Grand Performances Preview of Summer Concerts

  • 06/03/2013
  • Terelle Jerricks

Melina Paris, Contributing Writer

This season marks the 25th year of Grand Performances free summer concerts at the California Plaza in downtown Los Angeles.

Executive director Michael Alexander has been at the helm of this nonprofit the entire time. His vision has brought us such an eclectic program of performing arts.

The series runs June 21 through Aug. 24. I was asked to do a preview of the shows and as expected, the lineup is amazing. Each week Angelenos will have the opportunity to see performances ranging in genres from the Silver Screen to Books and Global Beats, a Kid’s Series and Something for Everyone. There are two Thursday shows, a show every Friday and Saturday, and a show on most Sundays. All evening shows are at 8 p.m., unless otherwise indicated.

Out of my top picks from the series, my two favorites are in the same week. Week 10 showcases Flamenco Opera and Persian Dubstep.

The Flamenco Opera is performing Lorca, Child of the Moon, on Aug. 23 at 8 p.m. This piece is based on the life and works of Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca, who is considered the greatest the 20th century. He was 38 years old, when he was executed by fascist forces, at the time of the Spanish Civil War.

There is an interesting connection with Lorca to flamenco. In its history, the great collection of passionate lyrics this genre has forged captured the attention of writers and poets from diverse styles backgrounds. Yet, over time flamenco singers have occasionally used the verse of popular poets to express the message through flamenco. In this instance, Lorca is the poet whose pieces are sung most commonly.

Persian Dubstep features Fared Shafinury on Aug. 24 at 8 p.m. Shafinury is a critically acclaimed composer, vocalist, poet, Persian sitarist and multi-instrumentalist. He blends together influences including American folk, rock and blues to classic and folk Iranian music. Known for reaching back to his ancestral roots in Persian music and poetry, he brings to life traditional sounds with a contemporary touch.

My next show of interest happens during the opening week June 21 at 8 p.m. The Silver Screen, Scored presents The Final Frontier: An Improvised Soundtrack with Mark de Clive-Lowe.

Originally from New Zealand, Mark de Clive-Lowe is a Los Angeles-based musician, composer, producer and DJ. After spending some years in the UK music scene he became recognized as one of the key musicians in the broken beat (electronic music with roots in 70s jazz fusion) and nu jazz (combining live instrumentation with jazz and house music) movements. De Clive-Lowe has performed in multiple world tours including, Montreal Jazz Festival, Amsterdam Drum Music Festival, Detroit Electronic Music Festival and others.

He will be joined by Walter Smith III and Jamire Williams, improvising a live soundtrack to a big screen montage of sci-fi movie scenes. But there’s more, this improvised soundtrack will be remixed, live by VJ Steve Nalepa crafting entirely original and spontaneous narratives with music and soundscapes.

My next pick is during week two June 28 at 8 p.m.

Visual and Electronic Soundscapes featuring COLA: Malatha Iyengar and Michael White.
COLA’s performances are part of the Los Angeles’ cultural grant program.

Highly acclaimed choreographer, dancer, writer and visual artist Malathi Iyengar earned a Fine Arts degree from University of California, Los Angeles. She studied Bharatanatyam (Indian classical dance) from guru Narmada of Bangalore and improvisation and choreography under Marion Scott.

She is recognized as a master artist of Bharatanatyam dance by the Alliance for California. Iyengar uses this form of dance to push past the customary restrictions of Indian women in her new piece, “Love Trajectory.”

Michael White is a violinist, composer and educator who is considered a living jazz legend. He has played alongside many jazz luminaries including, John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders, McCoy Tyner, as well as Stevie Wonder and many more.

White, as the prestigious COLA Individual Artist Fellow composed “Orbit” which he premiers with his quintet. The band is comprised of Michael Howell, guitar, Heshima Mark Williams, bass, Kenneth Nash, percussion, and jazz vocalist and qigong and taiji artist Leisei Chen.

It will be interesting to see where the qigong and taiji fit in. My understanding is the art of taiji was once a formidable martial art (one translation is, Supreme Ultimate Fist) but has today become a form of tai chi dance. The martial arts have been removed in a majority of schools and now it is known as a slow moving graceful flowing series of movements. Qigong is translated as “Energy Work.” Practitioners seek to improve their physical, mental and spiritual well being by working on their body’s vital energy, or qi.

