Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Englewinds at Trinity Church, NYC 10/23/08

Yesterday at Trinity Church, the environmentally-conscious wind, piano and percussion sextet Englewinds put on a show that was as captivating as it was cutting-edge. Celebrating their tenth anniversary, the group features a new environmental theme every year. This year’s is the monarch butterfly, which relies on milkweed for a place to lay its eggs. With milkweed in decline, the next stop on oboeist Sarah Davol’s intinerary after the show was to meet with the NYC Parks department and try to convince them to let milkweed grow, literally on the fringes, of city-owned parks. As an aside, just think what might happen if, say, AC/DC would start a campaign to plant trees. You may think the idea is incredibly corny, but just imagine…

 

In any event, Englewinds proved to be first and foremost about the music. They opened with a brief and intriguing piece by Davol titled Long Road Back, opening brisk and springlike, picking up the pace with the highs of Marcia Hankle’s flute playing contrapuntally against the lows of Davol’s oboe and Maureen Strenge’s bassoon. The next work on the bill was a tongue-in-cheek partita by Douglas Townsend, who when given a chance to introduce it to the audience, revealed that he’d written it for music students with sufficient technique to play the simpler Beethoven sonatas. The way the group played it, it was clear that Townsend must have had a great time writing it: it’s a dead ringer for Beethoven, Tomoko Ohno’s darkly incisive, subtly textured piano foreshadowing and then joined by winds as the melody rises. Only at the end did she allow herself to cut loose, keeping the quick crescendo at the end of the third section terse and memorable. It was the kind of piece that a clever programmer on, say, WNYC could sneak into a set of Beethoven and nobody would know the difference.

 

Hankle played Katherine Hoover’s open-skies anthem Kokopeli solo, vivid and evocative. It’s an American Indian themed work: Kokopeli is something of a pied piper figure in Hopi mythology. Then the group provided a comic interlude with Dawn Avery’s Tulpe Interlude, getting some audience participation going as the oboe and bassoon each took on a persona, the oboe a graceful, fluid water turtle and the bassoon a big, clumsy box turtle. That the crowd didn’t prove all that good at following along was a blessing in disguise because a more vigorous response would have drowned out the music.

 

They closed on a high note with their clarinetist Monte Morgenstern’s composition The Flight of the Monarch Butterfly. As he told the crowd, the piece actually depicts the creature’s entire life cycle, from the eerie, confusion and eventual shock as it first leaves the cocoon, to a beautiful interlude introduced by stately piano chords, and ending on a sad, hypnotic, Messiaen-esque note, Ohno’s plaintive high notes ringing against gentle washes of winds. More groups should be doing what Englewinds are, raising consciousness in a way that’s compelling without being the least bit strident. Watch this space for further info on upcoming NYC area shows.

October 24, 2008 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , , , ,

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