By Michael Aushenker
Jacaranda Music, the brainchild of artistic director Patrick Scott and music director Mark Alan Hilt, takes pride in showcasing rarely heard classical music.
Keeping Santa Monica classy, the music company kicks off a new season on Saturday with a concert program that will mark the 10th anniversary season of Jacaranda at its regular venue, First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica.
The season opener will feature an international mix delivered by the Lyris Quartet, who will be joined by four pianists and five percussionists performing compositions by Adams, Rouse, Rzewski and Bergamo.
“It’s going to be really exciting,” Hilt, the man holding the baton, said of the season ahead. The conductor deemed this concert “American music that relates to each other in an interesting way. It’s a real variety of texture and something most people have not heard of before.”
Launched Oct. 4, 2003, at First Presbyterian, Jacaranda produces eight concerts a season. Early on, the company jumped around Santa Monica — from the
Miles Playhouse to Santa Monica Bay Women’s Club to Annenberg Beach House — before settling in at its First Presbyterian digs.
Scott and Hilt, a couple of 19 years, have spent the past decade building up the Westside’s classical music cred, one program of rare compositions at a time.
In charge of setting the musical agenda, from conjuring up program themes to selecting the pieces, Scott seems satisfied with what Jacaranda has achieved in the past decade.
“People compare us to Walt Disney Concert Hall in the musicianship,” said Scott. “Time and time again, I’m told I’m so glad I don’t have to drive downtown. … It’s a strong and viable concert venue.”
On Saturday, Grammy Award-winning pianist Gloria Cheng, a Santa Monica resident who has performed with Jacaranda in each of its 10 seasons, will play John Adams’ “Phrygian Gates.”
Pianist Scott Dunn will reprise a signature work, the Frederick Rzewski’s “Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues,” which has come to signify the church’s reopening after an extensive renovation a few years back.
Lyris Quartet will play Silvestre Revueltas’ Quartet No. 4 “Musica de Feria,” and four percussionists, led by featured drummer M.B. Gordy, who will join the featured pianists for Christopher Rouse’s “Ku Ka-Ilimoku” and “Ogoun Badagris,” and John Bergamo’s “Piru Bole.” Hilt will conduct both Rouse pieces.
Billed “Grit and Glory,” the show is just the beginning for this scrappy classical music troupe’s new season. In November, the program “Shattered Glass” will solemnly honor the 75th anniversary of the infamous Kristallnacht of Nov. 9, 1938, in Nazi Germany. In January, “Hallucination” will welcome European vocal ensemble Voxnova, making their U.S. debut under the direction of bass baritone Nicholas Isherwood. The work of musician John Cage will be showcased in February’s “Mid-Century Modern.”
First Presbyterian “is a very intimate room, surprisingly intimate given its size,” Hilt said. “It’s just a wonderful hall for music. The sound just booms in there. It has a presence and a life.”