Sunday, January 11, 2009

"Octet" is Not (Just) a Crossword Puzzle Clue

Tonight's free concert in the lovely 120 year old Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Santa Ana showcased the up-and-coming Hutchins Consort, an octet of violins custom-built to play each octave according to the research of luthier Carleen Hutchins, now 97 and living in New Hampshire. The Consort owns the only two sets of these violins in use today, while the others are housed in museums around the world. In the world of entertainment, it's said you've "gotta have a gimmick," and there's no question that this ensemble has carved out a unique niche, but success depends upon talent--and that's in abundance in this group that is based both in Corona del Mar and Encinitas. They play a full schedule around Orange County and in San Diego, so don't lament that you missed tonight's performance, which included an original work by one of the Consort's members, a Tschaikovky work and what for many was the highlight of the evening, Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. (I love that piece, but remember being told once by a famous conductor I knew that he disdained it but felt obliged to program it as one of the few modern American pieces acceptable to symphony orchestra audiences--and that was BEFORE it became popularized as the theme music from the film Platoon!). All of the music the Consort played had to be specially arranged for their unusual instrumentation. The full house at the church tonight received the performance warmly and was rewarded with an encore--a tango, no less. An inventive chamber music group like this has attracted an enthusiastic audience in our community and recently won national attention, receiving an NEA grant to boot.

Until next time...


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