The Eclectic Orange Festival 1999's offering--"Short Trip Home"--will be performed Sunday at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. But what, exactly, is it?
The phrase alone suggests an esoteric play by, say, Samuel Beckett or Edward Albee. But bassist-composer Edgar Meyer chuckled when asked about the title's meaning.
"It's really not at all cosmic," said Meyer, who organized a four-piece ensemble that will perform the concert piece. "In all honesty, titles are an embarrassment to me. 'Short Trip Home' was unquestionably the only title I thought of that was at all palatable.
"When I was younger, I had a much better connection between words and music. Somewhere along the way, I had kind of an aspiration to disconnect them, to just kind of go into a totally musical world."
Which is what "Short Trip Home" is all about. The program is based on a new Sony Classical CD by the same title recorded by Meyer, 38, classical violinist Joshua Bell, 31, bluegrass legend Sam Bush, 48, and multi-instrumentalist Mike Marshall, 40. The quartet, which will perform Sunday, offers classical style, buoyant bluegrass and such offbeat items as a few Brazilian choro pieces.
Similar in some ways to "Uncommon Ritual," an ensemble performance Meyer brought to the Orange County Performing Arts Center in March, "Short Trip Home" also has qualities of its own. The differences are mainly the individual qualities each performer brings to the music.
"Uncommon Ritual" was a dialogue between three players with similar musical experiences who, Meyer said "mostly had the same strengths and weaknesses."
By contrast, "Short Trip Home," often places Bush and Marshall as a kind of rhythm section supporting and interfacing with Meyer and Bell.
"Sam's the most energetic rhythmic personality I know, outside of some great drummers," Meyer said. "And Mike, who is playing guitar here, has an incredibly fast right hand that goes into lock step with Sam in an instant. Together, they're spectacular, giving everything we play this real sense of lift and drive.
"That works well, because there's no desire to, say, put Sam through playing Mozart or put Josh through playing traditional fiddle tunes. What we do want to do is have the music be a reflection of all the individual personalities in the group."
Bell, whose experience has mostly been with classical music, agreed.
"With any kind of music, you have to get inside the language of what it is," Bell said. "The music I'm used to playing--say a Tchaikovsky concerto--I've grown up doing it, so it feels like a part of me; there's no translation process. But when I learn a new composer--Bartok, say--there's a whole new language. And it's no different in approaching what I'm playing with Edgar, Mike and Sam, which [has] its own kind of dialect and meaning."
Bell also sees "Short Trip Home" as a creative experience primarily centered around the interaction between the players.
"In some respects, you can simply view it as chamber music, which I've done a lot," he said. "It's still working with three other people, listening to them, playing off them. Being inspired by a few players and having that back and forth with them is very different from playing, say, a concerto with an orchestra."
With eight concerts in the tour concluded, the "back and forth" is getting better with every program, and there's a universal feeling among the group that the music continues to evolve and develop.
"I just wish we could have recorded the album now instead of before the tour," Bell said.
* "Short Trip Home," with Edgar Meyer, Mike Marshall, Joshua Bell and Sam Bush. Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive. 4 p.m. Sunday. $24 and $28. (949) 553-2422.