How to create community with art, and other lessons from Field of View

An artist residency program for people with developmental disabilities rethinks the value of creative labor

Most stories are more complicated than they seem. To really understand why we–individually and collectively–have ended up at this particular moment in time under the often baffling conditions that inform day-to-day life, the simple story just won’t suffice.

This particular story, which looks at how five Portland-based artists ended up at a very special artist residency called Field of View, is far from simple. To understand how this program came to be begs for a brief glimpse into the ongoing public policy debate over how the State of Oregon should support individuals who experience developmental disabilities, for example. And all the nuances, twists, turns and triumphs in this story illuminate the Field of View resident artists’ resilience and creative capacity–as well as the possibility that art-making could play a vital role in the movement toward a more holistic, integrated city, state, and society.

My journey into this story began on a Sunday evening late this past August. Carissa Burkett, the artist who initiated Field of View, a program of the nonprofit Public Annex, invited me over to her home for dinner, where I met five of the program’s resident artists, along with Lauren Moran, Burkett’s co-organizer. Thanks to funding from the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Precipice Fund, Field of View was able to place these artists, all of whom experience developmental disabilities*, in three-month-long artist residencies around the community in Portland, at sites including King School, Performance Works Northwest, and the Independent Publishing Resource Center.

We sat on Burkett’s back patio that warm night and chatted for a couple of hours about the artists’ experience in their residencies. At the gathering, I met Dawn Westover, a visual artists who makes drawings; Sonya Hamilton, a painter and ceramicist; David Lechner, a visual and dance artist; and Olga Shchepina, a painter and sculptor. I also reconnected with Larry Supnet, a prolific visual artist whom I had met earlier in the year.

What made this gathering of artists especially interesting, in my eyes, was their familiarity with one another–the way they cracked jokes and smiled knowingly. I could tell there was a lot more to their stories as colleagues. “How do you all know each other?” I asked…

Dawn Westover’s Instagram @dawn_westover_art

*****

As it turns out, the story of these artists coming together goes way back–so far back that it required a detour into the history of the Oregon state legislature’s attempts to improve its services for Oregonians with developmental disabilities. Burkett filled me in on some of the details.

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MusicWatch Weekly: no leftovers

This week's Oregon concerts, with trimmings

MusicWatch has a confession to make: it seriously overindulged at last week’s holiday table. In truth, MusicWatch has been putting on the preview poundage (the freshman 1500?) quite a bit since leaving parental supervision for its own place, so ArtsWatch paterfamilias Barry Johnson staged a needed intervention, placing MusicWatch on a strict 800-word limit (and eventually 500, but we can’t go, uh, cold turkey right off the bat) until it slims down to the concision of  A.L Adams’s svelte DramaWatch or achieves the noble balanced proportions Jamuna Chiarini’s ample DanceWatch. If you want to add your own garnishes, please do so in the comments section, where they won’t count against the word limit or MusicWatch’s waistline.

Legends of the Celtic Harp
Patrick Ball, Lisa Lynne and Aryeh Frankfurter combine Celtic and English seasonal music (using three Celtic Harps, Swedish nyckelharpa, fiddle, bandura, bouzouki) and stories including A Child’s Christmas in Wales, a chapter from The Wind in the Willows, and passages from Shakespeare, Yeats, and Thomas Hardy.
Friday, Cerimon House, Portland.

Portland Gay Men’s Chorus performs its holiday show this weekend.

Portland Gay Men’s Chorus
Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice and other seasonal songs.
Friday-Sunday, Newmark Theater, Portland.

Cinderella
Portland State’s acclaimed opera program presents a piano quartet operetta of the classic fairy tale concocted from vintage German and French songs. Stay turned for Angela Allen’s ArtsWatch review.
Friday-Dec. 17, PSU Studio Theater, Lincoln Hall, Portland State University.

Oregon Symphony and Andre Watts
Scandinavian sounds by Grieg, Nielsen, Sibelius, and fellow Finn Joonas Kokkonen.
Friday, Smith Auditorium, Willamette University, Salem, and Saturday-Monday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.

Andre Watts performs with the Oregon Symphony.

Soror Mystica
ParaTheatrical ReSearch PDX’s latest ritual music/ theater/ dance/film/performance art creation (See Mitch Ritter’s ArtsWatch review of the company’s earlier Bardoville.) Friday-Sunday, Performance Works NW, Portland.

