By Christopher Arnott
2:22 PM EDT, June 26, 2013
John Luther Adams’ songbirdsongs, done in Yale’s Marsh Botanical Garden! A masterstroke for the Arts & Ideas programmers, and serendipitous in that the ensemble which performed this modern classic of nature-themed new-music, Le Train Bleu, is essentially Yale-based. Flautist Ransom Wilson was the de facto conductor, but the band and their instruments were spaced out throughout the garden so it was more a matter of these accomplished musicians following scores which seemed to be as much scripts as sheet music, and just feeling the vibe. (A piece of paper taped to a Temple Block read “Anytime after Piccolo II has played twice, enter playing phrase #1. From then on, play phrases and rests in any order, ending anytime after Piccolo II.”) In practice, the score sounded fluid and flawless, with the uncalculated and invaluable addition of the sounds of actual birds, bugs and breezes.
This was not just a beautiful hour spent in a beautiful park with beautiful people (of all ages and social dispositions). All those elements blended together magically.
Sunday night was, I felt, the first real underwhelming event of the festival. Outside the Arts & Ideas context, this was a perfectly nice set by a perfectly nice party band, Funkadesi. But this Indian/Jamaican/funk/soul/world ensemble overplayed their multicultural personae. As a local musician I greatly admire put it, Funkadesi put a little bit of everything into their show, yet it felt empty. It didn’t help that their opening march around the Green, and an animated pre-show dance instruction session for the crowd, were livelier than anything which followed. Solos were way too long, and way too solo. Also too many Bob Marley references for my taste.
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