a plucked zither ensemble founded by Jocelyn Clark, and UnitedBerlin, a string quartet out of Germany, through interplay of the instruments and traditions of East and West, promise to grow new musical forms on Alaska’s isolated soil, where musicians from around the world are free to try new things. The project features two world premiers, in addition to reprising two earlier CrossSound and UnitedBerlin commissions for reconsideration by Alaskan audiences.

The world premieres are Hwang-Long Pan‘s (b.1945, Taiwan) East—West V for zheng and string quartet, and Stefan Hakenberg‘s (b. 1960, Germany) Moments in Human Life: Perching, Soaking for 2 violins, viola, cello, koto, kayagûm, percussion and zheng. This main concert also includes works by Yunkyung Lee (Korea), Il-Ryun Chung (Germany), Shiaw-Wen Chuang (Taiwan) and Matthew Burtner (Alaska), and will be given twice in Juneau (3 & 4 Sept.) and once in Sitka (5 Sept.)

Prior to this main concert, each of the performer groups will have their own solo concert in Juneau, too: 28 Aug. the wonderful zheng player Lai Yi-Chieh will give a solo recital of both traditional and contemporary works; 29 Aug. the Quartet United Berlin puts on a show featuring music of Terry Riley (Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector), Astor Piazzolla, and George Crumb (Black Angels); 30 Aug. Ensemble IIIZ+ (Jocelyn Clark, kayagûm; Lai Yi-Chieh, zheng, Naoko Kikuchi, koto; Il-Ryun Chung, Korean percussion) essay a number of pieces written for them.

Last but not least, 6 Sept. has Anchorage playing host to “Rebound”, a concert of chamber music, sound, and video art with Jaunelle Celaire (soprano), Morris Palter (percussion), and Matthew Burtner (metasax), featuring all new music by Alaskan/Northwestern composers: Burtner (Anchorage), John Luther Adams (Fairbanks) and Owen Underhill (Vancouver, B.C.).

The website has tons of information on each of the pieces, composers and performers, so take some time to check it all out. And if you can’t be there this year, maybe start planning next year’s little Great North getaway.

5 Responses to “Way up North”
  1. Nancy Hemenway says:

    Can’t wait to see the Juneau performances. Thanks for a great article on CrossSound’s upcoming performances.

  2. Steve Layton says:

    Wish I could be there myself, Nancy. Feel free to post back in the comments on anything that really rings your bell!

  3. Oliver Schneller says:

    This festival is a fantastic venture! I was there for the very first one in 1999 – an unforgettable and inspiring experience. Continued success and happy tenth!!

  4. Rusty Banks says:

    Looks awesome. Alaska: the next Iceland?

  5. Alexandra says:

    Hooray for CrossSound! I was there for the 2nd one in 2000, and it remains one of my favorite musical experiences ever. Best wishes for another great festival this year!

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