ISing
The annual free concert (with donations benefiting a good cause) features familiar carols with 80 voice choir, a brass octet, taiko drums, kotos and massive organ.
Friday and Sunday, Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ 5150 SW Watson, Beaverton, and Saturday,
St. Peter Catholic Church, 8623 SE Woodstock Blvd, Portland.

Beaverton’s iSing chorus used video in its winter 2013 concert.

“Singin’ in the Rain”
Peg Major directs, Robert Ashens conducts and Caitlin Christopher choreographed The Shedd’s original production of Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s 1985 stage adaptation of their classic film comedy about 1920s silent film stars making the turbulent transition to talkies.
Friday-Dec. 17, The Shedd, Eugene.

“Amahl and the Night Visitors”
For decades beginning in 1951, American composer Gian Carlo Menotti’s beloved one-act opera was a perennial holiday treat on NBC television. Thanks to Menotti’s appealing score and story about three kings, a family, and a series of miracles, Amahl is still the most frequently produced opera in the world — a family friendly holiday performance presented by one of Oregon’s finest chamber vocal groups, The Ensemble of Oregon, composed of top singers from the city’s big choirs.
Saturday-Sunday, First Christian Church, 1314 SW Park Avenue, Portland.

Christina & Michelle Naughton
Along with European classics by Debussy and Ravel (his enchanting child-inspired Mother Goose music), Mozart, Chopin, Schubert, and Tchaikovsky, the award-winning sibling duo pianists play 20th century American music, including delights by wild card Conlon Nancarrow, John Adams’s Hallelujah Junction, and Paul Schoenfield’s Five Days from the Life of a Manic Depressive.
Saturday & Sunday, Portland State University, Lincoln Hall.

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DanceWatch Weekly: BodyVox celebrates a milestone

The company that Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland started turns 20, plus Physical Education stages a festival and Wobbly presents a new film

This week in Portland dance, BodyVox Dance Company celebrates its 20th anniversary with the opening of Lexicon, an electronically infused collection of dances and films; Physical Education hosts a three-day performance festival called Say When that includes performances by local and international artists working in performance, sound, sculpture, video, and virtual reality; and Wobbly Dance and cinematographer Ian Lucero unveil their new film Tidal, an exploration of the relationship between the rhythm of mechanized breath and the rhythm of the oceans in a fantastical underwater world.

BodyVox’s Carmina Burana. Photos by Blaine Truitt Covert.

Twenty years ago BodyVox artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland landed on the name BodyVox (a combination of body and voice) for their Portland-based dance company after trying out such alternatives as CODA (Contemporary Oregon Dance) and Hamroll, a combination of Hampton and Roland that “rolled right off the tongue and into the compost,” Roland said, laughing, when I interviewed her and Hampton several weeks ago.

This playful, collaborative nature between the two seems to be the secret to their success as artistic partners, their longevity in the business, and the general mood and mission of the company and the work it produces. For Roland and Hampton it has always been important that the work be driven by beauty and collaboration, not ego. “That is why I believe we’ve been able to make close to 20 shows in 20 years” Hampton said, “… because we don’t get hung up on the show being about us. It’s us being about the work.”

BodyVox co-artistic director Ashley Roland in Carmina Burana. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

Lexicon is highly collaborative. The collaborators include lighting designer James Mapes; long-time BodyVox filmmaker Mitchell Rose; Italian avant-garde composer Ludovico Einaudi, known for his scores for the films Doctor Zhivago (2002) and Sotto Falso Nome (2004); The Boxtrolls animator Mike Smith; and programmer Wade Olsen, known for the FoxTrax, a hockey puck tracking software that is used during televised games. Lexicon is about re-examining and expanding what is possible in live performance by marrying dance and technology. The dancers use infrared sensors, live video graphic generation, motion capture, and virtual reality.

Roland and Hampton originally met at a Pilobolus workshop in 1983. Hampton danced with Pilobolus for five years after college, and later they performed together in MOMIX where Roland and Hampton were both founding members. The pair later co-founded ISO Dance, which stands for “I’m so optimistic,” with Daniel Ezralow and Morleigh Steinberg. Around 1994 Hampton quit dancing and moved home to Portland to work for his family’s lumber company with Roland joining him later.

Alicia Cutaia and Brent Luebbert in the new BodyVox film Night Shine./ Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

“I moved back here (Portland) because my body was broken from all those years of touring, and I needed to rest and recover,” Hampton said. “I started working for our family lumber business because I felt like eventually I would have to know what was going on with that. So I stopped dancing for almost two years and just did yoga and rock climbing and working out.”

