By Mimi Sells
January 22, 2023
I’m not a big classical music fan so when I saw the program for Camarada on January 21, my curiosity was piqued enough to buy tickets and go. And I’m so glad we did!
Now in its 28th season, Camarada is a San Diego-based chamber music organization that celebrates not just the classics but new music and world music that is played in intimate and, even surprising, places.
“Angels In Flight,” the January 19th concert’s namesake piece, was written by Canadian Composer Marjan Mozetich. It was held at UC San Diego Park & Market’s community event space, downtown.
First a word about the space, the modern, glass-enclosed lobby offered both an intimate and informal venue where performers and audience were in close proximity. The UCSD event also included cocktails and delicious snacks for sale before and after, encouraging everyone to stay and mingle and adding to the welcoming, informal vibe.
The “Angels in Flight” program offered contemporary works from composers from across the Americas from Canada to South America. It was anything but a stodgy program with influences from rock, tango and film throughout.
For me, the highlight was two pieces by visiting composer Gilad Cohen: “Firefly Elegy” and “Three Goat Blues.” His fun and energetic pieces were further enhanced by Cohen’s storytelling which gave us insight into his unique inspirations. When you realize that the sounds you hear in “Firefly Elegy” reflect the life cycle of these insects, the piece took on added resonance.
I’m also a sucker for the sound of harps! Harpist Elena Mashkovtseva not only plucked gracefully on her beautiful instrument but she also banged fiercely on its frame for percussive effect.
The evening’s program also included a solo double bass piece “The Dance” by Xavier Foley and “Tango a Todo Madre” for the troupe by bassist/composer Andres Martin.
While this was a one-night performance, there’s plenty more opportunities to see exciting and innovative Camarada concerts at locales throughout San Diego including Bread & Salt in Barrio Logan; The Conrad in La Jolla; and the Mingei Museum in Balboa Park.
Upcoming concerts range from “Music She Wrote” celebrating women composers; “Bach & Brahms” and “From Paris, with Love” featuring French jazz. The full schedule can be found at camarada.org.
One of Camarada’s founders is also its Artistic Director and one of its busiest performers. Flautist Beth Ross Buckley played most of the pieces at our concert.
I had an opportunity to ask her a few questions post concert.
This year’s Camarada theme is “Music is Essential.” l What did you mean by this?
Buckley: I feel so strongly that music is essential in so many ways to meaningful and happy lives. Listening to music fills us – attending music concerts connects us into a cultural community. I hear over and over after a concert that the person felt so much better and went home with an uplifted state of being.
Do you sense a new excitement or engagement in your post-covid audience? And musicians?
Buckley: Absolutely yes! The audiences and the musicians are back with even more excitement and energy than before Covid. Camarada is seeing so many new faces at our concerts – we love it!
This program was quite eclectic. How did you choose the pieces and/or the composers?
Buckley: The first piece I chose for this program was Angels in Flight by Marjan Mozetich – which Camarada’s Associate Artistic Director, Dana Burnett discovered on YouTube. We just loved the sweeping, gorgeous harmonies and melodies.
Since we were now featuring clarinet and harp – I searched for another piece with this combination which led me to composer Gilad Cohen’s “Firefly Elegy.” I started an email conversation with Gilad and invited him to speak at our concert – which led me to include his “Three Goat Blues” as well.
Finally, I asked our resident composer Andrés Martin to pick a solo bass piece, plus arrange a finale for the program. This process took months – and it was well worth it. I loved every piece!
As did the whole audience who effusively applauded this innovative, engaging program. For more on Camarada’s upcoming concerts and musical philosophy, see camarada.org.