Looking Forward to the Forward Festival | Connecticut Public Radio

Looking Forward to the Forward Festival

May 14, 2015

Sybarite5 is one of the most dynamic chamber music ensembles in the country.

This may seem like flagrant nepotism, but in fact it’s only mild and forgivable nepotism:

There will be remarkable musical event next Sunday, May 24, at the new downtown Infinity Music Hall and Bistro in Hartford.

As the culmination of its innovative, multi-day Forward Festival, the Sybarite5 string quintet – dubbed by one critic as the “rock stars” of the American chamber music scene – will perform in concert with a variety of guest collaborators, most of them drawn from our own community. (Nepotistic disclosure: the Sybarite5’s cellist is one Laura Metcalf.)

The Forward Festival – featuring two public concerts and a variety of outreach and educational activities – begins with an intimate kickoff performance Tuesday, May 19, at 7:30 pm at Real Art Ways in Hartford. 

A highlight of the 7:00 pm Sunday concert at Infinity will be an appearance by the phenomenally gifted singer/actress Sara Chase.

Sara Chase.

Many of you reading this will know Chase already: she grew up in West Hartford, and attended Kingswood Oxford School. Her parents are the well-known community and civic leaders Arnold and Sandra Chase.  

Chase is well on her way to authentic stardom. She has been featured in the recent Broadway shows “The Toxic Avenger” and “First Date,” among others, and this season she is a recurring character in Tina Fey’s smash new Netflix comedy series, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

At Sunday’s concert, Chase will sing a selection of her favorite tunes from the Great American Songbook.

Other guest artists on Infinity bill:

Rupert Boyd, classical guitar: Australian-born Boyd has earned a reputation as one of his generation’s most gifted artists. Both as a solo performer and as one half of the acclaimed Australian Guitar Duo (the other half being Jacob Cordover), Boyd has earned rave reviews and a growing international following.

Rupert Boyd.
Credit Matthew Fried

Offstage, Boyd has established himself as a miniature golfer of uncommon, once-in-a-generation skill.  

Full Force Dance Theatre - Under the artistic vision of the brilliant dancer/choreographer Katie Stevinson-Nollet, the Full Force company is among the region’s most significant cultural institutions. 

Sean, Sarah, Nick, and Emily of Full Force Dance Theatre.
Credit Ron Compton

The company has performed in variety of venues, often presenting world premieres of commissioned work. Earlier this spring the company collaborated with Carolyn Kuan and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra in an ambitious newly-minted interpretation of Saint-Saens’ “Danse Macabre” at The Bushnell’s Belding Theater.

Connecticut Children’s Chorus, Concert Choir – Under the direction of Meredith Neumann, this by-audition group is composed of treble voice in grades seven to nine. The CCC program, encompassing six ensembles with a total membership of 200 young people from 46 communities, is an activity of the Community Division of the Hartt School, and is overseen by artistic director Stuart Younse.

Sybarite5 has established itself as one of the most dynamic and groundbreaking chamber music ensembles in the country. After winning the Concert Artists Guild Competition in 2011 (the first string quintet to do so in the guild’s 60-year history), the ensemble made a raucous, sold-out debut at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall.

The group now regularly performs throughout the country, and is well on its way to a self-declared goal of performing in all 50 states. Its most recent recording is "Everything in its Right Place," a highly acclaimed collection of ten Radiohead transcriptions created expressly for the ensemble.

The New York City-based ensemble made its Hartford debut two seasons ago as part of the Richard P. Garmany Chamber Music Series at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School.

For information on tickets, schedules, etc., go here.

We Have a Winner (Fanfare, Please)

Last January I wrote that the Hartford Symphony Orchestra had announced a competition for composers to create a companion piece to Aaron Copland’s 1942 “Fanfare for the Common Man.” 

Christopher LaRosa.

The new piece would be called “Fanfare for the Hartford Woman.”

This week, the HSO announced a winner.

The winning entry was composed by Christopher LaRosa, a Boston-based composer. His piece, roughly three minutes long (in keeping with the terms of the competition) will be premiered at the HSO’s upcoming Masterworks concerts, May 28-31 at the Bushnell’s Belding Theater. These, incidentally, will also be the concerts at which the orchestra will play its long-anticipated performances of the Mahler Symphony No. 4.

In addition to the performances of his new fanfare, LaRosa pockets the competition’s $1,000 prize.

More than Minimal Enjoyment

I’ve been reading Philip Glass’s new memoir, “Words Without Music,” and enjoying it more than I thought I would. I say that because he never seemed all that interesting in interviews, and if he wrote the liner notes to his recordings – as I suppose he must have – they didn’t make any particular impression.

But the book is surprisingly entertaining, unpretentious, candid. And the guy has some nice stories, some of which involve working crummy day jobs and reminding us of a day when Manhattan rents were within the reach of starving young musicians.

I’ve been especially struck by his accounts of studying with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Mademoiselle, as she liked to be called, was the most celebrated musical pedagogue of the 20th century. I had somehow always pictured her famous salons as relaxed seminars, at which the students dropped in to share their composerly hopes and dreams. Wrong. Mademoiselle, to hear Glass tell it, was an old-school taskmaster who was all about counterpoint and voice-leading and harmonizing Bach Chorales at sight. And attendance was not optional.

Steve Metcalf was The Hartford Courant’s fulltime classical music critic and reporter for over 20 years, beginning in 1982. He is currently the curator of the Richard P. Garmany Chamber Music Series at The Hartt School. He can be reached at spmetcalf55@gmail.com.