Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Casey Abrams’ Album Release Set for June 26

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

Casey Abrams latest album will be released Tuesday. Banner art by Marcia E. Gawecki.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“American Idol” heartthrob Casey Abrams’ first self-titled album is set for release on Tuesday, June 26. Already several web sites have showcased his entire album, including the Hollywood Reporter and Amazon.

Not to spoil the fun for anyone who hasn’t heard the album yet, I’ll speak in general terms. Casey is singing about his life in real time. About living the simple life, falling in and out of love, longing and not changing his personality in spite of fame.

One fan said on the MJS big blog site, that he’d surely buy Casey’s album for it’s great music, but the themes of rejection and longing for the unattainable reminded him too much of his own “loser teenage years.” Yet, “Hit the Road Jack,” a duet with Haley Reinhart, was well worth the album price (Amazon presale: $9.99).

Most of the upbeat, Bob Marley-type tunes, were likely written by Casey because they are clever. You’re tapping and singing along, dancing along even, and then he throws a few zingers that shows he has a soul or at least lived a few lifetimes already.

The three tunes that I can mention (because Casey has already released them as singles on You Tube) are “Get Out,” “Simple Life” and “Stuck in London.”

“Simple Life” (studio version) could be about living his high school years in Idyllwild. Casey sings about unplugging his laptop, cell phone and TV, and enjoying the simple life. He injects a bit of humor by stating that he should never had dumped that hand-me-down from dad (Ira Abrams from the Idyllwild Arts Film Department). What was Ira’s hand-me-down–clothes, a Cadillac or a musical instrument? Casey never says.

His “Get Out” lyrics are heartbreaking, even though they are sung in an upbeat way: “Lately, I’ve been going crazy/ cuz I want you, baby/but you don’t/ so get out, get out, get out, get out of my heart!/

So sometime over the past year or so Casey fell in love. Ten to one it’s not Haley, because she’s just as busy as he is promoting singles and scheduling public appearances. Could it be Bianca King, the young actress from The Philippines who was hell bent on meeting Casey during the “American Idol Live” tour? She turned to her Twitter fan base to help get a backstage pass (see Idyllwild Me post, “Casey’s Expanding Fan Base,” dated Jan. 15, 2012).

Jazz musician Barnaby Finch with Casey banner outside Cafe Aroma. Art by Marcia E. Gawecki.

Why I guessed Bianca is because Casey sings a lot about eating mangoes in a mango tree in “Stuck in London.” Well, mangoes grow naturally in The Philippines, and he was visiting there for a couple of days. But is that long enough to fall in love?

Ira Abrams is careful not to give too much away about his son’s personal life. But he admitted that many young Filipinos are crazy about Casey.

“Did you know they hang banners from buildings with quotes from Casey?” Ira said outside Fairway a few weeks ago. “Some quotes are mundane like ‘I sometimes watch TV.'”

Whether Casey is singing about Bianca is nobody’s business. But it sure makes the song more interesting if we know the juicy details. Remember when “You’re So Vain” was released by Carly Simon in 1972? Well, her self-absorbed lover wasn’t husband James Taylor, but Warren Beatty, the actor from “Shampoo” and “Reds.” (Wikipedia stated there was “much speculation” about three men, including Mick Jagger, Nick Nolte and Warren Beatty).

However, all that speculation may have helped “You’re So Vain” reach no. 72 on Billboard’s “Greatest Songs of All Time” chart. So, to help boost Casey’s record sales, someone needs to find out if Bianca has eaten mangoes in trees before.

Casey with Caleb Hensinger at an Idyllwild Arts film event.

Probably the only song that Casey didn’t write in this latest album is the tune popularized by Ray Charles. “Hit the Road Jack” is a spanky little duet with Haley Reinhart. You’ve got to admit it, those two have chemistry. He’s classy, and she’s brassy. He growls, and her voice has range.

But he’s a great jazz musician and could actually make it in the movies, if he wanted to. And singing duets with Haley has boosted her popularity since he took her under his wing in “American Idol’s” Season 10.

This is not the first duet for Casey and Haley. So far, they’ve sung “I Feel the Earth Move,” “Moanin,” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

It’s not Casey’s first album either. Casey released “Like a Mirror,” in 2005 and “Oh, You Kid!” in 2010. He probably funded the first two, while Concord is taking credit for this one.

You can purchase all three of Casey’s albums on Amazon. Or you can sample “Oh, You Kid!” on Casey’s web site, www.caseyabrams.com.

“Give him a Grammy already,” said another Casey fan after reviewing his album. “I love every song on this album!”

To preview some of Casey’s hit singles, visit You Tube at www.youtube.com or go directly to Amazon, and buy the album for $9.99.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved. Banners of Casey Abrams by Marcia E. Gawecki are now on display at the Bill Anson Gallery in the Backstreet Art District in Palm Springs.

