Where Beauty Presides, Everything is Possible; Camarada in Performance
May 27, 2018
Nine beautiful gentle young women, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne called Muses, were given an eternal fulfilling task: to bid us with inspiration to create beauty. We often visit them in the Museums, their place of dwelling, we love to seek beauty in Music, the precious gift of the Muses' inspiration to which they lent their name...
Our latest May 2018 concert offered a program Music, SHE Wrote. We wanted to match Muses with their sisters, the female composers, and see how they dealt with the Muses' inspiration.
Since the dawn of civilization beautiful women all around the world have been singing their children to sleep with songs they created; they have been singing love songs to their husbands to share love, to alleviate their pain, to lift up their spirit. Women have been singing to their ailing parents to soothe the burdens of the old age, to remind them of the beauty of the past and the present world... ....yet, there are only a handful of women composers in our history!
Our beautiful evening was not a preaching statement. The evening, programmed in the cooperation with Camarada, head by Beth Ross Buckley, is simply a stroll of 800 years of music, SHE wrote, a program of "less travelled" musical path, something Camarada excels in, offering intriguing detours from the mainstream programming. After the evening conclusion, all we can say, it is a shame for all of us, that females composers were no more frequent...we are bereft of many melodies, harmonies and inventive textures, enticing rhythms and imaginative timbers. We are inspired by the presented revolutionaries and will heed to set our world to opportunity for all.
The concert was a hard sale as any unconventional program is. Give me Mozart, Brahms and Listz and I fill the Hall in a split! A program with only females composers about whom, perhaps with an exception of Fanny Mendelssohn, no one heard, is a risky but gratifying business adventure, and we did it!! In spite of the less conventional program, we filled yet again the historical Point Loma Assembly!!
The superb Camarada delivered an excellent performance understanding well the musicality, boldness, finesse and humor of the composers.
We started in a Baroque era (1600-1750) characterized by the lush, melodious, harmonious, enticing, likable music boasting names as Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Telemann and, Elisabeth Claude Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1829). She came from a rich family, was introduced as a 9 year old prodigy to Louis XIV. on whose court she spent 10 years growing up into excellently educated, artistic, beautiful and an innovative composer. She was the first person to publish music for harpsichord (1687). Couperin, the champion of the craft, published his first harpsichord music about two decades (1707) after de la Guerre even though they were contemporaries...She wrote cantatas, operas, trio sonatas - all full of drama, innovation, conflict, passion, determination and beautiful melodies...
Hildegard of Bingen (1198-1279) enchanted us with her soaring gracious meditative melodies. She was also born into a rich family as a 10th child. It was a Medieval Time custom to give out your 10th child to the service of God, so Hildegard was sent as an 8 year old girl into a Benedictine monastery in Disibodenberg. She received an excellent education and became a revolutionary nun. She wrote nine books on various subjects from medicine to philosophy to moral plays to descriptions of her visions; she established a new monastery that she built by skillful fundraising; she allowed her nuns to wear a white dress with jewelled crowns, decision blessed by the Pope...she corresponded with the most important personas of the time, Henry II., Eleanor of Aquitaine, Frederick Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor, the Pope etc. Hildegard left behind 350 letters that became an excellent source to understand the world in the 12th century. When she was 38, she started composing music, wrote over 70 beautiful chants, one of which we heard skillfully transcribed by Beth Ross Buckley from a choral part to an alto flute and cello....Hildegard's music was for the first time introduced to us in 1979 when an English conductor included in his London concert, marking 800 years of Hildegard’s birth, four of her songs. The unprecedented public interest lead to a first collection of her music in 1984, which is the acclaimed collection of Hildegard’s chants The Feather of the Breath of God.
Fanny Hensel Mendelssohn (1805-1847) charmed the audience with her Fantasie in g minor
with the seducing melodious bold yet sensuous cello accompanied by a piano. Fanny was born into prestigious and a rich Berlin family with four children, two of them unusually musically endowed: Felix and Fanny. They both received excellent musical and classical education in Paris and Berlin giving hundreds of concerts, beloved by the Queen Victoria and many other important people of the time. When Fanny was 16, her father reminded her that from now on "the music can be only an ornament of your life", not anymore its fulfillment. Her real calling is a life of a respectable housewife. And so it was, but only externally. Fanny composed about 500 pieces, but did not publish them...However, she conducted in her home her private choir and organize home concerts, the light of her life. It was all the conventions of 1800's would allow. She happily married, her son was given names of her favorite composers: Sebastian Ludwig Felix Henson. Funny unexpectedly died very young at 43, her brother Felix, heavily affected by Fanny's death, followed her six months later, died at the young age of 39.
The concert continued with three contemporary composers: the youngest (on the picture) Chelsey Kolmshlies (*1991) whose incredible humor of the performed piece Steam allowed clarinet and flute to outdo each other in whimsicality, random fun rhythm, narrative of a tinker in a playful "catch me if you can" spirit; the music was funny, fresh, innovative, inspiring.
Ellen Taffe Zwillich (*1939) was introduced by a solo piece Fantasy for a violin, an extremely difficult modern piece encompassing influence of the violin concertos from Romanticism only to quickly shift to modern modulation, double, triple stops, pizzicato and erratic rthythm. It was the most difficult and demanding piece for the audiece and it was embraced well! (The piece was written as a compulsory for a competition.) Zwillich has many firsts: First women to received PhD in Music Composition from Julliard, first woman with Pulitzer Price (1983) for music, first "Chair in Residence" in Carnegie Hall, four nominations for Grammy Awards...Her Millenium Fantasy in the year of 2000 in Cincennati, performed by 27 full orchestras, became public's favorite and lead to annual "Zwillich Day".
The concert was concluded by Libby Larsen's (*1950) Barn Dances, fun, humorous "a la
Baroque suite" dances with modern understanding of cowboy, children, clumsy ones or skillful ones dancing in a happy unison of coordinated and uncoordinated moves. Just a pure joy! Libby, a full time composer, became a recipient of a classical music award "The Event of the Year of 1990" with her opera, Frankenstein in which she incorporated new media. Libby is involved in many projects designed to help young people understand classical music, she is a renowned speaker, philosopher and advocate for classical music enriched with the new technology. A quote from Libby: "I think of all music as existing in the substance of the air itself.It is the composer's task to order and make sense of sound, in time and space, to communicate something about being alive through music."
What a beautiful eveing it was! Thank you, Camarada, for another memorable performance!
The audience left with a smile on their face, the cake was eaten, the selection of the beer was praised, the wine enjoyed, chatter among happy visitors loud and joyful and that what we like to see.
All of the concerts are prepared with love for you and we hope that the music lifted your spirit, inspired your soul, teased your reason, widened the horizon of beauty and musical knowledge. And who knows! Perhaps you were even happy to show off your new dress, to find a new friend, to start a new debate, and maybe, to find among the happy attendees someone you really liked! Everything is possible where beauty presides!
The concert was produced by Marketa Hancova who also served as your humble host and a happy narrator. Thank you all for coming and loud musical THAN YOU to my wonderful team, for all of your help. Without you I am lost!