Twenty years is a long time, and in that 20 years BodyVox, Roland and Hampton have been written about too many times to count, which is a good thing. So instead of going over that ground myself, I thought I would share with you a couple of my favorite interviews/reviews by other writers, and a list of interesting things that jumped out at me in our interview together. If you have the time and love reading about dance, which I hope you do, you can peruse the collection of writing on the company’s press page on their website.

Photo by Steve Cherry, Polara Studio courtesy of BodyVox.

In describing BodyVox’s movement and choreographic style in a review of Fifteen, a two-part celebration of the company’s 15th anniversary in 2013 that included 22 pieces, ArtsWatch’s senior editor Bob Hicks describes the company as “something of an anomaly in the dance world, quirky and contemporary but outside the mainstream of both the traditional and experimental wings.” He continued: “With a deep affection for circus, mime, vaudeville, and silent film in addition to training in ballet and contemporary-dance techniques, it’s really movement theater–less dancerly than many companies but usually more dancerly than Momix, Pilobolus, and ISO Dance, the companies that artistic directors Ashley Roland and Jamey Hampton worked in before creating BodyVox.” You can read the full review here.

In 2013 Roland and Hampton were interviewed by Portland Interview Magazine in an intimate reflection on BodyVox’s first 15 years and the couple’s 30 year collaborative history together. You can read that interview here.

In 2014 Hampton was interviewed by Emmaly Wiederhold and photographed by Gregory Bartning for their book Beauty Is Experience, Dancing 50 And Beyond, a beautiful and moving collection of stories and photos of dancers still dancing past the age of 50. In his interview with Wiederhold Hampton talks about finding dance at Dartmouth College with dance teacher Alison Chase, dancing for Pilobolus, burning out at age 40, rebuilding himself, measuring success, and considering the “end.” You can read that full interview here.

Interesting bits from my interview with Roland and Hampton

1. Hampton grew up in Portland. Roland grew up in Connecticut.
2. BodyVox was the first Portland dance company to be commissioned and produced by White Bird, The Big Room in 1998.
3. Jamey was 43 when he and Ashley started BodyVox. He is now 63, and he and Ashley continue to perform with the company.
4. The company’s first home was at the old home of PCVA, Portland Center for the Visual Arts, 117 NW Fifth Avenue, which featured so many notable visual artists (Agnes Martin, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Lynda Benglis, Sol LeWitt and Andy Warhol), site-specific installations (Donald Judd, Christo and Robert Irwin), and performance (Allan Kaprow, Trisha Brown and Yvonne Rainer).
5. Ashley gave birth to her first baby in the second year of the company. That baby is graduating from high school this year. Their second child is in 6th grade. Both kids have made appearances in several of the companies dances and films and have gone everywhere with the company.
7. At one point all the women dancers in the company had babies, and Ashley hired someone to watch the kids during rehearsals.
8. The original company members were Eric Skinner, Daniel Kirk, Robert Guitron, Cristina Patricelli-Betts, Eric Oglesby, Jamey Hampton, and Ashley Roland.
9. The company’s second home was over the Bridgeport Brewery where they were for ten years.
10. The company moved into the BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave., in 2008.

At the end of our interview Roland said, “Our mission is to enlighten people, to inspire people of all ages. With that in mind WE have to be inspired. So we’re are always looking for those things that give us inspiration. I love the root of the word inspiration: it’s having the spirit within.”

Performances this week

Lexicon (world premiere)
BodyVox
November 30-December 16
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.
See above.

TRANSCENDENTAEROBICOURAGE with Allie Hankins. Photo courtesy of Physical Education.

SAY WHEN -a mini festival
Hosted by Physical Education; keyon gaskin, Allie Hankins, Lu Yim and Takahiro Yamamoto.
December 1-3
All events FREE and ADA accessible
See below for the full schedule.
“PE’s vision is to offer audiences, artists of all mediums, and curious individuals immersive modes through which to engage with multi-disciplinary art practices and performance. PE acknowledges and scrutinizes the perceived illegibility and messiness of the performing body. PE organizes and hosts READING GROUPS, ARTIST SHARES, curated PERFORMANCES, AEROBICS classes, and straight-up sweat-it-out DANCE PARTIES.”

