Ojai native highlights female composers in hometown recital
One of the many notable attractions of the Ojai Valley, nestled between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, is that conditions so often produce jaw-dropping sunrises and sunsets, even a phenomenon called “the pink moment”. It may seem a little too easy that this is the location of a concert highlighting female composers, but the true connection is more substantial — one of the program’s creators is an Ojai native herself.
This Sunday, mezzo-soprano Rebecca Comerford (the local girl, pictured) and pianist Natasha Kislenko (faculty at UC Santa Barbara) perform an homage to the female musicians who went before them, including music by four women who are or were all pioneers and educators in their own way, and who have a great deal to share with the world. Each of the composers mentioned has also offered something unique to the community:
Nadia Boulanger‘s teaching career was epic, with extraordinary influence over the European and American musical minds of the 20th century, and in a 50-year career, the list of her students could make an impression on a stone. Judith Vander is an ethnomusicologist specializing in Native American music and religion, and is listed as a producer for this concert. In addition to writing music for adults and children, she offers lectures and has written award-winning books on Wind River Shoshone music and culture, and also writes poetry.
Maria Grever was the first female Mexican composer to find commercial success in music — she wrote more than 800 songs, the first of which sold three million copies (when she was only 18 years old). Grever expressed a deep longing to share Mexican rhythms and sounds with the world, and is perhaps best known for the song recorded after her death: originally written in Spanish, “What a Diff’rence a Day Made“, Dinah Washington’s recording won a Grammy award in 1959.
Finally, mere “socialite” Alma Mahler‘s influence crossed continents to serve as muse to prominent artists and supporter of many prominent musicians, even many years after her conductor husband had passed on. (Gustav Mahler died in 1911, Alma in 1964.) Although the details outlined in her two books about life with Gustav have resulted in skeptical murmurings about “The Alma Problem” among Mahlerian musicologists, the seventeen existing art songs that remain of her own oeuvre are a readily accepted part of the repertoire, and cherished by art song performers.
The Ojai Art Center may be known to Angelenos from northward visits for the iconic summer festival that bears the name of this charming town. This concert reminds us that Ojai’s robust artistic community has much to offer in other seasons, as well. Pack a picnic — you’re sure to find yourself a great spot along the way, and you may even catch a pink moment of your own.
A Tribute to
Women in Music
Rebecca Comerford, mezzo-soprano
Natasha Kislenko, piano
Sunday, Jan 19, 2pm
Tickets $8-10 at the door
Ojai Art Center
113 S. Montgomery St.
Ojai CA 93023