Frances Feldon and Galax Quartet in “Wingin’ It”

FFeldon_67-1Sunday, November 17 at 4:30PM
The Jazzschool
2087 Addison St., Berkeley
$15/$12
Reservations recommended as space is limited.
For tickets: http://jazzschool.org/event/frances-feldon-galax-quartet/.

shapeimage_2SFEMS and the Jazzschool are co-sponsoring a new series featuring “early” improvisational styles that takes place at the Jazzschool in downtown Berkeley on Sunday afternoons. The second program in the series is entitled “Wingin’ It,” and features Frances Feldon and The Galax Quartet (Elisabeth Blumenstock & David Wilson, baroque violins; Roy Whelden, viola da gamba; and Amy Brodo, baroque violoncello). “Wingin It” features old and new music (from the early baroque as well as newly-commissioned works) that is founded in improvisational styles and uses birds and bird calls as its vehicle for musical variation. The “Wingin’ It” program grew out of Frances’ recent recorder residency on the central Oregon coast at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology in May 2013 where she began working on a concert program of bird music for recorder.

On the first half of the program, blackbirds will be featured in the world premieres of three newly-commissioned works for recorder and string quartet, all of which are loosely based on the famous jazz standard “Bye Bye Blackbird,” by Erika Oba, Glen Shannon, and Roy Whelden. Ms. Oba’s arrangement is done in the style of a Charlie Parker plus strings recording, but of course, instead of saxophone and strings, you get alto recorder and strings. Mr. Shannon’s’ work is a jazzy fantasy in a neo-baroque style, and includes among its sections a five-part fugue on Bye Bye Blackbird. Roy Whelden’s work – which is still growing its title at the moment – takes motives and spins them out, first on the recorder in a rubato opening section over shimmering strings, then in a more rhythmic and minimalistic style in its second section with the whole ensemble. All three works have opportunity for improvisation.

The second half of the program comprises 17th- and 18th-century works by Jacob van Eyck, Paulus Matthysz and François Couperin, which picture the nightingale (and linnet) musically. The Couperin works, “Le Rossignol vainqueur,” “Le Rossignol en amour,” and “La Linotte effarouchee,” are from his monumental collection Pieces de clavecin, Troisième Livre, Quatorzième Ordre (1722), which was much beloved by later composers for its evocative pictorialism and formed the basis of many new pieces (such as Maurice Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin). The bird movements are just as evocative, and based on Couperin’s own suggestion that the rossignol pieces are equally as effective on flute as well as harpsichord, we have orchestrated their two-part counterpoint with recorder and bass viol. Part of the lovely style of these pieces is in rendering the French graces with a sense of spontaneity and accuracy and they evoke the sense of and opportunity for ornamental improvisation. The van Eyck and Matthysz pieces (1649) are multiple sets of divisions, or improvised melodic variations, on nightingale tunes. Van Eyck is famous as both a carillon and recorder player; he was blind, and Paulus Matthysz, a viol composer and publisher himself, notated the improvisations for him. The program ends with a set of divisions by Ms. Feldon on “Bye Bye Blackbird” in the style of van Eyck, bringing the program full circle.

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