 

Dick Halligan to Perform in LA June 21

Monday, June 11th, 2012

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Remember the old Blood, Sweat & Tears favorites, “God Bless the Child,” and “Sometimes in Winter?”

That was the genius of Dick Halligan, composer and musician, who lives part time in Idyllwild and Italy.

Dick also arranged  “Variations on a Theme” by Erik Satie, for which he received a Grammy nomination. The rock/jazz band, Blood, Sweat & Tears dominated the Billboard charts in the early 1970s and won the Grammy’s Album of the Year in 1970, over the Beatles’ Abbey Road.

Dick also wrote musical scores for 15 films, including “The Owl and the Pussycat” from 1970, starring Barbara Streisand and George Segal, and “Fear City,” from 1984, starring Tom Berenger and Melanie Griffith.

Next week, Dick will be taking his grand piano on the road with a June 21 concert at the Cornerstone Music Conservatory in Los Angeles.

“Dick Halligan: A Man and His Music” reveals his fascinating musical influences that lead to a rewarding musical life as well as personal challenges with focal dystonia, a debilitating nervous system disorder. Rod Menzies is directing the show. Tickets are $20 or only $15 if you order by June 14.

Dick attended a recent musical at Idyllwild Arts

Several weeks ago, Dick held his solo debut in Idyllwild, but many missed it.

“I think he’s a genius,” exclaimed Jessica Schiffman, a friend of Dick’s who is an Idyllwild artist who shows at the Bill Anson Gallery in Palm Springs.

Dick and other local writers would meet monthly to read their works out loud at Jessica’s home. At that time, Dick talked about writing his memoirs. An unassuming guy, he had a lifetime of successes to write about, including time with Blood, Sweat & Tears, and composing jazz and classical music as well as film scores.

He told the group how his musical career started in high school when he got a band together. He was playing an accordian at the time.

Over the years, he learned to play the trombone, piano and flute. He was playing trombone when he first started with Blood, Sweat & Tears.

All of his experiences are written down in his memoir, that he completed within three months. Dick wrote it all out in longhand, while his wife typed it up.

Dick brought the finished manuscript to one of the writer’s group meetings at Jessica’s house. He read a few pages from the beginning.

“We all looked at each other in amazement,” recalled one writer. “Dick doesn’t mess around. When he says he’s going to write a book, he does it.”

Well, most people would think that a memoir written in three months is pushing it a bit. But for Dick Halligan, three months was all it took.

His memoir was well written with clarity and humor. When he gets it published, it will be a bestseller.

It also served as the basis for his solo show.

“All I’m missing now is some good pictures,” Dick said. “I wished I would have kept some over the years.”

Blood, Sweat & Tears played at the famed 1969 Woodstock concert.

“Yeah, I was there, and everyone talks about how great Woodstock was,” Dick said. “But they must’ve been in the audience. From the stage, all I could see was black.”

Dick, the musical genius and the regular guy will be revealed on stage. He spoke excitedly about it while attending the final musical, “Berlin to Broadway” about the life of composer Kurt Weill on June 20 at Idyllwild Arts Academy.

Dick said that he never thought much about Kurt Weill’s work, but enjoyed his later tunes showcased in the 2-hour student show.

“Kurt Weill showed a lot of sensitivity and his love of America came out in his work,” Dick said.

“Dick Halligan: A Man and His Music” will be held Thursday, June 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cornerstone Music Conservatory located at 12121 West Pico Boulevard (one door West of Bundy) in Los Angeles.

Cornerstone Music Conservatory is on the 2nd floor next to The Party Store. There is plenty of free parking in the lot. Tickets $20 (or just $15 with reservations by June 14th).

To order tickets, contact Jeannine Frank at Jeannine@FrankEntertainment.com or call (310) 476-6735 or (310) 666-9066.

Photo courtesy of Dick Halligan.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Student Hopes to Win ‘Voice of the Valley’ Saturday

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Idyllwild Arts vocal student Nicky leaves a rehearsal at the Hemet Theater

Once you fall off a horse, the best advice is to get right back on again.

That’s what Idyllwild Arts vocal student did when he was eliminated recently for the NBC TV talent show, “The Voice.”

“I got a callback and screwed it up,” Nicky said. “I was looking into a camera and not a live audience, and started worrying about my image, you know, and what people might think.”

One of “The Voice” judges told him to try again next year and go straight to Call Backs.

In the meantime, Nicky decided to try out for a local talent show, “Voice of the Valleys” and gain more experience. He made the cuts from 99 to 34 to nine. Now on Saturday, he’s going to try and win it.

The prizes are worth the effort of the many rehearsals over the last few weeks. He’s had to squeeze them in during finals, and make many trips down the hill. Until Saturday’s show, Nicky is staying over at his advisor’s house before returning home to San Francisco.

The first prize includes $1,000, a record deal and an audition at Disney.

