The annual Birdfoot Festival of chamber music is back for a fourth year, with musicians setting up their music stands in a cafe and art galleries, a university and a tourism center. Fresh composition and classics alike are on the playbill.
From Monday through May 30, the festival will stage nearly a dozen events, ending with a gala concert at Tulane University. Participants come from all parts of the United States and from seven nations, as well as locally.
One of this year’s headliners will be British violist Roger Chase, bringing with him a vintage viola believed to date from the 1700s.
New to the 2015 festival’s programming is a spoken word performance by West Bank poet Kataalyst Alcindor, who will recite his original poems to the accompaniment of a chamber quartet.
The theme, “Waterlines,” is both a requiem to the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the tragedy it brought to many, as well as a tribute to the survivors’ determination to rebuild.
Birdfoot’s artistic director, Jenna Sherry, is a violinist who will be performing with Chase and Alcindor, along with other musicians.
“I’m looking forward to working with all the fantastic musicians we have coming into town,” Sherry said.
Musicians taking part in the 2015 festival are Clara Kim, Karen Kim, Laura Lutzke, Jenna Sherry and Kristopher Tong, violin; Matthew Carrington, Roger Chase and Nathan Schram, viola; Michael Kaufman, Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir, Vladimir Waltham and Joann Whang, cello; Prach Boondiskulchok, piano; and Garrett Hudson, flute.
Festival participants will conduct mentoring programs with younger students, some of whom have attended past Birdfoot festivals.
“The exciting thing for me has been to see some of them grow,” said Sherry. “They are just loving it. It’s very inspiring.”
Another festival highlight is the participation of composer Yotam Haber, a member of the music faculty at the University of New Orleans, and the local premiere of his 2014 composition, “Society of the Free and Easy.”
The 12-minute piece will be performed by a quartet of two cellos, a viola and a violin at Café Istanbul on the evening of May 27.
Also May 27 at Café Istanbul, four other pieces will be performed including two by Andrew Norman and one each from Maurice Ravel and Anton Webern.
Chase will be featured on Norman’s “Light Screens” (from 2002) and with Sherry on Webern’s 1905 composition, “Langsamer Satz.”
“There is an intimacy to chamber music,” said Chase, interviewed via Skype from London. “Every time you sit down to rehearse a piece of chamber music, it’s as if you’re being given a lesson by your colleagues. Every single thing you do is open to, hopefully, constructive criticism. It can be very humbling, but it’s also a wonderful way of learning.”
A portion of the festival, on May 28, will be recorded live at Basin Street Station tourism center for broadcast at a future date over WWNO 89.9 FM. Festival participants will be discussing Tchaikovsky’s “Souvenir de Florence.”
The Tchaikovsky piece will be one of three performed at the final concert at Tulane. The other two are Mozart’s “Flute Quartet No. 1 in D-major and Hungarian composer Ernst von Dohnanyi’s “Piano Quintet No. 2 in E-flat minor.”