SAY WHEN-Day 1-TRANSCENDENTAEROBICOURAGE
Allie Hankins and DJ Allan Wilson
5-6pm December 1
Flock Dance Center, 8371 N Interstate Ave. Studio 4
“Traditionally, TRANSCENDENTAEROBICOURAGE is a movement/embodiment event. We breathe, vocalize, bounce, sweat, push, rest, DANCE, and work as individuals & as a group in actions that help us access the pleasure of effort. This special Say When edition of TRANSCENDENTAEROBICOURAGE will focus on sensation and perception.”

SAY WHEN-Day 2-Performances + VR + Dancing
Performances by sidony o’neal, Seanna Musgrave, coast 2c,
and Nadia Granados (Mexico City)
9 pm December 2
S1, 7320 NE Sandy Blvd.

SAY WHEN-Day 3-Performances + SPA
Performances by Hannah Piper Burns, Linda Austin, and Jin Camou
5pm December 3
High + Low Gallery, 936 SE 34th Ave.

Tidal by Wobbly Dance. Photo courtesy of Wobbly.

Tidal-the first cut
Wobbly Dance
Collaborators; cinematographer Ian Lucero, costume designer Jenny Ampersand and musicians Sweetmeat. Additional animation was created by Kurtis Hough. Make-up by Sumi Wu and Jenny Ampersand. Photography by Kamala Kingsley.
2 pm and 7:30 pm December 2
Q&A following the 2pm showing
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut #9
Both screenings will be Audio Described and ASL Interpreted.

In collaboration with cinematographer Ian Lucero, costume designer Jenny Ampersand and musicians Sweetmeat, this one day showing of Tidal-work in progress, will screen next to Wobbily Dance’s “Waking the Green Sound: a dance film for the trees” and a short film by Cheryl Green called “In My Home.”

Tidal is “a fantastical film, where breathing masks transform into diving masks, ventilator tubing morphs into costumes, and an ancient diver who calls the ocean home, draws us into his world. We fall, we dream, we dive. We transform from human to jellyfish and everything in between. This film is a continuation of the exploration of Wobbly’s dark, dream-like and sometimes absurd aesthetic. Starring Yulia Arakelyan and Erik Ferguson as the Dreamers, Nathan H.G. as the Diver, and Grant Miller as the Forager.”

Upcoming Performances

December
December 7-9, Bolero + Billie, Ihsan Rustem, NW Dance Project
December 8-9, The Nutcracker with Chamber Ballet of Corvallis, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
December 9, Winter Dance Concert, Reed College Performing Arts
December 9-24, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 13-17, a world, a world (work-in-progress), Linda Austin Dance, PWNW
December 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance, Crystal Jiko, Tere Mathern, Madison Page, Wolfbird Dance
December 17, The Nutcracker, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
December 17, Fiesta Navideña, Hosted by Espacio Flamenco Portland
December 22-24, The Nutcracker with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene

January

January 12, Love Heals All Wounds, Lil’ Buck and Jon Boogz, Presented by Portland’5 Center for the Arts
January 18-28, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin’ Greenhouse
January 25-27, Rennie Harris Puremovement, presented by White Bird
January 28, Garden of Earthly Delights with Salem Concert Band (World premiere), Rainbow Dance Theatre, Independence

February
February 1-10, The skinner|kirk DANCE ENSEMBLE, presented by BodyVox
February 4, The Lady Of The Camellias, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
February 17-18, Pink Martini, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
February 21, Mark Morris Dance Group, presented by White Bird
February 23-25, Configure, PDX Contemporary Ballet
February 24-March 4, Alice (in wonderland), choreography by Septime Webre, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre

March
March 1-3, Urban Bush Women, presented by White Bird
March 4, The Flames Of Paris, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
March 8-10, Jessica Lang Dance, presented by White Bird
March 14, Compañia Jesús Carmona, presented by White Bird
March 15-17, World Premiere’s by Sarah Slipper and Cayetano Soto, NW Dance Project
March 22-24, To Have It All, choreography by Katie Scherman, presented by BodyVox

April
April 4, iLumiDance, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5, Earth Angel and other repertory works, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5-7, Stephen Petronio Company, presented by White Bird
April 8, Giselle, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
April 12-14, Contact Dance Film Festival, presented by BodyVox and Northwest Film Center
Apr 14-25, Peer Gynt with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
April 12-21, Man/Woman, choreography by Mikhail Fokine, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Nicolo Fonte, James Canfield, Jiří Kylián, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 19-28, Early, push/FOLD, choreographed and directed by Samuel Hobbs
April 20-29, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre, Robert Guitron
April 24-25, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
April 24-25, The Wind and the Wild, BodyVox and Chamber Music Northwest

May
May 4-5, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, New work premiere, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Western Oregon University, Monmouth
May 10-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 11-13, Compose, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 17-20, CRANE, a dance for film by The Holding Project
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre

June
June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, NW Dance Project
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem

 

DramaWatch Weekly: A Dickensian Nor’wester and scattered Revels

ArtsWatch forecasts this week's holiday theater weather.