Nicky said that he’s most excited about the record deal because it would allow him to showcase songs that he’s written over the years, which amount to more than 300. Recently, he wrote songs inspired by artwork created by fellow artists at Idyllwild Arts. For one modern piece, Nicky reached into the piano to strum the keys.

Nicky reaches into the piano to strum the keys

“It’s supposed to sound like a snake,” Nicky said. (see Idyllwild Me story, “Music Comp Collaborates with Visual Artists” dated May 9, 2012).

On Saturday night, Nicky is going to sing “I Want You” by Luke James. In the audience, will be his girlfriend, Paris, a dance major, her father, Ryan Zwahlen, music head, and Marshall Hawkins, head of the Jazz Department at Idyllwild Arts.

“Everyone’s really good,” Nicky said of the other contestants, who range from high school students to middle-aged adults.

“Luke James is a brilliant new R&B artist, and his arrangement of “I Want You” will take you by surprise,” Nicky said. “There’s a high falsetto that you don’t hear every day.”

(from L) Nicky, Will and Corwin listen to their instructor, Kevin Sullivan

He also has to sing a new vocal arrangement of “It was You,”written by James Below.

After that, Nicky will sing “Don’t Stop Believing” with the group and “Man in the Mirror” from Michael Jackson.

The “Voice of the Valley” Competition will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 9, at the Tahquitz High School Performing Arts Center, located at 4425 Titan Trail in Hemet. (Not at the Hemet Theater where they’ve been rehearsing).

Tickets are $25 and $15 for students. For more information, call 951-743-0872 or visit www.vov2012.com.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Art-Inspired Songs at Friday Afternoon Student Recital

Friday, May 25th, 2012

(from L) Nick, Will and Corwin listen to Kevin play

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“It’s our version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition or Satie’s Sports et Divertissements,” said Kevin Michael Sullivan of his Honors Composition class recital at Stephens at 2:30 p.m. today, Friday, May 25.

It’s an all-student collaboration in which songs were inspired by art pieces. (See blog post, ‘Music Comp Collaborates with Visual Artists,’ dated May 9).

The three student songwriters–William, Corwin and Nick–will showcase their songs that were inspired by art created by Zoe, Inga and Josh (Lin Xuan).

They will be performed today by Dr. Jeanette-Louise Yaryan on piano.

After the performance, there will be a short Q&A session with Dr. Yaryan and the student composers and artists. Like all recitals at Idyllwild Arts, it will be streamed via UStream on the school website.

Over the last two years, Kevin said, the music composition students have composed works for solo oboe; art songs for baritone and piano with lyrics by members of the Creative Writing department; a string quartet; and a reed trio.

For one song, Nick will strum the exposed piano

The class has also created a closed Facebook group where they post links to music, articles, study scores and other resources and, most importantly, post drafts of the scores of the students’ compositions.

“I have invited composers from across the globe to join this group and take part in our discussions,” Kevin said. “This exposes the students to a variety of ideas, examples and compositional techniques and  approaches.”

The contributors included Stephen Serpa and Jessie Alexander Brown of the Harrt School of Music, Jason Gerraughty, SUNY Stony Brook,  Noam Faingold, Kings College London, and Josh Gates, NC School of the Arts/ The Tatnall School.

This will be the first time that the three student artists will hear the music compositions inspired by their art. Zoe’s photograph features two portraits blended together, Inga has an abstract landscape and Josh’s painting entitled,”Greedy,” features a pig eating another pig while other pigs watch.

(from L) Josh with Vita. His painting features pigs eating each other.

The art and music composition recital today is free and open to the public. Stephens Recital Hall is the first building to the left as you cross the bridge at the end of Tollgate Road in Idyllwild.

For more information, call (951) 265-6755 or visit www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Final Student Jazz Concert Tuesday Night

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Marshall Hawkins once played with Miles Davis. Image by Marcia E. Gawecki

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“Four,” a song by jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, is considered to be among the lineup for the final Idyllwild Arts student jazz concert Tuesday night, May 22, at 7:30 p.m. in the Bowman Arts building.

It stands to reason that Jazz Chair Marshall Hawkins would pick a song from Miles Davis. As a jazz musician, composer, and band leader, Miles is considered to be one of the most influential jazz musicians of our time.

It is also well known on campus that Marshall once played with Miles.

However, the details of the experience haven’t fully come to life. The jazz students say it’s a cool fact, and perhaps Marshall’s esteem is boosted even higher in their eyes.  But they don’t push him for details.

(from L) Walker (guitar) and Randy (sax) will be performing

Hopefully, Marshall will write about Miles in his memoirs one day.

In the meantime, however, we’ll get to enjoy “Blue Haze: Four” as one of the songs that will be performed by Marshall and the students tonight. The key word is “possible” because the lineup and music selection changes all the time. Sometimes, the students don’t know the lineup until just shortly before the concert begins.

