September 20, 2012

Composer inspires artistic collaboration


---- — PLATTSBURGH — The centennial of composer John Cage’s birthday sparked a flurry of Cage activity this year.

In April, dancer/choreographer Lacina Coulibaly performed in a Cage concert at the New School in New York City.

Plattsburgh resident and horn player Ann Ellsworth was among the musicians participating in the performance.

Afterward, she and Coulibaly wrote emails to each other asking to collaborate on a project.

Saturday’s concert, a tribute to Cage, is their vision. The performance features Ellsworth; Coulibaly; composer Suzanne Farrin; and vocalists JoEllen Miano, Amanda Tabor and Andrea Ogle.

The concert is a world premiere of Farrin’s work “Dal Dolce Pianto” for horn, piano, voice and dancer at the Blessed John XXIII College Community Newman Center Catholic Church.

“She wrote a piece based on a poem by Michelangelo,” Ellsworth said. “It’s a love poem that he wrote to a guy (Tommaso d’ Cavalieri) who modeled for him for the David sculpture. This love poem is the featured piece. Lacina has choreographed to this. It’s just stunning.”

An orchestral version of Farrin’s “Dal Dolce Pianto” was performed this summer at the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York City. She is at work on other Michelangelo poems that will be the basis for a small opera. Ellsworth and Farrin continue to collaborate with Coulibaly until he returns to his native Burkina Faso in January.

This year, Coulibaly teaches at Yale University. Previously, he has taught at the University of Florida and Brown University. He trained in West African dance and European contemporary dance. He has performed with the Ballet National du Burkina Faso, Compagnie Salia Ni Seydou and Irene Tassamebedo.

With Souleymane Badolo, he co-founded Compagnie Kongo Ba Teria, which is at the forefront of West African contemporary dance.

“He’s a contemporary dancer,” Ellsworth said. “His schooling is traditional West African dance. They have a movement coming out of there that has taken the modern-dance world by storm.”

Farrin received her doctorate at Yale.

“That’s how they have a little connection,” Ellsworth said. “She’s quite a renowned composer.”

Farrin is an associate professor of composition and director of the Conservatory of Music at SUNY Purchase. Her compositions have been performed by musicians such as the International Contemporary Ensemble, Anthony Ross Costanzo and the Arditti Quartet.

Farrin’s works have been performed throughout the United States, Europe and South America.

Saturday’s program features Cage’s “Five” and “Variations 2.”

“It’s going to be visually just stunning,” Ellsworth said.

“Five” voices are Miano, Farrin, Ellsworth, Tabor and Ogle.

“It’s like a soundscape,” Ellsworth said. “We will have singers positioned all around the room. There is a big clock on the stage that shows the vocal cues.”

In “Variations 2,” Cage put water in conch shells and amplified the glug-glug sound in a microphone.

“What Lacina and I did instead of conch shells, we put water in Wagner tuba,” Ellsworth said. “We used the actual brass instrument.”

She will also perform “Sea Eagle” by composer and conductor Peter Maxwell Davies.

“That’s about a giant sea bird,” Ellsworth said. “Lacina is also dancing to that. This concert breaks down preconceived notions of race, gender, culture and nationality through the fusion of music and dance; creates a platform of continuing discussion of strength in diversity, tension and resolution; and celebrates the transcendence of bias through beauty and art.”

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WHAT: A collaboration of artists featuring composer Suzanne Farrin; dancer Lacina Coulibaly; vocalists JoEllen Miano, Amanda Tabor, Andrea Ogle; and horn player Ann Ellsworth.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Blessed John XXIII College Community Newman Center Catholic Church, 90 Broad St., Plattsburgh.