This weather, huh? What’s the forecast for this weekend and beyond?

A.L. Adams

To the southwest, there’ll be scattered Revels, with peak conditions for viewing Nordic Lights, and some precipitation rolling in from the Mediterranean will leave conditions Pericles Wet, while a family drama high pressure front builds up between Morrison and Alder. A Dickensian chill will sweep along the east river bank, building into a twister as it crosses into Northwest and breaking into gales of wry laughter as it heads for the Hils. It will miss Tigard altogether, which will experience mild enough conditions to continue its Holiday Parade already under way. Meanwhile, the Northeast will experience bursts of gospel, and as you head toward Columbia, be on the lookout for flaming radicals.

Dickensian drama is blowing in with the return of Portland Playhouse’s popular “A Christmas Carol” (above), Scott Palmer’s “Charles Dickens Writes ‘A Christmas Carol'” at Bag & Baggage in Hillsboro, Second City’s “Twist Your Dickens” at The Armory, and Phillip J. Berns’s “A Christmas Carol: A One Man Ghost Story.” Photo: Portland Playhouse

As you head Southeast, expect some choppy seas, and an abrupt shift as Utopia closes at Hand2Mouth and a dystopia opens at Theatre Vertigo: Victor Mack will direct José Rivera’s Marisol, a near-contemporary of Angels in America with some similar motifs—mental illness and spiritual warfare between angelic beings—along with some surprisingly ripped-from-current-headlines themes—namely, the struggle of a Puerto Rican woman against an unjust god who is dying and “taking the rest of the universe with him.” Also the frenzied desperation of an urban hellscape where citizens driven into homelessness by debt and personal injury gnash and wail in the streets.

Langston Hughes’s “Black Nativity”: a shining star. PassinArt photo/2016

Happy holidays, y’all. Jacob Marley left a message; something about “mankind being our business?” He said he’ll try again—repeatedly throughout our city, then at Vertigo on Christmas week, when Phillip Berns reprises his solo version of the classic.

Imago’s’classic “Frogz” leaps back into the swim. Photo: Imago Theatre

But what were we talking about? Oh yes. The weather. Northwest Children’s Theater will experience spells of magic, to subside by midnight. And tell the kids next weekend’s conditions should be ideal for watching FROGZ. Til then, stay warm, from hands to heart.

Family fuss? It’s only human

In the comic drama "The Humans" at Artists Rep, Thanksgiving dinner with the Blakes just might knock the stuffing out of you

Maybe you missed it last year when that big musical about the Founding Fathers was the talk of the Tonys and just about anyplace else you turned. But while Hamilton was sweeping up most of the attention and a bunch of Tony Awards, including best new musical, a much smaller play was making its own mark: Stephen Karam’s family comedy-drama The Humans, which took the award for best new play, plus two more for best performers and one for best set design. If it never broke through as a pop-cultural phenomenon the way Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical hit has, The Humans has left its mark, and is likely to be produced many times for many years on many regional stages.

From left: Vana O’Brien (in wheelchair), Quinlan Fitzgerald (partially hidden), John San Nicolas, Luisa Sermol, Val Landrum (partially hidden), Robert Pescovitz. Photo: Russell J Young

On Saturday night it opened on Artists Repertory Theatre’s Morrison Stage after a week of preview performances, beating Hamilton to the Portland punch. (A few Portlanders got a first look at The Humans a little over a year ago, when The Reading Parlor performed an engaging and decidedly promising one-night staged reading of it in a little side room at Artists Rep.) The Hamilton road company will settle into Keller Auditorium for a run March 20-April 8 next year, and I can still hear the wails reverberating from frustrated potential ticket buyers who couldn’t get through on the phone lines when advance sales kicked off Nov. 17.

