A Couple of December Nights of Music in New York ~ Double Review

Pianist Jenny Q. Chai, image coutresy of Bob BrunoJennyQChai2012

Both written by Scottie Roche

Daniele and Sxip’s Hour of Charm
Le Poisson Rouge, NYC
Friday, November 30, 2012 (Yes, I know technically this was still November; apologies–ed.)

On Friday, November 30th, Le Poisson Rouge bubbled with enchantment as a cadre of performers generous of their time, talent, and hearts “charm schooled” an abundantly appreciative audience at Daniele and Sxip’s Hour of Charm. The electrically charged evening benefited direct-action relief for Hurricane Sandy and featured a wide array of talents including the ever-impressive violinist Todd Reynolds, post-classical string quartet Ethel, beatboxing extraordinaire Adam Matta, Danielle Eva Scwhob, Sxip Shirey and more!

It would take volumes to express all of the joy in music contained in this “hour of charm,” so I’ll just share some of my favorite moments.

Harpist Bridget Kibbey brought her delightful personality and virtuosic playing to the stage in her performance of Paquito D’Rivera’s “Bandoneon”. Harps often bring to mind thoughts of angels in the heavens;  Kibbey’s performance of  Bandoneon was more like angels treading lower in a sensual mist over Havana Harbor.

High on charm was also Ms. Schwob’s composition “Breathing Underwater” for flute, harp and viola. Although stylistically different than Ms. Schwob’s vocal output, to my mind the piece displays a lot of the same heart, plaintiveness and earnest yearning in places. It was a real delight to see her multifaceted artistic abilities on one program.

Ethel brought two shining performances to the table that glimmered in gratitude, Mark Stewart’s “To Whom It May Concern, Thank You.” In spite of the hardships this city faced during and after Sandy, this piece was a great reminder to find the gratitude in the midst of trial and tribulation. “Ascent,” composed by Ethel violinist Kip Jones, was another prominent highlight of the evening. When you hear a piece named “Ascent” you pretty much know where it’s going, but the joy here was in the absolute exuberance of the journey. The performance was uplifting and upholding.

With all the talent and heart that went into that night at LPR, I have to say that nothing was as touching as Corn Mo’s “cover” of Schubert’s “An Die Musik”.  I  have to admit a tear came to my eye as Corn Mo brought his voice to Franz von Schober’s homage to music’s ability in grey hours to carry us away to a better world.

The evening promised an hour of charm and it delivered enough charm for a lifetime.


Jenny Q. Chai: “Dissecting Stroppa” – An Analysis of “Innige Cavatina” from Miniature Estrose by Marco Stroppa
Jenny Q. Chai,
piano and analysis
Miller Hall at Manhattan School of Music, NYC
Monday, December 3rd, 2012

I first heard Marco Stroppa’s “Innige Cavatina” at Jenny Q Chai’s recent show at LPR. It was by far the piece that interested me most, while at the same time I had no idea how to approach the work or the performance. Fortunately, I soon learned that Ms. Chai would be donning a lab coat to perform a dissection on the work in the Miller Theater at Manhattan School of Music.

The lecture-recital, which incidentally was presented as a part of Ms. Chai’s D.M.A. thesis and dissertation on Stroppa, began curiously with Beethoven’s Cavatina or rather the String Quartet No. 13. “What does Beethoven have to do with Stroppa?” I’m sure I wasn’t alone in wondering and curiosity was soon sated by the revelation that although obscured, bits of Beethoven’s Cavatina have been worked into the very sinews and fiber of Stroppa’s “Innige Cavatina”.

On first hearing it’s doubtful one would recognize the presence of Beethoven musical material occluded as it is in Stroppa’s cavatina. Indeed it is doubtful that one would ever become aware of Beethoven’s influence on the Stroppa at all from mere auditory exposure to the work unaided by a guide such as Ms. Chai. However, once Ms. Chai dissected the Stroppa to show it’s organic material was in part made up of Beethoven, the connection became fairly apparent in an audible way. Ms. Chai explained that this is an example of “initiated knowledge”.

Without any of the extensive background information Ms. Chai imparted, “Innige Cavatina” has much to commend itself in terms of dynamic expressiveness, technical demand, and climaticism. However, Ms. Chai made a strong case for the enriching value of an intimate relationship with and initiation into a cult of musical knowledge.

I need not possess any knowledge regarding Stroppa’s conception of Organisms of Musical Information (or OIM) or how the specifics of how organic material harvested from Beethoven has been transmogrified to create new life in “Innige Cavatina”. To the uninitiated the work is quite pleasurable as I learned at my first exposure at Le Poisson Rouge. Ms. Chai skilfully showed how reading Stroppa as one would read Vladimir Nabokov’s gem of allusive craftwork, Lolita, could open up greater levels of artistic experience. Likewise her wonderful discussion of the peculiarities of Stroppa’s expanded piano resonance techniques and how they exploit the coloristic possibilities in the overtone series was informative and initiated us also into a specialized knowledge regarding the technical mastery of Ms. Chai’s performance that could have perhaps gone unnoticed if she hadn’t explained to us just what was going on.

It was said that Marco Stroppa had been looking for a new kind of organic performer. Ms. Chai is certainly that. She guided her audience through a performative exploration of the organic matter which made up her subject while instilling an appreciation for the demands of technique and intellectual understanding required of her as performer. I left the lecture recital feeling as though I had made a small start in the understanding of Marco Stroppa’s “Innige Cavatina” and great strides in understanding Ms. Chai as a pianist, artist, intellectual and performer.


Scottie Roche is an opera-trained vocalist, social media arts consultant and a freelance writer. His website is Scottie Roche.com


One thought on “A Couple of December Nights of Music in New York ~ Double Review

  1. Pingback: Danielle & Sxip’s Hour of Charm and Jenny Q. Chai’s DMA Lecture Recital: A Double Review | SCOTTIE ROCHE

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