The Cherry Trio

By Scott MacClellandEG

MORE THAN three decades ago, violinist Elizabeth Gaver (right) and harpsichordist Katie Clare Mazzeo began playing Baroque chamber music together in Carmel. Over time their on-again, off-again collaboration evolved into a trio, with Penny Hanna joining them on viola da gamba. Now calling themselves the Cherry Trio, this Friday afternoon they will reprise a ritual New Year’s Day tradition that began six years ago in the intimate Cherry Center performance venue in Carmel. (See our CALENDAR.) The event will sell out. “It always does,” Mazzeo told me.

Their performance will survey rare 17th and 18th century music by several English and French composers, including songs that Gaver and Hanna will give voice to. The band’s driving force began with Mazzeo, a pianist by training who is better known on the Monterey Peninsula as a specialist in “historically informed performances” on the harpsichord. She took up that instrument in the late ‘60s and finished her formal studies with Laurette Goldberg, founder of San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.

During Mazzeo’s 40-year career as a music and humanities teacher at Monterey’s Santa Catalina School, Gaver became one of her standout music students. In 1980, before she dedicated herself to early music, Gaver played viola with the San Jose Symphony when the section leader was Lorraine Hunt, who went on to become world famous as a concert and opera mezzo-soprano. Gaver’s career attained a new high when, in 1992, she joined the early music group Sequentia as its instrumental director, and went on to make waves worldwide with music by Hildegard of Bingen and other obscure 12th century composers. “We performed concerts throughout the US, Europe, Israel, Japan and Morocco.” She participated in over a dozen recordings with the ensemble, along with several theater productions.

Katie Clare & Penny HannaMazzeo and Hanna (left) began collaborating 15 years ago and during the last ten years formed what they now call the Cherry Trio to make good their New Year’s Day appointment. (Collaborations by twos and threes have also taken place at several other Monterey area venues, including the historic Colton Hall and the Museum of Monterey.) But Hanna comes with a very different background, well-known in the SF Bay Area, the Monterey Bay Area and other parts of California as a jazz and folk musician singing and playing reeds and double bass with numerous groups and bands, choirs and classical performers. She began her career as a student of viola da gamba at the University of Michigan and as a member of its Consort of Viols and is now a resident of Aptos with her guitarist-husband “Slide Man” Slim Heilpern. Hanna’s most recent recordings include “Topsy Turvey” with her husband and the West Coast Jazz Harmonic Summit 2009 DVD, plus various Jazz Society of Santa Cruz County CDs. Her arranging credits include works for Jazz Birds, California Gamba Consort, and Sex Chordae Consort of Viols. She is currently the Cabrillo College Stroke and Disability Center’s choir director.

Gaver, who attended high school at Santa Caralina, is married to a German-born musicologist and, since 1997, has made her home in Oslo. “He runs the Folk Music Archive of the National Library of Norway,” she told me. After high school, Gaver took degrees at Stanford and Juilliard, studied Baroque and Medieval performance practice at Indiana University, and added another degree at the University of Oslo. She has played and recorded with several groups on tour to Scandinavian and other European countries. Her current projects include the Swedish trio, Ulv, playing traditional ballads and songs with a medieval perspective, and Laude Illustre, performing 14th century Italian songs with instrumental accompaniments and video projections. She plays hardingfele and fiddle with the family band Feleboga, performing old-time music and Norwegian traditional music and teaching dance workshops in Germany, Iceland, Poland, Thailand and the US.

Mazzeo met her late husband Rosario when she went to work for the Boston Symphony and he was its bass clarinetist. She was 22 and assistant to the orchestra’s advertising manager and program note editor, all the while studying music herself at the New England Conservatory. She was accepted as a piano pupil of the famous Beethoven-interpreter Artur Schnabel, but “he was not remotely interested in historically informed Baroque music.” She left Boston to study with the legendary Nadia Boulanger in Paris. On returning, she taught at the NEC and subsequently has had several university teaching positions in California as well as performing and lecturing at University of Alaska Fairbanks, Eastman School of Music, San Francisco State University and UC Santa Cruz.
In 1966, after Rosario Mazzeo retired from the BSO, “we moved to Monterey and I started teaching at Santa Catalina in 1968.” Rosario was a key figure in the Crown Chamber Players series at UCSC in the ‘70s, and Katie Clare often participated with them. As part of the Zietgeist 1800 trio, she played fortepiano and harpsichord all around the SF Bay Area. “I had the fortepiano to my specifications by Paul Poletti but found that it was difficult to maintain, so I sold it to the San Francisco Opera.”

If you can get a seat for Friday’s concert at the Cherry, you might be forgiven if the intimate charm of the music doesn’t quite measure up to the wealth and depth of background and experience of these women. In that case, blame this dazzled writer.

Jeffrey T. Heyer

JeffreyBy Scott MacClelland

JEFFREY T. HEYER’s bio is no quick read. His credentials as one of Monterey County’s busier stage actors, in particular with Grovemont/PacRep and the Western Stage, are fairly staggering. He has performed in 43 Shakespeare productions, 44 historical reenactments, 27 public play readings, 16 puppet shows, seven musicals and scores of other plays and theatrical performance events. As a PacRep artist-in-residence, a program associate at Western Stage and co-founder of the Actors Collective, he has directed more than 50 stage works. Recently he completed a short run at Carmel’s intimate Cherry Foundation of Holmes for the Holidays, a reworking of Sherlock Holmes mysteries written and directed by Cindy Womack. (Click HERE for Philip Pearce’s review.)

