Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Last weekend: Ojai; This weekend: ADI

Summer breezes wafting through a concert of music by Lou Harrison while scents of eucalyptus and gardenia hang in the air…

I cannot think of a place more idyllic than Ojai for a summer festival: it combines the climate, setting, and curiosity that make for a deeply inspiring and enriching event. Although this year’s Ojai Music Festival only lasted for four days its sensorial memories--acoustic, visual, kinesthetic, tactile, and olfactory--will last for years.

photo from my seat in the Libbey Bowl during preparations for an afternoon concert
The land around Ojai is sprinkled with flowers and trees that infuse the air with delectable scents, and the weather is warm without being sweltering. In the evening, when concerts takes place in a partially outdoor venue called the Libbey Bowl, temperatures drop to chillier, but still comfortable degrees. The Libbey Bowl reminds me of a smaller version of Wolf Trap: most of the audience sits within the raked auditorium, but a lawn area is available--and ideal--for those with young children or those who prefer to picnic. The seating capacity of the interior and lawn areas of the Bowl is about 1,300 (Wolf Trap’s capacity is 7,028 total: 3,868 in-house; 3,160 lawn).

Some of the audience members who come to the Ojai Music Festival, an event that has happened each summer since 1947, have been attending since the 1940s. Some are local residents, others come from nearby cities like Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Still others are residents of the east coast and the Midwest who come for the change of scenery and distinct artistic programming (several events triggered the question: is there a “California” or “west coast” aesthetic?) Whether local, regional, national or international, these patrons ranged from lawyers to retirees, critics to producers, and philanthropists to professors. I immensely enjoyed a couple brief conversations with Dr. Susan Foster, author of 2010’s “Choreographing Empathy,” who is a professor a UCLA and a patron and supporter of the festival.

A late-evening concert in Ojai: John Cage's 4'33" performed by Yegor Shevtsov at a toy piano in the Libbey Park Playground  
This summer marked a significant first: the choreographer Mark Morris was named the festival’s music director. His appointment meant that his company, Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG), performed on stage during one of the evening concerts, and he also added a solo called “Ten Suggestions” (originally performed by Morris and here performed by Dallas McMurray) to the last day of events. From listening to conversations with audience members it seemed that people appreciated adding dancers to a festival that traditionally consists of composers and musicians.