First Contact: Celebrating Women Who Compose – Originally published in Artborne Magazine

Composers Sharon Omens and Bethany Yucuis Borden appeared on my WPRK radio show, Zero Crossings on February 27, to discuss their March 7 concert event, Celebrating Women Who Compose, which took place at the Blue Bamboo Center For The Arts in Winter Park. A reprise of the concert was given on March 17 at Christ Church Unity. Presented by the Central Florida Composers Forum to mark Women’s History Month, the music was written entirely by women composers, most of whom live and work locally. Our conversation ranged from the Holocaust to virtual reality to the changing experience of women composers in a discipline with a sexist history. What follows is an excerpt from an hour-long conversation.

Charlie Griffin: Sharon, tell me about the concert.

Sharon Omens: I’m very excited about it. It’s basically a celebration of women composers. There are four composers who are local and other women composers from the past and present.

I have two pieces on the program. One is called “Whimsical Rhapsody,” for violin and piano. I will be playing the piano with a UCF violin student, Jordan Bicasan. And David Suarez is going to be playing a piece of mine for solo flute. It’s a piece I wrote for my dad, who died two years ago. It’s called “Redemption.” He was a survivor of the Holocaust, and he survived a lot of horrific events. He became a successful businessman and overcame a lot of adversity. I wanted to honor him with this piece. It has a mix of tonal music, but parts of it are very dissonant and intense, because he was an intense individual. It takes you on a journey of his life.

CG: What was that like, growing up with a father who had that experience as part of his psyche?

SO: He was a tough cookie. It was not easy. He was fearful and he was mistrustful. Rightfully so. He was a difficult man to get along with. There were times when he was very passionate and charismatic and present, and there were times when he was very difficult to be with and he would push people out of his life because he couldn’t deal with being close to people. As I got older, I made up my mind to make peace with him. Before he died, I spent quite a bit of time with him and just let him know all the things I was grateful for. We were able to make peace. We sang together the week before he died. I held his hand and we sang Jewish songs together and we both cried. It was a kind of a bond that we had—music. So, I felt very strongly that I wanted to honor him musically.

CG: How was music the nature of your bond?

SO: My father was very musical. He had a beautiful, operatic voice. He never trained it, but he loved to sing, and we used to harmonize. He had a beautiful voice and he was passionate about opera. He listened to La Boheme and Madame Butterfly all the time, and that was when he was able to let all his emotions out. He would sit on the couch with a big towel and cry. Music enabled him to access his emotions. It’s kind of why I got into music therapy as a career. I worked with the developmentally disabled for a while. Primarily, I took an interest in the elderly, and got involved with working with Alzheimer’s patients. Music was a way that they could come out of their shell. It would reconnect them to their childhoods or help them focus.

CG: What was the location where your father experienced the Holocaust?

SO: He has quite a story. He grew up in Warsaw, Poland. He grew up in the ghetto. There was a lot of anti-Semitism, and in 1939 when it really started getting bad, he escaped with his father in an illegal ship. After two months on a ship, they arrived in Palestine, and they got shot at and they had to swim to shore. About three months later, he got a letter from Warsaw that his family had been killed. His mother, his brother, his sister, and a hundred of his relatives. He had a huge family, and they were part of the Warsaw Resistance. A lot of them were hiding in cellars and died of typhoid. It tore my father apart.

CG: He had survivor’s guilt.

SO: Absolutely. In order to honor his family, he had to make something of his life. He was like a bull. So, I admired him, and yet he was so difficult at the same time.

CG: You’re the one left struggling to give him a pass on that stuff, right? You have to have the empathy and the compassion that recognizes what he went through, but that has to be hard, too. I can see that.

SO: My other two sisters, they just burned out. He actually died without saying goodbye to them. They just disowned each other. There was no forgiveness there.

CG: Have you been to Warsaw?

SO: I’ve never been to Warsaw. I’ve been to Israel. I went to high school there.

CG: I happened to be in Warsaw during the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising. There was a really powerful set of events and commemorations that were happening at the time. I don’t know if you know this—and this sounds a lot like your father’s stubbornness—but the Poles were determined to rebuild and restore Warsaw brick-by-brick by brick to its pre-war condition so that they effectively undid the damage done by the Nazis, and they were pretty close in 2004. I remember going to the museum there and looking at wartime maps of troop maneuvers, and you could easily see just how impossible their situation was. While I was there, there was this palpable Polish pride in having been resistant the entire time. And nearby, you look at Prague, it was completely untouched because they chose to not resist the Nazis at all. I got to have a conversation with a local, elderly Polish man who was there during the uprising. We were in a main square in the city, and I still get moved by retelling it. He pointed to a building across the street and said, “I watched a Canadian relief supply plane get shot down and explode right there.”

SO: My father actually wrote a book about the Warsaw ghetto and it’s fascinating.

CG: Bethany, how did you get involved with the concert?

Bethany Borden: I met Sharon through the Central Florida Composers Forum a few months ago. When I first joined the Central Florida Composers Forum, I realized very quickly how many different ways you can approach and compose music, and what a variety of talents and skills we have within that group. Sharon and I started working together to plan for this concert, and it’s really worked out because not only have we been working on this event, but we’ve managed to start making music together. We’ve collaborated on a spoken word and piano piece that we’ll do on both concerts, a recitation of a Maya Angelou poem called “Phenomenal Woman.” I got a degree in Music Education from UCF. I was a voice major who also played trumpet in the marching band and other ensembles. I taught music in OCPS for ten years. But in 2013-14, my husband and his friend created a game studio called Outhouse Games. We started with mobile games, and I wrote a piano piece for our first game, Stacker. And that reignited a spark in me that enjoyed creating music. I quit teaching in 2014 to start composing full time. For the concert, I’m presenting a percussion ensemble piece for a virtual reality game, and will include video from the game. I’m using vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel, and tubular bells. I wanted to take my fundamental background with live instruments and bring that music and style to video games.

CG: Tell me more about Outhouse Games.

BB: Our first three games were mobile games, and what money we made really came from advertising, but the market got really saturated, so now we’re working with virtual reality. We’re working on a VR game, called Ancient Remains, that’s set in ancient Egypt. We have a team of five right now. We have two artists, a programmer, and my husband integrates audio and I write the music. The game is coming out very soon.

CG: A New York Times article from today said that “the popularity of Sony’s Playstation VR surprised even the company. Executives at Sony were cautious about the VR headsets, but after four months of robust sales, the skeptics are converting.” So, it looks like VR is really on the rise. I’m surprised it wasn’t developed faster than it was.

