ALIAS Chamber Ensemble—Not Your Usual Chamber Music

This Sunday, September 30, at 4 p.m., ALIAS Chamber Ensemble will bring its unique brand of chamber music to the Christ Church Cathedral Nave. The concert is the first event in the 2018-2019 season of the Sacred Space for the City Arts Series.

This year marks the ensemble’s 17th season, and the first full season under the direction of its new artistic director, Alicia Enstrom. Titled Novel Noise, the season will feature three concerts guiding audiences through a journey of unexpected sounds.

Ms. Enstrom explained the thinking behind the choice of compositions the group will play, saying, “The programming for this season is centered around unique and unusual sounds by composers and musicians alike, both in modern classical music and in the past. Whether this novelty happens in instrumentation, technique, or composition, the music featured in this season shows the versatility of classical music and how, through the genre’s evolution, generations of musicians have always been breaking the barriers that define classical music.”

Sunday’s concert will open with “Trio (Expanded)” by Byron House, a composition featuring electronic music augmented by bass clarinet, bassoon, flute, and English horn. House began working on the piece in 1988, but did not complete it until earlier this year. The first movement begins with a rush of sound that evolves into a series of chiming and mechanical clapping. In the second movement, a series of broken chords in rapid succession references the music of Philip Glass, while the third movement adds interesting stereophonic effects to the themes presented in the first movement.

Nico Muhly’s “Beaming Music,” the second piece in the program, was written for organ and marimba. The Cathedral’s own Dr. Michael Velting, Canon for Music, will play the organ parts, wth ALIAS’s Alan Fey on marimba. The composer says the piece “is about small rhythmic cells transforming themselves into large open chords,” with the interplay between the marimba and organ producing rhythmic variations.

“Chimers” by Phyllis Chen is a lighthearted piece in which a toy glockenspiel, toy piano, clarinet, violin, and tuning forks generate a cascade of glittering sound. Aliaksander Yasinski’s “Peace” for accordion and string quartet reflects on the episodic warfare in Ukraine. Peaceful passages alternate with turbulent ones, reminding the listener that peace is not to be taken for granted, but requires vigilance.

Two other compositions round out the program: René Orth’s “Stripped” for string quartet and “Mikromechanische Momente” by Chris Walters, written for clarinet, cello, percussion, and piano/keyboard.

Dianne Green