September 2011

Music at First started back up again September 2, with its first-ever benefit concert, graciously given by pianist Kathleen Supové and guitarist James Moore, who paired up for their debut as A Musical Sacrifice. Check out my video clips from the concert above, and, as always, be sure to wear headphones so as to get all the nuance-y goodness out of the fine pieces they played.

From the delicate Lou Harrison transcriptions played by James to Lainie Fefferman’s dramatic, trill-based “Barnacles”–love the sound of Kathleen banging on the low strings–to the bombastic opening of John Zorn’s “Piece XIV” from Sebastopol, the concert was a satisfying mix of new music sounds from both established and younger contemporary composers. This also included whisper-quiet selections from Larry Polansky’s Songs and Toods and Lisa R. Coons’ jagged “A Quiet Struggle”–which had James dragging childrens’ chopsticks between fretboard and strings.

Perhaps the most striking piece on the program was Marita Bolles’ “Buddha Girl,” which blended portions of an interview with a woman who lost her daughter in the 9/11 attacks with atmospheric piano and electronics accompaniment. Beautifully performed by Kathleen, the result was painfully moving.

Debuting as A Musical Sacrifice, James and Kathleen alternated interviewing each other about their solo selections, as well as asking for a stray-object-sacrifice from the audience (I put a wine cork in the basket). They ended the concert as a duo with Nick Didkovsky’s “She Closes Her Sister With Heavy Bones,” an angular, charged piece that had prepared piano and guitar weaving in and out of synch with each other in a kind of spiky dance.

Morningside Opera is fast becoming NYC’s most innovative company for the interpretation of Baroque vocal music (see my review of their Handel concert earlier this year). I recently caught them in the act at a sold-out show at Jimmy’s No. 43, an East Village bar/venue. The work was The Judgment of Paris–check out Steve Smith‘s excellent overview of the piece in his New York Times review of this performance–in which Paris holds a pageant to determine whether Athena, Juno, or Venus is most deserving of the top prize, in this case a gilded banana. The company took Paris’ line “When each is undress’d I’ll judge of the best, for ’tis not a face that will carry the prize” and ran with it: about halfway through the show each of the goddesses stripped down to lingerie and attempted to seduce a befuddled and excited Paris.

As always with MO, the singing, acting, and staging were superb, all of which are crucial when performing in spaces that don’t typically host operatic events and are therefore lean on extravagant sets.  Throughout the concert I felt like I was experiencing this particular opera in the perfect setting, where the humor and innuendo could be uninhibitedly appreciated.

And you’re in luck! Morningside Opera will be giving a special repeat performance of Judgment at Jimmy’s No. 43 on Tuesday, October 11, at 7:30 p.m. This will be followed by their second “Diva Search” in which attendees can sing their favorite arias karaoke-style.