BB: There were some kinks to work out with things like the frame rate. People used to sometimes feel seasick, like when you move quickly, your eyes need to catch up with your brain or vice versa. That’s been eliminated. What we do is we teleport. You press a button and it shows an arc to where you’re going to go, and when you release the button you’re there. The technology has come a very long way in the last three to four years.

CG: Who else is involved with your concert?

SO: Composer and pianist Eric Brook is going to play a piece by Clara Schumann called “Praludium II.” Chan Ji Kim, who is a professor at the Eastern Florida State College, will present selections from a collection of short pieces based on children’s nighttime stories and lullabies, performed by soprano Sarah Cheatham. Soprano and pianist Julie Bateman will perform “Between Worlds” by Anne Marie Davis and “Winter’s Tear” by Jeannie Cotter. Local composer and pianist Rebekah Todia will present two songs: “She Walks In Beauty,” to a poem by Lord Byron, and “The Solitary,” to a poem by Madison J. Cawein. It’s a great program and we’re really proud of it.

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First Contact: Chakra Khan – Originally published in Artborne Magazine

Alexandra Love Sarton and DiViNCi have long, overlapping musical histories here in Orlando. They both co-founded the hip-hop quartet Solillaquists of Sound, and more recently formed a duo working under the band name Chakra Khan. They appeared on my WPRK radio show, Zero Crossings, on February 6th, to discuss their upcoming album release, The Cope Aesthetic. What follows is an excerpt from a two-hour conversation.

Image provided by the artist.

Charlie Griffin: DiViNCi, you’re a producer and an MPC-ist. Some people may need an explanation of what that means.

DiViNCi: Basically, I play drum machines live. An MPC is a MIDI Production Center [MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface—the code protocol used to translate musical information from electronic instruments to computers]. I’ve been called a finger drummer or a controllerist. It’s got a lot of names because it’s a newer art.

It’s a series of pads into which you can load audio samples of any kind, with the additional capacity to run those samples through filters and reverbs, or otherwise process the samples in real time with all sorts of effects on them. And you can layer them, loop them, and create entire songs this way.

DiViNCi: Right, right. I can assign any sound I want to any pad. I can add in drum machines and guitar effects pedals too. It’s like a science experiment on stage. The same thing that I use to create all the music in the studio is the same thing that I bring on stage.

You’re self-taught. When it comes to music, there are only so many formal learning pathways, and they’re very traditional. There are only so many mechanisms available to a curious, creative mind interested in new technologies. The existing mold doesn’t fit everybody. I’m really fascinated by the trajectory that you wind up taking, where you have the passion, you have the desire, and you have a developing skill set, but there’s nobody there to guide your thinking.

DiViNCi: Which is a benefit, I think, because there are new molds to be made. I’m giving a talk at Full Sail University this month, for their Hall of Fame Week, about all the different careers that exist now because of all these different molds. I attribute my secure place in the industry to my unconventional musical upbringing.

In the beginning it can look like a completely foreign, scary territory, and at some point you turn around to look back and discover that you’ve carved something out for yourself.

DiViNCi: Luckily, I started when I was a kid. My ignorance was also a part of my musical upbringing. Because I was driven just purely by passion, with no working knowledge, it brought me to a place where I found my own voice. I grew up in a small town called Womelsdorf, in rural Pennsylvania. My mother was a caterer and a waitress. My father was in the National Guard and Army Reserves. Martial arts was the first thing I got passionate about, and it colors how I look at everything else I know. I pull a lot of things from my martial arts training into my music. I studied a few different martial arts. A lot of Okinawan Kempo. My father is Filipino, and the thing that stuck with me the most was Filipino martial arts, like stuff you’d see in The Bourne Identity. The Holy Grail of martial arts, as taught to me by my father, is the experience of being in flow. When you get a technique down well, you practice it so long it becomes reflexive. You don’t have to think about it. The greatest part of music to me is performing. And that’s where I found the greatest example of the flow in my art, where I don’t think, and things just happen spontaneously. I’m taken care of by something greater. I let the music come through me rather than try to control it.

Is it safe to say that there’s a certain physicality to how you approach the MPC, then? You build up a muscle memory around patterns?

DiViNCi: Right, right, right. It’s definitely all about physicality because the thing that stops flow is when you get in your head. And one of the easiest ways to get out of your head is to get into your body. And I find that both in martial arts and in music. When I’m sitting still and creating music in the studio, the sedentary nature of being at a computer lends itself to getting trapped in my head a lot more, and not really trusting that I don’t need to be in total control to create something that I like. I get to trust a bigger part of myself when I’m performing, because I’m actually trusting my body. It’s one of the reasons why I move so much on stage.

In order to be in that flow, there still must be a preparation phase as well. When you’re at the beginning of building up what will become your track, you must collect in your imagination a palette of sample options, timbres, and textures, and a sense of how they’re going to layer, work together, or contrast before you ever get to the live performance. What is that process like for you?

DiViNCi: It’s a different form of flow, I think. There’s much more of a dance between learning and practicing and playing around and experimenting. I have a ton of options these days. I get the question a lot, “How do you know when something’s done; how do you know when you’ve got the right sound?” For me, there’s a very physical reaction. Sometimes, if a song’s not done, like it’s 98% done, and I feel the 2% is missing, I’ll start to dislike the song. It annoys me. I keep working at it, that little 2%. And then I love it, when I find it.

How did Solillaquists of Sound, and more recently Chakra Khan, get formed?

DiViNCi: I came down here to study in Full Sail University’s Recording Arts degree program in 2000. Towards the end of my time at Full Sail, I was introduced to MC Swamburger, who knew Alexandra Love Sarton from Chicago. We started working together. He brought down Alex. Alex and I knocked an album out in a week. And we all hit it off. We formed Solillaquists of Sound along with my wife, Tonya Combs. We’ve all been living together since, for the last 15 years.

CG: (To Alex) How did you and MC Swamburger come together?

ALS: I went to Columbia College in Chicago to study film directing and editing. I met Swam there and we became good friends, and he heard me singing one day. He said, “Wait, why are you going to school for film? You should be singing.” I hadn’t really thought about it before. But he and I started making music before he moved back to Orlando because his parents were here. After he met DiViNCi and Tonya, they all came up to visit me in Chicago. They came on a Sunday, and by Wednesday I’d given away all my stuff to move down here. I hadn’t planned on doing music, but when he said it, it felt right.

CG: And you all live in a house together?

ALS: Yes, we live in a house together, which is great, because it’s a big enough house where we all have our own space, but then we can make music constantly. So it has been like a non-stop factory of creativity for over a decade.

