Multimedia concert June 23

‘Night Music,’ night sky in Waldoboro

By Dagney C. Ernest | Jun 14, 2017
Lyra Stevens is among the third grade artists whose work will be part of “A Little Night Music.”

Waldoboro — This is the time of year when day pushes as far as it can into night … and the nights are almost as pleasant as those long days. Day or night, Midcoast residents enjoy a better view of the sky than many — a reality that will be recognized and celebrated Friday night, June 23, in Waldoboro.

The village on the Medomak River has already been lauded for its nightscape, in the 2011 documentary “The City Dark.” And this spring, third-graders at the local Miller School have been devoting their art classes to documenting their experiences of the sky over their town. Their work will appear alongside that of professional local artists and projected behind the aptly named Solstice String Quartet during “A Little Night Music — A Celebration of Music, Art and the Evening Sky.” The multimedia evening will begin at 7 p.m. at the Broad Bay Congregational UCC Church, 941 Main St./Route 220.

This is the second year the quartet, anchored by native daughter violinists Josie and Sophie Davis, has paired its music with visual art; last year’s multimedia event featured a performance of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” with images by local photographers.

“It was an idea that my sister and I have been talking about, just kind of brainstorming … to develop a concert that was more than just music,” said Sophie a couple of weeks before the concert. “We wanted to partner with some local organizations in Waldoboro, where we’re from, and kind of engage the audience on a level that went beyond just listening.”

Last year’s premiere event went well, she said. And it brought in a more varied audience than the sisters’ concerts in the past had. Sophie, who just graduated from Oberlin Music Academy, and her older sister, an Oberlin alumna now based in Providence, R.I., have been performing together since they were kids. Some 10 years ago, they and their mother played with a Waldo County aunt and her daughters as the family fiddling ensemble McFravis. As teens, the Davis sisters attended Watershed School and were part of Bay Chamber Concerts’ Odeon program.

Solstice String Quartet came together when both young women were at Oberlin and is filled out with fellow conservatory grads violist Colin Wheatley, originally from Washington state; and cellist Jaime Feldman, who spent a lot of her childhood on the Blue Hill peninsula. Sophie is back home for the summer as she figures out her future plans, and the others — who have studied, performed and taught around the world from China and India to Jordan and Amsterdam — need little persuading to come to Midcoast Maine in the summer.

This year’s program was initially inspired by an affection they all share for “Eine kleine Nachtmusik,” W.A. Mozart’s serenade for strings. It’s a piece familiar to many for its use as background music, said Sophie, but many haven’t had, or taken, the opportunity to sit down and really listen to it.

“And it’s so beautiful! And we wanted to create a space where people could do that and also pair it with images of the evening sky, and the sky at other times, too,” she said.

Images figured into the choice of the program’s second work, Schubert’s “Rosamunde,” incidental music written for a Viennese play titled “Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus.” As the musicians thought about what would go well with the Mozart, the Schubert quartet came to mind. And Sophie said a lot of images come to her mind when she plays that piece.

“So the fun part is creating a story with the images that the artists have submitted, to reflect the story we hear in the music,” she said.

Since last year’s event used photography, the sisters decided that this year’s would feature drawings and paintings.

“I reached out individually to probably 15 to 20 artists in the area and heard back from most of them,” said Sophie. “I asked them if each would submit several pieces of their work that was loosely based around skies … it’s really fun to see their perspective and ideas.”

She also reached out to Nathan Fogg at the Miller School, who worked with Waldoboro’s Tidemark Gallery this winter for the annual “Young Hearts” show. In late May, the sisters went to one of Fogg’s art classes, played some music for the students and talked about the way they think about music and art and the connection between them.

“Then we asked them how many had seen a sunset in Waldoboro or a sunrise, and almost all of them had seen both and looked at the night sky to look at the constellations,” Sophie said.

The sisters asked the students to create art based on their observations of the landscape and sky around them, which has resulted in some striking images.

“We live in such a beautiful part of the world, and it’s something that we often take for granted, but I think a lot of these kids don’t necessarily take it for granted,” she said. “They painted a lot of really beautiful paintings!”

Sophie said the class visit was fun and that the students were responsive and curious and asked some great questions. As the works come in, from both the professional and student artists, they are being scanned digitally for projection; the sisters’ father is in charge of the technology, she said.

Admission is by donation, with proceeds going to the church, which Sophie called “a beautiful space.” The goal, as was first essayed last year, is to create a fresh context for musical works that maybe are as much taken for granted as the sky.

“We wanted to see if we could try to use music that has connotations associated with it, try to break those away with a different medium,” she said. “We were kind of experimenting, so it was cool to see what actually came out of it.”

Artists whose work will appear in “A Little Night Music — A Celebration of Music, Art and the Evening Sky” include Anna French, Anne Heywood, Monica Kelly, Jean Kigel, Brooke Pacy, Hugh Dangler, Argy Nestor, Chris Augusta, Björn Runquist, Heléna Melone, Christopher O'Connor, Robert Pollien, Linda Shepard, Maureen Egan and the Miller School third-graders.

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