So, it sounds as if this may coalesce as supreme energy of dance expressed through vital energy, or qi, as well as the human voice. Indeed, attendees will be in for a transcendental experience. How do you top that?

On week eight Grand Performances features International Flavor with the Living Sisters at noon Aug. 9.

What a nice way to spend summer afternoon, enjoying a concert, under the sun at the beautiful California Plaza Amphitheater. I first heard about this trio listening to an interview with them on KCRW. After hearing their impossibly perfect harmonizing, I was hooked.

The Living Sisters are Inara George, Becky Stark and Eleni Mandell. Originally, the three women all had separate vocal careers. It was their common interest in vocal jazz, gospel, doo wop, folk and country harmonies that brought them together. Hearing them is to understand this had to be. Their bio says that their music is devoted to the sheer physical joy of singing.

Their latest release, Run for Cover is a collection of six cover songs ranging from Dolly Parton’s classic, “Jolene” to Funkadelic’s “Can You Get To That?” This exemplifies the breadth this trio has in vocals. Included on this CD is a cover of Doris Day’s “Que Sera Sera.” This version interestingly comes across nicely as more of a gospel or blues rather than the original easy going style sung by Day.

What The Living Sisters do with harmonies and singing expresses a range of feelings from playful to heartfelt to cleverly provocative and is nothing short of heavenly.

In addition to these, there are many more eclectically captivating shows in store for Grand Performances this summer.

Week 1: June 22 at 8:30 p.m., Los Angeles Film Festival selection announced May 1.
Week 2: June 29 at 8:30 p.m. Brujerias de Papel | Miwa Matreyek
Sunday, June 30 at 7 p.m., Green Galactic 20th Anniversary Celebration with Pole, John Tejada, and Plaid.

Week 3: looks to be very inspiring on July 5 with, Powerful Women Making Powerful Music. “Young Gifted and Nina,” at 8pm, as in the great Nina Simone.
July 6, at 7 p.m., Adunni and Nefertiti, Martha Redbone and Dessy di Lauro.

Week 4: includes, Something for Everyone starting July 11 at 8 p.m. with “Soba Noodle Demonstration”
July 12 at noon Lunch Box: Las Cafeteras.
July 12 at 8 p.m., Beth Lapides’ Uncabaret Songfest Sings America: “Celebrating Leonard Bernstein,” co-presented by SongFest.
July 14 at 3 p.m., Kids Series: Bob Baker Marionettes.

Week 5:, Bring on the Brass, Bring on the Funk
July 19 at noon, Lunch Box: Mucca Pazza
July 19 at 8 p.m., Mucca Pazza | Fanfare Ciocarlia
July 20 at 8 p.m., Rufus and Friends preceded by Grand Performances’ 10th Annual Fundraiser Gala.

Week 6:, Books and Global Beats
July 25 at 8 p.m., Off the Shelf; Creating LA’s 21st Century Library
July 26 at noon, Lunch Box: Gypsy All Stars
July 26 at 8 p.m, Ethiocali | University of Gnawa
July 27 at 8 p.m, Las Cafeteras | Chico Trujillo

Week 7: LA Stories
Aug. 2 at 8 p.m, Songs in the Key of LA with Ozomatli and Friends in conjunction with the Library Foundation of Los Angeles
Aug. 3 at 8 p.m., Novalema | Palenke Soultribe

Week 8:
Aug. 9 at 8 p.m, Lux Boreal
Aug.10 at 8 p.m, Cantonese Opera Orchestra | El Gusto Orchestra (Algeria)
August 11 at 3 and 4:30 p.m., Kids Series: Sock Puppet Sitcom Theater Presents Cinderella.

Week 9: Culture Clashes
Aug. 16 at 8 p.m, Halo Halo, Sari Sari: The Filipino Show Remixed!
Produced in conjunction with the Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA)
Aug. 17 at 8 p.m, Nação do Maracatu Estrela Brilhante’s “Tale of Two Nations

Details: (213) 687-2159; GRANDPERFORMANCES.ORG
Location: 350 S.Grand Ave., Los Angeles
Events are subject to change.

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