PNME Theater of Music performances start this weekend, and judging from the final rehearsal last night, Friday and Saturday evenings at City Theatre this month will be filled with the same “lime green” musical energy that this gifted group of performers – and composers – has been offering for quite a number of years.
Composers are the focus of the first weekend’s shows – three world premiere works by American composers selected as participants for the first annual ACF CONNECT program offered by the American Composers Forum last year, and commissioned to write pieces for PNME. The composers represented are David Biedenbender (of East Lansing, MI), Rufus Reid (of Teaneck, NJ), and Jung Yoon Wie (of Ann Arbor, MI). From what was heard last evening, they well deserved being chosen from several hundred applicants. Their compositions are vividly brought to life by the talented group of instrumentalists and vocalists that makes PNME a “Theater of Music.”
Each piece is prefaced by brief video projections which, through the composers’ own words and photographic montages, concisely and effectively draw the audience very quickly into the emotions and experiences behind the individual compositions. A very brief trailer about the composers and influences behind their works is available on YouTube.
Every Bone Has a Memory, Jung Yoon Wie’s work, is first up, and in music and words represents the emotions of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Inspired by the late Elizabeth Kübler- Ross’ On Death and Dying, in which she first proposes her theory of the five stages of grief, Wie’s composition is a very personal story of the emotions that brought her to the point of being able to tell this tale in tones. Two vocalists, two string players, and a clarinetist are employed in the tightly and effectively woven piece.
Remembrance, by Rufus Reid, is a somewhat jazzy, avant-garde tribute to the centenaries of Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Leonard Bernstein – three artists who have influenced the jazz bassist’s work, although the work is not bound exclusively to that genre. The full forces of PNME’s talent are employed to advantage in Mr. Reid’s work.
Shell and Wing – From Across the Table, by David Biedenbender, is best described by PNME itself: “Dinnertime with the children can be both nutty and magical. Ranging from silly and surreal to dark and serious, this collection of vignettes is Biedenbender’s ‘attempt to capture my life as a parent.’ Inspired by the impromptu remarks of his two sons Declan and Izaak (ages 2 and 4), their comments are both nonsensical and epically on point. Kids say the darndest things!” The piece effectively brought the performance to a close.
With Kevin Noe conducting a very gifted group of musicians, The Human Experience proved an entertaining start to PNME’s 43rd season. Lindsay Kesselman possesses a silvery soprano voice capable of great power as well as tenderness. Timothy Jones, bass-baritone, is an effective vocalist as well, and his deep sounds meshed with and complemented Ms. Kesselman’s tones on a number of occasions. Oscar Micaelsson is a young pianist with a good technique and the ability to bring a solid, compelling sound from the instrument. Nathalie Shaw, violinist, and Norbert Lewandowski, ‘cellist, in this show and so many others, play in a manner that is inspiring to both hear and see. Ian Rosenbaum is the group’s versatile percussionist, who plays everything from drums to a tiny, children’s toy piano in this show.
Eric Jacobs, clarinetist, and Lindsey Goodman, flutist, also play important parts in these world premiere compositions, and they, too, are always a pleasure to listen to and watch. The pieces of the whole are nicely brought together with lighting designs by Andrew Ostrowski and sound designs by Chris McGlumphy.
The Human Experience will be performed tonight and tomorrow evening at 8 p.m. BYO wine parties follow each show. For tickets, detailed information about the productions, performers, composers and more, visit PNME’s exceptionally well-designed website. If you’ve never been to a PNME performance before, you qualify as a “First Limer,” and admission is free.
Alisa Garin Photography
Categories: Archived Reviews