Premiered SUNday, AUGust 1
SANTA CRUZ COUNTY YOUTH SYMPHONY
Cabrillo Festival presents the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony in two boldly creative and throughly engaging world premieres. Danny Clay’s Sounding Puzzles is a series of miniatures ingeniously interweaving musical and visual materials developed remotely by members of the symphony during weeks of inspired collaboration. Elias Gilbert’s Violin Quartet is a beautiful and musically varied work written for and performed by the talented musicians of The Fourtés Quartet, a SCCYS Chamber Music Academy ensemble. The work highlights the quartet’s ensemble skills, while allowing each member moments to shine individually.
A link to watch the video will appear after the countdown clock winds down.
Sounding Puzzles (2021)
Danny Clay (b. 1989)
Sounding Puzzles was created with the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony in the spring of 2021 and asks the question: how does a group of musicians make a work of art together, remotely, with no conventional score? Over the course of seven weeks, the musicians and I explored a series of creative challenges that involved a combination of compositional invitations, scavenger hunts, animated obstacle courses, and improvisational games. Each musician developed and recorded their own musical “puzzle pieces” from their own spaces in the form of footage and sounds. These audiovisual “pieces” were then assembled by me to create this work. A heartfelt thanks to Nathaniel Berman, Gerry Mandel, and my immensely creative collaborators at SCCYS for their musical creativity and curiosity.
An interactive video game that forms a portion of this piece, created with sounds from the musicians, is available to play at www.dclaymusic.com/soundingpuzzles and can be accessed by computers with Google Chrome.
Violin Quartet (2021)
Elias Gilbert (b. 2002)
This Violin Quartet is through-composed with four main distinct sections. It opens with a moderate Introduction (andante) that establishes the sound of the ensemble and the piece’s melodic themes. Next is a lively, metrically irregular, and groove-oriented second section: Dance (spiritoso). In this section, the players are asked to make percussive sounds by striking the body of the violin. Some transition material then leads to a third section that is shifty and hard to pin down: Float (liberamente). This section blurs the lines between the notated and the improvised: at times, players are asked to realize aleatoric lines based on notated guidelines, while at others fully notated lines may sound improvisatory in nature. Finally, Dance (con fuoco) recapitulates the dance section to round out the piece. Listen for disguised—but consistent—overlap in melodic material between the sections.
Writing for four like-instruments represents a unique challenge in not having the flexibility of differences in timbre or tessitura to work with. This constraint deeply influenced the development of the work in multiple ways. First, it allowed for equality in difficulty and importance of the four parts, with the players seamlessly changing roles within the piece. Homogeneity also allows for the characteristic sound of the violin to really shine. Most importantly, it pushed me to explore the range of different colors achievable with the instrument, especially the percussive elements that feature in the Dance.
I was proud to be asked by the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony, of which I am an alum, to write this Violin Quartet for the Fourtés Violin Quartet in Spring 2021, and took great pleasure in working with composer Danny Clay and the members of the quartet on its development.
DANNY CLAY, COmposer
Danny Clay is a composer and teaching artist whose work is deeply rooted in curiosity, collaboration, and the sheer joy of making things with people of all ages and levels of artistic experience. Working closely with artists, students, and community members alike, he builds worlds of inquiry, play, and perpetual discovery that integrate elements of sound, movement, theater, and visual design. Games, speculative systems, cognitive puzzles, invented notation, found objects, imaginary archives, repurposed media, micro-improvisations, and happy accidents all make frequent appearances in his work.
Recent projects include the Bell Ringers, a community music piece for 100-plus musicians and non-musicians in collaboration with Third Coast Percussion and the People’s Music School of Chicago, and Echoes, a spoken-word opera created with Kronos Quartet, the Living Earth Show, and six poet-performers from Youth Speaks.
