Hold my beer, and hand me my bassoon!
Black Marigold consists of five extremely talented woodwind professionals. Iva Ugrčić on flute, Laura Medisky on oboe, Bethany Schultz on clarinet, Kia Karlen on horn, and Juliana Mesa on bassoon make up this talented quintet. There is something about these five instruments playing together that hits your ears in a curious way, many times tickling my spine like that pleasant tingle you get from eating something sour and sweet.
The Quintet performed Friday evening at the Art and Literature Laboratory on Winnebago Street in Madison. This unique space is a sort of fusion of gallery, performance space, creative workspace, and much more. Visit their website, http://www.artlitlab.org for more information about this distinctive eastside spot.
The program was fantastic, skillfully mixing the traditional with the modern. The concert opened with Debussy’s charming and playful Petite Suite in four movements. I appreciated Ugrčić speaking briefly before playing pointing out musical moments to listen for, and reading a poem which inspired Debussy’s composition. Balance was superb among the five musicians, shining when soloing and supporting when their part called for it. Ugrčić and Medisky particularly sparkled in this piece, especially when the music brought their instruments together for brief duets.
Next, for the drunken part of the show! You know you’re in Wisconsin when classical composers write music inspired by their favorite brew. I’m sure every beer lover has asked themselves what their lager would sound like should it be interpreted by five woodwind instruments. No? Well, you should be! Black Marigold commissioned composer, Brian DuFord to do just that in his Beer Music. The five of them did a whirlwind seventy two hour tasting of Madtowns favorite ales, in turn giving the composer their impressions of each of the drinks. DuFord decided upon eighteen of the brews to compose short pieces reflecting its characteristics. Creatively, the program offers a Flight #1 and Flight #2 giving you just a sampling of eight of the eighteen compositions. Written in the program, are entertaining descriptions of each piece as if you were reading a menu at One Barrel or Ale Asylum. One of my favorites was Banjo Cat from One Barrel Brewing Company. The clever description reading, “A creepy clown at a circus where the tent catches on fire and chaos ensues. Or simply a bluegrass banjo tune.” This was a stellar piece to show off the group’s outstanding clarinetist, Bethany Schultz.
The third selection in this wonderful program was a United States premier titled Five Stick$ by Columbian composer Víctor Agudelo. Five movements take you through the rhythms of Columbian music, each movement featuring one of the quintet players. The instruments accompanying often sounded like a percussive machine. Kia Karlen shined in the third movement on the horn, and bassoonist, Juliana Mesa, brought her instrument to life in the fourth movement. The last movement gave you a taste of some different sounds from the instruments like a breathy flute timbre and an intentional squawky clarinet.
The finale of the night was definitely a highlight rounding out the second “flight” of Beer Music. To quote the program, “a celebratory German drinking song, suggesting how a wind quintet might sound if they were imbibing during the gig instead of after.” The quintet slowly turns into a drunken stupor, playing as if inebriated ending passed out at their music stands. Brilliant!
You can experience this fun and talent filled concert for a second performance at Capitol Lakes Retirement Community’s Grand Hall tonight, September 23rd, at 7:00pm. Stay up to date on this incredible group on their website http://www.blackmarigold.com and follow them on their social media pages.