Sadly, I cannot provide you with my own photos from this awesome concert because I dropped and broke the phone they were taken on! But the images here are by Perspective Photo/Craig Bailey. Read about the experience on the Boston Music Intelligencer, or just continue scrolling down here:
Harvard Square’s night club-inspired Oberon Theater was infused with the spark of new music and innovation last Wednesday, March 22 when Juventas’ Project Fusion series presented Music In Flight. This program showcased the collaboration between contemporary classical composers and instrumentalists with circus artists—aerialists, acrobats, and jugglers—creating a unique audio-visual experience.
Juventas takes its name from the ancient Roman goddess of youth. In keeping with her mystique, the ensemble’s mission is to champion works by new and emerging, living composers. They create collaborative, cross disciplinary productions that deliver novelty and flair to audiences, injecting a dimension of inventiveness rarely seen in classical performance. Past Project Fusion shows have included collaborations with dancers, painters, scientists, poets, visual artists, puppeteers, and robots.
Music in Flight began with Itasca, a piano piece by appositely-named New York composer, Robert Fleitz. Originally commissioned to accompany a choreographed dance piece, it is named after the plane on which Amelia Earhart flew her last flight. Its dreamy, flowing melodic lines and ambrosial glissandi evoke an echo of mystery that resonates with Earhart’s uncanny disappearance, seemingly into thin air. Pianist Julia Scott Carey’s ethereal presence added to Itasca’s surreal glow.
Next followed the bewitchingly idiosyncratic Hire Wire Act by Laura Schwendinger, the first composer to win the Berlin Prize. Its misshapen timbral textures spun a musical specter from Juventas’ flute, viola, violin, cello, and piano. Led by their phenomenal conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya, the ensemble portrayed Schwendinger’s vision of aerial artists soaring.
Oliver Caplan’s You Are Not Alone, scored for cello and piano, then had its East Coast premiere. Its four movements—Diagnosis, Grief, Acceptance, and Transformation—were inspired by the composer’s experience witnessing his mother battle and survive breast cancer. He disclosed that the illness also took his grandmother’s life years earlier. This stirringly evocative piece takes the listener on a journey through the various stages of coping with the disease. Before its music played, Caplan asked that everyone who has battled or has known someone who has battled breast cancer raise a hand; an overwhelming majority of those in attendance had. Tori Markwalder appeared suspended from a hoop above our heads, invoking the majestic throughout.
Next was Jeremy Rapaport-Stein’s the bird on a string, scored for violin, cello and flute. Incorporating wailing slides and various extended techniques, it reflects the purposefully spasmodic movement of birds flying in heavy wind: “They tend to flutter up gradually, stay frozen for a moment at the top of their flightpath, and then zoom downwards quickly.” Indeed, with its unexpected twists and turns, this music was a proper representation of this atypical, specialized flight.
Closing the first half of the program was Leo Hurley’s On the Wind, scored for marimba, violin, and clarinet. The composer collaborated on the piece with aerialists Sophia Herscu and Alexis Hedrick, who performed on long ropes hanging from Oberon’s ceiling.
After intermission, “Dragon Flight,” the second movement of Scott Wheeler’s piano quartet, Dragon Mountain, took center stage. Drawing on Celtic folk tradition, it begins with acrobats Lauren Breunig, Tim Ellis, Alexis Hedrick, and Sophia Herscu dancing in a circle. After a whirlwind of percussive piano, the playful movement wistfully fades out.
Originally written for pianist and composer Robert Fleitz, Ross Griffey’s All Suddenly the Wind Comes Soft saw its Boston premiere with Julia Scott Carey’s stellar performance. Its three movements—Fast, Playful; Pensive, Lyrical; Tempestuous, Dramatic—reflect on Rupert Brooke’s poem, Song, which contemplates the multifaceted elements of life reflected in spring. The piece’s wide range of dynamics, repetitive, single note motives, and peculiar arpeggios create unexpected sonorities composed almost entirely of rapid 16th notes and faster. Its use of pedal constructs a spectral aural suspension, which complimented Scott Carey’s serious and focused playing. Both performer and piece exuded mysterious enchantment.
Next was a true showstopper: Nate Tucker and Tim Ellis’ Rhythm in Motion. This mind-bending percussive piece is created solely from Ellis’ juggling and Tucker’s snare drum. As balls are juggled, they create shaking sounds that Ellis uses to form elaborate rhythms. He combines these rhythms with Tucker’s drumming. A properly synesthetic piece, it beguiles the eyes and ears to process a catchy, complex song through the acrobatic movements of this fine juggler musician. Ellis is a truly unique composer!
Dan Shore’s excerpt from his opera Freedom Ride, a work in progress, followed. Set in 1961 New Orleans, it tells the story of a young African American student becoming slowly drawn into the Civil Rights Movement. Dressed in period costume, two singers performed on a platform in the middle of the room. Their harmonic duet and charismatic presence revealed Shore’s pleasing, dramatic music. Juventas will perform Freedom Ride’s world premiere in spring 2018.
Alex Williams’ Adrenaline closed the night, along with Lauren Breunig on sliding trapeze. As its name implies, this piece depictsthe feeling induced by adrenaline, making use of complex rhythm changes and meter as well as energetic, driving momentum. On the music’s final note, Breunig ended her performance falling upside down from the ceiling with her ankles bound around her rope. It was a thrilling, fitting end to a night of new music by Juventas…they really should be on everyone’s radar.
In keeping with their passion for innovation, Juventas will bring Boston’s more than thirty new music ensembles together in a full-fledged Boston New Music Festival this fall. It will include an operatic centerpiece, numerous ensembles, and much more.