Music at the Museum: Block Party
April 13, 2022
An all-cello concert featuring music by Adolphus Hailstork, Gustavo Tavares, and Philip Glass. The evening will be highlighted by a world premiere of Anthony Brandt’s “Block Party” featuring Jeanne Jaubert!
and Kenny Wang
Jeanne Jaubert joined the Louisiana Philharmonic in 1998. Until being introduced to the cello in sixth grade via the public school system of La Porte, Texas, the only musician she knew growing up was her cousin Robbie who played pedal steel guitar in a country band. She was encouraged to practice her cello by her grandfather, who was completely deaf. Her skill and enthusiasm for the instrument grew steadily, opening many educational and professional doors.
She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Rice University as well as Masters and Doctoral degrees from Rutgers University, where she studied with Zara Nelsova. At both institutions, she was able to simultaneously pursue her lifelong passion for dance and choreography, and when she moved to New Orleans she jumped into the dance community, eventually founding her own company, Happensdance, which was active from 2000 to 2006, and which garnered awards and support from arts agencies both within and outside of Louisiana. She first dabbled in dancing and playing the cello at the same time in order to obtain a part in the musical “Once” (which was canceled due to the pandemic). Having then no avenue for this unusual skill, she decided to pave one by having a piece of music composed with this in mind. “Block Party” is the resulting collaboration with composer Anthony Brandt, supported by the adventurous spirit of the Louisiana Philharmonic and her fabulous colleagues. When not performing, Jeanne chases after her also fabulous daughter Sif, and has a thriving studio of cello students who are always up to exciting things. She plays a modern American instrument made by Donald Overstreet, and for ‘Block Party’ she will be using her bar-room cello, of vaguely Germanic origins.
Okay, “Block Party”? You would be forgiven if you found yourself saying “this doesn’t sound like any block party I’ve been to” (and in New Orleans, we know block parties, laissez les bon temps and all). Anthony composed some serious chamber music here, and the device I use to move while playing, which was one of the main things we wanted to explore in this creation, is called a Block Strap (named after its inventor Mike Block), which I am only now realizing rhymes with jockstrap.
For some reason, as I’m writing this, I keep thinking of how, whenever I would come home from anything in high school, my mother would always smell my hair to see if I’d been smoking. In fact, I had never been smoking and only ever smoked one cigarette in my life (much later), and “I didn’t inhale”. Now sometimes I had possibly been doing other stuff that maybe she would not have approved of, but the one time she was extremely convinced of smelling smoke in my hair, the truth is that I had been at a chamber music party all night, where we stayed up late playing chamber music, really, no smoking or drinking or anything even remotely scold-worthy. My approach to creating the movement for this composition was to simply start moving while playing and see what emerged. What emerged at first was a newfound appreciation for people in marching bands; it’s not easy! Later, recalling Anthony’s reference to the moving cellist as being perhaps the host of the party, I started seeing the movement that was emerging as a kind of warding off of evil spirits or other things (hmm, what could that be?) that are preventing us from having a good gathering — a clearing of the air and space of things that make us stuck … does that sound like a party? Stick around and let us know what you think.
ADOLPHUS HAILSTORK (b. 1941) – Theme and Variations on Draw the Sacred Circle Closer
- Composed for solo cello
- Jeanne Jaubert, cello
The cello is the perfect instrument to showcase this fascinating set of variations on a theme of universal unity. The cello’s range and tone evoke the baritone voice, and its facility in contrapuntal playing allows for polyphony in the manner of Bach’s cello suites. The theme (sounding like a spiritual) is actually the final chorus of the composer’s Earthrise, a profoundly bold cantata using Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” as text, and full of allusions to all four movements of Beethoven’s ninth symphony.
Hailstork’s Earthrise features a festival chorus singing in German, alternating with an African-American chorus singing in English with vernacular verve. The choruses ultimately unite to end the cantata together with Draw the Sacred Circle Closer, a translation of lines from Schiller’s “Ode to Joy.”
