Saturday, November 04, 2006

Bolcom rocks Berea

Composer William Bolcom is being featured in a several-day contemporary music festival at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio. I caught the Saturday night concert at the Kulas Musical Arts Building on campus.
The first half of the show was a pleasant, upbeat sampler of Bolcom's Americana, with a brass quintet performance of the "Virtuosity Rag" and two compositions played by the symphonic wind ensemble, "Song for Band" and "Broadside (A Celebration for Winds)." The first half concluded with Bolcom getting an honorary degree, conferred by the college president and the school's composer-in-residence, Loris Chobanian.
The second half was something else again -- a large selection from "Songs of Innocence and Experience," Bolcom's long oratorio based on the poems of William Blake. Bolcom was surprised a small school would attempt the material. A large crowd of student musicians and several music faculty members were squeezed onstage, however, and they delivered an electrifying performance. It was one of the most exciting concerts I've ever attended. The Naxos recording of "Songs" won four Grammy awards. Let's hope the work finds the audience it deserves.

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