Jazz alumni Jacob (left) and Caleb will be playing at the concert

“It doesn’t matter,” said Randy who plays the saxophone. “We know the music already. It’s just a matter of which order Marshall wants to take it.”

Walker, a graduating senior who normally plays guitar, will switch to bass for Tuesday’s performance because one of the bass guitar players hurt her finger.

“It’s a totally different instrument, but I’m up to the challenge,” said Walker.

According to the Jazz Education web site, “Blue Haze: Four” was recorded in 1954, just after Miles had overcome his drug addiction. It features Horace Silver, Percy Heath and Art Blakey.

Interestingly enough, “Four” was usally attributed to Miles Davis, but it was actually written by Eddie Vinson for Miles Davis. Today, both are usually mentioned as authors. This is an interesting solo, as Miles articulates almost aggressively. Miles’ solo features a hard sound right from the pickup, which he was not known for before.

Idyllwild Arts alumni Caleb Hensinger and Jacob Scesney will be also playing at Tuesday’s jazz concert. Both attend the Burklee School of Music in Boston. Caleb will likely do a nice job with Miles’ “Four,” since he has a similar round sound.

Miles Davis image by Marcia E. Gawecki, Idyllwild

Caleb would play with Marshall and Paul Carman at Cafe Aroma on an occasional Tuesday night, and sometimes steal the spotlight.

“There was one woman in particular who would only come when Caleb was playing,” said Frank Fero from Cafe Aroma. “He really charmed the ladies.”

Another twist to the Tuesday night jazz concert will be a collaboration with a string quartet. The classical musicians include SaSa, Howard and Tiffany. The fourth one Randy couldn’t recall.

“Marshall is going to put us all on stage and build a symphony,” Randy said.

Whatever Marshall and company are up to will turn out to be a wonderful evening of jazz–with some surprises. Although the IAF Theatre in Bowman offers ample seating, it’s still best to arrive early Tuesday night.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

Musical Storytime at Idyllwild School

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Tiffany (far right) will be playing her cello for grade schoolers at Idyllwild School

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Storytime will never be the same for grade schoolers at the Idyllwild School.

Today at 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., four students from Idyllwild Arts will be bringing a book to life with music and songs.

“The Story of Arly Rabbit,” was written by Jennifer Stevenson (a friend of Idyllwild Arts Music Chair Ryan Zwahlen), who is well known for her interactive musical stories for children and their families.

Jen is a composer, educator and clarinetist.

Her story has a local angle to it. It’s about a jackrabbit from Palm Springs who travels to Idyllwild.

The four Idylwild Arts students who will be performing “The Story of Arly Rabbit,” include Emma on flute; Lisa on violin; Tiffany on cello and Alex as the narrator.

Ryan's friend, Jennifer, wrote the musical story

Tiffany, a graduating senior, said that she was looking forward to the two performances today.

“The story is interactive, so when we’re playing our instruments, the students will be encouraged to do hand gestures along with the music,” Tiffany said.

In videos shown on Jen’s web site, she asks students to make bird flapping motions with their hands or climb an imaginary tree like a monkey.

Afterwards, the performers are going to demonstrate how to play their instruments and then play musical games with them, Ryan added.

The music collaboration between the two Idyllwild schools was made possible by an AEL grant of $1,000, that was awarded to Lisa, the violinist.

Ryan worked with Bob Boss from the Idyllwild School for this event. He said that it took about two months to finalize their schedules and all the details.

For more information on Jen’s Musical Adventures, visit www.tessellamusic.com.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

2nd Annual Student Oboe & Clarinet Recital

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

(from R) Camille and Jeanette take a bow

By Marcia E. Gawecki

For the second year in a row, Camille and Shen have hosted their classical music recitals together.

Their Idyllwild Arts senior recital, featuring oboe and clarinet, was held on Tuesday, May 8, at 7:30 p.m. at Stephens Recital Hall.

Each gave a lively performance and were happy and breathless afterwards. At one point, Camille thought she was going to pass out, but didn’t.

Camille and Shen are friends, fellow orchestra members and complement each other well, like Bogie and Bacall.

Shen hails from China, while Camille was born in Los Angeles to Chinese parents. Shen is gregarious and short with dimples, while Camille is aloof, brainy, and leggy.

They even share the same last name.
“Liu is a pretty common name in China, like Smith is in the U.S.,” said Camille.

Shen lost the toss, so Camille would play first at their recital. Going first is always better because oftentimes a majority of the audience leaves to socialize or study before their 10 p.m. curfew.

“I know that most of them will stay because Shen is really popular,” said Camille beforehand.

(from R) Shen with Nelms

This year, Shen won the Idyllwild Arts Concerto Competition, which meant he got to perform as a soloist along with the Idyllwild Arts Orchestra.

Shen was also a prefect, or student advisor, during the year. In the fall, he will attend Juilliard School of Music in New York. Lake, a jazz bass player and Idyllwild Arts senior will join him.