CG: Here’s what I’ve picked up about you from knowing you at Sak Comedy Lab, but even more from your presence on Facebook: You seem devoted to creativity in every form that you can muster. You sell mandala and other types of coloring books; you have several musical groups that you belong to; you are very philosophical on Facebook and spiritually generous about it. The language of self-help is common on Facebook. But you have a higher signal-to-noise ratio than most. I wonder what kind of stuff you’ve studied to arrive at the things that you’ve said.

ALS: For me, it’s weird to talk about these things because it’s so easy to fall into cliché, and I’m hyper-aware of that possibility. I share authentically, and the BS factor is way down, or non-existent, because I don’t live in that place. I try to just use my own experience and the things I’ve learned from it. Moving from Chicago to Orlando and starting over, trying to be an entrepreneur, building something up in the music industry, going on tour in the country and then the world—there are a lot of lessons in all that.

CG: What stood out for you on tour?

ALS: A recent performance with Solillaquists was a festival on an island off the coast of Madagascar. France has an unlimited amount of creative, beautifully put together festivals. But I most love performing in natural, outdoor spaces.

CG: You just opened for Lauryn Hill. How did that come to pass?

ALS: DiViNCi’s been working with her for the past five years, so we got know her and her crew.

CG: What about your musical background? I imagine you’re doing the bulk, if not all, of the composing for the women’s vocal group you lead, Beautiful Chorus. Are you writing some of these songs for Chakra Khan too?

ALS: I played the violin for nine years. I grew up playing in an orchestra. I sometimes will write lyrics and a melody and give them to DiViNCi, or sometimes he will give me just a drum track, and I’ll create a symphony of voices over that. I write all the Beautiful Chorus stuff. We do full rhythmic songs; we do a cappella hymns; we do wordless waves of harmony with music; and we do mantras, which are, for lack of a better term, positive affirmations repeated in harmony.

CG: What’s the story with the newest Chakra Khan release, The Cope Aesthetic?

ALS: We’re releasing the album song by song. We’re releasing one on Valentine’s Day. And then a song every few weeks from there for two or three months, and then we’ll release it as an album and have a party.

DiViNCi: We just want people to follow the process, follow the website, and have an extended experience of the release instead of dropping it all at once. With all the projects we do, we want to include people in the process as much as possible.

ALS: I’ll be making music videos for many of the songs. And artwork for the album. For the cover, we’re going to work with geometry. It’s about looking at our lives like, this plus this is creating this reality for me, so if I can change one of the two variables involved, then my trajectory is different. What it equals can change. The Cope Aesthetic is like looking at things differently, which to me always feels like geometry. Ever since growing up, I felt like there was an equation to life that we could implement that would help make it easier. And I feel like my life experience has been about uncovering what that means for myself.

Follow the release of The Cope Aesthetic at

Deanna Morse’s short film, “Clear” premiered at Art31’s CulturePop, March 3

I collaborated on the score with composer Stephen Cox for Deanna Morse’s short film, Clear (see below). The film was the result of Morse’s residency at the Art & History Museum of Maitland, FL. The film was premiered at their Culture Pop event, part of their month-long celebration called Art31.

More than an exhibition opening, Culture Pop! engages guests with art and the artists. Be the first to see the Art31: Borrowed Light exhibition, in A&H’s Maitland Art Center, featuring Stephen Knapp, Deanna Morse and Ryan Buyssens. Join as we kick off the most experimental and collaborative art festival in Florida:

• 10 Questions with the artists & A&H’s Chief Curator
• Nathan Selikoff’s Audiograph — interactive art projection
• C.R. Barnett’s immersive Art31 Talking Room
• Short films from the Enzian Theater
• Live music by The Pauses & James Dreffen
• Literary readings, moderated by A&H’s Writer-in-Residence
• Pop-up exhibition by Artist-in-Action Suzanne Oberholtzer
• Try the Earthtones: the Ixchel Song Garden instruments
• Meet A&H’s Artists-in-Action & Art School instructors
• Light bites & cash bar

Admission: $5; FREE for A&H members
Culture Pop! is presented by Maitland Vision Center and Orlando Weekly with special thanks to community partner Performing Arts of Maitland. Art31 is produced by Art & History Museums – Maitland and funded in part by Orange County Government through the Arts and Cultural Affairs Program.

First Contact: Yes, and Dave Gibbs – Originally published in Artborne Magazine

Improv comedy is alive and well in Orlando, and it’s as fascinating a world on the inside as it might seem from the outside. I caught the improv bug about two years ago, following a whim instigated by a coworker who was going to try one of Sak Comedy Lab’s free trial improv classes in downtown Orlando. Back in New York, more than a decade ago, I’d been on a couple of dates with a woman who animatedly swore by the power of improv. Although I can’t remember her name, her love of improv somehow was registered permanently within me as something worth trying.

Amy Poehler told Charlie Rose that, “Improv turns me on, because it’s truly dangerous. It’s an alchemy. It’s dependent on the other, on listening actively and taking risks and chances.” It’s also a tool for unfiltered self-expression—for being accepting, present, and spontaneous—and for mental flexibility. It’s not for everyone. It can be a helluva lot of fun. And it can be rough. To clarify the distinction between improv comedy and standup comedy: improv is a form of theater where most or all of what happens on stage unfolds collaboratively in real time between the scene partners, without a script or prepared dialogue. Short-form improv usually overlays a game of sorts over the improvisation, while long-form improv usually creates strings of short scenes that are somehow linked by interrelated themes, characters, or stories. Most improv scenes take a suggestion from the audience to inspire the start of it.

Sak Comedy Lab has become a powerful regional force for quality improv comedy. They offer six levels of classes that fill regularly. There are two levels of advanced, non-professional performing ensembles. They additionally offer workshops and public performance opportunities for aspiring improvisers such as the Rookie Rumble series and The Brawl for All. Many smaller improv teams have formed in recent years after going through Sak’s classes, and are successfully performing at improv festivals throughout the Southeast. The pro ensemble also does special corporate performances.

Improv workshops and seminars have become a frequent feature in corporate training and development since the 1990s. Corporations often want their employees to embrace at least one of improv’s time-honored principles, namely the concept of “yes, and.” “Yes, and” demands that an improviser treats whatever their scene partner does or says as an offering that must be accepted as part of the reality of the scene. The improviser then builds upon the offer with their own contribution, and so on. As Forbes magazine puts it, “These skills turn out to be particularly useful in workplaces that rely on adaptability.”

A wonderful feature of the pro-ensemble performances at Sak shows and on many of their corporate run-outs is that there is almost always another performer off-stage, unseen but definitely heard. Sak utilizes a bevy of improvising pianists: Kristin Eley, Dave Gibbs, Chris Leavy, Steve Merritt, Anthony Riley, and Tim Turner.

