Concert blends unusual combo of sounds

Posted: Thursday, August 23, 2001

CrossSound 2001 returns to Juneau this weekend with new music and instruments - such as the kayagum and the pipa.

This concert, "Sitka Sound," is substantially different from the first CrossSound performance, "Stephen's Passage," which took place on Aug. 3.

"Stephen's Passage (was) a bigger group," said Jocelyn Clark, co-founder of CrossSound and a performer in Saturday's concert. "We did have a number of solos on the last program, but it's a big group. This is much more chamber music. It's only five people and we've broken it up into smaller groups."

Clark will play the kayagum, a traditional Korean instrument. The other performers are Sitka musician Susan Brandt-Ferguson on the baritone saxophone, Paul Cox - a composer for the previous concert who was born and raised in Sitka - on marimba, Sitka musician Roger Schmidt on trombone and Chinese guest musician Liu Xiangyun on the pipa, a traditional Chinese instrument.

Brass students who have studied with Schmidt and Brandt-Ferguson will also perform in a piece by Harvard professor Kurt Stallmann.

"Both of the teachers - Susan and Roger - will be playing with them, so they have to write for varying levels and write something that's going to work for kids," Clark said. "It has to be easy for them because there's not too much time to prepare, and it has to be something that sounds good too."

Brandt-Ferguson, who also played in CrossSound 2000, described her role in the piece as a "featured soloist."

"It's a really full, rich sound," she said. "The more the kids (play) this piece, the fuller it gets."

The musicians have been rehearsing intensely in Sitka since Aug. 17 and will perform there on Aug. 24 before coming to Juneau on Aug. 25. Composers Stallmann, Yuriko Hase Kojima and Karola Obermuller will be in attendance at both concerts. Obermuller's piece integrates marimba, kayagum and pipa; Kojima's adds trombone and baritone saxophone to the mix.

"It's a strange combination, but I think it should be refreshing to listen to," Clark said.

Guest artist Liu is a member of the same national troupe as Liu Jing, a Chinese erhu player who recently performed a solo concert in Juneau. Liu Jing - no relation to Liu - previously played in CrossSound 2000 as a guest artist.

"We're really starting to build something there with that group in China," Clark said. "We're hoping to continue to be in touch with that troupe and make it kind of an exchange between them and us."

Liu, Clark and Brandt-Ferguson will perform solos. Liu's integrates traditional pipa sounds, Clark said, and was written by Bun-Ching Lam, who composed for CrossSound 2000. Clark's solo is a work by Jeff Nichols and Brandt-Ferguson's piece is an existing work by Ryo Noda.

"It's very challenging," Brandt-Ferguson said. "You're fingering at some sort of strange fingering to get a very particular high note. That piece has taught me a tremendous amount about that."

The CrossSound concert is one of her few opportunities to perform, Brandt-Ferguson added.

"I made a conscious choice to move back to Sitka and I figured I was giving up opportunities like this to play professionally," she said. "It's a very excited, interested arts community in many respects ... but the professional opportunities aren't there usually. This is a really multi-faceted experience that's been really fun."

The "Sitka Sound" concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Northern Light United Church. Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors.

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