That same bio begins, intriguingly, “Veteran of 80 entertainment industry employers…” In fact, Jeffrey—he includes the T, for Thomas, to distinguish himself from other Jeffrey Heyers, including an actor of that name down south—has been sought for voice-overs, films, commercials and radio shows. Further, he has choreographed fight scenes and done tech for dozens more theatrical productions. About the only performance arts he says he’s not good at are singing and dancing. “Never mastered those skills.”

“From my earliest memories I was always fascinated with storytelling,” says Heyer, who was born in Fontana and spent his formative years there. Around second grade the family relocated to Sacramento where he grew up. “I explored all different media, comics, puppets,” he says. “I found I couldn’t draw but I could write. But it’s hard to get into print, so in high school I increasingly focused on acting. Doing a full theatrical production I discovered the energy exchange between the show and the audience.” He recalls, “It fascinated me, mostly through happenstance, and was how I found my calling.”

As for education, “A college degree in theater meant very little. I got an AA degree just so I could say that I had been to college.” But with his appetite to learn everything he could about theater, from being in the spotlight to all that goes on behind the scenes, he never found one program that taught it all to his satisfaction. “I bounced around to different colleges to take individual sets of courses covering the different aspects of theater.” Those included Sacramento State, American River College (also in Sacramento), UC Berkeley, a few courses at Foothill College, Hayward State, a couple of courses at ACT, and UC Santa Cruz in the early ‘80s where he studied with Audrey Stanley, Kathy Foley and Andrew Doe, “an authority on Brecht.”

“I tried to learn as much as I could about the whole process, for a couple of reasons,” Heyer says. “First, I wanted to produce projects myself, and help small adventurous companies produce material where there was no one else who could cover it. And, second, to be successful you need to know how every aspect of it works or you can’t really coordinate. For example, an actor who doesn’t understand lights can’t make good use of them.” It all feeds together, he says. “To direct you need to know how all the aspects work.”

Heyer began appearing in the Monterey County theater scene in 1988, with Grovemont, the predecessor company to Carmel’s PacRep. “I wrote a number of things for Grovemont,” he says. “The only full-length play was The Legend of Joaquin Murrieta.” He also wrote for the Human Chess Game, staged outdoors during Grovemont’s summertime Theatrefest at Monterey’s Custom House Plaza. “When one ‘piece’ took another, they had to fight. Some bits were scripted and others were improvised. It all had to do with California history. It was fun, but it’s gone by the wayside.”

Explaining that a life in theater is not the best place to socialize—“I was very dedicated to my work and didn’t meet many people”—Heyer says he once had a choice between two Grovemont productions: The Mousetrap and Lysistrata, the Aristophanes comedy in which the large female cast decides to withhold sex from their husbands and lovers in order to force them to stop fighting wars. He chose Lysistrata and met Nancy Bernhard who became his wife. A longtime theater teacher at Salinas High, “She has been a magnificent partner and huge part of my survival mechanism,” he says. “We bounce creative ideas off one another. I owe her a lot. She’s my tether to the world.”

Today, Heyer mostly acts. “I used to do a good bit of directing, but have gotten out of the habit. I do enjoy it. But when you’re acting you can exercise control over what you yourself are doing. When you’re directing you need sufficient support.”

The local theater scene has taken some pretty heavy funding hits in recent years. The Western Stage, Heyer’s principal employer for 16 years, has had its budget “hugely cut.” Not as much as the wounded MPC Theatre Company, “but more than half, and they have lost much of their support staff, costume people, wardrobe, publicist.”

Having settled here permanently in 1999, Heyer now says, “I can only live in a medium-size city near the ocean.” Besides the allure of living in Monterey County for many residents, Heyer has the additional incentive of allergies that somehow pester him less here. “LA is out of the question,” he says. “Mold, mildew, and especially that stuff that cars put out,” he explains.

And to really get his mood humming, just ask about horror stories and triumphs on stage. He tells of a Western Stage production of Hugh Leonard’s The Mask of Moriarty, in which the stage designer kept tweaking the set from on opening night. “It was a clever set, but very complicated and the comedic pace was very fast. Everything that could go wrong did,” he says, “from a violin falling to the floor and shattering to a stage door that suddenly refused to open. I got a little rattled. It was a nightmare,” he says, now laughing. “For the rest of the run things were back under control, thanks Dionysus, God of Theater.”

On the other hand, a Western Stage production of Neil Simon’s Laughter on the 23rd Floor exceeded the sum of its parts. “The way the humor and the dramatic structure and the silliness of that show came together really meshed into a cooperative unit,” he recalls. “It can become too artificial. But that group formed a really nice family unit. It turned out far more funny and moving than I had expected it to be.”

Looking ahead, Heyer muses, “As with all other things it does not get easier as one gets older. All these years and I have had no job security. But I’ve been doing this for more than 40 years; there never was any job security. It’s more about having to change my habits, to juggling different gigs in different places.” But he remains upbeat. “There doesn’t seem to be enough audience to justify all the theater work that’s done here, yet these companies keep going,” he observes. “I can’t think of any place else like it.”