Ventura County Star
November 22, 2016
Names new to Ojai — including the Brentano Quartet and violinist Jennifer Koh — and some familiar groups like the International Contemporary Ensemble will be featured at the 2017 Ojai Music Festival in June.
The festival, entering its 71st year, is June 8-11 at Libbey Bowl. Thousands of people from all over the country typically visit for the four-day event.
Highlights include several works by Music Director Vijay Iyer, including the world premiere of his "Violin Concerto," written for and performed by Koh; the American premiere of his "Emergence" for trio and ensemble; and "Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi," a 37-minute Hindu festival film by Prashant Bhargava, for which Iyer wrote the music.
Other highlights include the West Coast premiere of the opera "Afterword" by George Lewis and the world premiere of the chamber version of "Yet Unheard," by Courtney Bryan, which memorializes Sandra Bland, an African American woman who died in police custody in Texas in 2015.
"Vijay believes a life in the arts is a life of service in imagining, building and enacting community that transcends heritage, nation and creed," Artistic Director Thomas W. Morris stated in a news release announcing the 2017 lineup. "The 2017 festival reflects these beliefs in the range of collaborators joining us."
He pointed to such performers as Carnatic vocalist Aruna Sairam, percussionist and composer Tyshawn Sorey and trumpet legend Wadada Leo Smith as representative of that wide range of talent.
Iyer said that this year's festival "feels like a good opportunity to update the idea of what music is today."
"As an artist," he stated in the release, "I like to insert myself into situations where some might not necessarily imagine I belong. I have many different affinities musically, and also very real associations across different musical communities, generations, geographic locations and traditions that speak to me and through me."
The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, which was started in Chicago in 1965 by a group of African-American experimentalists, plays a major role in this year's festival. Not only is trumpeter Smith a founding member of the group, but Lewis' opera "Afterword," is based on the history of the organization.
Returning to the festival this year will be 2015 Music Director Steven Schick and flautist Claire Chase. New to the festival are vocalist and composer Jen Shyu, tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain and saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa. Lewis will join his fellow members of The Trio, octogenarian pianist Muhal Richard Abrams and Roscoe Mitchell.
The festival opens on June 8, with the day devoted to Iyer. Schick will conduct both Iyer's "Emergence" and "Violin Concerto," then the evening will close with Iyer and trumpeter Smith performing together.
June 9 features a two-part afternoon concert beginning with Chase performing a selection from her recent "Density 2036" project. This 22-year program, which Chase came up with in 2014, involves the commission of an entirely new body of repertory for solo flute each year until the 100th anniversary of Edgard Varese's 1936 flute solo.
The second half of the concert will be Sorey's Double Trio in a program called "The Inner Spectrum of Variables." Ojai Music Festival regulars will remember Sorey from last year, when he composed and performed in the "Josephine Baker Portrait."
The evening of June 9 features Lewis' "Afterword," with Schick conducting. It will be performed by ICE with soprano Joelle Lamarre, contralto Gwendolyn Brown and tenor Julian Otis. It is semi-staged and directed by Sean Griffin.
The afternoon of June 10 begins with a program by the Brentano Quartet, followed by Sorey's "Conduction," described as "a 60-minute piece of new music for an ensemble of 20 players being composed in real time — none of the performers nor conductor have a note of music in front of them."
The evening of June 10 features "Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi," which Schick will conduct and ICE will perform as the film is being projected live on the Libbey Bowl stage.
Sunday afternoon features Hussain, Iyer, Mahanthappa and Sairam, with the closing concert featuring the Vijay Iyer Sextet.
Rounding out the festival are talks with the musicians and two daybreak concerts at Besant Hill School featuring Jen Shyu on June 9 and Nicole Mitchell on June 10. There are also free late-night concerts, with Koh performing "Bach and Beyond" on June 9 and Iyer and the Brentano Quartet performing June 10, followed by "Yet Unheard" later that evening. There will also be a free community concert the morning of June 11.
Cal Performances' Ojai at Berkeley will take place after the festival, on June 15-17.
2017 Ojai Music Festival, June 8-11, Ojai's Libbey Bowl and other venues for talks and daybreak concerts
COST: Series passes range from $140 to $860 for reserved seating. Lawn series passes start at $60. Single concert tickets will be available in the spring.
INFO: 646-2053 or at OjaiFestival.org.
Copyright © Ventura County Star