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Gerald Carpenter: Camerata Pacifica Pays Tribute to American Style

The stellar chamber music organization Camerata Pacifica will play its September program in Santa Barbara at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Friday in Hahn Hall at the Music Academy of the West, 1070 Fairway Road in Santa Barbara.

John Harbison played jazz in high school, and never got over it.

The Cameratans on hand will be Paul Huang (violin), Ji Hye Jung (percussion), Jose Franch-Ballester (clarinet), Adrian Spence (flute), Warren Jones (piano), Ani Aznavoorian (cello) and Richard Yongjae O’Neill (viola).

In various combinations, they will be performing John Harbison's Four Songs of Solitude (1985), John Serry's Rhapsody for Marimba, "Night Rhapsody" (1979), Huang Ruo's To the Four Corners (Multimedia Drama for Visual Art and Five Staged Musicians: 2005), Harbison's Songs America Loves to Sing, for Pierrot Ensemble (2004) and John Novacek's Four Rags for Two Jons clarinet & piano). Those attending the 1 p.m. "lunchtime" concert will hear only the two works by Harbison and Novacek's Four Rags.

It is quite a coup for Spence to have assembled a program of five works by four living American composers (born on China's Hainan Island and educated in Shanghai, Ruo is now considered an American composer). Ruo (born in 1976) is the youngest, Harbison (born in 1938) the oldest. Like the truth, Serry (born in 1954) and Novacek (born in 1964) may be said to lie somewhere in between.

So, Harbison would sit at the head of the table, and Ruo would ask him why this concert is different from all others. Not surprisingly, Ruo seems the least constrained of the four to play by any rules but his own.

All fully composed works, the compositions we will hear have nevertheless retained a kind of open-ended, improvisational quality reminiscent of jazz — for which, as different as they are from each other in most respects, all the composers share an admiration.

Rather than go on now to pretend I am an expert on each of these composers and compositions, I will only say that, while the music does at times touch upon profound human emotions, the prevailing mood of the program is fun.

For tickets and other concert information, call the Camerata Pacifica at 805.884.8410 or click here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected].

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