Camerata Pacifica takes to stage Friday
By Rita Moran
Tuesday January 14th, 2016
Don’t worry. If you missed “Steampunk” at Ventura’s Temple Torah Sunday, you can still catch it on Friday in Santa Barbara when Camerata Pacifica’s January concerts have their grand finale at 1 and 7:30 p.m. in Music Academy of the West’s Hahn Hall.
“Steampunk,” contemporary composer David Bruce’s witty homage to a fantasy Victorian era true to innovation but without the emergence of electricity, vividly creates the idea that everything is powered by steam, offering a fair amount of whimsical clunking in the process. The piece was so enthusiastically embraced by Camerata founder and artistic director Adrian Spence that he ordered up costumes for many of the musicians and introduced the program in 19th-century attire, enhanced by a hearty beard he grew for the occasion and a top hat with wings rising out of the sides.
The Camerata is known for its sense of humor, but is even more respected for the quality of its musicians, a group that still features a few of the original players from when it was established 26 years ago by Spence. Its musicians embrace challenges and include talent from other countries, including Spence’s own homeland of Northern Ireland. It performs a full season of concerts in Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Marino and Los Angeles. This week’s program also features Stephen Hartke’s “The Horse with the Lavender Eye,” Sean Friar’s “Velvet Hammer,” Percy Grainger’s take on Gabriel Fauré’s “Apres un Reve” and dips back into the 19th century for Charles Villiers Stanford’s Serenade in F Major.
But “Steampunk” is the most fun, allowing a range of modes for each musician: British oboist Nicholas Daniel, Spanish-born clarinetist Jose Franch-Ballester, London-born bassoonist Amy Harman, British horn player Martin Owen, Korean-American violinist Kristin Lee, violist Morgan O’Shaughnessey, cellist Ani Aznavoorian and double bassist Timothy Eckert. All made the most of individual and cooperative moments in a work that is not only amusing but often compellingly lyrical. British-American composer Bruce, like the other composers for the concert, has accrued many distinctions while still in his mid-40s. He is currently associate composer for the San Diego Symphony. Hartke, currently chair of composition at Oberlin College, wrote “The Horse with the Lavender Eye” on commission from the New York Philharmonic; Southern Californian Sean Friar, in his 30s, numbers many commissions and performances at major festivals; Englishman Percy Grainger (1882-1961) brings an original spirit to his work; and the always compatible Irish Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) leads the concert to its finale on a serene note.
Hartke, whose work was performed by Franch-Ballester, Jones and Taiwanese-American violinist Paul Huang, revels in his “off-balance” approach in the challenging “Horse,” mentioning in program notes that his wide-ranging sources include Looney Tunes. Friar’s “Hammer,” which adds an electric guitar though according to Steampunk tradition there weren’t any in that era, and goes to remarkable lengths to offer teamwork opportunities linking the refined classical with the upfront rock sounds. Performing the piece were Spence, Franch-Ballester, Jones, Eckert and Slovenia-born Mak Grgic playing the electric guitar.
Pianist Jones played Grainger’s “Reve” after reciting key lines of the pensive Fauré poem to set the mood of an awakening from a “dream of rendezvous.” Bringing the concert to a quiet close Stanford’s Serenade featured Spence, Franch-Ballester, Harman, Owen, Huang, Lee, O’Shaughnessey, Aznavoorian and Eckert.
The only true surprise at a Camerata concert would be if here were no surprise. Instrumental excellence, impressive teamwork and innovative choices abound.
Friday’s 1 p.m. concert will feature “Steampunk” and Stanford’s Serenade; at 7:30 p.m. the entire Sunday program will be reprised. Both are at Hahn Hall on the campus of Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara.
The music ensemble’s January concert series will be performed again Friday at 1 p.m. in a brief concert and as a full concert at 7:30 p.m., both in Hahn Hall at Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara. Featured works are David Bruce’s “Steampunk,” Stephen Hartke’s “The Horse with the Lavender Eye,” Sean Friar’s “Velvet Hammer,” Percy Grainger’s treatment of Fauré’s “Apres un Reve” and Sir Charles Villiers Stanford’s Op. 95 Nonet, the F-Major Serenade. For tickets: call 884-8410 or visit cameratapacifica.org.
Email Rita Moran at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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