Island music energizes Stanford Lively Arts season

Diverse lineup features calypso and hula along with string quartets, electronica, opera

The energy of the islands is coming to Stanford Lively Arts next season, with calypso, Hawaiian slack-key guitar and a day devoted to hula.

As part of its 2011-12 lineup of music, dance and theater, Lively Arts is focusing on an "Island Music" theme for its world music and jazz programs. Performers include the Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes and his Afro-Cuban Messengers, who will participate in a campus residency with the Stanford Jazz Orchestra and perform African- and Caribbean-flavored jazz on Feb. 19.

"He's someone who has been a powerful voice for Cuban artists, and he's a compelling performer and composer," Jenny Bilfield, Lively Arts' artistic and executive director, said of Valdes. "He's someone we've wanted to bring for quite some time."

Continuing the islands theme are: Jamaican trombonist Josh Roseman performing with his sextet on Nov. 12; and Trinidadian jazz trumpeter Etienne Charles, playing calypso and other music with his quintet on April 4. May 6 is hula day, with symposia, workshops and performances by slack-key guitarist Keola Beamer and singer Raiatea Helm.

"It's a living, breathing form," Bilfield said of hula, "and having some major proponents of it here to focus on that discussion in an academic setting will be interesting."

Overall, Lively Arts' 42nd season encompasses some 30 ticketed and 70 free events, October through May. In what has become a tradition, the Daniel Pearl World Music Day Concert will serve as a prelude to the season, paying tribute to the slain journalist and Stanford graduate. Stanford music students and faculty will perform with the St. Lawrence String Quartet, the university's resident ensemble, on Oct. 6.

The rest of the season does not have an overarching theme, but is instead typically diverse, featuring several premieres -- and one final bow.

The renowned Merce Cunningham Dance Company, scheduled to disband at the end of this year (Cunningham died in 2009), will give its last Bay Area performance on Nov. 1 as part of Lively Arts' season, Bilfield said. The program will include a restaged version of Cunningham's final work, "Nearly Ninety."

Other dance performances will include the acrobatic Diavolo Dance Theater performing to music by John Adams on Jan. 28.

Several performances of new music are on the lineup. One looks ahead to the planned opening of the new Bing Concert Hall in 2013. Stanford composer Jonathan Berger is composing an opera, "Three Christs of Ypsilanti," for the hall's opening season (with libretto by Dan O'Brien), and the St. Lawrence String Quartet is scheduled to play excerpts from it on Jan. 29, with pianist Pedja Muzijevic and a to-be-announced guest vocalist.

The St. Lawrence quartet will also premiere a new piece by Osvaldo Golijov on Oct. 23.

In addition, a Lively Arts-commissioned work by British composer Sally Beamish will be premiered on Feb. 29 by percussionist Colin Currie and the Stanford Philharmonia Orchestra. In vocal music, Paul Hillier's Theatre of Voices will premiere a new work by David Lang on Jan. 25, and perform his Pulitzer Prize-winning piece "Little Match Girl Passion."

Another scheduled world premiere is Ingram Marshall's "Psalm Book," performed by the vocal group Lionheart and the ACME String Quartet on March 4.

Still, there's nothing like the classics, so two all-Bach programs are planned: violinist Gil Shaham on Nov. 6 and harpsichordist Richard Egarr on Feb. 1. Austria's Quatuor Mosaiques brings a program of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven compositions, on period instruments, to Stanford on April 14.

Other string quartets include the Pacifica Quartet, the Juilliard String Quartet and the Kronos Quartet. In addition, the Catalyst Quartet will play Oct. 19 with the Sphinx Virtuosi, soloists from the national Sphinx Competition for young Latino and black string musicians.

For a change of pace, the So Percussion quartet will take the stage with electronica artists Matmos on Oct. 26, playing music by John Cage.

In theater, San Francisco's Word for Word Performing Arts Company returns Feb. 17 for a second performance of semi-staged productions of short stories by Stanford's Stegner Fellows, as the company did this season.

Educational events include student matinees, Stanford student-curated opening acts, and free performances by Lively Arts artists at the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View.

Season subscriptions are on sale beginning in mid-July, with single tickets on offer starting in late August. For full season details, go to or call 650-725-ARTS.

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