It’s Hard to Find a Banjo Player Up in Heaven 🎻 “String/Awakening”

String/Awakening (Muse/Ique)userpic=folk-guitarThose of you who know the Austin Lounge Lizards know the lyric in the title:

So gather round and raise your pleasant voices
And play that gospel bluegrass, while you live
It’s hard to find a banjo player up in heaven
There’s some things that even Jesus won’t forgive

Perhaps I should explain why I’m sharing the Lizards (as if one needs an excuse): Last night, we went to another event from the wonderful counter-cultural orchestra, Muse/ique (FB). The event, called String/Awakening, was billed as follows:

String instruments are magic machines born of an ancient mystical technology.  When guided by master hands, these basic devices made of simple parts have the awesome power to change everything.

A few inches of string becomes a thread that connects humanity’s every story from Eleanor Rigby to Bach’s Air on a G String.  The handheld box is like a treasure chest that holds our common experiences and emotions – reminding us that we are all alike.  And the bow is like a magic wand, conjuring in the listener a willingness to imagine the world differently.  

With childlike passion for discovery, Rachael Worby and the musicians of MUSE/IQUE will turn from the tuxedo clad safety of the concert hall to unleash the full and delightful fury of the violin, cello , viola, harp, bass and more.

In other words, the evening was a celebration of all things string. We had all sorts of orchestra strings on the stage: cellos, violas, violins, harps, basses. We had a cajon (stringed percussion box). We had chimes… hanging on strings. We had a guitar used for percussion. We had drums with the head held on by twine.

But that wasn’t all. We had tables with cats cradles, yo-yos, and string cheese. We had people spinning and knitting. We had a dancer who hung by a string. We even had a five minute speaker from Cal-Tech on String Theory.

We had wonderful music that emphasized the strings:

  • Mozart: Eine kleine Nachtmusik
  • Bach: Brandenberg Concerto
  • Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat major,
  • Vivaldi: Winter
  • Piazolla: Spring in Buenos Aires
  • Eleanor Rigby
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow

All of this being held in the parking garage of a florist; said garage being the former service bay of a 1920’s Cadillac Dealership.

It was a lovely evening. Only one thing was missing… or should I say one thing was there: string snobbery.

They didn’t highlight the fact that the violin is also the lowly fiddle. They didn’t play guitars, ukukleles, or heaven-forfend, banjos. Certainly some Segovia would have fit in. They could have morphed from Segovia into Chet Atkins or Tommy Emmanuel. Certainly they could have done bluegrass.

But this was heaven, or at least heaven as it exists in Pasadena. And well all know what isn’t in heaven.

Actually, I’m being a little tongue in cheek here. Actually, String/Awakening was a delightful evening with a fascinating lecture on string theory bookended by some wonderful music. Alas, I can’t name the musicians, because they didn’t hand out a program. But it was quite fun.

[ETA: A subsequent email provided some credits: “Artistic Director Rachael Worby (FB) led and conducted a group of amazing friends and artists including violinist Roger Wilkie, harpist Alison Bjorkedal and the strings of MUSE/IQUE! We would also like to thank our extraordinary supporting cast: percussionist Mona Tavakoli (FB),  String Theorist John Schwarz, choreographer Shauna Barger (FB) and the dancers of Artists Plus, and weavers led by Ruth Souza.” They also posted additional pictures of the event.]

P.S. to Ms. Worby, if you read this: Next time you invite a speaker from Cal-Tech, please remember the appropriate way to enforce the time limit. Much better than playing with your watch 🙂

* 🎭 🎭 🎭 *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I subscribe at three theatres:  The Colony Theatre (FB), Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), and I just added the  Hollywood Pantages (FB). In 2015, my intimate theatre subscription was at REP East (FB), although they are reorganizing and (per the birdies) will not start 2016 shows until August. Additionally, the Colony just announced that the remainder of their season has been cancelled, so the status of that subscription is up in the air. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: February closes with more music: The Band of the Royal Marines and the Pipes, Drums, and Highland Dancers of the Scots Guards at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). March starts with “Man Covets Bird” at the 24th Street Theatre (FB) on March 6 (the day after the MRJ Man of the Year dinner). The second weekend of March recently opened up, due to the cancellation of “Another Roll of the Dice” at The Colony Theatre (FB). We’ve replaced “Dice” with another musical: “All Shook Up” at the Morgan-Wixson (FB) in Santa Monica.  [This also permits me to get more music for my iPod Classic (now at 512GB) by visiting Record Surplus)] The third weekend of March takes us back to the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) on March 19 to see Harvey Fierstein’s Casa Valentina, followed by Bach at Leipzig at The Group Rep (FB) on March 20.  The last weekend of March is being held for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) (pending Hottix).  April will start with Lea Salonga at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 1 and an Elaine Boosler concert at Temple Ahavat Shalom on April 2 (this concert is open to the community; get your tickets here). April will also bring the Turtle Quintet at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB), “Children of Eden” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) , and our annual visit to the Renaissance Faire (Southern). April may also bring A Shred of Evidence at Theatre 40 (FB). As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.