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Pacifica Quartet: new members, new spirit

The renowned ensemble’s founders discuss replacing departed members, new collaborations, and more

by Alice Hardesty

After performing for 22 years, and with no member changes in the last 17, the Pacifica Quartet announced last May that half the group was leaving the ensemble. Violinist Sibbi Bernhardsson and violist Masumi Per Rostad had accepted teaching positions at the Oberlin Conservatory School of Music and the Eastman School of Music respectively.

The remaining (and founding) members, husband and wife team Simin Ganatra and Brandon Vamos, chose two new members: violinist Austin Hartman (first violinist with the Biava Quartet for 12 years) and Israeli violist Guy Ben-Ziony, who has been playing chamber music in Europe for several years. This new incarnation of the group performed at a Friends of Chamber Music concert in Portland earlier this month.

Friends of Chamber Music brought Pacifica Quartet’s new incarnation to Portland State University November 13-14. Photo: John Green.

Although these changes were bittersweet, they were also invigorating. “We’ve had the opportunity to dream up what would be the perfect quartet,” Ganatra said.

I had never interviewed a group that had experienced such a profound change so recently and I was very curious about how they went about replacing half the group and its impact on one of the world’s premier chamber ensembles.

Seeking Chemistry

Ganatra and Vamos looked for musicians whom they liked personally, which is important for a group that spends a lot of time working closely together, but also players who inspired them. Before making a final decision, the two original members rehearsed with the new candidates. They were looking for a common language — general agreement about phrasing and color, and for the right chemistry.

Evidently they didn’t have to talk very much. Even in the beginning, there was an understanding communicated in the playing itself. Vamos has played in mixed groups where you had to discuss everything. But for the string quartet, “It’s important that some of it is just instinctual,” he explains. “If you have the chemistry you can speak less, and that’s a good thing.”

Consequences of Change

Vamos believes that the Pacifica’s sound has changed, but that it’s difficult to characterize the change. “Maybe there’s a different approach to articulation. And, of course, they’re playing two different instruments — not just different players but different instruments, and that does affect the quartet’s sound.” He hears it from inside and he’d like to hear what the four of them sound like from the audience, but, well, he can’t do that.

What they can say is how the change has affected the group’s own perceptions and practices. “We’ve been playing the same repertoire for 17 years with the same people,” Vamos says. “You throw two new people into that mix, and all the dynamics change!” So far, Ganatra feels there’s more spontaneity, an energy that feels fresh, and that more is happening in the moment, which is always what they strive for.

The group also spends much more time (five hours per day recently) rehearsing than they used to because of the need to get their repertoire up to speed with the new players. According to Ganatra, it will take 1 1/2 years to get back to the amount of repertoire they had, so they’re doing a kind of “crash course.” They’re getting ready to perform a Beethoven cycle in February, and that’s a lot of music (16 string quartets)!

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‘Belfast Girls’: It’s about time

Corrib Theatre's resonant staging of a play about women escaping the Irish Famine rings true amid today's sea change of women's rights

“The time of women is coming.” Uttered by a character early on in Corrib Theatre’s production of Belfast Girls, it sounds like foreshadowing. This is a play, after all, about five women escaping Ireland during the Irish Famine of 1845-1852. They board a ship called the Inchinnan en route to Australia, with hopes of a better life.

What we know, of course, and what the playwright Jaki McCarrick knew when she wrote this play in 2015, was that the time of women is still coming. The statement – and these five fiery female characters – are particularly prescient today, amid a sea change in women’s rights, particularly the right to be free of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment. But we all also know that time can’t come soon enough.

The Belfast Girls, from left: Summer Olsson, Hannah Edelson, Tiffany Groben, Brennan Dwyer, Anya Pearson. Photo: Adam Liberman

When Belfast Girls begins, we meet four women escaping Ireland, bonded by a shared dorm quarters on the ship taking them toward their dreams. There is the de facto leader, Judith (Anya Pearson), a well-spoken woman unafraid to speak her mind. She is joined by Ellen (Brenan Dwyer) – “stupid Ellen,” as Judith calls her in the beginning, but we learn there is much more to her than anyone realizes. Hannah (Summer Olsson) – called “fat Hannah” by Judith and her other companions – carries more grief and resilience than anyone should have to muster. Sarah (Hannah Edelson) is the stranger in the group, a country girl – and the only one who was not a street girl in Belfast. Still, she has her reasons to be here, and we’ll learn those soon enough. These four are joined before departure by Molly (Tiffany Groben), a weak and sickly maid from outside of Belfast who has carried on books and more than her share of secrets.

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