Teddy Abrams, music director and conductor of the Britt Festival Orchestra, recently announced Britt’s new online presence. Now, we can stream videos of past Britt performances previewed by the artists’ comments on each piece.
A new work premieres at 3 p.m. every Friday through August on Britt’s Facebook page. Abrams and I talked on Zoom.
EH: What’s new with the Britt Orchestra?
TA: We’ve moved almost everything that Britt is doing online in a few different formats. The education side and the orchestra side are the big public-facing parts of Britt that we wanted to keep alive in a meaningful way. What we thought, for this year, is to go through our archives and choose some of our really special performances, and then to present each performance with a special introduction that
Teddy Abrams, Music Director and Conductor of the Britt Festival Orchestra is also Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra in Kentucky. Abrams, members of the Louisville Orchestra, and other prominent musicians have been performing at the Britt Festival for the past eight years.
This year, we can stream live videos of past performances preceded by a discussion with Abrams, orchestra members, and guest artists at 3 p.m. every Friday through August on Facebook’s Britt Music and Arts page. Abrams chatted with me from Louisville over Zoom. This is part one of a two-part column. The second will be published on Aug. 17.
Dr. Alexander Tutunov, Southern Oregon University’s Professor of Piano and Artist in Residence, is now preparing for his Tutunov Piano Series beginning Oct. 11. The Series features seven internationally acclaimed virtuoso pianists.
At age 6, Tutunov was recognized as a prodigy by the Russian government and was enrolled to study piano in the Music School of the Moscow Conservatory. We visited in the Music Building on the SOU Campus.
AT: That boarding school was a fantastic place. We were all freaks of nature, but we didn’t know that, so we didn’t develop an ego or an inferiority complex. Our favorite pastimes were to read through an opera, or play duets with each other, or sing. And it was instilled in us that having talent plus superb training goes with a responsibility: that we’ve got to share. That’s how I see my mission now, and I do my best.
Teddy Abrams, music director of the Britt Orchestra and a world renowned composer, pianist and clarinetist, will conduct The Britt Orchestra this season (July 25 to Aug. 11) in Jacksonville. This is the second of a two-part column. The first was published on May 26.
EH: How does music influence politics?
TA: It’s one of those questions of whether art imitates life or vice versa. You look at eras of American history and you see remarkable relationships between history and music, or politics and music — even beyond that, sociology and music. The defining characteristics of a lot of cultures are in fact their music making and their cultural output – those are binding elements.
Music is a way of conveying essential information, a way of defining identity. Especially in America, where our music comes from so many different places. We’ve often used it in ways to help us sort out our identities — and we see that over and over.
Jazz is one of the great examples of a music that is built on many different influences. But it’s this ultimately defining African-American music that could only exist (here), given the political circumstances of America. And that continues to this day.
Music is both political and apolitical. The protest songs of the Vietnam era probably had as much influence on people’s thinking about politics as anything. You had these bands and singer-songwriters with massive reach, and trust that they built, and people really listened to what they were saying, in a way that they may have ignored listening to other activists or speakers or politicians. Somebody could listen to a Bob Dylan song or Beatles song with a very specific message, but if they didn’t speak the language, they could still appreciate the music making. Continue reading The Britt — A beautiful experience in a community atmosphere→
Obed Medina is the director of the absurdist comedy, “Seven Dreams of Falling,” by C. Scott Wilkerson, now playing through September at the Collaborative Theatre Project in Medford. The play is a re-imagining of the Icarus myth. The premise of the play is that Icarus (the young Greek fellow who flew way too close to the sun) is now being forced, by his mythological family, to repeat his humiliation over and over, throughout time.
Icaris and the other characters (Daedalus, Theasus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur) are cursed, trapped into promoting and acting out the catastrophe as a yearly ritual, similar to Christmas. The characters desperately try to exploit the event (each to their own advantage) to imprison each other, and to escape. It’s a powerful play. I met Medina at the Collaborative Theatre to talk about “Seven Dreams of Falling.”
OM: It’s a relatively new play. It premiered in 2013 at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. I visualize a lot of lighting, sound, playing with shadows and light — coordinating together silhouettes. It’s the only way to tell the story and bring it to life, because it’s a Greek myth and has all these fantastical elements.
The text is very heady; it’s a thinking person’s play: there is a lot brewing underneath the text. The sound propels you forward and incites emotion. We have a lot of projections and video that will be used. We try to tell the story and bring it to life with the images: there’s interaction, rather than just dressing the set. We’re taking the conventions of theater and turning them on end.
Director-actor Ron Danko and musician-music Historian David Gordon have formed The Madrone Theatre Company to produce a new adaptation of the “Spoon River Anthology,” opening Oct. 7 in the Rogue Community College Performance Hall in Medford.
Published in 1915, Edgar Lee Masters “Spoon River Anthology” portrayed small town rural America through poetic portraits of numerous characters who somehow spoke from beyond the grave. Danko pulled 50 out of 240 vignettes and invited David Gordon to weave music into the production. I met Danko and Gordon one afternoon in Rogue Community College’s pristine black-box theater.
EH: How would you describe the “Spoon River Anthology”?
DG: It’s like a haiku or a miniature painting. It somehow condenses life down into its absolute minimal number of words or strokes. These are vignettes about life by people who are done with living. They don’t have to put on pretenses or lie any more. They can be totally honest about their successes and their failures. They admit their failures. To me, the mastery of it is that (sometimes in just a few dozen words) each one creates this little reality that has emotion in it.
Pianist Martin Majkut will perform with flautist Katheryn McElrath in concert at Grizzly Peak Winery on July 16 and 17. In a recent conversation, Majkut, Rogue Valley Symphony’s music director, gave me some insights into the development of classical music.
MM: In general, I am convinced that we are moving away from music that was very academic. Music of the second half of the 20th century often consisted of composers in ivory towers disrespecting accessibility, and thinking, “If you’re not good enough to understand my art, then I don’t want you,” which is such a silly proposition.
All of the great composers wrote with people in mind. Otherwise, the music is dead, it’s on paper. We need the audience to complete the circle. Without them, we’re lost.
I see a trend in music that is deep and meaningful, but at the same time, accessible. It gives you a full range of emotions, not just freaky and dark, but also with elation and romance. We’re going back to an era where all these things are embraced in their totality, not just: “Let’s just wallow in despair and sadness.” Continue reading It’s OK to get lost listening to classical music→