Introducing Madera Vox (Wood + Voice) Make no mistake - oboe, bassoon, piano, percussion and voice is an unusual configuration. There are not reams of sheet music already in print for this combo. It was obvious from the start of our group's collaboration that the music we program would have to either be specially arranged, or originally written for us. The sound palette of this ensemble offers fertile opportunity for colorful arrangements. It also lends itself to a certain freedom from stylistic constraints. Madera Vox seeks a soundscape and aesthetic that flows seamlessly across styles. At core, there is a classical foundation, but what is launched from there takes off into uncharted territory. We are most fortunate to have our relentlessly inventive percussionist, David Gluck, double as composer/arranger for the ensemble. Dave's arrangements and compositions transform the elements of our quintet into Madera Vox. Our unique array of instruments and blend of timbres clamors for an equally distinctive choice of repertoire. It is no coincidence that we have gravitated towards programming the music of composers whose creative paths are unconventional and/or whose music is intensely coloristic. Each of the composers on this disc represents a tonal mastery and versatility of expression that often confound neat labels of categorization. Factored into the mix is the diversity of the musicians. All of the members of Madera Vox have a foundation of conservatory-level classical music training. Over the years, oboist Nicole Golay, bassoonist Cornelia McGiver and pianist Sylvia Buccelli have pursued classical performing careers. Soprano Kelly Ellenwood has distinguished Broadway credentials, and percussionist David Gluck has toured internationally as a jazz and rock drummer. Madera Vox is a collaborative synthesis of each member's contributions, which in turn challenges each player's versatility. The resulting musical alchemy is not your mother's double reed based ensemble. It's accessible, engaging, playful, insightful, and pure gold. Unusual instruments, unusual music, an unusual combination of players. We chose the following Kurt Weill quote for our CD as it is particularly germane to our endeavor: "I have never acknowledged the difference between 'serious' music and 'light' music. There is only good music and bad music." Is Madera Vox classical? Is it jazz-inspired? Is it some hybrid? Labels become unimportant when the music is this riveting. Simply stated, it's all good music. Please enjoy. Album Liner Notes: Composer David Gluck's "Coney Island Suite" (2008) was initially inspired by the short French film La Ballon rouge (1956). The first movement "La Douceur de la Vie" (The Sweetness of Life), was written in honor of the birth of a colleague's son and the marriage of two other colleagues, and premiered as a single-movement work in early 2008. The soundscape of this colorful movement brings forth the energies of a young boy at an amusement park or carnival, who is "enveloped" by the color and light of the merry-go-round; while across the park, a young couple newly in love hold tightly to each other as they watch a red balloon drift by. This portion of the suite speaks entirely to the innocence, and even sacredness, of love in it's purest forms. The second movement, "Seeing the Elephant", depicts a seamier side of the carnival, or more specifically, Coney Island. The sacred and the profane are thereby juxtaposed in the Suite, as well as within the second movement itself. The phrase "seeing the elephant" was inspired by the Elephant Hotel on Coney Island, which opened in 1885 - and was a euphemism for "hanky panky by the seaside" in the "naughty 1890's". The entire movement is bathed in images of sloth, sex, overindulgence, and decline, with only a glimpse of redemption: the very definition of Coney Island's history. The recent exploration by Madera Vox of some of the music of Kurt Weill is evident, particularly in the second movement. Jazz pianist/composer Armando Anthony ("Chick") Corea is a pioneer of jazz fusion. His eclectic musical background and training even includes a brief period of classical composition studies at Columbia University and the Juilliard School. The "Children's Songs" (1983) are classically inspired and were originally written for solo piano. They are reminiscent of the Bela Bartok "Mikrokosmos", (a collection of works for young pianists), in their economical yet highly skilled use of music materials, sometimes astringent harmonies, and straightforward emotional language. We have programmed a selection that is by turn tuneful (#7), dreamy (#3), ragtime-gone-awry (#9), and concludes boisterously (#6). Kurt Weill was equally masterful at composing music for the theater, cabaret and concert stage, in Germany and then in the United States. He was a crossover composer before such a term existed. "Youkali" (1935), a haunting tango, began as incidental music for "Marie Galante", a play by Jacques Deval. It was later reworked into a cabaret song that expresses intense yearning for an island retreat of desire, pleasure and soulful love to escape to amidst the weariness and disillusionment of everyday existence. Alas, this island can exist only in imagination. It is emblematic of this genre of Weill's music to despair bitterly about the human condition, yet on the other hand to encourage imagination to maintain a spirit that can yet foster hope and comfort. Weill's music seems to change and adapt with each lyricist with whom he partnered, whether it was Bertolt Brecht, Maxwell Anderson, Langston Hughes, or in the case of "I'm a Stranger Here Myself", the incomparable poet Ogden Nash. The musical, One Touch of Venus (1943) satirized contemporary American suburban values, fads in the contemporary art world, and romantic and sexual mores. In "I'm a Stranger...", the title character Venus, a statue of the Goddess of Love, has come to life and muses on the state of love in the conservative world of the mid-20th century. The paradox of the character is that she must express all of the sexuality that Venus embodies without lowering to base carnality, a major challenge for the actress who takes on this role. It is interesting to note that the role was originally intended for Marlene Dietrich, who backed out of the project in rehearsals, calling it "too sexy and profane". That statement surely helped to sell more than a few tickets, and from it, a new Broadway star was born in Mary Martin. "Jeux d'Eau" (1901) by Maurice Ravel is influenced by the brilliant pianistic style of Franz Liszt, who was one of Ravel's heroes. This virtuosic tone poem, dedicated to Ravel's teacher, Gabriel Faure, through it's undulating phrases, precision and intricacy evokes (in Ravel's words) "the noise of water cascades, the musical sounds of sprays and brooks". The work is based on recurrences of two main music motives, although it is not a sonata in the structural and harmonic sense. Returning for another pair of Kurt Weill songs, "My Ship" is from the Broadway musical "Lady in the Dark" (1940), where the anxiety-ridden title character is recounting a dream to her psychiatrist. Her song is an almost forgotten dream of childhood. In "The River is So Blue" (1937), we find collaboration with a female lyricist, Ann Ronell. The song is quintessential Weill in his American phase: borderline sentimental with just enough unexpected harmonies and turns of phrase to work their magic. If you listen closely, with credit to David Gluck's transformative arrangement, you'll hear a musical quote invoking another sentimental American river song of yesteryear. Might that be "Moon River"? Dave has no idea how that made it's way in there... Bill Douglas is a bassoonist-pianist-composer who has toured and recorded for over thirty years with clarinetist Richard Stolzman. He has taught at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado since 1977. The trio (2006) was commissioned by the International Double Reed Society in July, 2006. The first movement is syncopated throughout in the bebop style in combination with a singing, legato phrasing. Both the first and third movements follow basic jazz form: unison theme, improvisation on theme (the improvisations are written out in this work), return of theme. The second movement is based on a Phrygian (modal) scale commonly used in Spanish, North African and Middle Eastern music. The third movement was also influenced by African rhythms. Percussion has been added to the original trio configuration with the approval of the composer. "Lobster Telephone" (based on the 1936 surrealist object by Salvador Dali) has been arranged and recorded for a variety of instrumental combinations over the years. In this incarnation, the xylophone takes on the lobster motif, aided by the piano's low bass. The catchy rhythms and zany atmosphere of the work belie the complexity of rhythmic interaction among the instrumentalists. After all that split-second execution, the singer finally enters near the conclusion, persistently intoning "I got a lobster telephone". Surreal fun.