Dave Gibbs, photo by Jason Fronczek
I spoke with Dave Gibbs, who has been playing piano with Sak for almost 15 years. He began formal piano training at age six, and was classically trained for 11 years. He almost finished college with studies in chemistry and microbiology, working towards a pre-med degree, but music kept luring him back to its path. Not only a pianist, Gibbs is also a talented vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. Just like improv, music careers are often built on “yes, and.” We say yes to everything. Sometimes too many things. Gibbs joined or fronted bands that sometimes got close to that elusive combination of synergy and timing that allows for an emergence onto a broader-than-local stage. One band, Alter Ego, had some regional play. Another, Canvas, almost got signed. Gibbs also worked at Sam Ash and Mars, demonstrating and selling keyboards and related technology. He started a career teaching music theory, songwriting, and project development at Full Sail University, where he still is teaching today. At some point in there, Gibbs said “yes, and” to Sak and added that to the mix, too.

A work-mate from Mars Music, John Wagner, who was playing piano for Sak at the time, invited Gibbs to a performance. Gibbs thought, “It looked like fun. I watched a few shows and I just started doing it, working in the Lab. I did that for a few years pretty regularly, on the weekends. It was a steady income.”

What drew him to it was the sense of fun, but he also discovered aspects of his musical self in the process. “Because of my range and classical training, I discovered I could apply a film score to something instantaneously. I always felt that whenever I watched anything or composed anything, I could move emotion around musically, almost instantly, innately. Some musicians really like to know in advance what they’re going to be playing, but I really like playing off the cuff. I really like improvising.”

Even though it’s happening nearly instantaneously, there’s still a process underneath. “You have a filing cabinet, a bag of tricks that you’re used to. I know how to make something sound like depression, or joy, or French, or this or that. I’ve got all these little tricks. I’ve gathered them over the years, and if you know music theory, you can remember it, because you understand what makes up the [intended] musical language.”

One of the things that sets Sak apart from many other improv troupes is just how often on-the-spot songs are improvised by the actors. “With songwriting, you learn how to guide them through the songs that they make up. You know what a chorus is. You know what kind of chords to use. You know the places in the scale you want be. And how to raise the tension and release it, because that’s all it really is in the end: tension and resolution.”

Gibbs loves the behind-the-scenes aspect of performing with the actors. “One of the most beautiful things about it is you’re not the center of attention. I get to be something else. It’s not me on stage playing for a crowd.” Since he has been doing this for so long and has become so familiar with the language of improv, Gibbs gets to be another actor. Which means that he gets to make offers to the actors. “I really try to support them. To make the jokes that much better. I play like an actor. When they’re doing a Forward-Reverse scene, I’ll play what I just played backwards whenever they need to go backwards. If they slow down, I’ll move down in register. I remember because they have to remember, too. They taught me so much about music, about not overdoing it. To create space. To get to the heart of it.”

What Gibbs has gotten from playing improv sounds a lot like what my date in New York got from it, and what I myself have gotten from it: “It not only changed my sense of humor, but it’s elevated my conversational skills. And my teaching! I listen. I’m more accepting. Being silly and free is really cleansing. To let go and have that trust, and to find laughter in it is really illuminating. Every musician should experience a role like this. There is no sheet music. You’re not the center of attention. You’re improvising, but not soloing. It’s a musical place that every musician should get to try.”

Gibb’s most recent original music project was the band The Deep Field Now, a creative future-rock sound collaboration. More currently, he is concentrating on writing solo singer-songwriting music for guitar and piano, and writing music for a new project called The Peace Lounge. A new rock band is also in development. You can hear some of his work with The Deep Field Now at

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First Contact: Voices of Light – Originally published in Artborne Magazine

Founded at Rollins College in 1935, the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park is the oldest continuously operating arts organization in Central Florida. Led by artistic director and conductor John Sinclair since 1990, the Bach Festival Society has forged a reputation as a mainstay of our cultural calendar and a pillar of the arts community. That reputation rests in part on the formidable forces brought to bear: with a full-sized professional orchestra and a more than 150-voice auditioned volunteer choir, Sinclair is able to lead the group through live performances of massive works that are themselves considered mainstays of the historical repertoire, such as Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Brahms’ German Requiem or Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.

Bach Festival performance, photo by Jason Fronczek

Alongside the Bach Festival’s longstanding commitment to devote its resources to these large-scale masterpieces is their commitment to honor the new. On November 18 and 19, the Bach Festival presented Voices of Light, a large-scale multimedia work conceived by composer Richard Einhorn in 1994. Voices of Light merges Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc with a live performance of Einhorn’s original music for orchestra, chorus, and soloists.

By itself, the film has a fascinating history. Based on the actual transcript of the trial of Joan of Arc, and starring Renée Jeanne Falconetti, the film depicts her captivity, trial, and execution in England. Henry Maldonado, The Enzian Theater’s president and collaborator with the Bach Festival for the event, says that we “watch these classics in the present. Great films stand on their own. We don’t need to make allowances for them.”

What Maldonado means about the power of classic films when viewed in the present, is that a classic film’s direction and treatment of themes allow viewers to identify sympathetically with the film’s characters, and within that identification, to recognize our own humanity. The Passion of Joan of Arc thematizes feminine power in the face of patriarchal oppression and persecution; individual power vs. institutional authority; and personal beliefs versus doctrine. The film is intense, with a focus on Joan of Arc’s experience: her courage, her doubts, and her renewed resolve in the face of mounting pressure are all presented in often extreme, close-up detail. The authorities scan like living portrait paintings—wrinkled, grey, and imperious. The film is, at times, uncomfortable to watch, with its passionate foreground hyperrealism set against a background deliberately skewed to be expressionistic and off-putting. The added fact that Voices of Light was performed in the The Knowles Memorial Chapel at Rollins College created a setting conducive to viewing the film in the present.

Bach Festival performance, photo by Jason Fronczek

John Sinclair has made a regular habit of presenting works by living composers out of personal interest and a sense of obligation to the historical role that conductors often play as facilitators of new masterpieces. “I’ve always felt that an organization like the Bach Festival should also do new pieces. Bach’s music was also once new. Bach would feel the same way.” Sinclair loves “the challenge of being the first interpreter, along with the potential to affect performance practice. I get to participate in the spirit of creative composition.”

Einhorn’s music indeed afforded Sinclair an opportunity to participate creatively. For example, the opening chant melody is unassigned by the composer in terms of who sings it. Einhorn chose to leave that to the discretion of whomever is performing the work. Sinclair chose to treat it as a candle-lit processional sung by college women from Rollins, as a subtle thematic tie-in that primes us to make the connection between the film’s depiction of the oppression of women and the continued persistence of the issue in contemporary society.

