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Critic's Choice: Ojai Festival + Mark Morris = Lou Harrison

June 06, 2013|By Mark Swed | Music Critic
  • Lou Harrison signs autographs at a concert in Ventura in 1999.
Lou Harrison signs autographs at a concert in Ventura in 1999. (Spencer Weiner )

Lou Harrison, the quintessential California composer -- vastly eclectic, Pacific-Rim-prescient, prolific maverick, visionary, seeker or pleasure and profundity -- liked to describe his musical interests by saying he spread his toys over a wide acreage.

The 67th annual Ojai Festival, which runs Thursday through Sunday, focuses on Harrison (who died in 2003) and his world thanks to the efforts of choreographer Mark Morris, long a Harrison champion and this year’s unusual choice for music director. And many, many toys will, indeed, be spread over a vast acreage.

Harrison’s world encompassed his teacher, the massively unjustly neglected Henry Cowell, who was father of West Coast and world music; Charles Ives, an inspiration to Cowell and Harrison; John Cage, Harrison’s close friend; and, as this year’s composer-in-residence, John Luther Adams, a Harrisonite who has written environmental music is meant for the vast acreage of the vast outdoors.

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Only a marathon obviously will do, and this year’s festival is jampacked with sunrise concerts at mystical sites in the mountains, early-evening gamelan recitals in Libbey Park, films, a great many concerts (some free), dance programs, panels, late-night shows and even – whew! -- social dancing lessons from Morris as well as the opportunity to take more warm-ups with the dancers.

Full schedule and ticket info:


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