Opus X Performs for Windham Chamber Music Festival

OpusX

8:00 pm • Saturday, September 5th 2015
Windham Civic & Performing Arts Center • Windham, NY

Oh my … we just flipped into September, and it almost seems like the cupboard is bear! When one looks at the calendar during July and August there is literally something going on just about every single day. Then with a flip of the calendar page, and in the words of Sheldon Cooper, bazinga! … we suddenly return to the majority of performances and events being presented mainly on the weekends with a few scattered throughout the week here and there.

While September is very much about chamber music, this weekend brings something a little different from the Windham Chamber Music Festival with its presentation of Opus X. Not the Finnish early music ensemble, but rather a self-described “crossover quartet of four beguiling women from four corners of the world, all highly acclaimed classical soloists with a shared desire to create beautiful music.” Hmmm… not sure what that truly means, but when reading their individual bios they are clearly well-trained classical musicians and bring solid and diverse experience to the table. The members of Opus X performing this weekend are:

      • Lone Madsen, clarinet
      • Lidia Baich, violin
      • Kristina Reiko Cooper, cello
      • Tanja Zapolski, piano

So let me ask … what does this “classical crossover” or “crossover artist” term actually mean. It’s a term that has been bounced around for a while. Apparently the current genre reference traces back to the days of the runaway success of the Three Tenors, and quasi-operatic spinoffs such as “popera” and “classical pop” stars such as Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, and the Canadian Tenors. The reference is to a genre that’s a mix of classical and popular music, or classical and jazz, or Western “classical” juxtaposed with another style of music or geographical part of the world. I am becoming more and more aware of artists exploring “the field” of various genres and as well as broadening their palette with electronic elements as technology offers up new and exciting “toys.” Examples include ensembles such as Brooklyn Rider (classical, rock, and jazz), Sweet Plantain Quartet (jazz, Latin, a bit of hip-hop, and classical), Time for Three (bluegrass, jazz, and classical), The Piano Guys (classical, rock, comedy, theatre) and artists such as cellist Ashley Bathgate, violinist Tessa Lark, etc. I’m sure you get a sense as all of these ensembles and artists have performed recently in the region.

On the other hand, the crossover artist can be the non-classical artist exploring and incorporating classical elements into their performance mix. Being a huge Sting fan, he jumps to mind with his foray into the baroque lute —Songs from the Labyrinth—and holiday album, very much in the early Western classical vein—If on a Winter’s Night, and of course his venture into performing with symphony orchestra with his tour Symphonicities, in which he reinterpreted  many of his works into symphonic compositions.

Regardless of who is doing the “crossover,” the charts show people generally like it (translated by album and box office sales and PBS fundraiser airings). In talking with some classical artists who are doing this, they feel it is a way of engaging a broader and younger audience. If they are good at what they are doing, it also allows them to perform in venues that they might not have the opportunity to perform.

For me … I just can’t decide how I sit about this “crossover” “thing.” On one hand it doesn’t seem genuine in that it often comes across as more of a commercial venture rather than a true artistic-centered journey. Yet with the right creative approach, it can be absolutely wonderful. “Crossover” almost seems like a dirty word, but on the other hand it can point to some pretty exciting work to be experienced. It seems I’m quite conflicted and haven’t really sorted this out yet.

Crossover music is the elephant in classical music’s narrow living room. It takes up an awful lot of space, nobody quite knows what to do with it, and most people see only a piece of the whole.” —Anne Midgette *

As to the Opus X concert this weekend, I honestly can’t put my finger on what to expect. When one looks at the quartet’s website, we see very polished, meticulously produced video performances filmed at the opening of a resort … you know the kind, with the backing of a full string and rhythm sections, beguiling gowns and performance gesturing, theatrical stage setting and lighting, etc. This, doesn’t quite seem fitting or feasible in the Windham Civic & Performing Arts Center.

I’m told this weekend’s concert is fully acoustic and the ladies will perform without backing tracks to fill in the full strings and percussion. The program will be announced from the stage during the concert, so nothing to share there in advance. Just not sure what to expect. Yet, they are solid musicians who have a desire to share their music, and, of course, we have grown to trust the Windham Chamber Music Festival to provide us with quality performances. So as billed … they will “take you on a journey into the unexpected.”

Unfortunately I am not able to attend, but am really interested to hear of your thoughts on the concert (and of course on the “crossover” concept and ventures in general). Please, do share!

Meanwhile … we’ll leave you to ponder this with Opus X performing one of the greatest rock songs of all time, Stairway to Heaven, by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant who composed it for their English rock group Led Zeppelin.

* from Anne Midgette’s Washington Post article  ‘Classical Crossover’: A Label Not Necessarily to be Feared

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