There are also unusual challenges for the conductor. The film is a fixed entity that will not change in terms of its timing. In Hollywood, a film score is typically the final audio element added to a film, after the dialogue, foley, and additional effects are finalized. When a film score is recorded, there is a tempo-based click track that the conductor can follow over headphones so that the timing of the music lands precisely with the intended hit-points. To aid this process, SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) time-code is stamped onto contemporary films to aid with synchronization of all audio elements. Sinclair didn’t have the benefit of SMPTE time-code or a click track. It was no easy task, but he feels that it enhanced his appreciation of the film because he had to identify for himself where he thought the hit-points should be, choosing things like “left foot hits tile,” or “kind monk nods.” It meant behaving as though he was an accompanist to the film, manually speeding up or slowing down his massive ensemble to adjust for the demands of both the music and the film in real time.

Bach Festival performance, photo by Jason Fronczek
The success of Voices of Light is representative of a trend. Other recent, well-received Bach Festival Society concerts have also featured contemporary works. Paul Moravec’s Music, Awake! was commissioned by the Bach Festival Society to celebrate John Sinclair’s 25 years as Music Director in 2015. In 2014, an evening was devoted to the music of Morten Lauridsen, including his O Magnum Mysterium and Lux Aeterna. The Lauridsen concert also represented another collaboration with The Enzian, who screened a documentary film about the composer called Shining Night. These events have typically included appearances by the composers themselves for panel discussions and other events and classes that benefit audiences and students.

Especially exciting is John Sinclair’s renewed commitment, starting in 2017, to presenting not just contemporary works, but new works by composers living right here in Central Florida. Sinclair states that “the success that we had with the Lauridsen concert helped pique the interest of the local audience. It helped break down stereotypes about new art. This is going to allow an ongoing flow of this, on a bigger scale. Maybe it can lead to a whole evening of new, local work.”

In the 2017-18 season we will hear Dan Crozier’s new double clarinet concerto, and starting in 2018-19, with the cooperation of the Central Florida Composers Forum, at least one new choral work by a local composer will be presented annually.

Commitments like this to nurturing local artists at the grassroots level make Orlando an increasingly exciting and promising cultural scene.

The Bach Festival Society;
The Enzian Theater;
Richard Einhorn;
Voices of Light was made possible by Gladdening Light, an organization whose mission “is to explore transcendent elements of art through hosted conferences, exhibits & public performance, cloistered retreat, and pilgrimage.”

First Contact: Keeping Time – Originally published in Artborne Magazine

It’s Tuesday night at Orlando’s Marks Street Senior Recreation Center, and a small but enthusiastic collection of seniors are here to dance. At 7pm, nine couples are already on the dance floor and ready to go. The hall is dimly lit, with six of the nine ceiling fans illuminated and spinning above. There sits a thin, wooden platform overlaid on standard vinyl tile, which is flanked on three sides by large, unadorned banquet tables capable of accommodating five or six couples each.

Tony Pizzurro on trumpet, photo by Jason Fronczek

On the fourth side of the dance floor is Trumpet Blues: an 11–piece band founded over 25 years ago by trumpeter and now-retired mechanical engineer, Tony Pizzurro. The musicians come at this from many angles: for some of them this is the only public music-making they do all week because of non-musical day jobs, while for others it’s one fun gig amongst many.

The other trumpeter is Eric Wright, an Adjunct Professor of Humanities and History at Valencia College. John Babb, the baritone saxophonist, works for Charles Schwab and is also a real estate developer. I knew Melissa Davis as a yoga instructor at Warrior One on Corrine Drive in Audubon Park before I learned she plays second alto saxophone in the group. The singer, Barbara Jones, is an executive assistant at The Wyndham. Kurt Sterling, on tenor saxophone, does instrument repair and makes mouthpieces. They blend in seamlessly with the working musicians: the lead alto saxophonist Gerald Retner, bassist Larry Jacoby, trombonist Will Rogers, drummer Bill Cole, and Howard Herman—the pianist, composer, and frequent arranger for the band.

Herman has created over a dozen arrangements for Trumpet Blues, including some original compositions. His contributions complement the more than two hundred songs the band has ready to go at any given moment. Meringues, rumbas, sambas, cha-chas, tangos, and foxtrots make up the majority of tunes requested of the band. Pizzurro consults with Jones and calls out tunes by their number so the musicians can locate them easily in their thick binders of sheet music, and the dancers come so regularly that they have some of the tune numbers memorized themselves. Most of the songs are understandably on the moderately paced side.

I see grace, dignity, and playfulness as couples revolve past each other, occasionally offering greetings to each other as they rotate past. I engage a few couples in conversation as they take small breaks, with a lot of repeating ourselves to be heard over the band.

93 years old and still incredibly spry, John Ticen and his wife Clarice have been coming to Marks Street for 20 years. Joe grew up loving planes during the Great Depression in Indiana and served as a pilot in the Air Force, flying patrol and interception missions in Panama during World War II. Using the GI Bill after the war, Joe became an engineer and moved to Florida in 1957 to work for Martin, which would eventually become Lockheed Martin. He’d wanted to be a pilot his whole life, but the timing was wrong for him to become a commercial pilot. By the time that would have become a possibility, he was already an engineer with a family. He started dancing lessons in 1972, and found that he “enjoyed the hell out of that.”

Faye Novick and Maurice Salamy, photo by Jason Fronczek

One of the dancers makes a request for Herman’s arrangement of “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?”

Joe and Lucy Birkemeier travel weekly to Orlando from Ocoee. The couple has been coming to Marks Street for upwards of fifteen years, when the band playing was smaller, and the dancers were far greater in number. Joe had done competitive dancing in a Balkan folk dance group in his youth in Ohio. The Birkemeiers are 87 and 85 years old, respectively, and an observation shared by them and other couples is that the reduction in dancers is for obvious reasons: they are aging and dying, which is impossible not to notice because there are fewer and fewer younger people taking up ballroom dancing.

But there is one younger couple dancing amongst the seniors. With a buoyant, irrepressible energy, JoHelen Breen-Skinner, “Jo! Helen! With an haitch! No space!”, is an Irish-born bundle of energy in a fedora and short dress with a machine-gun speech pattern reminiscent of a 1920s flapper girl. She is there with her new dancing partner, Dancin’ Dan, a dance instructor here in Orlando. They are joyful on the dance floor, with the confidence of experience and talent, but they clearly also take care not to show up their floormates. They’re respectful regulars, and JoHelen knows many of the couples there. She suggests I talk to another couple who has a truly remarkable story, and who visually stood out to me, too, because they seem about forty years apart in age.

