October 25th, 2011
Saturday night was my second time to see and hear a performance of Evan Flory-Barnes Acknowledgement of a Celebration. Earshot Jazz Festival 2011 presented it at the Kirkland Performance Center. What a wonderful achievement. As a reprise of the 2009 Earshot Golden Ear performance of the year, Evan brought back his Earshot- and Meet the Composer-commissioned work for large-ensemble fusion of jazz, hip-hop, and classical music with dancers and break-dancers. I was taken with how much fun he seemed to be having this time. Here are some pictures from the performance. ans some of the words from the Earshot Jazz program guide by Steve Griggs
Check out the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule to see what’s next in the 2011 Festival lineup.
“Evan Flory-Barnes stands six foot three, in suit and tie, in front of a thirty-five member chamber orchestra at Seattle’s Town Hall. He scans the musicians. Left. Right. He rubs his palms together. No baton. He smiles broadly and adjusts his jacket. He glances down at the score. His head tips back. His eyes close. He whispers in a slow tempo, “One, two, three, four …” as he conducts with both hands, fingers gently closed. The count off is more like a jazz ensemble leader starting a familiar ballad than a conductor launching a symphony debut.”
“Violas and cellos sway back and forth in unison between two notes. A celeste chimes like an old fashioned clock. Glissandos rise from a harp. Dense chords drift in from wind instruments. An oboe moans. French horns herald an opening melody. Acknowledgement of a Celebration, a ten movement, fifty-five minute opus commissioned by Meet the Composer, rises into the air.”
“The commission for Celebration requires four public performances. It premiered November 8, 2009, at Town Hall and was restaged in 2010 at Benaroya Hall. Flory-Barnes’ alma mater, Garfield High School, is being considered for the final yet to be scheduled performance. We will let you know when it will be performed next.”
“Celebration combines rhythmic loops, orchestral instrumentation, and melodic improvisation to propel a group of male break dancers and female modern dancers in spontaneous choreography. In the second movement, dancers lie on the ground while an oboe and cello solo over a slow drum pulse and bowed chords. One by one, feet and legs rise, twist slow motion in the air, bodies upended on heads and hands. Another movement matches a break dancer with a modern dancer in a contact version of Brazilian capoeira. Yet another section has side-by-side break dancers hypnotically stepping in unison then breaking into solos.”
“The scale of this work transcends the leadership of a single artist. While Flory-Barnes cultivates a growing reputation as composer, collaborator and catalyst, violist Brianna Atwell handles personnel and logistics for Celebration. Dancer Emma Klein organizes the gravity defying sliding, tumbling and spinning performers. Ryan Price leads the technical direction for the Kirkland performance space.”
“The full title of the piece is Acknowledgment of a Celebration: Inheritance, Authenticity and Healing. Flory-Barnes explains the autobiographic title as the inner process to open one’s heart to life, family and self. This enables a compassionate, loving response to negativity. “My mother provided lessons of unconditional love and my father provided a way to practice those lessons.” Flory-Barnes father, a Vietnam veteran, struggled with substance abuse and died when his son was sixteen. “There were times I wanted to remove ‘Barnes’ from my last name,” he says.”
“Hints of the narrative arc in Celebration can be traced by the movement titles – Please Know This, A Boy’s Dream A Man’s Majesty, Dance of the Girl Obscured, The End of Old Days, Letting Go of What Isn’t Yours to Begin With, Marching Towards the Now, An Alarm Call to Presence, A Hero Driven by His Tears, Requiem for a Love Misunderstood, Return to a Home Unseen.”
“Chances to hear Flory-Barnes in the Pacific Northwest are becoming more precious as his career begins to take flight. Frequently on the road with Meklit Hadero, recent tours took him from Bumbershoot all the way to Kenya and Ethiopia. “Meklit’s music is deep and simple. We can stretch it and grow. She’s like Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, and Nora Jones – a modern song writer through an Ethiopian filter.” Deep throated, dark and musky vocals croon of flirty love and loss to catchy grooves.” – Steve Griggs Read more in the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule
Near the end of the performance, Evan jumped down from the conductors podium and picked up a standup bass and dove into the music. After handing off the bass he moved stage center and joined in with the dancers.