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New Music Arizona Concert to be 'thought-provoking'

Douglas Gbson

Douglas Gbson

Music that is "funny, romantic, beautiful and thought-provoking" performed by many versatile artisans awaits the audience when the New Music Arizona Concert goes on stage Saturday afternoon at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Prescott.

The concert, sponsored by Prescott's Chaparral Arts, features musicians from Prescott and beyond who are invited to collaborate to bring a unique concert experience to Prescott, said Maria Flurry, who with her husband, Henry, founded Chaparral Arts and its programs.

"This fusion of 20th and 21st century music is a chance to discover new music, new sounds and new ways of performing music," she said.

The performers include classic opera singer Jayne Casselman, pianist Liz Story, pianist Christina Robertson, bass trombonist Skylar Foster, oboist Ian Henningsen, bassoonist Erin Johnson, pianist Henry Flurry, percussionist Maria Flurry, percussionist Hayden Milisen, vocalist Arlene Hardy, vocalist Chris Eubank, pianist Janice Chiang and flutist Beverly Chesterby.

Highlights of the fest will be world premiers of original musical compositions by Henry Flurry, Liz Story and Owen Davis.

A piece that premiered last year, "Fanfare for the Common Audience," by Douglas Gibson of New York City, offers a glimpse into "new music" to emphasize that every composition has a beginning.

In the 1950s, Gibson was working in the archives department of the New York Philharmonic, when he came upon a letter from a disgruntled subscriber, "imploring the Philharmonic to stop programming new music that made no sense," he said.

This letter, he said, "was everything I hoped for in an angry letter." The author called this music trash, the composers crazy and referred to it as "music coming straight out of hell."

"Fanfare for the Common Audience" uses the entire text of the letter, Gibson said, and he adds, "Reading about these 'wild, fiendish composers,' such as Aaron Copeland, serves as an apt reminder that all music was at one point new."

His song sounds "as if all the fiends of hell had been let loose in the concert hall," he said.

Story's composition illustrates that "panic can be useful."

"I never dreamed I would compose music," she said, when fate called upon her and she found herself in a situation where she had to play the piano - but was not prepared.

Grounded by the keyboard in front of her, she improvised a piece, "Bradley's Dream," when her fingers touched the keys, proving to her that fright rather than flight can prove innovative - and she will tack a bit of humor onto the story she tells.

Henry Flurry's original work is a romance from "Impulso," a concert o for marimba, flamenco guitar and dancer, and Davis has written a melody, "The City Square," that was accepted for the fest.

Davis's composition is "three pieces rolled into one": sounds around downtown Presctt's courthouse plaza that he recorded on a walk over two percussionists playing, with parts for the audience to join in. Davis is currently pursuing a master's degree in music composition at DePaul University.

Casselman, who sang classic opera in Germany and Europe for 30 years before moving to Prescott, will participate in "Fanfare for the Common Audience," "Bide Thy Thyme" from "The Seasonings," by P.D.Q. Bach, and she will facilitate Davis's "The City Square" for the two percussionists and audience participation.

Foster, who just completed his master's degree in trombone performance at Arizona State University and plays with the Flagstaff Symphony and from time to time with the Phoenix Symphony, will be among the four musicians on stage performing Gibson's "Fanfare for a Common Audience."

Foster's description of his ensemble's preparation for the fest gives insight into how so many performers will pull it together for Saturday's New Music Arizona Concert.

"We practice on our own and come together like a jigsaw puzzle."

The afternoon of music begins at 2 p.m. at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 630 Park Ave., in Prescott. Tickets are a suggested $15 donation and will be available at the door or by calling the church or Maria Flurry at 533-3525.

The concert is financed with a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and all proceeds will benefit the annual music workshops that Chaparral Arts conducts for youths and adults.

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