The Elsewhere Ensemble is thrilled to be joined by renowned baritone Kenneth Overton in a concert which promises to be unique and powerful. Kenneth Overton made his Metropolitan Opera debut this past year and won a Grammy as soloist on the Grammy Award Winning (2021) album “The Passion of Yeshua”. He has enchanted audiences in Eugene many times as a soloist at the Oregon Bach Festival.
The concert will be featuring two big works in development. Mr. Overton will be singing pieces from “Invocation – a prayer for peace”, an original work for baritone, soprano and string trio by Eugene composer Colin Pip Dixon. The work is a setting of prayers, poems and writings from diverse cultures and faiths around the themes of peace and violence. The pieces featured in this performance are based on writings of Frederick Douglas, Jalaluddin Rumi, Martin Luther King Jr., among others.
The evening will open with an excerpt from “His Majesty, the Devil – Dostoyevsky in concert”, from Alexandra Devon’s play based on Dostoyevsky. Deborah Martinsen (former professor of Russian Lit at Columbia University) praised the work as “a rare masterpiece… it makes us think and feel, hope and fear, laugh and weep.”
Broadway actor MacIntyre Dixon will revisit the role which he performed at the Edinburgh and New York Fringe Festivals. “It is a rare privilege to watch a grand Master of the theatre with as prolific a film and broadway history as MacIntrye Dixon in an intimate Edinburgh venue”. (Sarah Martin’s review from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival).
In these unsettling times, music and literature can/should be a means to go deeper and explore the the most meaningful questions that we all face: how do I deal with violence both near and far… and within? How do we contribute to building meaningful peace? Does faith bring us closer together or divide us?
Video excerpt from “Invocation – Hear My Prayer” inspired by this quote:
“We appeal as human beings to human beings, remember your humanity and forget the rest.” (from the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, 1955, a document signed by eleven preeminent intellectuals and scientists decrying the existence and proliferation of nuclear weapons).
It will be an evening of music and poetry with many pieces that we’ve performed in the past, but in new forms… videos from live concerts along with some remote films made during the pandemic. We will be live with you talking about our work and answering questions… and it will be wonderful to spend this time with you together, though apart.
The concert is free. If you have headphones/earphones, please use them (the sound will be much better).
Below are the two videos, part I & II of Beethoven in the Stars.
About the project BEETHOVEN IN THE STARS – Colin Pip Dixon
I am very touched by the way this all came together and the way people have reacted to these videos. This project was a great risk. It wasn’t granted at all that it would all work in the end. It was a risk because none of us had done this before. There were no professional sound engineers or video editors. The students had to each record themselves and film themselves many times, receive feedback, and try and improve. Some of the students are music majors but many of them aren’t. We added the extra challenge of wanting to create music together that was alive and connected in spite of everyone being apart. I didn’t want this project to be a kind of consolation prize for the live concert that couldn’t happen. We wanted it to be something that was unique and would stand on its own.
I am touched because, in the end, so many people came together and gave above and beyond themselves in such a way that the whole became greater than each of the individual parts. I think this is what orchestra should be about.
Dr. Dijana Ihas, the director of the Pacific University Philharmonic Orchestra, originally came to me with the idea of a concert to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth at the beginning of March. We had no idea what lay before us. As the months passed, I felt that the mood of our times and our country wasn’t the mood of the triumphant and dramatic music that we often associate with Beethoven. The slow Cavatina movement from Beethoven’s late quartet op. 130 came to mind and it was easily adaptable for string orchestra. If I associate one word with this music, for me, the word is “prayer”. Prayer in the broadest sense. It is a prayer from the depths of Beethoven’s heart. As I worked on this piece, playing it, recording, listening to the recordings and putting it together over the past months I found that there was something very healing in this music.
Once we had decided that this piece would be the center of the project, the question then became “how can we help prepare for this music, make it feel pertinent and personal for audiences today”. I composed an introduction inspired by themes from Beethoven’s Cavatina and I wrote a monologue to go along with it. This introduction was intended to serve Beethoven’s music and help us be ready to hear it.
As I began to research more about the piece I found a very unexpected connection between the piece and NASA’s Voyager spacecrafts sent out into space in the 1970’s. You will hear more about this connection in the monologue. This discovery inspired my music for the introduction. It also connected everything together – Beethoven from 250 years go to the students playing his music today… to the unknown future that we’re all heading towards.
While we worked on this project, Beethoven’s own personal struggle with his deafness became much more real as we tried to struggle to make music together without being together, using ways and technology that we had never used before. There is something about Beethoven’s feeling of isolation that speaks to us differently today in our current situations of isolation. And there is something in this piece of music which transcends the struggle and the isolation and goes beyond any rational explanation: Beethoven’s heart speaking directly to us across 200 years.
It has been a great joy for me to bring together musician friends of The Elsewhere Ensemble from across the world in this video. It wasn’t an easy experience to record and film ourselves and to try and imagine that we were making music together…. As I worked on putting it together, the music took on new meaning in the context of this crisis. This aria from Handel’s Messiah affirms again and again “I know” … “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” One of the hardest things about this crisis is coming to terms with how much we don’t know – the future is so uncertain. But whatever our religious beliefs may or may not be, I think most of us can relate to the experience of (at times) knowing something…. knowing something deep inside that lifts us up and takes us through the uncertainty and the fear. What are the things that have become clearer to you during this time of confinement that help you to say “I know…” with more certainty? When I asked that question to each of the musicians in this video, every one of them answered that they know now more than ever the importance and need for human connection and creating live music with a live audience. But until that is possible, I invite you to take a few minutes to share with us, from different parts of the world, the quiet, consoling power of Handel’s music. Handel’s grave in Westminster Abbey has a statue of Handel on it and he is holding the music to this aria. This video is dedicated to three magnificent women who have recently left this world, and to anyone else who has lost someone dear during this time.