Concert Review: Ensemble 61 at Central Square, Glenwood, MN, 9/21/12

September 22, 2012

When I took the job at UMM, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find fellow composers and new music. (We are pretty far out here, after all.) I need not have worried. Last night I drove over to Central Square (a converted high school) in Glenwood to hear “Water Music,” a performance by Ensemble 61, a new-music group out of the Twin Cities led by composer Kirsten Broberg and percussionist Erik Barsness.

There’s something wonderfully “only in America” about contemporary music in a small-town high school auditorium. I immediately thought of Ives who, though not represented in the composers last night, would no doubt have approved. The show opened with what is now standard new-music repertoire – George Crumb’s Vox Balaenae. Linda Chatterton deftly tackled the flute/vocal opening, and cellist Joel Salvo nailed the seagull effects. Pianist Matthew McCright handled the extended inside-the-instrument challenges effectively, and apart from some minor synchronization issues Crumb’s work was given a solid reading.

Soprano Carrie Henneman Shaw performed two songs for unaccompanied singer by Jarrad Powell – “the rain of the white valley” and “i am rain.” The songs, chosen for their connection to the larger theme of the evening, were quite haunting. Unaccompanied voice is always a risk, and Henneman Shaw rose to the challenge. The hall’s acoustics weren’t much help to her, unfortunately. I was seated toward the front, and even as close as I was the enunciation was problematic. Given then I *could* hear how clearly she was pronouncing the words, I can only chalk it up to the hall.

The first half closed with Magnus Lindberg’s Steamboat Bill, Jr. for clarinet and cello, a post-modern tour-de-force inspired by the Buster Keaton movie of the same name and performed with considerable verve by clarinetist Paul Schimming and cellist Salvo.

The second half opened with former Minnesotan Jesse Langen playing Morgan Krauss’ I Water, I Night for solo guitar. As with the solo voice works, it was beautifully done and possibly swallowed up in the back of the hall. Langen pointed out beforehand that the dynamic never exceeded mezzo forte; I do hope the back was able to hear how well he performed the work.

The final piece was co-founder Kirsten Broberg’s The Waters of Time, a setting of six sonnets – in the original Spanish – by Pablo Neruda. The instrumentation was Pierrot-plus-percussion, so in addition to the above players the ensemble featured violinist Emilia Mettenbrink and Barsness on percussion. I did not know Broberg’s music beforehand, but now I want to know more of it. This was a sensitive, beautiful work that took advantage of the capabilities of the ensemble. I would like to single out Henneman Shaw and Schimming in particular for their contributions.

I have been out here on the prairie for exactly six weeks today. If I get the chance to hear new music once every six months, I’m thrilled. Broberg mentioned the group was taking this concert on a tour of Minnesota (they have just a couple more stops, including one in Fergus Falls in mid-October). It’s exciting to be in a state where even more isolated areas like here have a thriving music scene. Between all the concerts at UMM and groups that come out of the Twin Cities and Fargo, I don’t think I’ll ever want for the good stuff.

WF


September 17, 1787

September 17, 2012

July 4, 1776 is extremely important in the history of this great nation. So is September 17, 1787, for that is the day the Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Convention.

Two quotes, from Molly Ivins:

“I submit to you that only half the reason the Constitution is a great and living document is because our foundin’ daddies were about the smartest sumbitches ever walked and also because they wrote right in there how to keep changing the old charter as need arises. The other half of the credit for the beauty of the Constitution goes to 200 years worth of American misfits, troublemakers, hell-raisers, eccentrics, mavericks, anti-Establishmentarians, and outsiders who are ever ready and happy to do battle.”

and

“In my opinion, there’s not a thing wrong with the ideals and mechanisms outlined and the liberties set forth in the Constitution of the United States. The only problem was, the founders left a lot of people out of the Constitution. They left out poor people and black people and female people. It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. And it still goes on today.”

WF


every heart beats true

September 16, 2012

I always said when I owned my own home I’d make sure that I flew Old Glory.

Though it may surprise the casual reader, this unashamed liberal is also an unashamed patriot.

So, today, this happened.

cue the George M. Cohan

And if that weren’t patriotic enough, I’ve also acquired this:

nothing more patriotic than cooking meat

Yep. I’m a homeowner now.

WF


Theory Thursday

September 13, 2012

The local PBS station (which seems to be very good) has been showing the Metropolitan Opera’s most recent production of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. Tonight is opera number three, Siegfried.

As most of you music types know, Wagner was a big fan of the Leitmotiv, or motive connected to a person, place, thing or concept. The Ring uses tons of these, but they’re probably used to the fullest in Tristan und Isolde. Like a development section, the interaction of the Leitmotivs with each other show the evolution of the plot and of the characters. Many theorists and musicologists have charted these motives; I encourage the reader to seek out some analyses.

WF


spear and magic helmet

September 12, 2012

PBS’s Great Performances has been showing the Metropolitan Opera’s recent production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle all week. It’s been pretty awesome thus far.

Hojotoho! Heiaha!

WF


Updates

September 11, 2012

(1) All of our stuff finally arrived yesterday. The unpacking has begun. Everything which needs to be at the office is at the office, and almost unpacked. The bedroom is complete. The kitchen is about 85 – 90% done. (That’s all Jawa Girl’s doing.)

(2) I lost two relations by marriage in two days. My cousin Betty’s husband Paul died Sunday after a long illness, and my cousin Harry Lee’s wife Rhea Dawn died suddenly Monday after a massive stroke. Betty and Harry Lee are siblings (two of seven from my mom’s Aunt Jessie and Uncle Ralph). It’s been challenging back home, to say the least. Paul and Rhea Dawn were both wonderful people, and though we weep for them, we know they are at rest.

(3) This is a really good bunch of students. I have to bring my “A” game every single day, and then beyond.

(4) Presenting at a conference in early October. Guess I’d better book the flight.

WF