LIVE CONCERT SPOTLIGHT: November 21 & 23

by Maggie Molloy

David Bazan and the Passenger String Quartet

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David Bazan is a Seattle singer-songwriter best known as the creative force behind Pedro the Lion, a local indie-rock band which broke up in 2006 when Bazan went solo. However, this weekend Bazan is joining forces with a new type of band: the Passenger String Quartet.

The Passenger String Quartet is a neoclassical Northwestern ensemble dedicated to playing avant-garde, experimental new works. The group recently collaborated with Bazan to create an album full of all new studio recordings of Pedro the Lion and Bazan solo songs. For the past couple months, Bazan and the quartet have been touring in support of the album, titled “David Bazan + Passenger String Quartet Volume 1.”

After a long series of sold-out shows across the U.S., this weekend Bazan and the Passenger String Quartet are bringing the tour back home with a performance at Seattle’s own Neptune Theatre. The show is this Friday, Nov. 21. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the performance begins at 9 p.m.

 

TangleTown Trio Presents “Night of the Living Composers”

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Halloween may be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in a spooky, spoofy musical performance every once in a while. This weekend TangleTown Trio is presenting “Night of the Living Composers.” A most unusual performance, the concert features the works of several contemporary, living composers.

TangleTown Trio is a local ensemble composed of mezzo-soprano and composer Sarah Mattox, violinist and violist Jo Nardolillo, and pianist Judith Cohen. The group specializes in classical music inspired by different genres of American music, including jazz, folk, and theatre.

For this weekend’s performance, they are tackling the works of many local living composers, including Christophe Chagnard, Bern Herbolsheimer, Carol Sams, Randolph Hokanson, and several others. The concert features but one dead composer—see if you can tell which one is the ghost.

“Night of the Living Composers” is this Sunday, Nov. 23 at the Columbia City Theater. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the performance begins at 5:30 p.m.

 

The Piano Trio: Classic to Contemporary

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Over the centuries, the piano trio has grown to include an extraordinarily large and diverse repertoire, securing a name for itself as a staple component of chamber music. This weekend, violinist Michael Jinsoo, cellist David Requiro, and pianist Christina Valdes are celebrating that vast and vibrant repertoire with a performance titled “The Piano Trio: Classic to Contemporary.”

The program features piano trios ranging from the passionate, poignant Beethoven to the experimental, aleatoric Ives. The concert will also feature trios by Brahms and Garcia, rounding out a program of exceptional chamber works from throughout history.

The concert is this Sunday, Nov. 23 at Cornish’s PONCHO Hall at 7 p.m.

NEW VIDEOS: NOW Ensemble

NOW Ensemble visited Seattle earlier this month for the TownMusic at Town Hall series and Second Inversion spent some quality time with them here in our studios!

For more in-studio sessions, including videos of Joshua Roman & Friends and ETHEL, visit our Video page.

To hear the archive of NOW Ensemble’s performance at Town Hall, visit our Live Concert Recordings page.

CD REVIEW: “Dreams and Prayers” by A Far Cry

by Jill Kimball

A Far Cry

A Far Cry.

When really, really good musicians get together to play music, something magical happens. Some of the best performances in history have been called divine or heavenly. No matter their faith (or lack thereof), those who appreciate music can agree there’s something otherworldly about an amazing performance or recording.

“We’re kind of scrubbing on our instruments, and what somehow comes out of that physical act is something spiritual or transcendent, ” says Miki-Sophia Cloud, a violinist with the self-conducted chamber orchestra A Far Cry. “The history of spiritual mysticism [is] about connecting the physical and the spiritual, which is such a theme in music as well.”

In observing the connection between mysticism and music, the members of A Far Cry had a great idea. They decided to make an album called Dreams & Prayers, a unique collection of music that explores the relationship of spirituality and sound. It begins with Hildegard of Bingen, fast-forwards to the present day, backtracks to 1994, and then concludes at the bedside of a newly-healed Ludwig van Beethoven. Four works, three faith traditions, and 1,000 years comprise this stunning, exhilarating, and (dare I say it?) transcendent album.

 

The disc gets is name from its focal work, Osvaldo Golijov‘s The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind. Golijov originally composed the piece for klezmer clarinet and string quartet–more specifically, for the Kronos Quartet–and has now written an arrangement specifically for A Far Cry to premiere. What’s especially exciting about this recording is that the klezmer clarinetist is David Krakauer, the very same musician who played the premiere with Kronos.

The whole piece is inspired by the writings and teachings of Isaac the Blind, a Jewish mystic who lived in 12th and 13th century Provence. Its three movements are inspired by the three historical Jewish languages: Aramaic, Yiddish and Hebrew. The kind of transcendence explored here is more ecstatic and lively than it is dreamy or serene: you get the sense that Krakauer and the Criers just let go and played with abandon, reveling in the piece’s driving dance rhythms, lush orchestration and utter chaos.

With this 33-minute tornado at the center of Dreams & Prayers, it’s easy to forget there’s another world premiere on the CD: Mehmet Ali Sanlikol‘s Vecd, commissioned by the ensemble. Vecd, in Arabic, “refers to a state of rapture or ecstasy,” according to the composer; the piece is a musical evocation of the kind of spiritual ecstasy Sufi whirling dervishes try to achieve in formal religious ceremonies. Almost everyone will find this piece aesthetically appealing, even if they don’t make the religious connection. It begins with just a few musicians playing soft, meditative sustained notes. Then, a dramatic melody swoops in. Over the course of a few minutes, it gains in speed and volume until the piece reaches its whirling climax. The sound gradually slows and fades until, as in the beginning, only a few musicians remain.