The band starts the slow introduction to their arrangement of Irene Cara’s “What a Feeling” from Flashdance—the fastest piece of the night so far. Lucy Birkemeier dances Joe along a path to where I am sitting with JoHelen and Dancin’ Dan. She leans close to me with a conspiratorial twinkle in her eye, and whispers a warning, “Watch what’s going to happen next!” I disappoint her a little by informing her that I know that the song is going to pick up speed, and feel a twinge of guilt at unintentionally robbing her of successfully surprising the newcomer. The floor is a little emptier, but the remaining dancers handle the tempo with panache. Handkerchiefs emerge at the end to mop sweat from brows.

Photo by Jason Fronczek

I make my way to the opposite side of the hall to discover the story of the couple that JoHelen and others suggested. It’s a story more touching, poignant, and lovely than I ever would have guessed. Maurice Salamy met Sally, “the most beautiful woman [he’d] ever seen,” when he popped up on the street level from a New York City subway during Fleet Week in 1947, and immediately asked her to go dancing. A single mother of two girls, Sally tried to put him off, but he was persistent. She relented on the condition that of the dance halls nearby, he take her to “the expensive one.” Fast forward through 64 years of married life, parenthood, and dancing to the year 2011. Sally was now ready to celebrate her 100th birthday. And because they’d never had an official wedding ceremony, they made a double party of it by having a vow renewal ceremony at their synagogue. Faye Novick, a local event planner, handled the details for the occasion. Three years later, at 103, Sally passed away, leaving behind several children and a lifetime of happy memories for Maurice, twelve years her junior. Faye Novick had been deeply moved by Maurice and Sally’s romantic story. After Sally’s passing, she committed herself to start the process of learning ballroom dancing so that Maurice would continue to have a dance partner. It is Faye—elegant, graceful, and smiling—who Maurice now twirls, cradles, and steps with.

What happens on Tuesday nights at the Marks Street Senior Recreation Center is a small slice of magic. It’s not Disney magic. Nothing flashy or fancy or loud or attention-grabbing. It’s small, unassuming, joyful, sweaty, human magic. There’s music, dancing, love, camaraderie, and stories. So many stories. For $5, it’s open to the public.

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First Contact: Infamous & Twin – Originally published in Artborne Magazine

I’ve been teaching music composition at Full Sail University in Winter Park since the summer of 2010, when they launched their Bachelor of Science in Music Production (MPBS) online degree program. I was the third hire into the degree program, and had some voice in shaping the early curriculum. I saw MPBS’s rapid early expansion become the largest degree program offered, which was then followed by an eventual contraction to something more modest and efficient. Along with this diminution came countless refinements and adjustments to the curriculum—instigated, likely, in equal measure by both the upper administration and the faculty on-the-ground.

It was a fascinating, pedagogical challenge to teach music courses online—one that I feel we rose to meet quite well. It took adjustments in how we think about communicating through video, the written word, and virtual classrooms, but we were innovative, and shared strategies and discoveries with each other.

Having taught in traditional, brick-and-mortar educational environments for many years, one casualty of switching to teaching online—along with Full Sail’s structural model, where classes are always four weeks long—was a sense of staying with students long enough to form lasting impressions. It does happen occasionally, either because a student is, undeniably, so talented that I have to take notice, or their personal story is shared in such a way as to forge a connection. Still, even when that happens, there’s always a new month and a new cohort just around the corner, and it becomes painfully easy to forget a name or a face, or both.

That began to change when Full Sail elected to launch a parallel, on-campus program in early 2014. However, because the students progress through a specifically designed track of courses in a specific order, I didn’t start seeing students in the campus course until September 2015.

It’s a lot easier in the face-to-face, concentrated atmosphere (up to six hours in a day) of Full Sail’s campus classes to get to know the stories and personalities of the composers in my classroom each month. Students come from everywhere and from every background: Brazil, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Mexico, Switzerland, and all over the U.S. The numerous ex-military students are almost always colorful characters and models of respect and discipline. Others are boisterous and practically uncontainable, funny and enthusiastic, or introverted and so quiet I have to strain to hear their replies. I’ve learned to never assume what a student is interested in based on their looks or heritage, and talent is the same way.

One huge talent that grabbed my attention recently is Mike Capps, a 27 year old rapper and producer from Little Rock, Arkansas who goes by the professional name Infamous—inspired by an action-adventure video game of the same name, whose protagonist, Cole MacGrath, starts as a bike messenger and soon gains comic book style, electricity-based superpowers in an explosion.

Capps came to Full Sail out of frustration, boredom, and restlessness, with the support and encouragement of his twin brother, Colton. Neither brother stuck with college. They worked numerous jobs: lifeguarding, fast food, jewelry sales, retail, life insurance, waiting tables, and more. With a population of less than 200,000, Little Rock, for the Capps brothers, had a cloying, small town feel, where, according to Infamous, “Everyone’s stuck. No one thinks big. No passion. They all serve. I was in a Little Rock rut. I used to drink a lot. [I thought] there had to be more than what I was doing. I sold my car and left.”

It’s kind of hard to have this conversation
Staring out the window, watch it catching condensation
I tend to find, I lose my mind, in the compilations of the constellations
Stay true and you’ll make it if you got the patience,
When surrounded by the fakest like in the Matrix, please heaven don’t forsake us
When some of us are just anxious for the pay cuts, please show me a way
I pray, ‘cause the, world we know today can make or break us
It can shape us, and change us, that’s why I been writing my pain
In these pages for ages, releasing anger that rages
Tired of not going places, ‘cause of minimum wages
I’m so tired of waking up and realizing, I’m late on my payments
Then my sweat hits the pavement
Wake up, the only way to believe, there’s an American Dream is to remain asleep
Wake up, we need to wake up from the American Dream
Wake up, we need to wake up from America’s Scheme

Infamous (left) and Twin (right) in the studio, photo by Mariana Mora

But Infamous didn’t leave Little Rock alone. Colton came too. They have that special bond unique to twins—so special that it’s a blessing and a curse. Their bond interferes with their outside relationships, and, as often happens, the first born twin takes on a dominant, almost parental role. Colton Capps sees in his brother the same possibility inherent in Cole’s character in the video game. He feels that, like Cole, Infamous will follow a similar path from the mundane to the miraculous.

He’s right that Infamous has serious chops. Back in high school in Little Rock, he flexed his writing and performance muscles with his friend, Zac Overton. In their spare time, they would take turns throwing out verses memorized by their favorite artists, and challenge each other to guess whose material it was. Then, they took it a step further. They began to try to trip each other up by throwing in original material to see if they could fool the other into guessing a big name artist. Infamous still collaborates occasionally with Overton, who goes by the name OV.

