Kamratōn Wraps 8th Season With ‘on waiting’

Brittany J. Green, ‘Composer of the Year,’ On-Hand Guest Artist

By George B. Parous

Kamratōn, the self-described “non-profit chamber music organization dedicated to women in new music, the arts, and in business,” gave an interesting program last evening, closing their current season in Pittsburgh, at East Liberty’s Kelly-Strayhorn Theatre. The concert also was a Composer of the Year event, and Brittany J. Green was the selected composer on hand; the writer of half of the pieces performed, who curated the program, did a remarkably difficult reading through one of her compositions, and took up a saxophone for another. The program will be repeated today and tomorrow in Brooklyn, NY.

The core of Kamratōn consists of five individuals. Jennifer Sternick, an exceptionally talented violinist, is also the group’s Executive Director, founder and President. Cecilia Caughman, a fine cellist who also performs with numerous regional ensembles, including the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, Erie Philharmonic, Butler County Symphony Orchestra and Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra, to name a few, is the ensemble’s Librarian. Sarah Steranka is the group’s gifted flutist – be it the flute or piccolo, alto flute or bass flute. 

Emily Cook, Kamratōn’s talented clarinetist, is also its Artistic Director. Like all, she juggles a multitude of interests and vocations outside of the group. Anna Elder, the ensemble’s vocalist, possesses an almost indescribably lovely soprano voice. She, too, has an extensive resume, including appearances with Pittsburgh’s Alia Musica, Nat28, Opera On Tap and The Eclectic Laboratory Chamber Orchestra, to name but a few.

Some of the pieces last night needed more than five players, and many guest artists were on hand to assist, r_upTure, the program’s opening number, a sonic, almost psychedelic piece, requires a conductor, and Antoine Clark filled that capacity nicely. Other assisting artists were Maija Anstine (viola), the versatile Robert Frankenberry (keyboard), Katie Palumbo (piano), Liz Pearse (voice and clarinet), Lucy Tarantino (marimba), Clara Warnaar (drum kit), and, of course, composer Brittany J. Green (voice and saxophone). Most played in only the opening number, but a few returned for some of the other works.

On a stage full of talent, Ms. Green proved to be the bright particular shining star. Her engaging manner and casual delivery were delightful, and the program numbers were an excellent display of her talents as a composer. The program takes its name from her on waiting, which received its first hearing on any stage last night, a world première. Based on a tanka (short poem) of the same name, it displays through music the physicality of longing in a way that is not easily described. Commissioned by Kamratōn, we don’t merely hear in the work the “I’m so blue” type of longing-desire-waiting themed music; we hear it and almost feel it. Cleverly using the voice and instruments, Green captures almost an ache in tone, without making the piece uncomfortable. Hopefully the ensemble will add a bit of it to their YouTube channel, for hearing it makes the effect more amazing than words can.

It was in the first work, r_upTure, that Green gave the remarkably difficult reading already mentioned. As an example of the wide world of themes hiding in plain sight for new and experimental music that’s out there, the piece draws its musical and textual inspiration from a Python program designed “to build a musical system,” as the program notes tell us, “that filters out non-common pitches between chords in a given progression.” And there’s much more. The imaginations of “new music” musicians are awesomely extensive. The rapid-fire text Green read was a recitation of the computer program’s code. Green’s other program piece was shift.unravel.BREAK, a complex piece that “stretches and begins to unravel into a rhythmic frenzy before breaking into fragmented moments of sound and silence.” It, too, made quite an impression.

Other composers added to the program. Anatomical Venus (DM R), intangible landscapes (yaz lancaster), Hush of Nightfall (Anthony R. Green), and Stay on It (Julius Eastman), were all worthy of being on the bill. The evening was an enjoyable one, with an interesting mixture of musical themes and styles that was heartily applauded by those in the audience.

We’ll look forward to Kamratōn’s announcement of their 9th season.

Categories: Our Posts, Reviews

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: