Wet Ink 2010: Choral music meets percussion – and it’s free! | TheUnion.com

Wet Ink 2010: Choral music meets percussion – and it’s free!

Summer at last. Time for Wet Ink, Nevada County Composers Cooperative’s annual tribute to new music.

Wet Ink goes from strength to strength. For many it is a high spot in the calendar and Wet Ink 2010 on June 22 promises more than its usual mix of the new and the exciting.

For one thing, it’s a free concert, thanks to a grant from the California Arts Council, NCCC reaching out to those for whom a $25 ticket is beyond today’s budget, and an invitation to a larger audience to take part in a community endeavor.

For the first time, Wet Ink brings together three local choruses and their conductors, Ryan Murray’s Music in the Mountains, Rod Baggett’s Nevada Union High School, and Ken Hardin’s Sierra Master Chorale, singing separately and as a massed chorus.

The program includes new works by local composers Jerry Grant and Mark Vance, as well as works by Emmy winning Don Davis, Washington composer Alex Shapiro and Mendocino resident Jay Sydeman.

The program is intriguing: the newest of new music featuring the oldest forms of music-making, the human voice and percussion, with the impressive Sacramento Percussion Group, led by one-time Nevada County resident Daniel Kennedy, professor at Cal State University Sacramento.

In the past fifty years percussion has come into its own. Solo performers have built exciting repertoires; percussion ensembles present an astonishing array of sounds, timbres, harmony and rhythm, far beyond the orchestral timpani.

Kennedy’s Group will explore instruments from the traditional to the unexpected and even the seemingly comical. Cans, rattles, shakers, “lion’s roars,” and claves feature in John Cage’s classic, the complex, abstract and primal Third Construction.

Ever wonder how a composer can write music without tunes? Sydeman’s new “Duo,” promising “everything and the kitchen sink” in a work he describes as “technically demanding, rhythmically formidable, structurally challenging,” shows how. The mellifluous marimba is the medium of Steve Reich’s beautiful minimalist Nagoya Marimbas. Mark Appelbaum’s Catfish is quirky, colorful and intricate, and, according to Kennedy, Nigel Westlake’s Omphalo Centric Lecture is “one of the best marimba quartets in the repertoire.”

The Group will join the massed choruses for new works, settings of words appropriate for our times. Jerry Grant’s “But Have Not Love,” with text from St Paul, “If I have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal,” displays love’s beauty, tenderness and endurance.

Mark Vance’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” from John Donne’s “No Man is an Island,” for chorus, brass quartet, piano, and percussion, reminds us of our interdependence. How better to demonstrate that than with a choir of 200, ages 15-80, all singing together.

Each chorus will also perform a work from its repertoire, some of the most beautiful of modern choral works.

By contrast, Don Davis’ ingenious “Illicit Felicity,” composed for the thriller movie “Bound,” features the piano, the ultimate percussion instrument, of Ken Hardin, and another voice, in the pure and soaring tones of Richard Altenbach’s violin, will sing through the sultry air of Alex Shapiro’s electronic soundscape in Vista.

It’s hard to resist: 12 composers, more than 200 performers, (singers, brass players, pianists and a violinist), three conductors, and who knows how many instruments (does an electronic score count as one or many?)

New Music is alive and well, and Wet Ink 2010 shows off some of the best of it.

Visit the Composers’ Web site for more about the event at composerscooperative.org

Charles Atthill lives in Alta Sierra. His favorite percussion instrument is the triangle whose single note can penetrate the loudest of orchestras to stunning effect.

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