I spent the evening of Feb. 14 with about 400 people in UVMs Redstone Recital Hall, being charmed and delighted by the Karrin Allyson Quartet -- Allyson herself being the pianist and vocalist for the group, with Rod Fleeman on guitar, Ed Howard on bass, and Todd Strait on percussion. The rhythmically charged performance was made additionally wham-socko-bam (Holy Moley, Batman!) exciting by the way that Allyson herself floated her gorgeous voice over the top of all this vitality. Allyson and company have never appeared in Vermont before. She wondered why from the stage, and I wondered why in my seat, because certainly she should be invited to come to the June Jazz Festival ASAP (if not sooner) -- and not solely because she won the Grammy award last year for the best jazz album, although you couldnt go wrong on that kind of recommendation. Allyson is charged with emotion and rhythm, and she serpentines her voice in and around melody lines, changing rhythms here, changing the word accents there, and always always coming out spot on the beat. There were changes from duple to triple rhythms that were so fluid and so exciting that they made the music at hand vibrant and pulsing. One distinguishing characteristic of her arrangements is heard in her penchant for writing parallel fifths and fourths to the melody line. In addition, she does a lot of scat singing, which is probably why shes been compared to Ella Fitzgerald that and the honey-smoothness of her voice. She sang in three languages English, French and Portuguese and all of them sounded just right. Literature ran from Cole Porter to Jobim and included a delightful song whose composers name I did not catch, but he has written a jewel of a song about Robert Frost that delighted the audience especially that and her rendition of you guessed it Moonlight in Vermont. What more could I have asked for? Well, it was Valentines Day, and we didnt get to hear My Funny Valentine, which would have been most appropriate. Maybe next time. Fleeman is the guitarists guitarist what he did with his instrument in terms of sound, what he accomplished in his riffs melodically, including brief references to other song melodies, was well-nigh miraculous. Howard on bass created some small miracles of his own by being a constant rhythmic pulse, and pulling off solo stints that anyone would have been proud to have played, especially a duple-rhythmed solo after intermission that was remarkable. Strait managed to make the drums that he had and the high hat cymbals whisper and shout, ring out or become a slight frisson of sound, and I especially admired the ending of one of the songs in the second half of the program which was nothing more than his moving his hands above his head rather like whispering vermouth over the edge of the martini glass to get the driest possible martini. Small wonder that Lane Series aficionados have been crowding the Recital Hall since the beginning of this years season with such ado about the artists who have been appearing, showing their approval by turning out in droves and delivering standing ovations to those who deserve them. It just makes sense. Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble
I attended the second of two concerts by the VCME at the McCarthy Arts Center at Saint Michaels College on Feb. 16. The program, titled Americana, featured two works: Going On (2007) by Thomas Read and Piano Trio (1911) by Charles Ives. The concert was preceded by a lecture hosted by Dr. Peter Hamlin, who commented upon the music of Charles Ives and interviewed Read. Perhaps the most riveting concept that was discussed was the relationship between freedom of composition and submission to forms: both Read and Hamlin agreed that forms are not restrictive per se, and that mastery of forms permits the user to play freely (a favorite concept of mine, most briefly encapsulated in the idea that one cannot think outside the box unless one knows all the parameters of the box). Read has used the form of a ground as a starting point for his five-movement trio for violin, clarinet, and piano. The form permeates and energizes the entire composition, whether by direct use or by deliberate non-use. What I took away from the concert with me was the distinct impression granted, given in a single hearing of the work that Read has created a work of importance. To be completely fair to Read it would take multiple hearings of the work, but I suspect that the multiple hearings would complement and strengthen the initial impression that the work gave. The performances by Paula Ennis, piano, Stephen Klimowski, clarinet, and Thomas Read, violin were impeccable. Ives has become better known in the last 50 years than during most of his life, when he was better known as an insurance executive. The trio for violin, cello, and piano was a work over which Ives labored for seven years before it was performed, and then greatly revised in the years 1914 and 1915. It is a masterpiece of construction and inspiration, and it contains the usual Ivesian employment of popular songs and hymns of his day, employed the way prior generations of composers had utilized the folk music of their countries. The first movement is created out of three 27-bar musical statements, the first statement made without the violin, the second made without the cello, and a third employing all three instruments. The second movement, marked TSIAJ Presto (this scherzo is a joke) is a composite work, filled with musical allusions, and it is devastatingly difficult for the musicians. The third movement, marked moderato con moto, ascends to its very moving climax through the use of the hymn Rock of Ages, among other less recognizable tunes. The playing of the Ives by Read, Ennis and cellist Bonnie Thurber Klimowski made of the work a vibrant whole, and they met with aplomb the grueling tasks set out by the composer. Their playing was coherent, elucidating, and up to their usual high standards of performance. Even allowing for less than perfect weather, the concert was woefully under-attended. The next VCME concert series will be April 18 and 19, and will feature a premier by Vermont composer Erik Nielsen. Briefly Noted
The Vermont Symphony Orchestra concert on Saturday, March 8 at the Flynn center in Burlington will feature violinist Soovin Kim, playing the Sibelius violin concerto, and will include Schumanns third Symphony and a new work, Radiance, by VSO composer-in-residence David Ludwig, which will feature principal oboist Nancy Dimock. Mark your calendars and order your tickets. The plan-ahead award goes to LOp_ de Montr_, which recently announced a coproduction with Op_ de Qu_c of the legendary rock opera Starmania Opera by Luc Plamondon and Michel Berger, arranged and orchestrated by conductor Simon Leclerc which will be offered in Montr_ in March 2009 repeat: 2009. For this March 12, 2008, Les id_ heureuses will offer a concert entitled Promenade _unich, which will feature vocal music from the reign of Duke Albert V of the Bavaria, including works by Orlando di Lasso, Bassano, Paumann, Rore, Senfl and Scheidemann; the concert will be held at 8 p.m. at St. Georges Anglican Church, 1101 Stanley, Montr_ for further information and tickets please call 514-843-588.