Story last updated at 8/26/2009 - 2:10 pm
JUNEAU - In a recent address to the Alaska 50 Arts and Culture Conference, writer Sherry Simpson spoke of Alaska as an artistic "refugium," an isolated area that has escaped extreme changes undergone by the surrounding area. The idea resonated with CrossSound director Jocelyn Clark as a fitting theme for this year's CrossSound music festival, which begins Aug. 28.
The festival has been two or three years in the making, Clark said, and will bring together two string ensembles, which both bridge Eastern and Western cultures: UnitedBerlin and IIIZ+. UnitedBerlin is a string quartet from Germany, and IIIZ+ is a plucked zither ensemble founded by Clark, bringing together performers from Juneau, Korea, Japan and China.
The festival's main program, which will be performed in Juneau Sept. 3-4 and in Sitka on Sept. 5, will feature two world premieres commissioned for the festival, one for zheng and string quartet by Hwang-Long Pan of Taiwan, and one for IIIZ+ and UnitedBerlin by Stefan Hakenberg.
Leading up to the main performances, this weekend's Solo | Sound | Series "gives the people that come here a chance to show off what they're normally doing," Clark said.
As a prelude to DanceFest as well as the main CrossSound performances, UnitedBerlin will perform a "totally knock your socks off" tango concert on Saturday, Clark said. There will also be a zheng recital by Yi-chieh Lai on Friday, and IIIZ+ will perform Sunday.
Clark credits community volunteers for making the festival possible. Festival participants - who are traveling to Juneau from Asia and Europe - are housed and fed by community members.
"It's possible to do it all because of the community," Clark said. "They come all this way and they really feel something special happens here. They go into people's houses, they sing for them."
The purpose of the pieces commissioned for CrossSound festivals is to create and add to the musical repertoire of a place, Clark said.
"The idea of CrossSound is that it was really created for communities," she said.
And for this reason, audiences shouldn't be afraid to venture to hear "new music," Clark said - because it's inspired by the familiar.
"We always ask composers to keep the idea - even if it's an imagined idea - of Alaska in mind," Clark said. "You don't need to know anything - just come and listen. It's about us. It's pieces about fishing, an earthquake in Anchorage, East versus West.
"People don't need to prepare. It's all by people who are living now, who are living here or thinking about here."
The "Refugium" concert series begins at 7:30 p.m. on August 28 with "Transformation," a Zheng recital by Yi-chieh Lai. The music will continue at 7:30 p.m. on August 29 with "Tango!" by United Berlin. The weekend will culminate with a performance of "Goblin's Lagoon" by IIIZ+ at 4 p.m. on August 30 . The following weekend will consist of two performances of "Refugium," one at 7 p.m. on September 3 and another at 8 p.m. on September 4. A pre-concert discussion with composers will be held at 7 p.m. on September 4. The show will then head to Sitka for a performance at 8 p.m. on September 5 at the Sitka Performing Arts Center, preceded by a pre-concert discussion at 7 p.m.
All Juneau performances will be held at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center. Tickets are $20 adults and $15 students and festival passes are $60 for adults and $50 for students and seniors. Season ticket holders at Perseverance Theatre will get a 10 percent discount. If anyone wants to attend but can't afford a ticket, contact Jocelyn Clark at 586-9601 for arrangements.
For more information about the program, visit http://crosssound.com.