Lately I’ve been practicing long hours for the Ojai Music Festival, a contemporary & new music festival held every year in this bucolic town. Ojai is a throwback to small and rural California life, a relaxing getaway an easy hour’s drive from hectic and unforgiving Los Angeles.
In the past, I’ve had the pleasure of playing there with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the LA Philharmonic New Music Group, composer John Adams, conductors Simon Rattle, Kent Nagano and the Lyon Opera Orchestra. The music is usually extremely challenging and I always look forward to the camaraderie of the great players who participate. It takes a certain kind of musician to want to submit themselves to music that is often experimental and at the edge of their playing abilities. The concentration demanded can be exhausting at times but well worth it.
This year is no different as a group of freelance players assembled for the occasion come together to perform Mauricio Kagel’s Kantrimiusik on Saturday evening, June 11. Grant Gershon, the incredibly energetic music director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale will be conducting. Grant is a long-time veteran of the Los Angeles new music scene and is one of the most gifted pianists I’ve ever worked with. Pianist Gloria Cheng (another one of my favorites) and LAGQ guitarist, John Dearman are also in the small ensemble. John and I are splitting the guitar duties. He’s on 7-string classical guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass balalaika and harmonica while I’m playing steel string guitar, banjo and percussion. Yes, that’s right…percussion. Bass drum, bongos, conga, triangle, Tibetan bell and anvil. OK, I can just hear all my percussionist friends rolling on the floor with convulsive laughter…and they’d be right. If the composer were here, I’d tell him, “You get what you deserve.”
Thanks to percussionist Dan Greco for the use of his instruments and the quick lesson…