It was unexpected, and perfectly lovely, to see this note posted to Facebook by Patricia Kopatchinskaja, the brilliant and idiosyncratic violinist who served as music director of the 2018 Ojai Music Festival, on my return home from co-hosting the livestream for that event. The festival was chock full of remarkable things, nearly all of which you can stream on YouTube already – do not miss the superhuman achievement of Markus Hinterhäuser performing all six piano sonatas by Galina Ustvolskaya in unbroken sequence (here) – and it was a great pleasure to speak at length, on camera, with Kopatchinskaja, cellist Jay Campbell, keyboardist Anthony Romaniuk, and Ojai Festival artistic director Tom Morris.
(Click on the photo to see the video on Patricia's Facebook page, or go straight to YouTube, here.)
At one point on Sunday afternoon, I was told after the fact, I'd somehow unwittingly spent literally a full hour talking on camera: alone first, then in the interview with Anthony, and then in conversation with my capable and affable co-host, the pianist and composer Thomas Kotcheff. (I'm glad to know that it went well, and somewhat relieved that such an extended bout of gabbing is not posted on YouTube.) Already I'm looking forward to returning next year for a festival curated by the brilliant soprano and conductor Barbara Hannigan – and, with luck and better planning on my part, to bring my family along, instead of arriving with as much homework as I brought this time around.
Among the festival's many fine offerings, a few moments remain indelibly etched on my inner eyelid. (These photos are mine, taken from the anchor desk behind the bowl, except as indicated.)
• A performance of "Horse Sings from Cloud," by Pauline Oliveros, played by Kopatchinskaja, the JACK Quartet, and members of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra on smartphones and tablets while spread throughout Libbey Bowl, the illuminated gadgets and twinkling tones making it seem as if a constellation had descended to sing.
• Jay Campbell, playing in profile in an open alcove above the stage, while the three remaining members of the JACK Quartet bowed illuminated wine goblets upstage in the "God-Music" section of George Crumb's Black Angels, during "Dies Irae," the second of two staged concerts produced by Kopatchinskaja and director Maria Ursprung. (Photograph by Bonnie Wright.)
• The percussionist Fiona Digney hammering with somber vehemence on a black wooden box, carted to the stage by bassists as if they were pallbearers, in Ustvolskaya's singular composition Dies Irae, around which the concert of the same name was built.
• The final image in "Dies Irae" – the thematic concern of which was climate change and an increasingly imperiled planet. After the Ustvolskaya piece, the concert's entire complement spilled like a priestly procession into the aisles to surround the audience, each carrying a handheld light source and a ticking metronome for György Ligeti's Poème symphonique, while simultaneously a recording of the Dies Irae plainchant played on the P.A. (as seen in the photograph, above). One by one, the metronomes stopped and the tiny lights blinked out, until all that remained was Jay Campbell's solitary tick from the stage.
Then the stage lights came up, and Campbell was flanked on either side by children: a young girl, and a younger boy, holding leafy branches. Campbell stopped his metronome, handed it to the girl (photograph by David Bazemore); you caught a fleeting glimpse, and then all lights went down. The meaning could not have been more clear. I was choked up and damp-eyed speaking on camera about that moment immediately afterward—and later that evening as I related it to the host at my guest house, and again a few more times as I told the story repeatedly on Sunday. (And again, just now, as I typed this.)
A reminder: footage from last year's festival – curated by Vijay Iyer, and including my dream-achieved joint interview with Roscoe Mitchell and the late Muhal Richard Abrams – is also available in perpetuity on YouTube… or, as Thomas and I were referring to it by Day 2 or 3, "Ye Olde YouTube."