Thursday, May 30, 2013

Spring Rounds

Somewhere, Stravinsky was smiling, I feel certain.

Tonight was the 100th anniversary of the premiere of the composer's "Rite of Spring," a hundred years since the Paris performance that caused a near-riot.

And tonight was also the night that a reduced version got performed at Gallery 5 for a full, but enthusiastic crowd.

And by reduced, I mean taking a score that I had recently heard performed by 100 symphony musicians down to just one.

Daryl Tankersley had painstakingly spent the past year and a half reducing "Rite of Spring" for a single electric guitar.

Things were just gearing up when I arrived.

Daryl was also having an exhibition of his collages, which were hung on the walls around the room.

Miles Davis poured out of the speakers overhead.

Holmes and his lovely were there, along with another favorite musician and his main squeeze.

I said hello to a jazz critic, a jazz DJ, a couple of symphony musicians and a favorite comics illustrator.

As the bartender pointed out, if only all Gallery 5 shows had such an eclectic crowd.

After much mingling, the lights were lowered and things got started.

It was fascinating hearing the guitar stand in for bassoons and timpani as the piece moved from adoration of the earth through the ritual of abduction to dance of the earth.

The audience was rapt, following the intensity without a sound.

He'd warned us he would be taking a break after part one to re-tune and wipe some sweat.

As a music writer pointed out to me later, Stravinsky had written the piece with instruments alternating parts because certain passages were so strenuous to play.

All the more reason to be wowed by one person playing it solo.

When playing resumed, it was for the exalted sacrifice, whereby the tribal elders watch as the chosen young girl dances herself to death.

Pretty primitive for 1913.

But tonight, it was just wildly intensive guitar playing that delivered the revolutionary rhythm patterns that were so challenging for audiences to accept a century ago.

Tonight's crowd had no such problem, leaning forward and absorbing every note until he finished playing to prolonged applause and hooting.

As impressed as I'd been at the scope of a project that had occupied this musician for almost two years, for the 30-some minutes he was playing, all I could do was lose myself in the music.

Only in Richmond could I be lucky enough to spend the centennial of "Rite of Spring" in a converted firehouse listening to such a magical performance, linking us back to that fateful night in Paris.

It was dancing of the earth of the highest order and I can't imagine what could top it when the bicentennial rolls around.

Some people will always have Paris, but my rite of spring was Richmond.

Just as primal, but without the bad behavior of Parisians.

Happy 100th, Igor.

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