Not to be outdone, Camille got more than 2200 score on her SATs, and will be going to Northwestern University in Evanston in the fall.

Camille will continue her musical studies, but is looking forward to Northwestern’s academic challenge.

Last year, during their junior recitals, both only had to play only :30 minutes each, but as seniors, they had to play :45 minutes each.

“I think mine went over 10 minutes, so Shen got cheated a little bit,” admitted Camille.

For her first number, Camille played J.S. Bach’s “Sonata in G Minor BMV 1020” with Jeanette Louise Yaryan on piano. It sounded like a mellow piece. At times, Camille’s oboe sounded more like a flute. But then the Allego gave way to fast fingers, and Camille gave a sigh of relief at its end.

“Concerto in C Major, K 314” by W. A. Mozart showed off Camille’s ability to play long notes. Benny Kleinerman accompanied her on piano.

For her third selection, Camille was reunited with bassoon player, Felix, and Nelm McKelvain on piano. Just weeks before, the three had played Francis Poulenc’s “Trio for Piano, Oboe and Bassoon” at Felix’s Junior Recital.

“I’m helping her because she helped me,” said Felix as he headed for the dressing room.

It was the same piece, but somehow it sounded differently that night.

(from L) Brian Cohen talks with Camille's dad afterwards while her mom and Peter Askim listen in

“I think Nelms started out faster this time,” said Felix later.

The Presto, Adante and Rondo parts of that song reminded me of a flirtation or courtship. Like songbirds calling out to each other between the trees.

All three looked at each other for timing cues and sounded like they really enjoyed the piece. Nelms was smiling most of the time from behind the piano.

The recital ended with Camille Saint-Saens’ “Sonata in D Major, Op. 166.”

Even though her oboe teacher, Francisco Castillo from Redlands was not in the audience, he was there in spirit. Just the day before, Camille had a lesson with him  She’ll see him again before the fall.

“I don’t know how to say good-bye,” Camille said. “He’s been my teacher since I was ten.”

Music Director Peter Askim and Headmaster Brian Cohen spoke to Camille’s parents afterwards, and Peter and Music Department Head Ryan Zwahlen congratulated Camille.

“She did a great job,” said Ryan, who also plays the oboe.  “Everything she played was difficult. She’s really come a long way.”

Needless to say, not everyone in the audience left after intermission. In fact, a few more people came after the break to see Shen. It was a full house for both.

Camille was all smiles afterwards

Shen started out strong with a short and lively piece by Henri Rabaud, “Solo de Concours.” It showcased his ability to go up and down the scales on his clarinet with rapid accuracy.

Unlike Camille, Shen didn’t change piano players, but kept with Nelms McKelvain the whole time. Their next piece, “Sonatina” by Malcolm Arnold, showed the complexities of both instruments. At times, the music sounded frenetic.

Shen’s next piece, “Fantasia da Concerto ‘La Traiata’ by D. Verdi by Donato Lovreglio, was Peter Askim’s favorite.

“I really liked how you played the opera,” Peter told Shen afterwards. “It showed a lot of colors.”

From the look of things, it was a difficult piece to do because Shen was breathing heavy afterwards.

After that piece, Shen mixed it up with “Sonata” by Francis Proulenc. The audience, made up of mostly music students and staff members, whooped it up after that piece was finished.

George Gershwin’s “Preludes for Clarinet and Piano Accompaniment,” arranged by James Cohn, was an interesting end to Shen’s recital. It seemed more ragtime than classical.

“No Gershwin’s music is in the classical realm,” defended Camille afterwards.

The best part is that Shen looked like he was having a ball playing it. Maybe because it was his last high school recital, and he was savoring every moment.

(from L) Shen poses with Ryan

Shen, too, will find it difficult to say good-bye to his teacher, Yehuda Gilead, from USC, who has been more of a mentor than a clarinet teacher. Yehuda wasn’t there at the concert, but Shen went to LA the next day with the disk in hand to discuss the performance with him.

In the audience was YiLing, an Idyllwild Arts music alum, who now attends Boston Conservatory, and was on summer break.

“He did a great job,” YiLing said, as they posed for pictures afterwards.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

 

Music Comp Collaborates with Visual Artists

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

(from L) Kevin, Julian, Will, Nick and Corwin gather around the piano

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Last year, Kevin Sullivan’s Honor Music Composition class collaborated with student poets and a vocalist. Those lucky enough to attend “Idyllwild Arts Day in LA” heard their interpretations live (see “From Music Comp Class to March 1st Recital” Idyllwild Me blog post dated Feb. 27, 2011).

This year, however, the three songwriting students–Will, Nick and Corwin–are collaborating with three visual artists, including Josh, Zoe and Inga.

“I thought we’d mix it up a little bit,” Kevin said. “Next year, we’re thinking of working with vocal music students again.”

