Wild Shore fest designed to inspire, create new music

  • Chicago-based and Grammy Award winning ensemble “eighth blackbird” will be the featured guest artists at this year’s Wild Shore Festival for New Music Aug. 5-11.-Photo provided

What do you hear when the tide rushes in or deviously trickles out? A soothing change of pace? A familiar and eternal breath of ebb and flow? Our location, perched on Alaska’s wild coast, encourages creative interpretation in many ways.

This creative flux inspires the Wild Shore Festival for New Music. This summer the Bunnell Street Arts Center presents the third annual festival from Aug. 5-11. Audiences can explore inspired new music and delve into the creative process through composing, handling instruments and playing with sonic possibilities.

Directors Katie Cox, Andie Springer and Conrad Winslow return to the Kenai Peninsula to engage listeners in new music workshops. The guest artists presenting for the festival this year are members of the Chicago-based and Grammy Award winning ensemble “eighth blackbird.” Performers include Yvonne Lam, Matthew Duvall, Lisa Kaplan and Nicholas Photinos.

Partners Cox and Springer grew up as neighbors in Fairbanks. They were musically inclined and inspired by the Fairbanks Summer Fine Arts Festival, the university’s creative community and John Luther Adams.

Cox described her mentor’s accomplishments. “He was last year’s recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in music and won several other awards in the past year. He lives in New York now. He published a piece in the New Yorker, ‘Leaving Alaska,’ that perfectly describes inspirational life in a Fairbanks cabin.”

That Alaska inspiration is everywhere. Our environment spawns creativity, and these young musicians exemplify it.

“Katie and I always talked about starting some kind of creative music festival in Alaska,” Springer said.

Winslow, from Homer, met Cox in graduate school and the two shared a compatible public performance vision. (See related story on Conrad Winslow, this page.)

Cox explained, “Homer really seemed like the right community for new musical expression. Homer’s coast is beautiful and Fairbanks already had so much going on.  Homer was best. It was the place to go for this.”

The 2015 festival schedule includes a spectrum of events and draws from the creativity and energy of multiple directors. They are motivated, inspired and driven by Kachemak Bay’s environmental dynamics and the community of willing participants who abide here. They rely on collaboration – a shared sense of what the dynamics of this place mean.

The festival’s website explains that “Wild Shore is a presenting organization dedicated to bringing adventurous new chamber music, with an emphasis on living composers, to the communities in and around Kachemak Bay, Alaska. Wild Shore’s sole purpose is to cultivate and stimulate southcentral Alaska’s new music community, while supporting the already fertile artistic culture. It fosters collaboration between some of the nation’s finest classically-trained musicians and the extraordinarily creative artists, songwriters, and musicians on the Kenai Peninsula. ...” More information is available at: www.wildshore.org. 

The five Wild Shore directors include the three musicians — Cox, Springer and Winslow — but other aspects are important, too. Kelsey Christian and Karmen De Lune, also with Alaska roots, contribute logistics and round out the directing team.

The team demonstrates what motivates Alaska youth: a calling to abide and grind past the bounds and parameters sensed here, to surpass those limits to tap into deep-rooted cultures. Such immersion eventually reveals that imagination is wilder here and the creative possibilities are endless.

The music and composition festival begins Wednesday, Aug. 5 with a workshop and open rehearsal at the Bunnell Street Arts Center from 2-5 p.m. The rehearsal will include a new, unpublished poem by Homer writer Eva Saulitis. 

“Eva was very enthusiastic to contribute this. She provided a fresh piece for our group to interpret,” Cox said.

The poem will be performed via a musical interpretation structured in five parts. In addition to the rehearsal preview opportunity, the piece will officially debut in the Aug. 9 main-stage event.

In Kenai on Thursday, Aug. 6, the group will hold a workshop and performance at the Kenai Fine Arts Center at 816 Cook Drive. Kenai Peninsula Orchestra and Noontime Tunes officially host the event.

Cox and Springer said they are actively interested in including more peninsula communities. In years past they have performed in and supported community participation in Halibut Cove and Seldovia. Kenai is the outreach location this year.

The Kenai event will begin with a morning workshop of instrument demonstrations and new performance techniques. Part two is a noon performance. Part three is a two-hour afternoon session that will let participants attempt the musicians’ techniques. The session may include an improvisation workshop, musical score interpretation or composition activities. Like the festival itself, content will depend on the climate of the day and mood or interests of the participants.

Beginners are welcome. Workshops are for confident instrumentalists and novices alike. Skill level is irrelevant; everyone is welcome regardless of musical background.

Cox explained, “We are open to contribute to whatever people are looking for and really want to increase audience size. Workshop time may include composition or it may be ‘mini-composition’ if participants don’t already play. We want participants to know that aside from tonal composition, interpretation can appear for everyone in visual contours or imagery or verbalism. Analysis extends beyond notes and sound.”  

The principal performance will be at the Bunnell Street Arts Center at 7 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 9. Ticket prices are by donation, with a suggested payment of $25.

On Tuesday, Aug. 11, there will be a collaborative community jam performance of “Terry Reily’s in C” at Alice’s Champagne Palace at 8 p.m. Cox and Springer heartily endorse what appeared at their event last year: kazoo, ukulele, violin, and fiddle! “Anything you have,” they said. “Come and play!”

The jam is also open to any musical genre. The musicians said, “It is really fun to bring this final event together. It’s improvisation. Each year yields something different, and it ultimately just feels like a big party. Bring and share whatever you want!”

Youth participation is a possibility. Cox and Springer said that, “We are thinking about constructing a very young composer workshop and are very open to children of all ages who want to express high and low notes. Last year we had someone about 8 years old and someone in their 80s. We welcome and encourage anyone.”

Emilie Springer is a Homer writer.

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