The Carmel Bach Festival has so many outreach and family oriented events. One of the absolute favorites is the continuing saga of Leonard and Rasmus. The fifth of this continuing series of stories involving the young boy Leonard and his stuffed horse Rasmus came to life Saturday morning at 11:00 am, July 21, at Sunset Center in Carmel in front of a multiage crowd. Understanding that Rasmus is pure magic appeals to the youngsters in the audience as well as the adults. This marvelous creation comes from Suzanne Mudge, Tower Music Director and since 2015, Director of Community Engagement at the Carmel Bach Festival. Other adventures have gone round the world to nine countries, underwater, solving a Carmel mystery celebrating 100 years of the town, and going into space to the moon. Of course, each story line is not only delightfully entertaining, but has accompanying music provided by festival singers and instrumentalists. The “boy” is none other than Paul Goodwin enchanting the audience with his sense of playfulness and shocking orange hair.
“Birds of a Feather!” is informational and interactive as well as thoroughly entertaining. Bird facts and photos on the large screen met the audience as they entered the hall. A few minutes before the official start, instruments could be heard warming up. This morphed into a veritable parade of the musicians coming from the back of the auditorium playing a variety of theme melodies befitting the particular instrument, along with assorted bird like sounds, to great delight.
This year’s adventure of “Birds of a Feather” was totally celebrated in the music presented ranging from 16th century William Byrd (get it? The first of many puns!) to 20th century Elena Kats-Chernin and Eric Whitacre. Ottorino Resphigi’s Gli Eccilli (The Birds) provided the prelude against a backdrop of bird images. This led to Antonio Vivaldi’s very recognizable Allegro from Concerto in D Major, “Goldfinch.” This was most expertly, as well as delightfully and playfully, performed by Dawn Walker who threw in even more bird trills. Byrd’s “Earl of Oxford” provided music for Leonard and his faithful pal Rasmus to take off on their adventure to find hawk. Along the way, they were greeted by cuckoos as sung by the Youth Orchestra of Salinas Choir (YOSAL) under direction of Michael Gomez. Their selection was “Cuckoo” by Benjamin Britten.
The next encounter was with the beautiful wood nymph Minervae Oake as played by Alice Kirwin Murray complete with stunning wings and performing Jayme Ovalle’s “Azulao” (Bluebird). The next familiar selection was an instrumental of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Ballet of Unhatched Chicks.” With its pizzicato plucking, the chicks were definitely frolicking. The continued adventure involved saving a hawk that had inadvertently fallen into a rabbit hole. More “bird” music was heard from Keenan Boswell’s impossibly nimble fingers on Amy Beach’s “Thrush at Morn.” YOSAL Choir then gave the audience Whitacre’s “Little Birds” complete with flapping “wing” papers at the finale. Kats-Chernin’s “Pink Breasted Robin” gave the strings another chance to shine as the mystery of hawk’s disappearance was about to be solved. What story of birds would be complete without the allegro from “The Lark” by Franz Josef Haydn? Yet another pun set up when Leonard requested the quartet to kindly play that particular piece and was told the music would have to be looked for as it was “Haydn” – very large groan from the audience!
The finale left the classical world for jazz to play a smashing version of Joe Zawinul’s “Birdland.” All the musicians along with being the best of the best also seem to thoroughly enjoy being part of this adventure of a boy and his horse. And, no one seems to enjoy it more than Paul Goodwin!
Also accompanying the story line were the charming illustrations of Makenna Allison of Bend Oregon, a student of Savannah College of Art and Design. The creations of Mudge deserve a wider audience and definitely should be published. No news on the next adventure, but stay tuned to information from the Carmel Bach Festival for 2019. Where do you think Leonard and his trusty steed Rasmus should go next?