Infamous lists several artists as inspirations: Eminem, Bob Dylan, Dr. Dre, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Yela Wolf, Rittz, and Kendrick Lamar, but it’s the influence of Eminem that jumps out at me. What Infamous has assimilated from Eminem is twofold: musically, what Eminem does spectacularly well is a choreographed dance between syllabic accent and metrical accent. Most of the time, hip-hop or rap is in what’s called “common time,” with four main pulses per bar that can each be subdivided, with the first pulse receiving extra emphasis relative to the others. That emphasis is called the “downbeat.” Like a parking meter ticking off time, that emphasized downbeat pulse is a regularly repeating, predictable event. Early hip-hop tied the speech rhythm of the lyrics to that downbeat so that the syllabic accent of keywords always landed on the downbeat. But that approach eventually freed up as artists became more rhythmically sophisticated and realized that the interplay of those elements is more interesting and dynamic than their rigid coordination. Eminem floats syllabic accent so that it skips around to different parts of the bar, doubling, tripling or even quadrupling rhymes or assonances. The downbeat acts like a center of gravity, and the speech rhythms now play with their changeable proximity to that center. Infamous does this too, and also raps with more than one persona, like Eminem. Infamous often delivers his choruses like a lazy stoner who somehow manages to stay in time and in tune, while his verses have an aggressive, spontaneous, and rhythmic vitality.

Infamous has been honing his skills for twelve years and, at the age of 27, he has a catalogue of over 200 songs. Despite his prolific tenaciousness, he suffers from regular bouts of anxiety, mitigated by marijuana use (the stoner persona didn’t come from nowhere), intense writing sessions, and his brother’s vigilant and unwavering support. Colton currently raps with his brother under the name Twin, but they are already looking to refine their work as a duo now, beginning to explore the theme of Jekyll and Hyde as personas for each of them, which certainly sounds like fertile ground for twins. Capps will graduate from Full Sail University in February 2017, and if his brother has the influence and sway that he hopes to have, Infamous will be emulated by some high school kid somewhere someday, looking to make sense of his surroundings and yearning for something more.

Infamous made a Soundcloud playlist to accompany this article at:

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When Great Trees Fall premiered by Lyric Arts Trio in Kansas City on November 6. Second performance on January 22, 2017

14876537_1273510336042823_6590440184146777453_oOn Sunday, November 6 at 2:00pm, the Visitation music ministry hosts the Lyric Arts Trio in a special concert, Of Love and Remembrance. This program is especially appropriate for All Souls Day with selections that bring to mind happy memories of the past that bring a measure of comfort and peace to those left behind. Program of Mahler, R. Strauss, KC composers Ian David Coleman and Jean Belmont Ford and a world premiere of my “When Great Trees Fall”, commissioned by Lyric Arts Trio in honor of soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson’s father’s memory. A second performance takes place on January 22 at 3pm at Rolling Hills Presbyterian Church in Overland Park, Kansas.

First Contact: Opera Orlando’s Vincent Connor – Originally published in Artborne Magazine

Vincent Connor, the new General Director of Opera Orlando, appeared on my WPRK radio show, Zero Crossings, to talk about Opera Orlando, their One Voice Orlando concert on September 11, and Opera Orlando’s upcoming season. What follows is an excerpt from a two-hour conversation.

Charlie Griffin: You’re the General Director of Opera Orlando, and it’s a bit of a phoenix story. Tell me about the genesis of the newest incarnation of opera in Orlando.

Vincent Connor: Yes. Yes! We rose from the ashes! Opera is very dear to my heart. I grew up here, in Winter Park, and came back here after twelve years. I grew up with Orlando Opera, which was the prominent opera company at the time, and saw magnificent productions there. They did more traditional opera. I can arguably say that the reason I went into opera was because of Orlando Opera. They closed in 2009 during the recession. In its place grew up the Florida Opera Theater, which had been growing by about 20% every year. Some of the board members reached out to me, because they had been following my career and knew that I was from here. I had been directing and singing opera and they contacted me about this opportunity.

So they actively recruited you. That must feel good.

Yeah! It’s always great to be able to go back where home is. So many directors and singers and professors of opera never get the chance to work where they grew up. To come home was like dream come true, after I’d been performing all over the world.

Where had you gone during those twelve years?

I went to Florida State University in Tallahassee for my undergrad and got my master’s degree at the University of Arizona. I loved the desert landscape, I loved the heat, I loved everything about Arizona. I was there for three years. I started focusing on directing as well as singing. Knowing that the life of a singer was a tough one, I wanted to get educated in two realms.

Is there not a benefit to be a male singer, though? There’s a lot less competition.

Yes, there is. It doesn’t take away how hard the lifestyle is, though. The formula is scary—there are about ten women auditioning for every one male at Opera Orlando. It’s a tough business.

Going on, where were you when the board members from Florida Opera Theater recruited you?

After Arizona, I went to the University of Missouri at Kansas City for my doctorate. After I finished my coursework, I moved to Philadelphia to teach voice and opera at the University of Delaware. It was while I was in Philly that I got the phone call.

Vincent Connor interviews with Charlie Griffin’s Zero Crossings on WPRK, September 12, 2016. photo by Mariana Mora

Why do you think that Orlando Opera didn’t survive the recession?

From a business perspective, there were some poor administrative and fiscal decisions made, regarding their endowment. From an artistic standpoint, Orlando Opera had taken a more traditional approach, and it can be argued that they weren’t willing to change with the times. Opera America (a national service organization that supports opera and the musical arts internationally with education and awareness programs) is so wonderful. I just got back from a two-week seminar in New York. And Opera America is all about really learning your audience; what makes them tick. If you don’t do that research to see what excites them, invigorates them, then the organization will falter.

There has to be a certain amount of experimentation. You’re trying to strike a balance between multiple factors: educating versus pandering to versus alienating your audience. How do you find that pocket, and how was the seminar in New York trying to address dwindling audiences?

What I just went to in New York was called the Opera America Leadership Intensive Program. They identify young, aspiring administrators who want to make a difference. There were people from Sweden, London, Vancouver, Houston, San Francisco. It was such an honor to be chosen to participate because Opera Orlando is such a small company compared to the rest. But what I learned is that it’s about balance. We can’t just aim at one demographic or one type of opera production. It’s hard to find, because so much of this relies on subjective taste. In the main, though, the seminar was about governance, fiscal responsibility, board management, storytelling, and public speaking.

Gabriel Preisser, Opera Orlando’s Artistic Director, is also a singer. How common is it for the main administrators at an opera company to also be singers?

It’s actually not very common. We’re trying to lay a foundation for the future, and so we are both taking active roles in performance and direction. But it won’t go on indefinitely.

