This Saturday will be one of those special days that the Music Academy of the West rolls our way, as a matter of course. At 3 p.m. in the Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St., the inimitable Warren Jones will lead a Vocal Masterclass. At 8 p.m. in Hahn Hall, Maestro Larry Rachleff will lead the Academy Chamber Players in a concert of works by Wolfgang Mozart, Olivier Messiaen and Aaron Copland.
By now, the words “Warren Jones Masterclass,” along with the time and place, are probably enough to get devout Academiacs reaching for their schedulers. Jones has a way of being himself in public — his empathic, erudite, ebullient self — that, as if by magic, downloads a prodigious amount of useful information and startling insights into both the students and audience. The form of the masterclass is a search for the maximum transmission of the composer’s intention, every nuance and hesitation, through the living medium of the artist.
Jones is an ideal leader for that search. It is always as if he doesn’t know what he’s looking for until he finds it. Some may use a masterclass to inflate their own egos — though in my three decades of attending them I have never witnessed it — but in Warren’s case, ego is quite beside the point. Collaboration consists of two or more players fitting their egos together to become more than the sum of their own, and Warren is the quintessential collaborative pianist.
The program of the Academy Chamber Players will consist of the Overture from Mozart’s opera The Abduction From The Seraglio, Messiaen’s Couleurs De La Cité Céleste/Colors of the Heavenly City and the original — chamber — version of Copland’s Appalachian Spring.
We seem to be in the middle of a mild Messiaen boom. He is a unique voice, to be sure. All of the charges normally leveled against modernists — abstraction, cacophony, esotericism and so on — are somehow transformed into virtues in the case of Messiaen. He served as a spiritual father to an influential cohort of musicians, and they repay him by performing his works.
If musicians love the music they are performing, no matter how avant garde, they can almost always persuade an audience to listen, to hear the work as coherent, engaging, even beautiful. I have not heard this work, but the title suggests a typical Messiaen compote. No doubt there will be a hint of birdsong, for this composer is unlikely to have imagined a heaven without his favorite creatures.
Appalachian Spring in the original scoring is a wondrous, shining thing. The Shaker melody, “Simple Gifts,” sheds the orchestral lushness and defines itself with laser-like intensity. The piece spreads out like a blueprint, with annotations by Martha Graham. It is a profoundly American work, not yet ripened into Americana.
Reserved seats to Jones’ class are $30 (including Lobero facility fee). They can be purchased by phone at 805.969.8787 or online by clicking here. Tickets are also available from the Lobero box office at 805.963.0761.
Reserved seats to the Academy Chamber Players are $37 (including Miraflores facility fee), and they are available from the Music Academy ticket office at 805.969.8787.