Although the songwriting students have been hard at work for months and have seen the pieces by the visual artists, it was still a surprise to two of the artists.

“They’re writing songs about my painting?” asked Josh, a sophomore visual artist from Taiwan.

The one they selected of Josh’s is called “Greedy,” and features a pig eating another pig while other pigs sitting around a table are watching him. The painting is hanging on Josh’s wall in his dorm room.

He said it’s a statement about the human condition, and not necessarily about anyone in particular.

“The pig doesn’t even know that he’s eating himself,” Josh laughed.

(from L) Kevin gestures to Julian emphasizing his point

It wasn’t the first time Josh has used a pig in his artwork. He once painted a single pig with money coming out of it years ago in China.

“They’re still writing songs about our art?” Zoe asked, as she was preparing for the SAT. “That was months ago.”

Earlier this semester, Nick went through her portfolio and picked out the photograph, which features a blended image of Isaac, a writer, and Delilah, a former visual artist.

“I took the photograph right after a fashion show,” Zoe explained. “Delilah wore heavy makeup, and it was a nice contrast to Isaac, who was shot in profile and was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt.”

Sometime this year, Zoe started cutting the photographs apart, and then weaving them together.

“It looks more like a bar code to me,” she said.”Photographs can be like math, so technical.”

“Yes, we’ve been working on these compositions for a long time now,” Kevin explained. “But they’ve gone through anywhere from 10 to 15 drafts. We also went on the USC Songwriter’s Tour, and there was Spring Break and such.”

Back at the piano in Kevin’s comp class, Will was listening to Julian, a fellow piano player, sight read his music. During most Thursday night classes, they critique each other, but tonight, Julian was adding his own comments.

The painting by Josh (shown with girlfriend Vita) features pigs devouring each other

“I asked Julian to play for us today to find out of there’s any ‘finger busters,’ in which a piano player has to twist his fingers in a weird way,” Kevin explained.

“It’s doable,” Julian said about Corwin’s version of  Josh’s painting, “Greedy.” However, he asked about the “voicing.”

Kevin explained that in jazz, “voicing” is the order of chords, and a pianist can play the same notes in many different ways, emphasizing different notes. He asked Julian to play it three different ways, which gave Corwin several options to choose from.

“You don’t want to leave it to the piano player to interpret your work, because then it will sound different each time it’s played,” Kevin explained.

After Julian played one of Will’s pieces, “Beneath the Window” for Inga’s painting, Kevin suggested that he and Julian play it again, splitting up the right and left hands.

“I wonder if there’s a way we can make it sound a little richer,” Kevin said.

“You need to write a good challenging piece. It makes it more interesting for the piano player,” Kevin added.

Nick reaches into the exposed piano keys to strum them

By the time they finished, Kevin, Will and Julian were pleased with with the results to “draft no. 11.”

“Now, it’s got a little more color and brightness, and not so grumbling,” Kevin told Will, who was nodding in agreement.

Nick wanted to show the others what he recently added to Zoe’s piece. With Will’s help, he took off the top of the piano, exposing the chords underneath.

Julian laughed. “Have you heard of ‘Macro Cosmos?'” he asked. “George Krumb had a woman shout, ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ into the exposed piano.”

Just for fun, Kevin repeated those words into their exposed piano keys, while Nick pushed the pedals. The result was an eerie echo.

Instead of sheet music, Nick was playing from his laptop screen. At the given moment, he reached into the piano and strummed the exposed keys. It sounded like a harp.

“It’s supposed to sound like a snake,” Nick said, pleased with the effect.

Kevin said that Janette, who will be performing their work, is interested in modern classical music, in which you do unconventional things like strum the exposed keys.

“We’re just glad that she’s willing to do this for us,” Kevin said.

Nick then demonstrated how his songwriting software plays back the song for him.

“You know instantly how it’s going to sound,” Nick said. “I can’t believe that Kevin actually sits in his room and writes all the notes out by hand. This is the 21st century!”

Just then,Kevin took over the piano and played a prelude (from sheet music that was written out by hand). It was beautiful, quiet and slow. Afterwards, there was a hushed silence among the student songwriters.

Then Nick said, “That’s why he’s our comp teacher.”

(from L) Will, Nick and Corwin embrace technology

In the next few weeks, the music comp class will finish each of their collaborations, and then present it to the visual artists and others who want to attend. In short, there will be four different views of each painting, including preludes.

The performance date hasn’t been set yet, and Kevin is scrambling to find an open spot with all of the junior and senior music recitals going on nearly every night.

Zoe, admitted that she was a little nervous.

“It’s going to be really cool,” she said. “But what can I say about my work? Sometimes, it’s just not all that deep and complicated. It’s just is.”

Josh was excited about hearing their work.

“Do you know the date yet?” he asked with a big smile. “I want to bring all of my friends!”

