Two recent disappointments for area musicians have, in the past few days, spawned two developments that stand only to benefit classical-music concertgoers to the Monadnock region. Jonathan Bagg and Laura Gilbert, who had been let go as artistic directors of Monadnock Music, have started a new venture, Electric Earth, that already has six concerts planned and three in the pipeline for the rest of this 2011-12 season; and Gil Rose, who lost his position as artistic director of Opera Boston when it abruptly shut operations just before Christmas, has just been appointed artistic director of Monadnock Music, which runs a full summer program of concerts. In both cases, long-standing loyalties and professional associations played major parts in the decisions.
The atmosphere at Monadnock Music, founded in 1966 by James Bolle, has seemed to visitors very much like “Our Town.” Gilbert stressed that she and Bagg, who have over 20 years of association with Monadnock Music between them, are “going right back to the grassroots — trying to engage as many people as we can, in as many ways with music… for our beautiful, humble, rural Monadnock Region.”
Opera Boston, on the other hand, which Rose joined in 2003, had devoted itself to becoming a main-stream opera destination. Will Chapman was in charge of development there, before becoming executive director of Monadnock Music last June, so he and Rose had worked together for seven years.
Chapman stresses, however, that not only will the mission of Monadnock Music — to “deepen a sense of community by means of diverse classical programming”— remain, but it will return to “what it used to do — a lot of early music, opera, orchestral music, concerti, vocal recitals, piano recitals, opera on stage, … Jim Bolle did Don Giovanni in 1980 with [Peter] Sellars, [James] Maddalena, at the Palace Theatre in Manchester. We have this legacy. I think Gil can do justice to it.”
Bagg and Gilbert, drawing upon over 100 letters they received after their dismissal, have set up a core group of supporters — prominent among them Monadnock-region residents Miki Osgood and Linda Harris and composer Melinda Wagner — and already have called upon some of the Monadnock performing regulars.
“Everyone is delighted to be asked,” asserted Gilbert. “The musicians are giving generously of their time. We are paying them, but a modest amount. We are having to start small; it is a pay-as-you-go sort of festival. … People have to feel they are part of the organization, so we are engaging a lot of volunteers to be working for us and with us.” She and Bagg, she says, plan to go to Monadnock three or four day a month, “much more starting in May.”
Rose will continue programming of Boston Modern Opera Project in the Boston area during the regular concert season but will be able to go to Monadnock for meetings with its staff with relative ease. He is well known in the Boston area for his commitment to contemporary music with his innovative, imaginative programming for BMOP, which he founded in 1996, and which has received many favorable notices and several Grammy nominations. He has featured the music of Louis Andriessen, Derek Bermel, John Cage, Robert Erickson, Lukas Foss, Charles Fussell, Michael Gandolfi, John Harbison, Lee Hyla, David Lang, Tod Machover, Steven Mackey, Steven Paulus, David Rakowski, Bernard Rands, George Rochberg, Elena Ruehr, Gunther Schuller, Reza Vali, and Evan Ziporyn. Two seasons ago, Rose entertained audiences at Jordan Hall with “bad boy” George Antheil’s Ballet Mécanique, a recording of which, according to Rose, is coming out this summer.
Although he used to play clarinet, he “makes no claims to do it now.” A Tanglewood Fellow in 1994-1995, he has conducted the American Composers Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine, (et alii) and he has made several appearances with the Boston Symphony Chamber Players.
Bagg, a professor at Duke University, has been a member of the Ciompi String Quartet for 25 years, in a career that included hundreds of concerts across the U.S. and abroad, in Europe, China, Israel, and South America, as well as over a dozen recordings. American Record Guide hailed him as “an excellent violist who approaches the music with intelligence, passion, and clarity.”
Gilbert, a flutist, joined Monadnock Music in 1995. She has performed around the world as chamber musician, soloist, recitalist and guest lecturer in addition to founding and performing with Aureole, a trio comprised of flute, viola and harp.
On the face, it does not seem that the two groups will interfere with each other, at least for a while.
Electric Earth’s concerts have been planned so that five precede MM’s season: the first in July is mid-week, and the ones for August and September are after MM’s season. At the First Church in Jaffrey Center, there will be two concerts: on February 27, music from Dowland to Rorem with guitar, flute, violin, piano, and soprano then Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata played by Rieko Aizawa, piano; and on April 1, the Ciompi Quartet, in music of Mozart, Beethoven, Foote, and Dvorák. In early May there will be a fund-raising evening of Kurt Weil with Lauren Flanigan, soprano. A new chamber group, the Horszowski Trio, will make its debut in New Hampshire with two concerts, one on June 14 with music of Dvorák and Haydn (so far), and on June 16, with Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Brahms. On July 17, the Borromeo Quartet will appear in a concert preceded by George Gopen, delivering T. S. Eliot’s masterpiece “Four Quartets,” a work inspired by Beethoven’s Quartet Op. 132. Projected for late August, when the MM season is over, is “Twilight of the Romantics,” German Romanticism from Brahms’s early symphonic Serenade to Wagner’s only song cycle, performed by a chamber ensemble under German conductor Andreas Delfts; and in September, Choreographer Cherylyn Lavagnino and her modern ballet dancers and photographer Betsy Weis partner with Music for the Mountain musicians for a multi-faceted reflection on Debussy’s Sonata for flute, viola and harp and Rameau’s Pièces de Clavecin.
Rose’s duties — spelled out by Monadnock’s Executive Director Will Chapman (“season programming, engaging artists, conducting on occasion, and helping to design and oversee education and outreach programs, among other duties”) — begin with this summer season. They do include the free community concerts at different venues, so Rose plans to visit them all, to get “my feet on the ground for how much we can do on the budget.“I want to do music that can be sacred to the venues, like an Episcopal church he visited that had an “old-world early-music feel” that is suitable to chamber or choral music. Asked if he plans to use the same musicians long affiliated w/ MM, he responded, “Yes, absolutely”; and he wants to “recapture ideas that Bolle had… but it depends on how fast we can raise the money.”
Electric Earth has more work ahead of it than the already-established Monadnock Music. Bagg and Gilbert have plans to do “serious fundraising. … particularly coming off such an experience during the last year, when collaborative discussion deteriorated, we want to go extremely slowly. We want people to see what we are about. People who would be good board will emerge.”
Where there may be potential conflict is in out-reach programs, which are so important to organizations for attracting funds. Monadnock Music has an impressive track record with its program, “Lend an Ear.” To be determined is how both groups will succeed.
Chapman, asked if there will be some drawing away by Electric Earth from Monadnock Music’s traditional base, said “I don’t think it is going to have any bearing on anything at all. As to why the new group was formed, he said, “Of course, they have to do it out of love. Musicians do not do what they do out of love for money. On average.”