My absolute favorite part about Dreams & Prayers is its opening track, an original arrangement of the chant O ignis spiritus paracliti by the incomparable Hildegard of Bingen. Hildegard isn’t famous just because she was one of history’s first female composers. She’s famous because she was a composer, writer, philosopher, theologian, scientist, mystic, and Benedictine abbess…simultaneously. And her music was like nothing anyone had heard before: her chants were more expressive, complex and artistic than any of those composed before and even during her lifetime. It’s such a pleasure to hear her haunting chant arranged so simply on this disc: no extraneous notes or harmonies, just one pure melodic line played in perfectly-imperfect unison by the violinists of A Far Cry. Despite its simplicity, it’s not background music: this track deserves your undivided attention.

A close second favorite is the album’s heart-wrenching conclusion, the third movement from Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15. At first it seemed strange for A Far Cry to include something so comparatively conventional, but then I read T.S. Eliot’s thoughts on the piece:

“I find it quite inexhaustible to study. There is a sort of heavenly or at least more than human gaiety about some of his later things which one imagines might come to oneself as the fruit of reconciliation and relief after immense suffering; I should like to get something of that into verse before I die.”

History tells us T.S. Eliot was on the nose about this piece: Beethoven likely wrote it following his recovery from an abdominal illness. In the original manuscript, he describes the third movement as a “Holy song of Thanksgiving to a convalescent of the Deity.”  It’s an ode to the emotional healing power of music, further proof that we turn to music for a respite from all forms of pain. One last time, A Far Cry connects the physical with the spiritual in their impeccable yet sensitive performance of this movement.

Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Dreams & Prayers is available to buy through the ensemble’s own label, Crier Records, here.

LIVE CONCERT SPOTLIGHT: November 13 & 15

by Maggie Molloy

This week’s multihued, multidisciplinary music events blur the line between music and other artistic mediums.

The Frank Agency and Nonsequitur Present “People. Make. Awesome.”

©Tim SummersNWNW 2013Paris Hurley

[Paris Hurley]

Music and movement are mixing this Thursday at a multidisciplinary performance experience. The Frank Agency and Nonsequitur have teamed up to present a new interdisciplinary art project titled “People. Make. Awesome.”—a three-part series of artistic pairings exploring different aspects of sound.

This week’s event explores the space between sound and movement, pairing local composers with local dancers and performance artists. The featured artists are multidisciplinary dance artist Ezra Dickinson, multi-instrumentalist and composer Chris Credit, dance artist Karin Stevens, composer and pianist Michael Owcharuk, performance artist Paris Hurley, and composer and vocalist Hanna Benn.

With so many different types of artists and artistic mediums, the performance possibilities are endless—but one thing’s for certain: it will be awesome.

“People. Make. Awesome.” will take place this Thursday, Nov. 13 at 8 p.m. in the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford.

 

Anthony de Mare Presents “Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim from the Piano”

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For decades Stephen Sondheim has dominated the theatre stage with his music and lyrics in classics like “Sweeney Todd,” “Into the Woods,” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” However, his works have never graced the concert hall—until now.

“Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim from the Piano” is a commissioning and concert project which celebrates and reimagines Sondheim’s music through unique contemporary music performances of his works. Conceived by renowned concert pianist Anthony de Mare, the project features Sondheim’s music reimagined by influential contemporary composers Steve Reich, Nico Muhly, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Adam Guettel, Mason Bates, Ethan Iverson, and countless others.

De Mare, who specializes in contemporary music, has performed these works throughout the U.S. This week, he is bringing the best of Sondheim to Seattle.

The performance will take place at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center this Thursday, Nov. 13 at 8 p.m.

 

Seattle Modern Orchestra Presents “Electro-Colors”

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Seattle Modern Orchestra is putting pigment into pitches this weekend at their 2014-2015 season opener titled “Electro-Colors.” The performance features a colorful program with a broad spectrum of compositions.

The concert is the U.S. premiere of American composer Huck Hodge’s “Alêtheia” for large ensemble, a vibrant and dramatic composition which won the International Society for Contemporary Music’s League of Composers Competition earlier this year. The event will also feature Hodge’s “Zeremonie.”

The multihued program also features a composition by Pierre Boulez, one of the most influential avant-garde composers of the 20th century. Boulez’s “Dérive 1” radiates with rich colors and melodies, creating a vivid rainbow of textures and timbres.

Seattle Modern Orchestra musicians will also perform a work by French spectralist composer Tristan Murail. The piece, titled “Treize couleurs du soleil couchant” (“Thirteen Colors of Sundown”), transports its listeners into a fascinating exploration of sound and color.

The performance will take place this Saturday, Nov. 15 in the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford. There will be a pre-concert presentation at 7:30 p.m. and the concert begins at 8 p.m.

NEW VIDEOS: ETHEL

ETHEL is not your ordinary string quartet – don’t expect them to perform Mozart or Haydn, though I’m sure it would be brilliant if they did!  In short… ETHEL rocks.  They focus primarily on the works of modern composers and have worked closely with Julia Wolfe, Osvaldo Golijov, Jacob TV, Phil Kline and collaborated with artists from Kaki King to David Byrne to Gutbucket to Robert Mirabal to Bang on a Can.

ETHEL was recently in the Northwest and graciously stopped by our studios for a fun video session!  Here’s one of our favorites.

Check out the other four offerings on our video page and listen below to the full audio session!