Will said they will likely give the musical pieces to the artists as gifts.

In the meantime, we’ll have to wait for the Music Comp performance until a date opens up.

Tonight, however, (Wednesday, May 9) Nick and Will, will be presenting a variety of songs they’ve written for their junior recital. It starts at 7:30 p.m. at Stephens Recital Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

 

‘Taking Five’ With So Percussion in Idyllwild

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

So Percussion in Idyllwild (from L) Jason, Adam and Eric.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Every So often, you get lucky.

This particular Saturday afternoon, April 29, at 3:15 p.m., band members from the New Music group, So Percussion, were sitting on the steps outside of the IAF Theatre in Idyllwild.

They were “taking five” while the Idyllwild Arts Student Orchestra and music director Peter Askim were working with guitar legend, Richard Thompson, inside the theater.

It was like finding The Rolling Stones at Starbucks.

Jason Treuting, Josh Quillen, Eric Beach and Adam Sliwinski, were just hours away from the free New Music Concert with the student orchestra, featuring World Premiers of music by Richard Thompson, Chin Yi and Peter Askim, and Jason’s West Coast Premier of “Oblique Music.”

They were hanging out with Jason’s 15-month-old-daughter who had the same bright eyes.

“She likes it when we play,” Jason said. “But it’s hard to tell if she has any musical abilities yet.”

The group of Yale graduates, based out of Brooklyn, are causing a rage in the classical music world.

“The range of colors and voices that So Percussion coaxes from its manergerie is astonishing and entrancing,” claimes Billboard Magazine.

You can look on their web site for more accolades from the New York Times, the Village Voice, and even The Financial Times. We’re lucky that Peter Askim has brought this group to the attention of Idyllwild and folks on the West Coast.

According to their web site, So Percussion plays compositions by John Cage and Steven Reich, as well as their own works.

Jason with his 15-month-old-daughter

John Cage and Steven Reich are two pillars of percussion chamber music. Many of their once radical ideas are now widely accepted as part of America’s experimental classical music tradition. So Percussion has been playing their from the beginning, which also inspires their own original music.

Jason explained how New Music is different from modern music.

“After our concerts, I often talk to people who think that New Music is the same as Pop music,” Jason said. “They listen to Mariah Carey or Lady Gaga and believe it’s the same New Music that we’re playing. It’s not based out of classical music, and that’s a big difference.”

Jason said that he sometimes conducts a Q & A session after their concerts, and asks people what they think of their New Music.

“We ask them if there was anything they heard that they didn’t like,” Jason said. “And there’s this long pause. And then we say, ‘C’mon, there was probably something in the concert that you didn’t like.”

He said that once he gets audience members to admit there’s stuff that they didn’t like about So Percussion’s New Music, then they have a starting point.

(from L) Josh, Jason's daughter and grandma outside Bowman in Idyllwild

“With the onset of Social Media, we are becoming more attuned to our preferences, and don’t venture out of our safety zone,” Jason said. “It’s OK that you don’t like all New Music. You don’t have to like all of it, but the fact that people are open to new experiences is important.”

Sometimes, he said, the classical music fans feel like they have to love New Music or not.

“But it’s OK if they don’t love everything that they hear,” Jason said. “It would be kind of a bummer if all we listened to was things that we really like.”

He said that their repeat performances are always better accepted.

The same thing went with the members of the Idyllwild Ars Student Orchestra.
“At first, it was a little hard to get them to open up,” Jason said. “They hadn’t had much exposure to New Music. But Peter Askim is generating a lot of positive energy about New Music and it’s catching on.”

Jason said they played a little bit before the All School meeting on Friday afternoon, and that helped the orchestra to open up a bit.

“They’re a good group of kids, and I think we cracked the shell a bit,” Jason added. “Afterwards, we were talking and hanging out and it helped break down barriers.”

At the All School concert, So Percussion used a lot of tactile instruments, such as pipes, tin cans and flower pots.

“A lot of people associate us with the popular percussion groups, Stomp and Blue Man Group.” Jason said. “We wanted the orchestra students to see that we’re having fun and that we’re regular musicians just like them.”

Rong, a cello player, said the energy of their practice sessions changed when So Percussion came into town on Thursday night.

“Their energy was so great!” Rong exclaimed. “It was unbelievable!”

Also on the dock Sunday is guitar legend, Richard Thompson. Courtesy photo Idyllwild Arts.

So Percussion, Richard Thompson and the student orchestra will travel to Los Angeles on Sunday for their second concert on Sunday, April 29, at 4 p.m. at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Hollywood.

Advance general admission tickets range from $10 to $20. Prices will be slightly higher at the door. Peter Askim hoped that the concert would be “sold out,” since it’s a fundraiser for the Willam M. Lowman Concert Hall on campus.

“Peter said that we made the LA Times,” Rong said before her orthodontist appointment Thursday. “The paper is saying that people should come see our concert. That’s kind of a big deal.”

