Thursday, July 19 , 2018, 1:21 am | Fair 65º


Gerald Carpenter: Caroline Shaw Premiere Highlights Festival Orchestra Performance

Caroline Shaw
Caroline Shaw ( Kait Moreno)

To an already scrumptious program, the Music Academy Festival Orchestra adds the West Coast premiere of a concerted work by the extraordinary composer-singer-violinist Caroline Shaw, make the concert irresistible and mandatory.

The orchestra, conducted once again by Larry Rachleff, plays at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 7, in the Granada Theater.
The program consists of three works: Leonard Bernstein's "Symphonic Dances from West Side Story" (1961); the afore-mentioned premiere of Caroline Shaw's "Lo," violin concerto (with Shaw as soloist); and Jean Sibelius's "Symphony No. 5 in Eb-Major, Opus 82" (1915).
Bernstein's appeal was, and remains, directly to the young.

"Music is feeling, then, not sound," and Lenny, who remained young until the day he died, always knew what the young are feeling, and never more so than in West Side Story, where the dances often resemble the struggles of adolescent butterflies, fighting free of the chrysalis of youth to become adults.

The "Symphonic Dances," extracted from the Broadway musical, conjure moving forms in the mind of the listener. They are exhilarating and heartbreaking at the same time.

A couple of minutes into Shaw's Pulitzer-winning "Partita for Eight Voices," the singers pass around a phrase from Burnt Norton by T.S. Eliot: "The detail of the pattern is movement."

Briefly, they weave the phrase into a spoken fugue, then go on with the piece. The shape and movement of music are inseparable from any accurate understanding of Burnt Norton, as they are in the other three of the magisterial poems that Eliot called his Four Quartets.

"Desire itself is movement," Eliot goes on, "Not in itself desirable/ Love is itself unmoving/ Only the cause and end of movement."

Shaw's music is worthy of any number of scholarly monographs, and not in the least in need of them. She is unmistakably our contemporary, yet her music looks back to the beginning of time; no matter how strange, it is also familiar and comforting.

Last year, Shaw was a composer in residence at the Music Academy, and gave an unforgettable Masterclass. This year, she is a Mosher Guest Artist. One can only hope for many happy returns.

The Academy Festival Orchestra Series has the inestimable support of Mary Lynn and Warren Staley, while this concert has been graciously under-written by Dot and Rick Nelson.

Tickets to this concert are $40-$100, with young people ages 7-17 admitted free when accompanied by a ticketed adult (so, no need to hire a babysitter.).

Tickets can be purchased at the Granada Theatre Ticket Office, 1214 State St., by phone at 805-969-8787 or 805-899-2222, or on line at

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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