As our lead reviewers were either performing with us or otherwise occupied during our first unSUNg concert, let’s be clear: this is not an attempt to review our own event. But I’d like to personally thank all of the performers and organizers who participated in this first installment of our new concert series, and give you an idea of what went on. We hope it will entice you to join us for one of the next concerts!
Just a little background, in case you’re new to our blog or have been hiding under a rock while we were promoting this project: (Or, jump to the details by clicking here.)
unSUNg: Songs Uncommon and New is a project years in the making, and has been in actual production mode for about eighteen months. It’s a concert series with a few twists, designed with professional musicians in mind, to promote sharing of both out-of-the-ordinary and brand-new vocal chamber repertoire. Think small, think rarely-heard, and most importantly, think collaboration within the community. The environment is casual: we encourage the audience to come as they are, and have deliberately priced tickets very low, for this first season particularly, to enable anyone in the local music community to attend during these wallet-conscious “off season” months.
But the best part is the element of crowdsourcing: we entered into this project with as few preconceived programming notions as possible, accepting proposals from SoCal musicos and piecing together engaging programs from the submissions. This “outside in” approach encourages artists to behave and think like presenters, and once selected, makes them responsible for gathering their set’s performers, preparing the music even introducing the piece. In additional to the valuable experience they gain as a proactive self-producer, each presenter receives a professional recording of the performance, so they and their performers can further promote their work.
Each set is limited to a maximum of twenty minutes, but most average ten to fifteen. This allows us to create diverse programs with a lot of variety, and each concert is chock full of music you’re unlikely to have heard before. The performers are generally local pros, and the high level of quality exhibited on this first concert is indeed indicative of the roster we have slated for the rest of the summer. Even better, the SoCal music community is getting excited about the opportunity of doing the music that’s either newly born or languishing on their shelves — proposals are already coming for next year. (Our next actual proposal period will officially begin in January.)
Concert #1: June 9, 2013
Read more about our artists here.
The series takes place at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glendale, and we’re deeply thankful for their hospitality. The beautiful facilities and grounds include a roomy parish hall, where this concert took place. (Future concerts will be held in the sanctuary, as that space’s air conditioning will be even more welcome in July and August.)
Definitely a SoCal experience: with a massive hours-long problem bringing the I-5 to a stop, the program began a little late to accommodate the slightly frazzled audience. The music was a quick remedy. We started with a welcome from some chick named Lauri (OK, that’s me) and then enjoyed the world premiere of Barry Gremillion‘s choral work, Liberal. Barry gathered a very impressive small group of excellent singers, and this lively, often jazzy piece was fascinating and fun to listen to. Voices included Coril Prochnow, Ariel Pisturino, Christa Stevens, Danielle Marcelle Bond, Ashley Faatoalia, Robert Norman, E. Scott Levin, and Dylan Gentile. With just eight singers on eight parts, it was also challenging, but the group did a splendid job of keeping up with the pace set by conductor Tammi Alderman and pianist Daniel Gledhill. Barry actually brought in additional crew members to shoot photos and video – we’ll look forward to seeing how it turned out!
Composer Brian Hargrove offered a philosophical and heartfelt introduction to his ethereal Two Musings on ‘The Art of Infinity’, with texts by Amitabha Chakrabarti. Baritone Adrian Rosales was joined by Jarrett Furst on cello, Sakura Tsai on violin, and pianist Rogét Chahayed, whose mastery of the complex and beautiful score was impressive and extremely musical.
Sarah Rimkus was unable to join us for this concert, but she sent Rosales with some notes about her song cycle, The Lost Garden, on texts by poet Dana Gioia. Adrian sang again, as he was the source for bringing us both of these evocative sets, and performed the four songs with Ryan Stewart on guitar, Michael Kaufman on cello, and clarinetist Paul Sinclair, who was having a very busy day — he just managed to slip away from his own recital at USC to appear with us.
The show wrapped up with a dynamic and very entertaining performance from the duo Cabaret Perpétuel, comprised of mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Ackerman and pianist Mark Uranker. With a selection of semi-staged and well-propped cabaret songs, the lighthearted and mischievous set included songs by Satie, Weill, Poulenc, Britten and a memorable glimpse of Elizabeth channeling Julia Child as they performed Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s delicious “Saint on the Grill”. The pair also threw in a last-minute surprise, with Rossini’s “Cat Duet” and a few very feline winks.
With an elegant reception arranged by the church’s Music Guild, many performers and audience members took time to hang out and mingle after the concert, and the feedback we’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive. We hope you can join us!
For more information about the series, click here.