By Larry Taylor/Garden Grove Journal
Coming up in nearby beautiful Ojai, June 9 through 14, will be the 65th Annual Ojai Music Festival. Located a couple hours northeast of Orange County, Ojai is famous for its rolling hills, hiking trails, awesome vista, relaxing spas, fabulous golf courses and interesting galleries.
The music, featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw, is the key to enjoyment during this four-day event. This year, however, the environment will be a little different – the Libbey Bowl, where festivities are held, has been rejuvenated. Also, the usual classical program will be augmented by the appearance of acclaimed jazz star, Maria Schneider, and her orchestra. Upshaw, as well, returns to the event as music director.
She has been described as “one of the most consequential performers of our time” by the Los Angeles Times, and will be performing with the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
The program will include the world premiere on Friday of a new staging of George Crumb’s “Winds of Destiny (American Songbook IV),” with the celebrated Peter Sellars, directing.
On Saturday, violinist Richard Tognetti will be featured in a variety of contexts, while Upshaw, herself, will be appearing in each day’s program.
Another world premiere takes place on Sunday, “Winter Morning Walks,” composed by Schneider for Upshaw and commissioned for the festival. Also Schneider makes her debut with two concerts on Sunday, 11a.m and 5:30 p.m.
She says her commission was inspired by poetry of poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Ted Kooser. Unable to be in the sunlight because of his cancer treatments, Kooser took early morning walks, during which he wrote a series of postcards to a friend in which he transforms common things and daily events into well-timed and expertly sculpted poems.
Making special appearances with Upshaw and the orchestra are Frank Kimbrough, noted jazz pianist and versatile jazz musician, Scott Robinson, playing a variety of woodwinds. Both are regulars with Schneider’s aggregation.
Kimbrough, contacted by phone in New York, says that he and Robinson will play with the Australian ensemble, as well as taking improvised solos. After he rehearsed the new work in New York recently with Upshaw and Schneider, he says: “This is neither jazz nor classical but uniquely Maria’s music.”
For the morning concert, Schneider leads the 18-piece jazz orchestra, showcasing her work as a major American composer, along with her band members’ improvisational abilities.
Her music has been described as picturesque, colorful and often autobiographical, blurring the lines between jazz and classical. One of her major influences is the late Gil Evans, noted for his ground-breaking collaborations with Miles Davis.
Jazz fans will additionally the chance to hear a special premiere of “Mingus & Beyond” with a new group, Wahya Consort, at 4 p.m. at the Ojai Arts Center, adjacent to Libbey Bowl. The Consort includes vocalist Ellen Johnson, pianist Bevan Manson, percussionist Brad Dutz and bassist Rick Shaw performing music of legendary bassist Charles Mingus.
For complete 2011festival information, visit the web site at www.ojafestival.org or call (805) 646-2094.