Lou Harrison was born on May 14, 1917. San Francisco Contemporary Music Players (SFCMP) will recognize the centennial of his birth about one month earlier with a weekend festival entitled Lou Harrison: A Centenary Celebration. This will begin on Friday, April 21, with a screening of Eva Soltes’ documentary Lou Harrison: A World of Music, which was given its first public screening at the Roxie Theater in March of 2012. However, the actual music-making will not get under way until the following day, during which three concerts will be presented.
The first of these concerts will be devoted to the three winners of SFCMP’s SF Search program. SFCMP organized this competition to seek new Bay Area talent among aspiring composers under the age of 30. Each of the three winners has his/her own personal connection to Harrison, even if none of them had a chance to meet him. (Harrison died in 2003.) Roger Kim’s “Quartet with one theme,” scored for violin, cello, clarinet, and piano, reflects the quiet beauty of many of Harrison’s more intimate pieces, as well as his interest in harmonies involving microtones. Michelle Zheng spent her childhood near Harrison’s home in Aptos; and her “Rift,” scored for the same four instruments, reflects the way in which a single Harrison composition could embody multiple cultural influences. Finally, Benjamin Zucker’s “Sarabandisms” has similar quartet instrumentation, but with a bass clarinet substituted for clarinet. While the title reflects the past history of Western music, the composition itself reflects on Harrison’s interest in Indonesian gamelan.
The second concert will be organized around a very early (1942) composition and an imaginative chamber music trio that Harrison composed over 45 years later. The early piece was the third of a series of compositions he called simply “Canticle.” The score combined a solo guitar and a solo ocarina with music requiring five percussionists. In a related vein, “Varied Trio,” composed in 1986, brings a single percussionist together with a pianist and a violinist. This past November, SFCMP percussionist William Winant revisited this piece at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, performing it with pianist Sarah Cahill and violinist Kate Stenberg; and Winant will again arrange this follow-up performance.
Two other composers will be included on the program. The final work will be “Daughters of the Industrial Revolution,” which Annie Gosfield composed for percussion and cello in 2011. In addition, the program will include Jimmy Lopez’ 2007 piano solo “Ccantu;” and Lopez will be present to discuss the work.
The final concert will present Harrison’s last piece, which he dedicated to SFCMP guitarist David Tanenbaum, as well as Carol Law and Charles Amirkhanian. This was his three-movement “Scenes from Nek Chand,” completed in 2002 and scored for solo steel guitar. The program will again begin with an earlier Harrison composition, his 1949 suite for cello and harp. The cello will also be featured in Gity Razaz’s 2014 “Shadow Lines,” scored for cello and electronics. The program will conclude with the West Coast premiere of “The Colors Don’t Match,” composed by Natacha Diels in 2014. Like Lopez, Diels will be present to discuss this piece prior to its performance.
All festival events will be held at Z Space, located in NEMIZ (the NorthEast Mission Industrial Zone) at 450 Florida Street. The screening of the Soltes film will begin at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 21. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.; and there will be a cash bar serving both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. All three concerts will take place on Saturday, April 21, beginning at 11 a.m. (doors open at 10:30 a.m.), 2:30 p.m., and 7:30 p.m., respectively. In addition, there will be a How Music is Made discussion in which both Lopez and Diels will participate. Artisanal pizza will be provided for the first 50 people to show up for this event. Finally, the 7:30 p.m. concert will be preceded by a “Knowing Lou” panel at 6:30 p.m. Artistic Director Steven Schick will engage in conversation with Tanenbaum and Winant, as well as Karen Gottlieb, other SFCMP performers, and friends of Harrison.
Admission to the film screening will be $10. Admission for each concert will be $25. There will also be a pass on sale for the entire weekend for $60. (Note that the pass provides a discount even to those attending only the concerts.) There is also a discounted rate of $15 for any concert which which four or more tickets are purchased. All of these options are available online through a single event page set up by Z Space.