Going back to my initial question about its rebirth, why is Opera Orlando popping up now? You stated earlier that the recession was a factor for Orlando Opera’s demise. Is it because the recession is over? If so, how vulnerable is the organization to a fresh economic downturn?

You know, in the arts you really have to take calculated risks. And I felt like, with the rebranding of Florida Opera Theater into Opera Orlando, it was time, because all the variables were in place. It had been ten years since Orlando Opera had closed; Florida Opera Theater was doing really well and there was growth there. And, I was at a place in my career where I could really afford to take a chance, and I felt this calling, like I really needed to do this.

Inaugural event of Opera Orlando, photo by Kenn Stamp

Speaking of a calling, talk about One Voice Orlando and the performance on September 11.

I actually moved back here the week of the Pulse shootings. It wasn’t quite the homecoming I expected. Opera Orlando’s email inbox was just exploding. Singers from everywhere, directors, and conductors were all asking what they could do to help. And we did immediately respond—we were part of Beautiful Together, and we organized a benefit with singers at a church and raised $4000 for the OneOrlando Fund. We wanted to do more, and identified six charities that we really wanted to help, who have done amazing things since the Pulse tragedy. Those are Orlando Health’s Level One Trauma Center; the first responders, doctors and nurses. They did so much and their resources are just depleted. The Zebra Coalition, a wonderful organization that is geared toward helping underprivileged gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens. The Orlando LGBTQ Community Center has been huge since the tragedy and they’ve done so much. Interfaith Council of Central Florida and the Holocaust Center’s UpStanders: Stand Up to Bullying Initiative both really spoke to us. And one of the organizations I’m really proud of is Proyecto Somos Orlando, which is a hispanic organization that has done amazing things in the community. A high percentage of those who were killed wasn’t only LGBTQ but also Hispanic. They were on the forefront of the tragedy and they realized that Spanish wasn’t being spoken, and some survivors and victims’ families needed translators. They also offered counseling and legal services—whatever was needed. We were inspired by them.

Let’s continue with the idea of experimentation and risk-taking. Mr. Preisser has participated in a lot of contemporary opera, works by Kevin Puts, Tobias Picker, Ricky Ian Gordon, Daron Hagen, Mark Adamo, and Dominick Argento. Is there a possibility of new work being done here?

Both Gabe and I are really passionate about new work and we both believe that to make opera relevant, we have to focus on what’s happening here and now. So many opera companies are geared towards producing new work, and that is absolutely on our docket. But it’s also often expensive and we need to have the finances in place to make that happen.

What we’ve decided to do for our first season is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale on November 18th and 20th, a comedic tale, directed by me, about an old bachelor who refuses to get married; Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors on December 11th through the 20th, which is sort of our Christmas tale, directed by Eric Pinder; and Mozart’s Don Giovanni on March 24th-26th. We’re going traditional with Don Pasquale, family oriented with Amahl, and “high concept” with Don Giovanni.

Have you mapped out multiple years of activity?

Yes, but I can’t talk about it yet. I can tell you that we want to be really active in things like the Fringe Festival. We’re interested in adaptation, like Peter Brook’s adaptation of Bizet’s Carmen, which cuts the opera down to 90 minutes but retains its compositional integrity. We’re also interested in playing site-specific works in unconventional spaces, like doing Le Nozze di Figaro in a mansion because that’s where the opera is set. I love “high concept” treatments of opera—our current season’s Don Giovanni is the story of Don Juan, the old Spanish tale, and we’re going to have it take place on a college campus. So, we’re going hit a few hard issues: we’re going to talk about date rape and womanizing. We’re trying to take social stereotypes and tell the story in a completely different way.

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Between Islands premiered by Mark Sunderland at Orlando White House October 2

14492412_651075281721956_1210956791754853384_n“Form, Structure and Interactions” will be performed at the Timucua White House on Sunday, October 2, 2016 with free admission (donations accepted, refreshments encouraged). Trumpet player, Mark Sunderland, will perform six works by Central Florida Composers Thad Anderson, Charlie Griffin, Chan Ji Kim and Steve Kornicki. In addition, Mark will perform Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Aries from “Sirius.”

Mark Sunderland is a highly skilled, multi-instrumentalist with a true passion and gift for playing the trumpet. Equally at home with classical trumpet and jazz improvisation, his ability to create memorable phrasings and craft intricate, high- energy, improvisational solos is remarkable. Sunderland studied music education at Stetson University from 2002-2006 and worked as a public school music teacher from 2007-2010. He is music director at Calvary Chapel in Melbourne, FL.

Thad Anderson’s kaleidoscopic Re-Cite is from his series called Lines. It is a solo work intended for any single line instrument. The piece utilizes live processing and draws inspiration and structure from a 1951 minimalist painting by Ellsworth Kelly titled Cité. Sunderland will perform this piece on trumpet.

Charlie Griffin’s Between Islands – for trumpet and electronic score is an expression of the experience of separation from loved ones long gone. According to Griffin, “The experience of losing a truly loved person is profoundly sad at the beginning and for a long time. But the quality of that loss gradually transforms. It becomes part of who we are. And with that realization comes a sense of serenity because the people we loved and lost are clearly residing within us.”

Chan Ji Kim’s colorful and evocative work for trumpet and fixed media is entitled Go-sa-mok which means a withered elm tree in Korean. “The audio samples recorded for the piece included sounds of nature around Haeiknsa Temple in Korea, where I found this withered elm tree, a UNESCO World Heritage site,” says Kim.

There will be three works by Steve Kornicki: Instructions for Harmonic Permutations in Temporal Placements combines a collage of electronically altered trumpet sounds (recorded by Sunderland) with the solo trumpet; A Fanfare of Displaced Tones in Pulsing Groups of Sevens is an ensemble work for trumpet and pre-recorded instruments (three trumpets and flugelhorn by Sunderland and two Fender bass guitars by Kornicki); and Mixed Signals (Video Symphony) is a 15-minute audio-visual exploration in the deconstruction of sampled orchestral sounds and improvisational interaction with Sunderland on trumpet/flugelhorn and the composer on piano. This work will be accompanied by Kornicki’s video art created by filming images on an analog TV screen through textured and stained glass.

Karlheinz Stockhausen, one of the great visionaries of 20th-century music is known for his groundbreaking work in electronic music, aleatory (controlled chance) in serial composition, and musical spatialization. Sunderland will perform his Aries, a 15-minute tour de force for trumpet and electronic music from his extended work, “Sirius,” which has been described as “a modern mystery play, clothed as a science fiction story.” While not described by the composer as
an opera, it is nevertheless a musical drama, in which four emissaries from a planet orbiting the star Sirius bring a message to earth.