Archive for May, 2010

Once I was in a workshop where each participant was prompted to say “I am an expert in …. because…” and when my turn came, I began to explain that I practice in several fields including music composition and performance, technology, art and design – which was the wrong answer from the point of view of the workshop, but certainly an uncompromising answer, which makes it right for me.

The tendency to value over-specialization shrinks people’s minds to one particular field and may discourage forays into anything else. Marshall Coid is a perfect example of someone who did not “specialize” and is excellent in many disciplines: as a composer, a performer – not only as an outstanding violinist (he plays in the Broadway show Chicago every night), but also as a countertenor with remarkable technique and delightful tone. I  loved the way he interpreted the role of Ray Johnson in Orfreo, one of my operatic collaborations with Michael Andre. I consider Marshall a kindred spirit, a Renaissance mind who is interested in all related things (did I mention his acting, musical direction, and conducting?)…

I am particularly fond of one-composer events, as they provide perspective and insight into someone’s music, while listening to various orchestrations, music of different time periods in the composer’s life, and recent work.   I have revisited Marshall Coid’s opera The Bundle Man many times and have always liked his music, which shows a unique  sense of melody, harmony and dissonance.

On this all-Coid concert, I heard  Tempest Songs (after Shakespeare) for countertenor, flute, oboe, string quartet and harpsichord; Cityscape, for flute, oboe, string quintet and harpsichord; Soon the Radiance, a recent work for solo violin which I found strangely emotional with a very lush violin sound and legato melodies, while an aging male dancer in black veils slowly girated; unusually touching,  the piece made me think of the radiance  associated with “going towards the light” right after dying – the myth provides some degree of comfort even if it is one; I have no idea what kind of  “radiance” was meant by the composer and I didn’t ask, because I thought any radiance would do in this case, and so it did for me. Marshall’s violin sound was vibrant, passionate, spiritual. The piece was followed by a new string quartet, a recent commission.  The love of legato for strings is another element that I share with Marshall: he can write an enchanting piece for strings without using pizz at all, with dynamic consonance to dissonance overlapping the instruments, in his modestly titled String Quartet in One Movement.

The concert closed with the hilariously very well crafted Vampire Cantata actually I was at the first performance several years ago (was in on Halloween?), and for this occasion, the musicians were clad in black capes, however not without dignity.

The Queen’s Chamber Band (core members Elaine Comparone, harpsichord; Robert Zubricky, violin; Lori Miller, violin; Veronica Salas, viola; Peter Seidenberg, cello; Marsha Heller, oboe and guest performers Judith Mendenhall, flute and Logan Coale, double bass) gave a sincere performance, smooth and deeply felt; it really seemed as though everyone was playing from the heart and really enjoying Marshall’s music, as did the audience.  So many times, in other events, I have deplored that a new piece was obviously under-rehearsed and kind of rushed through, without enough time spent to digest and interpret. In this case, it is just the opposite: a polished, elegant and reflected performance. The performers have exceptional stage presence especially Elaine Comparone, the harpsichordist extraordinaire, and deliver spoken lines and act as well as play instruments.

For more than ten years, The Queen’s Chamber Band and Harpsichord Unlimited have produced an entire program of new music every spring.  This makes the ensemble very special. They should be recognized for the great service they provide to the music community in presenting new compositions for Baroque ensemble – which otherwise would never be heard – as the norm for other Baroque ensembles is to limit their sights to music of written before a certain year (usually early 19th century).

This unusual concert took place at St Marks on the Bowery, on Sunday Mary 23 at 3PM. It was packed.

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