Other collaborators include eighth blackbird (in partnership with the Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond), the San Francisco Girls Chorus, 826 Valencia, Volti, Wu Man, Sarah Cahill, Phyllis Chen, and printmaker Jon Fischer.
As an educator, Clay recently designed and implemented a seven-week program for 180 third graders in collaboration with Kronos Quartet, and has taught music composition classes at Stanford University and San Francisco State University. As a facilitator specializing in using games for musical education and creativity, he has led workshops for all ages at K-12 schools and university programs throughout the United States.
ELIAS GILBERT, COMPOSER
Elias Gilbert is a composer and clarinetist native to Santa Cruz, California. He is currently a rising sophomore at Yale College majoring in applied mathematics, where he performs with the Yale Symphony Orchestra. Gilbert was a member of the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony (SCCYS) from 2017 to 2020 and is an alum of Santa Cruz High School. He is grateful to have come up through Santa Cruz public schools’ fantastic band program. Gilbert has been composing and arranging since he could read music, but prior to this project he had primarily worked with wind instruments. A premiere of his piece, Variations on a Cossack Lullaby, had been planned for SCCYS for Spring 2020. Working alongside the Fourtés Violin Quartet and Danny Clay this year has been a new and rewarding challenge. Mentors include John Anderson, Christy Latham, Jeff Gallagher, and Larry Polansky. When not playing or writing music, Gilbert enjoys exploring cities, running, playing disc golf, working on programming projects for fun, and having a good time with both his school and home friends.
NATHANIEL BERMAN, SCCYS Music Director & Conductor
Conductor Nathaniel Berman maintains a diverse range of activities as a performer and educator in the San Francisco Bay Area. A faculty member at University of California Santa Cruz since 2007, he is conductor of the UCSC Concert Choir and Wind Ensemble. Berman has been Music Director of the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony since 2011 and was Assistant Conductor with Peninsula Symphony from 2012-2016. A strong advocate for new music, he is co-Artistic Director of the San Francisco-based new music ensemble Ninth Planet (formerly Wild Rumpus), with whom he has led premieres of dozens of commissioned works. Berman received his master’s degree in conducting from UC Santa Cruz, where he studied with Nicole Paiement. His first instrument was trumpet, and he grew up playing duets with his dad, and now performs on euphonium with the Inspector Gadje Balkan brass band.
THE Fourtés VIOLIN QUARTET
The Fourtés is a violin quartet from the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony’s Chamber Music Academy.
Xander Lee, Hannah Kuo, Bryony Crawford, Olivia Kang
SANTA CRUZ COUNTY YOUTH SYMPHONY
The Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony (SCCYS), founded in 1965 as a summer music program, officially became a youth orchestra in 1966. SCCYS serves young musicians ages 10 to 20 throughout Santa Cruz County as the area’s only training orchestra of pre-professional caliber. Under the guidance of Music Director Nathaniel Berman, the Youth Symphony performs a variety of music from the classical symphonic repertoire, as well as modern orchestral music, including pieces commissioned expressly for the orchestra. In addition to its well-attended Fall and Spring concerts, each year the Youth Symphony performs side-by-side with the adult Santa Cruz Symphony in their Family Concert. The Family Concert is repeated during the school week, with attendance by more than 3,000 local school children, many of whom are inspired to take up instruments themselves.
The Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony strives to achieve high standards of musical excellence, while providing an educational and entertaining experience for performers and audiences alike. Its mission further aims to cultivate a love of classical music and a spirit of collaboration among young musicians of Santa Cruz County, and to introduce young people from all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds to the joys of orchestral and chamber music.
Chamber Music Academy
The Chamber Music Academy (CMA) is a program of the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony, providing students with a range of opportunities to study, rehearse, and perform chamber music under the guidance of Head Teacher Cynthia Baehr-Williams and other professional musicians. CMA presents winter and spring performances each year.
SANTA CRUZ COUNTY YOUTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Minh Vinh Ngo
Uirassu de Almeida