New music crafted for CrossSound concert

Posted: Thursday, August 02, 2001

Local flute and piccolo player Kathryn Kurtz greeted visiting Cleveland composer Paul Cox last week with immense gratitude.

"Thank you for my part," she exclaimed, rising quickly out of her chair to shake Cox's hand. "Thank you."

Cox has come to Juneau for CrossSound 2001, a concert series that offers an unusual opportunity for artists and composers to work together to craft and premiere new pieces of music. The series is in its third year.

The project begin with rehearsals and a concert in Juneau. Select performers and composers then travel to Sitka, where a new concert is rehearsed and performed. That concert returns to Juneau in November for a final show.

This year, co-director Jocelyn Clark said the emphasis is on local talent.

"There's a few new players we have from last year," said Clark. "We have piano this year for the first time, and Joyce (Parry Moore) as soprano."

The Juneau performers play instruments ranging from euphonium to mandolin. They'll work together on three group pieces. Flutist Sally Schlichting also will perform a solo piece by Dutch composer Konrad Boehmer, and pianist Mary Watson will play an existing solo piece by German composer Karola Obermuller.

Violinist Hale Loufborrow, the youngest CrossSound performer, received a special gift after last year's festival. His playing so impressed one of last year's composers, Hiroko Ito, that she wrote a solo piece specifically for him to be performed this year.

"It's based on the letters of his name," Clark said.

Cox, Boston-based composer Marti Epstein and Stefan Hakenberg, Clark's husband and co-director of CrossSound, composed the three group pieces.

For Epstein, who will premiere "Chant" on Friday, writing for the number of available instruments was an unusual experience.

"When Stefan called me and told me all the instruments that were available to me, it was completely mind-boggling," Epstein said. "(I was) perplexed how I was going to put flutes and a singer and a euphonium in one piece."

She chose to group the families of instruments - flutes and voice, piano and percussion - into ensembles. A distinctive chanting theme is passed between them.

"What the brass play first is the chant," Epstein said. "I had been listening to a lot of early music, and I wanted to emulate some things I had heard."

Cox, the assistant curator of musical arts at the Cleveland Museum of Art, was born and raised in Sitka. His work, "Variations On A Summer Day," sets poems by Wallace Stevens to music.

"Basically I was looking for poetry that sort of evoked the spirit ... of Alaska," Cox said. "I use the instrumental texture to create the mood that I think the poem evokes."

He also incorporates Kurtz's beloved piccolo part.

"There aren't that many cool piccolo solos in life," Kurtz said with a laugh. "Paul Cox (does) great writing for piccolo."

Clark hopes CrossSound will continue to grow.

"We would really like to make it a part of the fabric of the Southeast arts scene," she said. "We're starting to have a bit more name recognition. Nobody thinks we're calling from a boat anymore."

The first CrossSound concert, "Stephen's Passage," will be performed on Aug. 3 at 7 p.m. at the Northern Light United Church. Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors. A $25 package can be purchased for admission to both the August and November CrossSound concerts.

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