ANTHONY BRANDT (b. 1961) – Block Party (2021 – 2021)
- Composed for four cellos
- Jeanne Jaubert, cello
This is the world premiere of Block Party
When Mike Block invented the block strap, which enables a cellist to “stand and move while playing with standard technique,” I’m not sure he could have envisioned someone with the daring and virtuosity of Jeanne Jaubert. When Jeanne first asked me to compose a work for a dancing cellist, I had the idea of counterpoising her with three seated cellists. That lead me to develop a musical tug-of-war between stasis and motion: you will hear passages that are harmonically rooted versus others where the harmony breaks free; likewise, there are passages where melodies that rest in a single instrument, and others whose motives travel among the ensemble. In the end, my hope was to make the music dance internally, with the block cellist as host and agitator, inviting the others to join. Jeanne graciously shared a video of the choreography as she developed it: I was continually struck by her imaginative responses to the music, as well as the amazing technical command required to dance and play–at the same time! My great thanks to Jeanne, Karen, Rachel, Jonathan, and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.
– Anthony Brandt
PHILIP GLASS / Nico Ravenstijn & Elias Arizcu (b. 1937) – Symphony for Eight (1999 – 1999)
- Arranged for eight cellos
In 1995, Philip Glass’ Symphony no. 3 was premiered by the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra with Dennis Michael Davies conducting. It was composed originally for the specific ensemble of nineteen instruments that made up the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra (ten violins, four violas, three cellos, and two basses) and Glass’ mission was to treat each member of the ensemble as a soloist. It was composed in a traditional four-movement structure with writing that Philip Glass described as “elemental” and often evocative of his early string quartet writing.
The third movement forms the central core of the symphony. Constructed as a brooding chaconne, the work begins with a ground bass line that the entire ensemble joins in with each repeated section, creating a prismatic, layered texture upon which a singing melody appears.
In 1999, the Cello Octet Amsterdam arranged the third movement of the symphony for eight cellos. It is this arrangement that you will hear performed tonight.
GUSTAVO TAVARES – Ladainha for Eight Cellos
I wrote this piece especially for a celebration of the 20 years of the death of my teacher in Stuttgart, Antonio Janigro, and it was a commission by the Zagreb City’s Arts Management. I wrote for me and 7 other colleagues, so, the idea of a group, of belonging together is very present, and I have tried to express it also through the complementary way in which the 8 instruments are used. The name “Ladainha” comes from the capoeira tradition, and so does many of the elements that have served as departing points when composing this piece. A Ladainha is a type of song, traditionally improvised by the main singer in a “roda”, as a beginning of the game. “Roda” means “ring” or “wheel” and this is the descriptive name for the circle made by the people who play instruments or sing around the two who play the actual game. Capoeira is basically an Afro-Brazilian game, but the name “ladainha” comes from the Latin “laudare” or “to praise”, and there are different song traditions in Brazil with the same name. A Ladainha in the capoeira is usually (almost always) sang in the very beginning, before the actual game starts. It can serve many purposes and can be done in different ways but there is usually a component at the end of the song in which the front singer expresses his gratitude to God and then to his master (in that order) in a well-known formula (Yê… Viva meu mestre, camará…) which is then answered by the rest of those around. This has been my main reference in the B section of the piece. The fact that some of the players are called upon playing the cello in the manner of a “Berimbau” while others hit the instrument and construct a rhythmic cell similar to the one traditionally used by the “Pandeiro” and “Atabaque” players, reinforce this relationship. In the A and A’ sections (the A’ is when the material of A is repeated with some variation after B) there are many “capoeira-inspired” elements as well: the circularity of the motions, the complementarity, etc. The ring and the “circularity” represents also in a way the idea of life and death, a dimension which is, in my opinion, also part of the very roots of the capoeira game. The actual melodic motif of the A section, however, has its origin in the Mozart’s Requiem, and each of its intervals reveals a specific sentiment, as it was always done in the baroque and early classical: the “longing” in the ascending minor sixth, the “calling in the descending minor third and finally the “sorrow” or the “pain” in the descending minor second…
There are a few other levels of meaning in the piece but these are the basic ideas.
– Gustavo Tavares