Monterey County Composers’ Forum

By Scott MacClelland

AT A QUARTER TO THREE on Sunday afternoon, the Monterey County Composers’ Forum at Hidden Valley had attracted an audience of only about twenty—including the composers themselves. Those so-far gathered blamed fears of the coronavirus. But soon the audience swelled past thirty who came to enjoy a one-hour, mostly bucolic concert of new and newish music titled “The Times They are A-Changing.” Not all regular members of the MCCF attended the program, scaled down to just six works.

Mary O Lesher began the parade with her own Translucent Lute Suite, a charming nature-loving folksong that she sang accompanied herself on six-string guitar. Regular contributing member Rick Yramategui took to the piano for Dale E Victorine’s Panoramas—Suite for Piano, three persuasive movements using traditional tonal harmonies and classical procedures. Yramategui remained at the keyboard for his own The Frozen Ground, a stark picture of winter but with a cozy warm middle section. To get the sharply etched image he kept the two hands widely separated in the opening section and its reprise.

Doug Ovens (pictured), a fairly recent member of the club, explained that his Largo for Violin and Piano was first performed in midtown Manhattan on September 10, 2001. Calling it an “accidental elegy” he laid down a line of tolling, bell-like chords on the piano while violinist David Dally began his sad part with no vibrato. As the six-minute work unfolded the violin became assertive and dramatic. Dally then took on Carleton Macy’s Fantasy on a 13th Century Tune, a compact set of variations on the old Dies Irae melody. (For Macy, it was a kind of catharsis owing in part to the recent loss of important people in his life. He said it contained both sweetness and anger.)

Finally, Paula Kaiser played her own Seasons of Monterey for six-string guitar. She explained that her co-composer, flutist Julie Roseman, was unable to join in due to injury from a recent vehicle accident. At the start of the second movement, Fog, Kaiser imitated the flute by blowing through her cupped hands. For Fall she called on a lot of harmonic effects. For Rain, she was briefly joined by Lesher who wielded a rain stick. The piece lasted 18 minutes and underscored Kaiser’s mastery of the guitar, talent as a composer and sensitivity as a performer.     

Against all expert medical advice, some of these composers actually shook hands with the performers of their music!