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9th Calarts Festival: So What's New?

March 17, 1985|MARC SHULGOLD

Two contrasting works made odd program-mates as weekend festival activities drew to a close at CalArts last Sunday night.

Though Stephen Mosko's "Indigenous Music II" (heard in its premiere) and William Albright's "A Full Moon in March" (1979) only occasionally raised one's pulse rate, a decidedly partisan crowd whooped it up for the home team as two faculty-student ensembles brought conviction and virtuosity to each piece.

Albright's music-theater creation proved the more involving, thanks to its bizarre collection of characters: two strolling, singing storytellers (Paula Rasmussen and Dennis Parnell); a wicked, chalk-white queen (Catherine Theobald), smartly dressed in pale blue, a cross between Mae West and Grace Jones; a doomed swineherd (John Santacroce) sporting a pig mask; a long-legged dancer (Pam Lofton), wrapped in something resembling a boa constrictor.

The score of "Full Moon," set to William Butler Yeats' mystical text, exerts an undeniable charm, adroitly blending folk sonorities (penny whistle, autoharp, hammered dulcimer) with threatening percussion. Particularly effective was Lofton's Grahamesque solo (choreographed by Tina Yuan) accompanied by the fiercest tympani rolls since Berlioz (kudos to Joe Caploe, Cliff De Arment, Ron George and Ray McNamara).

The California E.A.R. Unit drew "ya-hoos" from the crowd even before the players sat down to play conductor Mosko's 30-minute work, in which two pointillistic movements are set off against a trio of demanding instrumental cadenzas (handled with ease by pianist Gaylord Mowrey, flutist Dorothy Stone and cellist Erika Duke).

The piece covers familiar territory: long-held disonances, quick percussion outbursts, group vocalizing, etc. Very ho-hum. All those pregnant pauses soon began to resemble false labor.

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