The Toledo Museum of Art and the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, in conjunction with Bowling Green State University, will celebrate the centenary year of Lou Harrison with a music marathon from noon until 10 p.m. on Aug. 12. Harrison (1917-2003) – a composer, environmentalist and gay icon – began his own musical revolution more than 50 years ago, and is considered the godfather of the influential world music movement, particularly its popularity in the West. His more than 300 compositions written for symphony orchestra, ballet, small chamber ensembles and soloists incorporate western, eastern and custom-made instruments.
“We welcome opportunities to host fascinating, innovative performances for our visitors, and this year’s music marathon celebrating Lou Harrison is no exception,” said TMA Programs Manager Scott Boberg. The schedule includes chamber music, a documentary film about Harrison and a demonstration of gamelan, the traditional Indonesian ensemble of mostly percussive instruments used widely in Harrison’s compositions. The marathon culminates with a Peristyle concert at 7:30 p.m. featuring Grammy Award-winning Third Coast Percussion performing two concertos: The Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra featuring Grammy Award-winning soloist Paul Jacobs, and the Concerto for Violin and Percussion Orchestra with soloist Todd Reynolds.
Harrison is best known for challenging the traditional music establishment with his explorations of new tonalities and propulsive rhythms and his ground-breaking use of percussion. His contemporaries and colleagues included composers John Cage, Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson and Leonard Bernstein; Living Theater founder Judith Malina; and choreographer Merce Cunningham. Beyond his myriad musical accomplishments, Harrison was also recognized and received multiple awards as a political activist.
Merwin Siu, artistic administrator of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra and co-organizer of the music marathon, was introduced to Harrison’s music as he became familiar with the concerto for violin and percussion orchestra. “As we assembled an orchestra of tuned flower pots, brake coils, multiple wind chimes, and a double bass – played as a percussion instrument with metal beaters! – it seemed it would be a hugely cacophonous experience. It turned out to be anything but,” Siu said. “Harrison’s music takes a great rhythmic groove, a beautiful lyric gift and a kaleidoscopic sense of instrument color to create a truly unique sound that owes as much to the Eastern musical tradition as to the West. His music is infectious, and a blast to perform.”
Kurt Doles is composer and director of MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music at Bowling Green State University and will lead the demonstration of gamelan for this special event. “Lou Harrison is one of the main reasons the various forms of Indonesian gamelan ensemble are known in the United States. His enthusiasm and spirit helped spread the awareness and love of Indonesian music in all its forms across North America,” he said. “He is an important, if often unsung, linchpin in American musical life.”
Lou Harrison Music Marathon Schedule
Chamber Concert 1
12-12:45 p.m., GlasSalon
Ariadne (1987, 10 minutes)
Grand Duo (1988, 30 minutes)
Break (lunch not included)
Chamber Concert 2
1:30-2:15 p.m., GlasSalon
Suite for Cello and Harp (1949, 12 minutes)
String Quartet Set (1979, 27 minutes)
Varied Trio (1986, 20 minutes)
Lou Harrison: A World of Music, a film by Eva Soltes
2:30-4 p.m., Little Theater
Gamelan demonstration with Kurt Doles
4:30-5:15 p.m., Peristyle Lobby
Break (dinner not included)
6:30-7 p.m., Peristyle
Peristyle concert with Third Coast Percussion, Paul Jacobs and Todd Reynolds
7:30-9 p.m., Peristyle
Meet the artists reception
9-10 p.m., Peristyle Lobby
All-festival passes, which include the chamber concerts and the Peristyle performance with Third Coast Percussion, Paul Jacobs and Todd Reynolds, are $15 for Museum members and TSO subscribers and $25 for non-members/subscribers. Tickets for the Peristyle performance only are $15 for Museum members and TSO subscribers and $20 for non-members/subscribers. Tickets for both chamber concerts are $5 for Museum members and TSO subscribers and $10 for non-members/subscribers. Visitors may view the documentary and the gamelan demonstration for free. Tickets are available at toledomuseum.eventbrite.com.
Parking at the Museum is free for members and $7 for nonmembers.