Laude for Abstract: Camerata Pacifica’s Season Finale Concert

By Joanne A Calitri   |   May 28, 2024
Camerata Pacifica ensemble including Ji Hye Jung, Julian Labro, Jose Franch-Ballester, Ani Aznavoorian, and Nicholas Daniel (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

Camerata Pacifica’s season closer was a blending of Phillip Glass’s repetitive structures in composition with classical artist Frank Zappa’s use of sampling music as background topped by key instruments in a composition. A few works had audible hints of a Lydian diminished scale combined with an auxiliary blues diminished mode in a contemporary classical resolve – truly unique – and the concert received standing ovations from the diverse audience.

CP’s Artistic Director Adrian Spence is known for his unwavering ability to locate remote classical works through his research and travels, perhaps a trait embedded in his Irish roots. And thus, for the closer, he upheld that nuanced experience for his audience with a program that also had, for the first time, an abstract art video shown during the first piece. 

Opening the concert was Paola Prestini’s “Listen, Quiet.” Prestini, a Julliard grad from Italy known for using multi-media platforms, created the pre-recorded sound sampling layers of vocal conversations and background audio, and the music for cello and percussion. The attendant video was created by S Katy Tucker. Musicians Ani Aznavoorian on cello and Ji Hye Jung on percussion performed the work with a call-response to each other and the sampled sounds. “Listen” was written as a story of the artist-friend’s pain, and healing via nature and water. Jung played a woodblock, marimbas, tom-toms, low bass drum, glasses with water, and other percussive instruments. “Quiet” is said to be the artist’s mother’s voice, played mainly by the cellist.

This was followed by the U.S. premiere of Martin Butler’s “Remember This Fire,” followed by John Psathas’ “One Study,” Julien Labro’s “Scarlatti arr. Labro,” and the world premiere of Clarice Assad’s five part“Petite Suite.” French-born Labro is a premier accordionist, composer, and arranger with a long A-List resume. He shared, “I hope to provide a new listening experience for you on the most misunderstood instrument.” His technical dexterity and precise tonal touch on the instrument forged a new group of attendant fans. Assad attended the concert and joined musicians Nicholas Daniel (oboe), Jose Franch-Ballester (clarinet), Labro, Aznavoorian, and Jung on stage for the standing ovation of her work. 

Commissioners Rick and Regina Roney, composer Clarice Assad, and accordionist extraordinaire Julien Labro (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

Artistic Director Spence shared that he was proud of the 34 years of Camerata Pacifica bringing world renowned classical music to the metro-Los Angeles–Santa Barbara areas, and moreover for the Nightingale Channel he developed in 2020. It launched in 2021 as a collaboration with UCLA Health and is shared with hospitals across the country to provide free music videos of CP’s performances for patients. Studies show that listening to music heals and provides a comfort for those in such situations. He mentioned that the program has received a $1.4 million challenge grant from the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation Santa Barbara, and will provide more details to CP members soon. He thanked his board and staff, and especially Executive Director Ana Papakhian. Spence will be celebrating his 60th birthday with family next week at a concert at the Huntington Library and Gardens, San Marino.

Noted attendees included Rick and Regina Roney, Joan Davidson, Sandra Tillisch Svoboda, NancyBell Coe, Valerie and Titus Brenninkmeijer, Nancy Alex and David Robertson, Luci and Richard Janssen, and Diane Boss.



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