Throughout history so many tragic consequences have been made into art forms – murals, drama, oratorios, requiems. The musical and sensitive brilliance of Craig Hella Johnson has turned a 21st century tragedy into the stunning Considering Matthew Shepard. Under the assured direction of John Koza, the sturdy thirty members of Camerata Singers premiered this stellar work on March 6, 7, 8. Being present on Sunday afternoon, I was particularly struck by the discipline of performing this emotionally wrought work three days in a row. As is a month-of-March-custom for this group, admission was what the audience felt like contributing to benefit a local group, in this case, Harmony At Home. This group’s mission is “to end the cycles of violence and abuses by empowering children and young adults with knowledge, skills and confidence to lead healthy and productive lives.” Because of the subject matter of Hella Johnson’s work, this is a perfect beneficiary.
We were an appreciative audience. I was concerned the damp, drippy weather might keep some from attending, but many still ventured out to enjoy an evening of excellent music performed by outstanding musicians. So, on Saturday, March 7, 2020 Sunset Center opened its doors and we settled into our seats to hear the Escher String Quartet. I recommend that you find a chance to see and hear them play in the future. The Escher String Quartet members are currently Adam Barnett-Hart, violin, Brendan Speltz, violin, Pierre Lapointe, viola, and Brook Speltz, cello. Each of these musicians performs as soloist, as chamber musicians, and teaches or mentors aspiring string players. We were introduced to a few of the young people they worked with earlier in the day. I found myself smiling in approval that Chamber Music will have such a bright future.
The Aizuri String Quartet presented a most impressive concert Thursday on March 5 at Peace United Church in Santa Cruz as part of the Distinguished Artists series. The quartet draws its name from the unique Japanese wood block prints usually in Prussian Blue color and quite valuable. Members of this superb quartet based in NYC are Miho Saegusa and Emma Frucht violins, Ayane Kozasa viola and Karen Ouzounian cello.
The concert program consisted of Antonín Dvořák’s Cypresses; Lembit Beecher’s These Memories May Be True; Armenian Folk Songs by Soghomon Soghomonian, an ordained Armenian priest commonly known as Komitas. These five works were based on Armenian folk songs and arranged by Sergei Aslamazian. At the Purchaser’s Option by Rhiannon Giddens and the String Quartet in D minor Op. 56, Voices Intimae, by Sibelius concluded the innovative program.
YMMC’s Winter Concert yesterday for a capacity audience at Sunset Center was a delight that just kept getting better as the afternoon progressed. Danko Druško, making his second appearance as Music Director and Conductor, was very much in command as he led the young musicians through ambitious repertoire performed by the YMMC Youth and Honors Orchestras. The Youth Orchestra bravely tackled challenging works by Verdi, Wagner and Sibelius, and managed to blow us away with a fun piece, Chamambo, by Manuel Artés. This piece, with YOSAL students joining the Youth Orchestra, charmed us with its Latino rhythms and infectious percussion effects.
Spring has come early to my yard. The pines are full of pollen, the roses and other shrubs are budding, morning walks include a swing by the seal pupping beach. I hadn’t thought about it being “early” until seeing the title for the concert on February 22, 2020. I suppose so though, there are places with snow still on the ground in February. For this early Spring evening, Ensemble Monterey under the leadership of Dr. John Anderson offered 3 pieces for our listening pleasure. I chose to attend the performance at First Presbyterian Church, Monterey. The ensemble for this concert is made up of 15 instrumentalists, all playing string instruments. This venue presents a wonderful opportunity to really experience a chamber orchestra. The seating is on a lower level than where the musicians sit on the wood platform. This gives us great acoustics for hearing the music and good viewpoint to watch the musicians at work.