Weekly Magazine


STARS OF S.T.A.R. performance and fundraiser online this Saturday; 20 grantees of Monterey County’s S.T.A.R. Foundation update their progress with staff appearances included. SANTA CRUZ CHAMBER PLAYERS host Ensemble 1828 trio (pictured above) for an online watch party with Q&A starting this Sunday. JOHN HANRAHAN QUARTET encore performance from Kuumbwa Jazz on Monday. FOR DETAILS AND LINKS, CLICK HERE



NEWS FROM JACQUIE ATCHISON, executive director of the Arts Council for Monterey County. This month we have opened two grant opportunities including the Arts and Cultural Impact Grants and the Local Emerging Artists Program (LEAP), plus our College Arts Scholarships are open for graduating high school seniors who plan to pursue a degree in a creative field. For links click on the highlighted sections.



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INSTRUMENTS made of ice tend to go out of tune while being played. American ice sculptor Tim Linhart explains it. Click HERE   


NEW ONLINE SERIES from Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, selected Saturdays, 11am. Vol. 1, March 6, included Jennifer Higdon, Iván Enrique Rodríguez and Huang Ruo with music director Cristian Măcelaru. Huang Ruo struggled to compose in the early weeks of the pandemic. “To get back on my feet,” he began writing a new piece without a commission. For Rodríguez, the Black Lives Matter movement became an added catalyst, even in spite of his own bout with Covid-19. Higdon tries to make sure to get her compositions as close to perfect as possible, but leaves room for the performers “to make art” and is sometimes surprised by ideas introduced by them that hadn’t occurred to her. The composers talked about works they have chosen to withdraw as subpar. Măcelaru has persuaded composers who wanted to suppress a piece to give him a chance with it, resulting in a change of their mind about it. Then viewers began submitting questions. Higdon said, “Art can be a hammer, or mirror, or a bomb.” She finds, “More people need art as a bomb” for the healing process. Huang Ruo, “When you get a phone call or an email from Cabrillo, you will not say no.” Vol. 2, on April 3, hosts composers Clarice Assad, Anna Clyne and Kevin Puts.   


ONE OF MY FAVORITE new CDs recently, Yellowbird, is a tuba recital by Aaron Tindall. (Click HERE)  Now comes a fascinating trombone CD on Albany label starring JoDee Davis, faculty member at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory. The two best known composers represented here are Victoria Bond and Jennifer Higdon, both composers-in-residence at Cabrillo Festival. The album takes its title from Bond’s The Voices of Air (2019) whose movements are called Breath, Airplay, Floating on Air and Breathless. Airplay recognizes some jazz trombonists of yore and works in Urbie Green’s Let’s Face the Music and Dance and Carl Fontana’s Beautiful Friendship. Floating on Air uses a straight mute. Breathless goes on a wild ride that reminds me of the high-anxiety music by Bernard Herrmann for Hitchcock’s Psycho. These are conversations with piano (pianist Dan Velicer) as equal partners and that use clear musical forms. Higdon’s Legacy (2017), also with piano, is characteristic of this marvelous Curtis graduate, lyrical, melodic, sure-handed and bold. (It was originally written for flute and piano.) Kevin Cerovich’s Lawrence: In Memory of Lawrence Leathers (2019), a jazz drummer, references locations where the two hooked up. Felicity from Two Pieces for Three Trombones is a virtual hymn by Raymond Premru (1934-1998), solemn and sonorous. The other trombonists are Devin Bennett and Daniel Marion. They all stick together for Brian Lynn’s Ba-Dee-Doo-Dup (1977) a short and witty suite in four movements, and in Norman Bolter’s Milky Way-inspired Ancient Twinkle Appearing (1997). At 13 minutes, Paul Rudy’s Awaken! (2018) outlasts each of the other pieces. Davis rejoins Velicer in a moody, often anxious rumination on life-lessons, drifting in and out of consciousness, from darkness to light and with soaring melodic breakthroughs. Davis produces an expressive tone, sometimes straight, sometimes with vibrato. SM

CLEVELAND-BORN to forebears from Lithuania, Vytautas Smetona has acquired acclaim as a concert pianist. He took a break from his musical career to study mathematics and became an actuary, one of those number-crunchers who analyze risk for insurers. But music dragged him back in and, as the new Navona CD demonstrates, to the benefit of that art. He starts with Brahms’ five-movement Piano Sonata in F Minor, Op 5, the best known of that composer’s three early sonatas for his instrument. Composed when he was 20, Brahms was still finding his way; he turned to the famous motto from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to anchor several of its movements even while hewing to his own manner with sonata forms. It is also here where Smetona displays the quirks of his own personality that make his reading stand apart. His own Fantasy in the self-same key of F Minor (2015) seems to be a direct descendent of the Brahms; it sounds as if it were written c. 1860, romantic in utterance and classical in form. Lasting 10 minutes, it culminates in a grandiose fugue. The album rounds with a sampling of short pieces by Chopin and, finally, the sprawling Ballad in F Minor, Op 52. Using a Hamburg Steinway, Smetona’s playing is meticulous but not fastidious (as you might expect from an actuary) and refreshing in its personality and artistic imperative. SM


POET MARGARET ATWOOD, composer Jake Heggie and a grieving brother/baritone in a unique collaboration. Click HERE  


A NEW PARTNERSHIP between the Recording Academy (Grammy Awards), Berklee College of Music and Arizona State University to conduct an in-depth study. Click HERE  



HOWARD BURNHAM’S Pshaw! GB Shaw at 90. Click HERE


Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca CR Brooks, associate editor