The Barnsdall Theatre is a new venue for the Idyllwild Arts Student Orchestra and their New Music guests.

“The theater was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright,” stated Adam. “I’ve always liked him as an architect, and I took my first girlfriend to Falling Water in Pennsylvania.”

Jason said that So Percussion has set up a concert two years from now.

“We’ll be playing the music of David Lang,” he said.

Setting up a gig two years out is nothing unusual, he said.

“My wife is also a musician, and we’re always talking about dates years into the future,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to get a perspective on the here and now.”

So Percussion, Richard Thompson and the Idyllwild Arts Student Orchestra will be playing at 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 29 at the Barnsdall Theatre, located at 4800 Hollywood Blvd. For tickets, visit It’s My Set at www.itsmyseat.com.

And to listen to selections from So Percussion, visit www.sopercussion.com.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Richard Thompson’s ‘Interviews with Ghosts’

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Guitar legend Richard Thompson with string students during "Cabaret of Souls" last year Courtesy photo

By Marcia E. Gawecki

It’s hard to tell how long singer-songwriter-guitar legend Richard Thompson has been obsessed with ghosts.

Perhaps it started long ago, but it just hit Idyllwild Arts’ radar in November of last year with his “Cabaret of Souls” tour, which began at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

“Cabaret of Souls” is a talent show set in the Underworld (think of it as “American Idol” in Hell).  It’s part theater, part rock opera, featuring the talents of Richard Thompson, Harry Shearer (The Simpsons), Richard’s wife, Judith Owen, Deborah Dobkin, Pete Zorn and strings students  from the Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra, conducted by Peter Askim.

X-O, a cellist from China, was one of the students who performed “Cabaret of Souls” with Richard Thompson. She and the 11 other students had to wear campy outfits and learn about 30 new songs.

“But it was easy music,” X-O said, shrugging it off.

Stephanie, a violinist from Korea, said that it’s music that she’s never played before.

Stephanie said the music was old fashioned, but fun

“Peter said that it was kind of old-fashioned,” she said. “But I liked it.”

Dorie, a violin player from Bulgaria, had to wear a lacy outfit and a green wig.

“They painted our faces to look like ghosts,” Dorie said. “They wanted us to wear gloves, but it didn’t fit with our string instruments.”

According to the Los Angeles Times newspaper, “Richard Thompson has been called the finest rock songwriter after Bob Dylan and the best electric guitarist since Jimi Hendrix.”

“Last year, we helped Richard Thompson out, so this year, he’s helping us out,” said Camille, an oboe player talking about the upcoming New Music Concerts held in Idyllwild and Hollywood.

The Hollywood concert is a fundraiser for the new William M. Lowman Concert Hall, and pre-event tickets (from $10 to $20) are now on sale on the Idyllwild Arts web site, www.idyllwildarts.org.

According to a recent promotional video, Richard said that “Interviews with Ghosts” is a short song cycle or song suite of three chamber orchestra pieces.

“It’s based on supposed transcriptions from ghosts talking to each other,” Richard said. “Depending upon if you think they exist or even talk to each other.”

Then Richard said he adapted these ghost transcripts a little bit, adding rhymes and worked with the orchestra. For the past several weeks, classical music students have been playing Richard’s New Music pieces. He will be singing and playing guitar along with the student orchestra.
Jo, a bass player, said it sounds a lot like Rock n’ Roll.

Will “Interviews with Ghosts” be like talking to Jacob Marley from “A Christmas Carol,” where he complains about the chain, the cold and the loneliness of walking through doors? Will there be a message in Richard’s piece about transforming our miserly ways? Will there be jokes about God, the devil and not being able to take our cash with us?

Time Out has called Richard Thompson’s performances, “Riveting, enlightening, witty, moving, provocative and entertaining – strongly recommended.”

Will the students have to dress up for "Interviews with Ghosts?"

Expect nothing less than fabulous with Richard Thompson’s “Interviews with Ghosts.” If anything, you’ll get the rare opportunity to hear one of the Top 20 best guitar players of all time play with our student orchestra on April 28 in Idyllwild and on April 29 in Hollywood.

Besides Richard Thompson, Chen Yi will be performing “Tone Poem,” a piece commissioned by the student orchestra and three composers from So Orchestra will be performing individual works, including “Oblique Music” by Jason Tretuing, “Credo in US” by John Cage and “Music for Pieces of Wood,” by Steve Reich.

Also on the docket is Peter’s brand-new piece, “Elsewhere.”

The first New Music Concert will be Saturday, April 28, at 7:30 p.m. in the IAF Theatre on the Idyllwild Arts campus. The event is free and open to the public.

The Sunday, April 29 fundraiser concert will be held at 4 p.m. at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre at 4800 Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. For tickets, visit www.idyllwildarts.org, or contact www.itsmyseat.com.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.