Weekly Update


For the third year in a row, The Violence Policy Center reported that Monterey County is the most violent county in California. East West is SpectorDance’s response to this SpectorDance EastWest Annie_behind_chains2_BW_3191shocking statistic and this critical community need. East West integrates diverse perspectives from the arts, education, law, psychology, economics, government, and offers at-risk youth and first time offenders the opportunity for self-expression and community participation. East West premieres Friday at Sherwood Hall, Salinas, and on Saturday at SpectorDance in Marina. East West is the vision of Fran Spector Atkins, founder in 1996 of SpectorDance in Marina. The new piece explores the problem of gang violence and culture “with dance, music, spoken word and imagery.” The production represents a collaborative effort in conjunction with Rancho Cielo and the National Steinbeck Center. Fran Spector Atkins is our Performing Arts People person this week. Click HERE. Photo of dancer Ann Marie Talmadge by William Roden, New Dawn Studios


Having just read and reviewed Eric Sudbin’s The Cello Suites (last week’s Weekly Update) I am keenly interested in Chamber Music Monterey Bay’s season-opener this Saturday in Carmel. The Casals Festival at Prades, in southern France, was the cellist’s refuge-in-exile from his native Catalonia during the Franco dictatorship following the Spanish Civil War. Later, Casals relocated his by-then world-renowned festival to Puerto Rico. On the program this weekend is Darius Milhaud’s La creation du monde, the signal jazz-inflected concert piece that predated by a year Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.


A new CD of vocal music by Louis Karchin introduced me to this American composer who was born in Philadelphia, in 1951, and studied at the Eastman School and Harvard. What caught my eye, before my ear, was his setting of two major poems Karchinby Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Who are you, Grand Canyon? and Requiem for Challenger. (Dmitri Shostakovich set Yevtushenko poems in his vocal Symphony No. 13 “Babi Yar,” a work that instantly aroused high controversy in the Soviet Union for its depiction of the slaughter of Ukrainen Jews on the edge of Kiev by Nazis and local collaborators.) While Karchin’s reputation lies largely with his lyrical vocal music, including operas, Grand Canyon is told in bold declamation, its vocal line for baritone often quite angular recitative. The orchestral score that supports it is vividly colorful, powerfully energized and shrewdly crafted for wide-angle effect. Yevtushenko was plainly bowled over by that astonishing sight, “the miracle of its beauty.” He imputed to it all sorts of metaphorical allusions, Old Testament, circle of Dante’s hell, Noah’s ark, the Huns, Aztecs, Incas, the pyramids, the Kremlin, Ivan the Terrible, the battleship Potemkin, Sputnik, Che Guevara, and even a description of a blind teenage girl fearlessly making the long trek from the rim to the Colorado River. The musical score mirrors the vivid images like a tone poem.

Requiem honors those “seven evaporated souls” of the space-shuttle Challenger disaster, “the white tragic swan of farewell explosion.” Again, he paints the images through grandly exalted allusions. In both cases, Thomas Meglioranza articulates the narrative clearly; no need for subtitles to get his message. The Orchestra of the League of Composers is conducted by the composer.

Soprano Mary Mackenzie and pianist Eric Sedgwick in To the Sun and Ekmeles (a cappella choir) in To the Stars, both based on anonymous ancient texts, further polish Karchin’s art. The Da Capo Chamber Players support Meglioranza in The Gods of Winter, text by Dana Gioia, while Sharon Harms completes the program with A Way Separate.., poetry by Ruth Whitman and Hannah Senesh. Karchin garbs all these pieces in splendid instrumental and often spooky beauty. Highly recommended.


Roger Emanuels covers Santa Cruz Chamber Players season-opener. Click HERE.

Scott MacClelland, editor